Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Relativity by Cristin Bishara

Relativity by Cristin Bishara
"If Ruby Wright could have her way, her dad would never have met and married her stepmother Willow, her best friend George would be more than a friend, and her mom would still be alive. Ruby knows wishes can't come true; some things just can't be undone. Then she discovers a tree in the middle of an Ohio cornfield with a wormhole to nine alternative realities. Suddenly, Ruby can access completely different realities, each containing variations of her life—if things had gone differently at key moments. The windshield wiper missing her mother’s throat…her big brother surviving his ill-fated birth…her father never having met Willow. Her ideal world—one with everything and everyone she wants most—could be within reach. But is there such a thing as a perfect world? What is Ruby willing to give up to find out?"- summary from Amazon

This was a good book. It didn't necessarily jump out at me as being particularly amazing but it was an intriguing concept and Bishara's prose is compelling. I may not have always understood the more science-y aspects of the novel, but I don't think that's necessarily a problem when reading this book.

Ruby is a great main character and she has this wonderful emotional arc throughout the book. Going into each of these worlds and seeing the differences and having to adjust to each one, even for a small amount of time, brings out layers to her characterization and having to deal with her feelings in a brutal fashion. It all leads up to the climax, which Bishara wrote really well and it brings things full circle. It's an emotionally satisfying ending, though I don't want to give too much away.

Overall, a promising debut and I'm looking forward to seeing what Bishara writes next.

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Demon Eyes by Scott Tracey

Demon Eyes by Scott Tracey
"After destroying the demon Lucien, Braden—son of Belle Dam’s most powerful warlock, Jason Thorpe—doesn’t need the power of his witch eyes to see that everything in his life is turning against him: friends, family, and even his visions. When disturbing nightmares of Lucien’s return haunt him, Braden discovers that the simmering feud between Belle Dam’s two witch dynasties is fast approaching its explosive boiling point.

While struggling to come to terms with his attraction to Trey, Catherine Lansing’s son who should be his mortal enemy, Braden senses a diabolical plan has been set in motion. Young women are disappearing from town, and as he investigates, Braden is forced to explore the dangerous unknown power within himself. But when the truth about his family is revealed, Braden must pay a terrible price."- summary from Amazon

It has been a long time since I originally read Witch Eyes so it was a little weird going back into the series two years later in anticipation of the final book being released. But Tracey does a good job of calling back to the events of the first book to refresh the reader a bit. I still really love the whole gay male witches concept because it's awesome and sexy and the world needs more of them in books. It's also just refreshing too because the gay aspect is very much in the background; the main focus is on the big family feud going on in the town and all the fallout from that. It's just that there's occasionally some passionate kissing between two boys while this is going on, and some flirting with Braden from a straight character. So it's nice to read a book where sexuality isn't the only issue going on.

Tracey sets up a fantastically dark new adventure for Braden with some interesting reveals and a crazy climax that makes me all very excited for the final book and see how it all turns out. There's some wonderful humor (mainly sarcasm) in these books too which is always a plus for me, especially when dealing with paranormal stories.

Overall, a great follow-up to Witch Eyes, and I can't wait to read the final book!

FTC: Received ARC from BEA. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney

Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney
"Seventeen-year-old Julien is a romantic—he loves spending his free time at the museum poring over the great works of the Impressionists. But one night, a peach falls out of a Cezanne, Degas ballerinas dance across the floor, and Julien is not hallucinating.

The art is reacting to a curse that trapped a beautiful girl, Clio, in a painting forever. Julien has a chance to free Clio and he can't help but fall in love with her. But love is a curse in its own right. And soon paintings begin to bleed and disappear. Together Julien and Clio must save the world's greatest art . . . at the expense of the greatest love they've ever known."- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed Whitney's debut and have been meaning to read more from her since then, so I was excited to read this book. I wasn't as enthralled with it as I was with her debut unfortunately. But I kept on reading because there are a few mysteries at the center of the book, and a very cute romance too. But my overall impression was that it was just an okay book, an easy way to pass the time.

I did like the focus on artwork and learning more about it through reading this book (and the author's note at the end). It's not something you see often in YA, so it was a nice departure from the usual fare. Whitney also ventures into the genre of magical realism and it's an interesting take on it.

Overall, this book was okay, but I'm not going to give up on Whitney. I definitely want to go back, read the books I've missed, and keep an eye out for her future books. She's a wonderful writer, but this book just didn't do it for me.

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The S Word by Chelsea Pitcher

The S Word by Chelsea Pitcher
"Lizzie wasn't the first student at Verity High School to kill herself this year. But the difference is, she didn't go quietly.

First it was SLUT scribbled all over the school's lockers. But one week after Lizzie Hart takes her own life, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it--in Lizzie's own looping scrawl. Photocopies of her diary show up in the hands of her classmates. And her best friend, Angie, is enraged.

Angie had stopped talking to Lizzie on prom night, when she caught Lizzie in bed with her boyfriend. Too heartbroken to let Lizzie explain the hookup or to intervene when Lizzie gets branded Queen of the Sluts and is cruelly bullied by her classmates, Angie left her best friend to the mercy of the school, with tragic results.

But with this new slur, Angie's guilt transforms into anger that someone is still targeting Lizzie even after her death. Using clues from Lizzie's diary and aided by the magnetic, mysterious Jesse, Angie begins relentlessly investigating who, exactly, made Lizzie feel life was no longer worth living. And while she might claim she simply wants to punish Lizzie's tormentors, her anguish over abandoning and then losing her best friend drives Angie deeper into the dark, twisted side of Verity High--and she might not be able to pull herself back out."- summary from Amazon

I was a little bit underwhelmed with this book. I really felt like the mystery was just tacked on to keep the plot moving. It never really felt like a part of the overall story, but it was enough to keep me reading to the end which did have a very interesting twist. But still, I don't think it's enough to really recommend the book.

I honestly don't know what else to say about this book. I don't really have feelings about it in either direction, so it's hard to really talk about it in any critical way. I didn't really feel connected to the characters or the situation, nor did I feel like I got to know any of them terribly well. It was just an okay book, bordering on below average.

Overall, I feel like there are better books out there that deal with this whole slut shaming thing much better than this book did. I'm sure I've read some but I can't think of any right now. Has anyone else read this book? What did you all think about it?

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Everneath by Brodi Ashton
"Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen."- summary from Amazon

I'm very behind on this series. I received ARCs for the first two books but couldn't find the time to fit them into my schedule (and in fact, I gave Everbound to a friend since I hadn't yet read the first book when I got the sequel ARC). Cue a couple months ago and Brodi Ashton comes to Virginia to do a signing with Jodi Meadows and Cynthia Hand. I dig up my copy of Everneath to get it signed and begin reading it on the trip back (I also haven't read Hand's trilogy either but I had grabbed the 2nd book so couldn't start with that). I don't want to say that I became enthralled with the story but it did intrigue me enough to just keep reading to the end.

I loved Ashton's spin on mythology and the Persephone myth here. It was nice too how the book was formatted, going back and forth between present day and the past. Getting more and more of the full story as the book went on. It made for a page-turning read. Nikki is a good protagonist and Ashton did a great job showing off the back-and-forth nature of her life now. Having to come back in after 6 months of being gone and going through the experience of the Everneath obviously takes a toll. She tries to get back into her old life and routine but has to constantly worry about the countdown and leaving everybody again, so it creates this dichotomy within her.

I'm honestly not sure how I feel about the romance and love triangle aspect of the book. Even though it's a big part of it (Nikki remembers herself because of thinking of Jack while in the Everneath), I just didn't feel an attachment to either guy. I don't know if that'll change with reading the sequel, but for right now, the romance aspect felt a bit tacked on and lackluster. Plus, there's the fact of the "true love" Jack and Nikki have, so it just seemed a bit much. It was nice though to get to see them interact before she's taken away as well as after so the reader really gets the full scope of their relationship.

Overall, a promising start to a trilogy and I'm excited to read the sequels!

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Guest Blog- Andrew Landis (Bold)

Julia Swift and Andrew Landis have been writing in Los Angeles about emotional underdogs for more than a decade on television shows like "Smallville" and "The Book of Daniel," and they recently published their first Young Adult novel, Bold.

I have a short little guest blog today from Andrew that I hope you all will enjoy!

On Shyness:

When I was six or seven, I took piano lessons once a week. Going to Mrs. Fossbenner’s house every Wednesday after school became a part of my life for five years. I didn’t mind going too much because I knew my teacher, and all I had to do was perform the pieces assigned the week before in front of a 70-plus-year-old Pennsylvania Dutch woman. If I played well, afterwards I would be allowed to select a piece of hard candy -- usually with an oozy fruit center -- from a bowl on the cubby by the door as I waited for my mom. No big deal.

Trauma only came once a year as Mrs. Fossbenner would organize a recital of all of her students for a showcase. I didn’t care that I fell somewhere in between the best and the worst. I didn’t mind that many of her students studied classical music while I gravitated toward theme songs from movies – think “Born Free” or “You Light Up My Life” or “Tomorrow.” What frightened me was having to play a piece in front of more than 200 people.

I suffered my worst moment of anxiety during my second year of recitals. Remembering how nervous I felt the first time around, I told my mother on the way to the concert that we needed to stop at the hospital because I was having a heart attack. Mom convinced me it was all in my head and somehow talked me into continuing on to the recital. I had no idea that my mom would share that story with Mrs. Fossbenner behind my back and that my teacher would use that anecdote as my introduction.

Everyone laughed. I died. And I distinctly remember looking around the room, pretending to search for this poor kid who didn’t want to perform, because I somehow thought if I didn’t go to the stage, we would simply move on.

When the laughter died down and my teacher stood up again and re-announced my name, I realized there was no way out. I rose from my seat and took to the stage. I sat down and adjusted the bench, refusing to look at my mother in the crowd. And I began to play – Vince Guaraldi’s theme music to “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Linus provided me with my security blanket that night.

Here's more information on their book Bold:

"Sasha, a shy, 15-year-old girl who hides from the world, almost dies in a car crash and vows that if she survives, she will be bold and live life to the fullest. Her newfound courage is tested when she meets Will, who just moved to her Air Force desert town after his journalist father’s disappearance. Will is fascinated by Sasha’s brush with and secret knowledge of death.
Sasha and Will push each other to take chances and break out of their sheltered suburban world. But will they discover there is a difference between being bold and being stupid before they put themselves, or someone else, in danger?"- summary from Amazon

Friday, December 13, 2013

Since You Asked... by Maurene Goo

Since You Asked... by Maurene Goo
"No, no one asked, but Holly Kim will tell you what she thinks anyway.

Fifteen-year-old Holly Kim is the copyeditor for her high school's newspaper. When she accidentally submits an article that rips everyone to shreds, she gets her own column and rants her way through the school year. Can she survive homecoming, mean-girl cliques, jocks, secret admirers, Valentine's Day, and other high school embarrassments, all while struggling to balance her family's traditional Korean values?"- summary from Amazon

This book was absolutely hilarious and another wonderful contemporary read. Goo has written a great character in Holly Kim, and I kinda wouldn't mind reading more books with her! There's a distinctive voice there, and the columns that Holly writes are interspersed throughout the book as the school year goes on, all of which were done so well. I also liked that the timeline for this book took place over the course of a school year. I feel like so many of the YA books I read nowadays take place in such a short time span and it's nice to let the characters breathe here and see them evolve over the year.

Overall, a fantastic debut and I'll be keeping an eye out for more books from Goo.

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Taste Test by Kelly Fiore

Taste Test by Kelly Fiore
"If you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. She’s been basting baby back ribs and pulling pork at her father’s barbeque joint since she was tall enough to reach the counter. When she’s accepted to Taste Test, a reality-television teen cooking competition, Nora can’t wait to leave her humble hometown behind, even if it means saying good-bye to her dad and her best friend, Billy.

Once she’s on set, run-ins with her high-society roommate and the maddeningly handsome—not to mention talented—son of a famous chef, Christian Van Lorten, mean Nora must work even harder to prove herself. But as mysterious accidents plague the kitchen arena, protecting her heart from one annoyingly charming fellow contestant in particular becomes the least of her concerns. Someone is conducting real-life eliminations, and if Nora doesn’t figure out who, she could be next to get chopped for good."- summary from Amazon

Gah, I love books about TV shows!! So when I came across this on Netgalley, I knew I had to get it and fit it into my reading pile somehow. I breezed through the book and absolutely loved it. It's a fun contemporary read and I loved the cooking reality show aspect of it (the book even includes a bunch of recipes!).

What makes this book even more fun, aside from Nora's wonderful voice, is the sections in between chapters where the producers chat with the contestants. These provide a better look into the side characters (and the sexy romantic interest) and is a clever way of incorporating more of the reality competition show genre into the book itself.

I did feel as if the whole "real life eliminations" aspect was tacked on; it felt out of place in this book that's mostly light-hearted and kind of comes out of nowhere. Reflecting on it a bit more, I can see it fitting but I think there should have been more of a tonal shift to really bring the two sides together (humor/romance and the accidents). It can be done, like with Meg Cabot's Heather Wells books and Gemma Halliday's High Heels mysteries but the accident scenes just felt a little weird in this book.

Overall though, it is a good, fun contemporary read with a little twist and I look forward to reading more from Fiore!

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, December 9, 2013

To Be Perfectly Honest by Sonya Sones

To Be Perfectly Honest by Sonya Sones
"Her friends
have a joke about her:
How can you tell if Colette is lying?

Her mouth is open.

Fifteen-year-old Colette is addicted to lying. Her shrink says this is because she’s got a very bad case of Daughter-of-a-famous-movie-star Disorder—so she lies to escape out from under her mother’s massive shadow. But Colette doesn’t see it that way. She says she lies because it’s the most fun she can have with her clothes on. Not that she’s had that much fun with her clothes off. At least not yet, anyway…

When her mother drags her away from Hollywood to spend the entire summer on location in a boring little town in the middle of nowhere, Colette is less than thrilled. But then she meets a sexy biker named Connor. He’s older, gorgeous, funny, and totally into her. So what if she lies to him about her age, and about who her mother is? I mean, she has to keep her mother’s identity a secret from him. If he finds out who she really is, he’ll forget all about Colette, and start panting and drooling and asking her for her mother’s autograph. Just like everyone always does.

But what Colette doesn’t know is that Connor is keeping a secret of his own…"- summary from Amazon

Sonya Sones is one of my favorite authors. She writes in verse, but these are funny books! Or at least there's more humor in them than most of the other verse novels I read, like from Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder. To Be Perfectly Honest is no exception. It's a riveting book and I loved trying to pinpoint when Colette was lying throughout the book. Colette is an intriguing main character and I really enjoyed reading her journey through this book.

Sones does a really good job of fleshing out all the characters and making the reader empathize with them even though we're spending less word count time with them than we might in a prose novel. There's a great relationship between Colette and her little brother, who says the most adorable and hilarious things. I also liked the emotional arc dealing with the strained interactions between Colette and her mother; it's nice to see that sort of relationship spotlighted a bit in a YA novel. The romance is a little too insta-love but it's cute and hits some rocky patches throughout the book so I forgive it a bit.

Overall, please check out this book and Sones' others. You won't be disappointed!

FTC: Bought book myself and got it signed by Sonya! Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Insomnia by J.R. Johansson

Insomnia by J.R. Johansson
"It's been four years since I slept, and I suspect it is killing me.

Instead of sleeping, Parker Chipp enters the dream of the last person he's had eye contact with. He spends his nights crushed by other people's fear and pain, by their disturbing secrets--and Parker can never have dreams of his own. The severe exhaustion is crippling him. If nothing changes, Parker could soon be facing psychosis and even death.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that is utterly addictive. Parker starts going to bizarre lengths to catch Mia's eye every day. Everyone at school thinks he's gone over the edge, even his best friend. And when Mia is threatened by a true stalker, everyone thinks it's Parker.

Suffering blackouts, Parker begins to wonder if he is turning into someone dangerous. What if the monster stalking Mia is him after all?"- summary from Amazon

I really liked the concept of this book. It's very similar to Wake by Lisa McMann, but is way darker and more scary. Parker is an interesting character and following him through this novel is a fascinating journey. There's a real question of uncertainty- is he the stalker? Is he going crazy? What is really going on? All the answers aren't included and I'm sure more will be explored in the sequel.

Johansson does a good job with all the relationships in this book. Parker has a good relationship with his mom and I loved seeing him with his friends, especially after he told them all about his secret. There's some great interactions and real depth to their friendships.

Overall, Johansson has a great debut and I'm excited to see where the story goes from here. It leaves off with a bit of a cliffhanger so I'm eagerly looking forward to the next book.

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Author Interview- Julie Halpern

1) How did you get the idea for The F--- It List?

I have a friend who had cancer, and I only found out by doing an internet search on her. We were semi-estranged at the time. It was weird how the cancer brought us back together, and how we both changed as people, in a good way, over time. That was the original premise of the book, but then my publisher suggested a bucket list book. I read a beautiful and tragic bucket list book about a teen with cancer called “Before I Die” by Jenny Downham, so I didn’t want to do the same thing. But I thought if I combined the ideas- a best friend who has cancer and her bucket list- that could actually be different. And funny. I’m always looking for funny.

2) What are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it?

Is it bad to say I’m not working on anything? I have a five month-old and five year old [as of the date the book comes out] at home, so I can barely piece together a coherent sentence! When it’s time to write another book, I will be more than ready. Hopefully once my daughter goes to kindergarten next year, and my baby starts napping regularly I’ll have a chunk of time everyday to write again.

3) What's your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor(s)? Or, if you don't like those, a favorite snack to have while writing or as a reward for writing?

I love Jelly Bellys! There’s a Jelly Belly warehouse that gives tours only fifteen minutes from my house, and I go there about once a month. They sell the best socks. I like a lot of the flavors, but I particularly like their ice cream blend. However, I don’t usually eat while I write. I chew 700 pieces of gum instead.

4) You're married to an illustrator, who you've written a book with (Toby and the Snowflakes). What was that process like, and is it easier to be in a relationship with someone who understands more personally the publishing world?

It’s been so long since we worked on anything together! He’s so busy with putting out a million books a year, and I work solo on my novels. I would love one day to have another book together. The best part about it is that we get to do book events together. And many of our vacations are tax write-offs!

5) You love to travel. Where has been your favorite place to visit, and what place are you still dying to go to?

I lived in Australia and traveled around most of the Eastern half of the continent. I would love to go back and move my family there for a while. That’s one of my “if I become a rich author” dreams. With having two young kids and having quit my job as a librarian, I’m really just dying to travel anywhere. I miss having a steady paycheck and traveling every summer!

6) What book(s) are you reading now, or are about to start?

I’ve been on a non-fiction kick. I loved “You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation,” and “A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert ‘Believe It or Not!’ Ripley.” I have nothing lined up. I haven’t read fiction in a while because I’m so tired at night that I only manage to read one page at a time. By the time I get to the next page I can’t remember what I’ve read! Babies and no sleep will do that to a person.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The F- It List by Julie Halpern

The F- It List by Julie Halpern
"Alex and Becca have always been best friends. But when Becca does something nearly unforgivable at Alex’s dad’s funeral, Alex cuts ties with her and focuses on her grieving family.

Time passes, and Alex finally decides to forgive Becca. Then she’s hit with another shocker: Becca has cancer. It also turns out Becca has a bucket list, one she doesn’t know she’ll be able to finish now. That’s where Alex comes in, along with a mysterious and guarded boy who just may help Alex check a few items off her own bucket list."- summary from Amazon

What's really funny about this book is that I started reading this shortly after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is what Becca is diagnosed with. I had no idea picking up the book about the cancer plot at all; I just love Halpern's books so I don't care what she writes. It was a pleasant surprise and it helped prepare myself for my own journey, though my experience so far is very different from what Becca goes through during the course of the book. Halpern infuses humor into this book very well (yes, there are cancer jokes) and it helps lighten the mood so much.

Alex is a great main character and I loved reading her journey throughout the book (especially the emotional arc she goes through, dealing with the loss of her father), following her along on the bucket list adventure. The romance is really sweet and Halpern gives it a nice, slow burn throughout the book, which to me made it much more realistic. Leo's a wonderful love interest and just an all-around great guy.

Overall, this is another hit for Halpern and she continues to be one of my favorite authors. Cannot wait to see what she does next!

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.