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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Minders by Michele Jaffe + Giveaway

Minders by Michele Jaffe
"Q: If the boy you love commits a crime, would you turn him in?

Sadie Ames is a type-A teenager from the wealthy suburbs. She's been accepted to the prestigious Mind Corps Fellowship program, where she'll spend six weeks as an observer inside the head of Ford, a troubled boy with a passion for the crumbling architecture of the inner city. There's just one problem: Sadie's fallen in love with him.

Q: What if the crime is murder?

Ford Winters is haunted by the murder of his older brother, James. As Sadie falls deeper into his world, dazzled by the shimmering pinpricks of color that form images in his mind, she begins to think she knows him. Then Ford does something unthinkable.

Q: What if you saw it happen from inside his mind?

Back in her own body, Sadie is faced with the ultimate dilemma. With Ford's life in her hands, she must decide what is right and what is wrong. And how well she can really ever know someone, even someone she loves."- summary from Amazon

First off, this murder part? Doesn't happen until page 350, which leaves about 40 pages of the "ultimate dilemma" to take course. That doesn't necessarily mean that the rest of the book is bad or boring, but it just left a weird taste in my mouth that the whole summary is mostly about the last 50 pages of the book.

Jaffe is one of my favorite authors, and this book was another very good read; not her best (I don't think anything will top Bad Kitty for me), but still a very decent story. I will admit to taking a bit of time to get into it, but once I was, I was flying through the book, wanting to see what would happen next. There's a lot of twists and turns in this thriller and it's an ambitious plot. I do feel like the climax/ending was wrapped up a bit too hastily and abruptly though, which left me a little let-down as I know she can do better. The epilogue though was interesting and I give her props for writing it that way.

I think one of the most fascinating things about this book is the whole Mind Corps thing and being in someone else's mind and shaping that internal world. Jaffe did a wonderful job with that aspect of the book and I wish more time had been spent on it. It's interesting to think about- spending time in any mind and seeing how we think about images, sounds, etc. and how they show up in our mind's eye. That alone, which most of the book spends time with, is worth the price of admission. Jaffe creates this intriguing world for her readers, all in someone's mind, which provides some food for thought as I wonder about how my own mind works.

Overall, an interesting, thrilling new book from Jaffe. I do recommend it and, if you love it too, please spread the word on it. I'm a Jaffe fan for life, and am excited to see what she has in the works next.

Michele Jaffe has kindly offered up a signed copy of Minders for me to give away. All you have to do is leave a comment by next Friday, Feb 7 at 9pm EST. You can also get an extra entry by commenting on my interview with Michele from the other day! The contest is only open to US/Canada residents.

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Author Interview- Michele Jaffe

1) How did you get the idea for Minders?

Have you ever dated someone and found yourself wondering what the ^#%@#!^ they are thinking? Yeah.

[ASIDE: okay, for real, that is true. But a more professional answer would be to say that the book also allowed me to engage with larger themes I've been thinking about a lot, such as what privacy means right now. That is important for lots of fancy human rights reasons, but as a writer it's also interesting because the rise of the novel during the 18th century is concomitant with the rise of our modern conception of privacy. Novels were set in "private" spaces like the home and also people's thoughts, at a time when privacy was being newly defined and valued.

"Privacy" as a concept is evolving (or evaporating) again, in large part because of choices we make. We live in a survaillovoyeuristic culture of reality shows (emphasis more on the "show" than on "reality) and selfies and people instagramming their snacks. We invite strangers to be our "friends" and follow us, and we consider attention a badge of popularity. We've ceded a lot of our private space, our secrets, willingly, with the understanding that we control who has access to our data. In the modern world, then, "privacy" is no longer about walls and locked doors it's about firewalls and blocking unwanted eyeballs; the last thread of privacy is the power to control who sees what. So in addition to satisfying my nosiness, MINDERS is about how easily that last thread can be snapped--without anyone knowing it. About what we're really giving up when we shed our privacy for "greater good" or "greater security" or "greater ease ordering pizza on line."

Hmm, that doesn't sound as scary now as I meant it to.]

[I am not that good at being professional, it turns out.]

2) This is your third darker YA, and it's a departure from your adult historical romances and the funny contemporary YAs you started out writing years ago. You've kind of rebranded yourself as a dark thriller writer now. Do you think you'll continue writing these darker suspense thrillers, or at some point, return to funny contemporary YAs or do a whole other genre entirely? You know I'm still waiting on a third Bad Kitty book (though I know why it isn't happening).

This is the kind of question I should put a pleasant spin on but I'm going to go with bald reality: writing darker thrillers was a market driven decision, or rather necessity, because publishers were not interested in lighter, funnier books. At least from me.

But I also love doing these books because they make me push myself as a writer. Like many people, I strap on humor as a form of protection, so lowering that shield to write darker things forces me to look myself in the face more. Which is daunting because it leaves me vulnerable and means they require more discipline because I can get easily distracted by that zit on my chin. See? There I go! It means these books are daunting because they force me to be vulnerable and that makes me feel all squirmy.

One thing I particularly loved about writing Minders is that I got to create not only a just-slightly-in-the-future-landscape for the setting but also, since a lot of it takes place inside someone's mind, an entire *mindscape.* That meant devising a theory and architecture of consciousness, tackling questions like: How do memories manifest themselves in the mind? What form do thoughts and emotions take? Are they sounds, flavors, sensations, images? What is the exact mechanism by which an emotion can trigger an action? Where do things we repress go? What does the subconscious look like? It was the ultimate exercise--and privilege--in world building.

But it was a bit exhausting and required an uptick in my snack consumption. (In fact, I think this is probably why Santa is so rotund, because he knows what is going on in people's minds ALL THE TIME and that is quite tiring)

[ASIDE AGAIN: Despite all that, I am still ACHING to write the next Bad Kitty novel. I even have it all plotted, but unfortunately no one is filled with the same fervor to publish it. But if anyone in publishing is reading this and wants to take a chance on a Bad Kitty, calltextweet me!]

[No, I am not sure that ASIDE means what I think it means, either]

3) Even though Minders just came out, are you currently working on anything? Can you tell us anything about it?

In my *mind* I'm working on dozens of things right now like a magical writing elf, but in reality I have to limit myself to one or two or I never make any solid progress (because when writing one gets hard I'll hopscotch to another and that is cheating; hard is, unfortunately, part of writing. And I am not a magical writing elf.). Right now I'm focusing on an adult historical suspense novel set in Berlin in 1932 that I've been struggling with but am excited about, and a YA project with a British company that is working on a new storytelling platform. That is a fancy and I-Signed-A-Nondisclosure-Agreement way of saying it will be electronic, but not in the way(s) people might typically think.

(Cue exciting and mysterious sounding music)
(And footsteps)
(And scary owl noises)

I'm also trying to emerge from my tiny cave and be better about social networking which to me feels like writing a whole other book since it is essentially about creating a character and hoping people like it. For some reason this is very hard for me (hello flashback to insecurities of teen age years! Thank you for visiting image of me in braces! You can leave now, memory of the time I dyed my hair--and body--purple!). I think part of it is because when I am feeling cynical it seems sort of mercenary to me--for authors, it's not about having real friends, it's about grooming a reader base to build or maintain sales--and part of it is because I can't imagine anyone cares what I am reading/thinking/doing/eating. And also because what if I start oversharing and suddenly I am admitting how much time I spend trying to master the perfect smokey eye or worrying about panty lines or--ACK! SEE? I JUST TOLD YOU. ERASE ERASE!

This is why I should stay off social media.

4) I've already asked you your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor, so can you tell us your favorite snack to have while writing, or as a reward for writing?

I love all snacks and want as many of them in my tummy as possible at all times. I especially like snacks involving dough such as dumplings, pie, pizza, croissants and royalty checks. And tacos.

5) What book(s) are you currently reading, or are about to start? Any 2014 releases you're looking forward to?

I only read books by the dead while I'm writing, so I've been gobbling up the fantastic mystery novels of John D McDonald featuring his Florida based sleuth Travis McGee. I'm also rereading some novels written in the 1700's--written at the moment when the word "novel" went from being an adjective describing something new and fresh, to a noun describing a new kind of narrative featuring made up people in real-ish settings--to help me think about how new information technologies and textual formats effect storytelling and through that culture and conceptions ofzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....whoops sorry, put myself to sleep there.

6) You're friends with Meg Cabot, and I know you guys hang out a lot. Can you share any fun adventures you two went through lately?

I am the luckiest person in Luckyland because I just moved in NEXT DOOR to Meg Cabot in Key West, which is basically the single best place in the world to be living because I have the most awesome neighbors on the planet. That is not bragging, simply FACT.

Key West is such a groovy town that just going to lunch can feel like an adventure because 1. you ride bikes with puffy tires 2. you eat places with views of boats or turquoise ocean 3. you are likely to see someone with either a bird or a cat sitting on their shoulder 4. there is key lime pie.

But I should not give the impression that life Next Door to Meg is all just delicious lunch and watching dolphins frolic off the beach in front of you and having dinner with Judy Blume (yes! I got to do that! I am still pinching myself. She is magnificent). For example the other day when Meg encountered a Large & Sinister Pile Of Mystery Goo on a path behind a locked gate and we had to use all our sleuthing skills to figure out how it got there, who left it, what it was. It was like playing CSI: Backyard. Only my smokey eye makeup wasn't as good as the actresses on TV.


(Meg's was though, of course.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Blog Tour- A Little Too Hot by Lisa Desrochers

Author: Lisa Desrochers
Series: A Little Too Far #3
Publication Date: January 21, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Impulse
From USA Today bestselling author Lisa Desrochers, comes the third book in her sizzling New Adult series.

If you play with fire…

Tossed out of college and cut off by her parents, Samantha West is in pretty dire straits. So when her rocker best friend hooks her up with a job dancing at a gentlemen’s club, who is she to turn it down? Plus, there are rules to dancing at Benny’s: No touching, keep your clothes on at all times, and never get closer than three feet. Unfortunately for Sam, her first private client makes her want to break every single one of them.

Harrison Yates is scorching hot, but he’s got a past that involves being left at the altar not too long ago. Sam is determined to make him forget about his ex, but when she makes her move, it flings her life into a spiral of chaos she never saw coming.

Because Harrison Yates isn’t who he seems to be. And his secret will probably get her killed.



“Every page is deliciously breathtaking, wickedly sexy and sensational. A LITTLE TOO HOT is wonderfully unique and a LOT HOT! I am a HUGE Lisa Desrochers fan.”
Katy Evans, New York Times bestselling author of REAL, MINE, and REMY

“Lisa is brilliant at creating sizzling sexual tension and impossible circumstances that make the reader hold their breath all the way to happy ever after. Sam and Harrison are more than A Little Too Hot, they are scorching!"
Jay Crownover, New York Times bestselling author of RULE, JET, and ROME

“Lisa Desrochers’ best yet! A LITTLE TOO HOT is hotter than hot with all the emotional punch to back it up!”
Sophie Jordan, New York Times bestselling author

So if you read my review of A Little Too Much last Friday, you know that I wasn't as enthralled with that one and was a bit worried about reading A Little Too Hot. Well, have no fear- A Little Too Hot is simply amazing and a fast-paced, steamy adventure! There's a fantastic little twist here that really makes the book so much fun and compelling to read.

I absolutely loved Sam as a character, and of course her and Harrison together is just perfect. So much sexual tension but they have to stay apart for spoilery reasons and I just loved it. Due to these reasons too, Sam and Harrison spend a lot of time together just the two of them so while there are of course other characters, the reader doesn't get to know them as well. They're still fun to have around in scenes, but the main focus is really on Sam and Harrison.

Overall, Desrochers has written a fantastic conclusion to this steamy, romantic trilogy (that also did tie it around to A Little Too Far) and I cannot wait to read more New Adult from her!

About Lisa Desrochers
Lisa Desrochers is the USA Today bestselling author of A LITTLE TOO FAR , courtesy of HarperCollins, and companions, A LITTLE TOO MUCH (Nov 12, 2013), and A LITTLE TOO HOT (Jan 21, 2014). Also in stores is her YA PERSONAL DEMONS trilogy (Macmillan).
She lives in central California with her husband and two very busy daughters. There is never a time that she can be found without a book in her hand, and she adores stories that take her to new places, and then take her by surprise.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Week Two: Day Six
Jan. 27th - Owl Always Be Reading - Review + Guest Post
Jan. 27th - BookChic - Review
Jan. 27th - The Book Whore-der's Delights - Review
Jan. 27th - Paranormal Book Club - Guest Post
Jan. 27th - Ticket to Anywhere - Deleted Scene
Jan. 27th - Nocturne Romance Reads - Review + Author Interview

FTC: Received e-galley from Edelweiss.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Little Too Much by Lisa Desrochers

A Little Too Much by Lisa Desrochers
"In the follow-up to Lisa Desrochers' explosive new adult novel A Little Too Far, Alessandro Moretti must face the life he escaped and the girl he left behind.

Twenty-two-year-old Hilary McIntyre would like nothing more than to forget her past. As a teenager abandoned to the system, she faced some pretty dark times. But now that's all behind her. Hilary has her life on track, and there's no way she'll head down that road again.

Until Alessandro Moretti—the one person who can make her remember—shows up on her doorstep. He's even more devastatingly gorgeous than before, and he's much too close for comfort. Worse, he sees right through the walls she's built over these last eight years, right into her heart and the secrets she's guarding.

As Hilary finds herself falling back in love with the man who, as a boy, both saved and destroyed her, she must decide: Past or future? Truth or lies?"- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed A Little Too Far and was excited to read this sequel/companion book, but I just didn't enjoy it as much. It took me longer to get into this story and even when I did get more into it, I still wasn't as enthralled. I think I just enjoyed the characters from the first book too much- Lexie had a wonderful voice, and I loved her interactions with Trent and Alessandro. And even though Alessandro was in this book too, again as a love interest, it just didn't feel the same.

It is still a good book though; Desrochers does a really great job of layering her characters and giving them some detailed backstory that influences how they are now. This really takes effect in this book due to Hilary and Alessandro's shared past and the things they've done or had done to them. There are emotional obstacles keeping them apart but as they spend time together, Desrochers slowly peels the layers away until there's a real connection and some steamy fun.

Overall, a step down from the amazing A Little Too Far, but still a solid effort. I'll read the third book though (A Little Too Hot, which is out now) and hopefully it'll turn out better.

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Infinite by Jodi Meadows

Infinite by Jodi Meadows
"Ana knows that soon life in Heart will be at risk so she escapes with her friends, seeking answers and allies to stop Janan's ascension and keep the other Newsouls safe. But only she knows the true cost of reincarnation and the dangers she'll encounter if she returns to stop him once and for all."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely love this series to bits and while I'm sad to see it end, Meadows did a wonderful job concluding the trilogy and I think fans will be happy with the outcome. I feel like this book was much more action-packed than the previous two (especially in the beginning and around the climax), which definitely made for some quick page-turning on my part to see what would happen next.

I really don't want to give too much away since this is the final book in the trilogy so I don't know what to say. Sam and Ana continue to be adorable, funny and awesome together, but it's definitely not an easy road for their relationship in this book. I will also say that Meadows is not afraid to kill off some characters in this book; unfortunately, it has to happen.

Overall, a compelling, fantastic conclusion to a unique, amazing trilogy.

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
"Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?"- summary from Amazon

I am so glad I gave Schwab another chance after reading her debut, which I thought was just an okay book. I absolutely adored her sophomore effort, The Archived, and now her adult debut is simply fabulous. Vicious is a fascinating, suspenseful book and Schwab crafted it so very well. Chapters take place in different time periods, from different characters POVs, and these really just help strengthen and create this gritty comic-book-like world. It also never really feels like a bunch of hopping around; the book is divided into two parts- the first part mainly focuses on the time Eli and Victor are in school together, and the second part focuses on the present day. In between, we get glimpses into each character's past or inner thoughts, but it feels like a natural progression; Schwab leads us up to each of these points and a particular scene evolves out of how the previous chapter ends.

There's a fascinating tug of war between Eli and Victor of what it means to be a hero and what it means to be a villain. Schwab deals with this dilemma deftly and toes the line between the two very well. It makes for a much more complex book and provides some interesting thoughts on it. These characters are deep and multi-layered with flaws and redeeming qualities and quirks and it's not always an easy case of good vs. evil.

Overall, simply an amazing book that I highly recommend and I hope that there is a sequel, but barring that, I'd love to just read more adult books from Schwab (as well as YA- ALL the Schwab books for me!).

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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Blog Tour- Going Rogue by Robin Benway

Going Rogue by Robin Benway
"Being permanently based in a local New York City high school as an undercover operative has its moments, good and bad, for 16-year-old safecracker Maggie Silver. Pros: More quality time with her former mark-turned-boyfriend Jesse Oliver and insanely cool best friend, Roux. Getting to spend quality time with her semi-retired and international spy honorary uncle, Angelo. Cons: High school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.

But when Maggie's parents are falsely accused of stealing priceless gold coins, Maggie uses her safecracking skills to try and clear their names. Too bad it only serves to put her and everyone she loves in danger. Maggie and her "new team" flee to Paris where they must come up with a plan to defeat their former allies."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely loved the previous book in this duology and was so excited that there was another book with these characters coming, and it did not let me down. It's even more action-packed and thrilling than the first, and still very hilarious too! Benway writes in such a compelling, breezy style for this series and it really makes the pages fly by. I love being surrounded by these characters from before, as well as getting to know a few new ones in the latter half of the book. It's tremendous fun reading about Maggie and her friends and this crazy spy adventure that they go on in this book.

Overall, I really hope this is not the end for the series even if I have to wait a couple years for another. I don't want to give up these awesome characters!! There's definitely room for another sequel, but I do think Benway left the characters in a good place if this is the end; it's handled very well.

and here's an interview with Robin!:
1) Going Rogue marks the second book in the Also Known As series. Was it different writing a continuing story as opposed to starting something new since this is your first series? Will there be more books in this series (please say yes!)?

It was SO different! But in a wonderful way, not a stressful way at all. I’ve always thought about all my characters and wondered what they were up to, so it was so lovely to go back and see Maggie and Roux and Angelo and follow up with their shenanigans. I just adore them.

As for another book, right now I’m working on something else.

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

Speaking of something else! I’m currently writing a book called “Emmy & Oliver” which is about a boy who’s kidnapped by his father when he’s seven and returns home when he’s seventeen. It’s told from his next door neighbor Emmy’s point of view. It’s probably the most serious book I’ve written so far, but the characters are still little wisecrackers. It’s been fun getting to know them.

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

TOASTED MARSHMALLOW. Anyone who says they don’t like toasted marshmallow is a liar. (I mean that in the nicest, most non-confrontational way possible.)

As for snacks, I don’t really need food as much as I do coffee. A lot of writing tends to happen in coffee shops, so I think it’s sort of snuck into my writing process by osmosis.

4) What are you reading right now, or are about to start? Any 2014 books you're excited for?

I just started E. Lockhart’s “We Were Liars” and literally made myself stop reading so I could answer these questions! I’m also excited to read Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch.” My New Year’s resolution this year (Blogger Note: this is referring to 2013) was to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I’m only on #39, though, but I still think that’s not too terrible.

5) What is your favorite part of writing YA literature and being part of the community?

Definitely interacting with readers and other YA writers. As far as readers, it’s such an intelligent, enthusiastic community. They ask good questions, say funny things, and make me want to write characters that are as bright & curious as them.

And with YA writers, it’s just a strong group of talented, kind people. I’ve made so many new friends and it’s always nice to be able to call someone when you have a question about the publishing industry or characters who just won’t behave. One of the most difficult aspects of being a writer is that I tend to spend a lot of time by myself, in my own head, so I’m glad that when I emerge from the writing cave, there are other people who “get it.”

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Review + Giveaway- The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher
"Fatal attraction, primal fear, survival in the forest: From the author of the Printz Honor Book STOLEN, the highly anticipated thriller about deadly games played in the dark.

Ashlee Parker is dead, and Emily Shepherd's dad is accused of the crime. A former soldier suffering from PTSD, he emerges from the woods carrying the girl's broken body. "Gone," he says, then retreats into silence.

What really happened that wild night? Emily knows in her bones that her father is innocent -- isn't he? Before he's convicted, she's got to find out the truth. Does Damon Hilary, Ashlee's charismatic boyfriend, have the answers? Or is he only playing games with her -- the kinds of games that can kill?"- summary from Amazon

This is my first Lucy Christopher book and it certainly won't be my last. From what I've heard of her previous books, she's a fantastically gifted writer, but I don't think this book showcases that very well. It is a really good mystery thriller, dealing with some topical issues like PTSD among other things (one of the things I can't mention as it would give away the ending) and I can tell that Christopher is a good writer, but it wasn't necessarily a book I'd go around recommending to everyone I see upon finishing it.

I really enjoyed the dual perspective (which I've noticed is happening in a lot of YA recently) and it really allowed for some great characterization on Emily and Damon's parts. The voices are done very differently and Damon sounds like a real teen boy, which can be hard to capture. The book can be a bit slow-moving and introspective at times as the characters try to figure out what really happened that night, which kind of brings me to another point. There are other characters in the novel aside from Emily and Damon, but I really felt like none of them were really explored or fleshed out. Like, they show up here and there but a lot of the novel is very much focused on Emily and Damon's own personal journeys as well as their journey with each other once they cross paths. It feels very isolated and I think that's part of the reason why the book wasn't OMGAMAZING for me. A mystery needs to provide more in its supporting characters/suspects, and that just didn't happen.

Overall though, it is a good book and I can tell that Christopher is a talented writer. I'm eager to go back and read some of her previous novels to see if they're as good as people say.

Learn more about the book below with the official trailer and Lucy reading Chapter 1, then I'm holding a giveaway for two copies of the book! You can also go to the book's website to learn more.

Thanks to Scholastic, I have two hardcover copies of The Killing Woods to give away! The contest is open only to US mailing addresses. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with your email address by Monday, January 20 at 9pm EST. If there are any questions, leave them in the comments and I'll address them.

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

Monday, January 13, 2014

Phantom Eyes by Scott Tracey

Phantom Eyes by Scott Tracey
"The bells sing with dark energy as Grace emerges from the shadows. The end is about to begin.

After Grace Lansing ripped out the power of his witch eyes, Braden is left broken. His beloved Uncle John is dead, his body is being hijacked like a puppet, and everyone—from ghosts to demons to warlocks—seems to have Braden’s death on their to-do lists. Torn between fleeing to safety and making a stand to regain his power, Braden searches for answers about the witch feud’s origins.

But when Grace sets her ancient plan in motion, Braden is determined to reclaim his birthright. As key players converge on the deep wellsprings of magical energy hidden in town, one thing becomes clear: whoever controls the magic will control Belle Dam. Braden’s only hope is to become the weapon he never wanted to be, but could unleash the monster that lurks inside him."- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed this conclusion to the Witch Eyes trilogy and think Tracey did a wonderful job wrapping the whole thing up. It was simply perfect. I had trouble putting this book down once I got back into it; I had read about 50 pages of the e-galley before it expired, and had to wait til I bought the paperback and then find time for it in my reading schedule. But for the rest of those 350 pages, I was hooked.

There's so many twists and turns throughout the book, and a ton of manipulation and action going on; it makes for some really compelling reading and surprising reveals. Braden is such a great main character, and I love his on-again, off-again thing with Trey. Tracey did a wonderful job with the climax, and the ending is fantastic and handled so well. I loved it.

Overall, a seriously amazing, fitting end to this witchy trilogy. I highly recommend it, as well as Tracey's other series, which started with Moonset last year (with the sequel, Darkbound, out this April). Both series deal with witches in different ways, and it's so intriguing reading the mythology and seeing how powers work in each of these different worlds.

FTC: Bought paperback. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Suburban Strange by Nathan Kotecki

The Suburban Strange by Nathan Kotecki
"Shy Celia Balaustine is new to Suburban High, but a mysterious group of sophomores called the Rosary has befriended her. Friends aside, Celia soon discovers something is not quite right at Suburban. Girls at the school begin having near-fatal accidents on the eve of their sixteenth birthdays. Who is causing the accidents, and why? As Celia’s own birthday approaches, she is inexorably drawn into an underground conflict between good and evil—the Kind and the Unkind—that bubbles beneath Suburban High."- summary from Amazon

I've been meaning to read this book for over a year now; I received an ARC of it way back in August 2012 and Kotecki is a friend of mine (kinda; we're like in between acquaintances and friends since we chat every so often online and have only met up in person twice, lol). I really enjoyed this book, but it definitely requires the reader to be in a certain kind of mood. It's really an atmospheric novel that pulls the reader in and makes the world of the novel feel so real. This is a magical realism book, which I really like; there is a conflict between good and evil but for most of the book, it's mentioned offhandedly and doesn't really all come to fruition until the last 100 pages or so. That doesn't necessarily mean it feels tacked on, but rather it just makes the suspense of it all slowly build until the climax. It's also an interesting take on good and evil- the Kind and Unkind- that makes the novel so different. Kotecki does a good job of introducing this concept and explaining the magic of it all.

Celia is an interesting main character, but she definitely took some getting used to. In the beginning of the novel, she's very unsure of herself and that comes across to me as a reader as a character I can't really grasp onto if she has no idea of her sense of self. It takes a little bit of time for her to find her voice but once she does, it definitely made the novel fly by. I also really enjoyed all of Celia's new friends, but especially Marco and Brendan, a gay couple (of course I'd latch on to them, lol). It's nice to see gay characters just being themselves without really any drama (aside from a talk later on in the book which can apply to any kind of relationship)- they aren't picked on (to my knowledge; if it happened, it was a minor incident) and they're out and proud. It's such a good, positive message.

The romance is a little bit of cuteness amidst all this other stuff; I like them together, but I do wish there had been a little more fleshing out of Tomasi and his home life. There just wasn't enough of him in the book, so it was a little hard to really get to know him. I hope that happens in the sequel.

Overall, a very good debut and I'm excited to see what adventures await Celia in the next book, Pull Down the Night (which is out now).

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Spirit Animals Books 1&2 by Brandon Mull and Maggie Stiefvater + Interview

Wild Born and Hunted
"Four children separated by vast distances all undergo the same ritual, watched by cloaked strangers. Four flashes of light erupt, and from them emerge the unmistakable shapes of incredible beasts - a wolf, a leopard, a panda, a falcon. Suddenly the paths of these children - and the world - have been changed forever.

Enter the world of Erdas, where every child who comes of age must discover if they have a spirit animal, a rare bond between human and beast that bestows great powers to both. A dark force has risen from distant and long-forgotten lands, and has begun an onslaught that will ravage the world. Now the fate of Erdas has fallen on the shoulders of four young strangers . . . and on you."- summary from Amazon

So I really enjoyed the Infinity Ring series (still have to read Books 6 and 7 though) and was excited to hear about a new interactive series from Scholastic, especially one that involved the awesome Maggie Stiefvater. This new series is an action-adventure fantasy that I really think kids will love. It's told in third person omniscient, so not only does the reader get to know the four main kids very well, but it occasionally glimpses into the enemy's camps as well, which makes for some very compelling reading.

Each book centers around a quest to get a talisman from the other great Spirit Animals to aid in the battle between good and evil, though Mull also had to set up the world and the characters, which takes up a good portion of the first book. I really like the four main kids and I think readers will really relate to them and their hopes and fears. My favorite would probably have to be Rollan just because of how sarcastic he is; that always bonds me to any character.

Overall, a fascinating new multi-platform series from Scholastic and I'm eager for the upcoming books (written by the likes of Sean Williams & Garth Nix, Shannon Hale and Marie Lu!)!

and here's an interview with Maggie Stiefvater, author of Book 2: Hunted:
1) This is your first middle-grade book after having written multiple books for the YA audience. Was it difficult to write for that age group?

I knew before I began that I couldn’t include swearing or kissing or grueling death scenes, so that wasn’t a shock — but I did find out during the writing process that middle grade editors don’t approve of the lopping off of arms. The most challenging bit, actually, was curbing my desire to agonize over prose. Ordinarily I take great pride in the sound of my YA novels — I read them out loud to be sure the words sound agreeable and musical to my ear. But in a fast-paced novel for younger readers like this? It turned out that I read this one out loud too, but for an entirely different reason. I have two kids who are 8 & 9 years old, and we read books out loud nearly every night. I ended up reading most of Hunted out loud in my office to be sure that it sounded like something a parent and child could read out loud at the end of the day.

2) You'll probably be asked this all over the place but I want to ask anyway- what would you want your Spirit Animal to be if you went through that ceremony?

I already went through that ceremony, James, right after I sold Shiver and came of age. My ’73 Camaro appeared and we’ve been bonded for life ever since.

3) What are you currently working on, and can you tell us anything about it? Do you think you'll ever write middle-grade again?

I am working on the third book in the Raven Cycle and also a collaboration with my critique partners, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff. I also have another secret project in the works that I can’t say anything about.

I’d definitely write middle grade again. It was incredibly satisfying to write something my kids could read as soon as I was done with it.

4) With this series (as well as others by Scholastic like Infinity Ring and 39 Clues), various authors write a different book in the series. How did that process work? Was it hard to dive in and write this sequel when it wasn't something you had started/created?

I have to admit that I thought it would be a breeze. After all, I ran a short-story blog with Tessa and Brenna for years [www.merryfates.com]. Years! We put up new short fiction three times a week for the first year, then every week for years after, often writing stories to a common prompt. On Monday, we’d decide “we’re all writing a retelling of Snow White.” Friday, I’d write my version. Or we’d decide “the stories must be about puddles.” And we’d all write about puddles. So I thought I had the skillset down pat. And yet, when it came time to write Hunted, I discovered it really didn’t help at all. Because with Spirit Animals, I inherited the characters from book one. It was only the plot I was supposed to contribute.

But-but-but- characters are my super power! You want me to work without my POWERS?

It was quite a learning curve. But I threw my back into it. And sneakily, I managed to invent a few characters as well.

5) What book(s) are you reading, or are looking forward to reading?

Right now, my son is reading books in the I Survived series. Have you seen them? They’re these really short, dire tales that are called things like I SURVIVED THE BOMBINGS ON PEARL HARBOR or I SURVIVED THE SHARK ATTACKS OF 1917. He has me read them out loud. Now those are some middle grades with some lopping.

Personally, I’m reading a lot of research for Raven Boys III. I’m about halfway through A SINGER OF TALES, which is about the process of learning epic poetry. It is not thrilling, but I persist.

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

Monday, January 6, 2014

Everbound by Brodi Ashton

Everbound by Brodi Ashton
"Ever since Nikki Beckett watched as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the dark Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity, she's been living a borrowed life. Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen—and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to help in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself. Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they'd anticipated—and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack—even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own."- summary from Amazon

I was hooked by Everneath and was so excited to start Everbound which was a wonderfully quick, compelling read. I flew through the book, loving every moment of Nikki's adventure in the Everneath with Cole and his friends. Ashton did a great job setting up the world and throwing some interesting twists into the whole mythology of the place. I loved Nikki and Cole's interactions, though I don't want them together romantically; they're fun bantering buddies to me and that's all. Jack and Nikki belong together and it was so sweet to see Nikki fighting so hard for him and their love. The ending was intriguing and I'm eager to see how things turn out in the final book, Evertrue.

Overall, a wonderfully imaginative spin on the Persephone myth and a solid second book in the trilogy.

FTC: Borrowed hardcover from library. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown
"Ashleigh's boyfriend, Kaleb, is about to leave for college, and Ashleigh is worried that he'll forget about her while he's away. So at a legendary end-of-summer pool party, Ashleigh's friends suggest she text him a picture of herself -- sans swimsuit -- to take with him. Before she can talk herself out of it, Ashleigh strides off to the bathroom, snaps a photo in the full-length mirror, and hits "send."

But when Kaleb and Ashleigh go through a bad breakup, Kaleb takes revenge by forwarding the text to his baseball team. Soon the photo has gone viral, attracting the attention of the school board, the local police, and the media. As her friends and family try to distance themselves from the scandal, Ashleigh feels completely alone -- until she meets Mack while serving her court-ordered community service. Not only does Mack offer a fresh chance at friendship, but he's the one person in town who received the text of Ashleigh's photo -- and didn't look."-summary from Goodreads

I absolutely loved Brown's debut and have been meaning to continue reading her, but so many books, so little time! I'm glad I was able to squeeze this one in though. It's a fantastic novel about a current hot topic and Brown handles it deftly (just like with Hate List).

The book goes back and forth between before/during the scandal and after the scandal, creating a wonderful page-turner that's hard to put down. Ashleigh's voice is spot-on and I really got invested in her life and these events. It was nice to see the whole story- how Kaleb and Ashleigh met, their dating, the long-distance relationship, the breakup, the scandal, and how things turn out after the ordeal. It provided for some great characterization and emotional arcs, and really getting into the history of these two.

The interactions between Mack and Ashleigh were written very well, and watching their friendship grow over the course of the novel was refreshing to see. Too much of YA is so focused on the romance and insta-love (not that I mind romance, but it can get a bit much at times) that it was a pleasure to read about two people who strike up a friendship slowly and gradually. It felt very realistic.

Overall, a stunning, poignant novel and one that makes me want to go back and read the two books I missed, and you can be sure I'll be keeping an eye out for any future books from Brown.

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

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
"Carrying just a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother are immigrating to England from Poland. Kasienka isn't the happiest girl in the world. At home, her mother is suffering from a broken heart as she searches for Kasienka's father. And at school, Kasienka is having trouble being the new girl and making friends. The only time she feels comforted is when she's swimming at the pool. But she can't quite shake the feeling that she's sinking. Until a new boy swims into her life, and she learns that there might be more than one way to stay afloat."- summary from Amazon

I had Crossan's Breathe in my TBR pile and had been meaning to pick it up, but I made my way to her contemporary debut first. It did also make things easier that this was written in verse, which therefore means a quicker read. It was easy to fit into my reading schedule. It'll be interesting to read Breathe after this and compare the two; they're both completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. Immigration is not something you really read much about, and Crossan does a good job of writing it realistically. It's also interesting too reading about two different countries- Kasienka comes from Poland and reflects on those memories, and now she's in London making new ones. Most books I read are set in the US, so it was nice to have a break from that though London isn't exactly all sunshine and roses for Kasienka. There's a bullying aspect covered here, and it was heartbreaking to read about her problems fitting in. It's a very poignant book.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend this book to those interested in tales of bullying and verse novels. Crossan does a wonderful job packing in the emotion and turmoil of Kasienka's life into so few words. While I'm even more excited to read her other book Breathe, I do hope she writes more in verse as well.

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