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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Charmed Life #1: Caitlin's Lucky Charm by Lisa Schroeder

Charmed Life #1: Caitlin's Lucky Charm by Lisa Schroeder
"Caitlin would stay at summer camp forever if she could. Her new best friends in the world, Hannah, Mia, and Libby are there. And at home? Everything's different: Her dad is worried he might be losing his job; her mom is repainting the whole house and making the kids volunteer at a soup kitchen; and Caitlin is starting sixth grade at a new school, where none of the girls are as fun or friendly as her Cabin 7 BFFs. But Caitlin has a good-luck charm -- or a good-luck charm bracelet anyway. The Cabin 7 girls bought it together, and Caitlin is taking the first turn wearing it. She's sure it will help turn her luck around . . . but when?"- summary from Amazon

I absolutely loved this cute new middle-grade series from Lisa Schroder. I've stayed up to date on her YA books, but this is my first look into her middle-grade writing (Schroeder has also written the Cupcake trilogy). Even though we only have gotten Caitlin's POV in this book (the other three girls each get their own book; Mia's was released yesterday as well, with the other two to follow later this year), I really got a sense of each of the girls and their great friendship bond. I feel like a lot of girls will identify with what Caitlin is going through being a new kid at school, family drama, and school activities.

Overall, a great middle-grade debut and I'm eager to read more (I have book 2 as an e-galley!)!

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

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
"Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?"- summary from Amazon

Schwab has done it again. I was so excited to read this sequel and she did not let me down; this follow-up is just as good if not better than the first book. I really hope there will be a third book. I can't let these awesome characters go! I love Mackenzie, Wesley, Roland, and so many others and I really enjoy spending time with them. Schwab's prose and Mackenzie's voice make this book hard to put down and I read it very quickly over a couple days. The stakes are higher in this book, and there's more action going on that keep the story compelling and fast-paced.

Overall, a fantastic follow-up and I think it's a good ending to the series if it ends up being that, but I so hope a third book will happen. Please check this series out; it's simply amazing!

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

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Everyday Angel #1 by Victoria Schwab

Everyday Angel #1: New Beginnings by Victoria Schwab
"At a first glance, Aria seems like your average twelve-year-old girl. She has coppery hair, colored shoelaces, and a passion for cupcakes. But there's more to Aria than meets the eye. She can dream things into existence, use her own shadow like a door, and change the world in small, important ways. Aria is a guardian angel. She's been sent here to earn her wings. But to do that, she'll have to help three different girls.

Aria's first mission is Gabby Torres. Gabby's always been quiet, but ever since her brother got sick, she's barely said a word. When a new school offers her a fresh start, Gabby wants badly to be someone new, but she quickly learns it's hard to make friends while keeping half her life a secret.

And then Aria shows up. Aria, who knows exactly what to say and do to make Gabby feel better. Will she be able to help Gabby find her voice? And will Gabby still trust Aria when she finds out exactly what she is?"- summary from Amazon

I'm sure you've all heard me gush over Schwab's writing in my reviews of The Archived and Vicious (and get prepared for next week's review of The Unbound), and this review will be no different. Even though this is quite a different ball game for Schwab (while Vicious is adult as opposed to her YA audience, they're both similar in that they have a dark nature to them), she pulls it off really well. It is a happier, funnier book with some amazing emotional arcs for the two main characters, and the narrative switches between the two. I will also admit that this book had me tearing up toward the end of it.

Overall, it's a wonderful start to an interesting middle-grade series. I'm excited to read more when the next book comes out in August!

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

Monday, May 19, 2014

Blog Tour- Subway Love by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Subway Love by Nora Raleigh Baskin
"If her parents had never divorced, Laura wouldn’t have to live in the shadow of Bruce, her mom’s unpredictable boyfriend. Her mom wouldn’t say things like “be groovy,” and Laura wouldn’t panic every weekend on the way to Dad’s Manhattan apartment. But when Laura spots a boy on a facing platform, lifting a camera to his face, looking right at her, Laura feels anything but afraid, and she can’t forget him. Jonas, meanwhile, thinks nonstop about the pretty hippy girl he glimpsed on the platform—trying to comprehend how she vanished, but mostly wondering if he will see her again in a city of millions. If he searches, will he find her?"- summary from publisher

and here's an interview with Nora:

1) How did you get the idea for Subway Love?

I am actually not sure. I think I was talking to some students at a school and we were batting around ideas about a magical place where two characters would meet, like a ghost story, but I wasn’t really interested in that kind of story. I was interested in a story, however, about a love that is so real and so strong but couldn’t ever be realized. A romantic tragedy, I guess you’d call it. And the two ideas morphed together.

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

I am working on another sort of tragic love story, but a very different one. About self-love and suicide and survival and about how falling for the wrong person can be both destructive and healing.

3) You have a dog and a cat. How did you get them, and do you have any funny anecdotes about them?

Of course, they are both rescue pets. Eli, my dog, is from Arkansas and Baby Kitty, my cat, was found on the north fork of Long Island. I am crazy for them both and I have too many stories to even begin. You really don’t want to get me started. My smart phone is filled with photos of them both. One of the best ways I communicate with my grown sons is by sending them photos of the pets doing cute things, like the cat climbing in the bathtub or my the dog asleep under the covers. Stuff like that… See, I told you not to get me started!

4) What's 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?

I am not that fond of Jelly beans, I must admit. They stick in my teeth and they are not chocolate. But I certainly wouldn’t turn then down. I would eat all the black ones first. I like licorice. And since you asked, revising is the hardest part of writing and so I let myself snack while I am revising: chips, M&Ms, chocolate chips cookies, Oreos… Often my revised manuscript has lots of dirty fingerprints on it. I really need to stop doing that!

5) You used to be a creative writing teacher. What was your favorite part of that job? Did you enjoy teaching? Think you'll ever go back to it?

I still teach creative writing all the time to both children and adults. I enjoy it very much. The key is to remember I can’t really teach anyone anything. I can only share what I have learned and mistakes I’ve made. Writing is an art and it’s very individual. It is filled with rules…all that are made to be broken so that new voices and new forms of expression can be discovered. I see myself as giving permission and inspiration for my students to write. Reading is really the best way to learn “how” to write. It is a personal journey. It is a process and sometimes the only way in is straight into the belly of the beast, so to speak. Make mistakes. Take risks. And listen to your heart.
I know I sound corny, but I believe it.

To follow the rest of the tour, here's the list:

5/12/2014- Who R U Blog

5/13/2014- Great Imaginations

5/14/2014- Word Spelunking

5/15/2014- Once Upon a Twilight

5/16/2014- A Leisure Moment

5/17/2014- Random Chalk Talk

5/18/2014- The Story Siren

5/19/2014- Book Chic Club

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
"For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?"- summary from Amazon

I've become such an Anderson fan over the years. I came a little late to her and may have read Fever 1793 before her acclaimed debut Speak, but her writing is simply fantastic. I absolutely loved the voice of Hayley in this book and it really pulled me in. Anderson always does a wonderful job with the voices of her characters. The story is one that should be commonplace now but isn't; Anderson writes about the world of PTSD from war and how it affects the person going through it as well as those around him/her extremely well. I hope that it opens up a discussion for the treatment of it and how poorly it's being handled currently.

There is a romance in here but it's handled very delicately throughout the book, and definitely more of a subplot. Finn is a great guy and really helps Hayley with her emotional arc and it's great to see her happier by the end of the book.

Overall, another great novel from Anderson. Before she releases another one, I need to catch up on all her others (only read 3 of like 10 of her MG/YA books)!

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine
"Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she's not popular, not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet good girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now, in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change but doesn't know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe's: star of the lacrosse team, at the top of his class, and on the fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a "term-paper pimp." Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change but doesn't know how.

One fateful night, their paths cross at Wren's family's Arthurian-themed catering hall. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely loved this contemporary romantic comedy; Constantine has written a fantastic debut filled with great characters, hilarious humor, a swoon-worthy romance, and wonderful emotional arcs. I really liked the dual narrative, which I do think helps a lot of romantic novels. It's interesting to be able to see and know both sides, especially when they are away from each other and dealing with other things. Wren and Grayson have some great chemistry and I loved reading scenes with the two of them together.

There was also a lot of family issues going on with each and it was nice to see a big presence from each family in the book. Usually, families aren't seen that much in YA novels. It really helped to flesh out Wren and Grayson and show a different side to them.

Overall, a really great debut and I'm excited to read more from Constantine!

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

Monday, May 12, 2014

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd
"Back in London after her trip to Dr. Moreau's horrific island, Juliet is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget her father's legacy. But soon it's clear that someone—or something—hasn't forgotten her, as people close to Juliet start falling victim to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes. Has one of her father's creations also escaped the island? As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive."- summary from Amazon

I loved Shepherd's debut and was so excited to read this follow-up. It's so cool seeing classics being used as a foundation for each book in the trilogy (in this case, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). I really enjoyed following Juliet along on this journey and it's a heart-stopping, page-turning adventure the whole way through. I'm usually not a fan of historical novels but these are just simply fantastic. Shepherd does a great job with the romantic aspect in the books too; there is a love triangle but I feel like it generally doesn't overpower the rest of the story.

Overall, a fantastic follow-up to The Madman's Daughter, and I'm eager to see what will happen next and how the story will end in the final book! I highly recommend this series.

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

Friday, May 9, 2014

Author Interview- Lisa McMann

1)You're in the middle of two series now- is it difficult to go back and forth writing them, especially since one is middle-grade and the other is Young Adult? How many books are projected for each series?

I actually love going back and forth between Visions and Unwanteds. It keeps the writing fresh for me, and works great with my short attention span. Visions (Crash, Bang, Gasp) is a trilogy. Gasp will be out June 3, 2014. The Unwanteds plan is seven books and I’m writing book 5 now. Book 4, Island of Legends, will be out September 2, 2014.

2)After your Wake trilogy, you wrote a couple stand-alone books but now you're back writing series. Do you prefer one over the other, or do you just follow your ideas whether they're a stand-alone or a series idea?

I just follow my ideas. I don’t ever want to make a series out of something that is clearly a stand-alone, because I think that cheats the reader and they end up angry. So I only consider writing a series if there is a clear path with plenty of substance for each book. And I don’t really prefer one over the other – they both have positives to them. Stand-alones are fun because you can develop the entire story in one book. Series’ are fun because you get to expand on existing characters.

3)It's been several years since I last interviewed you and a lot has changed since then. Can you tell us about your favorite fan experience?

Well, I have come to love seeing you in a variety of tour places, James! That’s definitely a favorite. Another favorite happened in March 2013 at the Tucson Festival of Books, when I got to talking to a great 12-year-old girl at my signing. She told me all about her own book she was writing, and we got along really well and I’ve run into her a couple times since then. I think she’s going to be a great writer one day, and I can’t wait to sit in the audience at her book signing some day.

4)What book(s) are you currently reading, or are about to start?

I’m reading The Center of Everything by Linda Urban (MG) and Restaurant Man by Joe Bastianich (Memoir).

5)What's your favorite Jelly Belly flavor(s)?


6)You wrote one of the seven books in the Infinity Ring series (Book 3- The Trap Door). How did you get involved with that, and was it difficult to write the book considering it was in the middle of the series and various other authors are writing the other books? What was the process like for that?

I loved working with the authors in this series! I was first approached by David Levithan at Scholastic, who asked if I’d be interested in being a part of a writing team for a historically accurate time-travel series. It sounded cool. Writing book three was great—I got to pick the time period and the historical figures I wanted our characters to visit, and I got to expand on characters who were already developed, which is a real time-saver in the writing process. Telling Riq’s backstory in my book was a real highlight, and it has been a blast reading the subsequent books to see what the other authors did with characters.

The process was pretty exhilarating. We all got together in NYC to talk about the general idea of the series arc, but there was no formal outline, so we had a lot of freedom. With each book in the series coming out every 3 months or so, the schedule was quick. I read the manuscript of book 1 (by James Dashner) in early December 2011, got the rough draft of book 2 from Carrie Ryan on Christmas day, and spent all of January 2012 writing book 3, which I had to turn in to my editor February 1^st, I also gave it to Matt de la Peña so he could start writing book 4 and get his manuscript to Matthew J Kirby and Jennifer Nielsen so they could start writing their books. It was a fun challenge and absolutely the best team of writers to work with.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles
"After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. So when her older sister comes home after abandoning her ten years earlier, with her hot new stepson in tow, Ashtyn wants nothing to do with either of them. Then she comes up with a plan that would finally give her the chance to leave, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and get the future she wants?"- summary from Amazon

I've been hearing wonderful things about Elkeles' books for years now and I finally got around to reading one. Unfortunately, I didn't really like it. I hope that this is a rare stumble for her and that her other books are better, but this book was just okay. While I appreciated the dual narrative and it allowed the reader to get to know both Ashtyn and Derek a little more, it really felt like a lot of telling rather than showing. I just didn't feel a connection to either of them; the story was compelling enough and Elkeles' writing made for a quick read so I finished the book, but I wasn't really hooked by the characters. I don't really know what else to say about it.

Overall, just an okay, middle-of-the-road YA romance. Has anyone else read Elkeles? Are her other books better than this one? It just felt very basic and by-the-numbers to me.

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

Monday, May 5, 2014

Catherine by April Lindner

Catherine by April Lindner
"A forbidden romance. A modern mystery. Wuthering Heights as you've never seen it before.

Catherine is tired of struggling musicians befriending her just so they can get a gig at her Dad's famous Manhattan club, The Underground. Then she meets mysterious Hence, an unbelievably passionate and talented musician on the brink of success. As their relationship grows, both are swept away in a fiery romance. But when their love is tested by a cruel whim of fate, will pride keep them apart?

Chelsea has always believed that her mom died of a sudden illness, until she finds a letter her dad has kept from her for years -- a letter from her mom, Catherine, who didn't die: She disappeared. Driven by unanswered questions, Chelsea sets out to look for her -- starting with the return address on the letter: The Underground."- summary from Amazon

I'd been wanting to read one of Lindner's books for the longest time, pretty much ever since Jane came out a few years ago. I saw it all over the place at BEA and Meg Cabot had it on her forums as the book of the month. But I never got around to reading either one of her books until I met her at a signing and she hooked me up with an e-galley of Catherine. It still took me a while to read, but once I did, I was so glad for it.

The story goes back and forth between Chelsea and Catherine, which was a great choice to do. We get to see a first-hand account from Catherine as well as through some diary entries in Chelsea's parts toward the end of the novel. I really enjoyed the mystery of Catherine's life and disappearance, and Lindner handled it really well. All the characters are written well, and I really enjoyed spending time with them.

Overall, I'm so glad I finally read this and will have to check out Jane soon. Catherine is out in hardcover now, but will be released in paperback this August!

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

Friday, May 2, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
"A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely adore E. Lockhart and her books, and was eagerly anticipating her newest YA novel from the moment the sale was announced. I was extremely lucky to receive an advance copy of it and while I wasn't as enamored by it as a lot of my peers, it is still a very good book. Think 4.5 stars instead of 5, lol. For some reason, it just didn't leave me feeling as breathless or with "all the feels" as it did with a lot of my friends. I do still highly recommend it though.

It's a very interesting novel, told in 1st person like a lot of YA novels but for me at least, it really had a 3rd person feel to it- a sort of detached look at events, people, places and things that keeps the reader from really getting to know Cadence. The book is broken up into five parts- the first three parts set everything up; there's a lot of background information, flashbacks, learning more about members of the Sinclair family. It flows along nicely, if sometimes a little boring. I did particularly enjoy the short little fairy tale retellings though. I don't want to say too much else though; it really is a novel to be discovered knowing as little as possible and to just go along with the journey and experience it.

Overall, this is a smart, expertly told book about family and friends, success and failure, lies and love, and so many other things. I can't even really put it into words very well. And if you haven't read Lockhart before, start with this and then read everything else she's done; you will not be disappointed.

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