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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Saving June by Hannah Harrington

If she’d waited less than two weeks, she’d be June who died in June. But I guess my sister didn’t consider that.’

Harper Scott’s older sister has always been the perfect one so when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Harper is devastated. Everyone’s sorry, but no one can explain why.

When her divorcing parents decide to split her sister’s ashes into his-and-her urns, Harper takes matters into her own hands. She’ll steal the ashes and drive cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going California.

Enter Jake Tolan. He’s a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession and nothing in common with Harper’s sister. But Jake had a connection with June, and when he insists on joining them, Harper’s just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanour and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what she needs.

Except June wasn’t the only one hiding something. Jake’s keeping a secret that has the power to turn Harper’s life upside down again.

A dead sister. A cute, mysterious guy.  A road trip.  All great elements for a moving piece of young adult fiction. Hannah Harrington's Saving June was not a disappointment; it delivered exactly what I expected it would. The prose was easy and the dialogue flow between the characters kept me smiling. The tense arguments between Harper and Jake set the stage for some later hot, steamy scenes. The ending was bittersweet and brought tears to my eyes. I enjoyed it.

But. You knew it was coming right? The but. It wasn't that the story itself wasn't good, or that the characters didn't move me (Jake really moved me -haha). It's just that it didn't hit a WOW factor for me. Maybe it's because I've read too many stories like this and the plot is getting old. Or maybe it's because I'm not a diehard, knows every album in the world, music fan (there's a whole lot of music talk in it). Whatever it was, I just didn't feel like this story hit five stars for me. And that's okay. I don't expect every book to knock my socks off, and I did enjoy it. Like I said, it delivered exactly what I expected. I guess I was just kind of hoping it would exceed those expectations, that I'd be surprised by some plot element, amazed, and I wasn't. 

Overall, I recommend it, but there are other books with similar themes that I would shout about first. Opinions? Agree? Disagree? Love to hear your comments!

Monday, December 12, 2011

What would you give your favorite characters???

I saw this question on Between The Lines the other day and thought it was such a fun idea that I'd give it a try.

So here goes, some of my favorite books, my favorite characters and what they can expect in their stockings this year.

1. Tiny from Will Grayson, Will Grayson will definitely be getting a pair of tights. I hope he uses them during a production of The Nutcracker where I would expect him to be one of the sugar plum fairies, but I guess we'll see.

2. Carly from Kirsty Eager's Raw Blue is a special girl who touched my heart. I'd give her a bracelet made of sea glass so that she could look at it and never forget the healing powers of the ocean.

3. Etienne and Anna from Anna and The French Kiss are probably the YA couple of the year and as such deserve to be commemorated by another classic couple - Minnie and Mickey! At the Eiffel Tower of course. :)

4. Ellie from John Marsden's Tomorrow series needs her teddy back (I think it was a teddy, Nomes will correct me if I'm wrong), or as close to a replica as I can muster. I don't know exactly where I'll find one, but I will certainly try.

5. Angus from Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging needs a kitty laser light to work off some of his energy - his furry feline libido seems to cause too much trouble.

6. I don't normally advocate for strippers, but Cas from Anna Dressed in Blood needs a lap dance to remind him what a real girl is. Dude, falling in love with a ghost is just... non-productive.

7. For all the girls of Beauty Queens I would fill your stockings with laser hair removal coupons so you would never have to worry about unsightly leg and underarm hair. I know that was a NIGHTMARE for you.

8. Tom Leveen's Zero gets a very expensive art set - paints, brushes, pencils, canvases, everything her art loving soul can imagine. Hey, this is my fantasy Christmas. It can be expensive if I want. :)

9. To Melody from Megan McCafferty's Bumped, I give you Couvade syndrome (sympathetic pregnancy symptoms) with the hope that it will give you some idea of what it's like to be preggers.  Boo-yah!

10. Finally, I have one present left to give and it's for the character of my favorite book which I had the pleasure to re-read this year. That book is Jellicoe Road and that girl is Taylor. I love Taylor's story. I think I went through  a whole box of tissues reading this book again. My present for Taylor is a locket where she can keep a picture of her mother close to her heart (hope that wasn't too spoilery).

What about you? What would you get your favorite characters? Would love to hear your ideas!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

WINNERS!!! 100 Book contest Celebration and Larkstorm contest

Thank you everyone for all the wonderful comments and recommendations. I have a lot to add to my list now, and I was so pleased to see some of had already read the books I'd read. Love that! I know you're all dying to find out who the winners are so, here we go:

For the 100 Book Contest the winners are:

Krista Ashe


Angie (not me, haha).

You each will get one book of your choice from the list below or you can pick any double starred book from my 2011 book list (see page tab at top of the blog)

And the winner of Larkstorm is:


Congrats everyone! I will be contacting you shortly. And for those of you who didn't win Larkstorm, I really hope that you consider buying it. It's getting great reviews and it's only 4.99, which you know, is almost as cheap as a cup of coffee - and it lasts a lot longer. :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Character Interview with Lark Greene

Addicts! I have a treat for you today. My very first character interview! Say hello to Lark Greene from the world of Larkstorm, Dawn Rae Miller's debut YA novel.

*loves hearing all the shouts and cheers*

Settle down, folks, settle down.

Lark comes to us from what used to be the state of California where she's a very dedicated student, with a promising future as a Stateswoman and an even more promising future with her betrothed, the very handsome and affable, Beck Channing. Which brings me to my first question:

Lark, most of us here in the twenty-first century are not that keen on the idea of arranged marriages, yet you seem to be most enthusiastic about it. Tell us, are all young women in your world this happy with their arrangements or do you think you just got the luck of the draw?

Lark: So we should run around picking whomever we want with no knowledge of their background? How odd.

I suppose some girls are unhappy, but it’s only because they haven’t followed the rules and allowed themselves to become attached to a boy they’re not bound to. But to answer your last question, being paired with Beck has nothing to do with luck. The State studied our ancestry and knows we’re each others best mate.

Wow, intriguing answer! And along those lines, I understand that you and Beck have been keeping pretty cozy quarters for the past few years - as roomies! Certainly that makes for some interesting situations. Do you have any stories you'd like to tell us?

Lark: When we were younger, I tacked a sheet down the center of the room and Beck wasn’t allowed to cross into my zone. One day, I had an argument with Kyra and felt miserable. As I sat on my bed, I noticed strange shadows on the curtain - Beck was putting on a shadow puppet show for me complete with sound effects. I love that about him – he knows just how to cheer me up.

Ah, that's so sweet. I was hoping for some juicy details to chomp on, but now you've got me dabbing my eyes. And dusting some snow off as well? *eyes the flakes of snow questioningly while Lark tries to hide the sadness on her face* Well, um... maybe we should turn to a more serious question. Lark, future society has become extremely structured as a result of the Long Winter and the State's desire to protect its citizens from Sensitives, can you give us your thoughts from a teenager's perspective on the good and bad of living in your time?

Lark: I like that everyone knows his or her place. It makes things easier. Sometimes, I wish I could be alone more – I don’t have much privacy – but in general, it’s great living with a group of friends. Sure we fight, but I know they’ll always be here for me.

The bad would have to be not knowing my family. As you read, lack of that knowledge caused me a lot of... problems.

Yes, it did indeed. *shivers as a gust of wind picks up* Without telling us too much about that very upsetting time in your life, can you give us your thoughts about good and evil? Are people born one way or does everyone have the capacity to change?

I…I don’t know. I want to believe we can change, that we don’t have to be one way. But I just don’t know.
I’m sorry. This question is too upsetting for me.

*Hollers over the wind and blinding ice storm*
M-maybe we should move on to something else then? 
*Lark nods and the snow tapers off to a flurry*

Whew! Okay, so let's do a quick run-down on future trends.
Most popular drink?
Tapioca drinks. At least until you’re a Statesperson – they love champagne.
Sports teams?
Lacrosse is our most popular sport. It’s been around for hundreds of years, but I don’t think it was as popular in your time as it is in ours.
Favorite slang word or expression?
Deso. It derives from “desolate.”
Popular dance?
We’re trained in formal dancing from a young age. We definitely don’t jump around with arms flailing like your people do.
And lastly, I have to ask -- Uggs or heels?
Is this really a question? Who in their right mind would wear something as hideous as Uggs when they can wear heels and look proper?

Haha, well I'm glad to see Lark has gotten her spirit back. And for the record, Uggs may be hideous, but I think we all need them with Lark around!

Thanks for stopping by, Lark.

*waves goodbye before sending the son out with the snow shovel*

If Lark sounds like an interesting character to you, then go check her out in Larkstorm, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords for 4.99.
And there's one more day to enter my contest for a free copy!!. 
Other additional contests for Larkstorm here and here.
Also check out the book trailer:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Books of November

Let's see... 12 books for November. Not bad, not bad. Actually it was quite impressive considering that I also got a HUGE deal of writing done. What? You didn't hear that? I got a HUGE amount of writing done. Well, not enough to qualify me as a Nano winner, but maybe a baby NaNo. Do they have those awards? I think I need to make myself a button. Before I get to my books of the month, I want to remind you of two contests I have going on.

1. My 100 book contest where I celebrate having read 100 + books - there will be 2 winners, 1 book each, many to choose from.

2. My Larkstorm contest - win a free copy of Larkstorm by Dawn Rae Miller and of course, a review.

Both contests end 12/9, so go enter!

And now, my books of November. Enjoy!

117. The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter* Pleasantly surprised by this one. I really liked Hades as a good guy and the actual "test" and characters surprised me in the end. Looking forward to the sequel.
118. Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay Mixed bag of feelings on it. I liked the premise a lot, but the delivery was off a bit. Also Romeo was just sooo creepy, and I can hear a lot of people shouting, "Don't mess with my Romeo!" :)
119. Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs** Loved this! Loved, loved, loved. The pictures throughout were so unique and then to find that they were real, un-doctored. Well, the story line was fresh and well-written too. But those pictures! Whispers: in case  you didn't notice, that girl is levitating. Also, this book is really quite tame and fun. It would work well for a MG reader.
120. Hushed by Kelley York* My first YA thriller. I'm still thinking about it. Review here on TYAC.
121. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake* Buffy gets a new stake, or um... athame, and a few new sidekicks - none who are gay/lesbian though and unfortunately none named Xander. I know, boo, right? Seriously this book was great. It was about a ghost hunter/slayer and was told from a male POV. Great voice, great set up and delivery, great prose. The only thing keeping it from a 5 star was that I just didn't feel emotionally moved by the story. Overall, very entertaining.
122. Ripple by Mandy Hubbard My first experience with sirens. It was a little hard to get through but had an interesting twist at the end.

123. Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe* This was my first novel in verse and I really enjoyed it. The plot was a bit predictable, but very sexy in a...poetic way.
124. Bumped by Megan McCafferty I usually tend to like satire a lot better MONTHS after I read it. I'll let you know about this one in...say February then?
125. The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt* Lovely MG book about friendship and coming out of one's shell. I enjoyed the secondary characters and the little cheese shop. :)
126. Zero by Tom Leveen** I got this one from Netgalley based on a recommendation by Karla, I think? Thank you Karla, or whoever recommended it!!! I really loved the combination of art and music. All the Dali quotes were inspiring and I felt the NEED to look up all the paintings that were mentioned. Doing so really enhanced the experience of the book. Obviously this is a 5 star for me. I really enjoyed how Zero confronts her issues with self-confidence, and the LI was kind of swoony. :) Review in a couple months.
127. Frostbite by Richelle Mead* Second in the VA series. Rose continues to make TONS of mistakes, but in the end I forgave her cuz she kind of rocks too. Will get around to #3 at some point.
128. Ten Things We Did (and probably shouldn't have) by Sarah Mlynowski* This book was so deliciously fresh and teenager-y. The voice was spot on, dialogue was memorable, and the wacky things the girls did just had me laughing and my eyes popping. There was a more serious plot going throughout  though and a lot of character growth. Recommended!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review - Larkstorm by Dawn Rae Miller - and contest!

Goodreads summary:

In the years following the destructive Long Winter, when half the world’s population perished, the State remains locked in battle against the Sensitives: humans born with extra abilities.

As one of the last descendants of the State’s Founders, seventeen-year-old Lark Greene knows her place: study hard and be a model citizen so she can follow in her family’s footsteps. Her life’s been set since birth, and she’s looking forward to graduating and settling down with Beck, the boy she’s loved longer than she can remember. 

However, after Beck is accused of being Sensitive and organizing an attack against Lark, he disappears. Heartbroken and convinced the State made a mistake, Lark sets out to find him and clear his name.

But what she discovers is more dangerous and frightening than Sensitives: She must kill the boy she loves, unless he kills her first.

Contest at the end of post - hang on!!

The review: 
Larkstorm is a cross-over between dystopian and traditional fantasy. Witches and super trains. Dark magic and repressed societies. Perhaps I'm just not well-read enough (even though I try), but I thought this was a unique cross-over combination that allowed for a lot of unusual plot development. What if witches brought about a global catastrophe? What would that look like and how would society rebuild itself with magic at the helm? Miller brings that world to life with intricate detail and descriptive writing.

But at its heart, Larkstorm is a love story. Lark and Beck grow up believing they are destined to be together and the earlier scenes attest to their devotion.  I loved the interactions between them - the tension! OMG, how does Lark manage to not jump all over that boy and eat him alive?? She definitely has more will power than I do!  I also admired Lark's bravery for going against everything she was brought up to believe in order to find Beck and clear his name. When the two are reunited (well, that's a bit spoilery, but you knew it would happen), I admit I had an 'Ah, that's so sweet' moment. I was eager to see how the two would fight the system together and bring it down. At that point, Miller pulled the rug out from under me, and I learned things that I really wish I hadn't. I'm all for a good plot twist, but it all seemed so unfair! I felt Lark's frustration and anger through it all, which is a testament to Miller's ability to tug on the reader's emotions.

Secondary characters - I have a fascination with secondary characters because I believe they're one of the hardest story elements to get right. They're in the backround, always lurking, always adding their two bits. As an author, you want them to shine and feel "real", but giving them their own unique flavor and history without letting them take over the story is hard, to say the least. In Larkstorm, I loved the character of Bethina. She reminded me a lot of Mrs. Weasley with her warm, motherly demeanor, and no-nonsense attitude. She really stood out. Other favorites included Lark's best friend Kyra and the creepy Eamon. They each added something to the story that intrigued me and made the story richer.

I will admit that I wish Lark had been a more active character in the last third of the book. Given the strength that Lark displays in the first half I thought there would be more instances of her pushing against those who I'll call the enemy (for lack of a better term since again, I don't want to spoil the fun). I didn't get that. But what I did see, and actually loved, was Lark's inner conflict as she tries to figure out who she is. Imagine the frustration and doubts that build as people try to convince you that you will hurt the one person you love or die yourself. This is an effective plot device, and Miller utilizes it to its full advantage by including her own unique elements.

Overall, Larkstorm is a recommendation for me. It goes on sale December 6th at Amazon, and will also be available at Barnes and Noble and Smashwords (I think). Links coming soon.  It also has a very cool trailer - check it out!

BUT DON'T LEAVE YET!!! Because I'm also doing a contest! I'm giving away a copy of Larkstorm  (kindle or nook version). All you have to do is comment on this blog post. You can get extra entries for:

1. tweeting the contest +1
2. being a follower +1
3. adding Larkstorm to your goodreads shelf +1
4. Finally, if you mention Larkstorm on your blog, I will give you not only 5 extra points on this contest, but 5 extra points on my 100 Book Celebration Contest. Link here!!

Add up your points please. Contest ends 12/9. 

*Thank you Dawn Rae Miller for an advanced reader copy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

100 Book Celebration and a Contest!!



I read 100 books!

Actually I did it a couple months ago, and I'm up to about 125 now, but I'm never one to be on time for anything, so this post comes a little late. Actually, I've been trying to think of the right way to talk a bit more about this 100 book goal without sounding preachy. And well, here goes...

Why read so much?

My perception about writing in general and my own writing in particular has changed a lot in the past year, and I think that a lot of this has come about because of all the reading I've done. I read books that made me laugh out loud. I read books that turned me into a big bawl-baby (and resulted in funny looks from family members). I read books that were just so-so. I didn't read any books that made me throw them against the wall (although that has happened in the past). I tried to pick apart the differences between them. I stowed away in my memory some lessons on POV, plotting, characterization, and especially on what makes great prose. I didn't memorize character names  - I am horrible with names - but I did devote to memory when an author did some little thing that I liked. For example, when Jaclyn Moriarty had Bindy Mackenzie write little notes to herself in the third person. Or the way that Brigid Lowry (Guitar Highway Rose) described things not in long drawn out sentences but by using lists. Finally, I made my own list, a collection of those dozen or so books that tore my gut out or made me grin so much my cheeks hurt. It's these books that I'll come back to time and again throughout my writing journey. And yes, I'm jealous of these writers. They got everything right.  I know that I may never be as good as they are, but I can hope.


Let's be honest here. Almost every newbie writer thinks his/her book is the hottest thing since sparkly vampires became in vogue. I loved my first book. I loved my characters and I had a bit of a crush on my LI. I think the writing was good, and I even think if the market weren't quite so saturated with paranormal YA, that it would do okay on the shelves. Note there, I said that I think it would do OKAY. Not smashing and not a best-seller. Just okay. I know that I sound like I'm down on myself, but I'm really just being honest. Reading a lot has given me perception, and this is not a bad thing. I'm still querying Nikki's Wish, and I'm still hopeful. I know there are a lot worse books out there so I certainly have a chance. But I'm also okay with it if NW isn't my debut. In fact, I might even be glad if it's not. My new WIP has a much bigger, and more unique, concept. I think that my writing has improved. I think if I were to debut with my new WIP, that I'd be better off overall. So, no tears here. Just growth. I've grown as a reader, and in turn as a writer.

And now for the CONTEST!! 

There will be two winners and each will get their choice of one of the books in the picture below.
These are my 5 star lovelies, the books I drooled over, the books that kept me up late at night just so I could finish them. If you should win, these will be the books you get to choose from. Not because I have a thing against gift certificates or letting people choose the book they're dying to get, but rather because these are the books that I really want to share my love for. I want to promote them and discuss them and all that good stuff because they are now near and dear to my heart.

To enter, just leave a comment below telling me your favorite book this year!
You can get one extra point for tweeting the contest or mentioning it on your blog.
You can also get one extra point if you're a follower.
Honestly I don't care about follower numbers, but some publishers seem to and this will help me get more ARCs *insert cheesy grin*.

Add up your entries: 3 possible, and please remember to include your email address to your comments so I can get in contact with you.

Contest is international (wherever The Book Depository delivers) and will end on December 9th!! 


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review of Hushed

I'm over at TYAC today with a review of Kelley York's Hushed. You won't want to miss it!!

Hushed by Kelley York
Available Dec 6, 2011

The Amazon summary (altered a teensy bit to be less spoilery) : Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn't protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he's never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn't matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another. Archer is always there, settling Vivian's scores for her. And waiting to get noticed.

Then along comes Evan, the only person who's ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is.

But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out she's not number 1 anymore, she'll do whatever it takes to put things back the way they were.  

Head on over to TYAC to

Monday, October 31, 2011

Booooooks of October

I read 12 books this month, a little less than in previous months. But hey, I managed to add 10K words to my book!!! Woot Woot!! I've moved up my reading goal to 135 books read total for 2011, so if I just manage 10 books in each of the next two months I should make it. This month had a lot of middle-road choices with a few outstanding reads. Let me know what your favorite read was for October. Anything s-s-s-scary????

105. A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young** I thought this was a very different take on angels. There's a constant tension in the story, and I often found myself trying to imagine what it would be like to live in Charlotte's shoes. The LI interest here is HOT. *fans self* Great debut for Suzanne!
106. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins The voice in this one is really fun, but I felt like it was more of the same in the paranormal genre. It would be very appealing for tweens though.
107. Blubber by Judy Blume I read this with the intention to do a review for bully prevention month, but alas, I never got around to it. It was so much fun to revisit these characters though. I hadn't seen them in over 25 years!
108. Feeling Sorry For Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty * I <3 Jaclyn Moriarty, and this one had been sitting on my shelf for way too long. I think this one has taken first place in my heart.
109. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins* Stephanie Perkins's sequel to Anna and the French Kiss has had mixed reviews, from those who loved it more than Anna to those who really didn't resonate with the characters. Myself, I think it was a solid sophomore novel. Maybe not quite as good as Anna, but still worthy of putting SP high on my list of favorite YA authors. I'll be looking forward to reading the third book in the spring.
110. A Job - From Hell by Jayde Scott (indie) Review on TYAC.

111. Before I Die by Jenny Downham** A truly heart wrenching book. I give it high marks because it had me emotionally pumped up, but I'm not sure if I'd want to experience anything so traumatic again.
112. Grace by Elizabeth Scott ES is hit or miss with me, and this one missed. The premise was intriguing, but if you don't read a blurb about it first it WILL confuse. The ending dragged about 2 chapters too long.
113. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern I mistakenly thought this was a YA novel, but it's actually an adult story that's been marketed as a YA crossover. The descriptions were just lovely, but I didn't feel very connected to the characters, and the story dragged a lot. It does have young people in it, but there is little character development and I don't believe the themes would resonate with younger readers. Overall, I think I would have enjoyed it more had I not gone into it thinking it was YA.
114. Bestest Ramadan Ever by Medeia Sharif  What I appreciated most about this book was getting a look into Muslim culture and learning a bit about Ramadan, which admittedly I'm not all that familiar with. The voice was good, but I didn't like the MC very much. I kept reading knowing she had to change at some point, and she does in the end, but getting there wasn't a fun ride.  At times I felt like I could "feel" the writer's presence (as in, it sounded like a middle age person who was pretending to talk like a teen).

115. Ash by Malinda Lo * This was a very interesting take on the Cinderella story, complete with fairies, huntswomen and a lesbian love interest. I liked the added elements while still getting enough of the traditional story to feel like I knew where it was going. The only thing I didn't like was the very abrupt climax that wasn't a climax at all.
116. Larkstorm by Dawn Rae Miller Available in December. Review coming soon!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review at TYAC

I'm over at TYAC today with a review of Jayde Scott's A Job - From Hell. Boy do I feel like that somedays! Of course my job doesn't involve blood thirsty vamps, just very uncooperative little plants! Stakes are still involved, but my bad boys are much easier to kill. Hahaha...

In other news, my yahoo mail account was hijacked/phished a couple days ago. So if any of you got email from me, BIG APOLOGIES!! No, I am not in Spain, and no, my sister is not having a hysterectomy, and no, I do not need money. I kind of figure everyone already knows that I would never send such a goofy email, but if you were worried about me, I thank you.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time for a little TYAC promotion

Should I read it? Should I not read it? Should I read it? Should I not read it?

What am I talking about? This book: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Bleh, that cover makes me squirm every time I see it, but the book itself is generating a lot of great discussion. TYAC guide, Erin Brambilla and special guest, Jamie Blair, are doing a Beautiful Disaster Grudge Match today. We'd love for you to stop by and see what all the fuss is about. And well, I'd love your opinion. After reading their opposing opinions, I'm still undecided!! I don't know if I should read it or not. Part of me says, yeah, you love smut and you loved Twilight even after you realized all its faults. The other part of me says, you're going to be like Erin and want to throw that baby against the wall. So I'm leaving it up to you guys: go read the discussion and give me your vote, yay or nay?

ETA1 - Please, please do, I'm so indecisive.
ETA2 - you can leave your vote/comments on TYAC page so you don't have to navigate back here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The power of the word "what".

Those of you with young children will appreciate this recent conversation with my 4 yr old.

Why do you keep saying Dylan?
Why do you keep saying Mama?
Because I want to ask you something.
Then ask me something.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Books of September

Yes, I completed my 100 books goal!!!  I'm planning to talk about that more in depth in the next post so I'm just going to do my regular summary for now.  I had a fruitful month, and as I think some of you know, I've started doing an occasional review for TYAC, the YA Curator, where we review Indie titles. It's a lot harder than I ever thought it would be, and I have a whole new respect for agents and all the work they do.  This month, I also managed to work a bit on my MG book. I'll post the first chapter on the blog here someday soon. Would love to hear what your favorite books were for the month, so please leave comments!

93. Dream Smashers by Angela Carlie (Indie) Reviewed for YA curator. Here.
94. Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz * Loved it!! This is a great sophomore novel by Hannah. I loved the relationship between the brothers. There were a few believability issues for me regarding the little sister, but I moved past that because I really loved the writing and style. Also the time line here was intriguing.
95. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard** I'm crushing on everything about this book. The writing, the awesome subject, the LI. My review is here.
96. Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma This one was a disappointment for me. I didn't feel connected to the characters at all, and I really hated the older sister. I know that others have said they loved the premise, but for me I felt lost through most of the story. Guess that I just like to have some sense of what's going on before I get to the last chapter, but IG keeps all of its secrets until the very end. Just not for me.
97. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray** Sooo funny. I loved the characters and the whole idea in itself was just hilarious. I thought it went on a little too long, and I didn't care for the epilogue, but overall it's a very entertaining book and earns 5 stars for its humor.
98. The Night is for Hunting by John Marsden* Finally I've gotten back to this series and finished it! The 6th book was another favorite. It was definitely different and for me, far more emotional.
99. White Cat by Holly Black* The mafia, a sexy MC, magic. What's not to love here? The first half felt a little slow, but then around midway it really picks up and doesn't let go. LOVED the ending, so much that I was compelled to pick up the second book right away when I saw it at the library. Continued below...
100. The Other Side of Dawn by John Marsden* The conclusion of the Tomorrow series! It was a little less intense than I expected, but Marsden did a good enough job with the other books that I couldn't make any predictions as to who would come out of it alive. I wish that I could see the movie. *wipes at the tears of injustice*
101. Amelia O'Donohue Is So Not a Virgin by  Helen Fitzgerald* So despite the believability issues with this one, I really enjoyed it. There was a BIG, HUGE, GI-NORMOUS twist at the end that I was not at all prepared for. Well, I had one glimmer of an idea that it might be that, but then I quickly dismissed it as being impossible. But it wasn't, and it was a very intriguing indeed! After reading other reviews, I'm shocked that more people didn't like it. It's been on sale at Amazon for under 2$ in the past month, and though it's not right now, I've noticed their books tend to go on and off their bargain racks repeatedly. If it sounds interesting to you, I'd watch to see if it goes on sale again.
102. Anathema by Megg Jensen (Indie) I read this for the Curator, but decided not to review it because I couldn't recommend it in good faith. Basically for a fantasy, at 200 pages, it just wasn't long enough. The characters were quite predictable and there was a lot of telling rather than showing. This story could have been so much more because the beginning was quite gripping, but there was just no follow through. So hard to predict these things.
103. Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer** Awesome second book in the series. Team Shay ALL the way. :)

104. Red Glove by Holly Black* As said above, after I saw this on the library shelf I had to get it. The beginning starts out really good and I was caught up in all of it through about 90% of the story. Then there was a little disappointment in the ending. Still worth every minute reading it though. I do love how unique this series is,  and I LOVE, LOVE how the curse workers suffer immediate (and sometimes physical) consequences for using their magic. Not something you often get with paranormals. Also the male voice in this is just awesome. The main character is sort of how I picture Eric from my own WIP, so of course, I'm sort of enthralled here. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden

The premise here is pretty simple. Ellie Linden and her five friends go off for a weekend in the Australian bush. No parents. No rules. Just time spent with friends and some fun exploring. But when Ellie returns home, she discovers her parents gone, her farm destroyed, and her town invaded. Australia is at war, and Ellie must go into hiding to save herself.

Or you know, get some revenge.

The Hunger Games has no hold over The Tomorrow Series when it comes to killing and violence. NOT that I'm all gung ho over death and destruction, but just so you know, there aren't a lot of pink posies in this series. People die, buildings get blown up, and crimes of war are committed. The things these characters face will make you forever grateful that you live in a peaceful society and maybe a little guilty that some others don't.  For most of all 7 books, we don't know what Ellie will face when the war finally ends. Will her parents be alive? Will she lose her home? Will the fact that she's killed someone mean that she'll never be herself again? Ellie spends a lot of time asking these questions and dozens of others. I enjoyed that aspect of it because they're the type of questions you don't normally get in a young adult novel. Yet, if I were to pinpoint the one thing that made me continue with the whole series, it would have to be Ellie's character.

Not to say that city people are soft, but if I were in a situation where I had to survive on my own, outsmart my enemy and maybe even take a few down, I'd want someone like Ellie on my side. As the daughter of a sheep farmer, she KNOWS things, like how to drive a big payload truck, start a dirt bike, build a fire, and especially how NOT to get lost in the bush. Nothing unnerves this girl, and while at times it may have seemed like things always went her way, I never felt that her knowledge was beyond her background. Aside from her capabilities though, Ellie's just got loads of strength. Her courage is tested again and again, and somehow she always manages to dig up a little more when it seems there shouldn't be any left. I know that I would have just given up, given myself over to the enemy or to God in that situation. Ellie doesn't. She fights on. She's a character worth cheering for.

The supporting characters in this series are also well-crafted with memorable personalities and yes, flaws. Lots of them. Homer is a bit of a male chauvinist and a know-it-all, but he's also a terrific co-leader (the picture above is of Ellie and Homer from the movie, which I haven't seen yet, but oh do I want to!!). Fi is about as girly as her name implies, but her tender heart is sometimes just what the gang needs. Lee. Whoa. What a love interest. He's hot and then he's not. He's sweet but then sometimes he's the king of all jerks. And just when you think you're done with him, he turns Casanova again. Definitely tops on my list for swoon-worthy male characters. Then there were the minor characters, some in the beginning of the series and others who came later in book 6 and 7. I enjoyed them all. Unfortunately not all of them make it through Marsden's war, but that's also what gives the book a feeling of reality that I appreciated.

The war itself - it's interesting how Marsden was able to build an entire series around an enemy who is never named. There isn't much to say about them except that Mardsen did his best to make us hate them, perhaps a little too much. There were times when I thought the enemy could have been given more depth instead of making them into THE BIG EVIL. The initial act of invading another country for the soul purpose of stealing their lands was enough to make the reader dislike them, but Marsden always seems to be inventing new ways of making us hate them even more. Small aside: I suffered more than one moment of the giggles when the enemy called the kids "naughty" for doing some heinous act of sabotage. They blew something up, they were naughty. They wrecked thousands of dollars worth of aircraft and they were "naughty". It was a little thing, but one that made me laugh every time I heard it.

The series is 7 books long, and although I loved the series as a whole, the first book was probably my least favorite. It's very repetitive, slow moving, and often we get information second hand so that much of the excitement is lost. This bothered me in the first book, but in the other books I didn't notice it as much. As the series progresses though, the guerrilla attacks staged by the kids become more destructive and ultimately more exciting. They don't win every time, which is a good thing for reality's sake, and there are some other events thrown into the mix (such as rescuing orphans) to shake things up a bit. I appreciated that. Not every book was the same and I was always getting thrown surprises. I did always know that Ellie was going to come out on top - it was written in 1st person so that was kind of a given - but I enjoyed the ride nonetheless. Ultimately, the series has that special something that equates it to other save the world type series that make the kids into heroes, only in a contemporary setting. I haven't seen many YA books of that type, and I appreciated Marsden's attempt to do it. It was a bit predictable, but then again, so was Harry Potter. The ride was definitely worth getting to the ending.

Verdict: Recommended!

ETA: I changed my ending a bit here after DD's comment. I didn't want to come off as saying that the series was a realistic portrayal of war because as DD pointed out, it's more of an adventure series.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The YA curator

This post is to draw a little attention to a new blog that I'm a part of, called The YA Curator. It's a review site for indie books, but more particularly it focuses only on indie books that us (the reviewers) thoroughly enjoyed. Essentially we're slogging through the myriad of indie books out there to recommend to you only the best. Please follow along!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Back to school means back to cruel? Some words of encouragement...

It's September, and for many here in the United States that means back to school. For some kids though, that also means back to cruel - back to the bullies, back to the teasing, back to feeling out of place and alone. I've heard so many stories from my friends these past few weeks about incidents of teasing and such that it's made me sick to my stomach. I hate that my friends' kids go through that. I hate to think that my kids are going through that. I hate to think that my kids might go through that when they get older. My anxiety was cooled somewhat though when I went to my son's connection night at his school. Connection night is sort of like a curriculum night where we meet the teacher and find out what the kids will be learning that year. But it's a lot more than that. Part of it is learning about the school's (and the teacher's) philosophy. I can't convey to you how relieved (and proud) I am to know that our school is actively committed not only to enforcing rules about bullying but also to preventing it in the first place. I was thoroughly impressed with everything my son's teacher had to say, and I'd like to share some of these thoughts with you over next few days.

One thing that really struck me was when Mr. Hanson was talking about the old saying, treat others the way you want to be treated. I've heard this quote a million times, as I'm sure everyone has, but I hadn't heard it put quite this way before:

Treat others the way THEY want to be treated.

Huh? Wait. What does that mean, you ask?? How am I supposed to know how someone else wants to be treated? Well, you don't. Not for certain, and that's kind of the point. Wording the phrase this way takes the focus off of YOU, off of self, and puts the focus on the other person. When you inherently focus on someone else, you begin to realize that people are different. They have different needs, different ways of thinking, and different ways of reacting. And all of that is just as important as how you think and act.

Some examples:
1. Maybe if you're angry and upset, you need a hug. But for someone else, maybe they need space and distance.
2. Maybe you wouldn't take offense to being told your clothes look funny. But for someone else, hearing such a comment can be devastating.
3. Maybe you wouldn't care if someone criticized the way you throw a ball, maybe you'd even appreciate their honesty. But someone else might take such criticism to mean you don't like them.
4. Maybe in your culture it's common to compare your accomplishments or monetary status (I know some cultures where this is very common, particularly for parents to brag about their kids). But others may think this is extremely rude.

The point here isn't to be so afraid of offending someone that you don't say anything at all. Rather the point is to increase your sensitivity to those around you, and one way to do that is to take the time to get to know other people (and other cultures) better.

Which brings me to another point that my son's teacher made. It's not enough to say that we will treat all people the same or that will "tolerate" others who are different than us. A better philosophy to adopt is that we will celebrate the differences and see them as something fascinating, unique and worthy of our time to study.

I don't pretend that hearing these mighty words will change everything. People are people, kids are kids, and in some sense we're fighting against nature (survival of the fittest) here. But I like to think about the other component of nature, that diversity drives evolution. Without diversity our world wouldn't be such a fascinating and beautiful place to live in.

Think about it.

ETA: Please tweet if you like this post - just click on that little birdy at the bottom there. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Two for Tuesday!! Past Perfect and Wanderlove reviews

I have a treat for you today - two reviews for the price of one!! Meaning you only have to listen to me once. HA! Why am I doing this, you ask? Doesn't each author deserve her own moment in the spotlight? Well, er, yes, but this is going to save me (and you) time, and don't we all love saving time these days? Thing is, I read these two books within a week of each other, and they're so similar, I think it will benefit both to do a little compare and contrast. That way if you like one, you'll know exactly what to go for next. Sounds good, eh? So here are our two books:

Title:Past Perfect
Author: Leila Sales
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: October 4, 2011

An abbreviated Goodreads summary about Past Perfect:

All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love.

Author: Kirsten Hubbard
Publisher: Random House Children's books
Release Date: March 13, 2012

An abbreviated summary about Wanderlove: 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be a global vagabond. In a quest for independence, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America— one filled with middle-aged tourists and fanny packs. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his  humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says.

Now these two books may sound quite different, but they actually have a lot in common. Both books:

1. Are set over the summer
2. Are about second romances/loves.
3. Have deliciously witty and engaging voices that had me smiling the whole time.
4. Have unusual settings - one a colonial America re-enactment site, the other Central America. I found myself wanting to visit both.
5. Have a swoon-worthy male love interest.
6. Hooked me within the first 2 paragraphs.
7. Both authors share a personal interest/hobby through their story, and both left me thinking how cool those interests were.
8. Include a theme wherein the MC has to get over a past love who didn't show her the respect she deserves.

Some differences about the two:
1. Wanderlove includes some very lovely drawings by the author, Kirsten Hubbard.
2. Past Perfect has a slightly younger main character than Wanderlove (16 rather than 18). I think that Wanderlove will really hit home for those looking for something in the "new" adult category.
3. We don't hear much about Bria's friends back home in Wanderlove, but the friendship between Chelsea and Fiona (love that name, btw) in Past Perfect includes just enough detail to make it stick in your head while not becoming an obtrusive subplot.
4. Wanderlove was maybe a little on the long side. I didn't have any problems getting through it in 2 days, but I think it could have been tightened a bit more or a scene here or there nixed. I'm all about condensed writing these days (after trimming my own WIP), and I'm learning to appreciate shorter manuscripts.
5. I love both covers, but I have no idea how the cover for Past Perfect fits with the story. *shrug*

I DO DO DO recommend both of these reads, but if I had to pick one over the other... ah, forget it, I won't do that. You'll just have to read both and make your own call! :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Books of August

13 books this month! I think that's what I managed last month too, but this time,  I actually did manage to finish my revisions for my own book. Of course now I have all those pesky query letters to deal with. Grrr... I also finished off 3 series that I had been working on - will have more to do next month. I also managed to do some reviews. Hope you find something here you like, and yes, I'm almost to 100 books for the year!!!!!!!!! Unless I get in a freak accident (knock on wood), I will make my reading goal for the year. Heck, I might even tack another 30 books on before Jan 1 if I keep up at this pace. I think a celebration will be in order. Any suggestions?  Contest?  Other? Let me know what you read this month - always looking to expand the ever-growing TBR list.

80. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams** The tension in this book was so extreme that I had knots in my stomach the whole time while reading it - and that's why I read it front to back in one night! I haven't been this swept up by a book since Some Girls Are (though this book is very different).
81. Ashes by Ilsa Bick Review here. Loved the beginning, got a little slow in the middle. This book is getting a lot of hype, but I'm sort of on the fence about it.
82. Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton Interesting take on witches and magic. I thought the LI was very sexy, but beyond that I had trouble getting into it.
83. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley ** OMG read this!!! Once again, the Aussies have blown me away. Review here.
84. Specials by Scott Westerfeld This is #3 and the conclusion of the Uglies series (though there is a 4th, separate book). Wasn't as good the second one. I didn't love the MC as much this time around.
85. Where She Went by Gayle Forman** I was really surprised by how much I loved the sequel to If I Stay. The male voice here is just phenomenal, though I was kind of surprised by the ending. Not sure why.
86. Entwined by Heather Dixon This is a sweet, though long, book that could be easily categorized as middle grade. There's lots of dancing, fancy dresses, gentlemen and fiesty girls. It gave me Little Women flashbacks. :)
87. Split by Swati Avasthi** A very honest and real look at domestic violence told in an authentic male voice. And the author is from MN! Yay!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Yes, I'm doing a Road Trip Wednesday*. Why? Because the question is so gosh darn easy to answer (I usually skip them because I hate coming up with entertaining quips and all). Hehe.. Anway today's question:

What is the best book  you've read in August?

Answer: The Chosen One by Carol Williams. It's about a girl who lives in a polygamist community and how she reacts to her arranged marriage. This book was unbelievable. It curled my stomach and made me ache inside. I read it in one sitting, and quite literally couldn't stop for a breath. Truly tension-filled. There are number of other books that I really loved this month, including Split by Swati Avasthi and Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley. I'll be talking more about my books of August tomorrow - provided I can make myself do another post tonight. :)

So what about you? What's the best book you've read this month?

*Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Kirsty Eager Week - win free books!

Kirsty Eager is the very talented Australian author of Raw Blue and Saltwater Vampires. I have to tell you, Raw Blue is one of my very favorite books this year. I love it so much that I've been sending it around the US to other (unfortunate) Americans. I've been telling myself that I should do a review of it, but I keep get frozen feet, knowing that I could never do it justice. If you'd like to read some awesome reviews though, here are two that I thought were outstanding. Nome's review at InkCrush. Dana's review at and we're blogging. Ms. Eager has a new book coming out called Night Beach that I am dying to read. Yes, I probably will shell out the bucks to have it shipped all the way from Australia! And yes, I am entering this AWESOME contest to win a signed copy of Raw Blue even though I already have one (though I believe its somewhere in the midwest by now). You can enter the contest too! Go visit Nik at Irresistible Reads or Bibliophile Brouhaha for more info (actually there are two contests - double the chance to win!). If you don't win, then come back here and I can get you on my list for the book tour I've been doing. Yes, you should. No, I won't hold it against you if you don't, though I will start to wonder...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: Fury by Elizabeth Miles

Author: Elizabeth Miles
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: August 30, 2011

Goodreads summary (edited):
Sometimes sorry isn't enough....
It’s winter break in Ascension, Maine. The snow is falling and everything looks pristine and peaceful. But not all is as it seems...
Between cozy traditions and parties with her friends, Emily loves the holidays. And this year’s even better--the guy she’s been into for months is finally noticing her. But Em knows if she starts things with him, there’s no turning back. Because his girlfriend is Em’s best friend.
On the other side of town, Chase is having problems of his own. The stress of his home life is starting to take its toll, and his social life is unraveling. But that’s nothing compared to what’s really haunting him. Chase has done something cruel...something the perfect guy he pretends to be would never do. And it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed.
In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And Em and Chase have been chosen to pay.

Why I wanted to read this book:
1. The cover.
2. Characters with flaws.
3. The cover.
4. Mythological creatures from Greek Mythology
5. The cover.

*sigh* Yeah, it was the cover. I am getting a little tired of seeing covers with girls in fancy dresses, but this one just spoke to me. That fiery red hair all over the place. I know that I, personally, would not do well with hair like that, but it speaks to my youth. Yes, there was a time when all I wanted in the world was a Barbie Doll with hair that came down to her ankles. Maybe that's what all these "girls in dresses" covers are about - speaking to our inner Barbie. They need to realize, it's not just the dress - it's the HAIR!!! :)

But back to the review:

I would have to say that Fury is probably not a book for everyone. First of all, the characters are rather unlikeable, and for some, that may be hard to get past. We learn in the second chapter that Em is in love with her best friend's boyfriend and despite her insistence that she loves Gabby, she plows forward with those feelings regardless of how wrong it is. Then there's Chase, who when we meet him seems intent on nothing but securing the hottest date for his very important sporting event/dinner. He's ashamed of his mother and his trailer park digs. He's shallow and conceited and every time his perfectly preppy attire was mentioned I felt like strangling him with a shoelace. The only "nice" character in the whole book was JD, and he was so classically cliche that I had a hard time getting interested in him.

Yet, it was because I had heard these characters were flawed that I wanted to give the book a chance. I do love flawed characters when they are presented in just the right way, with voice and maybe some justification as to why they are that way. When they feel like "real" people with faults. But, the characters in Fury just seemed dim to me. Even so, while I was reading Fury, I was asking myself, why is it that I've come to expect YA characters to be either incredibly likeable or to have "understandable" unlikeability? I found myself comparing these characters to those of Stephen King. Back when I used to read King religiously, I never thought about whether I should put a book down because the characters were unsavory. I LIKED their darkness. I LIKED their rawness. I LIKED it that I was only see surface features, dimness (maybe because that made it more fun when the monsters got them?). I'm not sure when that changed or if it even did, but while reading Fury, I decided that for once, I wasn't going to care that the characters were infuriating (no pun intended). I was just going to keep reading because of the mystery.

And Fury did have some mystery to it. When I downloaded the book several weeks ago, I had forgotten what the story was supposed to be about. This was good, for me. When the mysterious girls showed up, I was anxious to figure out who they were, and since it's not spelled out right away, I was left guessing through most of the book. It kept me going when the characters were making me feel like I wanted to tie them down and stomp all over them. Thankfully, by the time I did figure it out, the characters had changed somewhat, and I wasn't quite so anxious to see them as roadkill. I've purposely eliminated any spoilers here so that you can have the same reaction if you decide to read - provided of course that you haven't read any other reviews.

One other word -  or warning - about Fury. It's sloooow. And loooooong. At 340-some pages, it could have easily been cut down a bit without losing anything. Nothing interesting happens until page 60, and even after the interesting things start,the sequence of events just crawls at a snail's pace. The big reveal doesn't happen until the last 50 pages or so, and by then I was getting frustrated that I wasn't being given any clues as to what was really going on. The pacing just If it weren't for my insistence to finish what I've started, I probably would have stopped reading it.

My final reaction: it was different than most paranormals I've read. A lot of cliches and common plot devices used in other paranormals were lacking, and that was refreshing. But there were plenty of other things, the characters and the pacing, that make me hesitant to recommend it without some caution. Some may like it, some may not. There's a sequel in the works, but I probably won't be picking it up.

Thanks to Simon Pulse for providing this e-galley.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Title: Graffiti Moon
Author: Cath Crowley
Publisher: Random House Children's Books

"Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers."

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.

His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere.

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.

My review: When I saw this book on Netgally, I did a little snoopy dance in my seat. I've been waiting forever to read this. It's been out in Australia for awhile (and been very well recieved), but it's scheduled for release in the US in February. But I didn't have to wait! I was so excited. Then I read the first page, and I did another Snoopy dance. First page = AMAZING. Indulge me for a minute.

I pedal fast. Down Rose Drive, where houses swim in pools of orange streetlight. Where people sit on verandas, hoping to catch a breeze. Let me make it in time. Please let me make it in time.  

Just arrived at the studio. Your graffiti guys Shadow and Poet are here, Al texted, and I took off across the night. Took off under a sky bleeding out and turning black. Left Dad sitting outside his shed yelling, "I thought you weren't meeting Jazz till later. Where's the fire, Lucy Dervish?"

In me. Under my skin. 

In me. Under my skin. At those words, I was hooked. And of course it just gets better from there. Lucy is the kind of character who's a little naive, a little of a romantic, and a little neurotic. I can relate. Ed is the kind of guy your heart aches for - brilliantly talented, misunderstood, and in desperate need of someone who will believe in him. I cheered for them both from the first page. I wanted them to get together in the worst way, and I can honestly say that I didn't know if that was going to happen or not. AND of coure, I won't tell you if it does. That would break all the suspense, and Crowley does create a lot of suspense with her simple premise.  It just goes to show that you don't need car chases (although there is a bike chase in the book) and complex plots to make a good story.

There was more to this book than romance though. The story is told in alternating POV, and while I was sometimes thinking that Crowley spent too much time rehashing what had just happened, I thought it was generally well done. I did enjoy Ed's POV just a touch more. He's more angsty than Lucy, more at odds with the world, and I kind of felt like it was his story rather than theirs. I appreciated the somewhat darker themes that the book addresses, about kids who are sitting on the sidelines waiting for their lives to happen while others around them seem to have the world at their feet. Crowley reminds us that everyone has something to offer. The message isn't a hit you over the head type of thing - it just is what it is. I love books that can set you down in the real world while offering up a fun quirky story. Hats off to Crowley for accomplishing this with elegant, effortless prose.

One final observation. I'm usually not big on books that include snippets of poetry. Aside from the occasional poem by Maya Angelou, I'm just not that into verse. But I did like the way Crowley uses Poet's poems in this book to let us see into his character. I thought the use of poetry  was a creative way to introduce his side plot without spending a lot of time on it or letting it get in the way of Ed and Lucy's story.

Thanks to Random House Children's Books for providing me with this ARC.
You can read the first pages here.
 I will be buying my own copy when it comes out in February. There's just too much good writing here to walk away with a single reading. :)

Friday, August 19, 2011


Woot Woot!! I start vacation after work today. I can't wait. I have so much to do. Let's see there's:
  • Pulling the weeds in the garden
  • Cleaning the house
  • Putting together the new bunk bed that will come on Monday
  • Buy the kids school supplies
  • Dentist appointment
  • Hang out with my sis
  • Review with the kids before they start school again.
  • Clean out the storage room in the basement

What? Doesn't sound like a vacation? Oh blasted. I knew something was wrong. Okay how about:

  • Read  4 books
  • Write 20,000 words in the new WIP
  • Finish revisions in the old WIP
  • Send out 20 query letters

Still not good enough? Okay how about this?

Yep, that's what I'll be doing tomorrow. Well, not me, but the kids. Have a good weekend, my friends. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review - Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont

Goodreads summary:

When sixteen-year-old Sydney Biggs’s pregnancy test shows the tell tale plus sign, she confides in only her best friend Natalia, and Natalia promptly “borrows” her mother’s car so Sydney can confront the baby’s father. But after the car is reported stolen and police bring the girls home, their parents send them away to wilderness camp as punishment. With six weeks to spend in the wilds of Canada, time is ticking for Sydney, who isn’t sure what she wants to do about the pregnancy. As she befriends her fellow adventuremates and contends with Natalia’s adamant opinions on the choices available, Sydney realizes that making the right choice can mean very different things.

It was a big debate for me whether to review this book. First off, I really loved it, but the subject matter (teen pregnancy and abortion) may not be for everyone. If you have very strong opinions one way or the other you may find yourself easily offended. At the same time, I feel like anyone who is open-minded and willing to listen to the other side will really appreciate this story. I'm not saying it will change your beliefs; it didn't mine. But it did give me a strong sense for the struggle that pregnant teens go through. And that, I think was the author's purpose; not to make a broad statement about what was wrong or right, but to show how one girl deals with it.

That said, Sydney's character is about as real and complex as you can get. She goes through all the emotions of denial, fear, avoidance, and anger. She even has thoughts of doing some pretty unthinkable things to avoid her situation.There were times when I wanted to take this girl by the shoulders and give her a hard shake. Obviously her character is not altogether likeable. Yet despite that, I wanted to know what she was going to do. I enjoyed accompanying her as she worked things out and seeing how she learned and was changed from her experience.

I can't review this book without mentioning the supporting characters, especially Mick. Like Sydney, he wasn't the most likeable character I've come across, but he is one of the most memorable. I was never really sure if he was friend or foe, and that unsettling feeling he gave me really piqued my interest. I would love to see a sequel made surrounding his story. And then there was Natalia, Sydney's best friend. She didn't turn out at all like I had thought in the beginning either, and like Sydney and Mick she sure had her flaws. Beyond that, she was one of the best "side kick" characters I've read. Her relationship with Sydney became something of its own story, but NdG managed to craft it without sidetracking too far into a subplot typhoon. There's some study material there for you writers. :)

One last thing to say about the book. Canada. The wilderness. Summer on a river with no parents. Bonfires. Sleeping in tents next to guys. In some instances, very cute guys. Are you digging the setting as much as I was? It may seem strange to have a setting like that for such a serious topic, but at the same time it was appropriate. The setting and all that the characters see and do while on this wilderness trip reminded me again and again of how young these characters were. Kids deal with adult stuff all the time, but in order to understand how they deal with it, we have to remember that they are just kids. Nina de Gramont helps the reader see that by making it a story about real kids doing real things and despite the hardships, having fun at the same time.

Final verdict: A favorite of 2011.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review - Ashes by Ilsa Bick

Title: Ashes
Author: Ilsa Bick
Publisher: Egmont, USA
Release Date: September 6, 2011 

Goodreads summary:
It could happen tomorrow...

A cataclysmic event. An army of "The Changed."
Can one teen really survive on her own?

An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human...

Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the Changed, Alex meets up with Tom---a young army veteran---and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse.

This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to survive.

Ashes is an apocalyptic thriller that almost seems like two different stories in one. In the first half of the book, we're introduced to Alex, a tough teen who's decided that her battle with a terminal brain tumor isn't going to leave her wasted in a hospital bed. Armed with her parents ashes (who died 2 years ago) she hikes into the Michigan woods to eventually cast them into Lake Superior. While on her mission, she runs into Jack and his 8 year old granddaughter, Ellie, and that's when things go terribly wrong. An electromagetic pulse sweeps over the country, killing all electrical devices and most middle aged people along with it. With Jack dead, Alex must keep herself and little Ellie alive while she tries to find help, but aside from all the normal challenges of being alone in the wilderness with a child who seems to be more trouble than she's worth, Alex also has to contend with the zombies. Zombies, you say? Yes, zombies. For some reason which is not entirely explained, most teenagers have been Changed by the EMP and are now cannibals with no brains. I'm not dissing on the story here as it created a creepiness that certainly upped the stakes and left my heart pounding. It felt very much like The Forest of Hands and Teeth, a book that I really loved, and so I found IB's zombies to be right up my alley. I breezed through the first half of the book, excited to see how the story would resolve. But then... things changed.

Alex arrives at a town called Rule, and aptly named, Rule has a lot of rules. And of course Alex doesn't agree with them. But, and here's the kicker, she doesn't DO anything about it. We're given a good 150-200 pages of learning about this town - which is more like a religious cult. We're introduced to about 12 new characters - who I never did get completely straight. Then, there's a bit of romance thrown in, because afterall, what's a zombie book without a little romance? (O.o, I'm getting snarky here). Point being, the second half of the story didn't fit the first half at all. The pacing and the intensity tapers off. Alex, who was a very strong character before, acts passive, and a good portion of the story is spent discussing her feelings about a boy whom we don't really see much of. Most of the danger is just... gone. I waited and waited for something to happen and in the last 30 pages or so it did, but then, BAM! The story was over. The ending was a cliffhanger that was actually quite good, but to get there... 

Yeah, so I'm a little torn on my overall feelings about the book. Alex was a good character, tough, with a good head on her shoulders, but sometimes things seemed to come a little too easy for her. Actually the character that I most enjoyed was only there for a short while, and that was Ellie. She's a major pain in the ass when she's first introduced, but by the end she was the one I was most worried about making it through. I don't know, maybe it's the mom in me. The love interests were... meh. I didn't really get a feel for who Chris was at all. I did like Tom though and hope that he plays a bigger role in the sequel. And yes, I do plan to read the sequel. The beginning half of Ashes was exciting enough that I hope the second book starts over like that - and carries through. I guess we'll see.

Before I end this review, I also want to say that I give Ms. Bick a lot of credit for doing her research. The whole thing with the EMP was believable, and I even looked it up after I was done reading. I wasn't surprised to find out that as a catastrophic event, it is quite possible. Certainly I don't think that the entire American government would be non-existent after such a thing as we're told (or made to believe), but I do like the way that Bick tied her world into something that could actually happen. Most of these apocalyptic/dystopian types novels don't fit with anything that is logical, so it was refreshing to read something that was at least semi-grounded in reality. That said, I do NOT know how the zombies fit into all that, but then again, they're zombies. Maybe no more explanation is needed than that. :)

Thanks to NetGalley and Egmont, USA for providing this book for review.



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