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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.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Finish the Damn Series Month

Yes, I have officially declared August to be the Finish the Damn Series Month. :) I have way too many series that I am "almost" done with, but for some reason I keep putting off that last book. Not sure if it's because I don't want the series to end or because I'm so overwhelmed with newer books that sound more exciting  *pets shiny new books*. BUT, I have decided that this month I will make an extra effort to finish a few series that I have been putting off. Not every one mind you - that would take about 6 months - but a few. They are:

1. The Uglies series by Scot Westerfeld. When I first read Uglies I enjoyed it, but wasn't dying to read the second one. Well, I picked up the second one about six months later and actually liked it a whole lot better than the first. I bought #3 yesterday and I'll probably run over to HPB soon and get #4.

2. The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden. I have just two books left in this series about teens caught in a war in Australia. I think my reluctance to finish this series is because book 5 left with such a bang, I'm not sure if the last two can live up to it.

3. The Midnighter's Trilogy by Scot Westerfeld. Books 1 and 2 were easy middle grade reads and I enjoyed them while reading, but not enough to feel a great compulsion to run to my e-library for the third one. But, I only have one book to read here and it will be nice to finish another series of SW's.

4. The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr. Gah, I really loved the first one in this series, but I've been trickling the others in here and there. I did start #4 awhile back, but it was a library loan and I didn't get very far before it expired. I have since bought it and have it on my nighstand. I can get #5 from the e-library (or maybe I'll buy it to complete my collection). It will be nice to finish this one off and MM has such lovely descriptions, I'm looking forward to it.

5. The Clan of the Cavebear series by Jean Auel. My lagging on this series has been 20 years in the making!! *gasp* I KNOW!! But it's not my fault as the last book (#6) was only published this past March. Ms. Auel takes a very long time to write her books. It's an adult series, but the first book could be considered young adult as we get to see Ayla grow up (and become a young woman) in that one. My plan is to buy all of the paperbacks again when #6 goes that route. I love the design of the new covers, and my old ones are falling apart I've read them so many times.

6. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. I'm adding this one in hopes that I get to it as well, but it'll be last on the list. I loved FHT, but wasn't quite as thrilled with the second one. I'm hoping that #3 is a nice conclusion to the series.

So, that's 9 books lined up for August as well as a few singles that I have checked out from the library/gotten from Netgalley/have sitting on my nightstand. That should keep me fairly busy. So what about you? Any series that you need to finish up? Care to join me on my quest to finish the damn series?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Books of July - a few days late

How did August sneak up on me so fast? I really expected to get more reading done this month, being that it was LONGER and that I had VACATION days. But alas, I was bogged down with a little ol' thing called work. Grrr.... Don't you hate it when real life gets in the way of your play time??  I still managed quite a few reads, and half of them earned 5 stars!! I hope that you find something on this list to take a closer look at. Next month (this month) I'll have a whole week to myself to write and do more reading and hopefully get some reviews done, *cough badblogger cough* Let me know what you think if you've read any of these and leave me a note saying what your favorite read was for July!! At over 200 books, my TBR list really isn't long enough. What? I'm serious. :)

67. Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti - I picked this one up because I thought the author sounded sort of Sarah Dessen-like. And the book is - slow start, lots of background but a good smooth read. BUT it lacked something that I find in SD's books that makes me want to keep at them. I liked the older characters in this story better than the teens, and that's not really good. Not sure if I want to try another one from this author.
68. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly** Oh, I loved this one. It's kind of long, but well worth it. I loved all the history of the French Revolution and the added magical realism. And the LI - suh-woon! I've been reading a lot of books about loss lately (for research purposes), and I loved the way this one made me connect to the character's emotions. Lovely prose too.
69. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork** I'd heard good things about this one, though I didn't really know too much about it when I dove in. I was pleasantly surprised. I love books about challenged characters who make me think it's the rest of us who are the challenged ones.
70. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon Not as good as I had hoped, and I'm not sure why. I think part of it was just the stigma that goes along with an Asian female character and the author's attempt to thwart that with everything she had. The MC's kickass-ness actually makes Buffy look like meek. I was thinking to myself, um, too much?? I will say that I enjoyed all the descriptions of the food. I was so hungry by the time I finished this!
71. Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont** This is easily one of my favorite books of the year, so much so that I ran out and bought NdG's other book, Gossip of the Starlings (haven't read it yet though). :) The characters in this were so wonderfully flawed, and the minor characters stood out just as much, if not more. I will say that there were times when I didn't like the MC much, but I was very eager to hear how her story was going to turn out. It's an issue book, but not preachy. I felt more like the author was trying to get the reader to understand what goes on in someone's head in that situation (teen pregnancy). I WILL do a review of this soon.
72. On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God by Louise Rennison ** Second book in the Georgia Nicholson series. So funny, light and breezy. La la la la. Good times. :)
73. Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson This is a good college-age book that hits at some of the issues teens face just as they're getting out on their own. I felt a strong connection with the characters, and it helped me recall my own dorm days. There were times when I felt that parts were a little over-written and the details unnecessary, but overall it was a nice read.
74. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson The first half of this story really dragged, but then around midway it picked up and I ended up liking it. I was a little surprised by the MC's actions at the ending; wasn't expecting that based on her behavior beforehand. Curious if anyone else felt the same.
75. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta******* sob-fest! This was a re-read, and I can now say without a doubt that JR is my favorite YA book. I cry with frustration when I hear others say that they just can't get past the beginning. I know the feeling, believe me. But it is so so so worth it. Please give it another try!!! The second read-through was so nice because I could concentrate on the beautiful prose and very real cast of characters instead of trying to figure out what was going on. I think that's what bumped it up to my #1 fave. Wonderful, wonderful book about friendship and life and death. Please read it!
76. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand The beginning was a bit cliche as far as paranormal romances go. I did eventually get sucked into it, and I really enjoyed the dilemma at the ending. I'll probably check out the sequel.
77. Knocked out by my Nunga Nungas by Louise Rennison 3rd book. I was still laughing out loud many times. But I also think that I may be getting just a little bit tired of the voice now. I'll have to pace myself with the rest of this series.
78. Wither by Lauren DeStefano This was an okay one for me. There was a lot of world building that didn't make much sense with this one, so I tried to look beyond that or it would have driven me crazy. I enjoyed the relationship between the sister-brides, but the male MC was just kind of squicky. I shivered a bit during some of the bedroom scenes even though I consider myself well-versed with sex/erotica in literature. And it wasn't that this was that, detail-wise, it was just the "idea" of what was going on. Not sure that I'll bother continuing with this series.
79. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys** I have hereby declared this book as a must-read for everyone, regardless of whether they like historical or YA. In the vein of the Diary of Anne Frank, this book delivers a story and the history of a people that we cannot forget. I know I'm bordering on preachy now, but the book is also wonderful with its prose and storyline, not just the history behind it. It had me shaking by the end, and I thought about it for days afterward. I'm still in awe with this one.



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