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Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Laced In Malice by Riley Gray

Goodreads summary (abbreviated):

Behind the creepy castle-like exterior of Birchtree academy is the sound of gossip, back stabbing and malice. When Zara’s dad takes on the new principal job at the elite boarding school, Zara knows she’ll be an outsider. She dreams of true love and marriage instead of possible frenemies and secrets. Definitely not Birchtree material.

In the cusp of everything are the twins. Oliver and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Nixon are renowned for their different – yet equally effective – methods of torture. And both have their eyes set on goody, goody Zara.Will she fall under their spell? Will friendship and raw desire cause her to re-think her values? Or will Zara change theirs?  


Rarely does a book surprise me as much as Riley Gray's Laced In Malice did. In the ten minutes it took me to read the first chapter, I was hooked. By what, you ask? The descriptive train ride through the English countryside? Umm...no. By the main character's texts with her mum? Aside: even though I'm not English, I have an itching desire to start using the word Mum. Definitely no. By the sexy, leather clad, cigarette-smoking hotty who got a nice verbal backhand from the MC when he propositioned her for a quickie. *insert shifty eyebrows* Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner.

In a nutshell, I think guys who sleep around and use women are creepy (doesn't everybody?). But I loved that Gray was able to take this stock character, the man whore, and change him into something real. Oliver comes across as intelligent, not just because he's in the highest classes but because *gasp* Gray actually makes him sound intelligent! He actually has a well-thought out explanation for why casual sex is okay. Now, I'm not saying that I bought his excuses, I'm saying that Gray made me believe that he believed them. And in the process, like Zara, I was eager for him to see how wrong he was. Everything else about Oliver puts him in the "yes please" category. He was charming, polite, a writer (GOD yes!!), and knowing that I was going to see this sexy and intelligent young man change his tune hooked me to the story. But I don't want to leave you thinking that Oliver didn't make me want to pull my hair out or slap him silly because I did want to do both those things at various points in the story. And in the end, I wasn't entirely sure of his motivations. I kept flip-flopping, was he really just into Zara because she was an unattainable conquest or did he honestly care about her? Was he a victim too or was he hiding something BIG? I'm not going to give the story away, but I will say that Gray did an excellent job of giving his character enough depth that I loved him even while I was never 100% sure of him.

Now, Zara. Admittedly, she comes across as a goody two shoes (as it says in the summary), but she also had a tongue on her that I admired. She could give it back to Oliver just as easily as he gave it to her. I was rooting for her from the start. But there were moments in the story where I was scratching my head and wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her so she'd wake up. Thankfully, a few chapters after I had that moment of thinking, 'you're so stupid', she had me questioning whether I was the one who had to be shaken awake. Zara was too trustworthy, but at the same time, she made me realize that I am too.  I asked myself, if I were in Zara's shoes would I have tried to brush aside my misgivings about the people I called friends? Would I have tried to give them the benefit of the doubt? Sadly, the answer is probably yes. I am, like Zara, a bit naive. The good thing is that I like characters who can make me see flaws in my own, and Zara did this, so two thumbs up for her.

Together: so here's a bit of analysis that I hope will give you an extra incentive to buy this book. 50 Shades of Gray. I haven't read it. I have no desire to read it. But I have read countless discussions of it, and there's one thing they all seem to agree on. The plot line of the girl turning a guy around and making him into a worthy man is the success of that book (well along with the sex and I'll get to that in a moment). I think the same could be said of Laced In Malice. I was so so eager to see Zara turn Oliver around or for them to come to some sort of middle ground. Like I said, I'm not a 50 Shades fan, nor do I want to be one, but if you're looking for a toned-down version of that book, and a better written one, then I say look no further. Laced in Malice delivers.

The sex. Well, I had to bring this up because of the 50 Shades reference above, and I want to be fair both to the author and to my readers. Individually, I'd say that I've come across scenes in other young adult books that are just as intense as the ones here. The difference I think comes with the fact that there are more scenes of this type in Laced In Malice. It is not erotica by any means, but it does give the book a  heavier sexual draw than most other young adult books I've read. I hate to put an age limit on books, but for those who want to know what it's like, that pretty much sums it up. 

Finally, I feel like all I've talked about is the relationship between Zara and Oliver, and while that was a driving force as to why I loved this book and read it in one day, it wasn't the only one. I really loved the mystery/thriller aspect that Gray set up. I had my suspicions as to what was happening, but I was never 100% sure of who to trust.  Like I said above, I kept flip flopping. Back and forth. Back and forth. I don't think I've gotten sea sick by a book before, but this one gave me that experience! Yay to Gray for excellent writing that keeps the reader guessing. And then... the ending! GAH!!!!!! MISS GRAY, YOU HAD BETTER SET YOUR BUTT DOWN AND START WRITING THE SEQUEL!!! Yes, I can say that because she's a friend of mine, but that in no way taints my review. Those who know me know that I'm stingy with my 5 stars, and Laced In Malice deserves them all. 

Summary: five stars. Buy it now!






Sunday, December 2, 2012

October reading list

OY!! I forgot to do a list for October, and now the end of November has snuck up on me as well. So...this is a double wammy, giving a brief outline of what I've been reading the past two months.
 
70. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore** I've really loved the seven realms series by Cashore. Each book is a bit different but with very strong, witty female characters. With the second book, you didn't need to read the first in order to understand it. But with the third installment, it really does require that you've read the first and second book because it ties both together. The thing I loved most about  Bitterblue was seeing her transform from a somewhat traumatized young woman into a powerful queen. I mean, how cool is that? The secondary characters were all memorable too, and the ending was rather bittersweet. Some may not like those types of endings, but I'm cool with it. Highly recommended.

71. Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'roark Dowell* I admit that I bought this book based on the very youthful, fun cover. It's basically about a farm girl who doesn't like living on the farm and how she deals with that. I think younger teens could relate to this more than older teens, but it was still a cute read.



72. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner* Dashner really took the advice of throw everything at your MC to heart with this one. Like with the Maze Runner, most of the book is a bit confusing. Unlike The Maze Runner, I didn't feel like anything was resolved at the end, which is why it only gets 4 stars for me. The Third book resumes the awesome story (and got 5 stars from me) which I technically finished in December so it's not on this post.

73. Always and Forever by Karla Nellenbach* Review here!

74. A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley** I luuuuurved Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon, so I was excited when I found out that my library had her earlier book in stock. Amazing writing as with GM and fun, real characters just like GM. This book is mainly about friendship but there is a bit of romance thrown in there as well, and it has a distinct aussie-ness about it. I really loved the bits of poetry throughout. Cath Crowley is definitely a multi-talented writer!

75. Everybody Sees the Ants by AS King** This is a fabulous book about bullying that every kid should read. I loved the magical realism in it with the grandpa who was a prisoner in the Vietnam War. It added a very cool dimension to a really great boy book.

76. Personal Effects by EM Kokie** Loved this one too. The emotions in it were really raw and realistic. I knew basically the whole plot going into it, but this was one instance where I didn't really care.





77. Crash Into Me by Albert Borris* Four online friends make a suicide pact and travel around the US visiting other places where suicides occurred. It's a solid friendship book that I quite enjoyed, and of course a rather serious topic.

78. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney* Didn't care much for this one as I didn't really buy into the whole Mockingbirds organization. Though I would recommend it because it's about a subject (rape) that I think is far too ignored.

79. The Outsiders by SE Hinton ** I think this makes about the 10th time that I've read this book, though it's been a good 15 years since the last time. I loved this book in high school and re-reading it was a real treat. Ponyboy forev-ah!!

November reads:

80. This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers** I'm not a huge zombie fan, but this one really hit home. It's right up there with Forest of Hands and Teeth for me, and tells me once again that CS is made of awesome-sauce.



81. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini**My second adult book this year (I know!!!!). I quite enjoyed this one, though to me it had what many adult books have and that's a very slow pace. It was disturbing at times, but I don't regret reading it. I definitely have a new appreciation of what's going on in the middle east due to this book.

82. Ask The Passengers by AS King * AS King has become one of my favorite YA contemporary authors. This one was sexy, and had that touch of magical realism I'm coming to appreciate in her books. I do think she writes a boy point of view slightly better than a female one, but I'm still looking forward to what she puts out next.

83. Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr* In classic Melissa Marr fashion, the world building in this book sucked up much of the pacing. BUT it was all still intriguing enough that I endured. I will definitely pick up the next in the series just to see what happens.

84. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson** Next to Melina Marchetta's Lumatere chronicles, I think this is probably my favorite fantasy series. The setting is to die for, the characters swoon-worthy and romantic and sweet and the heroine KICKS ASS! Loved it! Can't wait for the last in the series.



85. Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake**
I really like this series too even though some of it is very classic Buffy - ghost hunter (slayer), two best friends, creepy old dudes who know everything. Still a very quick and satisfying read though.





So I read one more, technically finished in December, which puts me at 86 total for the year. I have met my reading goal of 75 books!!!  I was hoping to push it up to 100, but I know I won't get 14 more books read in December. Still I'm very proud to have made my goal. Any one else break past theirs yet? Any good books I need to put on my list?
 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: Always and Forever by Karla Nellenbach

Mia's first reaction is outright disbelief. Obviously, a mistake has been made. Sixteen-year-old girls don't die. But, when the diagnosis is confirmed, she dives headlong into anger. If she has to die, why should it be of cancer? In fact, anything would be preferable to cancer. Better for her to say when, where, and especially how.

Determined to meet death on her own terms, Mia devises scheme after scheme to get the job done. A “fall” down the basement stairs, driving her car off a bridge, and even a dance with a train all end in her survival.

And through it all, Mia keeps her family and friends at arms' length with her destructive and hurtful behavior. With each failed suicide attempt and burned relationship, she slowly realizes that it’s not the dying that she’s afraid of, but the life she’ll be leaving behind. Now, that life is in a shambles. As time begins to slip through her fingers and death is upon her, Mia fights to rebuild the bridges she has destroyed, but can she do it before the clock runs out?


I'm a little torn up over what to say about this book because it had me going in many different directions. For the first quarter, everything made sense. I liked Mia, I thought her friends were hilarious, and boy did I want her and Kal to get together. The whole idea of a teenage girl getting cancer - after surviving a first round of an entirely different type was a unique set up. It was heart breaking and perfectly logical for her to want to keep the diagnosis to herself. Then Mia starts behaving a little irrationally. As it says in the summary, she keeps inventing ways to kill herself before the cancer does. At this point it was hard to put myself in Mia's shoes. Would I not want the cancer to kill me? Sure. But to throw yourself headfirst towards death seemed a bit selfish. She was taking away precious time that her family, friends and boyfriend had to be with her. Besides that, something seemed like it was missing. Fear. No where during her suicide attempts does Mia show any fear of death, and that seemed a little strange to me. 

I think with a topic like cancer, it's hard to know what a person would really be feeling, and therefore hard to capture what a person goes through unless you've been there yourself. You hear all these stories about the fighters, the ones who are always smiling, taking things as they come and not letting the disease get to them. Nellenbach even includes a character like this in the story. And I admit, I wanted Mia to be like that. Perhaps that's unfair, and certainly it's unrealistic. Who's to say how a person would feel when they're hit with the news that they're going to die (and not a pretty death)? A range of emotions is to be expected and anger is certainly one of them. I guess what I'm trying to say is that when Mia began acting out her anger, I kept shaking my head, wanting her to get it together. I kept thinking, dang it Mia, you need these people. You're wasting precious time. Stop pushing everyone away! It's good when a story gets me yelling at it, but it's even better when it listens. *big grin* Without being too spoilery, let's just say that the last third of the book totally made up for the frustrations I was having. I zipped through the ending, not exactly smiling (because hello, cancer) but satisfied. And sobbing. Yes, you will need to arm yourself with a box of Kleenex's for this one. The final scene - whoa. Just whoa. So beautiful. 

The writing: Karla Nellenbach has a way with words. The descriptions and prose were beautiful. The dialogue was spot-on without trying too hard, and boy did I love this line: I don't have a pony in that race. I was grinning when I read that one. Nellenbach definitely has a pony in this race, and I look forward to her next book.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday poetry

Let's move poetry to Mondays, yay?

Drunk As Drunk by Pablo Neruda
Drunk as drunk on turpentine
From your open kisses,
Your wet body wedged
Between my wet body and the strake
Of our boat that is made of flowers,
Feasted, we guide it - our fingers
Like tallows adorned with yellow metal -
Over the sky's hot rim,
The day's last breath in our sails.

Pinned by the sun between solstice
And equinox, drowsy and tangled together
We drifted for months and woke
With the bitter taste of land on our lips,
Eyelids all sticky, and we longed for lime
And the sound of a rope
Lowering a bucket down its well. Then,
We came by night to the Fortunate Isles,
And lay like fish
Under the net of our kisses.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Books of September

Wow, I appear to be slowing down even further. Got just five books read this month, and the upcoming month doesn't look too good either. Trying to get a few middle grade books in there as they tend to be faster reads and I have a SNI for a middle grade that I'm toying with. Always looking for some good recommendations so let me know what your favorite book was this month!

65. Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson** Second book in the series that started with Chains. It's about two run away slaves during the American Revolutionary war. This one, told in Curzon's POV wasn't quite as moving as the first book, though I loved it all the same. I look forward to see what happens next with these characters. Oh, and I LOVE this cover rather than the other one which I own.


66. Wringer by Jerry Spinelli** Excellent middle grade novel that addresses the expectations of how boys/men behave (being tough, killing things, etc). In many ways the ending was predictable, but I don't think that young people would pick up on this, so... still giving it 5 stars.




67. The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate Okay, I have to say that I did not get this book at all. The MC is very unlikeable, which is all fine and good as I like an unlikeable character (heck I write unlikeable characters), but I still expect them to learn something from their experiences. To grow. With this one I kept waiting... and waiting... and waiting... and by the end I was ready to throw the book against the wall. In other words, don't waste your time. I do really like the cover though.




68. The Guardians by Lily Raye * Review here. Sweet characters. Gorgeous cover.




69. Huntress by Malinda Lo* This is the second book I've read by Malinda Lo, and I would probably say that I liked Ash better. This one takes place many years (decades or centuries) before Ash and has a bit of a Midsummer Night's Dream thing going on.  ML's ability to write gorgeous scenery is something I could learn from, but some of the POV shifts in this one were abrupt and didn't work for me. Also, um yeah, she doesn't actually ever use that huge stick.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: The Guardians by Lily Raye

Elijah and Cassie aren’t your old-school angels chilling in the heavens and strumming harps. They’re members of the Guardians, an elite force of angels masquerading under the guise of high school teens.

Their newest mission is no walk in the clouds. In an effort to seek out troubled teens, they, along with fellow angels, Rafe, Sophie and Gabriel, will pose as a family of adopted brothers and sisters and enroll in high school. Along with their gift of “emotional divination”, which is to take on the pain of those who are suffering, they experience their own roller coaster rides of teenage emotions.

Accustomed to working with children, shy Elijah is overwhelmed when he is assigned to Abby, an honor roll cheerleader. When she discovers she is pregnant and her boyfriend abandons her, Abby turns to Elijah for support. As his feelings for Abby intensify, Elijah also struggles with the desire to be a guardian to Abby’s unborn baby. However, as Elijah is trying to do good, a dark force hovers over him in the form of Lucius—one of Satan’s demons. Things escalate when Elijah threatens Lucius. It will come to a fight to the finish with Elijah either being defeated or damning Lucius back to Hell.

Song bird Cassie sings her way into the lead of the school musical and into the life of Zach, a guitar-strumming lost soul. After constant beatings from his step-father drive Zach to a suicide attempt, Cassie must teach him about hope and faith. However, a dark force in the area leads Cassie to mistakenly interpret that Zach is her assignment. Instead she was meant for Lauren, her musical rival and the girl who has an intense crush on Zach. Cassie must somehow find a way to befriend Lauren, help her along and continue to help Zach without destroying Lauren in the process.

To fail means death for their assignments, and to fall in love ensures a fall from grace. No one ever said high school was easy.


First of all, gah gah gah, I LOVE that cover!! I can think of several other "angel" books that could learn something from that cover design, but I won't name names. Sooo pretty. The designer: Rachel Marks. Sooo talented. Check out her website

On to the book: For me The Guardians was like tucking into the couch on a Saturday night and watching Touched By An Angel.  Even if you're not extremely religious (and honestly I'm not), it still gives you that feel-good feeling of angels doing what angels do best - helping people. And like Touched By An Angel, the angels have a lot to learn in order to do their best - because humans are complex, and teenagers even more so. It was easy to relate to both Elijah's and Cassie's struggles. They both want so much to succeed, but in doing so they make mistakes which could ultimately do just the opposite. Um, I think that describes a lot of teenagers I know. 

I was particularly drawn to Elijah's side of the story. He's so sweet and caring and non-judgmental. The perfect guy really. And in the end I kind of liked how his desire to help Abby with the baby was linked to him wanting to be a father. Perhaps not the most typical teenage response, but then Elijah wasn't exactly a teen. In any case, it's nice to see a guy who thinks about family. I also really liked the set up with his struggle towards the end (no spoilers, I promise), but Elijah has to make a choice, and it wasn't really the one I thought he was going to make.

Cassie's story forms the other half of the book, and I really felt what she was going through. She's sort of the newbie to the whole guardian angel gig and she wants so bad to do well. And of course she keeps messing up. And then things kind of get out of her control and she messes up even more. I like a character who can make mistakes, but I like a character even more who has a dozen hurdles thrown in their way and finds it in themselves to deal. This was Cassie.

Underneath all of this "assignment" stuff, there's something more complex going on with Lucius and the higher angels- or at least it's hinted at. I would have liked to see a bit more plot development with this because throughout I was kind of expecting there to be a big reveal as to why this particular family was targeted and why we were hearing the story of these particular angels. I thought there would be a huge tie-in, but either that was just my misconception or maybe I'll learn more with the sequel.

One last thing: despite the analogy I made in the beginning to Touched By An Angel, there are no lectures here and no overarching 'accept God into your heart' message. I appreciated that because as I said, I'm not religious even though I love angel stories. If there was any message I'd take from this book, it's simply that angels are cool (and possibly addicted to honey).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Poetry Sunday

Well, yes, technically it's Monday, but if my little guy hadn't been hogging the computer last night to play Mario Brothers, this would have come on a Sunday. I kind of love this poem for the historical perspective it gives. It was written in 1972, but some of the thoughts and sentiments are still true today which is just pathetically sad.

 I'm Not a Man by Harold Norse

I'm not a man, I can't earn a living, buy new things for my family.
I have acne and a small peter.

I'm not a man. I don't like football, boxing and cars.
I like to express my feeling. I even like to put an arm
around my friend's shoulder.

I'm not a man. I won't play the role assigned to me- the role created
by Madison Avenue, Playboy, Hollywood and Oliver Cromwell,
Television does not dictate my behavior.

I'm not a man. Once when I shot a squirrel I swore that I would
never kill again. I gave up meat. The sight of blood makes me sick.
I like flowers.

I'm not a man. I went to prison resisting the draft. I do not fight
when real men beat me up and call me queer. I dislike violence.

I'm not a man. I have never raped a woman. I don't hate blacks.
I do not get emotional when the flag is waved. I do not think I should
love America or leave it. I think I should laugh at it.

I'm not a man. I have never had the clap.

I'm not a man. Playboy is not my favorite magazine.

I'm not a man. I cry when I'm unhappy.

I'm not a man. I do not feel superior to women

I'm not a man. I don't wear a jockstrap.

I'm not a man. I write poetry.

I'm not a man. I meditate on peace and love.

I'm not a man. I don't want to destroy you

San Francisco, 1972

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Poetry Sunday??

Not sure if I'll be able to keep up with meme, but I've been reading The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry as research for a WIP and thought it'd be fun to share some. So, here's  a little Walt Witman to get us started:

Shut Not Your Doors

Shut not your doors to me proud libraries,
For that which was lacking on all your well-fill'd shelves, yet
needed most, I bring,
Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made,
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing,
A book separate, not link'd with the rest nor felt by the intellect,
But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page.











Sunday, September 2, 2012

Books of August

Hey all, August was a slow month for me reading-wise. I was on vacation for a while and trying to do some revisions, which I am still working on. Only 5 books! Well, that is actually not a bad number because I really ought to be writing more than reading in any case. Let me know if you loved any of these!

60. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein** This was a slow starter for me, but boy did I end up loving it. I thought the characters were just so strong and true to life. I loved the idea of these women flying into the danger of war and seeing all that they'd do for each other. Their friendship was exactly the kind that I like to read about and strive to write.


61. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo* A decent fantasy read, but I felt that the character cliche of "beautiful but doesn't know it" could have been abandoned. I was totally rooting for the wrong LI, mainly because we have to rely mainly on the MC's memories of what her "crush" love interest was like and I felt she was unreliable. In short, I wanted the MC to fall for the bad guy! All in all, it was good but not good enough to earn my top rating.


62. Life is But a Dream by Brian James* A contemporary novel that tackles schizophrenia mixed with a legitimate love story. I thought the overall premise was fantastic and I really loved the romance in it. At the same time, it didn't hit that weak spot that made me weep, and I'm not sure why. Maybe because I knew how it was going to end? Also some of the prose in this was just gorgeous. Definitely worth checking out.


63. A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass* This was a lower YA read that I thoroughly enjoyed. It's about a girl who feels she's different all her life because she associates colors with everything - letters, words, people. She eventually confides in her parents and finds out that she has synesthesia, or a crossing of the senses. After she meets others like her a whole new world opens up while at the same time she starts to ignore her old world. There was also a very touching theme of pet loss in this book. Overall, it  didn't hit me emotionally enough to earn five stars, but I enjoyed it enough to recommend particularly to a younger YA audience (10-13 yrs old).



64. Taken by Kelli Maine* Gasp! I foraged not just into adult territory, but erotic adult territory! This is the first erotic novel that I have read in years, probably since before the kids were born. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and the characters were HOT!!!  Definitely worth the money, and if you're thinking of checking out 50 shades of Gray, do yourself a favor and buy this first. Also, I should disclose that this was written by a good writer friend, and I am so so happy for her success. Another friend did the cover - can I just say WOW! Check it out.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Books of July

Wow, what a short list. It wouldn't be so bad if I could actually remember what else I've been doing this past month. Sadly, I'm not done with revisions and I don't see any big projects around the house that got done. So I ask: What happened to July???

My reads this month:

53. No and Me by Delphine de Vigan** Ah, this one was so good. It's about a gifted teenager who befriends a homeless girl and the friendship that develops between them. It's sad and inspiring and realistic all in one. The prose is also simply wonderful.

54. Grounding Quinn by Stephanie Campbell Review on TYAC here In short, a well written story about making mistakes and finding forgiveness. However I didn't connect with the character.

55. Hallowed by Cynthia Hand* The sequel to Unearthly felt very much like the first book to me. Beautiful prose and in-depth character development, but I wish that the plot had moved along a bit faster. It didn't feel like there was any urgency to what was going on and a real conflict didn't seem to develop until about midway through. I thought the twist near the end was a bit hokey myself. I read one review that said the MC's voice is refreshing because it has just the right amount of snark without becoming overwhelming. I do agree with this.

56. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan* Finally finished the last book! Lots more gore in this one and visual scenes, like the swarm of the unconsecrated in the city - reminded me of watching a swarm of ants. Carrie Ryan definitely knows how to build tension... and give you goosebumps. I do wish that the villains had been a bit more realistic and 3D, but then again, this is horror. I suppose I shouldn't expect too much.

57. The Tiger Waiting by Kate DiCamillo* MG A quick read that surprisingly brought a tear to my eye by the end. I love DiCamillo's simple plots and wish I could write with as much simplistic elegance.

58. Blood Red Road by Moira Young* I'm torn about what to say with this one. I liked the beginning sooo much. Saba was a gritty character who really hooked me at first. I was expecting a dark and exciting journey with her. Then somewhere around the middle of the book things changed. It was still exciting, though not so dark and it seemed like Saba's character should have grown. Instead, we got more of the same condescending tone toward her sister and then some very ridiculous "I really like him but I don't want him to know that because I don't need anyone" back and forth play that was about100 pages too long. It didn't work for me. While the setting was wonderful, I thought the world building itself needed some work because it didn't make too much sense. Also again, the villains in this one were very black and white.  Overall, I wanted to like it much more than I did.

59. The Maze Runner by James Dashner** this fits under the "I wish I had read this sooner" category. I LOVED the premise of this story, and the characters were so well developed. Some who you think are incredibly brave turn out to be wimps and those who are wimpy turn out to be brave. The 'brotherly' relationship that develops between Thomas and Chuck was especially memorable, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel to find out what happens next.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And we have a winner!

Hey guys! Sorry I'm a day late revealing the winner. Things got in the way - B-day parties, getting ready for a short trip, you know, life. Anywho, thanks all for entering. And the winner is.....


Nicola!!!



Winner will be contacted shortly.
Cheers!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Raw Blue Giveaway!!!

Goodreads summary:

Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly cafĂ©. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing … and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago at schoolies week.

And then Carly meets Ryan, a local at the break, fresh out of jail. When Ryan learns the truth, Carly has to decide. Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy?




Pre-script: Stay with me folks, this is sort of a review, but I promise there WILL be a contest at the end!

I have a really hard time talking about books that I love. I know that sounds strange because it's the books I love that I really want to promote. Yet, there always seems to be this paradox. I can pinpoint exactly what is wrong with a book when I don't like it, but when I do like it, I always end up just saying things like AMAZING!! READ IT!!! and giving the actual reason of WHY I love it is very hard. I feel like I'm imprecise with my words and can't do the book justice. This is why I've put off reviewing Raw Blue for so long. I've had a hard time finding the right words to describe it. I've loaned this book to numerous people, mentioned it in a dozen places and voted for it on many "best of" lists. But actually writing the review has been impossible. So many others have done it better.

I was first introduced to this book by my good friend, Nomes over at Inkcrush. Her review here captured much of what I wanted to say:
  
It has this languid, quietly intense pace which you sit back in the pocket, holding your breath. I was only a fifth in when I was startled to discover that Carly had gotten under my skin in a way that a literary character hasn't for a very long time. I was crazily invested in her and felt all ripped up and torn inside-out as the novel progressed. I so wanted her to be okay.


My other good friend, Dana also managed to organize her thoughts in such a way that left me wondering how I could say it any better:



The characters are as vividly drawn as the setting. Carly, the MC, is closed and defensive, which could have been a stumbling block for readers to get to know her. But Eagar manages to do a wonderful job of showing us who Carly is slowly and deftly, from her work in the kitchen where she goes the extra mile despite it being a dead-end job, to her dispassionate noticing of her colleague who is starving herself…we get a picture of Carly loud and clear.
If only I could muster up the adjectives and adverbs like they did.



The thing is that I could go on and on about the wonderful prose in this book, the atmosphere, the vivid descriptions of the ocean. The surfing. *sigh* The surfing. Never surfed in my life, but this book makes me want to. Okay, I would drown, but do you see the love here? Yes, all of these things about Raw Blue contribute to what makes it so special, but none of these things is what made me love this book so hard. Rather, it was the character. Carly's character and how I connected to her. To be clear, I have never been in Carly's situation. I have never been that lonely, and I have never had my sense of trust knocked down so violently that I couldn't find it again. But I still felt a real connection to Carly. She just wanted to be normal. Not in the sense that she wanted to be like everyone else, but in the sense that she wanted to just walk up to a person and say hi or flirt with a guy like every other normal girl does. She wanted to not be afraid. As an extreme introvert, I can relate to that. My own experiences are not in the same league as Carly's. I feel foolish even comparing them, but I think maybe because of my personality I was able to easily put myself in her shoes, afraid to trust, afraid of getting hurt. Watching Carly tackle her fears was something I found inspiration from.

The praise for Raw Blue has been tremendous. It won the 2010 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Young Adult fiction and was short listed for the 2010 Gold Inky Award. If these awards don't sound familiar to you, well, that's because they're Australian, mate! Yes, Raw Blue was published several years ago in Australia and has only now become available in the UK. Sadly (sniff sniff), it's still not available in the US. However, since there's a wonderful little online store called The Book Depository, I have decided to give away a copy of Raw Blue!!! It even has a new cover design (though honestly I will always see Carly as a brunette).


To enter the contest just leave a comment with your name and email address so I can get a hold of you. If you've entered my contests before, you'll know that I hate making people jump through hoops, therefore, only one entry per person. BUT if you give me a tweet, I promise to love you forever. Contest is good to wherever The Book Depository ships and will end on July 30th (US).


Monday, July 2, 2012

Books of June

Got a little over excited with some revisions early on in the month and I didn't get quite as much reading done as I had hoped. But here are my books of June. Anyone read some of these? What were your thoughts?

45.  Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler ** I really liked the use of second person in this one. The MC seemed more than a bit naive, but I still liked her enough to feel really bad by the end of it. Kind of wanted to strangle Ed though. Also I'm not sure about the form of the book. It was all in glossy print, which felt way overdone to me and the art kind of reminded me of Andy Warhol, which unfortunately I'm not a fan of. So, take that as you may...
46. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour** For those who want a comparison, no, this book wasn't as good as Hold Still, but I did enjoy it. I really liked that youthful feeling it had, and the MC, I just wanted to snuggle up to him and say, hey you deserve better than this! Nina LaCour is definitely still one of my favorite YA contemp authors, for sure.
47. Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin** Dark and haunting is the best way to describe Masque, Bethany Griffin's retelling of Poe's short story. Some of the images really made me shiver and the world building rocked. There were times when my stomach was clenching, kind of the same feeling I got watching the movie Outbreak. BG really knows how to build tension and then raise it another notch just for fun. Also I was surprised by how much I loved both love interests and couldn't really decide which to root for. Can't wait for the sequel.

48. Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer* A bit disappointing. I had read the first chapter a while back and was kind of, shall we say, not impressed by Cala's actions? But I wanted to finish the series off, and so I put my revulsion for her cheating heart aside and read the final book. I enjoyed the set-up and how they had to go on these sort of "quests" in these dangerous places. That felt a bit Harry Potter-ish, but with a definite more YA vibe, but I didn't really enjoy that she felt she had to give EVERYONE a love interest. I expected what was going to happen at the end, so wasn't really surprised, but it still felt like a cop-out to me. Like I said, overall a bit disappointing, but I'm glad that I finished off the series.
 
49. The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith The beginning - whoa. The middle - eh? The ending - WTF??? I can't really recommend this one unless you happen to be a big fan of alternate worlds in the vein of Stephen King's The Gunslinger/Dark Tower series.I read those about a decade ago and honestly didn't get past the third one. So if you like those and you like endings that don't really leave you with a sense of closure then you might like it.

50.The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg* Cute, but predictable. Instead of a survivor going through the stages of grief, here we have the dead girl going through the stages of grief. Parts of it felt predictable, but the ending really kind of threw me for a loop. Also a bit too much with the eighties references. Really, I love the eighties, I grew up in the eighties, but it just didn't feel right when there were these references being thrown at me every other page. There was definitely some author intrusion there.

51. Insurgent by Veronica Roth** LOVE the sequel to Divergent. Halfway through I was predicting what the ending was going to reveal, and once that was confirmed, the first book actually made a lot more sense to me. I liked the way VR portrayed Tris going through her grief and how that affected the way she handled things. And of course I loved Four even more than I did before. Eagerly awaiting the third book.

52. Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi** I think part of my feelings about this one stem from the fact that I plotted something similar out a couple months ago, and so a lot of what was happening really clicked for me. I loved the contrast between the two worlds, and I really loved the descriptions of the sky and how the title fit in. Character-wise, I think Aria's transition was a little too fast and a little too... predictable? As in VR couldn't resist but give her MC some kick-ass special powers too. As for Perry, the earlier descriptions of him left me wanting, but then later he grew on me, and IDK, his dreads were forgotten after awhile or something. In the end I really liked him (despite the ew-factor when he describes how Aria suddenly smells better to him when she menstruates). Planning to read the sequel.

Also, but did you notice that it's now July and I'm at 50+ books for the year?? I think I might just blow past my reading goal of 75 books. Might as well bump it up to 100. :)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

We have a winner!

Hello all you book addicts! We have a winner to announce.

*digs in hat* 
*pulls up piece of paper with name scribbled on it* 
*squees with glee* 

I promise I would do that no matter what the name is because contests are just so much fun! I'm a wannabe bingo announcer. :)

And the winner is:
Rachael Allen

Our winner will has been contacted, but I would really REALLY encourage everyone to read this book. And... I think it's on Netgalley right now, which means that you REALLY should sign up and get it. I'll have some more fun stuff to announce tomorrow.

Have a good remainder of your weekend!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

CONTEST!!!

I wrote up a review of the awesome book, Rape Girl by Alina Klein, a few weeks ago promising a contest when it came out. Well, I got a little surprise yesterday when I realized that it is out already!! (Actually I happen to know the author was a bit surprised too! But such is the world of publishing.)



Anyway, contest... so let's see, rules....
A. You have to be a reader.
B. You have to promise to lend this book to a friend because this is the type of book that NEEDS to get passed around.
C. If you write up a review after you're done, I may just throw you in for a few bonus entries on my next contest (not sure when that will be, but I've been thinking of doing one for Masque of the Red Death sometime soon).

As for official rules, I'd just like you to comment below with your name, email address, and if you happen to think of a great "issue" book that you think I should read, I'd love to hear that too. I'd love for you to tweet the contest and help spread the word around, but I also hate jumping through hoops when I enter contests, so I'm not going to MAKE you do that, only do so if you're A SUPER SWEET PERSON and you LOVE my blog and you want to get the word out about this FABULOUS book because you're just THAT kind of person.  But sadly it won't get you any bonus entries.

Ready, set, enter!!!!

Contest is international and will end on June 24th.

Oh, and when you're done go to Goodreads and enter their contest too!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Books of May!


Short list this month, but hey, I finished writing my book!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's in the hands of my beta readers now, which means that I have a month to catch up on that huge, falling over stack of books next to my desk (er, dining room table). Next month I get to read:

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket)
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
No and Me by Delphine de Vigan
and probably 5 or so others depending on how nice my library is at getting things to me.

But for now, lets go over what I read this month. Hope that you find something here you like. 


38. Enclave by Ann Aguirre Please don't waste your time on this book. While the premise was quite original to begin with there were just so many places where one had to suspend their disbelief (as in an entire society could consist off meat and mushrooms ALONE for generations) that it really made me scratch my head. But beyond that there were some serious issues here. I'm not sure what would make the author think that turning a rapist into a LI would work for a YA book, but she does. Yes, that was a spoiler, but if it deters you from picking this up, I don't mind and I don't think you will either.

39. Withering Tights by Louise Rennison* Very funny! Just like Georgia Nicholson, only slightly different. The only thing that really bothered me with this book is that it didn't seem to have a plot until about 3/4 of the way through. But the voice and comedy keep you gluedtothepageslikethis.

40. All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield ** AUSSIE AWESOMENESS ALERT!!! I was snagged by the end of the first chapter, heck by the first page. The thing that really strikes me about this book was how the author took a minor character that I thought was going to be the source of all evil and made me LOVE her like a favorite aunt. I want to learn how to do that. Will definitely read again and take notes. Also, lovely prose.
 
41. Night Beach by Kirsty Eagar** SECOND AUSSIE AWESOMENESS ALERT!!! Another great surf story by Kirsty Eagar. This one is a gothic tale about a young artist and the boy she covets, sometimes not so sanely, and how all that goes horribly (even demonically) wrong. I love Eagar's prose so much. If you get a chance to pick this one up, definitely do. 






42. Also Known as Rowan Pohi by Ralph Fletcher* A short story (well, not short-short, it was 200 pages) that had great voice and character development. It was a bit predictable as this sort of plot is, and I got hung up wondering the whole time about the MC's mother and why he was laying all the blame on the dad, but in the end that got cleared up, and I was glad it did. It's satisfying enough to warrant a recommendation.

43. My Heart Be Damned by Chanelle Gray* ARC Buffy fans get out your stakes - er, blessed knives - there's a new sort of paranormal creature on the loose! I really enjoyed the snappy dialogue with this one and the close friendship between Amerie and her friends. There was maybe just a bit "too" much Buffy-ness to it, but for those looking for a kickass heroine, this will definitely suffice.

44. The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani** Middle grade read - was not aware of this when I picked it up, but I'm glad that I did. A very cute, yet serious book about a young girl trying to fit in and determine where she fits in. There's a strong message here to just be yourself and to love who that person is. Highly recommended for ages 8-12.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Review - RAPE GIRL by Alina B. Klein

The 1 in 4 number frightens me. It's not just thinking about what kind of society we live in that produces that number, it's all the victims it doesn't include, the ones that go unreported. How can we help them? How can we support them? How can we help them transition into thinking of themselves as survivors rather than victims?  It's not enough to tell them we understand because chances are we don't. Still, it is important that they know someone does.
Young Adult author and rape survivor Alina B. Klein has attempted to do so with her debut novel, Rape Girl.

Goodreads summary:

Valerie always wanted to be the smart girl. The pretty girl. The popular girl.

But not the rape girl.

That’s who she is now. Rape Girl. Because everyone seems to think they know the truth about what happened with Adam that day, and they don’t think Valerie’s telling it.

Before, she had a best friend, a crush, and a close-knit family. After, she has a court case, a support group, and a house full of strangers.

The real truth is, nothing will ever be the same.

Rape Girl is the compelling story of a survivor who does the right thing and suffers for it. It is also the story of a young woman’s struggle to find the strength to fight back.



I've recently had the honor of reading an ARC of Rape Girl (release date Aug 15 2012). Rape Girl inflamed my anger, touched my heart, and gave me hope. Our main character, Valerie, is like so many girls we know - eager to please, willing to break a few house rules to gain popularity, and dying to get some attention from her crush. We see in her the girl who could be inside any of us. Except then she shows us a bit more. It's bad enough that she has to go through the process of pressing charges and all that entails, but when that is said and done, Valerie has to go through more.  The people around her, who should be supportive, don't believe her. It is truly devastating, and to think that this happens daily (and we know it does) is just awful. Yet Valerie shows us how someone ordinary can become extraordinary. I wanted to reach through the pages and hug her, tell her that she was a wonderful human being who didn't deserve to have this happen to her, yet I knew that she was going to be okay when all was said and done. I wanted to tell her I was proud and happy that she had found strength in herself. She was beautiful and brave.

In addition to the wonderful main character, Alina B. Klein does a superlative job of bringing all the secondary players into sharp, and realistic, focus. From the flaky best friend to the un-supportive school administrators. To the loving, and unsure-of-herself mother to the rapist's crazy, and somewhat scary friends. Everyone had their role to play and even though the book is written in first person, we were able to see how they all handled it, sometimes for good, sometimes not. I think the secondary character I loved the most was Sandrina. She seems to come out of nowhere, a girl who Valerie thought was basically her enemy, only she proves to be one of the few friends that Valerie can count on. I loved her charisma and how her slips of Spanish melded into the story so smoothly and made me want to run out and find a best friend just like her. I also appreciated the character of Wesley and what he brought to the table. With the subject of rape, it's easy to assume that the victims become regressed, fearful and shy away from boys. But that's not necessarily the case, and Wesley's  role in the story and how Valerie deals with her feelings toward him illustrated that point beautifully.

Spoiler!! (highlight if you want to read): The ending tore me apart, even though there was a lot of hope there, and Valerie proves herself to be brave - yet again - I really just felt like I wanted to punch the rapist in the balls. And then scratch his eyes out. And then punch him in the balls again. Hehehe... Obviously I would have been more satisfied if Valerie had gotten her day in court, but I kind of liked that Klein decided not to do that. It was more realistic with respect to what often happens in these cases, and even though it pissed me off, I can see the value in showing that Valerie was going to be okay even though she didn't get the justice she deserved. 

The writing. I can't leave a review without touching on the writing. I thought the prose here was simply marvelous. It had a natural flow and incorporated many unique details that made the scenes come alive. It was witty and to the point. The book itself is rather short, but it says all it needs to say and then some.

This book deserves five stars, hands down. Keep your ears open because I'll be doing a Rape Girl giveaway when it comes out on August 15th! Also, be sure to visit Alina's blog. It's very cool!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Books of April

Okay, first off just some things to take care of:

1. IT'S MAY! IT'S MAY! THE LUSTY MONTH OF MAY! (Camelot lovers will recognize that song, if not, then go watch the movie! Er, the 70's/80's version that is).

2. I hate the new blogger dashboard. Why do they always have to change things just as I'm getting used to it? Also, I'm beginning to think I don't like this new layout. Any thoughts?

3. My monthly book summaries seem to be the only blog posts I'm capable of committing to, and I apologize profusely for that! But hey, one commitment is better than none.

4. Rum Runners is now on it's second round of revisions. The plan is to fix all my little (electronic) sticky notes and then send it off to beta readers by June 1st.

5. My good friend Alina did a very important post today about The Not At Fault Project for rape survivors. Go visit her blog and check it out!

5. Random science note: phosphatase assays SUCK!! BIG TIME!!

So, now that that's taken care of, here's the list of books I read in May April (thank you, editor Mel) while I was working so hard (coughprocrastinatingcough) on revisions.

29. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma* My first thoughts when I opened this book - why is a story about incest so freaking long??? Must be a lot of good smut in there! Well, there were a lot of hot and heavy scenes, more intense than I've probably ever read in a YA book. I think it was maybe a little over the top for the genre, though it didn't bother me. I didn't like the characters much in this book, but that didn't detract me from enjoying it. I expected the ending and had an interesting conversation with a friend about how it had to end that way based on the character's personalities. I recommend it to those who wouldn't be offended by the subject.
30. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood* Slow beginning, but once I got into it I really enjoyed it. The author did a great job of playing with the reader's emotions by presenting an unjust world where women's rights are restricted and dictated by men. And there was magic. And romance. Triple win!
31. The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness* Second book of the Chaos Walking series. I felt that it was much slower than the first book and didn't like it quite as much. The ending draaaaagged. Patrick Ness does do an awesome job of creating complex characters though. I keep putting off reading the third book. I almost feel like I need to "gear up" for it in some sense. Maybe over a long holiday like Memorial day? We'll see.
32. Sweethearts by Sara Zarr** My second Sara Zarr book, and I absolutely loved it. This is also one of those books where after I read it I went to Goodreads and got all disappointed that it didn't have higher marks. I felt like I could really relate to the MC, and unlike most reviewers on GR didn't care much that the romance angle wasn't what it promised to be. A good story of friendship and highly recommended.
33. Everneath by Brodi Ashton I had heard a lot of friends say that they LOVED this book, so I went into it expecting something spectacular. Sadly, it didn't live up to those expectations. I thought the characters were dull and underdeveloped, the love angle was kind of same-old, same-old that you always get with these paranormal romances, and there were a lot of inconsistencies that just didn't make much sense to me. To each his own, I suppose.
34. Rape Girl by Alina B. Klein** Aw, me lovely ARC from me lovely friend, Alina. You're in for a treat guys! I plan to do a review of this closer to it's pub date, but I'll just say this: PUT IT ON YOUR TO-READ LIST!!!
35. Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala** And yes, I have yet another favorite YA contemp writer! I loved most everything about this book, the subject matter, the characters (especially the bitchy mom and the bitchier, man-grabbing best friend), and of course the writing itself. It was dark, yet very true to life and just utterly amazing. Highly recommended.
36. Ashfall by Mike Mullin Disappointing. I enjoyed the unique angle on how the apocalypse happens in this book, but once that had run it's course, it was much the same as any of these types of books. There were the mean characters who were hell bent on hoarding and taking as much as they could get, and then there were the nice neighborly characters who helped everyone out. There was a small token of the "this is the end so let's all just jump off a building" sort of stuff, and of course by the end, the MC had grown up and changed because of everything he had seen. The only part I found refreshingly unique was the female LI. Her character was great. I might read the second book to see what happens with her, but otherwise, not too impressed.
37. Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr**Another amazing read. I am literally a Sara Zarr fangirl now. I want to write like her. I want to know teens like she does. I want to come up with these amazingly simple premises and then turn them into gold like she does. She literally has the midas touch with YA contemp, and I wish it would rub off on me!! Cuz, you know, we could all use a little gold! hehe... :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday Teaser


I have another teaser today!! A little background: Erik has been arrested for possession of alcohol and his father decided some time in the slammer would be good for him. Just as a warning, there's a bit of swearing in this one. 

“Cookies have crumbs.”

I break off a bit of cookie – the last one.

“Rats like crumbs.”

I dip the cookie into a box of rat poison that Wiggins has kindly left me.

“This is why Erik has become The Pied Piper, calling for rats instead of enjoying the cookies himself.”

I throw the bit of cookie towards the urinal where I last saw the rat disappear into a hole in the wall.

I sigh and lean back. “Fucker could have at least left me some tape to cover the damn hole.”

Slim snores on the cot opposite mine. He was nearly passed out when he staggered in a couple hours ago so I haven’t had the chance to ask him anything. Not sure if I want to either. Right now, I can’t imagine Slim having anything good to say that would change my opinion about the son of a bitch who I call my father.

I hear the rat before he emerges - hard little taps of his nails against the concrete. There’s a slippery little squeal of glee when he spies the poison-laced cookie. I keep still when I see his flashlight eyes flicker back and forth. He scampers forward, and I scoot my butt up to the edge of the cot, so that I can see him take the cookie. 

He doesn’t.

My chest aches as I contemplate what I’m going to have to do. The rat is getting closer to Slim, could eat his fucking ear off and the old man would never wake up unless I intervene. I’m tired, and if I don’t kill this rat now I’ll be falling asleep on top of my math test tomorrow. 

I inch forward slowly as the rat explores his meatier prey. He stands on his hind legs, sniffing the air. 

I get ready. 

He scampers away, but I leap in front of him. He dodges to the left, and I slam my knee against Slim’s cot trying to follow. The drunk grumbles and rolls over, still asleep, but the rat is cornered now.  The only way to get back to his hole is to go past me. He thinks he’s faster, so he comes forward. 

My boot is ready.

There’s a crunch as I smash his head. This is followed by the ear-splitting squeal of a dying animal.

Slim snores again.

I grind my heel against the rat’s neck, feeling my belly roll at the bony-squishiness. I kick the twitching carcass to the corner next to his skeletal friend, and then lean against the wall, waiting for my heart to slow, my breathing to ease.

I stare through the bars and out the window.

My throat burns from unshed tears.

I told Matt that you decide before you do something whether you’re prepared to face the consequences. And I was, but it doesn’t change the fact that I wouldn’t be in here if my father weren’t such an asshole. He left me in here, with fucking rats. And he hasn’t even had the decency to call or stop in to check on me. 

I slide to the floor and draw my knees up. I rest my head in my arms and rock from side to side, thinking I can contain it. But I can’t. I’m weak. 

He hates me. 

My father hates me.

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