Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teen Review: ELEVENTH GRADE BURNS by Heather Brewer

Final Grade: 100/A+
YA Paranormal
320 pages
Available Now
Personal Copy
Rated PG

KODY’S BLURB: Vladimir Tod is in his senior year at Bathory High, and life for him is just as normal as any other time. But when vampire slayer and ex-best friend Joss comes back to Bathory to finish his job, Vlad must finally deal with what he’d been dreading—death at the hands of a friend. But when he goes to his uncle’s hearing in Elysia, a suprising twist at the end of the hearing leaves Vlad devastated. Now Vlad’s life is on the clock, and Joss has big plans to get rid of Vlad. When Vlad and Joss fight, a familiar voice might change everything.

REVIEW: In my opinion, THE CHRONICLES OF VLADIMIR TOD is the best book series. As a reader and reviewer, I want to make sure everyone knows about this awesome series. I give this book a grade of 100%. The best parts are the beginning, middle, and end. (Like I’m really gonna give away parts of the book! There are people out there who haven’t read it.)

To me, there were no parts I didn’t like. My favorite character would definitely be Vlad and my least fave would be Joss—he needs to let go of his grudge. This book has a lot of genres mixed together: romance, heartbreak, drama, action, adventure and suspense. This is all in one book and it’s throughout the entire series. This book will BLOW YOUR MIND!

TEEN REVIEWER KODY: Likes action games, skating, electric bass guitar, reading, horror movies, and manga. Wants to be an Air Force pilot when he grows up.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Winner! Winner!

And the winner of Gratitude Giveaways is entry #35 (a la Random.org):

INDIGO of Shattered Prose

Congratulations! I hope you enjoy CANDOR by Pam Bachorz and HARMONIC FEEDBACK by Tara Kelly as much as I did. I've sent you an email so I can sent these to you via The Book Depository.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In My Mailbox (5)

Hi all! Hope your weekend is going well (whether it was an extended, turkey-and-stuffing-filled one or not). How is it, during the work week, time seems to slow down but when there's time off, it flies? Eek!

All this week I was wondering if I was even going to do an IMM, since I didn't get anything but bills and annoying flyers for products I never purchase. But then yesterday, I got a box 'o books from Holly at The Book Binge, the other site I review for. It's mainly adult, mainly romance and I review the scifi/fantasy stuff for them, which is usually too racy to review here.

I always do a happy dance when I get a package from Holly and the girls (thanks, ladies!):

What'd you get in your mailbox?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review: ADIOS, NIRVANA by Conrad Wesselhoeft

Final Grade: 93/A
YA Contemporary
240 pages
Available Now
Review copy provided by publisher through NetGalley
Rated PG-15

BLURB: When you piss off a bridge into a snowstorm, it feels like you’re connecting with eternal things. Paying homage to something or someone. But who? The Druids? Walt Whitman? No, I pay homage to one person only, my brother, my twin.
       In life. In death.

Since the death of his brother, Jonathan’s been losing his grip on reality. Last year’s Best Young Poet and gifted guitarist is now Taft High School’s resident tortured artist, when he bothers to show up. He's on track to repeat eleventh grade, but his English teacher, his principal, and his crew of Thicks (who refuse to be seniors without him) won’t sit back and let him fail.

REVIEW: Man, ADIOS, NIRVANA is raw, powerful and heartbreaking. Jonathan’s pain pulses off the pages, and he plays the tortured artist to the hilt. So much so that he's toes-over the crumbling edge of failing eleventh grade. Luckily for him, he had people who want him to succeed and aren't going to allow him to drop into the black pit of despair like he wants. Still, he does his best, starting with getting wasted, slipping off a bridge, and falling into his own puke (and this is just the first couple of pages). 

Including Jonathan himself, I really enjoyed the eclectic cast of characters: Jonathan's friends, the "Thicks", who reminded me of my brother's group of high school friends. The principal and her love of cheesy music--it made me smile to think of her requiring Jonathan to play her favorite song at graduation (a song that's eternally embarrassing to him) as part of his school rehabilitation. Mimi, Jonathan's mom, who wasn't much of a mother, though she tried. Ruby, Jonathan's six-string Larrivee acoustic guitar, "...the only girl I put my arms around". And the music itself--Nirvana, Eddie Vedder, the grunge scene, and heavy, dark rock music that lent to the overall atmosphere of the novel.

Filled with dark poetry, grief, and angst, ADIOS, NIRVANA delves into the bonds of brotherhood and friendship and doesn't flinch. My only complaint is that I wanted more--more music, more poetry, and more of Jonathan (love the whole tortured-but-save-able artist vibe). A fantastic read. (Plus, don't you just love the cover? It represents the novel so well.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Teen Review: EVERMORE by Alyson Noël

Final Grade: 100/A+
YA Paranormal Romance
384 pages
Available Now
Personal copy

BLURB: Since a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, Ever can see auras, hear people's thoughts, and know a person's entire life story by touch. Going out of her way to avoid human contact and suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen.

Damen Auguste is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy. He's the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head—wielding a magic so intense, it's as though he can see straight into her soul. As Ever is drawn deeper into his enticing world of secrets and mystery, she's left with more questions than answers. She has no idea just who he really is—or what he is. The only thing she knows to be true is she's falling deeply and helplessly in love with him. (Blurb from author’s website)
REVIEW: This book was written by the most amazing author, Alyson Noël! She just knows the right way to capture your imagination! I love the book. Whoever reads this book, you’re in for a surprise on every page. EVERMORE is addictive. The book captures your imagination in a world of unknown love, secrets, and mysteries. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. I couldn’t get this book out of my head.

The characters are phenomenal. My favorite was Ever. She’s smart and about as curious about Damen as you can get about a guy. She’s compassionate, caring and loving towards all her friends. My least favorite character was Haven. Why? Well, she pretends she’s a gothic vampire and acts as though she’s cooler than everyone. She meets new friends who say they’re just like her and have a vampire coven she can join. As she gets closer to them, she slowly forgets about Ever. As the friends grow apart, Ever and Damen grow closer.

EVERMORE is a book filled with romance and mysteries. Ever spends more and more time with Damen and learns more about him every day. But it’s not enough and she finds herself with more questions than answers. She’s determined to find out more. My favorite part is when Ever and Damen kiss for the first time. Ever doesn’t’ know what’s happening, she just knows that she’s getting close to Damen. My least favorite part is when Damen leaves her at Disney World and she doesn’t know why, she just knows Drina is here. Drina’s an evil character but I didn’t dislike her because all she wants is the love of her life, Damen, back. But I think Damen should have fold the truth about Drina in the first place.

I give this book an A+ because, even though I do have a least favorite part, there is just the right amount of drama ot keep me on edge!

TEEN REVIEWER BRETT: Loves music and sports, especially football. Likes painting because it helps her express herself. Thinks school’s okay and plans on going to college and into the marines. She loves her family and friends.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review: RIOT by Walter Dean Myers

YA Historical
160 pages
Available Now
Review Copy provided by Egmont USA
Rated PG

BLURBAs the Civil War rages, another battle breaks out behind the lines. 

During a long hot July in 1863, the worst race riots the United States has ever seen erupt in New York City. Earlier that year, desperate for more Union soldiers, President Abraham Lincoln instituted a draft–a draft that would allow the wealthy to escape serving in the army by paying a $300 waiver, more than a year’s income for the recent immigrant Irish. And on July 11, as the first drawing takes place in Lower Manhattan, the city of New York explodes in rage and fire. Stores are looted; buildings, including the Colored Foundling Home, are burned down; and black Americans are attacked, beaten, and murdered. The police cannot hold out against the rioters, and finally, battle-hardened soldiers are ordered back from the fields of Gettysburg to put down the insurrection, which they do–brutally. 

Fifteen-year-old Claire, the beloved daughter of a black father and Irish mother, finds herself torn between the two warring sides. Faced with the breakdown of the city–the home–she has loved, Claire must discover the strength and resilience to address the new world in which she finds herself, and to begin the hard journey of remaking herself and her identity. 

REVIEW: “Learn something new every day” is a favorite expression of my dad’s and, I have to say that by reading RIOT, I certainly did learn something new. While I was aware of the terrible poverty, especially of the Irish immigrants and the newly-freed African Americans; the huge class divisions between the haves and have-nots; and the deep-seated bigotry and racism that ran rampant around the time of the Civil War (and, unfortunately, for years after), I didn’t know about the race riots that erupted over the draft (I have since remedied this hole in my education).

The story itself is written in screenplay format with a multitude of characters who come from all backgrounds, providing readers with a variety of perspectives. The main character, Claire, is stuck right in the middle—not too rich, not too poor; a black father and a white mother; and both black friends and Irish friends. Having never faced true adversity, she’s never really had to define her beliefs or face her background and roots. Until the riots. The focus on dialogue creates an immediacy that puts the reader right in the middle of the action and allows a glimpse into the minds of  variety of characters. The format of the story, without the detailed descriptions found in a traditional novel, makes the actions of the people involved all the more powerful and urgent.

I’m always for on the lookout for amazing historical novels that will keep my students’ attention while immersing them in past. RIOT by Walter Dean Myers does just that. In fact, as soon as I finished reading it, I ran it right over to my social studies teacher so I could share it with her. It’s exactly the type of historical novel students can truly benefit from—and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blogger FAME

Wow, I was totally sidetracked this weekend and forgot to share this with you! This little ole blog was featured on La Femme Readers this past Sunday.
That's right:
Go check it out (and you can see my cute puppies, too!) and say hi to Eleni. She's wonderful and so's her blog. Thanks again, Eleni! And welcome to all you wonderful folks out there who stopped by to say hi and to those who stayed, too!

Teen Review: THE FROG PRINCESS by E.D. Baker

Final Grade: 92/B
MG Fairy Tale
224 pages
Available Now
Rated G
Teen's own book

JANE’S BLURB: Emma, also know as Princess Esmeralda, isn’t what you think of when you think of a princess. She’s clumsy, awkward, cackles, and doesn’t act like a “usual” princess. Her mother hopes that Emma will marry Prince Jorge but Emma hates him. She meets a frog who claims to be a prince and that an evil witch turned him into a frog. The frog, also known as Eadric, asks Emma for a kiss because a kiss from a princess will turn him back into a human. At first, Emma refuses but Eadric is very persistent and Emma finally caves. One kiss wouldn’t hurt, right? Wrong. Instead of Eadric turning into a prince, Emma turns into a frog. To save herself and Eadric, they must go to the witch who cast the spell on him and get her to reverse it…and maybe fall in love along the way.

REVIEW: Initially, I thought this book was going to be a modern retelling of the original classic, The Princess and the Frog. When I found out the girl turns into a frog, I knew it was going to be an interesting story. I truly enjoyed all of the animal friends. They reminded me of my friends in real life. A part I thought was funny was when Eadric turns back into a human and he’s not that handsome-looking. In the Disney story, the princess gets a handsome prince ready to sweep her off her feet while in the book, Eadric was pretty short and pudgy. Even so, Emma still thinks he’s the most handsome prince she ever laid eyes on. True love.

My favorite character has to be Fang, the snake who helps Emma and Eadric. Everyone was scared of him because he looked intimidating but it turned out he had a wife and kids and he missed them terribly. There was this part when another snake was attacking Emma. Fang was about to block the attack but it turned out Emma was Fang’s wife. I loved that his wife appeared so unexpectedly.

My grade for THE FROG PRINCESS is a 92/B. This is part of a series E.D. Baker wrote and I would like to read those in the future. There were some parts I thought were kind of bland and I wished for more detail but, overall, I think this book is a good read if you like stories with cute, happy endings.

TEEN REVIEWER JANE: Loves golf, Swedish Fish, dance, violin, and naps. Wants to be happy when she grows up and being a cardiologist or lawyer would be pretty rad, too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: GRAVE WITCH by Kalayna Price

Final Grade: 95/A
Urban Fantasy
336 pages
Available Now
Rated: R

Crossposted to Book Binge.
BLURB: Not even death can save her now. As a grave witch, Alex Craft can speak to the dead—she's even on good terms with Death himself. As a consultant for the police, she's seen a lot of dark magic, but nothing has prepared her for her latest case. When she's raising a "shade" involved in a high profile murder, it attacks her, and then someone makes an attempt on her life. Someone really doesn't want her to know what the dead have to say, and she'll have to work with mysterious homicide detective Falin Andrews to figure out why...

REVIEW: First, Alex gets into it with a client who is refusing to pay (she didn't give him the news he wanted), and Death takes him before she can make him pay. Then, her estranged sister calls and asks a favor. A big one, it turns out, involving her also-estranged father. Reluctantly, she agrees. While she's checking things out, she's attacked by a murdered woman's shade, something that never happens. And, after raising another shade to testify in court, someone shoots at her but the bullet hits her cop-friend instead and puts him in a coma. Truly, this is a very bad day for Alex Craft.

Now, all she wants to do is go home and snuggle her dog. Maybe have a drink. But she can't. She has to find out who's behind the murders, who tried to kill her, who is using evil magic, who is stealing people's souls, and who cast the spell on the shade who poisoned her—and they may not all be the same person. No biggie. At least, she has that hottie Death on her side. Oh, and Detective Falin Andrews. But Death disappears every time she tries to question him, and Falin knows more than he says and is not quite as human as he appears.

GRAVE WITCH is a fast-paced, magic-filled thriller with just enough romance to make it interesting. I love the character of Death—he's cute, likes coffee, and looks out for Alex. There's more going on with him then we're told, which keeps him mysterious, just the way I like them. Falin, the other hottie on the scene, is just as mysterious but I didn't like him as much—at first. However, he really grew on me after a while. He grew on Alex, too, leading to some pretty hot bedroom scenes and sparks flying every which way each time they butted heads, which was a lot.

Kaylayan Price weaves together a world filled with magic and intrigue, where the land of Faerie touches the human world, and humans are connected to magic. The worldbuilding is beautifully done with no massive info dumps, as sometimes happens in urban fantasies. Alex is a great character—strong, snarky but with a sense of humor (especially when it comes to the state of her finances), and independent. Of course, she's not flawless. She has commitment issues, usually preferring to warm herself up after a job with a random hook-up than a full-time guy. She's also got family issues. Daddy doesn't like magic and, because she couldn't control hers when she was younger, he disinherited her. So, she changed her name, burying her past. Until it comes back to haunt her (Get it? Since she can talk to the dead?). All in all, this was a great story populated with strong, interesting characters that will have you rooting for the witch to win.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In My Mailbox (4)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren. It gives everyone a chance to see what books people are excited about, what they're buying and to share our love of reading.

Oh. My. God. Y'all! LOOK what I got this week:
That's right...DARKEST MERCY by Melissa Marr (I totally squealed like a little girl when I opened the envelope). I gave my fiercest guard dog, Fiona, the job of protecting it.

I also received:

RIOT by Walter Dean Myers (so good--I read it and passed it along to my 8th grade social studies teacher-friend already!)
VAMPIRE EMPIRE by Clay & Susan Griffith
Two ZAN-GAH books by Allan Richard Shickman

A Huge Thanks To:
Melissa Marr and her assistant, Donna
Egmont USA
Earthshaker Books
Prometheus Books

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

Wow. I can't believe how fast 2010 is going! I'm already thinking ahead to 2011 and my plans to devour as many new releases as possible (have you seen what's coming out in 2011? *drool*). The Story Siren is on the same page and is running her 2011 Debut Author Challenge, which you can sign up for HERE. The challenge is to read at least 12 Middle Grade or Young Adult debut authors (brand new folks or adult authors who have ventured into the YA/MG genre). If you want more info, click HERE.

Warped--Maurissa Guibord
The Water Wars--Cameron Stracher
Across the Universe--Beth Revis
XVI--Julia Karr
Unearthly--Cynthia Hand

Angelfire--Courtney Allison Moulton
Where I Belong--Gwendolun Heasley
A Touch Mortal--Leah Clifford
The Iron Witch--Karen Mahoney
Rival--Sara Bennett Wealer
So Shelly--Ty Roth
The Demon Trapper's Daughter--Jana Oliver

Eek! Twelve debuts in the first two months! Told you there were a ton of awesome books out there. I think I'll have to stop there at the moment because there are a ton more I want to read in March...and April...(you get the drift).

Anyway, I hope you'll join The Story Siren (and us!) for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Teen Review: VERY VALENTINE by Adriana Trigiani

Final Grade: 97/A
Contemporary (family saga)
416 pages
Available now
Reviewer's copy
Rated R

JAZMYNE'S BLURB: Being the last of her siblings in her Italian-American family to be married, thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli attempts to rescue one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village. Angelini Shoe Company, around since 1903 and maker of wedding shoes, is on the fringe of economic collapse. While talented, Valentine is still the steadfast apprentice to expert shoemaker Teodora Angelini, her grandmother. When Valentine's brother threatens to sell the building to rid the family of their debt, Valentine ventures forth to bring the company into the 21st century.

Valentine also has a racy love affair with the charming chef, Roman Falconi. It seems hard for them to be in a relationship with both of them busy all the time. It's hard to tell if their love will survive, especially when Valentine meets another man, Gianluca, the son of Teodora's love. Yes, Valentine's grandmother has a romance of her own in Italy. And that doesn't even begin to sum up the emotions in this book.

To add more to Valentine's plate, she is handed a challenge by a high-ranking department store. With this proposition, Valentine travels to Italy to learn about unique shoe designs. There, Valentine experiences both family and money troubles. Still, she tries to undertake each challenge as it comes.

JAZMYNE'S REVIEW: Truthfully, I thought VERY VALENTINE was an outstanding book. I could really see through Valentine's eyes. The imagery was so good, I could understand what Valentine was going through. This story contains love, challenges, and excitement that makes you want to read more. It's the kind of book you wouldn't want to put down for anything. Anyone who has had a lot of challenges can identify what Valentine's going through. Plus, the fact that they're Italian brings a sense of culture. I promise, this is a great read.

My favorite character, surprisingly, isn't Valentine but her boyfriend, Roman Falconi. It's just the way he's described and he seemed to know all the right things to say. I love the way he's as committed to his cooking as Valentine is to her shoes. Even though they aren't able to spend a lot of time together, he seems to make the best of the time they have. Then, when he invites Valentine to Italy with him, he shows how devoted to the relationship he is.

I also liked how the author started the beginning of the book with Valentine at her sister's wedding. It really showed how Valentine's main problem was being the only single sister of the Roncalli family.

What I didn't like about the book was that it makes the reader think that 33 is old. So it makes me suspect that this book is meant for people under 33 and not yet married because anyone over 33 and not married would be insulted.

TEEN REVIEWER JAZMYNE: When I grow up, I plan to be a lawyer or homicide detective. I keep a busy schedule with gymnastics and band. I plan to do a lot more book reviews in the future.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gratitude Giveaways (Nov 17-28)

Welcome to the Gratitude Giveaway Hop here at The Book Swarm! This is a hop hosted by Kathy over at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and there are over 175 blogs participating. Many, like mine, are open internationally. We love our reading friends and we want to show our appreciation during this holiday season.
Gratitude Giveaways runs Nov. 17th-Nov. 28th
Click HERE to see the full list of participating blogs
This year has been an amazing year for books so to celebrate some debut authors, I've decided to give away two of my very favorite debuts of 2010:

While they might not have had quite the hype of some of the 2010 books, they're both fantastic and beautifully written. Plus, both of these lovely ladies have books coming out next year--yay!

So, two books, one winner. Sound good? All you have to do to enter is be (or become) a Book Swarm follower and fill in this itsy-bitsy form. Good luck!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Teen Review: BREAKING DAWN by Stephanie Meyer

Final Grade: 90/B
YA Paranormal Romance
800 pages
Available Now
Reviewer's own copy
Rated PG-15

DOREEN'S BLURB: To be in love with the one who hurts you is unbearable. Bella, who is irrevocably in  love with Edward and imprinted with Jacob, is losing her mind. On her honeymoon, she begins to feel sick but doesn't know why. Maybe it was the chicken she ate? Couldn't have been, she JUST ate it. Of course, Edward not being there with her wasn't helping.

Bella must make a decision that is irreversible...she can become immortal or die for a loved one. Edward is torn apart by the very thought of this and with seeing the love of his life in so much pain. With Jacob blaming everything on Edward, it makes everything twice as bad. Thus unfolds all the secrets, worries, and mysteries of this forbidden love.

DOREEN'S REVIEW: I completely loved this book. It was full of twists and kept me on edge. I really loved how Bella was tied between two guys because it filled the book with a lot of drama. And you know us teenagers, we're ALWAYS in drama! I also loved how when I read the book, it felt like I was there. I couldn't put down the book when it came to the part when Bella's life was in danger. But my favorite part was probably when everyone found out Renesmee had a special ability too, but I can't spoil that.

One thing that I really didn't like about this book is how Rosalie is so mean. I mean, I understand she had a rough life but she doesn't need to take it out on the people around her. And I wouldn't expect her to be so mean to Bella. Rosalie has everything someone could possibly want or, at least, that's what Bella thinks. I also didn't like the fact that Jacob blamed everything on Edward. I mean, maybe part of the reason Bella was so hurt was because of Jacob. That really ticked me off. But, all in all, I thought the book was REALLY great! I give it  a B+. I would have given it an A if it weren't for the fact that there are so many mean characters.

TEEN REVIEWER DOREEN: Loves reading, spaghetti, and texting. Hates when people spell simple words wrong and make annoying noises. Wants to be a teacher and a writer.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: PAST MIDNIGHT by Mara Purnhagen

YA Paranormal
224 pages
Review Copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
Rated PG

BLURB: Let me set the record straight. My name is Charlotte Silver and I'm not one of those paranormal-obsessed freaks you see on TV...no, those would be my parents, who have their own ghost-hunting reality show. And while I'm usually roped into the behind-the-scenes work, it turns out that I haven't gone unnoticed. Something happened on my parents' research trip in Charleston--and now I'm being stalked by some truly frightening other beings. Trying to fit into a new school and keeping my parents' creepy occupation a secret from my friends--and potential boyfriends--is hard enough without having angry spirits whispering in my ear. All I ever wanted was to be normal, but with ghosts of my past and present colliding, now I just want to make it out of high school alive....

REVIEW: I picked up this book because it was set (at least in the beginning) in one of my favorite cities in the U.S.--Charleston. This area is the perfect setting for this novel with just the right amount of creepiness and charm. Plus, when you walk down the streets of Charleston, you come away with the feeling of being steeped in history and culture.

But Charlotte doesn't appreciate all that. She's had more than enough history and creepiness to satisfy her for the rest of her life. In fact, she wants to stay in one place for more than a couple of months and to live in a brand-new house that no one has ever lived in before. Luckily for her, she has a sister who completely understands and who convinces their parents that's exactly what they need to do.

Except, during their trip to Charleston, Charlotte picks up a ghostly visitor who follows them to their new house and grows increasingly aggressive. The ghost needs for Charlotte to do something and it's up to Charlotte to find out what or she might have a poltergeist on her hands. 

Charlotte was a great character--I totally felt for her, being dragged around from historical place to historical place, never her parents' primary focus, afraid the people she meets will think she's a freak because of her parents' job.

The main story, the one involving Charlotte and the ghost, was the story that captured and kept my attention. However, there were multiple story lines running through this novel that, to me, were just distractions. I had a hard time with Charlotte's new high school life, her making friends with the popular kids, her attraction to the loner/bad boy because I wanted to know more about the ghosts. The main plot was unique and interesting, and I really wish that had been explored more, instead of the more cliched high school plot lines that popped up after Charlotte and her parents settled down.

Despite that quibble, I really enjoyed this paranormal, so different from the vampires, werewolves and zombies that have been roaming the YA shelves these past couple years. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In My Mailbox (3)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren. It gives everyone a chance to see what books people are excited about, what they're buying and to share our love of reading. (Hey, like my Gamecock IMM? Displaying it proudly, especially considering how we kicked some Gator booty yesterday--on their home turf, no less. GO COCKS!)

I treated myself to some books this week! *sigh of happiness* I love book shopping.

VOICES OF DRAGONS by Carrie Vaughn (I can't wait for STEEL from her so I got this to tide me over)
BAYOU MOON by Ilona Andrews
FIREWALKER by Allyson James (My friends over at The Book Binge, where I review SciFi/Fantasy books, had some great things to say about this series plus the cover's cool)

Oh, and I got a package from Turkey...

I was completely confused, considering I don't know anyone in Turkey. But then I opened it and saw these:

The fingerless gloves I ordered from Etsy! I had no idea Sweetknitting was from Turkey but it was pretty cool to get that package. They're just what I was hoping for--warm and pretty. Yay for my first experience shopping on Etsy. I'm thinking that's where I'll do my holiday shopping, too. Especially considering I hate the mall. Uhg, makes me shudder just thinking about all the traffic and the crowds and the music...

Anyway, what'd you get in your mailbox this week? Can't wait to find out!

Friday, November 12, 2010

All I Want For Christmas (1)

Dayna over at A Tapestry of Words started this meme a little while ago so we could share what books we have on our wish list. I have a ton. An entire bookself worth. But I'm going to start with these two:

First up on my wishlist is HEXBOUND by Chloe Neill. This is the second book in her Dark Elite series and it looks awesome! I'm a huge fan of Chloe's adult series, Chicagoland Vampires (Book 4 is coming out in 2011--a very good year for books!), as well as her first YA book, FIRESPELL.

Lily Parker is new to St. Sophia's School for Girls, but she's already learned that magic can be your best friend-or your worst enemy. That's why Lily has to learn how to control her newly discovered paranormal abilities while fighting the good fight with her best friend Scout as they take on Chicago's nastiest nightlife-including the tainted magic users known as Reapers... (To be released 1/4/2011)

The second book on my wishlist this week is XVI by Julia Karr. I'm way big into dystopians lately (which is fabulous timing, considering all the dystopians on the horizon) and this one sounds like it's going to be a fantastic ride. 

Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world-even the most predatory of men-that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past-one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer. (To be released 1/6/2011)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Negative Reviews

Reading through my blogs today, I came across a fantastic discussion on Steph Su's blog (if you haven't read her, go--she's great) about negative reviews (Steph Su Reads: A Discussion on Negative Reviews). While Steph isn't taking any sides, she does believe that when reviewing a book, the reviewer should honest, straightforward, and open-minded.

Then I read Presenting Lenore's blog (another fab blog) where she talks about a review she did on JELLICOE ROAD (go HERE to read it) in which she had to read the book twice before she could get into it and, because of that (and some other issues), she felt the book was fundamentally flawed. This despite the fact that JELLICOE ROAD was the Printz 2009 Book of the Year. Her review garnered a reaction piece from another blogger, who was confused as to why Lenore didn't love it as much as she did (go HERE if you want to read it--it's not rude or anything, more confused).

And that's what's so fantastic about books--when they really engage a reader, that reader becomes a passionate supporter (shouting from the rooftops, "OMG, you HAVE to read this book, it's so amazing!"). And, when a book doesn't click, a reader can become truly upset, even going as far as to tell people they shouldn't read that particular book because it's terrible (according to them, of course).

While I'm all for getting on a soapbox to shout out my love of a book, I will not slam a book. I believe a reviewer shouldn't tell a reader a book sucks and they shouldn't read it. A reviewer should never mock or attack the author, either. I believe a reviewer's job is to tell a bit about a book then explain calmly and rationally why we liked or disliked a book.

Negative reviews happen (even though I really hate writing negative reviews). I have several books I reviewed here that didn't appeal to me. But I tried to review them as rationally and as professionally as possible. I definitely don't believe people shouldn't read the book just because I didn't like it--in fact, I encourage them to check the books out. They may love them. After all, an agent liked it enough to take on the author and a publishing house liked it enough to publish it. So, someone in the target audience is going to love it (hopefully, for the author, many somebodies). 

How do you feel about negative reviews? If you run a blog, do you post negative reviews? As a reader, what's your reaction when you come across a negative review?

Two Quickie Reviews

I'm not sure if I'm going through a mini-reading slump or what but I just finished two books in a row that I didn't like very much. *sigh*


Available Now
Review copy provided by publisher through NetGalley
Rated PG-15

BLURB: Allegra Fairweather here. Paranormal investigator. Got problems with specters? Shapeshifters? I'm the woman to call. Just don't call me a Ghostbuster. The last guy who did that ended up flat on his back with my boot at his throat.
With my 99.5% success rate, solving the mystery of a bleeding rose that has sprung up on the shores of Loch Furness should have been an easy gig. But already I've heard the shriek of the local banshee, discovered two bodies (and then lost two bodies), and had a near-death encounter with a three-hundred-year-old ghost. And perhaps most dangerous of all, the hot pub owner who hired me now wants to show me exactly what's under his kilt. Luckily, I'm ably assisted by my very own guardian angel. I'm grateful for his help-but he's also drop-dead gorgeous. A bit distracting when I've got a mystery to solve, and the clock is ticking...

QUICKIE REVIEW: Usually, I'm a Scot-o-phile (I don't think that's a word but I like it!) but this book, set in Scotland, just didn't blow up my kilt. It wasn't a bad story, not at all. I like the idea of a paranormal investigator, especially one who doesn't have any powers of any kind--just her brain. Oh, and a guardian angel to save her when she's about to die.

The mystery in the story was relatively simple--I figured out what Lady Jessica's deal was early on (it helped that I know paranormal quite well) and it was quite obvious who the bad guy was. And Allegra wasn't a terrible character but I couldn't connect with her. She could be annoying at times but she was quite dogged in her pursuit of the truth and in solving the mystery. What really turned me off in this story was how Allegra lusted after her guardian angel, who was doing penitence for his bad deeds on the battlefield (involving women) and who couldn't touch her or he'd lose his chance at Heaven. I just felt that, if she truly loved him, she'd back off. But maybe that's just me.

The second was IT STARTED WITH A DARE by Lindsay Faith Rech.

YA Contemporary
Available Now
Review copy provided by publisher through NetGalley

BLURB: Self-proclaimed nobody CG Silverman sees her move to an upscale new school as her chance to be somebody different. Her devil-may-care attitude attracts the in-clique, and before CG realizes it, a routine game of truth or dare launches her to iconic status. While this rebel image helps secure CG’s newfound popularity, it also propels her through a maze of unprecedented chaos, with each new lie and every dare opening doors that, in most cases, were better off left shut. CG is on a collision course with disaster. Will she be able to keep up the façade? Or will the whole world find out she’s a fraud?

QUICKIE REVIEW: I really didn't like CG, the main character. CG moved to a new school mid-way through the year and is immediately welcomed by the most popular girls in school for no apparent reason. Then she starts with the lies. She even befriends an unpopular girl so she'll have another person to tell her lies to. Sure, I can understand the need to fit in but she just kept lying, making the situation worse for herself. Some of the lies were so she'd seem more popular and edgy, something most everyone's probably done at some point in their lives. But some lies were just so useless, I just couldn't understand why she said them.

The characters were a bit too cliched for me--the trio of rich, popular girl; the nerds; the loner just trying to fit in; the hot college brother. However, there were some funny bits. CG had a wicked sense of humor that helped me finish the book, rather than marking it as a DNF (did not finish). I appreciated that because I really hate not finishing books.

Teen Review: BLADE: PLAYING DEAD by Tim Bower

Final Grade: 91/B
YA Thriller
240 pages
Available now
Review copy purchased
Rated PG-13

BRIAN'S BLURB: Blade is just a teenager. But that doesn't mean anything--he can take care of himself perfectly well. He's the perfect criminal. He can pickpocket, break into houses, and has a sixth sense for danger. Nobody even knows he exists. He's been staying under the radar ever since he got into the city three years ago. He's been doing well all alone, avoiding his past. But it finally catches up with him. When he gets jumped by a gang and stripped of everything he owns, an old lady, Mary, gives him a helping hand. But what happens at Mary's house doesn't help anyone. Two men break in, and Blade makes a run for it. His past has finally caught up with him!

BRIAN'S REVIEW: My grade for this book is a 91/B. I think it was a pretty good book but I've read a lot of better books than it. However, this book was kind of hard to put down at times and is filled with suspense and action. One thing I liked about this book is that you can really see what Blade's life is like. You can see the world through his eyes, which is way different that what you'd think. Blade is by far my favorite character, but he's the only character who's well-described, so I didn't have a wide variety of choices.

Some things I didn't like about the book was Blade was always showing off his sixth sense. I kind of annoyed me how three times in every chapter, you would read, "Don't ask me how I know, I just know." It seemed like the writer had nothing else to write, or just wanted to make sure the reader understood Blade's feel for danger, I'm not sure. Also, I didn't like how he always dropped hints about his past but never actually said anything about it. This isn't a mystery novel! But maybe, in the rest of the series, he will open up about his past.

TEEN REVIEWER BRIAN: I love music, skateboarding, and reading. I'm not sure what exactly I want to do when I'm older, but I'm interested in psychology and engineering.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Teen Review: RAVE MASTER (Series) by Hiro Mashima

Final Grade: 95/A
192 pages
Available now
Reviewer's own copy
Rated PG

SAN'S BLURB & REVIEW: RAVE MASTER is a manga series that follows the tales of sixteen-year-old Haru Glory as he searches for Rave, a stone that contains a great amount of power. Haru is a Ravemaster and is the only one who can use the stone. Haru has lived on Garage Island with his sister and friends for as long as he can remember. While fishing one day, he reels in an adventure in the form of a...thing. That starts a chain of events that take him to Star Memory and beyond. Along the way, he meets many strange people (if some that he meets can even be called people) and experiences things that will stay with him the rest of his life. Along with his companions: Plue (who may or may not be a dog); Elie, a girl with no memory of who she is; and Musica, a silverclaimer, Haru fights against one of the deadliest powers known to man, The Dark Bringer. 

My favorite character is probably Musica because he's smokin' hot and he can manipulate silver. My favorite chapter is when Haru jumped into a Dark Bring pool and he gets totally pwned! XD It is the single funniest scene in RAVE MASTER (the scene's in Book 13, by the way). However, Ket, my muse, likes Elie because she's...
*is pushed aside by Ket*
*San pushes Ket back*
and her favorite scene is when Haru meets Elie. I highly recommend you check out RAVE MASTER and join Haru and Plu as they try to save the world.

TEEN REVIEWER SAN121 is a writer trying to figure out what exactly Plue is.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by the fabulous Story Siren. It's a great way to see what everybody's excited about reading and put some great books on your reading radar. This week, I got some fantastic books that I can't wait to dive into!

First up:
I am soooo excited about these three books from Egmont USA (thank you so much, awesome Egmont folks!):
BITTER MELON by Cara Chow (release date: Dec. 28, 2010)
DROUGHT by Pam Bachorz (release date: Jan. 25, 2011) --and, if you haven't read CANDOR, Pam's first novel, it's coming out in paperback Dec. 14th. A great realistic dystopian!
HUMAN.4 by Mike A. Lancaster (release date: March 8, 2011)

ROT & RUIN by Jonathan Maberry
This creepy-looking zombie story was given to me by Donna @ Bites. This girl is awesome and her blog is snarky and very funny. Her reviews bite! Thanks, Donna.

And finally:

PEGASUS by Robin McKinley
After reading all the wonderful reviews and check out the blurb, I had to buy it (my only book purchase of the week--I'm trying to cut back but it's hard with so many awesome books out there!). I want a Pegasus!

When I get a stash like this, I just want to hole up in my reading chair with the fire on, a cup of tea, and my snuggly dogs and read ALL DAY! What books do you want to snuggle up to?