Friday, July 29, 2011

Gotta Keep Reading...

School's right around the corner (for us, the kids will be back August 15th) and, of course, that means in-service for us teachers. On Monday we were talking about student engagement, and the guy giving the training showed us this video. It gave me chills and made me smile!

Enjoy and happy Friday!
How awesome was that?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky

YA Dystopian
320 pages
Available now (released May 2011)
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

As I am both a tech geek and a teacher, this one immediately caught my attention. What a concept -- and so close to real life! As more and more students forgo brick-and-mortar schools for virtual ones and violence in our society reaches epic levels, I can almost see a society like the one in AWAKEN emerging. Of course, as a good dystopian society, AWAKEN takes the idea of virtual life and raises the stakes to the Nth power, beyond anything that would actually happen in real life (...we hope).

This isn't just a story of virtually-bound Maddie and free-spirit Justin meeting and "carving out their own space". Maddie is the daughter of the founder and director of Digital School. Having rebelled against her father and his ideals several years earlier, she is on probation and watched like a hawk. While she still doesn't agree with what her father does or what he expects of her, she tries to toe the line, at least until she's off probation and no longer has the threat of jail hanging over her head. But then she meets Justin, who completely shakes up her world. He encourages her to act on her impulses, to go out dancing or sit with friends, something totally unusual and not really accepted in their world.

I really like Maddie's character. She is smart and had a pretty serious secret, a rebellious act that turned deadly, which adds to the conflict she feels about Justin as well as her ongoing battles with her father. However, I'm not a fan of Justin. Maybe it's because he was so sneaky in the beginning. He wants so much from her without seeming to give up anything of himself. This changes as readers get to know more about him but I'm still not a huge fan.


AWAKEN is a creepily realistic look at a future that takes security several steps too far. I think I'm going to have to add this one to the list of novels in the dystopian unit I teach!

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting on...AMPLIFIED by Tara Kelly

Expected publication: October 25th 2011 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
YA Contemporary
272 pages

I do adore a good music-based story and AMPLIFIED sounds like it hits the right note (sorry--couldn't resist). Plus, I absolutely loved Tara Kelly's first book, HARMONIC FEEDBACK, which was a beautifully written story with intriguing characters.

When privileged 17-year-old Jasmine gets kicked out of her house, she takes what is left of her savings and flees to Santa Cruz to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Jasmine finds the ideal room in an oceanfront house, but she needs to convince the three guys living there that she's the perfect roommate and lead guitarist for their band, C-Side. Too bad she has major stage fright and the cute bassist doesn't think a spoiled girl from over the hill can hack it... 

Waiting On is a meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ULTRAVIOLET by R.J. Anderson

YA Science Fiction
302 pages
Available September 2011
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.


Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right?

Positive: It has you wondering if Alison's really crazy. She does wake up in a psych ward, after all. She did attack several police officers, trash her mother's cell phone, and scream that she killed Tori over and over again. That sounds a little loony. But, as the story progresses, we see that she isn't insane, just oversensitive due to her condition and in a really bad place. The story is written so readers can feel what she's going through, placing us firmly in the mental institution with her.

Positive: It's set in Canada. Canada, y'all! While the setting doesn't play a huge role in the story, I always enjoy reading books set in places I love. Canada's a beautiful country and, opposed to what many U.S. folks believe, isn't just an extended bit of the U.S.

Positive: It treats mental illness and neurological conditions seriously and not just as a plot device. The kids with Alison all have mental illnesses and are possible dangers to themselves and others, thus the reason they are institutionalized and medicated. They each have their role to play in Alison's journey of discovery -- a journey that leads her to finding out why she tastes music and lies and sees words and numbers as colors. I found this to be incredibly interesting, since her neurological condition was one I hadn't heard of before.

Wish: That the romance aspect didn't feel forced. While I don't want to go into too much detail about Sebastian Faraday lest I give away who and what he is, I can tell you that he appears at the institute as a neuropsychologist conducting a study and he gets involved with Alison. Alison feels an instant connection to him (not love, just a connection) but, as the study progresses, she opens up more and more to him. While I could see her falling for him -- a nice-looking older guy who offers a her port in the storm and who believes in her and her story -- I didn't see any reason that it should move beyond a crush. Or maybe I'm just a cynic.

Overall: ULTRAVIOLET is super-cool and quite unusual, using a legitimate neurological condition (nothing as devastating, just unusual) to tell a story filled with mystery, suspense, and drama. Well worth checking out, though those of us in the US will have to wait until September (U.K. folks, you can order now! Amazon | Book Depository).

Available for pre-order on Amazon | IndieBound

Monday, July 25, 2011

WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Forman

YA Contemporary Romance
264 pages
Available now (released April 2011)
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.

Not having read IF I STAY, I have to admit I was at a bit of a disadvantage compared to those who did read it because they were familiar with what happened to Mia, her accident, and her romance with Adam. However, I did have the advantage of seeing the entire relationship and fallout from Adam's perspective only and being completely submerged in his dark and tormented mind.

After Mia's terrible accident and her subsequent walk-out on their relationship, Adam sank into a deep funk, moving back home with his parents and pretty much ditching his bandmates. But his depression eventually turns to anger, and he finally returns to his music, pouring all his anger into harshly beautiful songs that, once recorded, propel him and his band into the stratosphere. Unfortunately, as he wallowed in his depression, his bandmates believe he abandoned them and they aren't so quick to forgive his return, even if he does come bearing fantastic music. This rift widens as people focus on him as the band's lead, treating the rest of the band as back-up to Adam's awesomeness. 

Three years later, we find Adam with fame, fortune, and a gorgeous movie star for a girlfriend. But he's cut himself off from his bandmates and former friends, doesn't enjoy or even feel the music anymore, and has retreated back into his shell, numbing his pain with prescription pills and drink. Then he sees an advertisement for Mia's recital and decides to go, just so he can see her one more time.

Gayle Forman is a master at getting inside her character's head and exposing his pain for all the world to see. WHERE SHE WENT is a  beautifully-crafted, dark journey from the depths of despair back into the light of love.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Reading...So Far

Usually, over the summer, I float in the lake, read, watch TV, hang out with family and friends, and write. While it hasn't been the best summer for some of that (uhg. My writing is suffering. I think I must be going for the whole tortured artist vibe.), I've made some awesome headway into my very large To-Be-Read pile. There's something so satisfying in going to GoodReads and marking a book "read". 

With two weeks of freedom before I have to go back to school (sadness!!), so far this summer (June and July) I've read:
1. The Neon Graveyard by Vicki Pettersson
2. The Strange Case of Finley Jane (novella) by Kady Cross
3. Bloodring (Rogue Mage #1) by Faith Hunter
4. Blood Magic (Blood Journals #1) by Tessa Gratton
5. Dead on Delivery by Eileen Rendhal
6. Queen of the Dead (Ghost and the Goth #2) by Stacey Kade
7. Possession by Elana Johnson
8. Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready
9. Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
10. Conspiracies by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
11. Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich
12. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
13. Hammered (Iron Druid Chronicles #3) by Kevin Hearne
14. Grave Dance by Kalayna Price
15. Solid by Shelley Workinger
16. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
17. Hourglass by Myra McEntire
18. Blood Red Road by Moira Young
19. Nightfall by Ellen Connor
20. Trial By Fire (Raised By Wolves #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
21. Fairy Bad Day by Amanda Ashby
22. Red Glove (Curse Workers #2) by Holly Black
23. Heartless (Parasol Protectorate #4) by Gail Carriger
24. Overbite (Insatiable #2) by Meg Cabot
25. Summer's Crossing (Iron Fey #3.5) (novella) by Julie Kagawa
26. Wrapped by Jennifer Bradley
27. Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham
28. The Iron Knight (Iron Fey #4) by Julie Kagawa
29. Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
30. Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
31. No One To Trust by Julie Moffet
32. Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews
33. Love Struck (novella) by Melissa Marr
34. Making Waves by Tawna Fenske


I think, out of all of those, my top five were: 
1) Making Waves by Tawna Fenske -- a super-funny romance with pirates
2. Trial By Fire (Raised By Wolves #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes -- a young adult paranormal with werewolves
3) Blood Red Road by Moira Young -- a post-apocalyptic with a kick-ass heroine
4) Where She Went by Gayle Forman -- a young adult romance with a tortured rock star
4) Grave Dance by Kalayna Price -- an urban fantasy with romance and a kick-ass heroine (I do like a good kick-ass hero/heroine)


So, any favorite books that you've read this summer?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

SOLID by Shelley Workinger

YA Science Fiction
236 pages (paperback)/204 KB (ebook)
Available now
Review copy provided by author for honest review

Teens who discover they were secretly genetically altered before birth are brought together at a classified site where they forge new friendships, find love, develop "super-abilities," and unearth a conspiracy.

Clio Kaid may be 17 and just beginning the last summer before her senior year, but her life is anything but typical. She's just discovered she was genetically altered before birth and is now headed to a top-secret Army campus to explore the surprising results of the experiment.
 
Positive: An interesting story. I really enjoyed Clio, her new friends, and the situation they found themselves in. The genetically altered kids are sent to a kind of summer camp set up by the Army so they can study the kids and teach them how to use their powers. But, while most of the people are there to help the kids, there are some who are out to use Clio and the others for their own nefarious purposes (cue the bad guy music). When Clio overhears a conversation that makes her question what's really going on at the camp, she convinces her friends to do some detective work. 

Positive: The formatting. This has got to be the most professionally formatted ebook I've ever read. And, yes, this includes ebooks from the big publishers (not including ARC's), indies, and other self-published authors. Usually, there are funky line and chapter breaks, one character's dialogue runs into another's, font size changes, and/or missing paragraph indentations. Thank you, Shelley Workinger, for making my ebook experience with SOLID just as enjoyable as if I had a physical book in my hands.

Positive: Oh, y'all, there's an ending with this one (and you know that makes me happy)! Even though there's a sequel that continues Clio's story, SOLID's main plotline comes to a satisfying end. Plus, I'm intrigued enough by the characters to want to find out what happens to Clio and her friends in SETTLING.

Wish: I hope that this author becomes one of those self-publishing success stories you hear about!

Overall: There are a couple of slow parts and some parts I wish were a little more filled out but, all in all, great pacing and a fun story.

Available on Amazon
Find more on the author and her stories here:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Waiting on...DESTINED by Jessie Harrell

Waiting on...DESTINED!
YA Fantasy (mythology)
Due out November 17th 2011 from Mae Day Publishing

When Psyche receives a prophecy gone horribly wrong, she learns that even the most beautiful girl in Greece can have a hideous future. Her fate? Fall in love with the one creature even the gods fear.

As she feels herself slipping closer into the arms of the prophecy, Psyche must choose between the terrifyingly tender touch she feels almost powerless to resist and the one constant she's come to expect out of life: you cannot escape what is destined.

Destined is a fresh and heartachingly romantic retelling of the Cupid & Psyche myth from debut novelist, Jessie Harrell.

Oh, yay! Another mythology! And I do really like the story of Cupid and Psyche. A mismatched couple, for sure, but there's just something about their love story that I really enjoy. Plus, mythology thrills me. Oh, and isn't that a pretty cover? I like the creaminess of it and the swirly letters.

Oops! Almost forgot: This meme is created/hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

DOWN THE MYSTERLY RIVER by Bill Willingham

Middle Grade Fantasy/Adventure
336 pages
Available Sept. 13, 2011
Review copy provided by publisher via Amazon Vine

Max “the Wolf” is a top notch Boy Scout, an expert at orienteering and a master of being prepared. So it is a little odd that he suddenly finds himself, with no recollection of his immediate past, lost in an unfamiliar wood. Even odder still, he encounters a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and McTavish the Monster (who might also be an old barn cat)—all of whom talk—and who are as clueless as Max. 

Before long, Max and his friends are on the run from a relentless group of hunters and their deadly hounds. Armed with powerful blue swords and known as the Blue Cutters, these hunters capture and change the very essence of their prey. For what purpose, Max can’t guess. But unless he can solve the mystery of the strange forested world he’s landed in, Max may find himself and his friends changed beyond recognition, lost in a lost world…  

Positive: Oh, such a fairy tale: A lost boy in a strange land who gathers a merry band of talking animals and battles evildoers on a search for answers and sanctuary. Hurrah! I will most definitely be book-talking this one to my students when the school year starts. I'm absolutely positive it'll be snatched up in a hot minute by anyone who's looking for the next Percy Jackson or Fablehaven.


Positive: The merry band. An adorably smart Boy Scout, Max is the leader in this strange land. A warrior in his own right, Banderbrock the badger entertains with his tales staring the Great Sett while taking the lead in the group's battles against the terrible Cutters. Then McTavish, a terribly fearsome monster (aka barn cat and king of the MacDonald farm) with a hideous attitude and even worse appearance, joins the group. Finally, Walden the bear, a sheriff of his own woods who was better at inspecting the local beehive and keeping the trout population down than stopping the one troublemaker in his area, trundles his way into the bunch. They're great foils for each other, playing off one another, and watching each others' backs.

Positive: The ending. So satisfying, especially for a bibliophile (if you read the book, you'll totally get what I'm saying. Loved it!). And, hey, it's actually an ENDING! Unfortunately, the art of the ending seems to have been lost in many of the novels I've read lately but this ending restored my faith.


Wish: That a book like this doesn't fly under the radar. Middle grade books seem to be overlooked and don't usually get the buzz they need to be as successful as they should be.


Overall: DOWN THE MYSTERLY RIVER is a fantastic middle grade fantasy with enough adventure and excitement to entertain anyone who picks it up.


Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Reading Blues

I didn't have a great reading week. Not that it completely sucked but I just didn't love the books I read, and you know how I like to rave about books on this blog (that's actually the whole point of this blog, to share books I love). But I do believe it's also helpful to share what didn't quite capture my attention, those I consider three-star books (not DNF or one-stars -- those I don't usually mention). Good books but not great books. So here are four books I've read recently that were good but not rave-worthy. (If you'd like a summary, just click on the title; for length's sake, I'm not including a blurb.)

Paranormal Romance; 278 pages; available now; review copy purchased

I really like strong characters, ones who like to step up to the plate and won't let themselves be bossed around, especially by alpha males. Meena Harper is not one of those strong characters. Sure she tries but Lucien, Alaric and her brother all tromple all over her. I just wanted to shake her sometimes. Then there's the weird overuse of ellipses...they're everywhere...and they tend to drift from one paragraph...

...to the next. A bit disconcerting. This second Meena story is action-packed with a surprising ending that still has me questioning what really happened to one of the main characters. A good story to read when doing laundry or hanging at the pool.

YA Dystopian Romance; 416 pages; available now; review copy provided by publisher

Such an interesting premise but it didn't quite live up to its hype. (See, this is the reason why I try not to get over-excited about things.) While Vi was a pretty good character who liked to break the Thinkers rules, she fell in love with some rather annoying boys. Zenn, her childhood sweetheart, turned out to be very different than what she thought and betrayed her. Jag, a bad boy from outside the Thinkers purview, was kind of a jerk, considering he ditched Vi every time he got mad at her, leaving her stranded in unfamiliar and even dangerous places. Plus, Jag and Vi fell in love way too fast for me, especially considering she just loved and lost Zenn.

The uneven pacing was a little like traveling down an unpaved road, filled with potholes and bumps. With some good action scenes and a lot of mystery (sometimes too much, making the story confusing at times), POSSESSION is worth a read, though the ending leaves something to be desired, and there's no sequel planned that I know of (And, yes, I wanted to throw the book when I read the end. Grr.). There is a "companion novel" in the works, though.

YA Historical Paranormal; 320 pages, available now; review copy purchased

While I enjoyed the mummy and the curiosity of an unwrapping party (where each guest peels back a part of the mummy's wrapping and, if there's anything within that wrapping, they get to keep it), I just didn't really like the characters. Agnes, the main character, seemed like one I could get behind. A bit of a bluestocking (a smarty) who prefers to read rather than attend all the social parties, she's usually the type I love. But, for some reason, I didn't connect with her or with Lord Showalter, who her family is hoping will offer for Agnes's hand.

I kept picking this one up, reading a little, and putting it back down. The first part of the book took me forever to get through but once the mystery picked up, I got into it a bit more. If you're looking for something a bit different, something historical with an interesting mystery, WRAPPED is a good choice.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter: It All Ends Here *sob*

The Biography Channel has been running a series called "Creating the World of Harry Potter", which is absolutely fascinating. Besides looking at the cast and the plot choice, it also provides a glimpse into the huge, massive effort that goes into creating a movie like HP. It's broken down into hour-long segments like "Characters", "Movie Magic", and "Sound and Music". That's what I'm doing tonight instead of going to opening night of HP.

Because I'm not a night person, I'm not attending the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter (nor the one at 3am. Um, that's sleepy time, man!). I'm planning on going next week, when the theaters are near-empty and I can sit where I want with a massive vat of buttered popcorn and gallon of Diet Coke (don't judge) and cry my little eyes out at the ending (don't judge). One of my friend's 22-year-old daughter got a Deathly Hallows tattoo and definitely went to the midnight showing. My friend said, "I feel like it's the end of her childhood and so does she!"

Here are some facts I learned from the Biography series and various other sources that I don't remember but can recite when they're asked at trivia!:

--Steven Spielburg was tapped to direct the first movie but Jo Rowling put the kabash on that (thank goodness! Can you imagine how cutsie it would have been? Would probably have ended the HP movies before they really began!)

--Jo Rowling is the richest woman in England, said to have more green than even the Queen. Wow. She's a billionaire.

--Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) and Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort) were both talked into taking their roles by young HP fans. Gambon's granddaughter convinced him and Fiennes nieces and nephews told him to do it.

--Emma Watson (Herminone) almost left before the Half-Blood Prince. Good lord! Who else would (could!) fill those shoes? Thank goodness she stuck around, claiming the pluses outweighed the minuses.

--The actors who played Weasley twins Fred and George (James and Oliver Phelps) are naturally brunets and dyed their hair red for each and every movie. Because what's a Weasley without his or her red hair?

--Over 500 wands were created for the last movie alone. The first ones the prop people created, back for the first movie, were more like magician's wands, with the white ends. Rowling nixed that as soon as she found out.

--Fourteen cars were used to create the flying Ford Anglia.

--The actor who played Professor Flitwick was also an Ewok.

--Aragog, the ancient spider, was a walking, talking 9ft spider, with an 18ft leg span. Can't smash that spider with a shoe.

--The official Hogwarts school motto is Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus, the Latin translation for "Never tickle a sleeping dragon".

Any trivia to add to my collection?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

SUMMER'S CROSSING by Julie Kagawa

YA Fantasy
213 KB (Kindle Edition only)
Available now
FREE E-Novella!! Get yours from Amazon -- It's FREE, people! Thank you, Harlequin Teen

A Midsummer's Nightmare?
Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Summer Court prankster, King Oberon's right hand, bane of many a faery queen's existence—and secret friend to Prince Ash of the Winter Court. Until one girl's death came between them, and another girl stole both their hearts.

Now Ash has granted one favor too many and someone's come to collect, forcing the prince to a place he cannot go without Puck's help—into the heart of the Summer Court. And Puck faces the ultimate choice—betray Ash and possibly win the girl they both love, or help his former friend turned bitter enemy pull off a deception that no true faery prankster could possibly resist.

An ebook exclusive novella from Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series.

As THE IRON KNIGHT is coming out in October (and is available on NetGalley, for all of you reviewers), I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything by skipping out on this novella. It was a super-quick read (I blew through it in about an hour) and, while it didn't really move the overall story forward, it was definitely a win for those on Team Puck (personally, I like both the boys for different reasons -- Go Team Puck & Ash!). 
If you're a fan of the series an need a bit of Puck and Ash and all that Fey craziness, definitely check this one out (hey, it's FREE) but you're not missing anything key to the series plot arc if you skip it. It was a fun little romp as Puck works his wiles and pranks to help Ash snatch a beloved possession out the hands of the Summer Queen.

And, in case you missed it, there's fabulous Julie Kagawa news! This is straight from her blog (you can read more HERE): "I have a new series coming out! In the spring of 2012, the first book of my post apocalyptic vampire series will hit. The series is called Blood of Eden, and the first book will be titled The Immortal Rules." While I do have vampire fatigue, I'm super-excited about this! Julie rocks! What do you think?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Waiting on...PANDEMONIUM by Lauren Oliver

Today's Waiting On is PANDEMONIUM, the second story in the DELIRIUM trilogy. I absolutely loved DELIRIUM and so did my students. I book talked DELIRIUM for our dystopia unit at the end of the year, and once the girls discovered DELIRIUM, they passed the copies we had around until the covers were tattered (don't you just love when teens find something awesome and it spreads like wildfire?). 

Anyway, PANDEMONIUM sounds like a great follow-up. I can't wait to see Lena's transformation into a warrior chick, and I want to know what happened to Alex! Is she going to save him? Or is he "cured"? But, dagnabbit, I'll have to wait until March 2012 (or is it February?).

Isn't this a cool cover? I like power behind the oranges and reds and how there's kind of a feral jungle-y undertone (with perfect makeup, of course).

Lauren Oliver captivated readers with Delirium, the first book in a thrilling dystopian trilogy in which Lena Haloway dared to fall in love with Alex and escape the cure, the government-mandated procedure that renders a person immune to the disease of love. Lena and Alex staked their lives on leaving their oppressive society, but only Lena broke free.

Pandemonium continues Lena’s gripping story. After escaping from Portland, Maine, Lena makes it to the Wilds and becomes part of an Invalid community, where she transforms herself into a warrior for the resistance. A future without Alex is unimaginable, but Lena pushes forward and fights, both for him and for a world in which love is no longer considered a disease. Swept up in a volatile mix of revolutionaries and counter-insurgents, Lena struggles to survive—and wonders if she may be falling in love again.

Full of danger, forbidden romance, and exquisite writing, Lauren Oliver’s sequel to Delirium races forward at a breathtaking pace and is sure to appeal to fans who crave the high-stakes action of The Hunger Games and the bittersweet love story of Romeo & Juliet.
--from GoodReads


Waiting On is a meme created and hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

CONSPIRACIES: Shadow Grail #2 by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

YA Paranormal
352 pages
Available now (released July 5, 2011 by Tor Teen)
Review copy provided by publisher

Spirit and her friends Burke, Loch, Muirin, and Addie have managed to defeat the evil force that has been killing students at Oakhurst Academy for the past forty years—or so they think. When a series of magical attacks disrupts the school, Doctor Ambrosius calls upon alumnus Mark Rider to secure the campus—and start training the students for war. The only student without magic, Spirit doesn’t trust Mark or his methods. She knows that Oakhurst isn’t safe. And if Spirit and her friends want to live long enough to graduate, they have to find out what is really going on—before it’s too late.

Positive: Mystery. There's plenty of mystery in this story and Spirit's determined to solve them all. Of course, she doesn't (gotta have some mystery for the next novel, right?) and her decision to go poking around where she doesn't belong sets off her friends, some of whom would rather she just chill out and enjoy life rather than finding trouble, especially when there's no trouble to find...or is there? Between the new girl and her dreams of the long-distant past and Shadow Knights, Mark Rider and his new company coming to Radial, the weirdness happening at school, and Muirin hanging out with the school's alumni and acting rather...different, Spirit's overwhelmed. Poor girl. These authors really abuse her in this second installment of the Shadow Grail series. (Yay!)
Positive: Oakhurst Academy. Ooh, a mysterious school far, far away from civilization (except for the teeny town of Radial, of course). Far away from help. Spooky...and very cool. In CONSPIRACIES, we learn more about Oakhurst's origins and the builder as well as the huge tree that dominates the main common room (though nobody really notices it. How can you not notice a huge tree? Well, could be the markings carved into its trunk or the legend behind it -- all part of the mystery!) It cracks me up how they control the kids by providing them with healthy meals and then, as treats and bribes, hand out sugar and junk food. (Yes, I bribe and reward my students with candy, too. Ah, the simple pleasures of Laffy Taffy.) So fancy and yet more like a prison. And the more Spirit uncovers about the Academy, the more like a prison it seems to her, too.

Positive: Spirit and her friends. I like that they don't always get along. I like that they squabble and change loyalties and switch up "besties" and pretty much roll their eyes at each other when they think someone's being stupid. While, for the most part, they have each others' backs, they behave much like groups of friends do IRL. It definitely makes them more real to me and, for that, I love them all the more.

Wish: That the end of the novel wasn't such a plunge-down-a-super-steep-hill. There's all this build-up, all this tension that piles on until the last twenty pages where it all just explodes into action. And then it's over. The end. Sure, there's some action during the story but the end just feels a bit too rushed. Plus, there's a bit of a cliffhanger that had me groaning in frustration. Dang it!

Overall: CONSPIRACIES really lives up to its title. Filled with conspiracies, back-stabbing, mystery, and intrigue, this novel will have you breathless, perched on the edge of your seat until the very last page. And then you scream.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Monday, July 11, 2011

Two Series You Shouldn't Miss

When I'm not reading in the young adult genre, I can usually be found sinking my teeth into the latest adult urban fantasy. There are a whole pile of awesome fantasy novels that came out this summer including two from a couple of my favorite authors: Kevin Hearne (a new fave) and Gail Carriger.

Shouldn't Miss Series #1: 
The Iron Druid Chronicles By Kevin Hearne
Publisher: Del Rey
Available now: HOUNDED, HEXED and HAMMERED
Upcoming: TRICKED (May 2012), TRAPPED (Dec. 2012), and HUNTED (2013)

I just finished Kevin Hearne's latest release, HAMMERED, last night. Completely awesome! A bit darker than the previous two, HAMMERED sets Atticus on a very dangerous path that seems like it's going to change everything for Atticus and his friends. What I am loving about this series, beyond the hot Druid, gods and goddesses from every Pantheon under the sun, the smart dialogue, and the witty cultural references is that Hearne and his publisher, Del Rey, tried something new and released three books in three months (May, June & July of this year). It totally worked for me. If I wasn't completely sold on the first novel, Hearne and Atticus snagged me with the quick release of the next two and now have me pining for more. Unfortunately, the next three won't be released in that manner. Nonetheless, it's too late for me. I'm hooked.

Shouldn't Miss Series #2:
The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit
Upcoming: TIMELESS (March 2012)

This series isn't really an urban fantasy. I guess it could be called a historical steampunk romantic paranormal fantasy. Quite a fabulous mouthful. SOULESS was actually my first foray into anything steampunk and I love this series because, while it is steampunk, it's not nearly as dark as the ones I've read since. I just finished HEARTLESS, the latest in the Parasol Protectorate, and it definitely does not disappoint. As action-packed as its predecessors, HEARTLESS features Alexia's "infant inconvenience", snooty vampires (yay Lord Akeldama!), hairy werewolves (woot for Lord Maccon), a mechanical and very deadly octopus, and trouble galore. Lovely!

Any suggestions on series I shouldn't miss?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

THE NINE LIVES OF CHLOE KING on ABC Family

This is one of the new shows on ABC Family that I just had to check out (yes, it's a sign of my YA addiction). It's based on the book trilogy by Liz Braswell, a series I haven't yet read. The jist of the plot is that Chloe is Mai, one of the cat-like people who have super-human powers. And, of course, she's special -- she's the only Mai with nine lives and is destined to reunite humans and Mai. Then there are the bad guys called The Order. They're out to kill Chloe as many times as it takes (they've already killed her off once -- pitched the girl off a very tall building). Actually, they want to kill all the Mai (because, isn't that what the bad guys always want to do? Eliminate those who are different?). Chloe has to learn what it is to be Mai quickly so she can survive and fulfill her destiny.

Anyway, it's pretty good -- a bit better than I expected. I love Chloe's mom (her adoptive mom) and Chloe's two best (human) friends especially Paul, who's thrilled that his friend is a "superhero" and is determined to be her sidekick. There's a love triangle (big surprise) but I don't really like Alek, who's a cocky SOB. Brian, the guy Chloe's really interested in, is human and quite adorable but she's afraid to kiss him because a Mai's kiss can be deadly to a human. Plus, Brian's dad is a member of The Order (though Brian has no clue) -- cue dramatic music. While there are a couple things that annoy me in the show, I think I'll keep up with it this season, just to see where it goes. I think there's some good potential in it!

Anyone else watching this?

Friday, July 8, 2011

ORIGINAL SIN by Lisa Desrochers


YA Paranormal Romance
400 pages
Available now (released July 5, 2011)
Review copy provided by publisher (Tor Teen)

Luc Cain was born and raised in Hell, but he isn’t feeling as demonic as usual lately—thanks to Frannie Cavanaugh and the unique power she never realized she had. But you can’t desert Hell without consequences, and suddenly Frannie and Luc find themselves targeted by the same demons who used to be Luc’s allies. Left with few options, Frannie and Luc accept the protection of Heaven and one of its most powerful angels, Gabe. Unfortunately, Luc isn’t the only one affected by Frannie, and it isn’t long before Gabe realizes that being around her is too…tempting. Rather than risk losing his wings, he leaves Frannie and Luc under the protection of her recently-acquired guardian angel.

Which would be fine, but Gabe is barely out the door before an assortment of demons appears—and they’re not leaving without dragging Luc back to Hell with them. Hell won’t give up and Heaven won’t give in. Frannie’s guardian exercises all the power he has to keep them away, but the demons are willing to hurt anyone close to Frannie in order to get what they want. It will take everything she has and then some to stay out of Hell’s grasp.
And not everyone will get out of it alive.


Positive: The non-stop action. Frannie, Luc, and all their friends are constantly in danger, with the threat of being tagged for Hell (and dying, of course) hanging over their heads. There's running and hiding and angelic smiting, a couple of throw-downs, and plenty of stalking -- yay!

Positive: Frannie and her men. Oh, Frannie. Can't you just be satisfied with Luc? He's now human, he's hot and he loves you with all his heart. Why do you have to lust after Gabe, too? You know you'll send him straight to Hell if he caves to his urges. And then there's Lucifer and that girl (I know, right?)...Frannie, you're just a magnet for trouble. While I'm not usually a love triangle fan, this one works because it really ramps up the tension and is pivotal to the plot.

Positive: Frannie's family. Despite all the craziness going on in Frannie's life, she still has the oasis of her family. When she's home, she's protected. And Grandpa's a hoot! Secrets are revealed about her father and her family in this second installment -- can't wait to see what happens with everyone.

Wish: The cover. It's a little too busy for me. While I really like the font of the title and the colors, I don't think the cover really does the story justice. Just my opinion.

Overall: A great read! Wow, I totally blew through this book and had a really hard time putting it down (My poor dogs. I had to promise them extra walkies if they'd just wait until I was done). ORIGINAL SIN sends its readers down a curvy mountain path in a car with bad breaks -- what a rush!

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Waiting on...A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis

So, the plot of A MILLION SUNS is still a sekrit (ssshhhhh--don't tell!) but the cover's out! 
I think this is the "final" cover (though they're always subject to change, right?). ACROSS THE UNIVERSE was a great read and I'm looking forward to seeing what Beth Revis does in this next installment. A MILLION SUNS is due out in January 2012 (Razorbill).

Waiting on is a weekly meme created by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

SHE SMELLS THE DEAD by E.J. Stevens

YA Paranormal
165 pages
Available now
Review copy provided by author (thanks, E.J.!)

It's the beginning of senior year and Yuki's psychic awareness of ghostly spirits is threatening to ruin her life. Her ability to sense spirits of the dead isn't glamorous like on TV. SHE SMELLS THE DEAD. 

Yuki is being visited in her dreams and suspects that her friend Calvin is involved in something strange. Will Yuki be able to save the spirits and herself?

Positive: The creative twist of this paranormal. There are plenty of stories out there where someone can sense the dead, whether they can see them or hear them or whatever. But Yuki can actually smell them and not in a gross, decomposing body way. The ghost in this story smells of vinegar, and she has to figure out what happened to him so she can help him move on and take his overpowering vinegar smell with him. If she doesn't solve this puzzle, she'll be stuck smelling vinegar forever.

Positive: Yuki and her Goth self. She's so adorable! She'd probably hate  being called adorable but I love how much thought she puts into her outfits and her makeup. It takes some serious dedication to be a full-on Goth chick and she does it with style, blowing off all her naysayers.

Positive: The readability. Granted, this story was relatively short, being only 165 pages, but it reads quickly. A lot happens with Yuki and her friends though not so much as to be confusing. Mystery: To stop smelling the vinegar cloud that surrounds this ghost, Yuki must figure out what he wants. Love: Is there something more than friendship between Cal and Yuki? Another mystery: What's up with Cal? (ooh, more paranormal goodness!)

Wish: A different title. Okay, I know how hard it is to come up with a good title for a book, one that represents the book and stands out -- truly difficult. While this title does tell a lot about the story considering Yuki does, indeed, smell the dead but my mind automatically goes all CSI and I envision a rotting body, rather than a less-gross smell that represents a person's life/love.

Overall: This fast-paced, ghostly mystery had me cheering Yuki and her friends on and looking forward to reading the next installment in the series. Oh, and a big plus? No cliffhanger! (Sorry, I know I'm beating this cliffhanger/no cliffhanger thing into the ground but with so many "unfinished" series out there, I just can't help myself.)

Available on Amazon | Smashwords

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day, y'all! 

I'll be floating in the lake with my dogs and family, cold drink in hand, and the promise of grilled brats and potato salad in the evening. Hope you have a fantastic day!

Back to book reviews tomorrow...yay!



Friday, July 1, 2011

Have you ever wanted something so bad...

...You can practically taste it? Yeah. Me, too.
The place we're staying has a peacock named Handsome, who likes to torment the dogs. Little Fiona's whole body is quivering, she wants that bird so badly. Finn stares and stares and stares and, when he can't contain himself any longer, he lets out a long ba-rooooo howl. Handsome just eyes them and surveys his domain.


I feel like my pups sometimes when I see a good book I want but can't get my hands on. Darn you, Waiting on and IMM! *shakes fist* So many fabulous-sounding books out and coming out that I want as much as Finn and Fi want there to be no sliding door between them and that dratted bird.


Anything coming out in July that you all are particularly looking forward to? Me, I've already pre-ordered (too many) a bunch of books including HAMMERED by Kevin Hearne, SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White, WOLFSBANE by Andrea Cremer, GHOST STORY by Jim Butcher, WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight, GRAVE DANCE by Kalayana Price and OVERBITE by Meg Cabot. *drool* I love July.