Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Waiting on...PRETTY CROOKED by Eliza Ludwig

While I'm not a huge fan of the cover -- the purple spotted background reminds me of the early 80's and is that a furry purse or dog under her other arm? -- PRETTY CROOKED by Elisa Ludwig looks cute.
 
RELEASES MARCH 13, 2012
2012 Debut Author
YA Contemporary
386 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins
Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones. 

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”—known to everyone as the Glitterati—without them suspecting a thing is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected. 

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her: evening the social playing field between the haves and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan. 

But when the cops start investigating the string of thefts at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could Aidan wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?



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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Latest Obsession: Skyrim

Okay, okay. I'd planned on being a good girl and writing some lovely reviews of a couple of awesome books that I just finished (well, last week) but I just couldn't because...I was playing Skyrim.

Yes, I've joined the Geek-ery and picked up the game last week after hearing its virtues extolled ad nauseum (ooh, some highfalutin words there, huh?) on Twitter. I blame Ann Aguirre, mostly. She's the one who piqued my curiosity, and it's all been downhill from there. (She did warn me it was total game crack. Yes, yes it is. Damnit.)

For those of you who aren't up on your Game Nerd Speak, Skyrim is a role-playing game set in a Norse world filled with magic, warriors, gods, and--best of all--dragons. There's awesome mythology (and I'm going to have to re-read my Norse myths because I'm curious as to how much is actual stuff and how much is made up.), complete with ancient feuds, curses, and legends. You can be whatever you want to be and do pretty much anything you want to do (and, depending on what you do, don't be surprised if you get sent to jail. I've done some time...yeah, I'm a bad ass.). 

Me, I'm a Breton who loves to pick locks; I joined the Companions (a group of relatively honorable warrior/mercenaries); and I'm working on my smithing skills. I make a wicked steel sword. Maybe in my next reincarnation, I'll be more magic focused but, right now, I like hacking the hell out of things with my Skyforged Steel Greatsword (especially cool when they slow-mo the death scene and splatter blood everywhere).
It's gorgeous. I've spent hours just wandering around the land, checking stuff out, chatting with the natives, picking up little quests here and there, and killing a dragon or two (hey, they come at you out of nowhere and try to kill you with fire and ice and crap. What's a warrior chick to do?). There's a main story/quest where you're supposed to defeat the guy who's prophesied to destroy the world but...he can wait. Explore. Get lost (just like you should do anytime you travel!).

I'm only at level 12 (having had to restart twice because I got trapped in two different dungeons that I could not get out of because I  have neither the gaming skillz or level to defeat the big boss at the end. Oops.) but, wow. Even at this low level, I'm kicking butt and taking names. 

So, if my posts are a bit scattered over the next little while (who knows how long this obsession will last...at least it's a great stress reducer. Students driving me nuts? Awesome. Let's go kill us a dragon!), please forgive me. I'm lost in the land of Skyrim.

Monday, November 28, 2011

HARD BITTEN (Chicagoland Vampires #4) by Chloe Neill

Urban Fantasy (adult)
350 pages
Available now (May 2011)
Publisher: NAL
Review copy purchased

Times are hard for newly minted vampire Merit. Ever since shapeshifters announced their presence to the world, humans have been rallying against supernaturals-and they're camping outside of Cadogan House with protest signs that could turn to pitchforks at any moment. Inside its doors, things between Merit and her Master, green-eyed heartbreaker Ethan Sullivan are...tense. But then the mayor of Chicago calls Merit and Ethan to a clandestine meeting and tells them about a violent vamp attack that has left three women missing. His message is simple: get your House in order. Or else.

Merit needs to get to the bottom of this crime, but it doesn't help that she can't tell who's on her side. So she secretly calls in a favor from someone who's tall, dark, and part of underground vamp group that may have some deep intel on the attack. Merit soon finds herself in the heady, dark heart of Chicago's supernatural society-a world full of vampires who seem ready to fulfill the protesting human's worst fears, and a place where she'll learn that you can't be a vampire without getting a little blood on your hands... 


I do so love this series. Maybe it's because I'm a Chicagoan (okay, ex- but I grew up in Chicagoland so I get to say that) and the way Neill incorporates the neighborhoods, the foods, and an overall love of Chicago into her novels that makes me happy. Maybe it's her fast-paced writing and snappy dialogue (always of fan of snappy dialogue between characters). Whatever it is, I look forward to these releases.

And, oh, there's such fabulous tension between Merit and Ethan, tension that's been building since he turned her in book one. So delicious. Merit snarks at him and Ethan gives it right back to her. They challenge each others' sense of self and, because of this, they make each other better people...er, vampires.

That's not the main focus (sadly) because someone's killing humans and vamps are being blamed. People are freaking out, picketing outside Merit's House, the House she, as Sentinel, is bound to protect. So she and Ethan team up to discover the truth and, hopefully change people's bad opinions. Throw in other supernaturals, sorcerers, and an underground vamp society, and you've got yourself one action-packed story. I'm enjoying the way the series arc is unfolding and the other supes showing up on the radar. I hope we get to see more of them in future novels.


But what about that ending?!?! Holy cow. I certainly didn't see that coming. I'm in shock. Complete and utter shock, I tell you. A cliffhanger that practically gave me a heart attack and had me yelling. Loudly. Thank goodness, the next in the series (DRINK DEEP) released just a couple of months later or I might have been extremely upset.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Quickie: WAYFINDER by C.E. Murphy

Urban Fantasy
352 pages
Available now (Sept. 2011)
Publisher: Del Rey
Review copy purchased

THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE—IF IT DOESN’T KILL YOU FIRST

Lara Jansen is a truthseeker, gifted—or cursed—with the magical ability to tell honesty from lies. Once she was a tailor in Boston, but now she has crossed from Earth to the Barrow-lands, a Faerie world embroiled in a bloody civil war between Seelie and Unseelie. Armed with an enchanted and malevolent staff which seeks to bend her to its dark will, and thrust into a deadly realm where it’s hard to distinguish friend from foe, Lara is sure of one thing: her love for Dafydd ap Caerwyn, the Faerie prince who sought her help in solving a royal murder and dousing the flames of war before they consumed the Barrow-lands.

But now Dafydd is missing, perhaps dead, and the Barrow-lands are closer than ever to a final conflagration. Lara has no other choice: she must harness the potent but perilous magic of the staff and her own truthseeking talents, blazing a path to a long-forgotten truth—a truth with the power to save the Barrow-lands or destroy them.

When I picked up this book, I was thinking it was just another C.E. Murphy novel and, of course I had to read it (Love her Walker Papers series). But when I started reading, it seemed really familiar. Eerily, in fact. Well, duh. That's because it's the second novel in a duology that started with TRUTHSEEKER. I've been in this world before. I really didn't remember a lot of what happened in the first novel so it took me a while to get adjusted to the world and all the events in WAYFINDER. But, once on top of things, I fell into this world and enjoyed the story. 

While the first novel takes place mainly in the human realm, this one is mostly in the Barrow-lands filled with mean Faeries, most of whom despise Lara because she's human and because of the magic she possesses. Lara takes it all in stride, kicking butt when needed, talking them to death when she's able, until she gets her way. The story itself is deeply intricate and can be confusing at times -- I wasn't able to zip through this one like I normally do.

All in all, WAYFINDER is an intriguing journey into a dangerous Faerie world by a woman determined to rescue the man she loves and help prevent a deadly war.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Friday, November 25, 2011

HEART OF STEEL by Meljean Brook

Steampunk Romance (adult)
311 pages
Available now (Nov. 2011)
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Review copy purchased

Growing up in the dangerous world of the Iron Seas, the mercenary captain of the airship Lady Corsair, Yasmeen, has learned to keep her heart hard as steel. Ruthless and cunning, her only loyalty is to her ship and her crew-until one man comes along and changes everything...Treasure hunter Archimedes Fox isn't interested in the Lady Corsair--just the captain and the valuable da Vinci sketch she stole from him. When it attracts a dangerous amount of attention, Yasmeen and Archimedes journey to Horde-occupied Morocco--and straight into enemy hands. 

Holy cow, this woman can certainly create an amazing world. Whenever I read one of Meljean Brook's novels, I'm immersed in whatever world she's created. And this one? Utterly fantastical. A blend of paranormal (zombies--woot!) and steampunk, filled with floating airships, dangerous seas, pirates, and assassins, this world fully satisfies.

Yasmeen is a hard woman to like. For those of us who met her in THE IRON DUKE, she came across as a heartless air pirate and, for about the first third of this book, I felt the same way about her. I couldn't quite understand why Archimedes sees in her or why he decides from the get-go that he's going to capture her heart. But slowly, Yasmeen reveals parts of herself that endeared her to me. I grew to really like and understand her and to root for Archimedes in his quest to win her love. 

I did get a bit turned around with the motivation behind the whole quest and Archimedes's problem (he's "lost" something important to someone important and now there are assassins after him). There's a lot of history and interconnectedness and politics described within these pages...much of which I skimmed (Bad reader! No cookie! And probably the reason for confusion.)

The chemistry between Yasmeen and Archimedes is fabulous -- she hates him and he'll do anything to get her into his bed and into his heart. She does everything she can to maintain distance with the annoying man but he just won't take no for an answer, though he never moves too fast or forces himself on her in any way. In fact, many times, he seems to go out of his way to allow her to be the boss.

The secondary characters are equally intriguing. I loved Archimedes sister, Zenobia, the one who pens his amazing tales. She's a firecracker and I hope that her story is one Ms. Brook will share with us soon. Then there are the characters I loved from THE IRON DUKE (*swoon* so fabulous), who add their own spice to the story.

Favorite quote: "Archimedes Fox," she mused. The corners of her tilted gently. "With balls of iron and a silver tongue. I admire both in a man."

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Thanksgiving pups from Lulu.com

 Top Five Things I'm Thankful for This Year:
1) All the awesome books I've read and have yet to read
2) My family, including those of the four-legged persuasion
3) Gainful employment: I may complain but it pays the bills
4) That I got my writing groove back (and that includes with this blog)
5) Chocolate

What are you thankful for this year?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Waiting On...FLIRTING IN ITALIAN by Lauren Henderson

You had me at Italian...
Releases: June 12, 2012
YA Contemporary
272 pages
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Four girls. One magical, and possibly dangerous Italian summer. Family mysteries, ancient castles, long hot nights of dancing under the stars . . . and, of course, plenty of gorgeous Italian boys!

Yippee! A travel book, Italy, cute guys, Italy, mysteries, Italy. *sigh* I can't wait!
So, what are you waiting on?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater

YA Paranormal
404 pages
Available now (Oct. 2011)
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Review copy purchased

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Positive: The imagery. Maggie Stiefvater certainly has a way with words. She plays with the language, a delicate instrument wielded by a master musician. As I read, I could hear the sounds of the island, of the horses pounding upon the sandy beach, and of the love growing between Puck and Sean.

Positive: The island world. Such an isolated place, it was impossible to tell when exactly this story took place. I actually envisioned it to be set back in the 50's, for some reason. There was little in the way of technology and even when the mainland was talked about, there was no mention of cell phones or computers or other modern technology. I'd love to visit its craggy beauty.

Positive: The characters. With shifting points of view, the story allowed us to see through both Sean's and Puck's eyes. I really enjoyed the spirit of both characters and seeing their love of the island, the horses, and each other. A taciturn horse whisperer, Sean truly had his world rocked by Puck and her plucky, sassy, stubborn-as-all-get-out self.

Wish: That there were truly magical water horses in our world. Gorgeous and deadly, the capaill uisce are amazing creatures.

Overall: Beautifully wrought, THE SCORPIO RACES is a story to be savored one magical note at a time.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Monday, November 21, 2011

RECKONING by Lili St. Crow

YA Urban Fantasy
304 pages
Available now
Publisher: Razorbill
Review copy purchased

Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She’s battled killer zombies, jealous djamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a full-fledged svetocha—rare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires—the worst is yet to come. Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she’s ever imagined. And in the end, is survival really worth the sacrifice?

Dru Anderson’s not afraid of the dark.
But she should be.

Positive: Dru's kick-ass self. This girl's been through Hell and she still comes out swinging. But she's not infallible. She has a very hard time trusting people, choosing to run and hide from those who want her blood and her death with only Graves and Ash. Of course, I can imagine having trust issues when your own dad turns zombie and tries to kill you, those who are supposed to protect you turn on you, and one of the guys who you kind of like seems to have betrayed you. I think I'd duck and run, too.
Positive: The action. So much happens so fast in this story, it's hard to keep up with it all. The fight scenes are amazing. There's barely time for Dru and company to get a good night's sleep before something comes out of the dark and tries to eat them. It can get a little overwhelming but I was totally in the mood for super-fast-paced so I loved it. And the final battle scene was awesome. Kill 'em all! (Oops. Bloodlust coming through.)

Positive: Dru's world. As in all of St. Crow/Saintcrow's novels, it's dark and dangerous and oh-so-scary. Me, I'd be killed off pretty quickly unless I had Dru around to haul my butt out of trouble.

Wish: The end. I can't decide if I liked it or not. It left a lot of loose ends that will never be tied up because this is the last Strange Angels book but that doesn't really bother me so much. I don't mind some loose ends--life is messy, after all. But...but...which? Who? What? Dang. I can't really get into it without spoilers. So I won't. I'll leave it to you to decide for yourself.

Overall: This final book of the Strange Angels series will make your pulse race as you dash through the pages with Dru to the inevitable, satisfyingly bloody finale.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Quickie: JOURNAL OF A SCHOOLYARD BULLY by Farley Katz

MG Humor
272 pages
Available now (Aug. 2011)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

In the tradition of the mega successful DIARY OF A WIMPY KID and DORK DIARIES comes Niko Taylor, a school bully who must keep a journal to right all the wrongs he has done, but Niko, being a habitual trouble-maker, has other ideas. Niko Kaylor, the terror of his middle school, doles out wedgies and collects money he doesn’t need. When he is forced to begin keeping a journal of his activities to curb his bullying ways, he secretly turns his diary into a how-to guide for bullies. Now, against the wishes of his peers, Niko plans to conquer his middle school and teach everyone a lesson in bullying, including his teachers.  

First off, I must put out there that I know I'm not the target audience for this book. I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the student who's currently reading it is. It was quite humorous in parts -- the cartoons were great! I enjoyed the "Bully Hall of Fame" (Santa, Garfield, Napoleon) and "Bullying Threat Levels", as well as the lighter practical jokes (fart-scented paper airplanes).

But Niko didn't learn anything, didn't really change throughout the story. There were hints of possible transformation but, in the end, he reverted to his old behaviors and didn't learn a thing. I would have liked to see him learn something through his journal or from his encounters with bigger and badder bullies, instead of deciding he needed the upper hand. It could have been a subtle moral-to-the-story, without shoving it down the reader's throat, but that didn't happen. A wasted opportunity.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hype-Worthy or Not (1)

As book bloggers, we tend to be more aware of upcoming books than your average Joe. We pour over catalogs, follow publishers on twitter and elsewhere, talk about books online, read a myriad of other book review blogs, and generally have our fingers on the pulse of our favorite genres.

Needless to say, we see a lot of hype for various books. Sometimes those books are so amazing, they deserve the million-dollar PR campaign their publishers gave them. Sometimes...not so much. It's a quirk of mine but I tend to be a bit resistant to books that are, in my opinion, over-hyped. A lot of times, they disappear into my TBR pile because I've seen so much hype, I just don't want to read it (I do this with movies and TV shows, too. Yes, I'm a weirdo.). But many times, I can't resist their siren call.

TOTALLY HYPE-WORTHY:
SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi
YA Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic
338 pages
Available now
Review copy provided by publisher via Amazon Vine

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

This book absolutely blew me away. A fast, thrilling read, it throws you directly into Juliette's head and into her dilemma. And what a dilemma it is -- she can't touch anyone without killing them in a horribly painful way. She's stuck in a cell, no contact with anyone for longer than I can imagine until they stick a boy in there with her. Amazingly, this girl is not insane and, despite all that's been done to her, she's still a caring and rather innocent individual. I think that's what appealed to me the most. She wasn't a hardened, bad-ass. She was a sweet girl who cared about people and wasn't jaded by her experiences. 

The way the author wrote this book...wow. I LOVED it! She's a goddess of the metaphor, throwing them around like beads off a Mardi Gras float (I know, I know. That's a simile, not a metaphor.). And then there's the strikethrough. An unusual yet creative and effective way to show what Juliette really says versus what she thinks. I believe it also shows how careful the people of this society have to be with their words, editing everything they think and tailoring it to suit the situation.

NOT FOR ME:
DEARLY, DEPARTED by Lia Habel
470 pages
Available now
Review copy provided by publisher via Amazon Vine

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

Why didn't I like this one, despite the hype and so many others loving it (and there are a lot of people who loved it--be sure to read their reviews, too!)? Well, the story's written in too many different points of view, especially from characters I didn't care so much about. If the story were told only from Nora and Bram's changing points of view, I might have been enthralled. But Mr. Dearly, Patricia, the bad guy...too many. It just wasn't focused and so, I lost my focus.

Then there's the worldbuilding. An interesting concept but a bit too mish-mash for me. It was touted as a steampunk novel but really, it wasn't. There was a bit of the Victorian element, a bit of the cool machine element, but then it went astray. Even though this story was incredibly creative and I really did like the two main characters, I think I needed it to be more streamlined. *sigh* I really wanted to like this one!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting On...FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund

It's Waiting On Wednesday! So many new books and covers (and movies -- ooh, did you see The Hunger Games movie trailer? Of course you did. Sooo excited!) out, it was hard to choose. But dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories are still floating my boat, despite my need for lightness and humor to counterbalance all the darkness and despair. 

Plus, I love this cover with the gorgeous stars and the blue with fiery reds and yellows for the title. The girl's a bit too skinny (somebody get that girl a chocolate bar!) but maybe there's a lack of food in her world. I want her dress, though.
By Diana Peterfreund
RELEASES JUNE 12, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
YA Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
384 pages

Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Eighteen-year-old Luddite Elliot North has always known her place in this caste system. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. But now the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress and threatening Luddite control; Elliot’s estate is floundering; and she’s forced to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliott wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she abandoned him.

But Elliot soon discovers her childhood friend carries a secret—-one that could change the society in which they live…or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she has lost him forever.

What books are you waiting on?
Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Monday, November 14, 2011

MAKING WAVES by Tawna Fenske

Romance (adult)
352 pages
Available now (Aug. 2011)
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Review copy purchased

When Alex Bradshaw's unscrupulous boss kicks him to the curb after 20 faithful years as an executive with the world's largest shipping company, he sets out to reclaim his dignity and his pension. Assembling a team of fellow corporate castoffs, he sails to the Caribbean to intercept an illegal diamond shipment. None of them counted on quirky blonde stowaway Juli Flynn, who has a perplexing array of talents, a few big secrets, and an intoxicating romantic chemistry with Alex...

I discovered Tawna Fenske via her blog, which is absolutely hilarious and very ribald (Oh, go on. Visit her blog HERE. You know you want to.). Tawna's the kind of girl I'd like to hang out with. We could ogle hot guys, chat about writing, and drink some yummy adult beverages. (Do I have a little girl crush on her? Maybe. But she'd understand and be totally cool with it.) Anyway, when she announced her first romance was coming out (back in August--yes, this post is just a little late), I immediately went out and pre-ordered it.

MAKING WAVES is hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the crazy fixes Juli and Alex get themselves into. The plot is completely over-the-top, which I adore when it's done right (and this is done right). Alex and his merry band of corporate castoffs go rogue, with a wildly ridiculous plan to become pirates and rob (re-rob?) their boss of some precious cargo so they can retire in peace and prosperity, like they planned before said boss completely screwed them over. 

Having just quit yet another job, Juli's in town to fulfill her Uncle Frank's last wish and dump his ashes in this particular area of the Caribbean. Alex and Juli meet at a bar and, before they can even finish their first drinks together, they're playing an island version of The Newlywed Game. Yes, really.

Then there's the scene when Juli takes her anti-seasick pills and it makes her completely loopy. And, of course, instead of getting on the charter boat that is to take her to dump Uncle Frank, she climbs into a window and accidentally stows away on Alex's boat. Alex and his makeshift pirates are none-too-pleased with that turn of events. But she stays, causing trouble and making sparks with Alex. The interplay between the two of them is hot-hot-hot!

Fiona enjoyed MAKING WAVES, too.
If Alex and Juli aren't entertaining enough on their own, there's the eclectic crew on board the ship. There's the big dude, Cody, who insists on being called Cookie (since he's taken over the galley); there's Phyllis, who doesn't know how to be girlie but doesn't mind some lessons so she can seduce a special guy; and Jake, who's just crabby about the whole thing. While Cookie's my favorite, each one of the secondary character adds his/her own flavor to the story.

And then there's the infamous cheese doodle scene. I won't say too much about it except that I had to read it over because I laughed so much the first time, I was practically crying. I'll leave you with this quote: "Oh, baby! I want to rub your cheese doodle 'til my hands turn orange." p.277 Oh, yes. She went there.

While this one is definitely not for the kiddies (sorry, when you're older, okay?), anyone who likes a lot of humor and a wild plotline in their romance should pick up MAKING WAVES.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Y'All Fest in Charleston, SC

Is anyone out there going to the Y'All Fest? I AM! 
Let me know so we can meet IRL!


Who’s coming: 26 of the country’s top YA authors, including 10 NYT bestsellers Complete list here! 

What: Panels and presentations on three stages on Upper King Street.

When: Sat., Nov. 12, 2012, 10 am to 6 pm Complete schedule and layout here!

Where: Blue Bicycle Books, 420 King St., Charleston, SC

Cost: FREE! 



It sounds awesome and some of my favorite authors will be there: Heather Brewer, Carrie Ryan, Andrea Cremer, Caitlin Kittredge, and Beth Revis! And it's just an hour and a half drive from Columbia, so I'm all set. Woot!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

THE PLEDGE by Kimberly Derting

YA Fantasy
320 pages
Available Nov. 15, 2011
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster
Review copy provided by publisher


In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed. 

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.



Positive: A creative fantasy. How interesting is it that language is even more of a barrier in this world than it is in our current one? Language categorizes people, places them in the caste where they will stay for the rest of their lives. There's no way for them to escape the life into which they are born because they've lost the capacity to learn other languages. Those of the lowest caste only know their language. The caste above that knows two (theirs and the lowest), and so on. 


Positive: Interesting characters. My favorite character was Charlie's little sister, who cannot speak but who holds the power to heal literally within her hands. She was a sweet kid. Charlie's best friend acts like such a flighty, boy-crazy flibbertigibbet but there's a lot more to her. And Max plays a shadowy character who, for reasons she doesn't understand, is interested in Charlie. 


Wish: A tad bit less predictable. Though it's supposed to be a "big reveal", it's pretty easy to discern who Max really is. The big secret Charlie and her family hide is also relatively predictable. However, I didn't mind it so much because it made the book easy to blaze though, keeping me in the action rather than trying to figure out who everyone was and where they fit in, which happens in some of the more heavy-duty fantasies.


Wish: More explanation regarding the world in which Charlie lived. Why was it decided that only queens could rule? What happened to all the male leaders? How did the Queen gain the power to transfer her essence? How did the whole language thing evolve? I need more info (though, of course, I'd whine if there was an info-dump!).


Overall: While I did have a couple wishes that had they been fulfilled would have made for a stronger story, they didn't really take away from my overall enjoyment of this fast-paced fantasy.


Available through Amazon | IndieBound

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ellen Hopkins Tour Stop

I'm so excited to welcome the fabulous ELLEN HOPKINS to The Book Swarm today! You may know Ellen from her YA novels: CRANK, IMPULSE, BURNED, GLASS, IDENTICAL, TRICKS, FALLOUT, and PERFECT. Well, she's ventured into the world of adult literature with her newest novel, TRIANGLES (check out my review HERE -- a great novel!).

What inspired you to try your hand at writing a novel for adults?
Really, it was watching a couple of friends go through their own midlife crises. Admittedly, it reminded me of my own, so it seemed like something common enough (at least within the realm of writers, I guess, since all of us are). Two of the characters in TRIANGLES were definitely inspired by these friends (and yes, they know some incarnation of them is in the book). Many of my readers are adults, either because they've grown into them or because they have been introduced to my novels through their own kids. So, it just made sense to push into this arena, too.

Like your young adult novels, TRIANGLES, is written in verse. What draws you to this format?
Because verse is spare, it does not rely on extraneous descriptions that actually pull readers out of the story. Poetry is about how the poet views the world, so writing in verse becomes about how the protagonists view their worlds. It draws readers into their heads and hearts, so they live the story, rather than relying on being told the story. It's active and full of imagery that creates outlines for readers to color in. I like the challenge of making every word count, and creating characters that readers "become."

Ellen's view of her valley (from her FB page)
Where do you do most of your writing?
Three years ago, we added on to our home--new kitchen, master bedroom, great room and office. I write in my office almost exclusively. It looks across the living room and out big windows, to the Sierra. I call it "my mountain," though, of course, I share it with many. Behind me is a patio, with a view of the Virginia Range. And to my left, out the window, is my rose garden. The office is bright, and all done up in oak. I love it. 
Finish this sentence: When I'm not writing, I...am Jonesing to write. Just finished TILT, the 2012 YA, two days ago. Even though I'm traveling and very busy, I'm character building the 2012 adult book, COLLATERAL, and am itching to dive in.

Favorite writing fuel?
Caffeine--coffee or diet soda. But only until 2 p.m. or I won't sleep that night. No music but birdsong. And, again, the view of my mountain.

Thank you SOOO much for stopping by! I hear you're going to be at Y'ALL FEST in Charleston, SC this weekend -- I hope to see you there!


Ellen’s Facebook link: http://www.facebook.com/ellenhopkinsya
Ellen’s Twitter link: http://twitter.com/#!/EllenHopkinsYA
Ellen’s website: http://www.ellenhopkins.com/


Check out the rest of the tour:
11/10/2011   Tiffany's Bookshelf
11/11/2011   Kritters Ramblings
11/15/2011   So Many Books, So Little Time
11/16/2011   Book Snob
11/17/2011   Reader Girls
11/18/2011   Colloquium

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

TRIANGLES by Ellen Hopkins

Contemporary (adult)
544 pages
Available now (Oct. 2011)
Publisher: Atria
Review copy provided by publisher (blog tour)

THREE FEMALE FRIENDS FACE MIDLIFE CRISES IN A NO-HOLDS-BARRED EXPLORATION OF SEX, MARRIAGE, AND THE FRAGILITY OF LIFE.

Holly: Filled with regret for being a stay-at-home mom, she sheds sixty pounds and loses herself in the world of extramarital sex. Will it bring the fulfillment she is searching for?

Andrea: A single mom and avowed celibate, she watches her friend Holly’s meltdown with a mixture of concern and contempt. Holly is throwing away what Andrea has spent her whole life searching for—a committed relationship with a decent guy. So what if Andrea picks up Holly’s castaway husband?

Marissa: She has more than her fair share of challenges—a gay, rebellious teenage son, a terminally ill daughter, and a husband who buries himself in his work rather than face the facts.

As one woman’s marriage unravels, another’s rekindles. As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s reconfigures into something bigger and better. In this story of connections and disconnections, one woman’s up is another one’s down, and all of them will learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness.

Unflinchingly honest, emotionally powerful, surprisingly erotic, Triangles is the ultimate page-turner. Hopkins’s gorgeous, expertly honed poetic verse perfectly captures the inner lives of her characters. Sometimes it happens like that. Sometimes you just get lost.

I have to be honest, this book wasn't at all what I expected. And actually, that's a really good thing. While Ellen Hopkins is a strong young adult author, willing to tackle issues many in the YA world might shy away from, it's not always possible for authors to make the jump from one genre to another and still really connect with their audience. 

But Ellen Hopkins does. And she does so effortlessly. (Okay, it only seems that way. I am very familiar with the hard work, pain, and soul that goes into each and every book.) TRIANGLES is a gorgeously written story of three women whose lives aren't quite what they expected. They've been married long enough that the spark is gone. Their kids are moving on with their lives, growing up way too fast. Their love lives all need a serious kick-start.

It's easy to feel compassion for each and every one of these ladies -- and to want to shake them at the same time. Holly, for example, has an easy life, a great husband and kids but she becomes obsessed with her appearance and the power she wields because of it. Bored with her same old routine, she loses sight of what she has and fixates on the exotic, erotic, and the unattainable. At times, I really wanted to smack her upside the head and ask her what the hell she was doing.

Andrea also has a pretty good life, albeit boring. No man, since the last one betrayed her, but a good life nonetheless. She's pretty judgmental, though, unable to put herself in others' shoes and see what they're going through. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, however, and she's always had a thing for her best friend's husband, which only grows as his marriage falls apart.

Marissa has the saddest story, I thought. Her baby daughter is terminally ill and Marissa's become practically a shut-in because of it. Her husband drinks too much and, when he's not downing Scotch, he's working or traveling for work. No one visits because they don't know what to say. She's so focused on her daughter, she can't see beyond the sickroom. Her son was my favorite in her family--he was a compassionate soul who loved his mother and little sister.

Written in verse, each poem captures a moment in time, filling it with passion and grace, pain and love, desire and hate. Each chapter weaves each woman's tale, intertwining the threads that connect her to her friends and family. Beautifully rendered, TRIANGLES delves into the heart of human emotions and interactions.

Monday, November 7, 2011

THE SPACE BETWEEN by Brenna Yovanoff

YA Urban Fantasy/Romance
352 pages
Available Nov. 15, 2011
Published by Razorbill (Penguin)
Review copy provided by publisher


Everything is made of steel, even the flowers. How can you love anything in a place like this?

Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped - and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible. Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie's whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.



Positive: Daphne, Truman, and their journey of self-discovery. Daphne's never left the city, never really wanted to until her brother disappears. Then she knows she must travel to Earth to find him even though she's afraid of becoming like her sisters, getting high off others' misery. The boy she meets and saves, Truman, is drowning in pain and sorrow -- a temptation in more than one way. Truman is such a sad character, emotionally wrecked and truly skating the edge of reason until Daphne shows up and pulls him back.


Positive: The writing. Brenna Yovanoff's descriptions pulled me completely into the story, sinking me into Truman's sorrow, covering me in Daphne's cool personality, and immersing me in both Daphne's world of heat and power and Truman's gritty world of confusion and pain.


Positive: Pandemonium and the world-building. Not that I'd want to end up in the Pit or anything but it was so incredibly creative. A city of heat and steel, run by Lucifer, the fallen angels, and demons. Even Lilith's garden is made of living steel (and suddenly the cover makes more sense...). This city itself is only a part of the world-building. There's an entire hierarchy of creatures within the city, each with their own job. There are even some who travel to our world, mainly to collect souls for the Pit, but also to have a good time amongst the humans. Very cool.


Wish: That the end didn't feel somewhat rushed. All of a sudden, this happened and then that happened and then it was all done. Not that it was a bad ending, because it wasn't, it just seemed a bit speedy at the very end.


Overall: Beautifully rendered and, at times, heartbreakingly sad, THE SPACE BETWEEN stands apart from others in the angel-versus-demons genre.


Available on Amazon | IndieBound