Friday, January 27, 2012

Teen Review: BLUE MOON by Alyson Noel

YA Paranormal Romance
284 pages, paperback
Available now (July 2009)
Review copy purchased
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

With Drina dead, everything is back to normal. Ever is learning everything she can about her abilities as an immortal, her relationships with Haven, Miles, and Damen are improving, and everything is more than perfect.

But when the new student from England, Roman, comes into the picture, Damen leaves Ever and goes to Stacia, the girl who used to bully Ever. He doesn’t remember anything about immortality or even Ever, and he even gets an aura. Ever, along with Ava--the physic from Ever’s Halloween party, go to Summerland and try to fix the problem. Ever goes back into Damen’s past, and finds out that Damen might be poisoned, and lots of other terrible findings. With the information they gather, Ever and Ava try to get rid of all the poisoned drinks and even to find out who did this to him.

But when Ever decides to go back to save Damen, will she be able to go back and save him in time, or will he disappear before she even gets back to him?

This series is one of the best I have read. It’s sweet and adventurous, also a little dark, and those are the kind of books I enjoy reading. Ever is an extraordinary character. I love how she copes with Riley passing over, and how she and Damen are so close. But when Miles’ play ends, and Damen leaves her there at the theatre, that’s where I was in shock and pretty upset. My mind was racing, thinking, "How could he just leave her there? He loves her, and waited SIX HUNDRED years for her! How could he just dump her on the street?" But near the end, when Roman admitted he did it, I was not taken by surprise. Truthfully, I saw it coming, he completely made me wonder how he was just toying with everyone’s minds. It had me on edge 99.9% of the whole book.

But my all-time favorite part of the whole book was the ending. It was very sweet how she would give up anything up for Damen, but when she put her blood in the antidote, I thought it would make him stronger, and they’d have a normal relationship again. But I was mad at Roman when he told Ever that if they exchange DNA, he’ll die, I was about to cry. Their relationship was so strong, and now she can’t even touch him, afraid that he might die! I’m super sad about it, but I guess you can’t always get exactly what you want.

Teen Reviewer: My name is Kaitlyn and I am 14 years old. My hobbies are drawing, singing, writing, playing softball, and spending time with friends and family. My favorite authors are Alyson Noël, Gayle Forman, Lauren Kate, and Stephenie Meyer. My favorite books include Fallen by Lauren Kate, Evermore by Alyson Noël, The Host/Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Teen Review: THE BEGINNING OF AFTER by Jennifer Castle

YA Contemporary
432 pages, hardcover
Available now (Sept. 2011)
Review copy donated
Publisher: Harper Teen

Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the ka-pow, shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy.

Sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel’s life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss—a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways.

What I liked about this book is you never knew what was going to happen next. Laurel was always doing some weird, unexpected thing that either made her life ten times worse, or a lot better. Laurel's love life was a big part of the story because she was caught in between two people, one guy that had tried his best to be with her, and the other, a boy that kept coming in and out of her life, but knew the real her.

In this book, I did not like Meg's character. Meg is Laurel's best friend. Meg tried to be helpful and supportive but she came off as a little selfish. She really only cared about popularity when Laurel needed her.

I liked David's character in this book. Even though he is not a good example, he really got Laurel. He knew what she was going through because his mom died too. David could be a little selfish and quick to anger sometimes, but he always meant well. Whenever Laurel needed him, he was there. He was a really good friend to her and helped her get through a lot.

My favorite part of the book was when David and Laurel went on a walk in the woods with Masher (David's dog).  They had a very deep conversation about who they were. It was really deep and kind of pulled the whole meaning of the story together.

Teen Reviewer: I'm Taylor. I am 13 and live with my mom, dad, and brother. I like cheering for school and competition teams.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting On...IMMORTAL RULES by Julie Kagawa

Even though I'm a bit burned out by vampires, I'll read anything Julie Kagawa puts out there. I loved her Iron Fey series and, most especially, the characters she created for that world. And this one looks mighty intriguing... The cover, however, hum. Not sure about it. It's a lot creepy, what with her red eyes and all, but it doesn't jump out at me. I like the title font of "Immortal" though.
YA Paranormal
304 pages, hardcover
Releases: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

In the dark days since the insidious Red Lung virus decimated the human population, vampires have risen to rule the crumbling cities and suburbs. Uncontested Princes hold sway over diminished ranks of humans: their "pets." In exchange for their labor, loyalty and of course, their blood, these pets are registered, given food and shelter, permitted to survive.

Unregistered humans cling to fringes, scavenging for survival. Allison Sekemoto and her fellow Unregistereds are hunted, not only by vampires, but by rabids, the unholy result of Red Lung-infected vampires feeding on unwary humans. One night, Allie is attacked by a pack of rabids, saved by an unlikely hero...and turned vampire.

Uncomfortable in her undead skin, Allie falls in with a ragtag crew of humans seeking a cure, or cures: for Rabidism and for Vampirism. She's passing for human...for now. But the hunger is growing and will not be denied. Not for friendship—not even for love.

So, what are you waiting on?
Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teen Review Week: I AM NUMBER FOUR by Pittacus Lore

YA Science Fiction
440 pages, hardcover
Available now (Aug. 2010)
Review copy purchased
Publisher: HarperCollins

In the beginning they were a group of nine. Nine aliens who left their home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack by the evil Mogadorian. Nine aliens who scattered on Earth. Nine aliens who look like ordinary teenagers living ordinary lives, but who have extraordinary, paranormal skills. Nine aliens who might be sitting next to you now.

The Nine had to separate and go into hiding. The Mogadorian caught Number One in Malaysia, Number Two in England, and Number Three in Kenya. All of them were killed. John Smith, of Paradise, Ohio, is Number Four. He knows that he is next.

One of the main reasons I love this book it has actually smart characters, not just molds of overused stereotypes. This is one of the books I have read where the main character uses the enemies warriors against them, instead of fighting them all at once. It is the only book where the day is not saved by the main character’s will power, or the love of his parents, but with actual intelligence and help from his friends. The characters in this book actually understand that they are in the middle of a war, and they have to be willing to kill the bad guys. The rationality in the book is a breath of fresh air.

Another thing I like about the book is the action. While the action is not quite as good as something like Star Solider, it is still enough to keep your heart pounding. Moments where the characters is on fire but keeps on fighting, where humans fight off deadly creatures with shotguns, where the Loriens fight a helpless war against the bloodthirsty Mogodarians, they all keep you excited and wanting more. The action is always there, whether it is something small from a stick exploding, to something Micheal Bay-ish like two gigantic monsters duking it out.

A great part about I Am Number Four is the story itself. While it won’t win any awards for the concept alone, the plot twists, flashbacks, and other things will keep you entertained. What I thought was originally a straight-forward chosen one story quickly grew into a complex storyline with secrets, mysteries, and loss. It truly feels like I have stepped into an brand new world, and that is something I will have to congratulate the author on. Few stories can turn a simple, straightforward plot into something worthy of Harry Potter.

My one issue with this book is the lack of detail. Often times big events, such as the turning of a major battle, are described in one to two words. Many times you want to know more about the characters, want to get to know them, but the author’s lack of detail prevents you from knowing them as anything more than just characters from a book. Many books have amazing characters that you will think about for years, like A Song of Fire and Ice, but this book is not one.

Overall, the book is a 8.75 out of 10. While the story, action, and realism of the book will keep you entertained, the characters take you out of the brilliant fantasy world of shape-shifting monsters, pale-ghostly creatures, mystery. This is the perfect read for those long-boring car rides, as the action will make you forget about everything else. Although I don’t agree with everything in the book, it is a great story, and I will be sure to get the next books as soon as they come out

Teebro likes drawing, anime, video games, Boondocks, and loves to watch TV. He lives with his parents, has no brothers or sisters (yay) and is on the school Quiz Bowl and Math Counts teams. He lives life to the fullest.

Monday, January 23, 2012

It's Teen Review Week!

This week's a crazy one--I'm finishing the zero draft of my novel, scrambling to get a huge stack of papers graded, coming up with lesson plans that will keep the students busy for most of the week, and heading down to Disney World with a bus-full of 8th graders. We'll be there for three action-packed days and then, when I finally get home on Saturday, I'll face-plant into my bed for the rest of the weekend.
Seems to me like it's a perfect week for a pile of Teen Reviews! Woot!

(Oh, this also means I'll be mostly away from my computer and won't be commenting--boo! I'll catch up this weekend...)

Enjoy and, if you get a chance, leave a comment for my kids!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

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Why is it January just blows through my life like a stiff wind? School, life, illness, dogs, travel...holy cow. I feel like I need a vacation to recover from this month and I haven't even made it to Disney World yet (that's Tuesday--an overnight bus trip with 50 8th graders. Eep.) .

Because I needed some serious brain candy, I bought myself Easy A (if you haven't seen this movie, it's hilarious. A Pocket Full of Sunshine, if you will...) and, of course, Fi jumped right on it:

Fiona's Pick of the Week
Little Miss Fi: she's so easy...
THE NIGHTMARE GARDEN by Caitlin Kittredge (Random House)
STARTERS by Lissa Price (Random House)
GODDESS INTERRUPTED by Aimee Carter (Harlequin)
PRETTY CROOKED by Elisa Ludwig (HarperCollins)
DITCHED by Robin Mellom (Disney)
DRAGONSWOOD by Janet Lee Carey (Penguin)

So, what'd you get in your mailbox?

IMM is a meme hosted by Kristi at the Story Siren.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What happens in Vegas: THE NEON GRAVEYARD by Vicki Pettersson

NEON GRAVEYARD (Signs of the Zodiac #6) by Vicki Pettersson
Urban Fantasy
372 pages, mass market paperback
Available now (June 2011)
Review copy provide by publisher via NetGalley
Publisher: HarperCollins

Once she was a soldier for the Light, the prophesied savior who would decide the outcome of the eternal conflict raging in the dark corners of her glittering hometown.

Now Joanna Archer is just another mortal – still born of an impossible union of Shadow and Light … still hunted by both – and carrying the unborn child of a lover held captive by a depraved demon goddess. Joining forced with a band of rogue Shadow agents, Joanna’s ready to storm the stronghold of her demonic foe, risking everything to enter this ghastly, godforsaken realm. Because in a world that has stripped her of her power, identity, and fortune, Joanna has nothing left to lose – except her baby, her future, and the epic war poised to consume the city...

This is one of those series where you'll get more bang for your buck--and understand the intricacies of the plot--if you read at least a couple of the previous books. And, because all the books are so interconnected and this is the last book in the series, there are bound to be some spoilers for previous books in this quickie review.

Joanna's lost all her powers and her powerful weapon--she's no longer a soldier for the Light. As a mortal, she's much more vulnerable than she was but she's still determined to fight and make a difference with her troop of Grays--rogue agents who once fought against each other as agents of Light and Dark. There's so much sacrifice, passion, pain and emotion in this story--it's the end of an era.

As a mortal human, Joanna finally evolves into the capable, caring but still ass-kicking chick she was always meant to be. She's driven by her love for Hunter, she's willing to sacrifice so very much to rescue him from MidHeaven and from his crazy ex, Solange. (Solange is a super-freak and such a bad, bad girl. My hate for her and desire for Joanna to defeat her grew each time Solange waltzed her way onto the page.) But, at the same time, she risks everything for the love of her child and to protect her city from the evil that wants to overtake it.

While the resolution was somewhat anti-climactic, just about everyone gets their comeuppance (down with the Tulpa!) which is quite satisfying in itself. The Signs of the Zodiac is a seriously action-packed and creative urban fantasy series.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Love is a drug: EVERNEATH by Brodi Ashton

EVERNEATH by Brodi Ashton
YA Paranormal
370 pages, hardcover
Available Jan. 24, 2012
Review copy provided by publisher
Publisher: HarperCollins / Balzer + Bray

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists. Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...

EVERNEATH has got to be one of the most creative twists on the Hades and Persephone myth I've read yet. In fact, there's only the merest hint of the original myth in the story, that of a dark immortal creature capturing a beautiful girl and dragging her into the Underworld for his benefit. In this case, the Underworld is a place called the Everneath, Cole is that dark immortal, and Nikki is the beautiful, broken human he pulls down with him so he can Feed (yes, that's with a capital F) on her and remain immortal.

Bound together for a hundred years in the Everneath, Cole and Nikki become emotionally intertwined and, when she returns to the surface, Cole follows because he believes he is in love with her. While Nikki has a specific purpose for returning—the boy she loves, Jack—she is still emotionally connected to Cole, though she claims to hate him for what he’s done to her. They’re addicted to one another, though Cole’s an addiction Nikki wants to kick.

When Nikki returns home—for her it’s been a hundred years but on the surface, it’s only been six months—she returns as a broken shell of her former self, though she kept more of her memories than most because she held on to the idea of Jack. It’s no wonder everyone believes the story that she’s been in rehab for a drug addiction. And, like an addict, she’s rather weak and selfish, spending the six months she has not with her family but chasing after the boy who broke her heart, the reason she accepted Cole’s offer of oblivion and forgetfulness in the first place.

This is a beautifully told but rather sad story, the tale of Nikki and Cole and Jack. Nikki should never have remembered her time in the Everneath and, because of her memories, is doomed. Cole is doomed to feed on the emotions of humans, draining them so he can remain immortal and in his queen’s good graces. Jack has tried to move on after Nikki left but with her return, has been sucked back into her dark world. I’m curious as to how this story will evolve, especially after the surprising twist at the end.

Available on Amazon IndieBound

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Waiting On...BLACK HEART by Holly Black

I really enjoyed the first two books in this series, WHITE CAT and BLACK GLOVE. They're creative, interesting, and very well-written. So, of course, I'm looking forward to the third installment, BLACK HEART. But what's up with the cover? I mean, I like it--kind of a 70's vibe--but it doesn't go with the other two. Although, the Kindle and Audiobook covers do match the other two. Strange...or maybe it's just wrong in GoodReads and they're planning on matching up in printing. Guess we'll see, huh?

**EDIT: Seems this design IS part of the Curse Workers series. There are new covers for the first two books as well, as revealed on Holly Black's blog (HERE). Well, alrighty then.
YA Paranormal
320 pages, hardcover
Releases on: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry

Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy.

Kindle/Audiobook Cover
But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.

So, what are you waiting on?
Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adventure abounds: THE HEDGEWITCH QUEEN by Lilith Saintcrow

THE HEDGEWITCH QUEEN by Lilith Saintcrow
E-book only
Available now (Dec. 2011)
Review copy purchased
Publisher: Orbit

Vianne di Rocancheil is a lady waiting at the Court of Arquitaine, where she studies her books, watches for intrigue, and shepherds her foolhardy Princesse through the glittering whirl. Court is a sometimes-unpleasant waltz, especially for the unwary, but Vianne treads its measured steps well.

Unfortunately, the dance has changed. Treachery is afoot in gilded and velvet halls. A sorcerous conspiracy is unleashed, with blood, death, and warfare close behind. Vianne must flee, carrying the Great Seal of Arquitaine with her. This is the one thing the conspirators need to rule, and they won’t rest until they have it. A life of dances, intrigues, and fashion has not prepared Vianne for this. Nor has it prepared her for Tristan d’Arcenne, Captain of the King’s Guard and player in the most dangerous games conspiracy can devise. Yet to save her country and avenge her Princesse, Vianne will become what she must and do whatever is required.

A Queen can do no less.

Because I am a massive Lilith Saintcrow fangirl, I just had to read her newest release, THE HEDGEWITCH QUEEN, a book that's a huge departure from her usual fare. A good, old fashioned adventure, this story takes place in a world that reminds me of France, with a King, a princess, and their court (who are killed off rather quickly in a court coup--oops). The main character, Vianne, a noble-born orphan who gets entangled in circumstances far beyond her control, winds up as the bearer of the Great Seal of Arquitaine and, since the Seal accepts her as its bearer, the new Queen of the realm.

Vianne, a hedgewitch who can do small magics, would rather be mucking about in the garden than gossiping with the other ladies at court, plays the role of overly-helpless damsel in distress extremely well. She has no real idea of how to take care of herself, especially once she's forced to flee the castle on horseback in the company of the handsome and (of course) very rakish Tristan, captain of the King's Guards. Tristan himself is a bit of an enigma--is he truly a good guy or is he a bad boy playing the role of the gallant knight? Though Vianne finds herself falling for him, the more she finds out, the more she questions his motives and character.

While I did get a bit annoyed with Vianne's helplessness at times, I really enjoyed this fairy tale-like story. Still, I wish I'd waited for THE BANDIT KING (out in  June 2012) and read both stories together, as there's a cliffhanger at the end of THE HEDGEWITCH QUEEN.

Available on Amazon

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fat is beautiful: GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson


YA Fantasy
424 pages, hardcover
Available now (Sept. 2011)
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do.

Elisa might be chosen for greatness, but she certainly doesn't see it. In fact, she's quite adept at eating her feelings, burying her unhappiness with herself and her circumstances in the bliss that can only be found in a mouthful of lemon tart. The way she sees it, the only thing she has power over is what she puts in her mouth and her faith in her deity, the one who speaks to her through the Godstone in her navel.

As a princess and a bearer of the Godstone, she's coddled and protected but not given any choice as to the path her life will take. That's all planned out for her. When she's married off to a virtual stranger--one who's quite handsome and nice but is rather weak in his own way--she moves from one feathered prison to another. It's especially harsh in her new home because her new husband, the king, is keeping her a secret from his people. So, again, she still feels powerless and turns to food for comfort in place of the love she so desperately craves and the control she truly desires.

Until she's kidnapped. At that pivotal moment, her life changes forever. She's still not in control of her circumstances, she still isn't give the love she needs (that comes later) and, because they're marching across a harsh desert land, she no longer has access to endless food so she can't use that to comfort herself. She has to find other ways to satisfy the ache in her soul. Her faith in her deity strengthens. She learns how to take care of herself and begins to realize that she can become a capable, useful human being instead of pretty, pretty princess who can't even dress herself without help. She becomes a survivor. And she likes it.

Away from her pampered, repressive world, Elisa's faith in herself becomes as solid as her body, sculpted and toned during her forced march across the desert and simple diet. The way I see it, her weight loss is more symbolic than anything else. It represents a hardening of her resolve and a strengthening of her spirit. Of course, it's fabulous she lost that weight and ended up feeling good about it but I don't think that's the main reason she becomes a confident, capable person. She learned her self-worth as she learned to take care of herself, to put herself in others' shoes, and when she realized she was more in control of her destiny than she ever dreamed. If she'd had the chance to learn these things while she was larger, she may very well have remained a larger girl (probably a little smaller, just because she wouldn't still be eating her feelings, just enjoying her food) but one filled with confidence.

I look forward to seeing how Rae Carson deals with Elisa's return to the kingdom--will she gain back some of the weight she lost in the desert, now that she has access to all the foodstuffs she loves or will she keep that newly-hardened body of hers? Will she hold on to her new-found confidence or will it take a beating, now that she's back amongst "her people"? And what of her king? And the Godstone? CROWN OF EMBERS comes out in October of this year so we'll just have to wait and see.

Available on Amazon IndieBound

Sunday, January 15, 2012

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Typical. Fiona couldn't make up her mind this week, since there was so much awesome to be had.
Nor could she stay awake. I had to bribe her with a chewy in the above picture. Then she crashed. It's hard being a supermodel, after all.
VERONICA MARS (Seasons 1, 2, and 3) -- Hells, yeah! Had to get 'em after they stopped streaming the series on NetFlix and Amazon. But they were pretty cheap, which rocks.

THE NAKED FOODS COOKBOOK by Margaret Floyd and James Barry
PRETTY CROOKED by Elisa Ludwig

Thank you NetGalley,  Harlequin Teen, Katherine Tegen Books, HCI, and New Harbinger Publications!

So, what'd you get in your mailbox?

IMM is a meme hosted by Kristi at the Story Siren.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quickie: NO ONE TO TRUST by Julie Moffett

NO ONE TO TRUST by Julie Moffett
Humorous Romantic Mystery
Available now (June 2011)
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
Publisher: Carina Press

SWFG: Single, White, Female, Geek.

That’s me, Lexi Carmichael, a reformed hacker who was gainfully employed by the National Security Agency. But a series of extraordinary events led me to leave government life behind for a fresh start with a brand-new company and an incredibly sexy boss, Finn Shaughnessy. It may not be kosher to have the hots for your boss, but he seems to have the hots for me, too. If only things didn’t get so complicated…

Darren Greening, a genius researcher from Flow Technologies (our first client!) is missing, and his bosses think I’m involved. And they aren’t the only ones—the man who nearly snapped my neck in the parking garage thinks so, too. Now I’m caught in the middle of a complex and dangerous case. I’ll have to use all my geek skills and a little help from my friends to solve the mystery of Darren’s disappearance before Neck-Snapping-Man makes a return visit…

Such a cute, fun read. I wasn't really sure how to categorize it (thus the humorous romantic mystery tag I stuck up there in the genre section) but it is all of those things: it's got humor, there are some great romantic teases, and quite a decent mystery.

Lexi Carmichael's such an awesomely awkward nerd--a computer hacker (supposedly ex-hacker), super-smart with a photographic memory, insecure, and abruptly honest (due to her inability to read social cues properly). Once a rising star in the NSA, Lexi left to got to work for an adorable Irish billionaire named Finn. Yes. Finn. Now, don't get your Irish up...Lexi's got a bit of a flirt going on with Finn (though it's mostly Finn doing the flirting, since Lexi's pretty clueless) but she works for him and, for the moment, it's pretty professional.

Oh, and then there's Slash. I really want to know more about him. He's kind of a James Bond/Jason Bourne character, very enigmatic and brilliant. An uber-hacker with ties to all sorts of governmental and shady places, Slash is another huge flirt that I'd like to see Lexi hook up with. 

While this series is mainly character-driven, this story's a fun mystery, too. Well worth a couple of hours to lose yourself in the world of Lexi Carmichael.

Available on Amazon

Friday, January 13, 2012

HUNGER GAMES: These odds suck!

Here's a little Friday Funny for you! And, hey, if you haven't entered my giveaway of the CINDER audiobook, be sure to click here and leave me a quick comment. And may the odds be ever in your favor.

When THE HUNGER GAMES trailer first came out, I watched it a ton of times, chills running up and down my arms each and every time. I even marked the release date on my calendar (seriously, I've never done this before, not even for the awesome Harry Potter).

Here it is if you've been living under a rock and missed it:

Now, Evil Iguana Productions has come up with a completely awesome spoof of that trailer. See if you don't agree:

Doesn't the fake Katniss look a lot like the "real" Katniss? And I love how they followed the same pattern as the official movie trailer. Seriously. Funny.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Death Becomes Her: DIE FOR ME by Amy Plum

DIE FOR ME by Amy Plum
YA Paranormal
341 pages, hardcover
Available now (May 2011)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Review copy provided by HarperTeen via NetGalley

My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything.

Suddenly, my sister, Georgia, and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent. Mysterious, sexy, and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen.

Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies . . . immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind. While I'm fighting to piece together the remnants of my life, can I risk putting my heart—as well as my life and my family's—in jeopardy for a chance at love?

Positive: The cover. I have to say this is one of my very favorite covers of 2011. A combination of factors play into this. First, the view of Paris from the roof. Ah, c'est la vie and tres belle! Next, the coloring. I love how the deep dark red fades into the horizon and that same red is mirrored in her dress. Finally, the swirlies around the title and dripping down onto Kate. It's so eye-catching, like they're coming down to tattoo her in all their swirliness.

Positive: The revenants. What a cool twist on your average, everyday zombie. These people who come back to life are very much alive and can die again and again, as long as they're sacrificing their lives to save someone else. So I guess they're not actually zombies. Anyway, they "die" for three days and then, on the third day, rise to live again. There are, of course, the good folks--revenants--and the bad folks--numa. The numa do their very best to drive people to suicide or kill them off. It's your typical eternal battle of good and evil, making for a great story.

Wish: That the story lives up to its dark promise. People coming back to life, sacrificing themselves, killing each other to protect innocents (or kill them, depending on what side you're on)--these are ingredients for a truly epic, dark tale. Unfortunately, it loses steam once Kate meets Vincent, and they fall in love. Not that I have anything against love but where were the killer battles? Where is the action and rescuing of innocents? Unfortunately, the somewhat frothy love story and predictable ending had me skimming the last quarter of the book.

Wish:  That Kate had higher self-esteem. I understand that she's in deep mourning for her parents and isn't going to be a happy, chipper chickie. I like her taking in Paris by herself. I like her sitting in that adorable cafe, drinking coffee and reading all day. I like that she loved her parents so much, it's an effort for her to move because of their loss. I get all that. But what I don't like is Kate putting herself down all the time. Sure, Vincent and his revenant cronies are blindingly, traffic-stopping, bring-grown-women-to-their-knees hot but does she have to go on and on about how plain, uninteresting, and unattractive she was? It gets old, especially after it's quite obvious that Vincent has eyes for only her.

Overall: While there are a lot of good parts to this story, it just doesn't live up to its promise for me. I know there are a whole pile of people out there who loved it so, if you did, be sure to leave a comment! The second book in this series (UNTIL I DIE) comes out in May 2012, and I'll most likely check it out to see how things have developed.

Available on Amazon IndieBound

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Waiting On...PERCEPTION by Kim Harrington

I love a good mystery. Throw in a little psychic ability and a great main character and I'm there. My Waiting On for today is the second in a series, and the first book, CLARITY, was just such a fun mystery. I'm hoping PERCEPTION follows in its predecessor's footsteps.

YA Paranormal Mystery
288 pages, hardcover
Releases: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Point

When you can see things others can't, what do you do when someone's watching you?

Everybody knows about Clarity "Clare" Fern. She's the psychic girl in school, the one who can place her hands on something and see hidden visions from the past. Only Clare would rather not be a celebrity. She prefers hanging back, observing. Her gift is not a game to her.But then someone starts playing with her head . . . and heart. Messages and gifts from a secret admirer crop up everywhere Clare turns. Could they be from Gabriel, the gorgeous boy who gets Clare's pulse racing? Or from Justin, Clare's hopeful ex-boyfriend who'd do anything to win her back?

One thing is certain. Clare needs to solve this mystery, and soon. Because the messages are becoming sinister, and a girl in town has suddenly disappeared.

So, what are you waiting on?

Waiting On Wednesdays is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

CINDER Audiobook Giveaway! Jan 9-16, 2012

Y'all. CINDER is one of those books that rocked my world. It's creative and interesting and has fabulous characters. So I'm incredibly excited to give away the audiobook version of the awesome book (Macmillan Audio--you all are fantastic!). Check out my raving review HERE (seriously, so flippin' amazing).

Giveaway runs from January 9-20, 2012
Leave a comment with your email to enter
Open to those with US mailing addresses only
Good luck!

Here's a sneek peak of the audiobook (Chapter 1):

Come on, you know you want it. You want to know what happens with Cinder and who the plague's going to kill and if Cinder's going to hook up with the prince. You know you do. So...

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment and your email. Just say hi or whatever and give me a place where I can contact you. Good luck and enjoy the clip!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Up in the Aether: UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi

UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi
YA Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
384 pages, hardcover
Available now (Jan. 2012)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

Positive: Charismatic characters. At the beginning, Peregrine and Aria couldn't be more different if they tried. Aria's sheltered, has never known violence or hunger, and she's relatively incapable of taking care of herself. Perry's had to grow up very fast in the harsh world, can survive weeks or months on his own, and has quite literally violence bred into him. Over the course of the story, Aria learns not only how to take care of herself but she actually flourishes outside of her domed world while Perry learns tenderness and love through his contact with Aria.

Positive: Creative worldbuilding. While the idea of a protected, domed city isn't a new one, the world and people who live outside the dome are quite unusual. Many are Marked, with extra-strong senses: Audiles can hear a long way off; Scrires have fabulous senses of smell, a rare few, like Perry, can even scent emotions; and Seers who have impeccable vision. And then there's the Aether, a swirling, ever-present essence in the sky that blocks out the stars and can form into incredibly destructive storms that scorch the earth.

Positive: This will be perfect for my post-apocalyptic/dystopian unit. This year, I'm moving up this unit to next month, so I can get as many kids as possible reading and finishing THE HUNGER GAMES before the movie comes out (hells yeah! Can't wait!). But, since a lot of people have already read THG, I give them a long list of other post-apocalyptic/dystopian books to choose from and UNDER THE NEVER SKY will definitely be on that list.

Wish: I wish this was a stand-alone. It's not that I won't be very excited next year when book two comes out but here's yet another first book in a series. *sigh* Series overload!

Overall: Fast-paced and intriguing, UNDER THE NEVER SKY is a great edition to the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Sunday, January 8, 2012

In My Mailbox (24)

Better late than never, huh?

I've been waiting for this one for a while 'cause I love this series! Jane Yellowrock is a kick-ass character. Now, I'm not a huge fan of this cover because Jane looks a little odd to me but trust me, if you like Urban Fantasy, you've GOT to read this series.
PARTIALS by Dan Wells (for review through Amazon Vine)

Thank you, HarperCollins!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Another day, another wolf: UNLEASHED by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie

UNLEASHED by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie
YA Paranormal
382 pages, hardcover
Available now (Nov. 2011)
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Review copy provided by publisher via Amazon Vine for honest review

Katelyn McBride’s life changed in an instant when her mother died. Uprooted from her California home, Katelyn was shipped to the middle of nowhere, Arkansas, to her only living relative, her grandfather. And now she has to start over in Wolf Springs, a tiny village in the Ozark Mountains. Like any small town, Wolf Springs has secrets. But the secrets hidden here are more sinister than Katelyn could ever imagine. It’s a town with a history that reaches back centuries, spans continents, and conceals terrifying truths. And Katelyn McBride is about to change everything.

Broken families, ageless grudges, forced alliances, and love that blooms in the darkest night—welcome to Wolf Springs.

Positive: The dynamics of the wolf families and the world. This has such great potential. The descriptions are there, a strong structure is in place, and there's even the scary monster stalking and killing people in the forest. The wolf packs are violent and uncompromising; the people in the packs are ruled with an iron hand. And there's such darkness present, an ever-present fear of the "regular" folk that lends to the town's creepy vibe.

Wish: Less mysterious mystery. We all know there are werewolves in them thar woods. So why does it take Katelyn more than two-thirds of the book to figure it all out? I'm all for a good mystery but I just didn't see the sense in keeping the main character in the dark for the majority of the story. Instead of building tension, it just built frustration.

Wish: No "love" triangle. I'm not a fan of love triangles under the best of circumstances, viewing them as quick-and-dirty ways to build in conflict and tension. Unfortunately, this love triangle contains two rather unappealing guys. Trick is the mysterious bad boy who lurks around Katelyn's house (he's friends with her grandfather), looking all inscrutable and acting all enigmatic. Just open up already, Trick! You have so much potential. Justin, who has a girlfriend btw, is a walking, talking lust magnet. Despite her growing feelings for Trick, Katelyn feels herself inexplicably drawn to Justin, practically ripping off his clothes and jumping his bones anytime he's around. Oh, Katelyn, can't you see he's bad for you? Tisk, tisk, girl.

Wish: A main character I wanted to root for. Katelyn's got potential but she comes off as such a snob, turning her nose up at the small town her grandfather lives in and the people who inhabit it. Once she settles in a bit, she gets a bit less judge-y but the superiority complex is still present. She talks constantly about being a dancer and a gymnast good enough to join Cirque du Soleil but she never seems to train, she just dreams about it--I don't know why this irritated me but it did (character flaw on my part, I guess).

Overall: This story didn't leap off the page for me, getting a bit lost in the tide of young adult paranormals available today. I have a feeling that the next book might be stronger, however, since the revelation about werewolves is out of the way. I'm a big Nancy Holder fan (her Deadtown series is fabulous) and, despite my "wishes" above, I'll definitely be picking up the next one in this series so I can see where it goes from here.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sophomore Superiority: A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis

A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis
YA Science Fiction/Mystery
400 pages, hardcover
Available Jan. 10, 2012
Publisher: Razorbill
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

Godspeed was fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos.
It's been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.

In book two of the Across the Universe trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis mesmerizes us again with a brilliantly crafted mystery filled with action, suspense, romance, and deep philosophical questions. And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.

Positive: Character growth. Reviled because she's different and unfairly named the cause of most of the problems aboard Godspeed, Amy lives each day in misery. If she goes outside, she has to do so disguised because if she isn't, the people hurl insults and worse at her. She's alone except for Elder, who's away most of the time attempting to run the ship. But she's not a sit-around-and-do-nothing kind of girl, and she's determined to root out all the secrets the ship has to offer. She really matures in this story, moving from a little girl sobbing at her frozen parents' sides into someone who is becoming a true force to be reckoned with (she's not quite there yet but almost). 

Elder also sees some serious character growth. Now the leader of the ship and its people, Elder is having a hard time filling Eldest's shoes. He's not ready, even if he doesn't want to admit it; he knows the truth of it in his heart of hearts, showing it with his refusal to take the name of Eldest. He's pretty whiny about the whole thing, and it takes several catastrophic events for him to lose his poor-pitiful-me-no-one-listens-to-me attitude and step up like his people need him to. Elder isn't my favorite character but, as he matures, he's growing on me.

Positive: Mystery. The stakes in this story are so much higher than in the first installment. It's not just about the Frozens anymore; this mystery could destroy everyone aboard Godspeed. A previous leader leaves Amy clues and tells her the fate of Godspeed rests on her shoulders (nice, right?). But this mystery really motivates Amy and gives her purpose aboard the ship. I found myself reading faster, encouraging Amy to keep looking so I could find out what in the world was going on, too. Ooh, and what a twisty mystery it is!

Positive: Fast pace and story development. Without Phydus dulling their emotions, the people are rising up against Elder. The ship's falling apart, they aren't producing enough food to feed the population, and many refuse to work. People are dying and being murdered right and left. A new leader emerges, challenging Elder's position and shaking up everything everyone's ever known. This story just doesn't slow down. As we move from Amy to Elder, the multiple story lines tangle together to form a space ship-sized Gordian knot.

Wish: Fewer questions! What's out there? Who's gonna die next? What's going to happen to....and to....? How will they survive? What's going to happen between Amy and Elder--or should we call him Eldest? What will happen to Amy's parents? What about the other Frozens? (See, now you have questions, too, don't you? Heh. Join the club. Of course, this is the middle novel of a trilogy so what can you expect?) And now I'll have to wait until next 

Overall: I enjoyed this one even more than the first--no sophomore slump for the fab Ms. Revis! Vacuum-packed with a universe of mystery, tension, and deadly political shenanigans, A MILLION SUNS rockets its readers into a story worth its weight in stardust. (heh--like my outer space references? I worked hard on that, man!)

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review: BAD BOYS DO by Victoria Dahl

BAD BOYS DO by Victoria Dahl
Romance (adult)
384 pages, paperback
Available now (Sept. 2011)
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
Publisher: HQN Books

Olivia Bishop is no fun. That's what her ex-husband said. And that's what her smart bob and glasses imply. So with her trademark determination, Olivia sets out to remake her life. She's going to spend time with her girlfriends and not throw it all away for some man. But when an outing with her book club leads her to a brewery taproom, the dark-haired beauty realizes that trouble—in the form of sexy Jamie Donovan—may be too tempting to avoid.

Jamie Donovan doesn't mean to be bad. Sure, the wild streak in his wicked green eyes has lured the ladies before. Now it's time to grow up. He's even ready for a serious romance. But how can that be when Olivia, the only right woman he has ever met, already has him pegged as wrong?

How can you go wrong with a romance that's set in a brewery? In my mind, you can't, especially when it's Victoria Dahl doing the story telling. If you haven't read a Dahl before and you're a fan of romance at all, you definitely need to pick up one of her books. They're filled with wit, great banter, and steamy interactions.

BAD BOYS DO is no exception to the Dahl rule. I do love a good romance where one of the characters is considered "stuffy"--it's so much fun to watch them come unstuffed, lose their cool, and fall head-over-heels for the other character. It's especially fun when the love interest is a naughty guy who wears a kilt (yeah, buddy!). Jamie Donovan is the black sheep of his family and, even though he's a reformed bad boy, his family--especially his older brother--really doesn't trust that he's on the right path.

And then there's Olivia, who's split from her crappy ex-husband. She's looking for fun and thinks she might have found it in Jamie. They're a cute couple--he's not great at taking no for an answer and she's trying to be up for anything (not doing so well with it but at least she's trying).

BAD BOYS DO is a fun romance, filled with all the froth of a good brew.