Monday, April 30, 2012

Ghost in the Graveyard: SILENCE by Michelle Sagara

YA Paranormal, planned trilogy
289 pages, hardcover
Available May 1, 2012
Publisher: DAW Books
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

“It began in the graveyard. Ever since her boyfriend Nathan died in a tragic accident Emma had been coming to the graveyard at night. During the day she went through the motions at her prep school, in class, with her friends, but that’s all it was. But tonight was different. Tonight Emma and her dog were not alone in the cemetery. There were two others there—Eric, who had just started at her school, and an ancient woman who looked as though she were made of rags. And when they saw Emma there, the old woman reached out to her with a grip as chilling as death….”

Emma quickly learns that she's not like other girls who have lost someone the loved. Not only can Emma speak with the dead, she can see them and touch them, too. Instead of drawing upon the essence of the dead to work magic, Emma chooses to help the ghosts who walk the streets of Toronto escape the land of the living in which they are trapped. Emma tries to use the magic of the dead against her enemies, but only time will tell if she falls victim to the lure of such power.

When this arrived in the mail, I was super-excited. Michelle Sagara has a ton of published books but I know her through her series, Chronicles of Elantra, a science fiction series with a strong female lead, which I really enjoyed.

Positive: No love triangle! Yay! While there is a girl (Emma) and two boys (Eric and Chase), Emma has a love connection only with Eric. Chase is there to push Eric to fulfill his duties and get rid of the necromancer so he does provide a great deal of conflict while avoiding the sticky wicket of a cliched love triangle.

Positive: A smooth read. I picked this up, intending to read for about an hour and then get some of my to-do list done. Sadly for my list, it did not get any shorter that day. The story drew me in, and I slurped it down like a well-blended chocolate milkshake (no ice cream headache!). Yummy necromancer goodness.

Positive: The characters. At first, Emma didn't come across as a particularly battle-ready character, though we are given glimpses of her steely core. But she grows into a fabulous warrior, fighting on the side of good and helping those who cannot help themselves. Playing the role of the mysterious new boy is Eric, who is present in the graveyard when Emma has her first experience and has the unwelcome task of "taking care of" the newly inducted necromancer. The minor characters add their own dimensions to the story, infusing the story with life.

Wish: That the blurb in the book didn't give away quite so much of the plot. It's kind of like those movie previews that show you all the good stuff so when you actually get around to seeing the movie, it's a bit deja vu-ish. While the blurb didn't give away the good parts, it did outline much of the plot. I only included a little bit of the blurb here, so as not to overwhelm.

Overall: Mysterious and haunting while maintaining a fast-paced plot, SILENCE will satisfy Michelle Sagara fans and paranormal junkies alike.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Saturday, April 28, 2012

It's a great day to be Team ERUDITE!

Fiona is very erudite...
HarperTEEN is running a “Five Days, Five Factions” to build excitement for the release of Insurgent on Tuesday (you really need to read this series, if you aren't already!). Awesome author Veronica Roth herself is ramping up the fun.  
Check out these click-worthy sites:
Click here to check out her blog and what she has to say about Erudites.
Click here to visit the Erudite Tumblr page and see some special posts from the Erudite team.
Click here to visit the Divergent Facebook page.

When you’ve done all that, check out the Insurgent-themed giveaways BOOK TWIRPS, The Reading Lark, The Book Chic Club, and The YA Sisterhood have going on.

It’s a great day to be Erudite!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Would Make A Cool Book Cover (2)

I've done this before and enjoyed throwing out some pictures which I think might make cool book covers. These can all be found on my Pinterest board (I'm doing my best to track down the source of each image--the people who take these awesome pictures and create this beautiful art deserve the credit, after all. I'm merely the pinner.). 

The Kiss of Night and Day
I like how it's almost an optical illusion and reminds me of a creation myth or that movie, LadyHawke, where the two lovers can only see/touch each other at dawn and dusk, when night meets day. This could work well for a romance of two star-crossed lovers or maybe a paranormal.
Found on this Tumblr but don't know who did it originally (if it's yours, please let me know!!)
Through A Glass Darkly
This picture has so much going on--she's not just standing in a dark, cobblestoned alley, there are windows surrounding her and the biggest, most tempting holds the symbol of a gorgeous city. Awesome composition. This could be a travel story, paranormal, or contemporary about choices.
Paris image by Alla Lora
Created by photographer Alla Lora
Eye of the Beholder
This character, though we only see her eye, looks very fierce to me. The paint (or maybe it's her skin color) seems magical, as does the tree in her eye instead of a pupil. Definitely see this as an urban fantasy cover or a story of pure fantasy.
Painted girl image by Irene Zeleskou
By artist Irene Zeleskou (I'll add a link when I get home--it's blocked at school!)
Rainbow Double Exposure
Bro. Dude. I've got a totally gnarly vibe going on with this funky picture. A bit brighter and happier than the prior picture (well, a ton!), this brings to mind a story of an island and summer so a lighter contemporary of some sort.
Double exposure photography by Josh Krenz
Found on Gizmodo by Josh Krenz
Creating book covers is a job I could totally get behind. Galleycat posted a new job yesterday that I'd LOVE (too bad I don't have the experience or wherewithal to pursue this and I'm too damn old to start over again from the bottom. Freelancing would be cool, though.). Here's part of the job description: "work with art directors to conceptualize and create jackets and covers for adult trade hardcover and paperback books"... Yes, please!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Speed date with Araby: MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH by Bethany Griffin

Thursday is Speed Date Night around here. What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all). If you're interested in joining in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below. This speed date is all about "meeting" new books. Cheers, my reader friends!

Cover image of young adult novel Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
YA Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian
320 pages, hardcover
Available now (April 2012)
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Review copy provided by publisher via Amazon Vine
Everything is in ruins. A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

What do you do when your entire world is dying? Go party and shoot up! Woo! That's what Araby and her BFF do, anyway. Hidden behind air-filtering masks, the girls try to lose themselves in music and guys and blot out the world.

Araby's a sad case: her twin brother died because of her, her mother's a basket case, her father's a noted scientist with a secret, and she lives in constant fear of the plague and the prince who runs everything. 

I'm not a fan of the love triangle in this one because Elliott is a jerk. Okay, I'm not a love triangle fan in the first place but I had a strong reaction to Elliott. Will, on the other hand, is sweet and caring. Sure, he has some bad secrets that could get Araby killed but his reasons were understandable. Elliott...meh. 

With a beautifully dangerous setting and tragic characters, MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH lives up to its Edgar Allan Poe inspiration and immerses its reader in a dying world struggling to survive.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Waiting on...ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE by Gail Carriger

I was scrolling through my To-Read list on GoodReads and came across this fabulous book! I'm not sure when the cover was revealed but I totally missed it or I would have had this up even faster. I absolutely adore Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series and this one looks to be just as fantastically awesome, especially since it's set in the same world. I have to say, I like this cover a lot more than the ones for Carriger's other series. The flocked purple wallpaper is very Victorian, as is the cover model's dress (though, since she's in black, I do wonder if she's in mourning for someone or if it's a school dress code). Pretty eye-catching, I'd say.

Cover image of Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

307 pages, paperback
YA Historical Paranormal/Steampunk
Expected publication: February 13, 2013

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

First in a four book YA series set 25 years before the Parasol Protectorate but in the same universe. (yay!)

So, what are you waiting on?

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How do I love thee: INSURGENT by Veronica Roth

YA Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian
525 pages, hardcover
Available May 1, 2012
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Review copy provided by publisher

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Wowzers. I was out of breath with I finished this book, my muscles aching like I'd just run a marathon. This is one of the most action-packed books of this genre I've ever read, filled with drama, guilt, deception, double-crosses, and a great love story.

Let's start with the love story. While it's not the primary plot in this book, it does take much of the reader's attention as we watch the relationship of Four/Tobias and Tris develop beyond puppy love and into a fully-fledged, mature interaction between two people. There's serious respect between these two and, despite secrets on both sides, there's also a very strong relationship. It's true love, the kind that survives trials and tribulations and only grows deeper and stronger. This is how a love story should go. No insta-love. No stupid misunderstandings that can't be resolved with a sit-down conversation. 

This isn't to say they're happy with one another for, well, much of the novel. They're at odds, fighting constantly about the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves, and both eaten up with guilt for things they've said and done. The tension between the two of them is palpable. But so is the desire and the love. It's both beautifully balanced and electrifying. And that's merely a sub-plot. 

The meat of the story has he factions splintering, some barely holding together while others split down the center in a deadly and painful rift. People are forced to take sides in this war, to stick with their chosen factions or return to their blood family. Some betray those who trust them, many are betrayed by those who claim to love them.

The characters themselves are so intriguing, it's hard to leave their sides for even a moment. Tris had to make some terrible choices in DIVERGENT, choices that now weigh her down, leave her drowning in guilt, especially since she can't share it with anyone. Despite these burdens, Tris soldiers on, because that's who she is. She's a trooper, she's loyal and brave and desperate to prove herself to the world. Four--now called Tobias for most of this story (though, personally, I really prefer the name Four)--bears the same traits as Tris, which is probably why they make such a perfect couple. Watching them survive things that would destroy lesser folks is heart-wrenching.

And then there's that last line. How...what...OMFG. Truly. It completely turned everything we knew about this society, this world on its head. This is one of the biggest, twistiest-twists I've ever read and it has me panting for the final installment (*sob*) in this mind-blowing series. Which kind of sucks because that's a year away. Still, I have the first two books in the series to tied me over. Read-along, anyone?

Available for pre-order on Amazon | IndieBound

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's not you, it's me: Book Breakups (2)

Not every book is for everyone. Sometimes, for whatever reason, there are books that readers don't connect with. It's especially difficult when you've just read a fantastic book and are still on that reader's high and the next book just doesn't measure up (poor book!). Sadly, I've had a couple book breakups recently.

YA Paranormal Western (I think...)
336 pages, hardcover
Available June 5, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why?

First off, I was confused as to the genre. I think it's supposed to be young adult and it's definitely a western plus there are zombies so that throws in a paranormal element and Honoria seems to be an inventor who creates steampunk-like items... It's a busy book with lots going on.

Then there are three characters who all seem to be the main character(s). Told in third person omniscient, there wasn't a focus on one character's story. Now, normally this wouldn't be a problem--I've read books with multiple main characters and loved them--but there was just too much going on and no real connection between them except that they were all loners traveling across the West. 

Finally, the language seemed a bit stilted. It just didn't fit, like someone trying on a coat that's just a shade too tight in the shoulders. Thus ended my time with this story.

Available for pre-order on Amazon | IndieBound

Urban Fantasy
416 pages, paperback
Available June 26, 2012 
Publisher: Del Rey
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

Magic-wielding Churchwitch and secret addict Chess Putnam knows better than anyone just how high a price people are willing to pay for a chemical rush. But when someone with money to burn and a penchant for black magic starts tampering with Downside’s drug supply, Chess realizes that the unlucky customers are paying with their souls—and taking the innocent with them, as the magic-infused speed compels them to kill in the most gruesome ways possible.

As if the streets weren’t scary enough, the looming war between the two men in her life explodes, taking even more casualties and putting Chess squarely in the middle. Downside could become a literal ghost town if Chess doesn’t find a way to stop both the war and the dark wave of death-magic, and the only way to do that is to use both her addiction and her power to enter the spell and chase the magic all the way back to its malevolent source. Too bad that doing so will probably kill Chess—if the war doesn’t first destroy the man who’s become her reason for living

Now this one's probably my fault. I didn't read the prior books in the series and, because of it, just couldn't get into this character. Chess seems like a powerful witch but she's a serious drug addict and the first part of this book was all about her getting her freak on. I think I didn't have the connection with her to get past her addictions, which made me rather uncomfortable (call me a prude, if you will. I'm fine with that.).

I know this is a really popular series so I think I'm going to try again but with the first book. As a serious urban fantasy fan, I do hope I'll feel the magic if I start at the beginning and meet Chess all over again.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

YA Pre- and Post-Apocalyptic
281 pages, ebook
Available now (March 2012)
Publisher: NLA Digital
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

Imagine finding your first love, only to be ripped apart by the apocalypse. Peyton Anderson will never forget the day she was forced to make a choice--between her family--and Chris Parker, the boy she'd given her heart. Now, four years later, as she steps from the fallout shelter and into a dead and broken world, he's the only thing on her mind.

All Chris "Chase" Parker wanted was to take Peyton away and keep her safe from harm. But he waited for hours in the rain on judgment day and she never showed--breaking his heart without ever telling him why.

Now the two of them have been thrown together once again, reluctant chaperones to a group of orphan children in a post-apocalyptic world where the dead still walk...and feed. As they begin their pilgrimage to the last human outpost on Earth, can they find a way to let go of old hurts and find the love they lost--all while attempting to save what's left of the human race?

The premise was intriguing and I'm still into post-apocalyptic stories but this one just didn't snag my attention for a couple of reasons. First, this felt like I'd read it before. There's a terrible apocalypse which turns people into ugly, zombie-like creatures that want braaaains (well, anything human, actually. Tastes like chicken.). Our girl survives because of a doomsday-prepping dad who builds a secure fallout shelter. Then there's the boy she really likes who--surprise, surprise--is still alive when she steps out into the changed world. Interesting but not unusual.

I think I would have kept reading if every other chapter wasn't a flashback to the time before the apocalypse. Maybe I'm too linear but I really like a story to progress without throwing me back in time over and over. I wanted to know what happened after the apocalypse more than what happened before. Sadly, too many flashbacks and a too-similar plotline (good writing, though!) made me close the chapter on this one.

Available on Amazon

Book Breakups is inspired by Lori at Pure Imagination, who's had her own breakups and understands the pain.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Speed Date with America: THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass

Thursday is Speed Date Night around here. What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all). If you're interested in joining in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below. This speed date is all about "meeting" new books. Cheers, my reader friends!
THE SELECTION (The Selection #1) by Kiera Cass
YA Dystopian Romance
327 pages, hardcover
Publisher: HarperTeen
Review copy provided by publisher
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Another dystopia. Another YA trilogy. Another love triangle. While these may not be the most positive of descriptors lately, THE SELECTION surprised me by pulling me in and carrying me along for the ride (read this puppy in one night!). 

America is convinced--by both her family and Aspen, the boy she loves--to put her name into the hat for the chance to raise her caste status, earn some extra money for her rather poor family, and possibly become a princess by marrying the snobby prince. Of course, she's picked and off to the palace she goes, leaving her heart behind with the adorable Aspen (though she thinks he's broken up with her and moved on). 

But the prince isn't a snob, he's just sheltered. Despite her best intentions, she starts to like him--first as a friend and then as something more. (Though I really wish he would stop calling the girls "my dear". He's not 90.)

This first book has a lot of set-up. Between the romance(s), the interesting society with castes, and the Northern/Southern rebels who might or might not be searching for "something", there's a lot going on and plenty of set up for the rest of the trilogy. I'm intrigued and am looking forward to being swept up in the next part of this story.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie some more!

I follow a ton of authors, agents and publishers on Twitter. It helps me keep my fingers on the pulse of publishing while getting to interact with some really cool people. As a writer (hopefully to be published some day!) and avid reader, I particularly enjoy when people throw out what they'd like to see more of (as well as what they've seen too much of).

Last week, someone (an agent, I believe) mentioned that they were tired of paranormals, especially YA paranormal. Immediately, several other people chimed in with the same ennui. Now, as agents and those involved directly in the publishing process, I don't doubt they get tired of seeing the same genre over and over long before the buying public does. But I have to say, I was a bit surprised by how many said they wanted something different--they really didn't want to see YA paranormals anymore unless, of course, they were the stand-out-in-the-field-and-dance kind of books with absolutely amazing writing (and who doesn't want that, no matter what genre). 

This made me sad. I love the paranormal genre. The magic, unusual creatures or powers, the twists on the natural world, and the stories that surround them. I love shifters and empaths, mind readers and witches, Fae and grimoires. I love when there's a fun romance in the story, turning an average paranormal into a paranormal romance (except leave out the triangles and insta-love. Make both the characters and readers work for it). I want MORE-MORE-MORE. 

I think of the paranormal genre as one that can be compared to the romance genre. It has staying power. It has the potential to twist and change and, even if it's been around forever, to still entertain the reader. I mean, how many of us have read a romance and, even though it's the same basic story (girl meets boy, connection, fight and break-up, reuniting and forgiveness, HEA), we still pick up another romance to enjoy? *raises hand*

So, why the boredom with the genre, especially in the young adult realm? Is it because it's the same story over and over? Or is it just that people have had enough of faeries and magic? 

I say, "Gimmie more! I'm not bored yet!" What say you?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Interview with Julie Kagawa and Giveaway of THE IMMORTAL RULES!

I'm pleased to have the fabulous New York Times Best Selling Author Julie Kagawa on the blog today for a little question-and-answer session AND a giveaway of her awesome soon-to-be released THE IMMORTAL RULES (my review's HERE--sooo good!).
After writing the Iron Fey series for so many years, how difficult was it to immerse yourself in a futuristic world filled with vampires, rabids, and an enslaved human race?
Book cover image of The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
It was...very different. I think the hardest thing for me was the fact that this story does take place in the real world -- a futuristic, vampire-infested world, but the real world nonetheless. Things had to make sense, for example: how far can a large group walk in a single day if there were no roads, they were going through thick woods, and there were children in the group? I had to have logical reasons for everything; I couldn't just make something work "because of faery magic," lol.

Just like Meghan Chase in the Iron Fey series, the main character in The Immortal Rules, Allison Sekemoto, is a “take charge and kick butt” kind of girl. Is this intentional? What woman – real or fictional, alive or deceased – do you look up to or admire?
Yes, Allison comes from a very different world than Meghan Chase. Meghan's upbringing was pretty normal; Allison grew up among vampires and monsters, where every day was a fight to live, so she couldn't afford to be weak. While Meghan had to learn to "take charge and kick butt", Allison's first impulse is stab first, talk later.

As for female role models, the first that comes to mind--when it comes to kicking vampire butt, anyway -- is Buffy Summers. Thank you, Joss Whedon, for making me love feisty, snarky, heroines who can dust all sorts of nasties but who also look good in a cheerleading outfit. ;)

You mention in your acknowledgements in The Immortal Rules that at the beginning of your writing career you promised yourself you wouldn’t write a vampire book. What changed your mind?
Well, there were already so many really good books about our favorite bloodsuckers, so many stories and ideas, I thought I didn't have anything new to add to the masses. I was actually toying with a post-apocalyptic YA novel when my agent mentioned I might want to try writing a vampire series. I wasn't intrigued with the idea at first, but then I thought about combining vampires with the post-apocalyptic novel and then rest sort of fell into place.

Allison claims she hates vampires and believes they are monsters yet when faced with a choice of die or become one, she becomes a vampire. Would you have made that same decision?
Me personally? No. I'm like Zeke in the belief that there is something better waiting for me beyond this life, and I just have to do my best until it’s time for me to go. Besides, I love pizza and Mountain Dew too much to give it up.

Who do you think the most complex character is in The Immortal Rules?
Probably Kanin, Allie's sire. He's a vampire who has made his peace about being a monster, yet chooses to live by his own set of moral rules. He warns Allison about getting too close to humans, yet he does not kill unless he absolutely has to. He is tormented about something in his past that he refuses to share with anyone. He is certainly the most mysterious of all the characters, if not the most complex.

How many books will be in the Blood of Eden series? When will the next book be coming out?
At the moment, there are three books planned, with the second coming out sometime next spring, after the release of the new Iron Fey series this fall.

Before you starting writing full time you were a professional dog trainer. Do the professions share similarities?
Lol, well you have to think on your feet a lot. And some of the small dogs could be compared to tiny snapping goblins, but writing requires less dodging skills, though perhaps the same amount of creativity and problem solving.

When starting a new series, like Blood of Eden, do you have the entire series mapped out in detail or do you let the story develop book by book?
I have a high point that I write toward in each story; I know this and this has to happen, but getting from point A to point B usually develops as I go along.

And for the speed round:
What book have you read and re-read, and read yet again?
Any of the Harry Potter books.
Favorite song to play when writing a fight scene?
My "favorites" change daily. Right now its "Awake and Alive" by Skillet.
Worst job?
Working a kiosk in the mall during Christmas. It sold glass figurines, and the maneuvering space around the hundreds of very breakable merchandise was quite small. I was like a bull in a china shop.
Best vacation spot?
Walt Disney World
Sweet or salty?
One thing most people don’t know about you – and would never guess?
I used to play the flute when I was a kid. I was really good at it too, but my instructor stopped teaching to have a family, and I never went back to it.

And now for the GIVEAWAY of 
one hardcover copy of 
US and Canada only

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Speed Date with Alexia: TIMELESS by Gail Carriger

Thursday is Speed Date Night around here. What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all). If you're interested in joining in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below. This speed date is all about "meeting" new books. Cheers, my reader friends!

TIMELESS (Parasol Protectorate #5) by Gail Carriger
Historical Paranormal Steampunk
386 pages, paperback
Available now (March 2012)
Publisher: Orbit
Review copy purchased

Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire's second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell's acting troupe's latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia's enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.

Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?

I'm so sad this is the last date with Alexia and Conall, Madame Lefeoux, Floote, Lord Akeldama, Lyall, and Biffy. They're such a fantastic cast of characters, each with their own quirks and quibbles. The fifth in the Parasol Protectorate series, TIMELESS sees Alexia, Conall, and their precocious child, Prudence, traveling to Egypt and the heart of the God-Breaker Plague zone on request (well, orders) of a vampire queen.

Alexia is a kick-arse heroine who does a fabulous job balancing her supernatural side as well as a demanding family and dangerous job. And she does it all with such flair and style, that you can't help but admire her. There's plenty of drama and action--including a kidnapping and both murder and attempted murder--that this story kept me on the edge of my seat. TIMELESS, indeed the whole series, is like a steampunk-ed, paranormal-ed version of Downton Abby.

All is not lost in this fabulous Victorian world, however. From what I understand, Prudence, precocious and supernatural daughter of Alexia and Conall, will have a series of her own at some point. Woot!

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Waiting on: RIVETED by Meljean Brook

Ooh, I do love me some Meljean Brook and her newest series, The Iron Seas, is so very lovely (if you haven't already, check out THE IRON DUKE--yum!). I'm not quite sure what to think of the cover--it's a departure from the other two, which featured just the guys--but I do like the steampunk clothes and design. It's not eye-popping but it's fun because of the clothes.

Steampunk Romance
Releases September 4, 2012
Publisher: Berkley Trade

A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland’s inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magical—and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.

Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister K√§lla took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on an airship, searching for her sister and longing to return home. But that home is threatened when scientific expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard, looking to expose Annika’s secrets. Then disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, with their very survival depending on keeping the heat rising between them—and generating lots of steam.
Waiting on is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Vampires are awesome again: THE IMMORTAL RULES by Julie Kagawa

Book cover of Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
YA Post-apocalyptic/dystopian paranormal
485 pages, hardcover
Available April 24, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Review copy provided by publisher

In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn't easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

Another vampire book, really? *sigh* Yes, those were my first thoughts when Julie Kagawa revealed her next series to the world. Then I thought, But it's Julie Kagawa and I absolutely adored her Iron Fey, what the heck. It'll at least be well-written and interesting.

Boy-howdy, was it ever interesting. In all ways, it truly rocked. It was dark and poignant, dangerous and curiously enthralling. Humanity is on the brink of extinction, brought there by a vile plague called "Red Lung". And then came the vampires. Living among humanity for eons, one vampire steps forward, reveals his species existence, and tries to help the humans (hey, they're the vampires' source of food, after all). Unfortunately, that plan backfires, resulting in creatures called "rabids". 

Vampires, desperate to lock down their food supply, create cities around the world that both protect humans from the rabids and turn them into blood donors with no education or way to escape. Except those like Allie, the Unregistered who refuse to bow to the vampires and their human pets. 

Allie is a fabulous character--hard because she has to be but caring about her fellow human beings. She refuses to be one of the cattle, learning to read from her mother, and educating herself the best she can. But she hates the vampires with an unrelenting passion. To her, they're everything that's wrong with the world. And then she has to become one in order to live.

The battle between Allie's bloodlust and new vampire nature and her humanity is fascinating. She escapes the city and travels through the world outside the cities, which is filled with dangerous creatures, rabids, and roving packs of humans--some violent and some just trying to get to the mythical human-only island of Eden. Despite what her creator said, Allie battles her bloodlust, unwilling to give up her sense of self as a person and the possibility of love. 

Dark and totally unputdownable, THE IMMORTAL RULES isn't just another vampire book--it's a 180 on the genre, making vampires awesome again. Especially ones named Allie.

Pre-Order on Amazon | IndieBound

Monday, April 9, 2012

Shapeshifting Wise Guys: ARCADIA AWAKENS by Kai Meyer

Book cover image of Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer, published my Balzer+Bray
ARCADIA AWAKENS (Arcadien #1) by Kai Meyer
YA Paranormal
451 pages, hardcover
Available now (February 2012)
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

To New Yorker Rosa Alcantara, the exotic world of Sicily, with its network of Mafia families and its reputation for murder and intrigue, is just that—exotic, and wholly unknown. But when tragedy strikes, she must travel there, to her family’s ancestral home, where her sister and aunt have built their lives and where centuries of family secrets await her. Once there, Rosa wastes no time falling head over heels for Alessandro Carnevare, the son of a Sicilian Mafia family, whose handsome looks and savage grace both intrigue and unsettle her. But their families are sworn enemies, and her aunt and sister believe Alessandro is only using Rosa to infiltrate the Alcantara clan. And when Rosa encounters a tiger one night—a tiger with very familiar eyes—she can no longer deny that neither the Carnevares nor the Alcantaras are what they seem.

Ancient myths brought to life in the Sicilian countryside, dangerous beasts roaming the hills, and a long history of familial bloodlust prove to Rosa that she can’t trust anyone—not even her own family. Torn between loyalty to her aunt and love for her family’s mortal enemy, Rosa must make the hardest decision of her life: stay in Sicily with her new love . . . or run as far and as fast as she can.

Positive: Rosa and Alessandro. An admitted kleptomaniac, Rosa is snarky with a serious inner-focus and a rather hard outer shell that she's worked hard to build. Alessandro is a charming Sicilian who slides under that shell, despite the fact that Rosa's family doesn't like him or his family at all. They're a modern Romeo and Juliet, a pair that might actually have a tragic ending, unlike many of the retellings these days.

Positive: The creepy feeling of impending doom. There's something very dangerous swirling in the hot Sicilian sun and the reader isn't given too many hints as to what that is--just that it's really, really bad. 

Positive: The Mafia. Of course, we're in Sicily. There has to be Mafioso hanging around, running things, right? While that might be a stereotype, it's used very effectively in this story, adding to the feeling of darkness surrounding these two families. Plus, it's a great excuse for violence and adds some action and suspense.

Wish: Backstory. At times, there was too much but then I also felt like I didn't really know what was going on, despite all the information provided. I'm not sure if this is because the original story was written in German and it's a translation issue or my brain just being squishy (I'm voting for the latter!). This is a very intricate world the author's created here.

Overall: Dark and foreboding, ARCADIA AWAKENS takes its readers to a beautiful but deadly world.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Say Cheese!: SHOOTING STARS by Allison Rushby

Book cover of Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby, published by Walker Children's
YA Contemporary
272 pages, paperback
Available now (released February 2012)
Publisher: Walker Children's
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

Meet Josephine Foster, or Zo Jo as she’s called in the biz. The best pint-sized photographer of them all, Jo doesn’t mind doing what it takes to get that perfect shot, until she’s sent on an undercover assignment to shoot Ned Hartnett—teen superstar and the only celebrity who’s ever been kind to her—at an exclusive rehabilitation retreat in Boston. The money will be enough to pay for Jo’s dream: real photography classes, and maybe even quitting her paparazzi gig for good. Everyone wants to know what Ned’s in for. But Jo certainly doesn’t know what she’s in for: falling in love with Ned was never supposed to be part of her assignment.

Looking for a cute, fast read? SHOOTING STARS is exactly that. Jo Foster is more than just your average celeb-hunting paparazzo, she's a girl with a dream. For several years, she's followed in her famous father's footsteps, using her age and cuteness to get in places and get shots the adult paparazzi can't. But she's tired of the biz and really wants to be a professional photographer like Annie Leibovitz or Herb Ritts.

So, despite some serious reservations about the morality of all, she takes one last job that would cover her course costs and then some. She heads off to Boston and a chi-chi rehab facility where her prey, Ned Hartnett, is recovering from...something. But she kind of likes Ned, since he's been nothing but nice to her every time their paths have crossed. Sadly, she doesn't really have a responsible adult in her life to consult about her dilemma--Dad's overseas working and the next-door neighbor (and cousin), Wendy, isn't really all that helpful. Yes, sixteen-year-old Jo lives alone when her dad's away. Sure, she's extremely mature and focused but this takes absentee parents to a whole other level.

The romance between Jo and Ned is sweet, especially since Jo really grows as a person while at the facility. She's faced with multiple moral dilemmas that she needs to find a solution for. On one hand, I found myself rooting for her to get the pictures and go take her classes--he's just a celebrity and, really, that's part of the gig. On the other, I wanted her to confess all to this sweet guy and have them walk away from rehab hand-in-hand.

This is a great summer read: book in one hand and ice-cold drink in the other while the sun shines and the music plays.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Juicing leads to: BAD TASTE IN BOYS by Carrie Harris

YA humorous paranormal
201 pages, hardcover
Available now (July 2011)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Review copy purchased

Someone's been a very bad zombie.
Kate Grable is horrified to find out that the football coach has given the team steroids. Worse yet, the steriods are having an unexpected effect, turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless flesh-eating zombies. No one is safe--not her cute crush Aaron, not her dorky brother, Jonah . . . not even Kate! She's got to find an antidote--before her entire high school ends up eating each other. So Kate, her best girlfriend, Rocky, and Aaron stage a frantic battle to save their town  . . . and stay hormonally human.

If you're looking for a quick, fun read--this is it. Kate Grable is a science geek, using her know-how to patch up her high school's injured football players (not a bad job, if you can get it!). Since they suck, she spends a lot of time putting her medical skills to use. But she stumbles on a terrible secret--the coach is pumping the team full of juicy badness in an effort to turn the team around (they really, really suck). Too bad it's turning them into flesh-crazed zombies instead of the muscular jocks the coach was hoping for.

Not being the kind of girl to just sit back and let it happen, Kate uses her brain to try and cure the zombie virus before it spreads to everyone she knows. Zombie-ism isn't pretty and she'd rather be taping up sprains and crushing on the cute quarterback than fighting off blue-gummed, black-puking zombies with pieces dropping off them. I mean, who wouldn't, right?

I really enjoyed Kate and her unabashed smarts and her connection to the world and friends despite the smarts (too many "geeks" are portrayed as loners or weirdos. Boo!). BAD TASTE IN BOYS is fast and funny, hitting you hard and leaving you breathless for more. Really, I wished this book was longer but I'm happy to hear that this is just the first of Kate's stories--the next, BAD HAIR DAY, will be out November 2012.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Friday, April 6, 2012

Let's Talk: How 'bout those blog stats?

Question: What are your opinions on the importance of blog stats?

I've been blogging for nearly two years and just recently began to think about my stats. I read countless blog posts about SEO, page views versus unique visitors, bounce rate and blog stats. Some of it made sense, some of it...just sounded like gobbledygook to me. I mean, seriously. This is supposed to be fun, little talkin' about books, little visitin' with authors. Not working a second job.

While my blog's doing pretty well in my mind--I've got some bloggy and reader friends I chat with about great books, people stop by and read my posts and enter my giveaways--stat-wise, it's just okay. I'm sure there things I can do to improve my stats but that's not the primary reason I blog. Sure, higher numbers would get the attention of more publishers and, really, it's so flattering and fabulous when someone subscribes to my blog (someone wants to hear what I have to say! Holy cow!) but I just don't have that kind of time to devote or, frankly, the inclination. I'm happy with my blog. I like the people who visit and comment, and I don't want it to become overwhelming or be a burden to me.

In my "real" job, I'm a teacher, and we're judged by our test scores, which, in my opinion, have not much of anything to do with what goes on in the classroom. But the politicians and taxpayers have to have stats to hang their hats on so a-testing we go. I see blog stats as the same kind of thing. The stats don't really show the whole picture, just like a test score doesn't show a whole child or teacher or school. Still, it's a necessary evil until something more comprehensive comes along.

I do love my blog, and I want it to continue to grow and flourish. But I'm not going to stress about "upping my stats" or ranking versus other blogs (so I tell myself...). I'm just going to do my thing the best I know how.

So, what do y'all think of blog stats? Are they an accurate measurement of blog quality? Do you stress over them? 

If you're interested in participating in "Let's Talk", you can link up HERE on Melissa's blog.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Speed Date with Lena: PANDEMONIUM by Lauren Oliver

Thursday is Speed Date Night around here. What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all). If you're interested in joining in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below. This speed date is all about "meeting" new books. Cheers, my reader friends!
Book cover for Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver, second in the Delirium series, published by HarperTeen
YA Dystopia
375 pages, hardcover
Available now (February 2012)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Review copy purchased

I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame. 

Y'all. I didn't expect to love this book as much as I did. I didn't expect to pick it up one lazy afternoon and read-read-read until it was dark and the book was done and I was replete. 

Of course, I enjoyed Delirium and, with Lauren Oliver's talent for writing, knew I'd be in for a great story with Pandemonium. But this just sucked me in and didn't let go.

Lena's all alone, having escaped her prison and left behind her family, friends, and lover. Love. The disease she was warned about embodied in a boy--Alex, the love of her life--who she left struggling in the grips of the regulators and destined for the Tombs or, more likely, death.

But she has to move on, to survive. She does, joining with other Invalids who live free in the Wilds. She becomes part of the rebellion. And, though her heart is broken, she meets another boy who resonates, who she connects with. I thought this "connection" came about too quickly but, because the concepts of love and lust are so foreign to these people, it's viable. 

And then there was the ending. Yes, a cliffhanger but not unexpected. It is, after all, the middle of the series, and I just knew "it" would happen. "It" brought about a small amount of eye-rolling on my part but I still closed the book with a sigh of satisfaction.

Brilliant, poetic writing wrapped around an action-packed story encased in the beauty of love.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Some possible YA book covers I'd like to see

I'll admit it--I'm a very visual person. Probably why I like Pinterest so much (so much that my IRL friends make fun of me for pinning everything in sight!). 

A lot of the time, a great book cover is the difference between me sticking with the ARC (if I'm lucky enough to get one) and me buying a final copy. It's hard to deny that many YA covers have been of girls in pretty, flowing dresses, some looking very dead. While I actually *like* some of those, it's great when there's a new, eye-catching cover out there. And I'm usually one of the first to pick those up and add it to my bookshelf.

So, trolling around Pinterest, I've kept in mind my desire for beautiful covers and here are some I've pinned to my board ("Would Make a Cool Book Cover"):
Two people almost kissing beneath a red umbrella book cover.
Wouldn't this be adorable for a YA Contemporary love story?
Picture: keep your secrets book cover
And what about this one? Ooh, secrets and mysteries! (credit)
Girl in three-way mirror who can't find herself--book cover
This could be even creepier, if Photoshopped a bit more
Girl behind her hands but still exposed -- book cover
This one's a little eerie, too; like, she's hiding but exposed (CREDIT)
Girl covered in paint splash -- book cover
Different outfit, brighter color and you'd have an awesome cover

Wouldn't it be cool (but a lot of pressure) to design dazzling book covers that draw in the reader and make him/her pick up a book? What kind of covers draw you in?