Thursday, June 28, 2012

Speed Date with Ava: SEA CHANGE by Karen White

Thursday is Speed Date Night. What's a Book Speed Date? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book. If you want to join in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below. The speed date is all about "meeting" new books.

Fiction
416 pages, paperback
Available now (June 2012)
Publisher: NAL Trade
Review copy provided by publisher

For Ava Whalen, a new marriage and a move to St. Simons Island means a new beginning. But what she doesn’t realize is that her marriage will take her on an unexpected journey into the deep recesses of her past that will transform her forever…

For as long as she can remember, Ava Whalen has struggled with a sense of not belonging, and now, at thirty-five, she still feels stymied by her family. Then she meets child psychologist Matthew Frazier, and thinks her days of loneliness are behind her. After a whirlwind romance, they impulsively elope, and Ava moves to Matthew’s ancestral home on St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia.

But after the initial excitement, Ava is surprised to discover that true happiness continues to elude her. There is much she doesn’t know about Matthew, including the mysterious circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death. And her new home seems to hold as many mysteries and secrets as her new husband. Feeling adrift, Ava throws herself into uncovering Matthew’s family history and that of the island, not realizing that she has a connection of her own to this place—or that her obsession with the past could very well destroy her future.

I needed a good palate cleanser, and SEA CHANGE worked beautifully for this. A sucker for any book set in the South especially one with as lush a setting as St. Simons Island in Georgia, I enjoyed exploring the gorgeous island and its secrets via this story. Karen White's writing transports readers, plunging them in a world filled with salt-tinged ocean breezes; long, crushed oyster shell driveways leading to hundred-year-old houses; old rivalries and new friendships; and tall glasses of sweet tea.

Ava is not a typical heroine, at least not like the type I usually read. She's soft-spoken and shy, afraid of the water, doubting of herself, and someone who might very well blend into the wallpaper, if those around her would let her do so. But she's also dogmatic and determined to discover the mysteries that haunt her. Sharing time with Ava is Pamela. Set in the 1800s, Pamela's story takes on an eerie parallel to Ava's and serves to deepen the mystery.

If you like Jodi Picoult, Dorthea Benton Frank, and Mary Alice Monroe or want a story that surrounds you with the soft, warm breezes of a beautiful Southern island and a tangled mystery, I definitely recommend SEA CHANGE.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting on...THE BLOOD KEEPER by Tessa Gratton

Same world, different characters in The Blood Journals #2. I really enjoyed the first book in this series and can't wait to see where Tessa Gratton goes in this second novel. I'm not sure how I feel about the cover, though. One one hand, it's really creative--different than most I've seen out there. The unusual symbols and large star in the middle are intriguing. On the other hand, I really liked the cover design for the first book and this one is nothing like it. I know these aren't the same characters but I like continuity in a series. Thoughts?

YA Paranormal
432 pages, hardcover
Expected publication: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Random House Children's Books

For Mab Prowd, the practice of blood magic is as natural as breathing. It's all she's ever known. Growing up on an isolated farm in Kansas with other practitioners may have kept her from making friends her own age, but it has also given her a sense of purpose—she's connected to the land and protective of the magic. And she is able to practice it proudly and happily out in the open with only the crows as her companions. Mab will do anything to keep the ancient practice alive and guard its secrets. 

But one morning while she is working out a particularly tricky spell she encounters Will, a local boy who is trying to exorcise some mundane personal demons. He experiences Mab's magic in a way his mind cannot comprehend and is all too happy to end their chance meeting. But secrets that were kept from Mab by the earlier generations of blood magicians have come home to roost. And she and Will are drawn back together, time again by this dangerous force looking to break free from the earth and reclaim its own dark power.

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

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's The Book Swarm's Two-Year Blogoversary! Let's Party!

Hard to believe that June 26, 2010, I started this little blog, completely unaware of the blogging community or what I was getting myself into (ha!). It's been an awesome two years, and I look forward to many more!

Of course, there have to be presents. It's a celebration, after all.

BLOGOVERSARY GIVEAWAY
Runs June 26-July 6, 2012
Open to residents of US/Canada

YA Fantasy/Paranormal Prize Pack
SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo (ARC)
SOULBOUND by Heather Brewer (Finished copy)
DEMON EYES by Scott Tracey (ARC)

YA Contemporary Prize Pack
ENDANGERED by Eliot Schrefer (ARC)
NARC by Crissa-Jean Chappell (ARC)
PUSHING THE LIMITS by Katie McGarry (ARC)

Urban Fantasy Prize Pack
BORN TO DARKNESS by Suzanne Brockmann (ARC)
GRAVE MEMORY by Kalayna Price (ARC)
ENVY by J.R. Ward (Finished copy)

**BTW, only two of these are from BEA. One was an accidental double (total brain fade on my part -- you benefit from it!), and the other, the publisher gave me two--one for my classroom and one to give away. Just wanted to put it out there that I'm not an ARC-snatcher! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 25, 2012

Read it and Reap: DARKNESS DEVOURS by Keri Arthur

Urban Fantasy
400 pages, paperback
Available June 26, 2012
Publisher: Signet Select
Review copy provided by publisher

Half-werewolf, half-Aedh Risa Jones can enter the realm between life and death, and she can see the Reapers who collect the souls of the dead. Now, she is using her gifts—and the investigative know-how of a man who broke her heart—to find a cabal searching for the power to control time, reality, and fate. And this is besides her work for the Vampire Council, half of whom want her dead.

But for now the Council needs her alive. Someone is killing blood-whore addicted vampires, and Risa must find the guilty party. If she succeeds, she may finally convince the council to lift the execution order on her life. But before she succeeds, she must first survive…

Risa's life just isn't getting any easier--now, she's got to ask a favor of the werewolf who broke her heart, hottie reporter Jak. The Vampire Council isn't a big fan of hers--many want her exterminated. The Ania and other parties also want her dead...she's pretty much burnt toast, unless she can get some of these entities off her back. And she fights tooth and nail for what she wants and what she believes. A most excellent kick-ass character.

Girl does have some relationship issues, though. One, there's Jak, who broke her heart and she still really lusts/loves after him, despite her protestations. Two, there's Lucian, an Aedh with murky intentions--but he gives her good smexy times. At the moment, she's trying to cut him out of her heart but still uses him to satisfy her...urges. And he's good at helping keep Azriel at arms' length. Three, there's Azriel who, at the moment is playing guardian (until such time as he gets what he's looking for) and possible love interest. I like how Arthur handles the multiple partners (now partners/ex-partners/wannabe partners, as the case may be). It wasn't made out like Risa is ho-ing around or anything. The multiple guys are just a fact of her life. I appreciate that.

But her love life takes a backseat to the seriously complex mystery she has to solve--one she has to solve because her life pretty much depends on it. The vampires she interacts with are cold and uncaring, well-drawn undead creatures who use people like toilet paper and dispose of them just as easily. But there are repercussions for such actions--if only Risa can work out what's going on and fix it before she runs out of time.

Action-packed and loaded with hot guys (yummy!), this third installment has Risa running for both her life...and her heart.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Beware the Gramplars: SOULBOUND by Heather Brewer

YA Fantasy
304 pages, hardcover
Available now (June 2012)
Publisher: Dial
Review copy purchased

What's worse than being blackmailed to attend a hidden school where you're treated like a second-class citizen? How about nearly getting eaten by a monster when you arrive? Or learning that your soulmate was killed in a centuries-old secret war? And then there's the evil king who's determined to rule the world unless you can stop him...

Meet Kaya, a young woman with the power to heal and the determination to fight. But struggle as she will, she remains tied to three very different men: a hero who has forsaken glory, a tyrannical ruler who wants to use Kaya, and a warrior who's stolen her heart. Kaya learns the hard way that some ties can't be broken...and blood is the strongest bond of all.

While I enjoyed this book, I was left with a hella amount of questions about, well, everything. We're thrown into a world where not enough is explained. The majority of fantasy and urban fantasy novels I've read (and, trust me, that's a library's worth of reading there) have serious worldbuilding throughout the story so the reader knows what's going on, where it's happening, and why. But in SOULBOUND, I felt adrift much of the time, trapped in a walled and guarded boarding school with no real in-depth vision of the world or its rules. 

Don't get me wrong--I think this series has some seriously awesome potential, and I'll definitely be reading the next one. Still, that next story really needs to expand my awareness of the land of Tril. I had waaaaay too many questions like: Why don't the Unskilled know about the Skilled? How can the Unskilled *not* know about the Skilled, what with the century-long war and army of Barrons and Gramplars going at it like fiends? Why can't Barrons marry Barrons? Why aren't the Healers trained in self-defense, since they're on the battlefield with their Barrons? Why aren't all Barrons trained? Who came up with the strict Protocols everyone Skilled has to follow and why? Why do the Barrons look down on Healers, when the Healers are the ones who heal their ungrateful butts? How did King Derrek, the king attacking Tril, become King of the Gramplars? Why are there weird names for beasts (Gramplars, Raiks and Khaws) but the sword the Barrons use is a katana? Where's my map (I couldn't get a read on how big this country was, where things were located in relation to one another, where King Derrek and his Gramplars come from)? *sigh* Lots of questions. Yes, I know many will be answered in subsequent books but, in my eyes, the worldbuilding was lacking in this first story.

However, the main character, Kaya, was kick-ass. Forced to attend the Shadow Academy under threat to her parents' lives, Kaya tries to understand her new world and all its wacky rules. But she's not the kind of gal to sit idly by while her Barron does all the heavy lifting. She want to learn how to defend herself, to take care of herself, despite this being against the rules and despite her Barron partner promising he'd always be there to take care of her. I appreciated that she wasn't willing to play the role of the helpless Healer, waiting on the sidelines. She bucks the system. She kicks ass with her katana. Watch out, Gramplars! Here she comes!

Overall, while this story needed some serious worldbuilding to make the land of Tril clearer, there's enough of an intriguing plotline and interesting characters to make it a book--and series--worth delving into.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Speed Date with Aura: SHINE by Jeri Smith-Ready

Thursday is Speed Date Night. What's a Book Speed Date? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book. If you want to join in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below. The speed date is all about "meeting" new books.

YA Paranormal Romance
416 pages, hardcover
Available now (May 2012)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

Life can change in an instant, and no one understands that better than Aura. It’s been almost a year since her boyfriend tragically died. She’s finally letting go of Logan’s violet-hued ghost, but not her search to uncover the truth about her past.

As the first in a generation that can see ghosts, Aura is convinced she has a connection to the Shift. She’s trusted Zachary, ever patient and ever by her side, with all that she knows. But when the government threatens his life in an attempt to learn Aura’s secrets, she will stop at nothing to protect herself and the one she loves...even if that means betraying her own heart.

(FYI: As this is the final book in the series, there are minor spoilers.)

This is one series that really stands out from the paranormal crowd for me. I like the settings (Boston, Scotland, and Ireland), the concept (kids able to see ghosts, adults not), and the music (Irish music FTW). I also like the "love triangle" because it isn't really a triangle--Aura and her adorable Scottish boy Zachary are alive and Logan is a ghost--then a shade--then a ghost again (and, as of this book, longer around).

SHINE picks up with Zachary flying back to Aura in Boston--but his plane blows up. (Yeah, that's not good.) And things don't slow down from there. The DMP (ghost cops) uses this as an excuse to push its agenda (typical political move) and to try and force Aura and Zachary to follow their agenda (thought Zachary blew up, didn't you?).

Aura and Zachary battle government control, public fears, and forced separation in an effort to reverse the Shift and finally fall into each others' arms forever. I do love a good HEA (happily ever after for you non-romance peeps). Go Aura and Zachary!

Oh, AND Jeri Smith-Ready introduced me to a new indie band: Frightened Rabbit, a group of adorable Scottish guys (I love that you can hear the lead singer's wee accent as he sings!):


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting on...TRAPPED by Kevin Hearne

Y'all. If you haven't started the Iron Druid series and you're an urban fantasy fan--what are you waiting for? Amazing characters, witty dialogue, an awesome talking dog (Oberon, you poodle-loving rascal! *sends sausage your way*), and an absolutely adorable Druid named Atticus. I do so love this series and, in a very creepy stalker way, want to keep the author chained in my basement, feeding him fish and chips and good beer to up his productivity levels (not that I even have a basement...) so I'll have more books more often.  And I'll probably share.

This cover seems a bit busier than the others, though it's in the same vein. I get the addition of Granuaile to the cover, since she's about to become a Druid, but I'd prefer the focus stay on Atticus (he is the hottie, after all).
Urban Fantasy
320 pages, paperback
Expected Publication: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Random House

After twelve years of secret training, Atticus O’Sullivan is finally ready to bind his apprentice, Granuaile, to the earth and double the number of Druids in the world. But on the eve of the ritual, the world that thought he was dead abruptly discovers that he’s still alive, and they would much rather he return to the grave.

Having no other choice, Atticus, his trusted Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and Granuaile travel to the base of Mount Olympus, where the Roman god Bacchus is anxious to take his sworn revenge—but he’ll have to get in line behind an ancient vampire, a band of dark elves, and an old god of mischief, who all seem to have KILL THE DRUID at the top of their to-do lists.

So, what are you waiting on?
WoW is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Blogger Confessions: Do Over

 Hosted by Tiger at All-Consuming Media and Karen at For What It's Worth Reviews.

There's a blogging time machine! Pretend you can start over. Knowing what you know now about blogging – what do you wish you did differently when it comes to creating your blog?

I don't have many regrets when it comes to my blog. Sure, there were plenty of false starts, abandoned ideas, and some pretty meh reviews until I got the hang of it. I had a rating system and abandoned it. Along with my reviews, I used to do a bunch of memes but strategically abandoned most of them, doing them only when/if it suits.
Really, the only major thing I'd change about my blog is the name. Originally, I'd wanted it to be a play on my last name which starts with a "B": bees--honey--hive, you know, that kind of stuff. But all the names I came up with were either really bad or taken. Until I came up with The Book Swarm and the tagline "All A-Buzz About Books".

From AxeCop
It's a little more...aggressive than I first thought or wanted, I guess. It's definitely not as cute or fun as some of the blog titles out there but I've never been great at naming things. When I say "The Book Swarm", instead of picturing a bunch of pissed-off, swarming bees or dive-bombing books, I try to envision a bunch of happy books buzzing around pretty flowers and making yummy word honey. Yanno, sweetness with the possibility of a sting, if irritated. But mostly sweet, liquid honey. Heh. (You're totally picturing the dive-bombing books, aren't you? Dang.)

Anyway, now that I've been blogging a while (almost two years, as of June 26th!), the name's stuck.

Other than that, I'm pretty happy with my buzzy wee blog. What about you? Anything you'd change or do differently?

Monday, June 18, 2012

But it's not the same: REUNITED by Hilary Weisman Graham

YA Contemporary, stand-alone
336 pages, hardcover
Available now (June 2012)
Publisher: Simon and Schuster for Young Readers
Review copy purchased

1 Concert
2000 Miles
3 Ex-Best Friends

Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends. Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3. But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.

Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show.

Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. Good thing Alice’s graduation gift (a pea-green 1976 VW camper van known as the Pea Pod) is just the vehicle to get them there.

But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?

$32k from oldbug.com
There's just something about a road-trip book that makes me happy--and want to travel, of course. In fact, I had to resist the impulse to buy myself a 1967 VW Microbus like the girls had and travel the US (I really would like to do something like that someday--but in a bit more comfort than a Microbus).

The three girls, while BFFs and rabid Level3 fangirls all through middle school, had a serious falling out (one they refuse to talk about, allowing the resentment to fester) and parted ways in high school. But their favorite band is getting back together, Alice has both the tickets and the ride that can take them to the concert, and all three are looking to escape before heading off to college in the fall.

But, despite all three choosing to be in the Pea Pod with one another, only Alice is happy with the situation--mostly because she's somewhat oblivious to the swirling tensions (she's in what I call her "happy bubble". I like a good happy bubble.). As they bounce from one weird road situation to another, they begin to reconnect, to remember why they were friends in the first place.

A road trip wouldn't be a road trip without weirdness. From the hippie-like farm gathering around a large bonfire to the cute-boy encounter over snow cones to the series of mishaps as they near the concert location, REUNITED is a fun ride despite a somewhat predictable plotline with somewhat cliched characters. I found I really didn't mind the predictability or cliches because the dialogue was sharp, the road trip was quite excellent, and I was more than content to just sit back and enjoy the journey.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Let's Talk: Book Reviews

Let's Talk is a meme hosted by i swim for oceans 
that features questions or prompts about books and blogging. Love it or hate it, weigh in or don't, Let's Talk will get you thinking--and talking!
Question: What do you look for in a book review, 
and what makes it good?

Following as many blogs as I do, I run across some amazing and well-written reviews and some pretty crappy ones--ones you know were just called in rather than thought out. Now, everyone does have bad days (I'll admit it--there are some reviews I wrote super-fast, last minute, and with half a brain. But those are few and far between.), but if poorly-written reviews are the norm, I won't follow anymore. 

So, what makes reviews stand out:
  • Details--what did you like, what didn't you like and why
  • Passion--whether you liked the book or not, be passionate about it (that's why you're blogging about books, right?)
  • Voice--you infuse the review with your personality
  • Consideration--you spent time with the book, thought about it, and really put effort into your review
What makes reviews sink:
  • Opinion without support--I want to know why-why-why (much like a two-year-old)
  • Bland--no excitement or dislike or passion of any kind
  • Every review is an endless parade of gifs--while I've seen gifs used very effectively, if that's all you've got...meh
  • Every review is just a few lines that give little to no insight into your actual thoughts
  • Every review is a rave review because every book you read is AWESOME with no faults
  • Every review is a rant because every book you read SUCKS and there's nothing good about it
Of course, I'm not a professional reviewer (that would be a very cool thing!)--this is just a hobby for me. And every blogger has his or her own personal style, which is what I like, why I follow the blogs I do I want to see a blogger's personality come through in their reviews, like to see a review that's infused with that blogger's passion and love of books. Because that's why we do this, isn't it? Because we love books?

Check out my sidebar for some of my very favorite blogs, ones that provide consistent, fabulous reviews and keep my TBR shelf and wishlist bursting with great books *hugs sidebar buddies*.--->

So, what do you think: what makes a good review? Any blogs I should follow that have great reviews?


Friday, June 15, 2012

Brain Fade: FROM WHAT I REMEMBER by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

YA Contemporary
462 pages, hardcover
Available now (June 2012)
Publisher: Hyperion
Review copy purchased

KYLIE: Tijuana WHAT? I should be putting the finishing touches on my valedictorian speech. Graduation is TODAY, and is this a wedding band on my finger.

MAX: It all started with Kylie's laptop and a truck full of stolen electronics. Okay, it was kind of hot, the way she broke us out like some chick in an action movie. But now we're stranded in Tijuana. With less than twenty-four hours before graduation. Awesome.

WILL: Saving Kylie Flores from herself is kind of a full-time occupation. Luckily, I, Will Bixby, was born for the job. And when I found out she was stuck in Mexico with dreamy Max Langston, sure, I agreed to bring their passports across the border -- but there's no reason to rush back home right away. This party is just getting started.

LILY: I just walked in on my boyfriend, Max Langston, canoodling with Kylie Flores, freak of the century. Still, I can't completely hold it against him. He NEEDS me. It's even clearer now. And I'm not giving him up without a fight.

Positive: The quotes and pop culture references. At the beginning of each chapter, the authors found a movie quote to match the events--loved it! And there are band names and other current pop culture references sprinkled liberally throughout. Of course, this doesn't lend itself to a timeless novel but that's not the point of this book. It's an "in the moment" kind of story, especially since it's pitched as a Hangover for teens in Mexico.

Positive: The multiple points of view. It's difficult writing a multi-POV story, especially with five points of view, but it really works for this story. Through Max and Kylie, we get to know them as people and see what happened that led them to waking up in bed together with wedding rings (eep!). Through Will, Jake, and Lily, we get different perspectives about the main characters as well as see what's going on back home while Max and Kylie are away. And it's still possible to connect with the all characters--there's depth in their personas.

Positive: The inclusion of Jake's POV. Jake is Kylie's younger brother and he has Asperger's syndrome. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Asperger's, it's a disorder in which the person who has it has serious difficulty with social interactions and usually has some significant, restrictive, and repetitive patterns of both behavior and interests (paraphrased from Wikipedia. Don't judge). Jake is a great character and through him, we learn a lot about Kylie, her family, and the reasons she puts so much pressure on herself.

Wish: That the cover wasn't white-washed. The two guys and the blond (Lily) are fine--they're pretty much how I pictured them. But Kylie? She's half Latina and half Jewish. Her best friend Will describes her on p. 21: "Girlfriend wears her gorgeous fro so tightly slicked back it looks like a helmet. She needs to embrace those kinky Latina curls. With her bronze skin, her golden eyes, and those massively long black lashes, she could look like a movie star." Does the brunette match that at all? I think not.

Overall: Loved this book! Filled with sharp-witted dialogue and intriguing characters, FROM WHAT I REMEMBER will have you laughing out loud and speeding through the pages to find out what really did happen to Max and Kylie. I picked this book up after hearing the two authors speak at the Teen Author Carnival in NYC. I just couldn't resist--and I'm so happy I didn't!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Speed Date with Griffin: THE TAKEN by Vicki Pettersson

Thursday is Speed Date Night. What's a Book Speed Date? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book. If you want to join in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below. This speed date is all about "meeting" new books.

Urban Fantasy
432 pages, paperback
Available now (June 2012)
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Review copy provided by publisher via Amazon Vine

He’s a fallen angel. She’s a rockabilly reporter. Together they must solve a deadly string of murders plaguing the mortal and the immortal worlds.

Griffin Shaw used to be a PI, but that was over fifty years ago when gumshoes hoofed the streets . . . and he was still alive. Now he’s a Centurion, an angel who assists other murdered souls through their journey to the afterlife. But while Shaw might be an angel … he’s no saint. Haunted by the mysterious events surrounding his own death, he seizes a chance to wreak some vengeance when he witnesses a deadly attack on journalist Katherine “Kit” Craig.

Joining forces, the unlikely avengers take to the streets, hunting a killer whose trail of bodies stretches across Las Vegas and into an immortal netherworld. It is a dangerous trek that lead them into the darkest corners of Sin City and into the heart of an evil conspiracy extending beyond the lights of the Strip that could destroy them both.

But destruction isn’t the only threat Griffin faces. The closer he gets to Kit, the more he finds himself bewitched by her mortal charms. Can he resist falling under her spell? And does he want to?

A fan of Vicki Pettersson's Sign of the Zodiac series, I jumped at the chance to read THE TAKEN, the first in a new series. And I'm so glad I did. Fast-paced, filled with snappy dialogue, strong characters, and a great plot, THE TAKEN swept me away and kept me up late reading.

This book is my first introduction to the rockabilly culture and I love it! Kit is a serious rockabilly girl, complete with an awesome wardrobe, pinned hair, gorgeous makeup, and a period home. But while rockabilly is huge part of her personality, Kit's also a hard-bitten newshound and a strong woman. Then there's Griffin and his gumshoe PI self. He reminds me of the dime murder mysteries of old--a Humphrey Bogart of sorts. These two were so different than the typical urban fantasy characters, they really made the whole story stand out.

Besides the very cool period clothes, attitudes, and language, the story's a great start to a brand new series by a fantastic author.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting on...POISON PRINCESS by Kresley Cole

You'd think that, after my book bacchanal at BEA, my TBR shelves would be filled for a while. But, being a true bibliophile, I'm never satisfied and ALWAYS want MORE!! This ARC was passed out on Thursday but *sniffle* I had to go home and totally missed it. *sobs* I'm a huge fan of Kresley Cole's adult novels and am happy to see her turning her talents to a fabulous-sounding YA novel.

The cover's intriguing, just because of the color scheme (is brown the new black? This is the second brown cover I've seen on "hot" new books recently), but it doesn't really pop off the page. Maybe if the guy didn't have an annoying shirt on...oh, wait. That would be Cole's adult novels. Oops. I do like the font with the vines and swirls for the title, however.

YA Post-apocalyptic Paranormal
384 pages, hardcover
Expected publication: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers 

Sixteen-year-old Evie Greene thought her horrific apocalyptic hallucinations were a sign that she was slowly losing her mind. But when her visions come true, decimating the world around her and killing everyone she loves, Evie is forced to accept that she was seeing the future.

Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she turns to wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate, the gorgeous and dangerous Jackson Deveaux for help. As Jackson and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have got the same call and discover that Evie is not the only one with special powers. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and as the battle between good and evil intensifies, it is not always clear who is on which side…

Waiting on is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Hangover: FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund

YA Science Fiction Romance
398 pages, hardcover
Available now (June 12, 2012)
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review copy received from author (via BEA)

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

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

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

You know that gaping emptiness when you finish a book, an emptiness that seems will never be filled by another story? One that makes you stare off into space, absently brushing your fingers across the cover of the book as if you could magically dive back into that world and be deeply involved yet again with those people and their lives? Yes. This. This book did it to me. 

Credit
I wasn't actually expecting to love it as much as I did or to get as caught up in the story and the lives of Elliot and her Kai. But I was dragged into the world, sucked down the rabbit hole, so to speak. The relationship between Elliot and Kai (or Captain Malakai Wentforth, as he is later known) is one that spans the deep divide between their classes, one that--while broken temporarily--transcends the bigotry and prejudice of their small world. Told through a series of notes passed between the two as children and through Elliot's eyes when Kai returns to the estate, their relationship is both heartbreaking and beautifully rendered, much like Jane Austen's PERSUASION, the story upon which FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is inspired.

Then there's the world Diana Peterfreund created for her characters. First, there was the apocalypse brought on by the foibles of humans believing they could play God, muck about with DNA (including human), and create new and "better" species. Destruction followed, again by humans as those called the Lost set about to destroy everything they created to prevent anyone from getting their hands on it and to erase their dreadful and disastrous mistakes. But the Luddites survived, hiding away underground for years and avoiding all so-called advancements of the Lost. So did the Reduced, products of the Lost's unGodly experiments.

Fast-forward to this story's present day. While the childlike Reduced still survive, many of their children are "Posts"--people who no longer suffer from the genetic defects of their parents and grandparents. In the caste system that emerged by necessity in the post-apocalyptic world, the Luddites ran things and the Reduced were the mindless workforce. As Children of the Reduced were born, the Luddites accepted them but still treated them as lesser, much like indentured servants, bound to the estates with the Luddites in control. But the world is changing yet again and Posts are coming into their own.

Elliot is a member of the Luddites and daughter to the powerful Baron North while Kai is a Post, the son of a Reduced woman who belonged to the North estate. A star-crossed love if there ever was one. But this is not a tale filled with action and adventure, wild fights or impassioned outpourings. Its pace brings to mind that of Austen's stories, relationships told through side-long glances, delicate brushes of skin, innuendo, and wordplay. Fabulous. (And now I want to re-read some Jane Austen--or maybe watch Pride and Prejudice with the adorably awkward Mr. Darcy.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Double Shot: WISHFUL THINKING by Gabi Stevens and BLOOD KIN by M.J. Scott

Paranormal Romance
320 pages, paperback
Available now (April 2012)
Publisher: TOR/Tom Doherty Associates
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

Free-spirited artist Stormy Jones-Smythe was raised by two talented Wizard fathers but never showed the slightest hint of magical abilities. Which is why she’s totally surprised when three famous fairy godmothers show up at her door to tell her she’s one of them.

Surprised, and none too happy.  The godmothers are fugitives, framed for treason, and the last thing the magical Council wants is another fairy godmother going rogue. Hence Stormy’s new full-time Guard, Hunter Merrick.

Stormy quickly realizes she’s not going to escape Hunter’s watch…and before long, she’s not sure she wants to. But her freedom depends on her ability to expose the plot against the godmothers, and that means getting control of her magic. Despite the growing chemistry between them, Hunter is fiercely loyal to the Council—and duty-bound to keep Stormy from doing either of those things.

But he didn’t count on Stormy’s irrepressible exuberance and passion for life. Before long, even Hunter isn’t sure which side he’s on, and he can’t contain Stormy either way.

A light, fun story, WISHFUL THINKING is a great summer read, perfect for relaxing with on a lazy day while swinging in a hammock.  I did giggle at the main character's name (Seriously--Stormy?) but the story itself was quite entertaining. 

There's a spark between new fairy godmother Stormy and the hottie guard Hunter when they first meet--one that Hunter resists because Stormy's just a job to him (well, she's supposed to be). Of course he falls for her, as she charms the pants right off him with her effervescent personality and take-no-shite attitude.

The third in a series, this book brings to fruition the trouble that's been building between the godmothers and the magical community, plopping Stormy right in the middle of the action.


Historical paranormal Romance
336 pages, paperback
Available now (June 2012)
Publisher: Roc
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

I didn’t plan on becoming a thief and a spy. But options are limited for the half-breed daughter of a Fae lord. My father abandoned me but at least I inherited some of his magic, and my skills with charms and glamours mean that few are as good at uncovering secrets others wish to hide. Right now the city has many secrets. And those who seek them pay so well…

I never expected to stumble across a Templar Knight in my part of the city. Guy DuCaine is sworn to duty and honor and loyalty — all the things I’m not. I may have aroused more than his suspicion but he belongs to the Order and the human world. So when treachery and violence spill threaten both our kind, learning to trust each other might be the only thing that saves us.

But even if a spy and a holy knight can work together, finding the key to peace is never going to be easy…

This book wasn't what I expected at all! I went in thinking it was a typical urban fantasy but it so wasn't. First off, it was set in a past world filled with vampires, Fae, Templar Knights, and shapeshifters. Second, there was a lot more romance--yay! 

While this is the second book in the series, I didn't need to read the first one to fully enjoy this one. The story arc between two main characters is fully encompassed in this book, which I really like, and it includes characters from the prior story.

The relationship between Guy and Holly is hot and spicy, punctuated with quick banter and sharp wits. They're natural enemies who find they're actually on the same side and must work together to uncover secrets and unravel the twisted intrigues tying the city in knots. BLOOD KIN is a fantastically complex world woven around a thoroughly enjoyable love story.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lessons from a BEA Noobie

To all my book blogger and book-obsessed friends, I highly recommend attending BEA at least once, if you can. It's an amazing, exhausting, mind-blowing experience that's worth both your time and money. Because this year was my first time attending BookExpo America, I learned a ton so I thought I'd share my hard-won experience with those of you thinking (or dreaming) about attending:

1. Wear comfortable--yet professional-ish--clothes. But don't worry so much about your shoes--wear what's most comfortable. It's so crowded, most people won't even see your shoes. I wore my tennis shoes and thanked god I did at the end of each day. But you're going to be talking to a ton of people, most of whom you want to leave with a good impression of you so don't look like you just rolled out of bed.

2. Speaking of...don't be afraid to talk to people. The nice thing is, you're all there because you love books so you'll always have something to talk about. Surprising myself, I talked to authors, publishers, and fellow bloggers like it was my job. I swear, I'm a really introverted, shy person and with all the talking and meeting new people this past week, well, it's going to take me a while to recover but it was so totally worth it. I met a ton of fabulous people just by talking books, one of my favorite subjects.

3. Don't be afraid to go solo. All my interactions prior to BEA were online so I knew no one IRL. But I went anyway. And had an absolute blast. I loved meeting Allison from Allison Can Read, The Gorgeous Gals of Bewitched Bookworms, Jenny from Supernatural Snark, Melissa from i swim for oceans, and so many more awesome bloggers, authors, publishers, and bookish people. Amazing folks I wouldn't have met if I didn't suck up my fears and go it alone.

4. Get organized. The BEA had an online show planner that was relatively helpful but, I have to say, a lot of it went out the window when I got there. Many of the publishers put out a schedule of their author signings and book drops (when they put out piles of lovely ARCs that they want people to pick up and buzz about). Publisher's Weekly also puts out a "Show Daily" that talks about show events. I found these most helpful in putting together a daily schedule (which I didn't do until the second day, having spent the first day wandering around in a daze).

5. Be flexible. Yes, a schedule helps immensely but don't be rigid about it. BEA serendipity plays a large role in the BEA experience. What do I mean by that? Well, I wouldn't have run into John Green *major, breathless fangirl squee* at the Penguin booth and learned he's both taller and more adorable than on his Vlogbrothers podcasts. And nicer, if that's possible. *sigh* BEA serendipity also led me to several signings and run-ins I wouldn't have had if I'd stuck to my schedule.

And some short but important lessons...
6. Book storage: Don't be afraid to bring a rolling bag and store it, if you want. A lot of people do that, so they don't have to play the role of a book mule all day long. It's three dollars to store it. Personally, my hotel was close enough that I just dropped some off about half-way through the day and headed back.

7. Remember, you're going to have to get everything you collect home. It's not such an issue if you drive but if you flew or rode the train, you're better off showing more restraint. Of course, you can always mail your books home via media mail. Super-easy.
 
8. Wear a watch (or bring a phone). Timing is everything.

9. Don't expect the internet or your phone to work well. The Javits Center is a battery graveyard, draining away your phone's life force and will to work.

10. Bring water and a snack. Trust me on this one. An 8oz bottle of water is like $4. Crazypants expensive.

P.S. I really suck at taking pictures so all these are from Wednesday near the end of the day...because that's when I remembered to take pics. *rolls eyes at self*

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Speed Date with Jasper: THE GIRL IN THE CLOCKWORK COLLAR by Kady Cross

Thursday is Speed Date Night. What's a Book Speed Date? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book. If you want to join in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below. This speed date is all about "meeting" new books.

YA Steampunk
416 pages, hardcover
Available now (May 2012)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

In New York City, 1897, life has never been more thrilling - or dangerous.

Sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne and her "straynge band of mysfits" have journeyed from London to America to rescue their friend Jasper, hauled off by bounty hunters. But Jasper is in the clutches of a devious former friend demanding a trade-the dangerous device Jasper stole from him...for the life of the girl Jasper loves.

One false move from Jasper and the strange clockwork collar around Mei's neck tightens. And tightens.

The second in Kady Cross's YA steampunk series, THE GIRL IN THE CLOCKWORK COLLAR is just as much fun as the first. The gang's all back--yay for Finley and her duke--and this time they're in America, trying to help their friend, Jasper, who's in more trouble than he realizes.

Jasper is the bad boy of the gang, a wanted criminal with a heart of gold. He cooperates with the "friend" who hauled him back to America because he doesn't want Mei, the girl he loves, to be hurt but he also knows this guy can't get his hands on the weapon Jasper stole for and then from him (not nearly as confusing as I'm making it, I swear!).

Mei really annoys me with her "poor little me" act. I really wanted that clockwork collar around her neck to tighten...just a smidge...*squeeze* Other than those minor homicidal tendencies, I really enjoyed this date with Jasper, Finley, and the rest of the gang. Cheers!

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Waiting On...THE LIES THAT BIND by Lisa and Laura Roecker

I really liked THE LIAR SOCIETY--a cute and well-written mystery with a great main character--and hope the second one in this series is as good (if not better!) than the first. While I'm not a huge fan of this cover, I do like that it's similar to the first book in the series. A bit too much color (the blue hair, darker blue hat, maroon sweater, bright green "file", and plaid...oh, my!) and a bit too busy for my taste. Still, that bright green does make the title pop.

YA Mystery
320 pages, paperback
EXPECTED PUBLICATION: December 12, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Kate Lowry thought she’d retired her pearls for good. But that was before Taylor Wright fails to show up for school Monday after the biggest party of the year.

Kate realizes soon enough that the party and Taylor's disappearance are connected--only not in the way everyone thinks. And as if it’s not hard enough to find a missing girl, Kate is forced to team up with the one person she has worked so hard to avoid--not to mention the one person with the potential to come between her and Liam.

As usual, Kate has her hands full searching for the truth amidst many layers of lies.

After all, things are never what they seem at Pemberly Brown.

Available for pre-order on Amazon | IndieBound
Waiting On is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Monsters in the Dark: SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo

YA Fantasy
368 pages, hardcover
Available June 5, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

Positive: The world of Alina Starkov. Dosed with a very strong early-20th-century-Russia flavor, this world surrounds the reader in richness and flavor. The swath of darkness--the Shadow Fold--that slices through the country, the people who inhabit Rivka, and the magic that permeates the land all blend to create a world that I enjoyed visiting (though I wouldn't want to live there).


Positive: The two guys, Mal and The Darkling. First off, let me put it out there that this is not a love triangle. I can't get into too much detail about it without giving away key plot points but trust me, it's no triangle (thank cheesus). Mal--an orphan fostered with Alina, Alina's very best friend in the whole world, and hot player extraordinaire (at least in his mind), Mal is a flawed character with a big heart. He's young, impulsive, and will do anything for his friends. The Darkling, on the other hand, is the embodiment of power and prestige, a man who knows what he wants and how to get it. He entrances Alina, gifting her with his knowledge and presence, making her feel special and needed--things she's never known.


Positive: The pacing. With fantasy, I need a solid combination of description, characterization, and a forward-moving plot to keep me firmly entrenched in the story. SHADOW AND BONE does just this, keeping the pace at a firm canter up until the breakneck gallop to the end.


Wish: That The Darkling had a name. Seriously, y'all. I really liked his character but I also kept expecting him to share his name with Alina (like a secret, to draw her farther into his confidence). As far as I could tell, names don't hold power in this world so why the hell doesn't this guy have a name? Did his mother not love him? Maybe all will be revealed in later books.


Overall: SHADOW AND BONE is a fantastic fantasy, something that is sorely lacking in the young adult world. More. I want more, I say! *bangs utensils on table, ready for the literary feast*

Available on Amazon | IndieBound