Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books (May 3, 2011)
Source: My Choice

From GoodReads:

Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place her in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.

There is so much about this book to love. Divergent by Veronica Roth is a powerful story because it is so unique. The idea that there is a test that determines where everyone fits is very dystopian (The Giver, etc all possess the same kind of determining factor). What makes Divergent different is that the teens are still given the opportunity to choose what they want to do.

I found that particular element, the choice, exciting and very different. When Tris’ test proves that she’s Divergent, she had an even bigger choice – she wasn’t told what she should do, only that she could fit just about anywhere. It is only toward the end of the book that we realize why Tris chose to go Dauntless, and what that means for her future.

My favorite – and maybe most stressful – part of the book was when each of the Dauntless candidates had to face their fears in “virtual reality.” Just thinking of facing my own fears made me feel for Tris and her fellow candidates in a way I hadn’t before. Divergent makes you love the characters. I felt myself willing Tris to succeed and overcome everything thrown at her. I found myself rooting for her and wanting her to smash the competition. I found myself believing in her and crying when her world is torn apart.

Roth creates a dystopian world that is familiar and yet completely different. Because there is still choice involved, she adds a level of humanity to the world she created. Choice means that there is still a chance for not just Tris, but all of the world, to survive. Humanity hasn’t been completely stripped – and there is something powerful about realizing that. As the story continues, I have a feeling there will be darker darkness than other dystopian books. The humanity lends itself to darker dark and lighter light.

Final thoughts: Own

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Doubleday (September 1, 2011)
Source: My Choice; Library

From GoodReads:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. 

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

It is my understanding that The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is not intentionally a YA book. However, it has tremendous crossover appeal. The main characters are young for a good portion of the book and there's nothing in the content or language that can't be found in the YA market, so for the purposes of this blog, I'm calling it YA. :D

The Night Circus is the kind of book that left me breathless. It's as mesmerizing and alluring as the circus it describes. The fantastical atmosphere is evident from the very first page and remains constant throughout. The prose itself is enchanting. There is a very distinct and magical feel to the writing that I couldn't help but be sucked in by. Even if the story was awful, I'd be completely taken in by the writing itself.

But the story isn't awful. It's incredible.

The richness of the story, characters, and plot is not matched by many books. I had the sense that each character has a full background and history, even the smaller ones. For many of these characters, we eventually learn the history, but not for all. There are truly no small characters in this story as each one leaves his or her own impression.

The story is exceptionally complex, particularly because of the world involved. The magic of this world isn't outright explained, but through the actions of the characters, we get a sense of it and how it works. I love when an author is able to convey a concept or situation without outright explaining it. Morgenstern is a genius at this. I never felt lost or confused, even though many aspects of the story weren't completely expressed to the reader. Morgenstern expressed the necessary information while retaining a mystical feel for the rest.

I honestly don't know what else to say about The Night Circus other than to tell you to go buy it. One of my favorite books of the year. I will read anything else Morgenstern ever writes.

Final thoughts:  Buy it. Now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

dancergirl UPDATE

Last week, I posted a review of dancergirl by Carol M. Tanzman. In the review, I stated my confusion that dancergirl was the beginning of the WiHi series. To me, it seemed like Ali's story was complete and I couldn't understand how the series would continue with the same thriller feel.

Being the lovely author she is, Ms. Tanzman emailed me with a clarification:

"It's actually a LINKED series, meaning the setting is the same (Ali's high school WiHi) but the main characters will be different in Circle Of Silence. There will be some appearances by characters in dancergirl -- but they are very minor. It was sort of tagged as a series so that readers would understand that they are thrillers."

This makes perfect sense now. A series of YA cool is that? You bet I'll be all over Circle of Silence once it's released. :D

If you blog, tweet, facebook, or talk to people (really, any way of sharing information will do), please spread the word about the WiHi series so other book enthusiasts know. 

Review: Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday

Title: Deadly Cool
Author: Gemma Halliday
Publisher: HarperTeen (October 11, 2011)
Source: ATW ARC Tours

From GoodReads:

Hartley Grace Featherstone is having a very bad day. First she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the president of the Herbert Hoover High School Chastity Club. Then he's pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And if that weren't enough, now he's depending on Hartley to clear his name. Seriously? Not cool. 

But as much as Hartley wouldn't mind seeing him squirm, she knows he's innocent, and she's the only one who can help him. Along with her best friend, Sam, and the school's resident Bad Boy, Chase, Hartley starts investigating on her own. But as the dead bodies begin to pile up, the mystery deepens, the suspects multiply, and Hartley begins to fear that she may be the killer's next victim.

Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday was different than I expected it to be. Normally, when I think murder mystery, I think dark, creepy, and edgy. While the book covers some dark content (hey, we are talking about teens being murdered here), the overall feel of the book is light, fluffy, and fun. Kind of a cool mix, if you ask me.

Hartley Featherstone is a really fun character. Her thought content is typical for what I'd expect of a teenager, but she's got a strong sarcastic and snarky vibe. She's witty with her thoughts, even if she's not quick enough to be so in conversation. And...she loves putting extra zing into her thoughts using parentheses (and we all know who else likes doing that *smiles*).

Even though Hartley is dealing with some pretty difficult stuff -- murders, cheating boyfriend, way more attention from peers than she ever wanted -- she's able to deal with it through her sense of humor. Love that. Made it very enjoyable to read. I also appreciated that the whole boyfriend-cheating-on-her thing didn't get swept under the rug. Sure, it wasn't a priority to deal with considering everything else going on, but it kept popping up throughout the story, tugging at Hartley's heart-strings. Her conflicted emotions towards her ex were very real and believable.

Overall, Deadly Cool is a quick, enjoyable read. I'd recommend for fans of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series and anyone else looking for something entertaining, but not too deep.

Final thoughts:  Borrow.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

In My Mailbox #11

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

You may have noticed my lack of IMM last week. That's because I didn't get any books! Now, I was actually kind of excited because that's really helping me catch up on my reading. Plus, with the holidays upon us, it's always a harder time of year to find good reading time.

Considering the amount of ARCS on their way to me through ARC tours, I've very excited to say I've had another slow week. (Weird, I know.) Here is the one book I received:


A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Recap: November 21-23

Short week this week due to Thanksgiving. For all of you who celebrate, I hope you're having a good holiday!

THE IRON QUEEN by Julie Kagawa

My name is Meghan Chase.
I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.
This time, there will be no turning back.
Review:  Tons of action and tension. Excellent read.

I highly recommend THE IRON QUEEN by Julie Kagawa to fans of fantasy and/or romance.

PRETTIES by Scott Westerfeld

Gorgeous. Popular. Perfect. Perfectly wrong. 

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted. 

But beneath all the fun -- the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom -- is a nagging sense that something's wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally's ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what's wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold. 

Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life -- because the authorities don't intend to let anyone with this information survive.

Review:  Fantastic sequel in an incredible series.

I highly recommend PRETTIES by Scott Westerfeld to fans of fantasy, sci-fi, dystopias, and/or amazing writing.

THE LOST HERO by Rick Riordan

Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper and a best friend named Leo. They’re all students at a boarding school for “bad kids.” What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly?

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out.

Leo has a way with tools. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god.

 Join new and old friends from Camp Half-Blood in this thrilling first audiobook in The Heroes of Olympus series.

Review:  Cool new direction for an existing world.

I recommend THE LOST HERO by Rick Riordan to fans of adventure and fantasy. Bonus points for middle grade.

*Summaries provided by GoodReads

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all who celebrate Thanksgiving, have a happy holiday!

To all who don't, have a happy Thursday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Blogger Book Awards

In 2011, there have been some pretty incredible Young Adult books. What better way to celebrate these amazing written works than to create some book awards to recognize them? That's exactly what my friends over at The Book Sisterhood are doing. They are hosting a pretty awesome competition where book bloggers vote on their favorite books of 2011.

Now, you might be asking, why just book bloggers? While I don't know the official reason, I imagine it has something to do with the fact that book bloggers are dedicated to reading and reviewing a large amount of books each year. Who would know best about what YA books deserve recognition than people who read and review books like it's our job? (If you said librarians, you are also correct...especially because it kind of IS their job!)

So, if you're a book blogger, check out the Book Blogger Book Awards and get your votes in. Everyone else, stay tuned for announcements about giveaways for the top book in each category.

The Book Sisterhood

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: dancergirl by Carol M. Tanzman

Title: dancergirl
Author: Carol M. Tanzman
Publisher: Harlequin Teen (November 15, 2011)
Source: NetGalley

From GoodReads:

The videos went viral...





A friend posted a video of me dancing online, and now I’m no longer Alicia Ruffino. I’m dancergirl. And suddenly it’s like me against the world—everyone’s got opinions.

My admirers want more, the haters hate, my best friend Jacy—even he’s acting weird. And some stalker isn’t content to just watch anymore.

Ali. dancergirl. Whatever you know me as, however you’ve seen me online, I’ve trained my whole life to be the best dancer I can be. But if someone watching has their way, I could lose way more than just my love of dancing. I could lose my life.

The premise of dancergirl by Carol M. Tanzman is what most attracted me to read the novel. There really aren't many things more intense than a stalker situation. On top of that, this book focuses on dance and I love a good book about performing arts. (Granted, I love a good book about basically anything.)

dancergirl had exactly what I expected and more. Not only was there a creepy stalker situation and a lot of dance, but there were also fully realized relationships. Every relationship from the boy best friend to the single mother seemed authentic. I also liked that the other characters had their own goals, problems, and frustrations that occurred simultaneously with--and sometimes impacting--Ali. That always gives a story a fuller feel and makes it more realistic for me.

Throughout the story, Ali is trying to figure out the identity of the mysterious stalker. Fingers are pointed at friends, strangers, and everyone in between. I enjoyed trying to figure it out for myself, often wondering if it was a character we'd met or one who would be new to us when revealed. No spoilers here, so you'll have to figure it out for yourself. 

Another thing I liked about dancergirl is that it is a complete story. With so many series out today, it's nice to read a standalone. That is...until I realized it's actually the start of a series.***

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with it being a series. I'm just a bit confused about how it's going to work. For me, the main plot of dancergirl is the stalker situation. After having it wrapped up, I don't see what a book two could be about that would still keep it having the same feel as the first. Sure, I imagine Ali's story as a dancer continues, but without the stalker aspect, it would feel like a different book to me. I guess I'll have to wait and see. 

dancergirl is a highly enjoyable contemporary book. I'd recommend it even if contemporary isn't usually your thing. 

Final thoughts:  Borrow or buy. 

***UPDATE:  The confusion about the series has been clarified. Future books will share the same setting of WiHi, but will not use the same main characters. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Recap: November 14-18

I missed a day this week due to a crazy work schedule. :( If you missed any of this week's twitter recommendations, I've got you covered:

THE FAERIE RING by Kiki Hamilton

The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood—Tiki’s blood.
Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched—and protected—by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist.
Prince, pauper, and thief—all must work together to secure the treaty…
Review:  Elegant writing for beautiful storytelling.

I recommend THE FAERIE RING by Kiki Hamilton to fans of fantasy.

ULTRAVIOLET by R. J. Anderson

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

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

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

Review:  Absolutely stunning writing. 

I recommend ULTRAVIOLET by R. J. Anderson to those looking for fantastic writing, a unique story, and a shocking twist.

AWAKE AT DAWN by C. C. Hunter

Now that she’s settled in at Shadow Falls Camp, Kylie Galen’s determined to discover the extent of her supernatural abilities.  But with a ghost insisting someone Kylie loves is about die, a rogue vampire on a murdering rampage, and her sixth sense telling her someone is watching her, Kylie’s quest for answers is quickly put on hold. 
To make matters worse, just when she’s about to give her heart to Derek, a half-fairy, he starts pulling away.  When Lucas, a werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past, returns, Kylie’s feels more conflicted than ever. Her weekend with her mom should have been the just the break Kylie needs, but it turns out to be her breaking point.  Someone from the dark side of the supernatural world has plans for Kylie--and it'll take all her resources to get back to Shadow Falls alive...
Review:  Awesome fantasy creatures with a tense plot and romance-heavy themes.

I recommend AWAKE AT DAWN by C. C. Hunter to fans of romance and fantasy

ENTHRALLED: PARANORMAL DIVERSIONS by Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong
A journey may take hundreds of miles, or it may cover the distance between duty and desire.
Sixteen of today’s hottest writers of paranormal tales weave stories on a common theme of journeying. Authors such as Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Caine, and Melissa Marr return to the beloved worlds of their bestselling series, while others, like Claudia Gray, Kami Garcia, and Margaret Stohl, create new land-scapes and characters. But whether they’re writing about vampires, faeries, angels, or other magical beings, each author explores the strength and resilience of the human heart.
Suspenseful, funny, or romantic, the stories in Enthralled will leave you moved.
Review:  Exciting collection of stories from some amazing YA authors.

I recommend ENTHRALLED:  PARANORMAL DIVERSIONS by Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong to all fans of paranormal.
*Summaries provided by GoodReads

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Candlewick Press (September 27, 2011)
Source: My Choice

From GoodReads:

This is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss. The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. . . .

This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

I take it seriously when authors I love tell me that I have to read a book. So, when Kiersten White (Paranormalcy, Supernaturally) posted on twitter that everyone needed to read A Monster Calls, I immediately put it on hold at the library. And then I realized it already had several holds on it, so I did the only logical thing - I picked up my Kindle and bought it right then and there. (I was leaving on a cruise, so it made sense to have a new book with me, right?).

To say this book is deeply affecting would be an understatement. I found A Monster Calls to be hopeful, sad, scary, honest and beautiful all at the same time. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I found it even more touching in some ways. What Conor must feel and deal with as the child of a cancer patient is so carefully put into words that I wonder if Patrick Ness has first-hand experience with this kind of tragedy.

Each story the Yew Tree tells is like a fable flipped on its head - proving to Conor and the reader that right isn't always right and black can sometimes be white. In a carefully constructed narrative, Ness provides glimpses into a complicated, real world - a world where mean kids get away with being mean, parents get sick and not everyone gets along.

For me, the most profound moment of the book is when Conor must come face to face with his own nightmare - and survive it. The reality of his life and the emotions he's feeling aren't something we talk about too often, especially from the point of view of a scared, emotionally-drained teenage boy. Ness creates Conor in such a way that readers are sympathetic to his sadness, and still able to be outraged by his anger.

I cannot recommend A Monster Calls enough. It's a fast read (I read it in one sitting), but one that you will think about long after the last page is turned. Conor's story could be anyone's story - and his nightmare could be anyone's nightmare.

Final Thoughts: Own and Buy a Copy to Give Away.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

500 Follower Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 500 Follower Giveaway!

Prize Pack #1: Mina
Prize Pack #2: Kristi
Prize Pack #3: Shelby
Prize Pack #4: Fairy Whispers
Prize Pack #5: Lena 

Thank you to all who entered. If you didn't win this time, keep your eyes on the blog. In the process of hosting this giveaway, my blog surpassed 100 followers, so I'll be doing another giveaway soon. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Favorites: The Giver by Lois Lowry

Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: Delacorte Books (March 29, 1993)
Source: My Choice

From GoodReads:

Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

The Giver is the book that changed everything for me. I didn't read it until I was a junior in college, but that didn't matter. In just a few pages, Lois Lowry created a world I had never really experienced - a dystopian fantasy in which the common good isn't really all that good. And, with The Giver, Lowry changed the face of young adult literature for me forever.

The Giver showed me that there is value in everything in life. From the best moments to the worst, the experience is what matters. When we try and create a utopian society, all we do is create a world that is destined to cave in on itself. For, no matter how perfectly you think you've created the world, there will always be people like Jonas, people who are different and unwilling to settle for just being part of the world.

Jonas doesn't set out to change his world, but that is exactly what happens. When Jonas first experiences color, I remember experiencing that red in a whole new way, too. When Jonas feels joy at the falling snow, I remember being a child loving those flakes covering the barren earth. And, when Jonas feels pain, I remember losing those I love, scraping my knees and feeling sadness.

Lowry captures in the character of The Keeper the most important part of our humanity; the ability to experience and remember the things that shape our lives. And, in Jonas, she reveals to the reader that it is so important for us to be the Keeper of our own memories - as well as the collective memories of humanity.

The Giver is a book I read at least twice a year. It is a book that, although not long, affect me differently every time. If you haven't read this Newbery winner, pick up a copy today. And, experience life for the first time through Jonas' eyes. I am willing to bet it leaves you changed.

Final Thoughts: Own It. Own several copies. Share the love.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: Awake At Dawn by C. C. Hunter

Title: Awake At Dawn
Author: C. C. Hunter
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (October 10, 2011)
Source: My Choice; Own

Warning:  Some spoilers for Born at Midnight below.

From GoodReads:
Now that she’s settled in at Shadow Falls Camp, Kylie Galen’s determined to discover the extent of her supernatural abilities.  But with a ghost insisting someone Kylie loves is about die, a rogue vampire on a murdering rampage, and her sixth sense telling her someone is watching her, Kylie’s quest for answers is quickly put on hold. 
To make matters worse, just when she’s about to give her heart to Derek, a half-fairy, he starts pulling away.  When Lucas, a werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past, returns, Kylie’s feels more conflicted than ever. Her weekend with her mom should have been the just the break Kylie needs, but it turns out to be her breaking point.  Someone from the dark side of the supernatural world has plans for Kylie--and it'll take all her resources to get back to Shadow Falls alive...
I was in the mood for a story with a heavy romance/sexy vibe. Since Born at Midnight satisfied that urge several months ago when I first read it, I figured Awake at Dawn by C. C. Hunter was a good pick.

It was and it wasn't.

Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed the book. This is the type of book that I literally fly through. It's not the most amazing literary writing I've ever read, but it doesn't claim to be. It's a fantasy romance, not literary fiction. There's tons of fun fantasy creatures, teenage friends and humor, and also a good mystery brewing. Oh, and did I mention the sexy angle? Because it definitely has that. It's not just the romance pairings that make it sexy, it's even the situations the character gets into and the language used.

My disappointment comes from two sources:

1) Lack of Lucas

2) Rushed climax

Okay, let's start with Lucas. Lucas is the super hottie werewolf that was friends with Kylie when she was young. He left partway through Born at Midnight and I've been mourning his absence ever since. He doesn't show up till well into the story, though there are some signs of him throughout via letters, dreams, and memories. While I enjoy reading about Derek and Kylie (who wouldn't?), Kylie seems to always have Lucas on her mind. Which makes me have Lucas on my mind. I think Awake at Dawn suffers from Book 2 Syndrome. To increase tension and not completely satisfy readers (if we were completely satisfied, there'd be no reason for book 3), the romance stuff in Book 2's tends to be jumbled or lacking. That's what I felt happened here. There's a decent about of romance and sexiness, but I get the sense it's with the wrong person, and the book was front-loaded. Good sexiness in the beginning, but it faded as the book continued.

Then, there's the ending. Throughout the book, anticipation builds with this mystery that Kylie thinks someone is following her. The tension grows till you almost can't handle it anymore. Then, the whole climax was rushed. We could have spent much more time with Kylie during the climax. So much was going on and it was over almost before it got started. To me, the climax would've had even more tension if it was stretched out a bit, and all the tension and anticipation that had been building throughout the story would have been more satisfying with more page space. That said, the ending itself wasn't rushed.

What the story didn't lack was interesting fantasy creatures and abilities. Kylie's still trying to figure out what she is and I'm right along with her. She gains some interesting new abilities that will keep me guessing until I can get my hands on Turned at Dusk. I really enjoy the setting of a camp full of fantastical creatures, each with their own rituals and customs. Beyond that, all the characters have their own quirks and habits, making them well-rounded.

Overall, this was a fun, quick, sexy read. It didn't completely satisfy my mood, but I'm hoping that's just because it's a Book 2. I'm seriously hoping Turned at Dusk gets the romance back on track and we finally get some answers about Kylie!

Final thoughts:  If you're into fantasy romance reads, it's worth buying. If not, borrow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (March 22, 2011)
Source: My Choice

From GoodReads:

Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive. A dystopian fantasy series starter with wings.

What I realized about five pages into Wither: author Lauren DeStefano created a dystopian world that was different from any other I had read (and I've read a lot of dystopian lit in my time). When shots ring out just a few pages in, you know Wither is going to be different. People are going to die. A lot of people. The girls at the beginning? Well, that's just the tip of the tragic iceberg that Rhine Ellery must face.

In Wither, a once perfect world has gone horribly wrong. The first generation of people, genetically modified to be perfect, are living long, healthy lives. Their children, however, are not. In fact, they all die. No exceptions. In this dark world, we meet Rhine, a beautiful 16-year-old girl who has fought hard to live life on her terms. That doesn't matter, though, when she is captured and forced into marriage with Linden, a handsome, rich 20-year-old.

Wither shares the same mythology of other dystopian romances, except that there is just something different about this book that I can't quite put into words. Instead of living in oblivion, everyone knows the system is broken and something is wrong. There is none of that "this is the best way to live" that permeates the societies of the dystopian world. Instead, this is a society already crumbling, and I found reading a book from that standpoint fascinating, and totally unique.

There is nothing about Wither that feels familiar to the reader. Rhine is a fascinating and powerful young woman. She knows that life is short, and she wants to live with as much reckless abandon as she can. She wants to experience all the world was, instead of all it is. And, she knows she can't do that as Linden's wife, secluded away from all the darkness around her.

I really liked Rhine. I thought she was a fun character to read, even though her sister-wives just about drove me batty. They felt more like foils, designed to bring out Rhine's superior character. But, in that regard, I guess they worked!

I am interested to see where the rest of the series goes and if DeStefano can keep her unique world fully-realized. The sequel, Fever, comes out in February. I will be waiting to see what happens to Rhine next.

Final Thoughts: Borrow

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

Title: The Pledge
Author: Kimberly Derting
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (November 15, 2011)
Source:  Simon & Schuster Galley Grab

From GoodReads:

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

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

I loved The Body Finder. Really, truly, went out the next day and bought it even though I'd just read it from the library, kind of love. Went out the following week to buy a copy of Desires of the Dead as soon as it came out because I couldn't possibly handle waiting one day after the release to get my hands on it, kind of love. So, you can imagine how excited I was when I heard Kimberly Derting was starting a new series called The Pledge. I practically squeelled when I saw it listed on Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab.

The Pledge is very different than Derting's other books in many ways. It is similar, however, in the darkness and mystery she creates. From the very beginning, the reader is drawn into the world through a prologue that makes me simultaneously cringe and eagerly flip the page. Charlie's world is a cruel one and that's a fact never forgotten throughout the story.

While reading, I never knew exactly who to trust. There were a few characters, like Aron, who endeared themselves to me right from the beginning. But, there were several characters, like Max and Xander, that I couldn't quite figure out. Who should Charlie (and I) trust? What are their intentions? Even sharing their headspace for a short chapter or two didn't help. This mystery kept me going and kept me on guard, much like Charlie had to be.

I couldn't quite figure out the plot secrets either, something I've been getting much better at doing. I would only realize a major plot point a few pages before it was revealed (if at all). To me, that means Derting deserves major kudos. I like to be kept on my toes, eagerly awaiting what happens next. Even with all the anticipation, I enjoyed the ease of the pacing. While I always wanted to keep reading, I could put to book down if I had to go to work, which made it a good book to bring on my lunch breaks.

Overall, The Pledge is a great book for anyone looking for something dark and mysterious.

Final thoughts:  Buy or borrow. 

500 Follower Giveaway

Wow. I seriously can't believe I got to 500 followers. I remember when I started my twitter, I was overjoyed at getting each and every new follower. Oh, wait. I still am. :D I can't say how excited I am to see how much my twitter and blog has grown.

So, I want to thank you all so much for following! For 500 followers, I'm giving away 5 Prize Packs. That's right, five! You'll have five days to enter and all you need to do is be a twitter follower and make a comment telling me your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, & 5th choice Prize Packs. That's it! Easy, huh?

(You can gain extra entries by tweeting the contest or becoming a blog follower.)

Now, onto the Prize Packs! You know I'm a huge fan of fantasy and a huge fan of series. What better way to show my love than to start you off with the first book or two (or three) from some great fantasy series?

Here they are:

Prize Pack #1 CurseWorkers

I'm a huge fan of Holly Black and Curse Workers is my favorite series of hers. Can't wait for Black Heart to come out! Both books are new hardcovers.

Prize Pack #2: Wings

I've heard such great things about this series, but unfortunately, I haven't read them yet (*shock*). They are definitely on my reading pile, but I'm going to have to buy another copy because I've giving these away to you. Wings and Spells are both new hardcovers.

Prize Pack #3:  Need

This is another series I have not yet read, though it's on my list. Need and Captivate are in paperback, while Entice is hardcover (sorry for the discrepancy, but that's what I've got!). All are new.

Prize Pack #4: The New Kid

This is one of those series that I picked up because the cover was cool and the story looked interesting. I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but every time I see that cover I think, "Ooo, I need to make time to read that soon!" All are paperback, new.

Prize Pack #5:  Fantasy Starter Pack

This is a great prize pack if you haven't read some of the most awesome fantasy/paranormal (with some romance) books out there. Paranormalcy and Firelight are personal favorites of mine. I haven't read Rampant yet, but come on, killer unicorns sounds kind of awesome. All three books are hardcover. Paranormalcy and Rampant are new, while Firelight was read once (still in very good condition). 

And there you have it! I hope you are all able to find a Prize Pack that excites you as much as these books and all my wonderful followers excite me. :D

Monday, November 14, 2011

Weak vs. Strong Wrap-Up

Last week, I presented four lead heroines that I felt fell in different parts of the Weak Character--Strong Character Scale. Now, it's up to you to decide. Which character is your favorite?

Bella Swan

Katniss Everdeen

Rose Hathaway

Kaylee Cavanaugh

Leave any explanations or discussion in the comments.

survey services

Review: The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton

Title: The Faerie Ring
Author: Kiki Hamilton
Publisher: Tor Teen (September 27, 2011)
Source: ATW ARC Tours

From GoodReads:
Debut novelist Kiki Hamilton takes readers from the gritty slums and glittering ballrooms of Victorian London to the beguiling but menacing Otherworld of the Fey in this spellbinding tale of romance, suspense, and danger. 
The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood—Tiki’s blood.
Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched—and protected—by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist.
Prince, pauper, and thief—all must work together to secure the treaty…
I'm not usually one to jump into reading historical fiction, but The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton intrigued me. The faerie aspect made me interested enough to handle the 19th century time period. That said, after reading, I wouldn't really classify this book as historical. Sure, the time period is right, and the pace is a little slower (which I find typical of historical fiction, but many not actually be the case), but it didn't give off a "historical" vibe to me. It gave off an "otherworldly" vibe that I find typical in faerie books.

Tiki is a great character. She's currently a first-rate pick pocket, trying to steal enough to care for her family of orphans. Sure, stealing is not always the most prized trait of a main character, but I liked that Hamilton didn't try to shy away from it. In Tiki's situation, it's a necessary skill to have and she's using it for noble purposes. Beyond being a poor thief, Tiki used to live better off when her parents were alive. This gives her more hidden skills that a common orphan wouldn't have, such as knowing how to waltz and read. Even beyond those characteristics, Tiki has a mysterious birthmark on her wrist that even she doesn't know the significance of. Overall, she has a complex background and history, making her a well fleshed out character.

Though Tiki doesn't always know whether or not to like or trust Rieker, I enjoyed him from the beginning. He's always popping up at random moments to annoy, harass, warn, or protect Tiki. He tries to be a friend at a time and place that true friends are rare. He also has a richly woven past, that I won't spoil here. I'll just say that I hope to be reading more about Tiki and Rieker.

As I mentioned previously, the plot moves a little slow, but in this case, it felt right. There was a steadiness to the timing of the unfolding events and it picked up as the story continued. Though most of the story is from Tiki's perspective, we do get some moments from Prince Leopold's perspective, which I found very interesting. The setting and time period felt very authentic, without it taking over the story.

Overall, The Faerie Ring is a very enjoyable read that I'd recommend to anyone who likes fantasy, historical or not.

Final thoughts:  Borrow or buy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In My Mailbox #10

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

Woohoo! I never thought I'd be so excited by such a short In My Mailbox, but I have TONS of reading to catch up on. Looks like my strategy to stop requesting library books may have helped me (though, it also makes me sad). 

Without further ado, this week's book: (yes, I said in, singular book)


Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill

Let's hope I can be as productive reading this week as I was last week. :D

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weak vs. Strong: Kaylee Cavanaugh

Soul Screamer's Kaylee Cavanaugh is someone I'd consider to be weak with moments of strength, at least at the beginning. Towards the later books, I'd consider her more of a strong character, but that's a discussion for another day.

At the beginning of the series, Kaylee has no idea what's going on with her or anything about bean sidhes, reapers, or the Netherworld. Because of this, she must rely on others to fill her in and help her control her bean sidhe nature.  She's weak in the sense that she doesn't have the necessary knowledge and she is physically overwhelmed by some of the characters and challenges she faces.

What I like about Kaylee is that she doesn't allow this weakness to overtake her. She doesn't have knowledge, so what does she do? She seeks it. She's not as strong physically as some of her opponents, so she finds creative ways to engage them in an attack. Kaylee doesn't allow herself to be overwhelmed by her challenges. She starts off as a weak character with moments of strength and develops into someone I'd consider to be a strong character (although, she is disadvantaged in many ways).

What do you think about Kaylee? Should she be weaker or stronger? Stay how she is?