Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday Break

Happy Holidays all! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season, regardless of which holiday(s) you celebrate (if any). I'm taking the time to catch up with family, friends, and my TBR pile :). For this reason,  the YA Book of the Day Blog and twitter will be quiet from now till the new year.

Happy reading!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Favorites: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Title: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Author: C. S. Lewis
Publisher: 1950
Source: Own

From GoodReads:

When Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy took their first steps into the world behind the magic wardrobe, little do they realise what adventures are about to unfold. And as the story of Narnia begins to unfold, so to does a classic tale that has enchanted readers of all ages for over half a century.

There are so many things that could be said about The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. While it is not the first book in C.S. Lewis' epic Narnia anthology, it is probably the best known book of the series. And, for me, it is not only a favorite read, but also a Christmas favorite. As a girl, I wanted nothing more than to run into my own closet and find my way into Narnia. I wanted the mythological world. I wanted Aslan to come fighting for me and leading me into a new world. I wanted to be a part of this story.

There is something so mystical and magical about Narnia. It is a place where the infinate cold of winter has put goodness into a deep slumber. But, no matter how cold it gets, there are still those willing to fight the evil in the name of good. It's really a magical and powerful story. Narnia is a world that all children have found themselves in at one time or another. It is a world of children who can be heroes and what little girl or boy didn't dream of being a prince or princess at some point?!?!?

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe has long been considered an allegory for Christianity. And, while there are definite religious tones to the book, it is not simply a Christian story. It is the story of all of us - and the longing deep inside us for a place, a purpose and an identity. Narnia, and especially Aslan, remind us that we are all here for a reason. And, the end of the book, where Aslan willingly makes the ultimate sacrifice, bring tears to my eyes every time. To love and be loved like that speaks deeply to my heart and, I believe, to all those looking for their place.

If you've never read this series, please start with The Magician's Nephew, but read this one next. And then read them all. And see if it doesn't change your heart just a little bit in the process.

Final thoughts: Own. Read every year at Christmas or when you're just feeling down!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Teaser Thursday: Stolen Away by Alyxandra Harvey

Title: Stolen Away
Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Publisher: Walker Children's (January 17, 2012)
Source: ATW ARC Tours

From GoodReads:

For seventeen years, Eloise Hart had no idea the world of Faery even existed. Now she has been abducted and trapped in the Rath of Lord Strahan, King of Faery. Strahan was only meant to rule for seven years, as Faery tradition dictates, and then give up his crown to another. But he won't comply, and now chaos threatens both worlds.

The only one who can break his stranglehold on the Faery court is his wife. . . Eloise's aunt Antonia. Using Eloise to lure Antonia, Strahan captures his wife, desperate to end the only threat to his reign. Now Eloise must become the rescuer. Together with her best friends Jo and Devin, she must forge alliances with other Fae, including a gorgeous protector named Lucas, and Strahan's mysterious son, Eldric-who may or may not betray them.

I chose to read Stolen Away by Alyxandra Harvey because the cover caught my attention and the summary sounded interesting. I was a little nervous I wouldn't get a chance to finish the book because I only had time to start it the day before I had to mail it to the next person. Lucky for me, Harvey's writing is what I can "quick reading." Regardless of the length, authors with this type of smooth, flowing writing that is unencumbered by miscellaneous description or too many intricate plot points allow the reader to flip quickly through the pages and finish the novel in one or two sittings.

When I started reading Stolen Away, I didn't realize that it was being told from two different perspectives. Usually, in today's YA market, when a book with a romantic element tells the story from two perspectives, it is from the couple's perspective. Stolen Away isn't. It's told from the two best friends perspectives.

I liked this for two reasons:

(1) We got two very different (but still very human) perspectives on the situation.

(2) Double the perspective, double the romance. :)

In my current romantic reading mood, I especially appreciated the additional romance. I won't spoil the romance characters for anyone who is interested in reading, but I will say that two very different romance pairings occur. Much happiness is had by all lovers of romance.

That said, this isn't a romance novel. If you're interested in reading Stolen Away for the fantasy element, I think you'd be satisfied too. Just keep in mind, that this isn't a super deep, intricate fantasy tale with an epic journey, blah blah blah. It's a short journey into the faerie world for a very specific purpose.

Overall, Stolen Away is a good quick read for people who enjoy fantasy with elements of romance.

Final thoughts:  Borrow. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Title: The Mockingbirds
Author: Daisy Whitney

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (November 2, 2010)
Source: My Choice; Library

From GoodReads:

Some schools have honor codes.

Others have handbooks.

Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

The Mockingbirds not a book to be taken lightly. Readers know from the very beginning that this is going to be a tough read. Alex wakes up in a room that isn't hers, naked, with a boy she doesn't really know asleep beside her. Her only clue as to what happened are two condom wrappers on the top of the trash. When the boy, Carter, wakes up, he confirms her worst fears. They had sex. But she can't remember it, and she can't remember saying yes.

What follows is a heart-wrenching story of love and loss and pain. Alex really wants to pretend that nothing happened, at least at first. She wants the nightmare to just go away. But, she can't ignore it. And, since she feels like there are no adults at Themis Academy who will help her, she turns to the one group she knows will do what it takes to see justice done - an underground group of students dedicated to righting wrongs - The Mockingbirds.

Ms. Whitney writes The Mockingbirds with startling honesty. Alex goes through every emotion on the planet as she comes to grips with what has happened to her - shame, anger, rage, guilt - they're all there, and captured perfectly in Alex's voice. Alex is not self-assured 100% of the time, but she's also not a pushover.

I think books like this are important to read for many reasons. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, things like this happen all too often in the world. And, girls often feel shame and guilt because they didn't say or do the "right" things or they feel like they are leading boys on, etc. What The Mockingbirds shows is that rape is rape - if you don't say yes, then something is wrong. But, unlike the local high school health class, The Mockingbirds tells that truth without being preachy or too in your face.

The only issue I have with The Mockingbirds is how no one forces Alex to go to the authorities. While I understand that is the point of the book, I worry that it could send the wrong message to some girls in the same situation. What the mock trial in the book does is so similar to what would happen in a real court, and that is important. I just don't like the idea of telling adults to be downplayed too much. I was so glad when Alex finally confided in a teacher, because then I felt like at least someone who wasn't her own age knew what was going on and could guide her correctly.

Look for The Rivals, the next book in the Mockingbird story, in early 2012.

Final thoughts: Borrow and encourage girls in your life to read it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Tempest by Julie Cross

Title: Tempest
Author: Julie Cross
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (January 17, 2012)
Source: GoodReads Giveaway

From GoodReads: 

The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.

That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities.

But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler.  Recruit… or kill him.

Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

I have been super excited to read Tempest by Julie Cross ever since I saw the cover. I dare you to look at it and tell me it's not amazing. Seriously. After the awesomeness of the cover, the summary completely drew me in. It sounded so cool. A good mix of fantasy and romance. The promise of an epic series. All good stuff in my book. I had to have entered every contest available trying to win an ARC. The problem with this is that it created a lot of hype and expectation in my mind. And there's nothing I hate more than picking up a book I'm excited about and being disappointed.

Good thing I wasn't. ;)

Tempest is a fantastic book. I enjoyed every minute of reading it. Jackson is an authentic guy voice and a lovable character. He's not the perfect boyfriend, but he's realistic and his sensitivity to his relationship and what he has changes with his experiences. The time-travel element is handled very well. We jump right into the story at the very beginning with no slow build-up. Yet, as a reader, I was able to keep up with what was going on. The complexity of time-travel grew as the story continued, but at a pace the readers could follow.  

What I really enjoyed about Tempest is how different it is from other fantasy romance novels. First, it's not a romance. There is a lot of romance in the book, but the story arc isn't a romance one. Jackson and Holly are a couple from the beginning, which is unusual in a YA romance-themed book. I like it. The romance is more about realizing what Jackson has rather than actually making it happen (though, through the magic of flashbacks and time-travel, those who like that kind of story should feel satisfied).  

Second, the characters are older. College age. This allows Cross to write more mature aspects of the book without trying to make it fit for younger characters. The characters are a little older, so no explanation for the more mature bits is needed. But, as the summary tells you, Jackson does go back in time and has some younger teen experiences. So, it's really the best of both worlds here.

Third, the story and characters are complex. It's a story that kept me thinking throughout. Some of the plot elements I was able to guess, others I got wrong. Either way, it wasn't predictable. Also, while I was reading I could tell there was so much more story to come. It makes perfect sense that this story would be a trilogy because there's so much more that can happen. I'm definitely not done with these characters, this universe, or this plot. I need more!

I really enjoyed reading Tempest and would recommend it for anyone who likes fantasy or romance. It's well-written, well-plotted, has great characters, and is unpredictable. Oh, and did I mention the amazingly beautiful cover? :D Great stuff.

Final thoughts:  Buy it. 

EDIT: Here's a preview of the audiobook:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (September 29, 2011)
Source: My Choice; Own

From GoodReads:

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. 

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I've been dying to read Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins ever since I succumbed to Anna and the French Kiss. I loved, loved, loved Anna and the French Kiss! I knew Lola's story would be different than Anna's, so I was also worried I wouldn't like it as much. Lola and the Boy Next Door was one of those books I was worried that I'd been anticipating so much that I'd be disappointed when I finally read it.

I wasn't disappointed. :)

It was, however, a very different story than Anna's. If I were to make a comparison, I'd say reading Lola's story would be like reading Etienne St. Clair's side of Anna's story, though it's still much different. Lola has a boyfriend at the beginning of Lola and the Boy Next Door. Max may not be the ideal boyfriend in her friend's or parent's eyes, but Lola loves him and so did I.

That always makes it hard. I liked both Max and Cricket, but I knew one of their hearts would be broken by the end. Of course, through the course of the story, I got to know them both better and I began to prefer one over the other. Regardless, it's still hard when there are feelings for multiple people involved.

I really appreciated Lola and the Boy Next Door because it was obviously a companion book to Anna and the French Kiss, not only because Anna and St. Clair make appearances (yay!), but in the way the story was told. However, it also wasn't a retelling of the Anna story with different characters. Lola is very different from Anna and her story is her own. I really liked that.

If I'm being picky, I'll say I did prefer Anna's story to Lola's but that's also because Anna's fits more with a traditional falling in love story. Lola's love story is more complex, so my feelings while reading were more complex. I always knew I wanted Anna with St. Clair. I didn't always know who I wanted Lola with.

As usual, Stephanie Perkins wove a full and rich story, where all the characters came to life. I love how she could address so many topics and it didn't feel like a gag or a like paying lip service to a topic. For example, Lola's parents are a gay couple. This fact is not brushed off as nothing, but it's also not a focal point. Perkins gives it just the right amount of attention. I'm astounded by all the details Perkins puts into her stories. It's what makes the characters, settings, and stories come to live. Perkins is definitely an author who crafts her story, not just writes it.

Overall, I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins and I'd recommend it to everyone...though it does cater to a more feminine crowd.

Final thoughts:  Buy it!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

In My Mailbox #14

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

I'm been doing well with catching up on all the books in my TBR pile. :) You may notice my pile (look in the sidebar) has many books that aren't new, but have been released in the past year. My goal over the Christmas break is to start catching up on these books that I was so excited to have come out...but then didn't get a chance to read. :(

Then, I can work on the Galleys...which is where my current delay is in the TBR pile. To add even more pressure to the Galley pile, I got two more this week (though, I'm totally not complaining...I can't wait to read these!). Here they are:


Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser

Happy Reading!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Recap: December 12 - 16

Miss a recommendation on twitter? No problem. Here are this week's twitter picks:

LOVE STORY by Jennifer Echols

She's writing about him. he's writing about her. And everybody is reading between the lines.. 

For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions--it's her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family's racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin's college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter . . . so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment? 

Then, on the day she's sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He's joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin's heart with longing. Now she's not just imagining what might have been. She's writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter . . . except this story could come true.

Review:  Wonderful modern romance.

I recommend LOVE STORY by Jennifer Echols to fans of contemporary romance.

FIX ME by Rune Michaels

Orphaned as a child, terrorized by her abusive brother, and haunted by memories, Leia feels exposed, powerless, and vulnerable. When her tormented mind can stand it no longer, she escapes to the zoo, where she finds shelter and seeks refuge. The zoo is a sanctuary: a protective space for families, and a safe place for the traumatized to forget. But can she ever feel safe? Can she ever forget?
Once again, Rune Michaels brings us a harrowing psychological drama that raises questions about the very nature of humanity. This chilling tale will challenge our preconceptions of family, memory, and self, leaving readers wondering, are we the pinnacle of evolution—or are we just animals on display?
Review:  An "issues" book that can easily be read in one sitting.

I recommend FIX ME by Rune Michaels to readers who enjoy issues books.


Fans of The Twilight Saga will be enthralled by this riveting story of Bree Tanner, a character first introduced in Eclipse, and the darker side of the newborn vampire world she inhabits. 

In another irresistible combination of danger, mystery, and romance, Stephenie Meyer tells the devastating story of Bree and the newborn army as they prepare to close in on Bella Swan and the Cullens, following their encounter to its unforgettable conclusion. 

Bree Tanner can barely remember life before she had uncannily powerful senses, superhuman reflexes and unstoppable physical strength. Life before she had a relentless thirst for blood... life before she became a vampire. 

All Bree knows is that living with her fellow newborns has few certainties and even fewer rules: watch your back, don't draw attention to yourself and, above all, make it home by sunrise or die. What she doesn't know: her time as an immortal is quickly running out.
Then Bree finds an unexpected friend in Diego, a newborn just as curious as Bree about their mysterious creator, whom they know only as "her". As they come to realize that the newborns are pawns in a game larger than anything they could have imagined, Bree and Diego must choose sides and decide whom to trust. But when everything you know about vampires is based on a lie, how do you find the truth?

Review:  Interesting look at a very small character in the Twilight series. 

I recommend THE SHORT SECOND LIFE OF BREE TANNER by Stephenie Meyer to fans of the Twilight series.

SILENCE by Becca Fitzpatrick

The noise between Patch and Nora is gone. They've overcome the secrets riddled in Patch's dark past...bridged two irreconcilable worlds...faced heart-wrenching tests of betrayal, loyalty and trust...and all for a love that will transcend the boundary between heaven and earth. Armed with nothing but their absolute faith in one another, Patch and Nora enter a desperate fight to stop a villain who holds the power to shatter everything they've worked for—and their love—forever.

Review:  Seductively dark and sexy...I'm addicted to this series!

I highly recommend SILENCE by Becca Fitzpatrick for fans of sexy, urban fantasy.

CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS by Cassandra Clare

The Mortal War is over, and Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most important of all—Clary can finally call Jace her boyfriend. 

But nothing comes without a price. 

Someone is murdering the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her. His mother just found out he’s a vampire and now he’s homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side—along with the power of the curse wrecking his life. And they’re willing to do anything to get what they want. At the same time he’s dating two beautiful, dangerous girls—neither of whom knows about the other. 

When Jace begins to pull away from Clary without explaining why, she is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: She herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace. 

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. The stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

Review:  Exciting, sexy, and full of surprises.

I highly recommend CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS by Cassandra Clare to fans of urban fantasy.

*Summaries provided by GoodReads

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

Title: Silence
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (October 4, 2011)
Source: My Choice; Own

From GoodReads:

The noise between Patch and Nora is gone. They've overcome the secrets riddled in Patch's dark past...bridged two irreconcilable worlds...faced heart-wrenching tests of betrayal, loyalty and trust...and all for a love that will transcend the boundary between heaven and earth. Armed with nothing but their absolute faith in one another, Patch and Nora enter a desperate fight to stop a villain who holds the power to shatter everything they've worked for—and their love—forever.

I have been hooked on the Hush, Hush series from the very beginning. For that reason, I've been dying to get a chance to read Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick. I'll be honest. I had intentionally put it off for a little while because I know there's another book and I wanted to decrease the gap between books as much as possible. However, I'm so glad I couldn't keep my curiosity in check any longer. I loved Silence!

It probably would've been beneficial for me to reread Crescendo before starting Silence, but I don't exactly have extra time to reread books right now. I'm a little hazy on all the details of Crescendo, but I remembered enough to understand the story (though I do need to go back and straighten some things out). Overall, I'd say the storyline was pretty interesting in Silence. I'm always impressed by all the different takes on angels and angel mythology. Fitzpatrick's version has a different feel than many other angel books I've read (and I've read a LOT lately...keep your look out for all my angel book reviews). I'm never quite sure what's going to happen, which is a huge plus in my book.

Now, I'll get to the good stuff. Let's be honest here. If you like the Hush, Hush series, it's because you love Patch. The sexy, arrogant, infuriating fallen angel is irresistible. One minute, I think he's a jerk, the next minute I want him to make-out with Nora. It's a love-hate thing with emphasis on the love. The funny thing about this is that I sense Patch changing. He's still a sexy, mysterious guy in Silence, but he's not such a jerk. At least, not to Nora. In the other books, I never really got why Patch liked Nora. Because of this, I could never completely believe in his end of the relationship. After reading Silence, I totally believe in his feelings 100%. I may not understand why he likes Nora (don't get me wrong, I like her too, but he's a freaking fallen angel, for Tod's sake!), but I believe in it.

In Silence, Patch is...dare I say it...sweet. Not sweet in the bring-you-flowers-just-because kind of way, but in his own, Patch way. He clearly cares for Nora and I loved, loved, LOVED reading it! He can be a bad boy all he wants with everyone else, especially when protecting Nora, but he's completely sweet to her. What's even better? It didn't seem out of character at all. His character is changing in reaction to what's going on around him, including his feelings for Nora. For pulling off this transformation successfully, I have to give major props to Fitzpatrick. It's not an easy feat.

Overall, I highly recommend you go pick up a copy of Silence. If you didn't like Patch before, you might like him now...though it's up to you to get through the first two books to witness the transformation.

Final thoughts: Buy it. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Devilish by Maureen Johnson

Title: Devilish
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Razorbill (September 2006)
Source: Library

From GoodReads:

The only thing that makes St. Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls bearable for Jane is her best friend Ally. But when Ally changes into a whole different person literally overnight the fall of their senior year, Jane's suddenly alone—and very confused.

Turns out, Ally has sold her soul in exchange for popularity—to a devil masquerading as a sophomore at St. Teresa's! Now it's up to Jane to put it all on the line to save her friend from this ponytail-wearing, cupcakenibbling demon . . . without losing her own soul in the process.

This YA take on Faust in a Catholic girls' high school is clever, fun, and full of tasty surprises.

I know, I know. This is not the season to be reviewing a book about the Devil (or his/her minions), but it is such a fun read I couldn't help myself. It should be known that I simply adore Maureen Johnson anyway, so it's no surprise that I loved this book as much as I did. Devilish is a completely new take on the "sell your soul to the devil" story.

I remember high school very well, and there were probably moments where selling my soul to be popular would have seemed like a good idea. You can't help but feel bad for Ally - she's just the shy, awkward, desperately wanting to fit in girl that lives inside each of us. But, at the same time, she goes to some pretty drastic extremes to make her high school dreams come true. It doesn't take long to figure out that Ally has done something bad - very bad - and it's up to Jane to make it right.

It's a classic "two wrong things don't make a right" situation when Jane makes her own bargain with the devil in order to try and save Ally. And that's not even the complicated part!

I just loved Maureen Johnson's writing in Devilish. It's a fast-paced read, full of humor and heart. You immediately feel bad for Ally, but at the same time, you can't believe how far Jane is willing to go to save her friend. And, the cast of supporting characters come alive from the first page.

Devilish is a story that is too sweet to be scary, but still packs a powerful punch!

Final Thoughts: The perfect end of the semester read!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Title: Jessica Rules the Dark Side
Author: Beth Fantaskey
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (January 10, 2012)
Source: ATW Arc Tours

From GoodReads:

The highly anticipated sequel to Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side.
It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is—and whom she can trust—before it’s too late?
I've been looking forward to reading Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey ever since I first laid my hands on a copy of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. I very much enjoyed the first book with the plot twists, unusual teenage characters, and unpredictable romance. I read the story of Antanasia [aka Jessica] and Lucius' wedding on Fantaskey's website (which you should do before reading book two because it's awesome) and could not wait for Jessica Rules the Dark Side to come out.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Just like the first, it was a quick read with an unexpected plotline. While the plot was more straightforward than Fantaskey's other works, I didn't mind at all. I was able to predict certain elements ahead of time, but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book. Instead, I kept looking for more clues to verify my hypothesis.

Also, it's unusual to read about a married couple in YA (for obvious reasons). I liked having these atypical aspects included and appreciated the fact that Fantaskey didn't try to pull a love triangle out of nowhere. Antanasia and Lucius have struggles, sometimes even struggles with each other, but it isn't a matter of lack of love. Their romance is tender and sweet.

My favorite addition to Jessica Rules the Dark Side is the perspective of Mindy and Raniero. Having their POV added to the mix livened up the story and gave the readers a new romantic angle to work with. I can't honestly call their side plot a romance in the traditional sense, but there is some passion between this pair. Plus, the two characters are just plain interesting. I particularly enjoyed watching Raniero's transformation and Mindy's reaction, not only to Raniero, but to what she thought she always wanted.

If you've already read Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, I recommend picking up Jessica Rules the Dark Side ASAP. If you haven't, what are you waiting for?

Final thoughts:  Borrow or buy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Love Story by Jennifer Echols

Title: Love Story
Author: Jennifer Echols
Publisher: MTV (July 19, 2011)
Source: My Choice; Own

From GoodReads:

She's writing about him. he's writing about her. And everybody is reading between the lines.. 

For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions--it's her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family's racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin's college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter . . . so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment? 

Then, on the day she's sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He's joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin's heart with longing. Now she's not just imagining what might have been. She's writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter . . . except this story could come true.

I was recommended Love Story by Jennifer Echols last week when I craved a desperately romantic novel to take my mind off my long-distance relationship with my husband. Racquel from The Book Barbies made the recommendation and I'm so happy I followed through with it.

Love Story starts immediately with a passionate, historical romance story written by the main character, Erin. The characters in Erin's story act out the sexual tension between Hunter and Erin. By beginning Love Story with this mini-story, the reader gets a sense of what the book will be about and also gets a good idea of who Erin and Hunter are, even before meeting them. I think this kind of a beginning is very different and smart for several reasons. The only downside is that the short story is historical fiction, which isn't my usual taste. I wasn't too fond of the writing style in the mini-story, so I wondered if I would like the writing in the rest of the book.

Rest assured. The writing does change after the mini-story.

Like typical romances, there was quick a bit of back and forth between Hunter and Erin. Will they hook up? Won't they? When they do kiss, will it be left at that? When this kind of tension isn't well done, it can be very frustrating, in a bad way. However, when done well, it can keep you sucked in till the very end.

Personally, I was sucked in.

I read Love Story in one sitting, staying up way past my bedtime. Hunter is sexy, sweet, and oddly enough...not mysterious. At least, not in the way I think of many romantic heroes in today's YA stories. Like any human being, he's got his secrets and is careful about who he shares them with, but he's not cloaked in mystery. His openness surprised me in a very pleasing way. I wanted Erin to be with him because I was attracted to him, not all the mystery around him.

Erin's also a great lead character. She's an excellent balance of strong and weak. By that, I mean she has a lot of inner strength and strength of character, but she's not portrayed as so stubborn or strong-willed as to be ridiculous. She's a strong character and isn't masculinized by being a tomboy or some super secret ninja. Neither Erin or Hunter are perfect, but I like them and root for their relationship all the more because of it.

The only thing I would have changed is the ending. I needed a couple more pages to feel completely satisfied, though the story didn't drop off quickly by any means. I just wanted a little more closure on the trials they both endured and their futures.

Overall, Love Story was a great book that scratched my romantic itch and did so without being ridiculous or too explicit (in my opinion).

Final thoughts:  Buy it if you like romance. Otherwise, borrow it. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In My Mailbox #13

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

I had a really great reading week, so I'm hoping to keeping working my way through my massive TBR pile. Here are the exciting books I've added to that pile this week:

ARC Tours

Stolen Away by Alyxandra Harvey


Replication by Jill Williamson

Can't wait to get to these ones! What do you get?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Recap: December 6-9

I missed a day in here this week because of work. Sorry! The rest of the week was dedicated to "last books in a series." I had so many series that I've read that I hadn't yet chosen all the books for YA Books of the Day, I thought dedicating a week to those would be a nice way of wrapping them up. Without further ado, here are this week's recommendations:

GONE by Lisa McMann

Janie thought she knew what her future held. And she thought she’d made her peace with it. But she can’t handle dragging Cabel down with her.
She knows he will stay with her, despite what she sees in his dreams. He’s amazing. And she’s a train wreck. Janie sees only one way to give him the life he deserves: She has to disappear. And it’s going to kill them both.
Then a stranger enters her life — and everything unravels. The future Janie once faced now has an ominous twist, and her choices are more dire than she’d ever thought possible. She alone must decide between the lesser of two evils. And time is running out. . . .
Review:  More introspective and personal than the previous two books in the series. 

I recommend GONE by Lisa McMann to fans of paranormal. 

THE HIDDEN by Jessica Verday

Abbey knows that Caspian is her destiny. Theirs is a bond that transcends even death. But as Abbey finally learns the full truth about the dark fate that links her to Caspian and ties them both to the town of Sleepy Hollow, she suddenly has some very hard choices to make. Caspian may be the love of her life, but is that love worth dying for? 

Beautifully spun, emotionally gripping, and irresistibly romantic, The Hidden will leave you breathless.

Review:  Beautiful writing throughout the series. 

I recommend THE HIDDEN by Jessica Verday to fans of interesting and different paranormal.

IRONSIDE by Holly Black

In the realm of Faerie, the time has come for Roiben's coronation. Uneasy in the midst of the malevolent Unseelie Court, pixie Kaye is sure of only one thing -- her love for Roiben. But when Kaye, drunk on faerie wine, declares herself to Roiben, he sends her on a seemingly impossible quest. Now Kaye can't see or speak to Roiben unless she can find the one thing she knows doesn't exist: a faerie who can tell a lie.
Miserable and convinced she belongs nowhere, Kaye decides to tell her mother the truth -- that she is a changeling left in place of the human daughter stolen long ago. Her mother's shock and horror sends Kaye back to the world of Faerie to find her human counterpart and return her to Ironside. But once back in the faerie courts, Kaye finds herself a pawn in the games of Silarial, queen of the Seelie Court. Silarial wants Roiben's throne, and she will use Kaye, and any means necessary, to get it. In this game of wits and weapons, can a pixie outplay a queen?
Holly Black spins a seductive tale at once achingly real and chillingly enchanted, set in a dangerous world where pleasure mingles with pain and nothing is exactly as it appears.
Review:  Dark, twisted, and lovely.

I recommend IRONSIDE by Holly Black to fans of dark fantasy.

THE RECKONING by Kelley Armstrong

The explosive final part of the Darkest Powers trilogy, Kelley Armstrong's internationally bestselling YA series.

Review:  I love the creepiness and horror aspects of this series!

I recommend THE RECKONING by Kelley Armstrong to fans of dark fantasy. Bonus points for elements of horror.

*Summaries provided by GoodReads

Friday Favorites: Stargirl

Title: Stargirl
Author: Jerry Spinelli
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (2000)
Source: Own

From GoodReads
In a moving and highly engaging tale about the vagaries of adolescent peer pressure, Newbery Medal winner Jerry Spinelli tells the story of Stargirl, a high school student who is startlingly different from everyone else. The need to conform -- and unabashed curiosity about those who don't -- are at the heart of this touching tale, which aptly demonstrates the peaks and pitfalls of popularity.

Sixteen-year-old high school student Leo Borlock knows how to fit in at Mica High School. He plays the game like everyone else but is more enthralled than most when a new girl comes to school. Stargirl Caraway is her name, or at least the name she is using for now. And after 15 years of homeschooling, she is decidedly different from even the oddest high school students at Mica High. First there's her unusual name, one in a long line of odd names that she has chosen to go by, ignoring her given name of Susan. Then there's the way she looks, shunning makeup and wearing long granny dresses. But all of that is small potatoes when compared to her behavior, which is as weird and bizarre as any of the students at Mica High have ever seen.

Stargirl is the girl I wish I could have been in high school. She is confident in herself, a little silly and a little unique. She knows that the world can be cruel, but she chooses to see the good in people. She refuses to settle, to play the game or to conform to the standards of her high school. She is the best in all of us.

If you can't tell, I absolutely adore this book. I have read Stargirl at least a dozen times, and find something new to love about it every time. Stargirl is a girl who chooses to live life on her own terms. She chooses to be different, and that difference is what makes her so beautiful to Leo. I love that Jerry Spinelli was able to craft such a unique female character, and give her a voice that stands out in teen literature. Stargirl is an every girl, but totally unique at the same time.

While the book isn't all happiness, there is something redemptive about Stargirl's world. I hate reading the hard parts - the parts where Stargirl is outcast and conforming, but I am so grateful that they don't last. That is the same cycle of life we all go through when we're looking at the world and our place in it. We don't want to be different, but we can't help but be different.

This is a book that girls need to read. We live in a world where conforming is considered right and individuality is so often suppressed. We want to be the good girl, the smart girl, the right girl all the time. And, in doing so, we often squash what is most beautiful about ourselves. We hide the real us for the "approved" us, and in doing so, we lose a little of ourselves.

Final thoughts: Own.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

Title: Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick
Author: Joe Schreiber
Publisher: Houghton Mufflin Books for Children (October 25, 2011)
Source: ATW ARC Tours

From GoodReads:

Perry Stormaire is a normal high school senior– he is busy applying to college and rehearsing with his band –until he agrees to go to the prom with the Lithuanian exchange student who is staying with his family. It turns out that Gobi Zaksauskas is not the mousy teenager that she seems but rather an attractive, confident trained assassin. Instead of going to the prom, Perry finds himself on a wild ride through the streets of New York City as Gobi commandeers the Jaguar his father lent him for the prom in order to take out her targets. Perry learns a lot about himself – and ends up with some amazing material for his college application essays.

I requested Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber because it seemed so different than many of the YA novels I typically read. Clearly, I'm a fantasy fan. However, I love reading contemporary, literary, and all other kinds of YA. I just have a tendency not to pick them up as much. That said, this book was even more different than I expected. It wasn't just the genre. It was the style of writing.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick reminds me of an action movie. There's high speed chases, heavy duty guns, a hot chick, and one crazy night. Everything happens fast, in short, clipped scenes. The book itself is quite short (190 pages) and the chapters could be as little as a couple pages. The writing lends itself well to action. No flowery language or unnecessary details. Readers get what they need to know and not much more. This helps keep the pace up.

I would definitely describe Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick as "boy-friendly." There's a male POV and the narration is authentic guy. Perry is open and straightforward in his thoughts and actions. He doesn't muse over any situation longer than absolutely necessary. His voice drew me into the novel immediately because he seemed like such a typical guy, and one that has been well captured through the writing. Plus, Perry's a pretty likable character.

Throughout the story, I had mixed feelings regarding Gobi. I didn't always understand her actions and reactions, though I did understand quite a bit more by the end. About 2/3 of the way in, I decided I definitely liked her.

The only real problem I had with the story is that you have to suspend your understanding of reality. Now, I'm not an expert, but I'm fairly certain some of the things that happened in the book are pretty much physically impossible (let alone how unlikely they are, even if they could happen). With this type of book, it didn't bother me. Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick is not intended as a realistic portrayal of life, so it makes perfect sense that some aspects would be included because they make a good story, even if they aren't realistic.

Final thoughts:  Borrow.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: Waiting to Forget by Sheila Kelly Welch

Title: Waiting to Forget
Author: Sheila Kelly Welch
Publisher: (namelos, October 1, 2011)
Source: NetGalley ARC

From GoodReads:

T.J. has always looked out for his little sister, Angela. When Momma used to go out and leave them home alone, he'd lock the door so they'd be safe, keep Angela entertained, and get out the cereal and milk for her. When Momma's boyfriend got angry at them, he'd try to protect Angela. Later, at their foster homes, T.J. was the only one who knew how to coax his little sister out of her bad moods. The only one who understood why she made origami paper cranes and threw them out the window.

But now T.J. is sitting in the waiting room at the hospital, wondering if Angela, unconscious after a fall, will ever wake up. Wondering, too, if he will ever feel at home with his and Angela's new parents—Marlene, who insists on calling him Timothy, and Dan, who seems to want a different son.
Going back and forth between Now and Then, weaving the uncertain present with the painful past, T.J.'s story unfolds, and with the unfolding comes a new understanding of how to move forward.

Waiting to Forget by Sheila Kelly Welch is not the kind of book I typically read. I tend to lean toward fantasy, dystopian and supernatural, just because I really enjoy getting lost in books instead of feeling like they're too real. I requested this eGalley on a whim, and am so glad I did.

Waiting to Forget is an honest, sometimes brutal, look at what it means to be a kid in the modern foster system. T.J. comes from a broken, cruel world and the honest portrayal of that is sometimes difficult to read. While reading this book, I was reminded just how lucky I really am - the problems in my family really aren't problems at all. T.J. and his sister go through a lot, and still try and find a reason to believe that there is good in the world and in their lives.

This is a well written story that bounces back and forth between the present (Angela in the hospital) and the past (what led to this point). Many of the supporting characters are incidental and seem almost larger than life, but I really enjoyed T.J.'s point of view. There is enough good in the story that it's worth reading, but if you're looking for something upbeat and happy, this isn't the book for you!

Final thoughts: Check it out from the library.