Tuesday, November 20, 2012


If you are checking out this blog, I'm impressed. I pretty much disappeared for about 9 months with no explanation or apology. So, here goes.

I'm sorry.

I had some unexpected things happen in my personal life that required immediate attention. I can't tell you how many times I thought, "Gosh, I really need to write a blog post to let everyone know I'll be gone for awhile." 

Yeah, that never happened.

The longer it took me to find time to write a post, the easier it was to just let it slide. After a few months, I kinda figured readers already realized I had stopped blogging (and tweeting) for a bit, so I just couldn't muster up the time and energy to put out an official post. Honestly, I wasn't even sure if I would return to blogging at all. 

So, now that a few things are straightened out, I'm tentatively dipping my toe back in the water. I'm still super busy with my new post doc (I graduated!) and studying for my licensing exam (ugh). Plus, I've begun to realize I need to spend a little more time attending to other areas of my life. This blog was initially only intended to give me an extra hobby while I was away for a year on internship, but I came it like it a lot more than I expected. 

Going forward, here's the plan: I will continue avidly reading YA (yes!), but not quite at the same feverish rate as before. I will also provide as many book reviews and twitter recommendations as I can weave into my hectic schedule. However, that means the blog and twitter will certainly not be updated at a "book of the day" speed. More like, "book of the week," and possibly less around holidays, exam time, etc. 

Basically, I want to get back into reading, reviewing, blogging, and tweeting, but I'm still testing out how much time I reasonably have to do so. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on the blog, and talking to me on twitter. I am so utterly grateful for this online YA book community.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Red Heart Tattoo by Lurlene McDaniel

Title: Red Heart Tattoo
Author: Lurlene McDaniel
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (July 24, 2012)
Source: NetGalley

From GoodReads:

At 7:45 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving break, a bomb goes off at Edison High. Nine people die instantly. Fifteen are critically injured. Twenty-two suffer less severe injuries. And one is blinded. Those who survive, struggle to cope with the loss and destruction. All must find new meaning for their lives as a result of something they may never understand.

Lurlene McDaniel's signature expertise and finesse in dealing with issues of violence, death, and physical as well as emotional trauma in the lives of teens is immediate and heartrending.

I was so excited to see Red Heart Tattoo by Lurlene McDaniel offered on NetGalley. Combining a physically and psychologically traumatizing event with a romantic storyline is like literature gold to me, if done well. Let me tell you, she did this really, really well.

First, I want to clarify that the book is by no means focused on the romance. The bombing takes full focus with the lead up and aftermath being explored from multiple viewpoints. Add in all the drama of teenage life into these characters and you've got a rich story full of everything, which includes romance. 

I've never read a novel by Lurlene McDaniel before, so I wasn't sure what to expect from her craft. I was pleased with the amount of depth present in the story, particularly because there were so many characters and viewpoints to juggle. As usual, I'm drawn to the troubled teen character, so I immediately gravitated to Roth and his experiences. Lucky for me, he had a prominent role in the story. 

This story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Obviously, seeing as the major storyline involves a school bombing, there is a lot of tragedy and loss present. The heartwarming aspects come from certain individual's reactions to the event. It would be difficult not to be touched by the way the community comes together and supports each other. Beautiful.

If I could've changed anything--and this is real nitpicky, based on personal preference--I would have wanted to get a little bit deeper into the experiences into a few of the main characters. I completely understand that this would have been difficult to do, particularly because there were multiple viewpoints presented, but it's my personal preference. For me, I'd rather get into the deep psychological and emotional experiences of one or two characters than a full look at several characters. That said, I really like the way this was done. It seems like it was important to McDaniels to present the community as a whole (by showing multiple viewpoints) rather than to keep a focus on one or two people.

Overall, Red Heart Tattoo was a super quick read and a very touching story. I'm so glad to have read it.

Final thoughts: Buy it. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky

Title: First Comes Love
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (May 8, 2012)
Source: ATW ARC Tours

From GoodReads:

Like his name, Gray is dark and stormy. Dylan, a girl always searching for what's next, seemingly unable to settle down, is the exact opposite: full of light and life. On the outside, they seem like an unlikely couple. But looks can be deceiving and besides, opposites attract. What starts as friendship, turns into admiration, respect and caring, until finally these two lone souls find they are truly in love with each other. But staying in love is not as easy as falling in love. If Dylan and Gray want their love to last, they're going to have to work at it. And learn that sometimes love means having to say you're sorry.

It's hard for me to come up with a good description for First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky. Clearly, the book is about two characters falling in love, but it's so much more than a romance. In fact, I would even say the romance isn't the most important part of the book. It's really more about two characters getting to know each other and themselves.

Gray is a loner. An outsider. He wasn't always this way, but life took a detour when tragedy struck his family. Now, he's used to staying in the shadows, hoping no one will pay too much attention. But Dylan does. She notices everything, including Gray. Her mission: to find out what he's hiding from.

This tender story is told from alternative POVs of Gray and Dylan. In this way, we get to see the slow changes in Gray as he steps out of his comfort zone and back into real life. Also, we see Dylan's motivations and her quirky views on how to live day to day. I enjoyed both voices and how it made perfect sense that this pair would come together.

What I loved most about this story is that it took it past first love. Yes, it's great when love happens, but that's not the end of the story. Love continues and grows, but it also struggles. Love isn't always that hard to find, but it can be hard to keep. I really appreciated that First Comes Love took the readers on a journey that explores what love is and what a person is willing to give up in order to keep it.

First Comes Love is tender, heartfelt, and uplifting. The characters have depth and the story covers many aspects of life, love, friendship, and family. It's a beautiful love story, that is simultaneously, fun, silly, sweet, raw, and heartbreaking. If you're looking for a scorching, sexy romance, I wouldn't recommend picking this up, but if you're looking for a deeply written story you can emotionally connect to, check this one out.

Final thoughts: Borrow or buy. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Title: Masque of the Red Death
Author: Bethany Griffin
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (April 24, 2012)
Source: ATW ARC Tours

From GoodReads:

Everything is in ruins. 

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them. 

So what does Araby Worth have to live for? 

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

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

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

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin is based on the short story by Edgar Allen Poe. There have been several reimaginings of stories lately, mostly focused on ancient Greek myths, but this reimagining is quite different. It is very true to the original story, with the same character names, description of the illness, etc. It's almost as if Griffin plopped her novel into Poe's short story, found a new protagonist and expended it to novel length. Yes, it is in Griffin's own style and yes, there are some differences, but it's the most true-to-original reimagining I've read. That said, it's also highly original because Griffin came up with a novel length story based off a 20 page short story.

As anyone who has read dystopians can tell you, living in a bleak world has varying and drastic impact on the people still alive. It brings out the best in some and the worst in others. At the beginning of the story, Araby is as bleak as the world around her. She doesn't much care for life, but can't bring herself to death either...at least, not intentionally. She certainly takes risks that may kill her and does so without batting an eye. The transition from her state of numbness to one that has energy and a will to live is very gradual. The circumstances in the story lead to small changes that grow naturally. This aspect of the book was very well handled.

Personally, I loved reading about the different characters and learning their secrets. Everybody has secrets and those secrets define key moments in the story. I adored Will pretty much from the very beginning. He was a wonderful counterpart to Araby, the very antithesis of her careless nature. Elliot was intriguing as well. I didn't know what to make of him at first and honestly, I still don't, though I've grown to like him much more. The secrets these two hold are key for the climax of the story.

Every other notable person in the story has a secret as well. As we discover these secrets, it makes the characters more human and more sympathetic. I think of Araby's parents in particular when I say this. They may not be the best parents in the world, but they live in the same debilitating world as Araby with the same struggles.

I'll warn you that Masque of the Red Death will have a sequel, so the ending is not 100 percent complete. I found it satisfying enough, though I'm eager to read more.

Final thoughts: Borrow or buy, just make sure you read it. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Slide by Jill Hathaway

Title: Slide
Author: Jill Hathaway
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (March 27, 2012)
Source: ATW ARC Tours

From GoodReads:

Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered. 

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body. 

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane. 

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again. 

Slide by Jill Hathaway is an interesting book. Technically, the plot deals with something that could be considered paranormal (sliding into someone else's body...sounds paranormal to me), but actually, it reads more contemporary. Now, if you're not a fan of contemporary, but you're a fan of paranormal, you'd still probably enjoy this. Actually, if you're a fan of either genre, you'd probably enjoy it.

I really liked reading Slide. Lately, I've read a lot of books not in my usual genre that were good, but not great. I've had to take breaks while reading them because they didn't hold my attention well enough. I'm pleased that this wasn't my experience with Slide. It felt out of my genre because of the contemporary feel, but it was a very intriguing, quick read. I actually finished it in one sitting.

Besides Vee's unique ability, the story was captivating because of the characters and the mystery. All along, we're trying to figure out several things at once. First, the murder is unsettling and Vee is desperately trying to figure out who did it. Second, Rollins is being more distant. Vee doesn't know why and doesn't know how to fix their relationship. Third, there's this new boy Zane that is attractive and brimming with secrets. And that's all I'm going to say, but there's even more mysterious behaviors from other characters.

Trying to piece together these mysteries and figure out which ones fit together and which are unrelated definitely kept my attention throughout the story. I thought Hathaway's choices as far as what to include in the web of interrelated actions and what to cast off as separate was well thought out. Bits you think might be connected aren't, and things you didn't think would be connected are. It's good. I was able to figure some of the things out (in general, not all the details) but there was enough surprise to keep me intrigued.

Overall, Slide was an intriguing, fast read that I'd recommend to anyone who reads the summary and thinks they might be interested. Content wise, it's not for everyone, but that's why you should read the summary first.

Final thoughts:  Buy or borrow. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Magic Under Stone by Jaclyn Dolamore

Title: Magic Under Stone
Author: Jaclyn Dolamore
Publisher: Bloomsbury US Children's (February 28, 2012)
Source: Netgalley

***Warning: This review contains spoilers from Magic Under Glass. Click here to check out my review of Magic Under Glass on the YA Literature Review Blog.***

From GoodReads:

For star-crossed lovers Nimira and Erris, there can be no happily ever after until Erris is freed from the clockwork form in which his soul is trapped. And so they go in search of the sorcerer Ordorio Valdana, hoping he will know how to grant Erris real life again. When they learn that Valdana has mysteriously vanished, it's not long before Nimira decides to take matters into her own hands—and begins to study the sorcerer's spell books in secret. Yet even as she begins to understand the power and limitations of sorcery, it becomes clear that freeing Erris will bring danger—if not out-and-out war—as factions within the faerie world are prepared to stop at nothing to prevent him from regaining the throne.

Magic Under Stone by Jaclyn Dolamore is another book that I have been highly anticipating. I absolutely adored the enchanting Magic Under Glass and could not wait to continue Erris and Nimira's story. 

At the end of Magic Under Glass, I felt like the adventure was just beginning for Erris and Nimira. It was just as much a beginning as an ending. Idealistically, I always hope for a happily ever after, even though I know that there needs to be some conflict for the story. What I enjoyed about Magic Under Stone is that there is conflict -- conflict that should've been obvious, but I hadn't even thought of -- between Erris and Nimira, but their feelings for each other are still very clear. Erris struggles with living inside a clockwork body, while Nimira frets over how this has impacted him and if she made the right decision in trying to save him this way. It creates a wonderful and believable tension between them without creating a complete rift. With so many romances turning into love triangles, it's always refreshing when it doesn't. Both characters have very realistic reactions to an inconceivable problem.

Dolamore did a fantastic job blending all the stories of the characters we met in Magic Under Glass, while also introducing new characters and stories. Of all the new characters, my favorite was Ifra, the jinn. He has a complex and tragic story, just as Erris does, and his journey makes me feel for him. Magic Under Stone is told in third person and there are chapters that focus on Ifra's perspective. His story is very important to Nimira and Erris's, but was also very touching on its own. I would love to read more about him and I was always eager to see his chapters.

What sets Magic Under Stone apart from other fantasy books about faeries is the style of the writing. The pacing and the style is so unique, I can only describe it as enchanting. When thinking about all that happens in Magic Under Stone, I am surprised at how leisurely the pace felt. There was definitely urgency to continue reading to find out what happened, but the writing itself wasn't urgent. While having a complex plot and many character stories, the novel was woven together so well, that it felt simple, easy, and natural.

Magic Under Stone ends similarly to Magic Under Glass. There is a conclusion to the specific plot points in the book, but a new adventure is just beginning. I absolutely can't wait to read the third edition of this series.

Final thoughts: Buy it. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

Title: A Temptation of Angels
Author: Michelle Zink
Publisher: Dial (March 20, 2012)
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers

From GoodReads:

When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world's past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong, because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel. 

A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink is an interesting book. With all the angel books out there lately, I found this one to be quite different. Between the time period, setting, and unusual mythology, A Temptation of Angels is not your average angel book.

I can't recall a specific time period being mentioned, but the overall feel and references used point to a historical setting. This book definitely has a historical feel to it, but is not encumbered with long descriptions or details of the setting like many historical books are. The historical feel comes more from the settings, actions of the characters, and the pacing. I found the pacing to be a little slower than other books, but it was very steady. Usually a slow pace bothers me, but it didn't bother me with this book, particularly after the first fifty pages or so.

The mythology of the angels was interesting, but I'm not sure I completely understood all of it. There is the Dictata, the Keepers, the Alliance, the Legion, etc., and I couldn't keep it all straight as I read. It wasn't overly complicated; instead, I felt as if each faction was barely touched upon. A sentence each to explain the groupings, then they were referenced without further information. Now, I'll fully admit I was sick when I read this, so maybe my brain was a little too cloudy to put it all together.

My favorite aspect of the book was the relationships (surprised?). There are some complex relationships and there is also a little romance. In a world where the bad guy always gets the girl and the good guy is left out, I was pleased to read that Helen was attracted to the nice Channing brother, Griffin. In fact, Darius was never even considered. (Yay!) Don't get me wrong, I like Darius as a character and readers will come to see that there's more to him than initially meets the eye, but I liked that the nice guy was the only brother vying for Helen's attention. Now, that's not to say there isn't any other romantic interest...it just doesn't come from Darius Channing.

I'm not entirely certain A Temptation of Angels will have sequels, but it seems appropriate for there to be more books. I'd definitely be interested in reading them, but there was no major cliffhanger ending (thank goodness!).

Final thoughts:  Borrow. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Title: Wanderlove
Author: Kirsten Hubbard
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (March 13, 2012)
Source: Arc

From GoodReads:

It all begins with a stupid question: Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery.

When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward. But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry into this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story

There is so much to love about this book. From the opening pages, I couldn't help but think of JRR Tolkien's epic quote - "Not all who wander are lost." Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard is a story about a girl who is trying to find out if there is more to life than a broken heart and an uncertain future.

I read Wanderlove as I was going on a journey of my own - a cruise with a friend. And, even though we definitely had luggage and an itinerary, I still felt a certain kinship with Bria. I remember those days of wanting to do something amazing and different - and being scared at the same time. I am the girl who would have done exactly what Bria did - signed up for a safe trip with tour guides and a plan. While I would like to think I am adventerous, I am also scared to travel too far off the beaten path.

In Wanderlove, author Kirsten Hubbard creates a character that is so perfectly imperfect that she feels instantly like your best friend. Bria tries to do it right - from reading the guidebooks and buying the "perfect" travel clothes. Her heart hurts, but she's willing to try and do something on her own terms. It is only when she lands at the airport that she realizes she has signed up for just another version of her normal life. So, when she is invited to really experience what it means to travel through South America, she (tentatively) jumps at the chance. It is only when she leaves the safe path that she realizes how much beauty, danger and hope is in the world.

Reading Wanderlove made me want to chuck my safe life for a few weeks. It made me want to really experience the majesty of the world around me. Through Bria's eyes, I was able to see a world full of so much that we are simply too busy or too blind by our own lives to see. I want to go to a place where my phone doesn't work and actually getting online is an effort. I want to find a place where I can learn to be myself - and rediscover who that really is.

Wanderlove is a beautifully crafted book. There is no denying that. But, the true power in the story is the longing it creates in you to shut the covers, go outside, and discover something new. While we can't all just leave our lives and travel to a foreign country, Hubbard reminds us that there is something waiting to be discovered right outside our doors. Since reading Wanderlove the first time, I have read it two more times. Each time I discover something more about Bria and her journey. I find another character to love. I find another moment in time to cherish. And I find another place to dream of going someday.

Final Thoughts: Wanderlove brings out the journeyer in your heart. Buy it. Then go on a trip and leave it at a hostel for someone else to read.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (January 10, 2012)
Source: Own

From GoodReads:

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

There isn't a lot to say about this book. It is just that good. I wish I had the words to sum up everything that happens in the 318 pages of Hazel & Augustus's story. Beautiful. Haunting. Tragic. Hopeful. Unexpected. There just aren't words.

I knew what I was getting into when I started reading The Fault in Our Stars. It doesn't hide what it is - a story about love and loss and hope and death - told through the eyes of teenagers dying of cancer. Anyone who goes into this book thinking there will be a miraculous happy ending has not read John Green before. You know there will be death, but who dies and when is part of the story.

Even though I have been around cancer for most of my adult life, reading The Fault in Our Stars was surprising in so many ways. Green brilliantly reminds the reader that these kids leading these devastating lives are still people. They still have feelings, thoughts and desires that are completely normal to every other teenager. They still want to experience love. They still have to deal with school. The only real difference is that they know they are not immortal. In fact, they know they are living on borrowed time.

Hazel and Gus have everything going against them, but they have one thing going for them - each other. At it's heart, The Fault in Our Stars is a love story that transcends cancer and death. Every moment they have together is powerful and passionate, and their story is so worth reading. On top of the tragedy, there is so much humor that I found myself laughing outloud several times (and then feeling guilty for laughing at something is such a serious story).

I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry my way through the last 50 pages of this book. I knew what was coming, but that didn't make it any better. Green has proven himself to be a master storyteller and communicator. The Fault in Our Stars reminds us that there is humanity and pain and love and loss in all our stories. Days later, this book is still haunting me. I want to lead a life that makes a difference, even if it only matters to the people closest to me.

Final Thoughts: What more is there to say?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Rock On by Denise Vega

Title: Rock On
Author: Denise Vega
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc (March 5, 2012)
Source: ATW ARC Tours

From GoodReads:

High school sophomore Ori Taylor, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter in a nameless rock band, has always been known as the overlooked younger brother of Del, a high school sports star. But when Del suddenly returns home from college just as Ori is starting to gain some confidence in himself, Del expects everything to return to the way it used to be.

Rock On by Denise Vega is a very natural story. It's one of those "moment in time" stories that I love because of the realism and character study. While I love watching how the characters grow, develop, and change (oh, and make mistakes...lots and lots of mistakes), Rock On is also a fun contemporary read even if you don't like contemplating character development.

The full title of Rock On is Rock On: A Story of Guitars, Gigs, Girls, and a Brother (Not Necessarily in that Order). That pretty much sums it up. It captures the easygoing nature of Ori and accounts for all the major stuff that goes on in the book. Basically, it's one teenage boy's life as he's on the cusp of creating a good band, getting a girlfriend, and working through a rocky patch with his brother.

I enjoyed reading Rock On because of the realism. Yes, there was a plot and it did move forward. If you take the band aspect (which is the most prominent, plot wise), Ori's newly formed band is trying to prepare for a Battle of the Bands. If they win, they'll get more exposure and possibly be put in touch with "the right people." While it's accurate to say not every teenager is talented enough to put together a successful band, it's also not out of the realm of possibility. This isn't some I'll-go-from-nothing-to-something-with-a-big-record-deal-that-will-launch-our-career-and-make-us-millions-of-dollars type of scheme. It's a realistic Battle of the Bands with realistic prizes. This keeps the book grounded and fits in all the other aspects (gigs, girls, & brother) in check.

While I'm a sucker for music, I'm having a hard time deciding whether my favorite storyline was the music aspect or the brother (SHOCK:  It wasn't the Girls/romance!). Del and Ori's relationship is fairly typical, but they are definitely having a hard time with each other right now. Both Del and Ori are at different points in their lives and they both have a lot of changes occurring. That's hard to adjust to by yourself, let alone figuring out how everything fits in with other relationships. I really enjoyed reading about their relationship and how it shifted throughout the story. As a person with many siblings, this aspect felt particularly close to my heart.

Overall, Rock On is a cool, fun read for anyone who enjoys any of the things listed in the title (guitars, gigs, girls, and brother). It's definitely a boy friendly read and I'd say it'd probably be good for some reluctant readers too as long as they're interested in those topics.

Final thoughts:  Borrow. It's worth the read.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Title: Glow
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (September 13, 2011)
Source: Macmillan Audio
Format: Audiobook

From GoodReads:

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue? 

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them... 

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth. 

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.

I don't see many true in-space type sci-fi novels in YA. Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan is exactly that. We start aboard the spaceship Empyrean where our young narrators have spent their entire lives. They are traveling to New Earth, where they hope to have a fresh start for the human race. Life and death level chaos ensues. 

First off, I have to comment on the fact that I listened to this as an audiobook. I've listened to a few audiobooks before with varied responses. Let me tell you, listening to Glow has made me want to go out and get more audiobooks. It was fantastically done. There are two narrators that take over the POV's of Kieran and Waverly. The narrators bring each character to life through the dialogue. I loved it. Glow is an audiobook done right. 

Now, onto the story! My most common sci-fi read is a dystopian novel about how we humans have basically destroyed ourselves. It's not the out-in-space type of adventure. Glow is kind of a mix. Though not explicitly stated (the adults don't like to talk about it), readers get the sense that humans have destroyed Earth, but that's not the focal point of the story. The focal point is life on the spacecraft and what happens when fellow spacecraft, the New Horizon, disrupts the lives of the passengers on the Empyrean. There is lots and lots of adventure in this story and I absolutely loved it!

Here are some things that set Glow apart from other books:

1.) The characters make mistakes. Big ones. You know those moments in life where you think, "Oh God, please don't let this get any worse?" Glow has those moments...then it gets worse. The characters make errors in judgment as well as other errors that endanger the lives of others. I was still very able to connect with these characters because the errors weren't necessarily foolish or careless (you can be the judge of that), but there were real errors that had real consequences. Difficult stuff to write and it was pulled off well. 

2.) The role of God and religion was explored in a complex way. Often, I find religion very absent from stories. Now, I'm not saying it should be present in every story, but I often wonder if religion is avoided because it is a hot button issue. Not only was religion present in Glow, but it played an integral role in the story and was treated as complex a topic as it is. There were ideas on both sides about the belief in God and how people who serve God act. Just like anyone else, some people with strong religious convictions aren't very good people (while some are). Likewise, some people without strong religious convictions aren't very good people (while some are). The role of religion and how it played out for both Kieran and Waverly was fascinating and added a lot to the story. This is a plot line we are not done with, I'm sure of it. 

Besides the character mistakes and presence of religion, Glow has a lot going for it. It has an intricate storyline told through alternating viewpoints. Since Waverly and Kieran are separated for much of the book, we are able to keep track of their separate journey through the alternating POV, while also keeping the bigger picture in mind. Each character in the story felt distinct and well-rounded. In my mind, I had a clear picture of what each character looked like, how they acted, why they developed the characteristics that defined them...such wonderful writing (helped along by great voice acting). The world building in sci-fi and fantasy is a complex task and Ryan handles it well. I never felt lost of confused, but frequently was surprised and delighted by little tidbits we'd get along the way. For example, I'd never even considered that young passengers on the spacecraft would have no concept of wind or how it feels until Ryan pointed it out. 

Overall, I highly recommend Glow to any current sci-fi fans. To those who haven't read much sci-fi, give it a chance. I'd say it's a very friendly read for someone who hasn't read much sci-fi. If you're giving it a shot, I'd also highly recommend the audiobook format.

Can't wait till Spark!

Final thoughts: Definitely borrow, but worth the buy. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: My Very UnFairyTale Life by Anna Staniszewski

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (November 1, 2011)
Source: ARC

From GoodReads:

You know all those stories that claim fairies cry sparkle tears and elves travel by rainbow? They're lies. All lies." Twelve-year-old Jenny has spent the last two years as an adventurer helping magical kingdoms around the universe. But it's a thankless job, leaving her no time for school or friends. She'd almost rather take a math test than rescue yet another magical creature When Jenny is sent on yet another mission, she has a tough choice to make: quit and have her normal life back, or fulfill her promise and go into a battle she doesn't think she can win.

This is the first book I've read since I started doing these reviews that I didn't really love. Summed up, this book was just "fine" to me. I think I was expecting a more adult book, so once I adjusted my brain to a story for middle-grader/early YA readers, I found myself enjoying Jenny's adventures as an adventurer.

Jenny's story is both funny and sad at the same time. Her parents are gone, and she lives with someone who doesn't really understand her. Her friends don't act like they even remember her, and every time she attempts to have a normal day, she is called away on another adventure. When she gets fed up after a particularly dangerous trip, she quits. But then she realizes that her "new" life isn't really any better than her adventurer life really was.

The one thing I found very creepy about this book was the villian - a giant, demented clown. YUCK! As someone who doesn't love clowns to begin with, I wanted to skip ahead through all his scenes, because CREEPY!

This book won't take the average reader more than a few hours to read. While it didn't leave me a lasting impression with me, I don't regret taking the time to read it. If you have younger girls in your life, it would be a great read-aloud book for them. If I had read it in middle school, I would have loved Jenny and Prince Lamb and all the characters (except the creepy clown).

Final Thoughts: Younger readers will love it. No language or sex or questionable things you would have to explain.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Title: Nevermore
Author: Kelly Creagh
Publisher: Anteneum Books for Young Readers (August 30, 2011)
Source: My Choice; Own

From GoodReads:

Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look. 

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life. 

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

His life depends on it.

Um, do me a favor and check out that cover again.


Can you say creepy? Oh, and totally HOT!

I freaking love that cover. It's the reason I read the book in the first place. I saw it on my GoodReads recommendations page one day and that cover has haunted me ever since. I wrote down the title, but then lost it. I frantically searched through my GoodReads "to-read" pile, but couldn't find it there either! I scoured the internet till I finally found it. Whew! I'm so glad I did.

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh is one creepy, fantastical read. If you've ever been entranced in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, this is a good modern take on what it might be like inside his mind. Or, rather, a somewhat similar mind. Varen's mind.

Just looking at the cover alone, you get a good sense of Varen. His dark, mysterious, and totally not your typically teenage boy in a young adult book. Sure, there's a good bit of goth representation in YA, but Varen is unlike any other teen romance guy I've ever read about (but hey, I'm open to recommendations if I'm missing some YA subculture or something). He's dark and mysterious, but not in the usual way. More in the "Hey, maybe I should really leave him alone kind of way." He's rude to Isobel. Actually rude. And she doesn't take it playfully or misinterpret it or anything else. She recognizes that he's not interested in her (and not just in a romantic way), but she also knows she stuck working with him on an English project, so she must prevail.

What I thought was interesting about Varen is that although he is kind of rude to Isobel, he isn't a jerk. He just isn't interested in sparing her feelings, so he says things exactly as he sees them. Yes, this is absolutely a fault of his and I didn't particularly care for him when this is happening, but that's the great thing about characters...they can change. Isobel stands up to him and rightly puts him in his place. Things steadily improve from there. Throughout the story, I appreciated the comparison of Varen to Brad. At points, neither one is grade-A boyfriend material, but there are lines and decencies that Varen doesn't cross. Also, I really like that Varen doesn't try to fight Brad. It always irks me when an unexpected character is able to physically stand up to someone they shouldn't be able to, based on prior description. Creagh has created the characters and she sticks with them and their limitations. Kudos to her.

Okay, I realize I've spent just about the entire review on Varen and the cover, but Varen really is the story. And I don't mean the romance. I mean what's going on inside his head and how his relationship with Isobel not only changes his thoughts, but pulls her into his nightmares. A lot of the story is impacted by Varen's thoughts. It's a shame we don't get into his POV at all.

The one thing I did find really disappointing is that once Isobel reaches a certain level of understanding about what's going on and that it has to do with Varen, Varen isn't in the story much. Sure, there's lots of thoughts about him and he's otherwise occupied (which is why he isn't around), but I wish there was more of him in the end quarter of the book. Then again, that just makes me super eager to read book two, Enshadowed.

Final thoughts: Borrow or buy. Frankly, I'd buy it solely for the cover, but that's a personal preference. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Title: Fablehaven
Author: Brandon Mull
Publisher: Shadow Mountain (2006)
Source: Own

From GoodReads:

For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite.

Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken — Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good — powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most.

I had heard great things about Fablehaven. It sounds a lot like my kind of book - full of excitement and adventure. I have loved fantasy books since I was a little kid and I wish these books were around when I was younger - I might have actually read books in my age range!

When Kendra and Seth first come to Fablehaven, they have no idea what kind of adventure will await them. They think they are just going to see their grandparents while their parents go on a cruise. The reality, however, is that Fablehaven is home to a group of mystical creatures that most of the world doesn't even know exist. While their parents are gone, Kendra and Seth discover that there is something strange happening around them.

Fablehaven did not disappoint in any way. The characters were perfectly written, and halfway through the book I really wanted to take Seth out back for a stern talking-to...or something worse. He is written so perfectly as a pre-teen looking for adventure that I found myself seeing each of my younger brother's friends when he was that age. While I understand that Seth wants to be a grown up, he's just not yet, which is frustrating for the reader and the character. He reminded me a lot of Harry Potter in book five (when I also hated Harry for quite awhile).

Fablehaven is the perfect blend of fantasy and reality. Nestled safely in our world, Fablehaven is the place we all wish existed somewhere, especially when we were kids. I remember running around my backyard with imaginary faeries and dwarves, wanting to be part of a magic that doesn't really exist. Author Brandon Mull awakens that part of your heart that is an adventurer and dreamer of dreams. Inside everyone is a memory of believing that there was unseen magic in the world, and Fablehaven is the realization of all those dreams.

Final Thoughts: Own it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Title: Shut Out
Author: Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Poppy (September 5, 2011)
Source: My Choice; Own

From GoodReads:

Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part,Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention 

Then Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: She and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. But what Lissa never sees coming is her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling...

I can tell you the exact day I fell in love with Kody Keplinger (and her writing): June 21, 2009. That post by Janet Reid, including Keplinger's query for her debut novel, The DUFF, had me head over heels. Once I was finally able to read The DUFF, I fell in love again. In fact, The DUFF was my very first #yabookoftheday on twitter (tagged old school as #ya #bookoftheday). So, you can imagine the anticipation I had for Shut Out.

And that's the thing about sophomore novels...I get nervous. If the debut was only so-so, I anticipate that maybe the writing has gotten better, stronger, etc. and I might like the second book more. However, when  I absolutely adore the first book, I get really nervous that book two won't be able to live up to it. After all, how could it? How could it possibly get better than that amazing first book I'd read?

Well, I'll tell you this up front. I liked Shut Out even more than The DUFF. Here's why:  Shut Out had all the same great aspects as The DUFF (full-fledged characters, language and dialogue that's very true and real for today's teen, covering complex relational dynamics, etc.) AND I loved the story from the very first page. Don't get me wrong, I can't say enough good stuff about The DUFF, but I wasn't so sure about it when I read the first few chapters. Bianca was kind of whiny and annoying. It wasn't till I got into the groove of the writing that I really felt connected to her character. With Shut Out, I fell right into the story and characters immediately.

Reader warning: This book is all about sex. BUT! It's probably not what you think after reading that sentence. Shut Out is a modern reimagining of Lysistrata by Aristophanes. The women, tired of a seemingly stupid rivalry between two sports teams, decide to hold off on having sex until their male counterparts end the war. As far as Shut Out goes, the "sex" can be anything from sex to kissing. Whatever sexual was happening between two people will not be happening until "the war" is over.

That summary was enough to get me excited about the book. Once I read through that pages, what I found was a very honest, nonjudgemental, and critical examination of teenage sex in today's society. Double standards for the boys and girls were explored, but it was more than that. Comparisons of what's "normal" and who should do what and when were explored. These are the kind of questions every teen asks themselves at some point, but may never be able to voice. Shut Out not only voices the opinions, but explores them with a very positive message:  Whatever your choice is and however you feel about sex is okay. You don't have to conform to what everyone else is doing, or act like you think the same way, or try to act a certain way to avoid a label. Figure out what you want based on how you feel and stick to it.

Overall, Shut Out had a great story, fleshed out characters, strong writing, and incredible content. It's a book I think every teen should read (*adults also welcome*).

Final thoughts:  Buy it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

February Craziness

Sooo...you may have noticed I've been a little absent the last few weeks on twitter and the blog. My life has taken a turn for the crazy this month, so I'll probably continue to be sporadic throughout February. Hopefully, some school and internship things will then settle down a bit so I can be more consistent. Sorry for the blog and twitter silence on some days, but I hope y'all will just bare with me this month until I can get things back on track. :D

Happy reading!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

Title: Wings of the Wicked
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (January 31, 2012)
Source: ATW ARC Tours

From GoodReads:

Life as the Preliator is harder than Ellie ever imagined.
Balancing real life with the responsibility of being Heaven’s warrior is a challenge for Ellie. Her relationship with Will has become all business, though they both long for each other. And now that the secret of who she really is has come out, so have Hell’s strongest reapers. Grown bold and more vicious, the demonic threaten her in the light of day and stalk her in the night.

She’s been warned.
Cadan, a demonic reaper, comes to her with information about Bastian’s new plan to destroy Ellie’s soul and use an ancient relic to wake all the souls of the damned and unleash them upon humanity. As she fights to stay ahead of Bastian’s schemes , the revelations about those closest to her awaken a dark power within Ellie that threatens to destroy everything—including herself.

She’ll be betrayed.
Treachery comes even from those whom she loves, and Ellie is broken by the deaths of those who stood beside her in this Heavenly war. Still, she must find a way to save the world, herself, and her love for Will. If she fails, there will be hell to pay. 

Last Thursday, I reviewed Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton. This week, I'm happy to review the second in the series, Wings of the Wicked. Wings of the Wicked continues Ellie's story as the Preliator, and all the trouble that comes with it. I was happy to see that her status as a normal teenager attending high school and hiding her identity from her friends hadn't changed. As I mentioned in my review of Angelfire, that was one of my favorite aspects of the story. Even though she doesn't have what I'd consider a completely typical teenage experience (how many of us could really have afforded designer brands?), it's still a good perspective from the world she comes from and her human life.

In Angelfire, readers got to experience the sexual tension between Will and Ellie, and wondered when the heck they were going to get together already. In Wings of the Wicked, we have a similar struggle, because apparently, Will and Ellie are forbidden to be together. This was kind of frustrating, because it had taken them so long to kiss in the first place, but I understand it from a story perspective. That didn't make me happy with it. :P However, I will say we do get some excellent Will moments, but I won't spoil what kind they are. :D

Cadan is a character that really intrigued me in Angelfire. We get a bit more of him in Wings of the Wicked and I'm equally intrigued. I kind of love him. I want to ask Moulton if I can have him, but I think she might still need him. 

Overall, Wings of the Wicked is a solid follow up to Angelfire. Everything's been amped up from the first one. The action. The romance. The holy-crap-how-do-I-stay-sane. If you like Angelfire, definitely go out and get Wings of the Wicked

Final thoughts: Borrow. Buy if you have and/or really like Angelfire.