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.

Seriously.

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.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Title: Graffiti Moon
Author: Cath Crowley
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (February 14, 2012)
Source: ATW ARC Tours

From GoodReads:

Senior year is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight, she's going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. He's out there somewhere—spraying color, spraying birds and blue sky on the night—and Lucy knows a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for. Really fall for. Instead, Lucy's stuck at a party with Ed, the guy she's managed to avoid since the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells her he knows where to find Shadow, they're suddenly on an all-night search around the city. And what Lucy can't see is the one thing that's right before her eyes.

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley is a good book for people who like art. I love art, though I'm pretty terrible at analyzing it or doing it. But I love it nonetheless. Books like Graffiti Moon make me happy because I can appreciate art and not feel like an idiot while doing it. :)

So, you might be thinking, "How can she be appreciating art while she's not looking at any?" That's a fair point. With this book, I wasn't actually looking at any of the art described, but I was still seeing it. I could clearly picture the different graphics as they were described and still got the same feelings I get when looking at art. In fact, I probably got those feelings stronger while reading the book because I was reading the characters thoughts about the pieces, which helped me understand them better myself and made my emotions stronger.

While reading any book, my mind is making a mental movie of the actions as they happen. With some books, like Graffiti Moon, my mind is doing more than that. The actions aren't just actions. They're pictures. The writing is so artistically descriptive, I think of pictures instead of movements. I love poetic writing like this because it stands out and adds a layer of creativity to the story. The words flow and move, twisting and turning their way through the story. In many ways, the words shape the story instead of the story shaping the words.

Besides the art and the writing, I really enjoyed all the characters. Shadow and Poet have this mysterious existence behind their graffiti. The more we learn about Ed and Leo, the "real people" behind these tags, the more depth and reality I found in the characters. Lucy finds this as well as she goes searching for Shadow. She has this idea in her mind of what kind of person Shadow is, but she only has part of the story. Not only does she only know him through his art, but she has also only seen a fracture of the art he's created and none of the art still inside his head. I enjoyed learning more about Shadow/Ed through the various points of view, as well as learning about him through his art. I think the most insightful moments we're given as readers are things we have to interpret ourselves through the art.

Overall, Graffiti Moon is an enjoyable read. It's an introspective look at people in general, as well as the particular characters involved.

Final thoughts: Borrow or buy. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

200th Twitter Recommendation Giveaway!

Last week, I recommended my 200th book via my twitter recommendations! That's kind of a crazy number, so I figured I should celebrate. What better way to celebrate than to giveaway a book to my fantastic followers!

Since it's my 200th recommendation, I'm giving away a 2 for 1 book:  The Morganville Vampires, Volume 1. It comes with the first two books in the series: Glass Houses and The Dead Girls' Dance.


Personally, I like this cover even better than the two original covers of the first two books. Plus, with two books in one easy volume, you don't have to worry about getting to the end of book one and not having book two with you (and considering the cliffhanger endings in this series, that's a big relief!).

All you need to do to enter is complete the rafflecopter below. Do any or all of the things below to gain entry. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

Title: Going Too Far
Author: Jennifer Echols
Publisher: MTV Books (March 17, 2009)
Source: My Choice; Own

From GoodReads:

HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO?
All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far...and almost doesn't make it back.
John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won't soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the limit by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won't be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge -- and over....
Jennifer Echols has become a Go-To author when I need a sexy romance. I love her books because she always has a fabulous plot, complex characters, and a definitely sexy and romantic relationship. Her writing is smooth and fluid, the relationships are realistic and mature, and there's always just a little something extra. It's hard to describe, but Echols is able to give me the romance I crave, but there's so much more going on than the romance.

Going Too Far definitely captures all the aspects of Echols' writing that I love. In this story, we're introduced to Meg and John, two teens who seem to be on completely different ends of the teenage spectrum. Meg's a little bit of a trouble-maker. She takes risks and isn't afraid of the consequences. John is all about rules, which makes perfect sense considering he's a cop. Instead of rushing out of town to go to college when he graduated, he stayed behind to fulfill a duty he feels strongly for. One we don't completely understand until quite a way through the book. But John's not the only one hiding secrets. There's more to Meg's I don't care, live-in-the-moment attitude than she readily reveals. Part of the fun of this story is learning about these secrets.

For me, a good romance has full, realistic characters, a lot of chemistry, and a healthy back-and-forth between the characters. As nice as it is to have that instant, love-at-first-sight thing, I really enjoy reading banter. Echols creates natural friction between John and Meg that transforms into passion at a steady and believable pace. Lovely!

If you like reading romance, pick up a copy of Going Too Far. It's totally worth it. :D

Final thoughts: Buy if you like romance. If not, borrow.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

In My Mailbox #17



IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

I've been a little all over the place lately with some life stuff getting in the way of my blogging stuff, so I haven't posted an IMM in awhile. Also, I've been really limiting what I've been getting to read because of a lack of time. It'll probably be like this all month. 

That said, the stuff I have been getting I'm really looking forward to reading. :)

ARCs

Fever by Lauren DeStefano*
Rock On by Denis Vega*
First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky*
Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

Galleys

Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter

Audiobooks

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Cinder by Marissa Meyer

What have you been reading?

* I've already finished

Friday, February 3, 2012

Recap: January 30 - February 3

On twitter this week, the recommendations were:

LOVETORN by Kavita Daswani

When Shalini’s father gets a new job in L.A., she is torn away from her life in India and the boy to whom she’s been betrothed since she was three. L.A. is so different, and Shalini dresses and talks all wrong. She isn’t sure she’ll survive high school in America without her fiancĂ©, Vikram, and now she has to cope with her mom’s homesickness and depression. A new friend, chill and confident Renuka, helps Shalini find her way and get up the courage to join the Food4Life club at school. But she gets more than just a friend when she meets Toby—she gets a major crush. Shalini thinks she loves Vikram, but he never made her feel like this. 
In Lovetorn, Shalini discovers that your heart ultimately makes its own choices, even when it seems as if your destiny has already been chosen. 

Review:  Interesting concept that was well done.

I recommend LOVETORN by Kavita Daswani to fans of contemporary, romance, or modern multicultural stories.


HALLOWED by Cynthia Hand
For months Clara Gardner trained to face the fire from her visions, but she wasn't prepared for the choice she had to make that day. And in the aftermath, she discovered that nothing about being part angel is as straightforward as she thought.
Now, torn between her love for Tucker and her complicated feelings about the roles she and Christian seem destined to play in a world that is both dangerous and beautiful, Clara struggles with a shocking revelation: Someone she loves will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.
In this compelling sequel to "Unearthly," Cynthia Hand captures the joy of first love, the anguish of loss, and the confusion of becoming who you are.
Review:  I loved the way the story and mythology developed in HALLOWED.

I highly recommend HALLOWED by Cynthia Hand to fans of fantasy and/or romance. Bonus points for angels.


STOLEN AWAY by Alyxandra Harvey

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. 


Review: A good, quick read with fun romance and faeries.

I recommend STOLEN AWAY by Alyxandra Harvey to fans of fantasy with romance and/or faeries.


FRACTURE by Megan Miranda

Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine-despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?
Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?
For fans of best-sellers like Before I Fall and If I Stay, this is a fascinating and heart-rending story about love and friendship and the fine line between life and death.
Review: Emotionally and intellectually stimulating, FRACTURE was a surprising and touching debut.

I highly recommend FRACTURE by Megan Miranda to everyone. Seriously, it's that good.


DARKEST MERCY by Melissa Marr

The Summer King is missing; the Dark Court is bleeding; and a stranger walks the streets of Huntsdale, his presence signifying the deaths of powerful fey.
Aislinn tends to the Summer Court, searching for her absent king and yearning for Seth. Torn between his new queen and his old love, Keenan works from afar to strengthen his court against the coming war. Donia longs for fiery passion even as she coolly readies the Winter Court for battle. And Seth, sworn brother of the Dark King and heir to the High Queen, is about to make a mistake that could cost his life.
Love, despair, and betrayal ignite the Faery Courts, and in the final conflict, some will win . . . and some will lose "everything."
The thrilling conclusion to Melissa Marr's "New York Times" bestselling Wicked Lovely series will leave readers breathless.
Review: Excellent ending to a fantastic series.

I highly recommend DARKEST MERCY by Melissa Marr to fans of edgy fantasy. Bonus points for faeries and sexiness.

*Summaries provided by GoodReads.

Friday Favorite: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Title: Bridge to Terabithia
Author: Katherine Paterson
Publisher: Harper Collins, 1977
Source: Library
Newbery Winner, 1978

From GoodReads:

Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone.

That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits.

This may be one of the first books that made me cry. I know that doesn't appear to be a glowing endorsement, but it really is. Bridge to Terabithia broke my heart when I was a little girl, and stayed with me long after I read it for the first time. This is a book about unlikely friendships, worthy struggles and dealing with life after death.

Jesse and Leslie's friendship is unique - and, had the book been written for a slightly older audience, would have definitely become a more obvious romance. Instead, their friendship is sweet and innocent and full of optimism. As the Queen and King of the their own mythical land, Jesse & Leslie use their imaginations to create a world where they can face real struggles and fights. They find a place where they can be everything they want to be, but still maintain their innocence.

It's hard to talk about this book without giving away one huge plot detail. However, since the book is older, I'm going to talk about it (SO STOP HERE IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE SPOILER).

It is when Leslie dies in a tragic accident, Jesse must grow up quickly and come to grips with life without his friend. Paterson captures the pain and confusion that goes with losing a childhood friend in tragedy so well. I cried the first time I read Jesse's reaction to the death of his friend. When I read the book again as an adult, I cried again. And when I read it again for this review, knowing it was coming and knowing the story so well, I cried again. You just want to reach out and hold Jesse up when he's not strong. And then you want to give him everything as he builds the bridge that will carry him to Terabithia and the memory of his friend.

Final Thoughts: Beautiful and worth every accolade and award.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Title: Angelfire
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (February 15, 2011)
Source: My Choice; Library

From GoodReads:

First there are nightmares.
Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.

Then come the memories.
When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie's power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie's memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt.
Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton has been on my TBR pile forever! I kept putting the ebook on hold at the library, receiving it, then not having time to read it due to internship/dissertation/review ARCs, etc. I finally made sure to clear some room in my schedule so I could get to this one and I'm glad I did. :D

Angelfire is the kind of book that's great for fans of fantasy series with a romantic angle. There's a lot going on in Angelfire, from the angel mythology, fatal monsters and fight scenes, hot guys, a divine mission to save souls and, of course, high school drama. I often think that books like this aren't particularly skilled at integrating the whole I-want-to-be-a-normal-teen aspect, but Angelfire does. Ellie's high school friends and scenes get quite a bit of page time. Enough for me to feel a connection to those characters without taking away from the rest of the plot.

The plot is pretty high stakes too. It's a classic "Save the world, one soul at a time," type thing...and, oh, by the way, the bad guys have finally found a way to defeat the awesome good guy (or in this case, girl). It was a race to the finish to find out which side would complete their mission first. Could the bad guys release the ultimate evil or could the good guys dispose of it before the bad guys got a chance? Good stuff.

There are also some random things in the book that brought a true smile to my face. First off, Marshmallow? That's just about the coolest car name ever. Especially because of the description of the car. It fits. Second, any author who can make a Super Trooper reference is good in my book. If you don't know what I'm talking about, shame on you.

Overall, Angelfire was an enjoyable read. I'm excited to continue the story with Wings of the Wicked.

Final thoughts: Borrow.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cover Reveal: Lucid by P.T. Michelle

Remember that time I completely gushed about Brightest Kind of Darkness by P.T. Michelle? Okay, so I really gushed about Ethan, but Ethan isn't possible without the rest of the book (which was pretty awesome too). I have been waiting not-so-patiently to hear about the release of the next book in the series ever since.

Today, I'm proud to announce that Lucid, the second book in the series, will be released in Spring 2012 (exact date to-be-determined)!

Aaaaaand, the cover is being released today! Just take a look at the gorgeousness that awaits:


If you still haven't read Brightest Kind of Darkness, I suggest you do so in time for Lucid's release. You're not going to want to miss this.

Review: Crossed by Ally Condie

Title: Crossed
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (November 1, 2011)
Source: Library

From GoodReads:

In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

Thank goodness my number finally came up at my local library! I have been waiting for this book since it came out, and immediately put my name on the hold list. I just got the book this week! Crossed is the sequel to Matched, a dystopian story about a world that is on the verge of change - but not quite there yet. We catch up with Ky, Xander and Cassia as their worlds are coming together once again. Ky has been banished to the Out Provinces, and Cassia is willing to do whatever it takes to find him, even if it means pushing Xander out of her life again.

Crossed manages to build upon the confused heart of Cassia as she looks to the two boys in her life she loves. Xander is the one that is her "match" but Ky is the one that has opened her eyes to the world. And, as much as she doesn't want to, she knows she will have to choose one or the other someday. While I love Cassia and Ky, my favorite part of this book was the new characters that accompany them on their journey - Indie, Eli and Vick are all perfect foils for Cassia and Ky's wild pursuits. While Indie makes the biggest impact in the book, it is Vick that stole my heart. I loved learning more about people whom the Society has affected and pushed out of their "perfect" world..

One of the things I love the most about Crossed is that it is a very smart book. The use of poetry and paintings creates a sense of loss and a sense of a bigger story being told at the same time. I love that Ally Condie uses things that are part of her world to impact the world of Crossed. This is a smart book for people who are willing to slow down and really read and appreciate what is happening. While many middle trilogy books are full of nothing but action, Crossed blends action with moments of quiet reflection, which allow us, as readers to learn more about Cassia and Ky.

In the end, their journey comes sort of full-circle. As we wait for book three, the readers are left wondering who Cassia will choose, if she really gets a choice at all, and if the Rising is going to really change everything. I really enjoyed Crossed, and loved that it broke the mold of a traditional middle story.

Final Thoughts: Unexpectedly paced and beautifully executed.