Friday, December 30, 2011

Audiobook Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Publisher:  Fiewel & Friends/Macmillan Audio
Publication Date:  January 3rd, 2012

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that’s enthralling.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

If you had asked me three months ago if I had any interest in reading this book, I would have said "No!", with absolute certainty.  While I always love a good Fairy Tale Retelling, the whole android/cyborg-meets-Cinderella thing didn't really sound feasible to me.  I don't ever like to admit this, but I was beyond wrong!  Not only does it work, but I dare say that this is my favorite retelling EVER!  Now that I know the story, I think the concept is genius, and cannot wait for the subsequent three books in this series (based on Snow White, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood).  I can't wait to see what is in store for Cinder, Prince Kai, evil Queen Levana, wicked stepmother Adri, and (my favorite character besides Cinder) Dr. Erland!

This book was so well done on so many levels.  The world building was top notch!  Everything fit together, made sense, and I could picture the setting perfectly.  Honestly, it's really difficult for me to believe that Marissa Meyer is a debut author; she writes like a seasoned pro.  As you probably ascertained from the previous paragraph, I also connected well with the characters.  They were really well developed, with just enough mystery surrounding each to keep me coming back for more.  The story itself was the best part.  It was fresh, action-packed, and intriguing. It was well organized and it stuck to the original tale just enough to be a true retelling, while at the same time being completely unique.  I see an extremely bright future for Marissa Meyer!

I listened to the audio version of this book, and it was fantastic.  Read by the very talented Rebecca Soler, this audio brings the story to life.  Rebecca does different accents for different characters, and really captures Cinder's essence with her reading; her pacing was excellent and I found myself thoroughly absorbed in the story while listening, which is sometimes troublesome for me with audiobooks.  I was very impressed!  If you are thinking about picking Cinder up, I highly recommend the audio version.  It was so good, I found myself looking for chores to do so that I would have a reason to put my earbuds in and tune everything else out.

Overall, it doesn't matter what format you experience this book in.  The important part is that you do.  I am certain that next December you will see this book on my Top 25 YA Books of 2012.  Other 2012 debuts have a very tough act to follow!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:   Totally clean.  Fine for 5th grade and up (ages 10+).  In fact, I can't wait for my 10 year old daughter to read it!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: December 6th, 2011

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa's powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister's war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will; the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

THIS BOOK!  So awesome!  I'm not sure if I can properly articulate how much I loved this book, but I'm going to try...  

I love Cassandra Clare's writing.  After reading Clockwork Angel I was pretty sure I liked The Infernal Devices better than my beloved Mortal Instruments, but I wanted to reserve my final judgement until there were at least two books in the series; now I am absolutely convinced!  What a world!  I'm not typically a huge Steampunk fan, but these books are amazing, and if I thought Clockwork Angel was amazing, I had no idea what amazing was.  Clockwork Prince not only outshines Clockwork Angel, it blows every one of Cassie's books out of the water!  "Why was it so awesome?", you ask.  Well, if you have read Cassie's other books, you know that the girl has mad talent, but putting that aside...

There are three reasons I love this book- the characters, the world, and most importantly, the story!  The characters were great in Clockwork Angel, and we learn so much more about them in this book.  We find out what makes Will tick, we learn that Jem is every bit the great guy we suspect he is, and we further see what a kick-ass heroine Tessa is, but we get so much more from our other characters as well!  Charlotte and Henry become so much more real, we learn a lot about why The Magister holds such a grudge and why Nathaniel was willing to betray his only family for him, we see different side of Magnus Bane, we find out what lengths Jessamine is willing to go to not be a part of her Shadowhunter world, and we meet some great new characters like Sophie Collins and Gideon Lightwood.  I loved the good characters and truly loved to hate the bad ones!

As far as the world goes, Cassie Clare is an expert world builder.  Maybe it is the fact that she spent much of her childhood moving around the world with her family, maybe she has such superb research skills that it would be impossible for her to get it wrong, maybe she naturally has fantastic attention to detail, maybe it's all of the above... Whatever the explanation for Cassie's world building prowess, it's amazing.  It's no wonder there is such great fan art out there; Cassie's writing is a wonderful muse!

Best for last... The story!  I really don't like love triangles, as a rule, but the one in this series is one of the few exceptions.  I never had trouble choosing between Peeta and Gale, Jace and Simon, Edward and Jacob... I usually know which "team" I'm on pretty quickly.  After reading Clockwork Angel, I thought I was pretty much on "Team Will".  He seemed like an ass, but I knew he was this beautiful, tortured soul who had good reason to act the way he did.  Jem was wonderful, but dying, so really, what was the point?  THEN I saw the cover of Clockwork Prince, and DAMN if I couldn't decide anymore.  Jem certainly didn't look very sick... When I went to Cassie's signing at Little Shop of Stories a few weeks ago, she asked which team I was on.  When I told her I didn't know, she called me "Switzerland".  I can't even believe I'm writing these words, but I am STILL Switzerland.  I have never been this conflicted over a love triangle in my entire life!  I think Tessa needs to time-travel into the future, clone herself, and put me out of my misery!  Aside from the romantic element, this story had it all; action, suspense, mystery, betrayal, heartbreak, and laughs.  Perfect in every way!

Bottom line is that if you are already a fan, you probably don't need this review to know you want to read this book.  If you're not a fan, start with Clockwork Angel and then read this because I guarantee that you won't be disappointed!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★++

Grade Level Recommendation:  I think this series is a bit more tame than The Mortal Instruments, but I would still place it in the Middle School and up range; there's a good bit of almost-sex as well as drug use and violence.  Mature 6th-7th grade and up (ages 12+).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Publisher: Harlequin/Mira Books

Publication Date: December 27th, 2011

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life...
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I've only read a few of Maria V. Snyder's books, and although I very much enjoyed them, I wasn't a big enough fan to get giddy about an upcoming release; this book changed that.  In a word: AMAZING!  

Anyone who has read anything by Maria V. Snyder knows that one of her biggest strengths is in world building.  She has a gift for setting the stage for the story, and this book is no exception.  I dare say that this book would have been worth reading for the lush descriptions alone.  Fortunately, the characters and storyline are equally worthy, making a truly fantastic read.

As I mentioned before, I was not a big enough fan of Maria's to be "anxiously awaiting" this book, but I saw it on NetGalley and requested it based on the prior books I had read by her (also, it has a great cover).  I am so glad it did because it thrills me to be able to be spreading the blogger love for this book!  It is definitely my favorite fantasy novel of 2011.  I loved it!  It's full of action and magic.  Add to that a kick-ass heroine, subtle romance, sacrifice, intense bonds, betrayal, and a sexy bad guy, then put it smack-dab in the middle of a fantastical setting, and you have a winner.  The synopsis does not do this story justice, but at the same time, I feel like any more information could lead to spoilers.  That said, I'm not going to go into too much detail in this review.  The writing in this book is superb and the story lacks nothing.  If you are a fan of Fantasy and magic, you really MUST read this.  I am definitely "anxiously awaiting" book number two in the Healer series, Scent of Magic, which releases in late 2012.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book is fine for 6th grade and up (ages 11+).  There is one sex scene, but it isn't graphic at all and is between two consenting adults.  There is a good bit of violence, but none of it is gratuitous.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Audiobook Review: Tempest by Julie Cross

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin/Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: January 17th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Initially, I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book.  The synopsis didn't grab me and the cover looked a bit juvenile for my taste.  Then I started reading early reviews, and well... I got  an audio ARC from Macmillan Audio, and it was so much better than I expected.  I've had a few rather disappointing audio experiences lately where I had to actually just read the book instead, and this was a refreshing change.  The reader was great; I really enjoyed his voice and style of reading.  I wish I knew what his name is!  Now for my review of the actual book...

Like I mentioned, I wasn't really into this at first.  Even when I requested it, after several early rave reviews, I wasn't sure I was going to love it, but I was curious.  It pretty much starts out with a bang, and doesn't slow down.  It's action packed, but the action isn't filler.  It's relevant to the story, and despite the rather unbelievable storyline, somehow quite believable.  The timeline could very well have been confusing with all the time travel (especially in audio format), but it wasn't.  It was well documented and I almost always knew where the protagonist was in time.  As for the story itself, it was phenomenal; well plotted, with superior organization.  The characters were very well rendered, and I LOVE that the story is told from the male protagonist's POV.  I feel like there is such a shortage of YA books told from a male perspective.  Jackson is a great character who you really can't help but like. A lot.  The other characters are pretty great too.  The villains aren't all that well developed, but this is only the first book, and I have a feeling we'll learn lots more about them in subsequent books.  I do highly recommend the audio version.  I think it brings the story to life because the narrator brings some emotion into Jackson's story.  Whether you listen to the audio or read the print version, do read this book.  It was time well spent.

I think Tempest is a solid start to what promises to be an excellent series.  Julie Cross had written a stellar debut.  I have a feeling that 2012 is going to be a great year for debut authors and their readers!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book has a bit of sexual content.  If it were a movie, it would definitely be PG-13.  I would put this at grades 8 and up (ages 13+)

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week a new Top Ten list topic is posted and book bloggers fill in their own choices.  I'm a list girl (as in, I don't function without them), so I thought this would be a good choice for me!  This week's topic is Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings.  For me, it will be extremely difficult to narrow it down to just 10...  

Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings

1.  Fever by Lauren DeStefano~ It's not out until February 21st, bu Santa IS magic, so maybe, just maybe...

2.  A Million Suns by Beth Revis~ Another book that isn't out yet (January 10th), but maybe Santa has some ARC connections?

3.  Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey by Bob McCabe~ This one has actually been published.  BUT, it's $75, so it's unlikely anyone will be getting it for me.  *sigh*

4.  Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton~ I have been wanting to read this all year but my library doesn't have it, and I always forget to look for it when I am in the bookstore.

5.  Entangled by Cat Clarke~ Another book I've wanted to read all year.  I can't find this one anywhere though!  Book Depository's been out for ages, as has Amazon.  And forget the local stores.  Maybe Santa can have the elves make me a copy!

6.  The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder~ I've heard such wonderful things about this book!  I can't wait to read it.

7.  Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer~ I need this book.  Since the ARC Fairy didn't deliver, I am kind of hoping Santa will!  It releases January 3rd.

8.  Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay~ This book looks so cute.  I could totally see curling up to read it on a cold, lazy day.

9.  The Fault In Our Stars by John Green~ But it has to come with a ticket to the signing in Atlanta on January 15th (WOOT!).

10.  Legend by Marie Lu~ I really want to read this!  I've heard such awesome things!  If Santa doesn't bring this, I'm buying it for myself.  :)

*Don't forget to register for my 25 Days of Jubilation Giveaway!  Three lucky entrants will win their choice of one book off of my Top 25 YA Books of 2011!  Click HERE!*

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Publisher: Aladdin
Publication Date: August 30th, 2011

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.

Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret—behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime.

In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation.

But it's a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I'm not typically one of those people who re-reads books.  I've read the Harry Potter books a couple of times, The Hunger Games, To Kill a Mockingbird... I've read Gone With the Wind five or six times.  But really, I don't do it much.  There are so many new and exciting books, who has time for re-reads?  I tell you this about myself, and I list some of the books I have re-read, because I want you to understand the company this book keeps when I say that I have read it twice.  Pretty freakin' good company, if you ask me...

Kirkus says that this book is "The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter."  That statement alone sold me, and while the quality was definitely there, I don't think that it's true.  This book stands alone.  The story is completely unique and I think Kirkus did not do this book justice by comparing it to those two books.  Sure, it probably sold a lot of books, boldly displayed on the cover the way it is, but this book very much has the potential to be a modern classic in its own right.

I've read a couple of Lisa Mcmann's books, and to be honest, I was surprised when I heard that she was writing a MG novel.  Cryer's Cross and the Wake Trilogy, while great, are pretty dark and scary, and I was very curious to see if that wouldn't bleed into this MG book.  I even went so far as to preview it before letting my 10 year old read it (she LOVED it!).  I got an advance copy, and was drawn in immediately.  Lisa develops each character nicely, at an even pace, so you kind of feel like you're getting to know them as you would people you meet in real life.  In most cases, you don't immediately connect with someone; connection develops over time, and that's how it is with the characters in this book.  As far as the story is concerned, I loved it.  I loved the premise of kids believing that they are going to their deaths because they showed creative ilk, only to find themselves part of this fantastical world where their creativity isn't punished, but celebrated!  I will say that the story is a bit more fast-paced than what I am used to as a reader of YA, but that works here because most MG readers lose interest if the book isn't action-packed enough.   Kids ages 7-12 don't necessarily have the attention span to  wait it out while the storyline develops.  I think a lot of MG authors fail to create a strong story with enough action to keep kids focused and engaged.  Lisa McMann has absolutely no problem with this.  As much as I loved the story though, my favorite part of this book was the world building.  I have always loved Fantasy as a genre because of the worlds that are so different from anything I can think up.  I love it when I find an author who can stretch my imagination and make me really see what I never thought possible.  I would love to be an Unwanted in Lisa's rendering of Artime.  What a world!  

I blog YA, but I actually read a lot of MG fiction as well.  From time to time I review it here, if I like it well enough.  Obviously, I felt like this book was worth reviewing.  Of all the MG books I've read this year, this is the best!  I think that YA readers would adore this book, and should definitely give it a go!  You won't be disappointed!  Looking forward to the release  of book #2, Island of Silence, in August of 2012.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This is a Middle Grade book, and I think it's fine for most MG readers.  That said, MG is ages 7-12 and I don't think I would read this to my 7 year-old twins just yet because I think they would be scared.  I would say this is best for ages 8 and up (3rd grade+).

*Don't forget to register for my 25 Days of Jubilation Giveaway!  Three lucky entrants will win their choice of one book off of my Top 25 YA Books of 2011!  Click HERE!*

Interview with Never Eighteen Author, Megan Bostic

I recently reviewed the fantastic novel, Never Eighteen, by Megan Bostic (read my review HERE).  It is a beautiful story about a boy named Austin who is dying of cancer and would never see his 18th birthday.  Austin is an amazing character, and this story really got me thinking about what went into the writing of it.  Megan Bostic has been so gracious, and has agreed to answer a few questions I had, and I wanted to share.  Do yourself a favor and pick up Never Eighteen when it releases on January 17th!

1.  First off, congratulations!  I'm sure you're absolutely ecstatic to see your book in a bound format!  I know that you are a long-time vlogger of the ups and downs of getting published; how does it feel to finally be able to say that you've done it?

Sometimes it still seems surreal, but then I think of all the work I’ve done, and how exhausted I’ve been after a bazillion rewrites, and queries, and marketing, and it all comes back to me. Lol.  But in all seriousness, I feel a real sense of accomplishment, not only for me, but for the people who’ve supported and helped me through this journey.

2.  So my biggest burning question really has nothing to do with the book, but the writing... How the hell do you manage to get so much writing done with kids?  I have to let the TV babysit mine so I can take the time to write these questions.  I can't imagine finding time to write a book...

Well, I was a stay at home mom for many years, and my kids were already in school when I started writing, so I pretty much wrote from the time they left to the time they got home, then I put my “mom hat” on.  It’s actually been a little harder now that they’re older. Now I work a part time job, and when my girls get home from school they may need help with homework, or need to be taken to music lessons, or doctor appointments, or soccer practice.  I try to squeeze it in where I can, which can be very difficult.

3.  Never Eighteen is a NaNoWriMo novel.  When you started NaNo, did you have any idea that it would The One? A gut feeling, perhaps?

It’s funny, because I was rewatching my Chronicle videos and in one I actually say, “this could be the one” (I didn’t remember saying that lol).  So, I guess I felt strongly about this one, probably because it came from the deepest depths of my heart and I think it was a story that needed to be told.

4.  What inspired you to write this story? You went from superheroes to how to get into to heaven/hell to this; that's a broad scope of subject matter.  Did the idea just jump into your head?

The idea came from my then husband.  I called him my “idea man”.  He was always coming up with stories for me to write.  If I only had that much time. Haha.  

We took his mother in and did hospice care for her when she was diagnosed with late stage cancer.  We had firsthand knowledge of the disease’s brutal effects on the body.  When you watch someone die, you think about your own mortality.  If I found out I only had a short time to live, I would want to touch peoples lives in a positive way, even if it was just in a small way.  I really try to live as if each day were my last, but it really isn’t easy.

5.  As a mother, I had a difficult time reading Never Eighteen at times; I kept thinking about my own kids.  How was it writing Austin's story, as a mother of teenagers?  Did you draw from your experiences as a mother? 

I mostly drew from my own experiences as a teenager.  I’ve faced, and known many others who’ve faced the same challenges you’ll read about in the book.  Those life experiences don’t change over time, they just hit the next generation of kids.  Teens are still abused, and addicted.  They’re finding out who they are, trying to fit in.  They self-doubt, self-loathe.  They’re experiencing love and heartbreak for the first time.  They’re bound to see people they love divorce or die.

And yes, I always have my daughters in mind when I write, because I fear for them, as all parents do.  I want their lives to be perfect.  I don’t want them to have to face these issues, but unfortunately, these are problems teens face every day, and it could happen to one of my children.

6.  Austin is a remarkable character.  Is he based on a person or a combination of people you know in real life?

Austin is not really based on a real person.  I based his disease on what I learned through caring for my mother-in-law, otherwise I think he’s a more a representation of the kind of person we should be, not just in tragedy, but every day.  Part of his mission is not just to show people the value of their lives, but it’s more than that.  Make the step to apologize or forgive, learn to trust yourself and others, reach out to someone in need, make a difference.

7.  Never Eighteen started out with the title, Mending Fences.  Who decided to change it?  Are you happy with the change?

My editor liked the original title, but thought it needed more punch.  I agreed.  My dad actually came up with the new title, and he is proud of that. I’m very happy with the change. I think the title alone tells a story.  

8.  Some authors like to read reviews, and others don't.  Which are you?  Never Eighteen has got a really great pre-release average rating on Goodreads right now.  Have you been keeping up with what people are saying?

I’ve been told not to read reviews, but I can’t help myself.  I read them all.  Do I like them all? Of course not, but any author who thinks everyone is going to love their book is living in la-la land.  I am keeping up with what people are saying, and I’m very pleased that the majority get what I was trying to convey with the story.  I’m just sorry I’ve made so many people cry. Lol.

9.  Who are some of your favorite authors? Books?  What was your favorite book of 2011? Which 2012 debut is your favorite so far?

Authors I’ve read a lot of include Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton, Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, and Harlan Coben, so as you can see, I have an eclectic taste in books.  

I have many favorite books, but I’ll only name a few so your readers don’t fall asleep.  To Kill a Mockingbird, The Handmaid’s Tale, Fahrenheit 451, The Stand, Lord of the Flies, A River Runs Through It. I’ll stop there; I could go on and on.

My favorite book of 2011 was Geoff Herbach’s Stupid Fast (I’ve mentioned him so much he probably thinks I’m stalking him).  His main character Felton’s voice is probably the most unique voice I’ve ever read.  The story is funny, heartbreaking, and thoughtful.  I can’t wait to read more from Geoff.

To be honest, I’ve not read a 2012 debut yet, though I’ve begun my first, which is The Wicked and the Just by J Anderson Coats, and I’m liking it very much.  Now, if you ask me which I’m looking most forward to, I will say all my fellow Class of 2k12ers books, Brodi Ashton’s Everneath (which is sitting on my bookshelf right now, squee!), Storybound by Marissa Burt, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, and once again, I could go on and on, I mean, have you seen how many debuts there are for 2012?

10.  You seem to have a knack for YA.  Do you think it is something you will stick with?  Any "up next" news?

I definitely think I’ll stick with YA, though I have a couple adult projects in the works that I’m attached to.  I prefer writing realistic YA dealing with social issues, and to be honest, I also like writing about death for some morbid reason.

My current work in progress, is titled, Sliced.  It’s about a teen cutter with abandonment issues.  I like to call it a story of  loss, loathing, and lacerations.

So, yeah... I hope my ADD, all over the place questions aren't terribly annoying!  If you have anything to add, please do! 

Your questions were awesome and unique.  Thank you so much for hosting me.

Many thanks to Megan for her awesome, in depth answers. If you want to know more about Megan and her writing, you can visit her on her website, Megan Bostic Books, her blog, The Angsty Writer, and YouTube Channel (my personal favorite of the three). You can also check her out on Facebook and Twitter.

*Don't forget to register for my 25 Days of Jubilation Giveaway!  Three lucky entrants will win their choice of one book off of my Top 25 YA Books of 2011!  Click HERE!*

Review: Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic

Publisher: Graphia
Publication Date: January 17th, 2011

Austin Parker is on a journey to bring truth, beauty, and meaning to his life.

Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. The doctors say his chances of surviving are slim to none even with treatment, so he’s decided it’s time to let go.

But before he goes, Austin wants to mend the broken fences in his life. So with the help of his best friend, Kaylee, Austin visits every person in his life who touched him in a special way. He journeys to places he’s loved and those he’s never seen. And what starts as a way to say goodbye turns into a personal journey that brings love, acceptance, and meaning to Austin’s life.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Get out the tissues, because even though you know from the beginning that this book is going to end with the death of the protagonist, it still hits you like a ton of bricks when it happens.  This book is so beautifully written and with such depth that, as the reader, you form intense bonds with the characters.  It will feel like a punch in the gut when Austin dies; you will relate to Kaylee, because you will feel like you lost a good friend.  This book is a difficult read because it makes you face your own mortality, but it is also a very uplifting and inspiring read because it makes you think about the people in your own life- relationships, burned bridges, things that you would not want to go unsaid if something were to happen to you tomorrow.  It gave me a lot of hope as I followed Austin in his quest to make right the wrongs in his life, to try to get through to people that needed a wake-up call, to experience at least a few of the things he wanted to experience before he died.  I found myself wondering if I would want to know if I had only a short time to live, or if I would want death to come instantly.  Is the suffering that a slow death, like that of a cancer patient, worth being able to tie up those loose ends?  I still don't know, but it makes me grateful for the time I have and eager to make sure the people in my life know that I love them.  This book is powerful in that thought-provoking way, but it is more...

Megan Bostic does a fantastic job with the character development in this book.  As I mentioned before, I bonded with Austin and Kaylee.  They became more than characters in a book to me.  The supporting characters were also very well well rendered; Austin's mother made my heart break, his grandmother, his peers; everyone in the story, no matter how small their role, contributed to the emotional roller-coaster ride.  I really love the idea of this story and the way in which it was told.  I'm an adult, and a parent, so I have a different perspective than this book's "target" audience might, but I really feel like Megan did a great job getting her message to younger readers.  Yes, there is some content that some readers would find objectionable; a lot of older reviewers like myself- parents, teachers, librarians- took issue with some of the issues that are touched on in this book (language, teen drinking, abuse, homosexuality, rape, drug use, and sex), and it's recommended age of 12+, but I don't at all.  Twelve year-olds are well aware of all of the above; they all use the language (don't even TRY to tell me that YOUR perfect angel doesn't), they know much more about sex and sexuality than we give them credit for, and are well aware that many teens drink and use drugs.  This story wouldn't be so real and credible if it were cleaned up, and quite frankly, it's really not about any of those things at all, but about Austin's journey.  It's not supposed to be a pretty or easy read, but one that is supposed to stay with you, and I really think it will.  I read this in June, and I'm writing this review in December, and it's still very fresh.  I have a feeling that it always will be.  Thank you NetGalley and HMH Children's/Graphia for the opportunity to review this wonderful novel!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  As I mentioned before, there is some mature content, but I feel the "recommended" age of 12+ is accurate.  I think that it would actually behoove many indestructible 12 year-olds to read this book.  Normally, I would say that a book with themes like these would be more appropriate for HS students because I would be afraid a less mature student would be able to wrap the heads around them, but Austin's voice is such that I think a 7th or 8th grader would be fine.  Grades 7 and up.

*Don't forget to register for my 25 Days of Jubilation Giveaway!  Three lucky entrants will win their choice of one book off of my Top 25 YA Books of 2011!  Click HERE!*

25 Days of Jubilation Giveaway! YA Litwit's Top 25 Books of 2011

25 Days of Jubilation is a fabulous giveaway hop hosted by Cyndi (Dog-Eared & Bookmarked), Jacinda (The Reading Housewives), and Yani (The Secret Life of an Avid Reader), in celebration of the holiday season.  In the spirit of giving, each day from December 1st through the 25th, a different blogger will do a giveaway post.  Lucky for you, I share my day with Sarah at Workaday Reads, so ya'll get two for the price of one!  I encourage you to first visit the hostess' giveaway, because it's awesome, and then check out ALL the giveaways (which I will post at the end, so you have to read mine first!).  Here's to a wonderful Holiday Season to everyone!  GOOD LUCK!

For my feature, I am going to list my Top 25 YA Books of 2011.  Back in September I shared my top 10 for the year (so far), but here we are three months later, and that list has changed some.  Also, I've realized that 10 books is not nearly enough to recognize all of the greatness the publishing world has given us this year.  Each book on this list has received a 5 or 5+ star rating from me.  So far, I have read 187 books this year, and of them, 88 were published in 2011.  These are the best of those 88...

Because I have to post this before all the YA books for 2011 have been released, I am going to give up my Top 25 from December 1st, 2010 through November 30th, 2011.  Then, I'm going to choose THREE lucky entrants to win a book of THEIR CHOICE off of the list!  So, without further ado...

YA Litwit's Top 25 YA Books of 2011
**December 1st, 2010-November 30th, 2011**

1.  Shine by Lauren Myracle~ This book has held steady at number one since I read it back in April.  I loved it.  I have expressed my love on numerous occasions, and I truly believe that everyone needs to read this book.  It is beautiful, gritty, raw, and uplifting.  It will stay with me forever.  Published May 1st, 2011 by Amulet.  Read my review HERE.

2.  Beauty Queens by Libba Bray~ I'm a Libba fangirl for sure, and this is my favorite yet.  Funny, snarky, witty, and full of great, non-preachy social commentary.  I laughed so hard, I peed a little many, many times while reading this book.  If you are looking for knock-your-socks off writing that will make you laugh, read this!  Published May 27th, 2011 by Scholastic.  Read my review HERE.

3.  The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin~ This was a VERY recent read for me and though I was sad to see it knock someone off my Top 10 list, I had to do it.  This book was great.  I felt like it was perfect in every way.  You would never guess that it's Michelle Hodkin's first book.  I can't wait for book #2!  Published September 27th, 2011 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.  Read my review HERE.

4.  Hourglass by Myra McEntire~ Another debut author who you would guess to be a seasoned pro if you didn't know better.  Such a great, original story, with just enough romance that it doesn't overpower.  I loved ever minute reading this, and can't wait for Timepiece to come out!  Published June 14th, 2011 by EgmontUSA.  Read my review HERE.

5.  Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake~ Yet another debut author!  This is really the year of The Elevensies!  I was drawn to this, as I am a good number of books I read, by the cover.  I was blown away by the story though!  This book was amazing (hence the #5 spot).  If you like a super-scary ghost story from the POV of a dark, sexy guy, this book is for you!  Can't wait for Girl of Nightmares, its sequel!  Published August 30th, 2011 by Tor Teen.  Read my review HERE.

6.  Perfect by Ellen Hopkins~ I'm an Ellen fangirl.  I love/hate every one of her books.  She writes beautifully about ugly things.  I think EVERY parent of a tween or teen needs to read ALL of her books, but especially this one.  Then they need to pass the books to their kids.  Perfect made me want to be a better parent and made me actually wake my oldest daughter (age 10) up at 2am to hug her.  Published September 13th, 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry.  Read my review HERE.

7.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern~ While not technically a YA novel, this book has gotten enough attention on the YA blogs, that I think it deserves this spot.  Gorgeous in ways that I can't describe.  This is a book that has to experienced and savored.  I have no doubt that it will be read for generations.  Published September 13th, 2011 by Doubleday.  Read my review HERE.

8.  Wither by Lauren DeStefano~ I probably would have never picked this book up if not for the gorgeous cover, but I did, and WOW!  I was kind of over Dystopias because of the the influx of crap on the heels of The Hunger Games, and this book renewed my faith in the genre.  The cover, as gorgeous as it is, doesn't do what's inside justice!  Fever, its sequel, is out in just a couple of months, and I can't wait!  Published March 22nd, 2011 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.  Read my review HERE.

9.  Ashfall by Mike Mullin~ Simply amazing.  This didn't make my 1st list because I was still reading it, but I knew that it was going to end up bumping someone off.  Expertly researched, with amazing descriptions, I felt like I was there.  The two main characters became so real to me that I swear, I may hunt Mike Mullin down and hurt him if he kills either of them off in the sequel, Ashen Winter!  Published October 11th, 2011 by Tanglewood Press.  Read my review HERE.

10. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan~ I have been in love with Carrie Ryan's writing since picking up The Forest of Hands and Teeth two years ago.  As the series progressed, the books just kept getting better.  This one was definitely the best.  I will surely read all three, and this one in particular, many times over.  Carrie Ryan's writing is so beautiful; it pulls on my heart like few others can do.  Published March 22nd, 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers.  Read my review HERE.

11.  Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins~ This is one of those December 2010 releases.  I didn't give this book a chance until August of 2011 because I hated the cover.  I know what they say, but I do.  I can't help it.  I'm a cover whore.  I was totally wrong in this case.  Stephanie Perkins manages to take one of my least favorite genres, Contemporary Romance, and make me LOVE it!  I haven't met a single person who has a negative thing to say about this book!  Published December 2nd, 2010 by Dutton.  

12.  Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer~ I didn't read this books predecessor, Nightshade, until this year because I thought it was going to be another sucky werewolf rip-off.  When I finally did, I loved it (review HERE).  When this book came out a few months later, I was all over it.  No sophomore slump here!  Even better than the 1st.  I can't wait for Bloodrose!  Published July 26th, 2011 by Philomel.  Read my review HERE.

13.  Where She Went by Gayle Foreman~ This was one of my most anticipated sequels of 2011.  I absolutely LOVED If I Stay.  I think I used an entire box of tissues as I read it in one sitting.  I read this one in one sitting as well, and probably used an equal  number of tissues.  I was so happy with what Gayle did with this story.  I laughed, I cried, and best of all, I got the closure I needed after If I Stay.  Published April 5th, 2011 by Dutton Juvenile.  Read my review HERE.

14.  Across the Universe by Beth Revis~ A YA book not entirely based on romance?  And it's Sci-Fi?  Thank you, Beth Revis!  This story was original and fabulous and I just loved it.  I both read the book and listened to the audio.  While the book is great, the audio brings it to life.  Do yourself a favor and give it a listen!  A Million Suns is out in just a few weeks and I am ridiculously excited.  It's going to be like Christmas all over again!  Published   January 11th, 2011 by Razorbill.  Read my review HERE.

15.  Divergent by Veronica Roth~ This book got a lot of advance buzz and while excited, I was wary because I didn't want to be disappointed.  Thankfully, I wasn't.  I buddy-read this with my daughter, and we both agreed that it belonged on this list.  She said it should be #1 (and Lauren Myracle is her favorite author EVER!), but since it's my list...  Amazing until the very last sentence!  So original and heart-stopping.  We're both anxiously awaiting the sequel, Insurgent!  Published May 3rd, 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books.  Read my review HERE.

16.  Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley~ I hadn't finished this book when I started compiling this list, and when I did, I had to go back and change things.  (John Corey Whaley really should apologize to Gabrielle Zevin for knocking her off my list...)  This book was amazing!  It was so wonderfully written.  I'm not much of crier, but this book did me in a time of two.  Published May 3rd, 2011 by Atheneum.  Read my review HERE.

17.  Crossed by Ally Condie~ I loved Matched, but I loved Crossed even more.  I actually put down my other books so that I could read this, and that is something I never do.   It did not disappoint, and now I have a whole year to wonder about book #3.  If the improvement this book made on the first book can replicated, we are in for a huge treat!  Published November 1st, 2011 by Dutton Juvenile.  Read my review HERE.

18.  Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins~ The only author to make the list twice!  I have a feeling that if Stephanie had written 25 books this year, this would be a pretty boring list...  Lola was so awesome.  It was just a perfect story.  Stephanie has now proven that she is the Contemporary Romance queen!  Next time I am at an event where she is speaking, I'm bringing her a crown!  Published September 29th, 2011 by Dutton Juvenile.  Read my review HERE.

19.  Everfound by Neal Shusterman~ This may have been my most anticipated book of 2011.  Neal Shusterman is my favorite YA author and I know I can count on him every time for an amazing read.  This is the 3rd, and final book in his Skinjackers Trilogy and it is by far the best.  While I'm sad to see this series end, at least I have the sequel to Unwind to look forward to in 2012.  It's called Unwholly, and I cannot wait.  I'm sure you'll see it on this list next year!  Published May 3rd, 2011 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.  Read my review HERE.

20.  The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson~ This was such a departure from the other books I've read by Maureen Johnson.  I've always liked her books, but this one, I loved.  It grabbed me and I could not put it down.  It was rich with history, but it was so much more.  I'm sure this book will make a lot of "Best Of" lists this year!  Published September 29th, 2011 by Putnam Juvenile.  Read my review HERE.

21.  The Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan~ One of the most underrated books of the year.  Most definitely one of the most underrated debuts...  This book was great!  When I read the synopsis, I was worried that it would be an Across the Universe rip-off; I had no need for worry.  It was an entirely different idea, but equally good.  I will definitely re-read this book at some point!  Published August 9th, 2011 by Candlewick.  Read my review HERE.

22.  City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare~ I love Cassie Clare's books, and this was by far, my favorite of the Mortal Instruments series.  I got this book on its "birthday" and read it right away.  I'm still not sure I loved the end, but it was definitely perfectly timed to have me at the door of the bookstore on May 8th when City of Lost Souls comes out.  Published April 5th, 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry.  Read my review HERE.

23.  How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr~ I didn't expect to love this as much as I did, but it was a beautiful story, and I understand why it has gotten so much attention from awards panels   As with John Corey Whaley's book, Where Things Come Back (#16), I hadn't finished this when I started compiling my list, so Sara Zarr also owes an apology to someone.  (Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter is now a runner-up.)  Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on October 18th, 2011.  Read my review HERE.

24.  The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann~ This book is technically a MG novel, but I think it deserves a spot on this list because it would appeal to YA readers as much, if not more than its target demographic.  It isn't like any of Lisa's other books, but it is so engaging nonetheless.  If you are a Harry Potter fan, this book is a must-read; it's not at all like HP, but has the same spirit.  Published August 30th, 2011 by Aladdin.  Read my review HERE.

25.  Red Glove by Holly Black~ Holly Black is one of my favorite authors.  I've never read a single book of hers that I didn't like.  Her Curse Workers series is shaping up to be a new favorite.  This book, the second in the series, was awesome!  I listened to the audio, and Jesse Eisenberg brings it to life.  Do yourself a favor and give this a listen!  Published April 5th, 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry.  Read my review HERE.

This list was not easy to make, so I would be remiss if I did not mention the runners-up, as well as those I think WOULD HAVE made the list if only I had had the time to read them...

Runners-up (click the title for my review):  Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter, All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin, Sweetly by Jackson Pearce, Envy by Gregg Olsen, Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs, Bumped by Megan McCafferty, Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky, Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik, Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini, Hereafter by Tara Hudson, and Abandon by Meg Cabot.

Books I Think Would Have Made the List:  The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff, Legend by Marie Lu, and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.