Tuesday, July 31, 2012

ARC Review and Giveaway: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Publication Date: July 31st, 2012

"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

If you've been a follower for awhile, you know that YA Contemporary is not my favorite genre, and I typically like YA Contemporary Romance even less.  This book has changed that for me!  I will now be more open to reading this type of book in the future because Pushing the Limits blew me away!  It was fantastic!  Once in awhile I come across a book that I can use a motivational tool- one that I can bribe myself to do much dreaded household chores with a one chapter reward for each chore done...  I cleaned my entire house, top to bottom, in less than a day because I NEEDED to know what the next chapter would bring. This book was that riveting!  Sooooo.... Would you like to know WHY I thought it was great?  Well, there were many reasons, but before I get to the actual review, I must comment on the cover.  The jacket is good.  I like it.  It's eye-catching, and I think the publisher captured how I imagined the main characters really well.  However, I didn't love it until I removed the jacket!  WHOA!  Do yourself a favor and buy the hardcover (or win it here), because it is awesome!  Now...

First off, I really enjoyed the characters, and their stories.  This story belongs to the two main characters, Echo and Noah, but I'm going to mention first the supporting characters; Aires, Beth, Isaiah, Ashley, Luke, Mrs. Collins, Lila, Grace, Natalie, Mr. Emerson, Jacob, Tyler, the Petersons- they all had rather minor roles in this story, but huge impacts on it.  I'm glad Katie McGarry took the time to develop them the way she did, intertwining their knowledge of who Echo and Noah were, when they weren't really sure themselves.  As for Echo and Noah?  Echo is a seriously damaged girl, who has every reason to feel lost and a little hopeless.  She had a pretty awesome life before the "incident", but is now a scarred, bitter shell of her former self, and she doesn't have an inkling how she got there.  All she knows is that some horrible thing happened to her, that it involved her bi-polar mother, who her father now has a restraining order against, and that she is left with horrible physical and emotional scars because of it.  She knows that whatever happened was so awful that she has repressed the memory, and that during the one attempt to recover the lost memories, her mind almost fractured from the stress.  Add to that the facts that her beloved older brother was killed in Afghanistan, the majority of her "friends" turned on her because of the rumors, and her super-controlling father is remarried to, and having a child with, her former (much younger) babysitter, and you have a recipe for a girl that has SERIOUS issues, through no fault of her own.  Then there is Noah, who is, on the surface, the stereotypical bad-boy product of the foster care system.  He smokes weed, drinks, and is known to be a total one-night-stand guy.  Everyone at school thinks Noah is a loser because of the person he projects, but in reality, he is as damaged as Echo, for very different reasons.  After losing his parents in a house fire, Noah went from foster home to foster home; he had some horrible experiences that turned him from the poster child for "happy" to the person he is today, but the worst was losing access to his two younger brothers.  Through individual counseling with a common therapist, and their growing, yet reluctant, attachment to one another, the layers of both Echo's and Noah's pasts are peeled back, revealing secrets and pain that no person should have to bear alone...  My heart ached for them, but at the same time, soared as they discovered one another in ways that only someone who can relate to your pain could.

I also liked the way the story was set up.  I thought telling this story in Echo's and Noah's alternating POVs really brought it to life.  It made them seem so much more real, and it accomplished the difficult feat of capturing how each one felt about, sometimes shared, sometimes solitary, events in their lives.  It was a great way to be an outsider looking in, and it made me sympathetic to both characters when I could very well have become annoyed with either had it been told from only one POV.

Finally, I have to comment on the ending... I started to get nervous toward the final third of the book.  I was really afraid that they were both going to make HUGE, life-shattering mistakes- mistakes that would effect the people in their lives like ripples on a pond.  I felt like it was going to be either that, or a rushed, cliched, happy ending that didn't fit the story, and in either situation, I would have been unhappy.  What I didn't expect was the satisfying, yet open to interpretation and new possibilities ending that I got.  It was absolutely flawless!

Honestly, I had intentions of reading this book because it was blurbed by Simone Elkeles, a YA Contemporary writer who I happen to really like.  I figured that if it was near as good as Perfect Chemistry, I would like it.  Well, no disrespect to Ms. Elkeles, but Pushing the Limits was BETTER- like, in a class of its own!  If you enjoyed her books, don't walk, RUN to the book store to buy this book, because you will not be disappointed!  I'm still a bit shocked, given my past feelings toward YA Contemporary Romance,  that this has been, to this point, one of my favorite books of 2012.  It's not to be missed!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ++++ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  There are some really heavy themes in this book.  Lots of teen drinking and drug use, some violence, abuse, and sex.  I would say this book is best suited for grades 9 and up (ages 14+).

**NOW... For the giveaway!  Thanks to HarlequinTeen both for providing my review copy of this fabulous book, and for providing a copy for me to give to one of ya'll!  Best of luck!!**

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

ARC Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Publisher:  HarperTeen
Publication Date:  July 24th, 2012

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I finished this book yesterday and am still trying to decide if it's a four-star book or a five-star book.  There were a couple of minor problems for me, but overall, I felt like it was a spectacularly entertaining read, and since that's the reason I read, I am in a bit of a conundrum.  Perhaps I will make up my mind by the time I finish my review...

I guess I'll start with something that I both loved AND hated about this book- the cover.  The cover is stunning!  Once again, I have to hand it to HarperTeen for a gorgeous, eye-catching cover, but here's the thing... The stunning girl on the cover does not reflect the description of Eleanor Fitt, our kick-ass protagonist, AT ALL!  Eleanor is supposed to be somewhat plain and a bit on the chubby side; a girl who can be made to look moderately pretty, with a lot of help.  The girl on the cover is a knockout, and I'm assuming that she is supposed to be Eleanor, given the fact that Eleanor is really the only young female character of consequence in the entire book.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get down to the story... I had read a few early reviews of Something Strange and Deadly, so I knew not expect the standard zombie novel.  Because I had that heads-up, I was able to go into this novel with different expectations, and I wasn't disappointed like I would have been.  In fact, I found this book to be really good, and exceptionally different.  When I say "different", I mean that I can't really classify it into a single genre- I would call it a "Historical Paranormal Mystery Romance", because it really pulls off every one of those elements well. 

It takes place in post-Civil War era Philadelphia, during the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 (which was the 1st official World's Fair to take place in the United States).  I felt like Susan Dennard really did a nice job with her descriptions of the exhibition and the city itself, as well as the mannerisms, speech, and dress of the people of the era.  I also really enjoyed the characters, and while I wish the author had spent more time developing some of them (Joseph and Jie, in particular), I think she did a great job with the ones she chose to focus on.  Everyone had good and bad qualities, and each character's personality was revealed gradually, as you got to know him/her better.  I find that type of character development very real, and honest.  Eleanor was frustrating at times because she rarely gave much thought before she acted, but she was dedicated and courageous, and I really enjoyed watching her grow as the story progressed.  Clarence was one of my favorite characters, which surprised me as her gradually grew on me.  I found myself rooting for him to end up with Eleanor, even at the times that I wasn't sure I could really trust him.  I think my favorite character was Daniel, though.  He was secretive, brash,  and rather rude at times, but all for good reasons, which come out before the book ends.  As for the plot itself?  Very good.  It was well paced to the point where it never felt like a 400 page novel, and when the end came, I was wanting more.  Because the zombies were such because of a necromancer, and because zombie-ism wasn't infectious like most of the recent zombie-related books I've read, there was an originality to it that was refreshing.  Add to that the fact that there were several other elements of mystery, including that of Elijah, Eleanor's brother, and his disappearance, the fall of the Fitt family business, and the Wilcox family's sudden interest in the Fitt family, and you have a complex and riveting story.  My only problem with the story was that I knew who the villain was before the fact that there WAS a villain had even been established.  Much of the plot was spent of this big reveal at the end, and that kind of fell flat because I knew all along who it was.  Fortunately, the other elements were there to make this book amazing anyway! 

Overall, I think this was a more-than-solid first book for Susan Dennard, and I have a gut feeling that the issues I had with this book will be resolved in the next.  That said, I have to mention that Susan did something that very few authors of series books have competently done; she has written a first-in-series book that could stand alone, which is so refreshing.  Of course, I WILL read the next book in the series, A Darkness Strange and Lovely, but I'm not left frustrated with a horrible gut-wrenching cliffhanger.

So, have I decided if this book gets four stars or five?  Nope.  I guess, it will have to fall in the middle...

My Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book was pretty clean.  No sex. No major cursing.  There is some graphic violence, but it's pretty tame considering much of the other YA out there.  I would say this is fine for grades 5 and up (ages 10+).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: May 8th, 2012

The demon Lilith has been destroyed and Jace freed from captivity. But when the Shadowhunters arrive, they find only blood and broken glass. Not only is the boy Clary loves missing, so is the boy she hates: her brother Sebastian, who is determined to bring the Shadowhunters to their knees.

The Clave's magic cannot locate either boy, but Jace can't stay away from Clary. When they meet again Clary discovers the horror Lilith's magic has wrought - Jace and Sebastian are now bound to each other, and Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is determined to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other.

Only a few people believe that Jace can still be saved. Together, Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle bargain with the sinister Seelie Queen, contemplate deals with demons, and turn at last to the merciless, weapon-making Iron Sisters, who might be able to forge a weapon that can sever the bond between Sebastian and Jace. If the Iron Sisters can't help, their only hope is to challenge Heaven and Hell - a risk that could claim their lives.

And they must do it without Clary. For Clary is playing a dangerous game utterly alone. The price of losing not just her own life, but Jace's soul. She's willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost? What price is too high to pay, even for love?

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

So, um, I've publicly stated many, many times that I don't think The Mortal Instruments series is as good as The Infernal Devices.  Of course, I've always LIKED the former (Cassie Clare is an absolutely brilliant author), but I really LOVE the latter.  Well, I can officially say, after reading City of Lost Souls, that I now LOVE The Mortal Instruments as well.  The books in this series get exponentially better as the the series unfolds, which is a feat in and of itself, because let's face it, the first book, City of Bones was great!

So, City of Lost Souls?  Well, it picks up where its predecessor, City of Fallen Angels (read my review HERE), ends.   Jace has disappeared into oblivion with the sinister and evil Sebastian, after saving his life. He is nowhere to be found; the Silent Brothers can't find him, nor can The Clave, Magnus, Clary, or anyone else.  Shadowhunter magic isn't helping, not even dark magic is doing the trick, and everyone is worried.  Jace's friends and family are worried for him, The Clave is most concerned with eliminating Sebastian, even at the expense of Jace's life...  When Jace finally turns up, he isn't the Jace we all know and love.  Instead he is, through Lilith's binding magic, Sebastian's pawn, and Sebastian has a truly evil plan that Jace now thinks he agrees with.  Clary realizes all of this and feels compelled to save the one she loves, a need to bring the true Jace back, at any cost, putting herself, her friends and family,  humanity as a whole, and the life she has grown to know and love in very grave danger.  

There were a lot of things I loved about this book.  First and foremost, is Cassie's writing.  Seriously, she could write a guide to auto mechanics and I would greedily read it.  She's THAT good.  If you haven't read anything by her yet, you NEED to run out and buy one of her books NOW (I suggest Clockwork Angel because it's a better 1st of the series book than City of Bones).  She does her research and because of it her world building is some of the best I've ever read.  She immerses herself in the world she is writing, and it totally comes out on the page.  She also uses such beautiful language; her books are full of wonderful literary quotes, relevant verses from religious texts, and an almost lyrical style of writing.  I tend to slow-read her books because I want to savor every page (especially when I know it will be at least a year until I get to read more of her delectable writing).  When I was reading this book, there were several parts that had me going back to reread because I loved being a part of the scene that was unfolding.  It doesn't get much better than that!  

But it does... As fabulous as Cassie's worlds are, her characters are just as great!  Most authors focus on the main couple, and while many are adept at developing the supporting characters and their relationships, nobody does it as well as she does.  I know Jace and Clary and the "central" figures, but I never really felt that way when I was reading this book.  Magnus plays a huge, and very important role in this book, and since he is one of favorite characters EVER, I was thrilled.  Of course, Alec also has a much bigger role as well, and although I am a little more than displeased about certain events involving the two of them, I was still super thrilled that they were so central.  We also get lots of Simon and Izzy (TOGETHER!!), and that made me super happy.  I didn't love Izzy at the beginning of the series, but she has grown on me, to become one of my favorite characters.  As for Simon, well, I've always loved him, and it made me happy that he played such a critical role in this book, following his majorly awesome role in the last one.  Then there's the deliciously evil Sebastian, the too-cute-for-words Maia and Jordan, manipulative Camille,  and an even-more-mysterious-than-the-others Silent Brother Zachariah.  Let's just say that the characters RULE.

Another thing I loved about this book was the direction the story took.   Jace and Clary have overcome some serious relationship obstacles, and I really didn't think Cassie could have much more in her arsenal to stand between them, and then she pulls out this little bag of tricks and it blew me away.  Not only does she have a brilliant imagination, but she doesn't hold anything back; she is SO not afraid to make her reader uncomfortable. (Let me tell you, Sebastian made me a little more than uncomfortable a few times!)  The plot and pacing of this book kept me reading long into the night, constantly in a state of suspense and disbelief...  This book is full of emotional tension, and it builds and builds as the story progresses, ending in Cassie's signature style, with a huge reveal that will leave your mouth hanging open.  Once again, I found myself cursing her for her crazy cliffhangers.  When I found out that it will be almost TWO years (yes, you read that right... March 19th, 2014 is the expected release date of City of Heavenly Fire) for the conclusion of this series, I almost cried!

I think it's pretty clear that I think City of Lost Souls is made of amazing with awesome-sauce on top...  Again, if you've never read anything by Cassie Clare, you are seriously missing out, and need to get on this ship NOW.  You won't be sorry!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ +++

Grade Level Recommendation:  There are some pretty hot almost-sex scenes in this book, as well as some drinking and drug use (if you consider "fairy drugs" drugs), and of course, violence galore.  This book is definitely a bit darker than most of the others as well.  I think this book is appropriate for grades 7 and up (ages 12+).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky

Publisher:  Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt BYR
Publication Date:  May 8th, 2012

Like his name, Gray is dark and stormy. Dylan, a girl always searching for what’s next, seemingly unable to settle down, is the exact opposite: full of light and life. On the outside, they seem like an unlikely couple. But looks can be deceiving and besides, opposites attract.

What starts as friendship, turns into admiration, respect and caring, until finally these two lone souls find they are truly in love with each other.

But staying in love is not as easy as falling in love. If Dylan and Gray want their love to last, they’re going to have to work at it. And learn that sometimes love means having to say you’re sorry.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I really enjoyed Katie Kacvinsky's 2011 debut, Awaken.  I thought it was a smart, thought-provoking Dystopia that had valid social commentary, without being preachy.  When I saw First Comes Love in the HMH catalog, I assumed that it was the sequel to Awaken, which is also due out this year.  When I found out it wasn't, I was a little disappointed.  THEN I found out it was a Contemporary Romance, and I was both repulsed and intrigued.  I'm not a big fan of Contemporary Romance (although I will admit that I have come across a few really great ones of late), but I liked the author's writing in Awaken well enough, that I decided to give it a shot.   When I received it in the mail, I immediately had a negative impression; the cover just did not grab me.  I know it was an ARC, but the cover was the final cover, and it just seemed really cheap to me.  Now that I've read the book, I feel that way even more strongly; they could have done better.  That said, this book is kind of the epitome of the saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover!", because the book was quite good.

When I started reading First Comes Love, I wasn't sure I was going to like it.  My first impression was that it was going to be a been-there-done-that, opposites-attract, YA love story.  It wasn't.  It was deeply touching, full of raw hurt and emotion.  The characters were beautifully rendered to the point where though I wasn't sure I liked them at first, I learned to love them as I got to know them.  At first I thought Dylan was the type of girl who is really insecure, but tries a little too hard to project a carefree, quirky image.  Well, she turns out to be the real deal, and I kind of feel like an ass for judging her so as quickly as I did... As for Gray? Well he always came off to me as the sexy damaged guy, and while it was annoying to me, the length of time it took to find out why he was so damaged, I always felt like it was legit.  He was kind of a jerk at the beginning, but I guess he maybe had the same first impression of Dylan as I did... As for the romance?  It moved slowly, in an honest, imperfect, and entirely believable way.  Katie Kacvinsky did a wonderful job capturing the ups and downs of young love. I think it is really difficult to get a handle on the swirl of feelings, innocence, desire, uncertainty, and apprehension that go along with first love, and I think she nailed it because she recognizes that it isn't ONLY about the romance.  Dylan and Gray had lives before and apart from each other, and it was really interesting to find out, bit by bit, who they were as individuals, through their emerging feelings for one another.

In the end, this book exceeded my expectations.  I was happy with the story and was satisfied with the ending.  The only complaint I have is that the story is over.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book has some swears, sex, and tough issues.  Also, the characters are college age kids, more mature than most.  I think this book is best suited  for grades 9 and up (ages 14+).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

ARC Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication: August 7th, 2012

It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on. 
His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live--not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.
Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.
Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I absolutely LOVED this book's predecessor, Anna Dressed In Blood (read my review HERE)!  It was high up on my Top 25 Books of 2011, and I had super-high expectations for Girl of Nightmares.  It was one of my most anticipated books of 2012, not only because of the amazing cover, because I've had a burning desire to know what comes next.  Did it meet my sky-high hopes?  Abso-freaking-lutely!  I will admit that I liked Anna Dressed In Blood a tiny bit better, but don't let that lower your opinion of this book, because it was phenomenal!  Wanna know more?

Girl of Nightmares picks up a couple of months after Anna sacrifices herself in order to drag the demonic Obeahman into hell, saving Cas, Thomas, and Carmel from certain death.  Nobody really knows exactly where they went, they just know that they are gone...  Now, months later, Cas is having dreams and daytime hallucinations of Anna being tortured,and it is driving him mad.  He feels like he has to find a way to help her, so he begins to search, against the advice of everyone he knows, for a way to free her. His search takes him to London, where a secret society, the very one that originally forged his ghost-killing blade, can give him the assistance he needs.  Is he willing to pay the price for their assistance, is the question...

This storyline of this book was just as mind-mending as the first book.  The characters were still awesome, the pace was once again perfect, the scary parts kicked just as much butt, it was just as action-packed, and there was just enough emotional tension to keep me turning the pages.  In respect to the setting, I thought the world-building was even better this time around.  Kendare Blake's descriptions of Hell were terrifying, and even more than those were her description of the "Suicide Forest".  She paints an unnerving picture that I won't soon forget!  Seriously nightmare inducing!  So, why was this book not quite as good for me as the first one?  Not enough Anna, pure and simple!  Anna doesn't really get much play until toward the end, and then she just wasn't the kick-ass Anna I grew to love in the first book.  She was tortured and pathetic for the most part, and although we do see some glimpses of the real Anna, it wasn't enough for me.

I don't believe there will be any more Anna books.  The story wrapped up neatly and in a way that I didn't expect.  Cas is even more of an awesome character because of how he let Anna's story come to a close, and I remain staunch in my opinion that he is one of the most swoon-worthy male characters in YA because of it.  I was satisfied with this closure in a very melancholy way because I will miss these characters, none of whom more than Anna, but I think it ended as perfectly as a story such as this could end.  Bravo, Kendare Blake, for another job well done!!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  I put this book right where I put Anna Dressed In Blood, grades 6 and up (ages 11+), for swears and violence.

WWW (34) and Waiting On Wednesday (July 18th, 2012): Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi

W. W. W. Wednesday is hosted by Should Be Reading a great blog that I subscribe to. Here's how it works... Each Wednesday I will answer the following questions:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you'll read next?

I've been working more on playing catch-up with my reviews and have spent less time than I would have liked to reading, but what I've loved what read so far this week!

What are you currently reading?

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare~ As promised last week, I'm FINALLY reading this book, and so far, it's spectacular!  I may be finished by the time this post goes live, so look for my review over the next few days!
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate~ I'm reading this to my 7 year old daughter and it's just great!  Such a warm, gorgeous, uplifting story!  I hope people still read this book 50 years from now!

What did you recently finish reading?

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach~ Not at all what I expected when I started reading this book.  It's definitely a coming-of-age novel,but it is so much more.  It was emotionally charged, funny, and honest.  A great book for teen boys!  Review coming soon.
Lies, Knives, and Girls In Red Dresses by Ron Koertge~ Pretty brilliant!  Not sure who its audience is.  I think adults would enjoy it more than teens, but I don't think they'll pick it up.  They should!  Read my review HERE.
Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas~ A great premise, but disturbingly violent and graphic.  Definitely not what I expected!  Read my full review HERE.

What do you think you'll read next?

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard~ I never got to this one this past week, so it is next on my list.  I'm really, really looking forward to it!  Look for my review next week!
The Goddess Legacy by Aimee Carter~ I was a little late to the party with this series, but I'm caught up now!  I can't wait to read the individual stories of all the other gods and goddesses of Olympus through Aimee Carter's eyes!  Review to come!

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund~ I absolutely LOVE the cover of this book, but I was on the fence as to whether I would read it or not.  Persuasion is not my favorite Jane Austen novel, so I wasn't sure I wanted to read a modern retelling, but I have heard so many RAVE reviews of this book, that I am now dying to read it!  Stay tuned!

"Waiting On" Wednesday is another fun blog event. Hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, this event gives us a chance to talk about the books we anxiously await the release of. Since there is ALWAYS a looooooong list of books I'm waiting on (I actually keep a spreadsheet), I figured this is one that I MUST do.

Since today is MY BIRTHDAY, if any of you have an advance copy of the below book, and want to share, I will graciously accept!  ;-)

A world-defying love is put to the ultimate test in the heart-stopping sequel to Veronica Rossi's "masterpiece," Under the Never Sky. (Examiner.com)

It's been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don't take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe's precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create a captivating love story as perilous as it is unforgettable.
(Courtesy of the HarperCollins Children's Winter 2013 Catalog)

I adored Veronica Rossi's debut novel, Under the Never Sky (read my review HERE).  It was one of the first books I read in 2012 and it is still, 100+ books later, one of my favorites.  I can't wait to find out where Aria and Perry end up and whether or not they can survive the harsh realities they are going to face.  Also, that cover!  Perry is hot stuff!  Loving him taking the place of Aria from the Under the Never Sky cover.  It makes me wonder who will grace book three's cover...  Cannot wait!

Publisher:  HarperCollins
Publication Date:  January 8th, 2013
My Expected Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

What are YOU Waiting On this week?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

ARC Review: Lies, Knives, and Girls In Red Dresses by Ron Koertge

Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: July 10th, 2012

Writing in free verse honed to a wicked edge, the incomparable Ron Koertge brings dark and contemporary humor to twenty iconic fairy tales.

Once upon a time, there was a strung-out match girl who sold CDs to stoners. Twelve impetuous sisters escaped King Daddy's clutches to jiggle and cavort and wear out their shoes. A fickle Thumbelina searched for a tiny husband, leaving bodies in her wake. And Little Red Riding Hood confessed that she kind of wanted to know what it's like to be swallowed whole. From bloodied and blinded stepsisters (they were duped) to a chopped-off finger flying into a heroine's cleavage, this is fairy tale world turned upside down. Ron Koertge knows what really happened to all those wolves and maidens, ogres and orphans, kings and piglets, and he knows about the Ever After. So come closer
- he wants to whisper in your ear.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

This book was an interesting take on the increasingly popular (and favorite of mine) Fairy Tale Retelling genre.  A quick, engaging read, Lies, Knives, and Girls In Red Dresses is a compilation of several mostly lesser-known (re: haven't yet been raped by Disney) fairy tales, retold in quick, lyrical verse.  Often humorous, always dark, these retellings capture the gist of the original tales, modernizing them, while for the most part, not losing the original cautionary nature.  I didn't like every one. In fact, there were a few that I thought sucked, but there were at least twice as many that I loved.  I thought The Little Match Girl,  Bear Skin, The Robber Bridegroom, and Hansel and Gretel were great, and I especially loved The Princess and the Pea: A Monologue and Red Riding Hood, Home at Last, Tells Her Mother What Happened.  I like dark wit and humor, and those traits abound in this book.  I also need to comment on the illustrations; while I don't know if I would like them alone, they fit the context of this book brilliantly, so kudos to illustrator, Andrea Dezso.  

My biggest complaint about this book is that I don't really think it has much of a market, which is sad.  I think the vast majority of YA readers aren't going to get it or find it interesting, and it's not really appropriate for younger readers.  I think it really takes an adult mind to appreciate it, and I think most adults won't give it a fair shot because of its length (a mere 96 pages) and subject matter.  Of course, they would be mistaken...

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book would be best suited for a more intellectually-minded, older teen or adult.

ARC Review: Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas

Publisher: EgmontUSA
Publication Date: July 10th, 2012

It was just another ordinary day at McKinley High—until a massive explosion devastated the school. When loner David Thorpe tried to help his English teacher to safety, the teacher convulsed and died right in front of him. And that was just the beginning.

A year later, McKinley has descended into chaos. All the students are infected with a virus that makes them deadly to adults. The school is under military quarantine. The teachers are gone. Violent gangs have formed based on high school social cliques. Without a gang, you’re as good as dead. And David has no gang. It’s just him and his little brother, Will, against the whole school. 

In this frighteningly dark and captivating novel, Lex Thomas locks readers inside a school where kids don’t fight to be popular, they fight to stay alive. 
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I have very mixed feelings about this book... The premise is extremely good, and I found the way the story played out very believable, but I struggled a bit with the execution and some of the content.  Let me elaborate...

I will first touch on the brilliant premise.  This book was like a modern-day Lord of the Flies that takes place in a locked down school instead of on a deserted island.  If something like what happened in this book happened in real life (all the grown-ups suddenly die and an entire HS has to be locked down by the government to prevent the spread of a deadly super-virus carried by only teens), I believe that the kids would behave almost exactly as they did here, and it is scary!  Because this book is such an honest prediction, it is violent, gruesome, and utterly horrifying.  While some of the kids cling to their morality, most of the others turn into vicious animals, and sadly, it's the most ruthless of the animals that come out on top most of the time. It's survival of the fittest at its most basic level.  It's a harsh reality, in a fictional format, and this is where I struggle a bit with the content. I think there are a lot of kids who would read this book, expecting the standard YA dystopian fare, and get something far more raw and disturbing.  The Hunger Games has nothing on this book as far as the things kids will do to other kids in the name of survival.  What I found more disturbing than what they would do in the name of survival, is what some of the kids were willing to do in the name of power and control over others, and where books like The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies leave a lot to imagination, this book does not.  Some of the violence is is described in such detail that several times I had to stop reading for a few minutes in order to get my bearings.

Obviously, you can't have this type of character driven (someone has to commit the violence, right?) story without characters, and I think much of this book's strength is in them.  The physical world they were living in was well built, but it was almost like it didn't matter because the characters were really the heart of it.  I loved how each tribe- Nerds, Geeks, Varsity, Pretty Ones, Sluts, Skaters, Loners- was a character of its own volition.  As far as individual characters go, there were many.  David is a great character; he is very human, and while he does try to cling to his morality, he doesn't let it get in the way of his or his brother's survival.  He wouldn't kill another person for power or control, but if it's kill or be killed, he doesn't hold back.  I really liked him, and I found myself rooting for him the whole way.  His brother, Will, on the other hand, is a total douche.  I just wanted to grab him and shake him.  He was self-absorbed and whiny, not ever really grateful for all his brother was doing to protect him.  As for the many other characters that were part of the story, they all played extremely crucial parts, and I felt like they were all well drawn.  Sam was an intriguing character, and it was interesting to be in his head from time to time, and Lucy was alright, but definitely not worth the many sacrifices made for her.

Now for the things that bothered me... I did not like how the actual story was executed.  It shifted from character to character, most of the time in a 3rd person narrative, but once in awhile, it would shift to 1st person.  It don't know if that was intentional or just poor writing, or perhaps it was just the result of being written by a two person writing team, and my copy being an editorial proof, but I found it confusing and frustrating at times.  I also struggled a bit with the pacing; it was really good in the first third of the book, then it became repetitive and slow in the middle third.  By the final third of the book, it did pick up, but I kind of felt like much of the middle third could have been left out altogether.  

Overall, I would say this is great read for the RIGHT reader, and in the end, that wasn't me.  I enjoyed it, but there were just too many problems that I had a difficult time getting past, for me to give it a stellar rating.  I think HS age boys will devour this book, and be ready for more at the end.  Will I read the next book?  Probably.  I would like to know where the story goes, but if I'm honest, I would say that it won't be at the top of my reading pile.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  This is a tough one.  The violence is graphic, and horrible things like murder, rape, and torture take place.  This is definitely not a book for someone who is sensitive to that type of thing.  It is also definitely not a book for the younger end of the YA reading audience.  I definitely wouldn't allow my middle schooler to read this, and I'm pretty liberal with her.  I would say this book is for ages 15+ (grades 10 and up).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

WWW (33) and Waiting On Wednesday (July 11th, 2012): Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

W. W. W. Wednesday is hosted by Should Be Reading a great blog that I subscribe to. Here's how it works... Each Wednesday I will answer the following questions:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you'll read next?

I've read some really great books lately, but I haven't been as quick as usual with my kids driving me nuts..

What are you currently reading?

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach~ This was Never Eighteen author, Megan Bostic's (see my interview HERE), favorite read of 2011, so I've been itching to read it.  It's from a male POV, so it gets bonus points there, plus it is just really well done.  Look for a review over the next week or so...
Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas~ This book came out yesterday, and I'm a little behind on my reviews, but I'm so glad I didn't skip this one, because it's great.  It's another favorite author recommendation, this one by Kami Garcia (Beautiful Creatures, etc.)
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull~ This is a re-read.  I'm reading it to my son and loving it even more the second time around.  Brandon Mull is fabulous!

What did you recently finish reading?

Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire~ This book REALLY took me by surprise!  I was expecting something along the lines of Gossip Girl- fun, shallow, entertaining- but it was SO, much more.  Such a smart read!  Check out my full review HERE.
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake~  I adored the first book in this series, Anna Dressed In Blood (read my review HERE), and was so tickled to be given an opportunity to review the sequel.  It was fabulous!  Expect my review in the next week or so.
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi~ Finally!  This got put away on a bookshelf and forgotten, and when I rediscovered it, it was kind of like Christmas.  It is as good as YA gets, but most of you already know that...

A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger~ Loved it!  Kody really GETS the teenage mind (of course, that may have something to do with the fact that she's barely out of her teenage years), but she has the wisdom of someone MUCH older.  Read my review HERE.

What do you think you'll read next?

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare~ No, I have NOT read this yet!  I have been wanting to, but time has been so sparse and I feel an obligation to read the books publishers send me first, so it has been serially set aside.  NO MORE!  It's next!
The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee~ This comes out next week, and it has been high on my TBR since I received it a couple of months ago.  It has a brilliant cover and the story looks great.  Definitely reading it AFTER City of Lost Souls!

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard~ I've not heard a negative word about this book, and can't wait to dig in.  Look for my review right before it comes out on July 24th! 

"Waiting On" Wednesday is another fun blog event. Hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, this event gives us a chance to talk about the books we anxiously await the release of. Since there is ALWAYS a looooooong list of books I'm waiting on (I actually keep a spreadsheet), I figured this is one that I MUST do.

Given that the cover reveal for this much-anticipated-by-everyone-in-the-free-world book was yesterday, I'm sure this will be the subject of many a WoW this week, but screw being different!  I'm too excited!!

In Clockwork Princess, Tessa and her companions travel all over the world as they race to stop the clockwork army before it’s too late. As Jem’s health worsens alarmingly and his friends search desperately for a cure, can Tessa choose between the two boys she loves—even if it means never seeing the other one again?
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I really like Cassie Clare's The Mortal Instruments series, but I LOVE her The Infernal Devices series.  It is one of my all-time faves, so OBVIOUSLY, I'm eagerly awaiting this third book!  Look at that cover!  LOVE!  I can't wait to read how the Tessa-Will-Jem love triangle works out, and to this day, I don't know who I want her to end up with.  All I know is that this is my MOST anticipated release of 2013, without a doubt!!!!

Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date:  March 19th, 2013
My Expected Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  +++++++

What are YOU Waiting On this week?