Thursday, September 13, 2012

GIVEAWAY: Win a SIGNED Hardcover of THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J. Maas

So guess what?  I had the honor of meeting the wonderfully talented Sarah Maas at the Decatur Book Festival a couple of weeks ago.  She was lovely, and a real joy to talk to.  She signed my copy of Throne of Glass, which happens to be one of my favorite books this year (read my review HERE), and she signed a copy for one of my lucky followers.   Enter via the Rafflecopter below!  Best of luck!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

ARC Review: Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

Publisher:  Little, Brown BFYR
Publication Date: September 4th, 2012

Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant -- until Celia meets Lo.

Lo doesn't know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea -- a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid -- all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she's becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she's tempted to embrace her dark immortality.

When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude's affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there's only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her . . . and steal his soul.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I was super-excited when I got word that I was chosen as a stop for the Southern ARC Tours tour of this book.  I'm a huge fan of Jackson's, and I always read her books IMMEDIATELY upon release (if I haven't gotten the opportunity to read them beforehand, that is).  I loved Sisters Red (read my review HERE) and Sweetly (read my review HERE), and I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Fathomless, the third book in Jackson's series of Fairy Tale Retellings (one of my favorite genres), for about a year.  Well, I can tell you that while I didn't love it quite as much as the first two, it was well worth the wait.  I've said before that Jackson Pearce is a master at putting a fresh spin on original fairy tales without losing the dark and twisted context, and I love her for that reason.

Fathomless is a retelling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, The Little Mermaid.  The original tale is rather dark; it doesn't have that happy ending that most are familiar with, due to Disney's retelling.  In fact, the original tale has our protaginist committing suicide, becoming sea foam...  Jackson does a great job keeping with the dark theme of the original, while making this tale truly her own.  There were some things that I really liked about this book, as well as a couple I didn't, so let's just get down to it.

First off, I have to comment on the cover.  It's a pretty cover, and under normal circumstances, I would probably be singing its praises, but these aren't normal circumstances.  I have to say it.  I'm pissed about the cover change.  Sisters Red and Sweetly both have brilliant covers; two of my all-time favorite covers in YA.  Why did they mess with a great thing?  I was actually really looking forward to the same artist's interpretation of Jackson's Little Mermaid tale, and I am sorely disappointed with Little, Brown's decision to make a change.  So yeah, there's that.

As for what is between the covers?  I have to begin by saying that this book is REALLY hard to review without spoilers, so you're getting my thoughts on how it made me feel more than anything else...  It was kind of an up and down read for me.  It started off kind of slow, and I thought it was really weird, but it picked up, and by the second half, I was loving it.  I think part of my problem was the fact that I didn't feel much of a connection to any of the characters like I have in Jackson's other books.  I felt the closest thing to a connection for Celia.  I did like her, but she grated on my nerves a lot too; she spent a lot of time feeling sorry for herself, and while she definitely had valid reasons to feel that way, I wanted her to be more kick-ass.  I wanted to connect with the others, I just never felt it.  I also spent almost the entire book wondering how it was going to tie to the first two books.  I couldn't figure out how the fenrir from Sisters Red and Sweetly could possibly be a part of this story, as I felt they should be, and I became increasingly frustrated as the story progressed without any sign.  The only tie I was seeing for 3/4 of the book was the fact that Celia, Anne, and Jane were of the Reynolds clan.  That said, when the story finally did connect to the first two books, I was in awe of Jackson and her brilliant mind.  I would have never seen anything like it coming.  Not only did Jackson manage to tie the third book to the first two, she shed a lot of unexpected light on them.  It made me want to go back and re-read them with a different mindset.  I didn't even know I need certain answers until I had them, and then I was like, "WHOA!". 

So what is my overall verdict?  I really ended up loving Fathomless.  I did spend some of the read confused and frustrated, but all was redeemed (and then some) at the end.  If you had asked me at the halfway point of this book what I thought, I would have told you that I wasn't loving it, but the crazy reveals and twists of the second half completely squashed and obliterated those feelings.  If you haven't read the first two books, know that you don't need to in order to enjoy this one.  In fact, if you haven't read them, I would suggest reading this one first.  If you have, understand that this book reads differently going into it, and know that you will be left with your jaw on the floor!

My Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  There are swears and some violence, but Fathomless is mostly clean.  5th grade and up (ages 10+).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

ARC Review: Over You by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Publisher:  HarperTeen
Release Date:  August 21st, 2012

After the grand explosion of her relationship, seventeen-year-old Max Scott developed what every girl in the history of the world has been waiting for: a way to get over being dumped. Now Max is the go-to guru for heartbroken high-school girls all over NYC. But when her ex unexpectedly shows up in her neighborhood, Max’s carefully controlled world starts to unravel. With her clients’ hearts hanging in the balance, Max will have to do the seemingly impossible: get over him once and for all.

Brilliant at bringing humor to the trials and tribulations of the lovestruck, #1 New York Times bestselling authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have crafted a tale that will resonate with any girl who has ever been in love or had her heart broken. It brims with smart observations, features a pitch-perfect teen voice, and will attract fans of Jenny Han, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Barnholdt. Readers are sure to fall head-over-heels for this sharp spin on breaking up, making up, and getting even.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I'll start off this review by saying that I'm a long-time fan of this writing duo.  I read The Nanny Diaries long before there was any talk of a film, and have read each of their other books, upon release, ever since.  To this day, Citizen Girl and Dedication are two of my all-time favorite fluffy Chick Lit books ever.  When I heard that they were publishing their first YA Contemporary novel, I knew I just HAD to review it.  I've always found their characters relatable and I have always felt great at the end, after watching them grow.  They almost always start out rather insecure and damaged and grow, through their experiences, into confident, mature heroines who know that they can fend for themselves.  When I found out about Over You, I thought to myself, "Wow. If anyone could empower young girls with circumstances they can relate to, it would be these ladies!"  When I got my advance copy, I was excited to dig in.  I'd missed the Emma's and Nicola's snarky wit and endearing girl-power themes...  So did it work for me?

For about the first 75 pages or so, I was disappointed.  I felt like the writing wasn't of the same quality as their other books.  I got the impression that they were dumbing it down for their intended audience, and to be honest, that made me feel resentful.  There wasn't as much of the sharp wit and depth of character I had grown used to from their other books, and I (wrongly) assumed it was due to the fact that they didn't think this younger audience would be able to handle it.  I was the one at fault for that though, because once I thought about it, I realized that these younger characters just aren't going to have the benefit of life experience that the ladies in their other books have had.  Of COURSE a 17 year old isn't going to have the depth of a 25 year old, just like a 25 year old won't have the wisdom of a 50 year old.  Once I looked at it with the eyes of a teenager, I realized that what I was looking for was there all along; that it wasn't "dumbed down", it was just put in a perspective that I haven't had in awhile.  Once I came to that horrible epiphany that I am OLD (and therefore wise), I was able to thoroughly enjoy this sweet, funny, uplifting, coming-of-age story for what is is.  So, where do I go from here?

Max, our protagonist, is great girl, who has a really tough veneer over her amazing heart.  She desires nothing more that to help the brokenhearted, and that is what she sets out to do, by creating Ex Inc, a service that helps people get over being dumped.  Lots of people have great ideas, but very few have the capacity to execute them. The fact that Max has the ability to do this makes her fabulous by itself, but there is much more to Max, and that is what this story is about.  You see, unfortunately, she hasn't come to terms with her own broken heart.  That provides somewhat of a stumbling block to her plans of healing the masses of their broken hearts when her douchey ex moves to town.  Fortunately for her, she has some fantastic friends to help her through it, even if she isn't necessarily aware of it... Aside from Max, her long-time BFF Zach is my favorite character.  He's the type of guy I would want as a BFF; he's smart, funny, supportive-but-not-enabling, and he tells it like it is.  Then there were Bridget, Phoebe, and Ben, all with their own issues, but all key in Max's growth.  The friendships and emotional moments are what make this story, and while I was certain Max would overcome her obstacles, I still wanted to be there for the ride.  Everyone has had their heart broken, and everyone loves to see someone rise above it.  This story is sweet, lighthearted, and believable.  There were parents to get in the way of plans at times, and things didn't always go perfectly for anyone.  Even the romantic aspects were sometimes hard, because relationships often are, but they were very real, age-appropriate, and sweet.  You won't find a lot of thought-provoking, life-altering stuff in this book, like I did with the last book I reviewed, Every Day by David Levithan (read my review HERE), but it will make you smile, which is what Emma and Nicola do best with their writing.

Overall, if you are a fan of well-written YA Contemporary Romance (think Anna and the French Kiss), you will like Over You.  If you are a fan of the authors already, and like YA, give it a go.  If you are looking for something light and fun, where the heroine emerges victorious, look no further!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  There is some talk of sex and hooking up and it's clear that Max and Hugo have had sex, as have many of Max's clients.  For me that's not a problem, but for some parents, it is.  That said, this book is appropriate at whatever age you think it is appropriate for a reader to be aware that a large percentage of teens have sex, and are comfortable reading about that fact.  For my daughter, that would be about age 11.  To clarify, there are no graphic descriptions or endorsements, it's just stated matter-of-factly that it's happened between characters on a few occasions, and implied on other occasions.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

ARC Review: Every Day by David Levithan

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:  August 28th, 2012

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl. 

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I don't really have words.  I've been a fan of David Levithan's writing for awhile now, and although his work often surprises me, I was not prepared for the impact Every Day would have one me.  This book will hopefully be one of those books that, through word-of-mouth, ends up being read by everyone.  It deserves to be.  It is just so... Again, NO WORDS.  That makes writing a review rather difficult, so I guess I will start by quoting some of my favorite words from the book.  I don't often do this, but while I was reading Every Day, there were several occasions where I felt like I wanted to remember something that was said- something that struck a chord with me.  These quotes are full of the kind of truths about humanity and love that few people are able to articulate, and I love David Levithan for being able to do it.  I bookmarked a few of my favorites to share with you.

"I no longer think she's just being nice. She's being kind.  Which is much more a sign of character than mere niceness.  Kindness connects to who you are, while niceness connects to how you want to be seen."

"Falling in love with someone doesn't mean you know any better how they feel.  It only means you know how you feel."

"This is what love does: It makes you want to rewrite the world.  It makes you want to choose the characters, build the scenery, guide the plot.  The person you love sits across from you, and you want to do everything in your power to make it possible, endlessly possible."

"I wanted love to conquer all.  But love can't conquer anything.  It can't do anything on its own.  It relies on us to do the conquering on its behalf."

This book is a love story, but it is SO much more.  This book is about A, a person without a body, who inhabits a new body every day of his life, for only one day.  A is not male or female, and is not defined by a body.  A is a voice; a soul.  A just IS.  When A comes across Rhiannon one day, while in the body of her boyfriend, there is an instant connection.  As A jumps from body to body, day to day, there is an inexplicable pull toward her.  A shares the circumstances of his existence with her, and they embark on an exploratory journey; can Rhiannon love A for the person, regardless of the body A is in?  Their journey is uplifting, beautiful, poignant, and heartbreaking.  These two characters became a part of my person and made me want to be better inside.  They made me rethink what I consider important- made me want to look deeper into who people are. 

This book is full of wisdom and depth.  It asks a lot of questions that can't be answered in black and white, and I found myself thinking about the story well after I finished reading it.  In fact, it's over a week later, and I'm still thinking about it.  I wanted to hold off reviewing Every Day because I knew David would be at the Decatur Book Festival, and I wanted to hear him speak about it first (I was also hoping to have a finished copy signed for a giveaway, but they sold out of them).  I'm glad I did.  Hearing him read his own words added another layer of depth to A's character.  Hearing him talk about his personal thoughts on this story, his characters, and love and humanity in general- I love the book even more for it.  I remember once reading a blog post where someone was saying that YA literature would be the death of Literary Fiction; I wish the author of that post would read Every Day.

In the end, I'm not sure this can even qualify as "review", but rather, I think of it as a reflection.  Until now, Love Is the Higher Law was my favorite of David's books, and I didn't think he could possibly top it.  Well, he did.  Not only is Every Day my favorite book of 2012, but it will go down in the ledger as one of my favorites of all time.  This is a book I think everyone should read.  Young, old, straight, gay, male, female, Democrat, Republican.  I challenge anyone to read this and not come away from it changed in some way.  Well done, David Levithan.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  I would normally say that this type of book should be read by older teens.  Not for content, necessarily, although there are a few mature situations, but because I would normally say that older teens would get more out of it.  I don't say that about Every Day because I think it is the type of book you could read more than once, at different points in life, and get something different each time.  I think this book should be read by EVERYONE, and I think its appropriate for readers ages 12 and up (7th grade+).