Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dear Teen Me Blog Tour: Dear Teen Karis..., Plus a Giveaway!

So, I'm pretty excited to take part in the Dear Teen Me Blog Tour.  When the publisher, Zest Books, asked me to participate, I wasn't really sure I was up for it.  I mean, I loved the book; I thought it was a brilliant idea on E. Kristin Anderson's and Miranda Kenneally's (the editors) to put it together, and was already planning to review it (read my review HERE), but if I was going to be a tour participant, I wanted to do more.  I was thinking that I might write a letter to my teen self, publish a few pictures of "teen me", but well, that was a little scary to me.  Then I thought, "What the hell?", maybe someone could learn from my mistakes, and wasn't that kind of the whole point of the book?  I mean, I'm no Ellen Hopkins or Lauren Oliver (two of the awesome authors who contributed), but I was a teenager once, and I was pretty wild, and I made my share of mistakes, soooooo...

Dear Teen Karis,

     You're probably not going to heed any of the advice in this letter because it is from a 36 year old lady, and God knows, people THAT old do NOT know ANYTHING, but trust me, Karis, I know YOU, and I have the benefit of that 20/20 hindsight!  That being said, there are a few things you should know...
     First, be nice to your step-mother, Heidi.  I know she isn't even technically old enough to be your mother, and that sadly, things won't end up working out in the end for she and Dad, but she will have a huge, lasting impact on your life.  She is the mother of your brother, Jacob, and your sister, Hannah, both of whom you love dearly, and even more important, she is the person responsible for leading you to a relationship with Christ.  Be kind to her.  I can't be easy becoming the step-mother of two almost-teenage kids at age 24, and she did a great job helping raise you to be the person you will be be.
    Second, don't act like an airhead.  You are so smart!  Brilliant, in fact!  You have a ridiculous IQ, and you should never act more dumb than you actually are.  It's not cute.  Be proud of your intelligence.  The vast majority of people aren't blessed with as much of it as you are, so let it show.  On that note, work harder in school, and develop good study habits.  I know you are smart enough to skate by, and get good grades without working, but you will need the study habits in college, and it would be cool (and much cheaper) if you didn't need your first two years to figure that out.  Also, don't EVER be a cheerleader.  You will blow out your knees, and blow your chances of running track in college.
     Third, you don't need to get so wasted every weekend.  I know it's easier to talk to that one particular boy when you are, but you know what?  He likes you better when you're not a stumbling mess.   Also, it might save you several nights of hugging the toilet, and also some chick from Florida's convertible.  Boone's Farm and you?  Not a great combo!
     Finally, the friends you have?  They are great.  You did that right, so don't change a thing.  Well, maybe try not to be such a matchmaker, because fact is, you aren't very good at it, but that aside, know that Amy is still your bestie 25 years later, and though life has gotten in the way of you seeing much of each other, you still love her like a sister, and always will.
     In the end, Karis, things turned out pretty well for you.  You may have had an easier road to happiness had you been a little more true to yourself, but doing things the way you did them made you a mom who knows all the tricks in the book, so there's that...  Yes.  You, the girl who was never getting married, and NEVER having any spawn, are happily married to an awesome guy, and have three (mostly) fantastic kids.  Life hasn't always been easy, but you are happy, and that's what counts!

Much love,

Your Grown-up Self (Yes, you DO finally grow up!)

P.S.  You are beautiful and FAR from fat, so stop getting down on yourself for how you look.  Trust me.

So there it is folks! My letter to "Teen Karis".  And that girl is the pictures up there? That's me, once upon a time. (Oh yeah, Teen Karis, get all your photos from Dad's house before it burns down in 2009).   I hope you all will read Dear Teen Me, because it is really great.  If you're an adult, read it because it will take you back, if you're a teen, read it because it is packed with great wisdom!  I hope you enjoyed my letter to my teenage self!

NOW...  Go ahead and enter the Rafflecopter (be patient, sometimes it takes a minute) below for a chance to win your own copy of Dear Teen Me from Zest Books, then check out the other stops on the tour (click HERE)! Also, make sure to visit the Dear Teen Me BLOG for lots more content!  Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Kick-Ass Heroines

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 an awesome one for me, because I love nothing more than to read a book with a seriously kick-ass heroine.  That said, it was really hard for me to narrow it down to just ten (and actually, I didn't, as you will see), so my list comes from books I've read in only the past few years.  So, without further ado, here is YA Litwit's Top Ten Favorite Kick-Ass Heroines...

Top Ten Favorite Kick-Ass Heroines

1.  Katsa from Graceling by Kristin Cashore~ Hands down, the most kick-ass heroine EVER, and it's no coincidence that she hails from one of my favorite books ever.  If I has to pick one book heroine to be, it would be her.

2.  Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas~ Celaena is new on the kick-ass heroine scene, since Throne of Glass is a 2012 debut, but she really made an impression on me.  She rivals Katsa, which is HUGE.  Loved the book, and much of that love had to do with her.
3.  Saba from Blood Red Road by Moira Young~  Blood Red Road wasn't my favorite book.  It was really excellent, but I had a few issues with it.  That said, the protagonist, Saba, is one of the toughest, most kick-ass chicks to grace the pages of YA.  The girl is brutal.
4.  Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins~ What kick-ass heroine list would be complete without her.  Duh.  She is one of the most kick-ass characters of all time, male or female!

5.  Hermoine Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling~ Another duh.  She kicks ass with her brains, which I love!  A kick-ass role model for young girls!  No one can deny Hermione!
6.  Tris from Divergent by Veronica Roth~ Tris is so kick-ass that there were times I wondered if she even had any emotions.  She is such a guy when it comes to kicking ass, which in my mind, is a good thing. 
7.  Kali from Every Other Day by Jenny Lynn Barnes~  Kali's fought off and eradicated all kinds of ridiculously scary paranormal creatures.  She is a predator of such dangerous things, and she rocks.  I think Every Other Day was one of the most underrated books of 2011.  I'm so bummed it was a stand-alone, because I could totally do with more kick-ass Kali.

8 and 9.  Clary and Izzy from The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare~ These girls kick-ass in very different ways.  They are both great Shadowhunters, and are able to fight, but their methods differ quite a bit.  Even so, these girls rock!
10.  Sophie Mercer from the Hex Hall trilogy by Rachel Hawkins~ Sophie is a total reluctant kick-ass heroine, but through the series, as she becomes more and more comfortable with her kick-assedness, she really comes into her own.  Also, she is really funny while she's kicking ass.
11.  Scarlett from Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce~ The girl is amazing.  The way she takes down those nasty fenris with a HATCHET?  The girl rules!  Her sister Rosie is pretty kick-ass too, but she doesn't hold a candle to Scarlett...
12.  Calla from the Nightshade trilogy by Andrea Cremer~  Wolfgirl can fight!  I was very pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this series, and Calla was one of the most influential characters in forming my positive opinion.  Smart, principled, and kick-ass!  Love her!
13.  Anna from Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake~ She is one of the only villain/heroines I can think of, and I just loved her.  In fact,I  couldn't love the sequel, Girl of Nightmares, as much because there just wasn't enough Anna!

So, as you can see, even when going back only the past couple of years, I couldn't narrow it down to just ten, but I came close.  Do you agree?  Did I miss anyone?  Let me know, and don't forget to leave a link to your Top Ten!

** Don't miss my GIVEAWAY of THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray as part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop! Click HERE for details! International. Ends 11/01/2012 **

Monday, October 29, 2012

ARC Review: Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Publisher:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux BYR
Publication Date:  October 16th, 2012

Incapable. Awkward. Artless.

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.

Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.
Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I have a tendency to judge books by their covers, or rather, to judge whether I want to read them by their covers.  I often don't read the synopsis until I've made my judgement, and sometimes, I don't even read it then.  That was how things went with Crewel.  It has a stunning, eye-catching cover, so I wanted to read it.  When I started reading it, I hadn't the foggiest idea what it was about, so all my expectations were based on the positive advance buzz I've heard about it.  Lots of people have really loved this book, so I figured I would too, and I was mostly right.  I really liked Crewel.  It wasn't mind-blowingly amazing like some of the books I've read this year (it was rather unfortunate for it that I read it on the heels of The Diviners by Libba Bray), but it was definitely an impressive debut that deserves many accolades.

Crewel takes place at some point in the future, after Earth as we know it, has been wiped out by war.  The world as the characters in this book know it, Arras, is made up entirely of threads woven from time and matter on great looms. Each person's very existence is manipulated by the Spinsters, the women who are able to "see" the "weave", and operate the looms.  The Spinsters are under the control of the Guild, the oppressive, male-dominated governing body of Arras, and are essentially slaves to it. Even so, it is the dream of most girls to become a Spinster, because from the outside, it looks like the most luxurious life imaginable.  The protagonist, Adelice, has always known she has the ability to become a Spinster, but her parents don't want that life for her, and train her from a young age to fail the test that all girls are given at age 16.  Adelice accidentally passes, and her abilities are revealed. She is taken to the Coventry to become a Spinster, against her will, and she finds out a great deal about the world she lives in, the secrets the Guild holds, and the remarkable ability she possesses, that goes far beyond that of an average, or even an above-average Spinster.  

I liked Adelice, even if she was a bit immature.  She never seemed to know when it was in her best interest to keep her mouth shut.  That said, her wit was refreshing.  She was a strong-minded, sharp character, and while she didn't "wow" me at first, she totally grew on me throughout the story.  I also liked the boys, Erik and Jost.  Both were, of course, swoon-worthy, but they were both smart and cunning as well.  I happen to think that they both fell for Adelice a bit too quickly, but what's a YA novel without a love triangle?  I thought Maela and Cormac were perfect villains, and I think Pryana has a lot of potential to be so in future books.  I loved Enora as well.  The only character I had a time forming an opinion of was Loricel, the head Creweler, the woman who essentially held the existence of  Arras in her hands; I felt like she had way to much power to be as submissive as she was... 

As for the plot and pacing, I thought it was very good.  The story moved along well, and I never felt that been-there-read-this feeling that I've been struggling with when reading a lot of post-Hunger Games Dystopia.  There were some well-done big reveals, but a couple fell flat for me because I saw them coming a mile away.  At times, I thought the world building lacked depth, but I think the whole concept of weaving time with matter is just a difficult one to define without giving away later plot twists.  I believe that will improve in later installments.  

Crewel is, no doubt, a unique story.  A Dystopia with a fresh perspective.  I really enjoyed reading it, and although it wasn't perfect, it is definitely a great beginning to what promises to be a fantastic series.  

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  There were a couple of hot make-out scenes, but given that Spinsters had to maintain "purity standards", there was no sex (although there were several mentions of it).  The violence was minimal, and there was no inappropriate language.  I would say that this book is appropriate for 5th grade and up (ages 10+).

** Don't miss my GIVEAWAY of THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray as part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop! Click HERE for details! International. Ends 11/01/2012 **

Thursday, October 25, 2012

ARC Review: Dear Teen Me edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally

Publisher:  Zest Books
Publication Date:  October 30th, 2012

Dear Teen Me includes advice from over 70 YA authors (including Lauren Oliver, Ellen Hopkins, and Nancy Holder, to name a few) to their teenage selves. The letters cover a wide range of topics, including physical abuse, body issues, bullying, friendship, love, and enough insecurities to fill an auditorium. So pick a page, and find out which of your favorite authors had a really bad first kiss? Who found true love at 18? Who wishes he’d had more fun in high school instead of studying so hard? Some authors write diary entries, some write letters, and a few graphic novelists turn their stories into visual art. And whether you hang out with the theater kids, the band geeks, the bad boys, the loners, the class presidents, the delinquents, the jocks, or the nerds, you’ll find friends--and a lot of familiar faces--in the course of Dear Teen Me.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

First things first...  I am participating in a blog tour for this book, and my scheduled stop date is October 31st, so stop back then, and read MY letter to my teen self, and enter my GIVEAWAY for a copy of this book!

This is a book that ALL teenagers should read!  What a fantastic idea for a book!  Dear Teen Me is a compilation of letters, written by popular YA and MG authors, to their teenage selves, and it is great!  Really, all you have to do is look at the roster to know this.  I am not familiar with every author on this list, but I will say that I could name at least one book from almost everybody...

E. Kristin Anderson (editor), Jessica Lee Anderson (Border Crossing), Tom Angleberger (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda), Sean Beaudoin (The Infects, which I recently reviewed HERE), Charles Benoit (Fall From Grace), Robin Benway (The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June), Ilsa A. Bick (Ashes), Marke Bieschke, Joseph Bruchac (Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of WWII), Jessica Burkhart (Canterwood Crest), Josh A. Cagan, Riley Carney, Tera Lynn Childs (Forgive My Fins), Jessica Corra, Heather David (Wherever You Go), Daniel Ehrenhaft (Friend Is Not a Verb),  Laura Ellen (Blind Spot), Beth Fantaskey (Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side), Caridad Ferrer, Michael Griffo, Janet Gurtler (If I Tell), Kersten Hamilton (Goblin Wars), Bethany Hegedus, Geoff Herbach (Stupid Fast), Faith Erin Hicks, Nancy Holder (Unleashed), K.A. Holt, P.J. Hoover, Ellen Hopkins (Crank), Stacey Jay (Juliet Immortal), Carrie Jones (Need), Mike Jung (Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities), Stasia Ward Kehoe (Audition), Tara Kelly (Amplified), Miranda Kenneally (Catching Jordan), Stephanie Kuehnert, Mary Lindsey (Shattered Souls), Nikk Loftin (The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy), Katherine Longshore (Gilt), Ken Lowery, Kekla Magoon (37 Things I Love...), Mari Mancusi (Sk8ter Boy), Gretchen McNeil (Ten), Jodi Meadows (Incarnate), Saundra Mitchell (The Vespertine), Hannah Moskowitz (Gone, Gone, Gone), Jenny Moss, Sarah Ockler (Twenty Boy Summer), Lauren Oliver (Delirium), Elizabeth Miles (Fury), Stephanie Pellegrin, Mitali Perkins, Cheryl Rainfield (Scars), Dave Roman, Jess Rothenberg (The Catastrophic History of You and Me), Jennifer Rush (Altered), Amy Kathleen Ryan (Glow), Tom Ryan, Leila Sales (Past Perfect), Cynthia Leitich-Smith (Tantalize), Jessica Spotswood (Born Wicked), Erika Stalder, Rhonda Stapleton, Mariko Tamaki, Don Tate, Melissa Walker (Unbreak My Heart), Tracy White, Jo Whittemore, Sara Zarr (How to Save a Life), Jennifer Ziegler (How Not to Be Popular)

If that list doesn't convince you to read this book, and then pass it to every tween and teen you know, maybe my gushing review will!

Dear Teen Me was a great read.  As an adult, it really brought me back, and made me consider how my life may have turned out if I had done things differently as a teenager.  Some of the letters were really funny, others full of great advice about being who you are, and others, quite heartbreaking (Ilsa J. Bick's letter kind of haunts me).  The common thread that they all share?  They are all real.  The authors dig up long forgotten (or, in some cases, long held) moments and memories, some of which are painful and/or embarrassing,  in order to help the reader be a stronger, smarter, more confident teen.  I found myself relating to a lot of the letters written by female authors, in particular, because I remember doing a lot of the same things (Nikki Loftin's letter really hit home, because I was a bit of a loudmouth too!).  I imagine the same would hold true for boys, with male authors.  One of my favorites was the letters that Lauren Oliver and Elizabeth Miles wrote to each other's teen selves (they were BFFs in high school).  I don't think I would want to publish a letter written to my teen self by my (still) BFF, and I bet she feels the same...  Anyway, there is not much else I can say, other than what I said at the beginning; Every teen MUST read this book, and then take the wisdom of these great, brave authors to heart!  They aren't kidding when they say that hindsight is 20/20!  My daughter will be getting a (signed by as many of the authors as possible) copy of this book for her 13th birthday, and I hope she is smart enough to really pay attention!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This is a GREAT book for middle school and up!  Ages 11 and up (6th grade+).

** Don't miss my GIVEAWAY of THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray as part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop!  Click HERE for details!  International.  Ends 11/01/2012 **

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:  September 18th, 2012

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-tute-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Libba Bray has done it again!  I cannot say enough good things about this book!  It's not a huge secret or anything- I adore her!  She has only written one book that I didn't LOVE, and even with that one, I liked it.  (In case you're wondering which book that is, it's Going Bovine, which funny-enough, is the one that won awards...)  I loved her Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing), and Beauty Queens was my 2nd favorite book of 2011.  When I heard Libba had a new Historical/Paranormal series coming out, I was thrilled, but also a bit nervous about whether or not she could top the Gemma Doyle books (they are also Historical/Paranormal).  Well, let me tell you, she has WELL outdone herself, because The Diviners was AMAZING!

First off, the timing of the release of this book was fantastic.  It is such a creepy, nail-biter of a story, that reading it around Halloween is just perfect!  I found myself reading late into the night, jumping at every little noise, and sleeping with the lights on.  I wasn't expecting the creep-factor to be as high as it was, but it did so much for the story.  And the story!  It was so well executed, and so expertly paced, that it never seemed like it was the 592 page monstrosity that it was.  It read as quickly as a book half its length.  The plot was amazing, very original, and one that kept me guessing the entire time.  I still have loads of questions, which ensures that I will be reading the second installment the moment I can get my hands on it.  Honestly, though, the plot wasn't even the best part of this book...

Libba Bray is a very, VERY gifted writer, and her two biggest strengths are world building and character development.  The Diviners was written from more than ten different points of view, and every single one was done extremely well.  Developing that many different characters is hard enough, but to actually manage to write their POVs, without confusing the reader?  Before I read this book, I would have said that it was impossible, but not only did Libba do it, she did it so that I really felt a connection to every one.  There were characters I loved (Evie, Theta, Sam, Memphis), and then here were characters I loved to hate (Naughty John, Bill, The House), but there was not a single character that I didn't have an opinion of, and that is rare for me.  The other thing Libba masterfully accomplished in this book was her depiction of the era and setting.  Just WOW!  She really did her research, capturing the essence of the Harlem Renaissance, the Prohibition Era, and NYC as a living, breathing thing.  I think one of the reasons I as able to read this book so quickly was that I felt like I was dropped into the story; I didn't feel like the reader of a story, but rather a participant, and that feeling had everything to do with Libba's world building.

Overall, I have to say that this is one of my favorite books this year; Libba takes the number two spot again! (Sorry, Libba, but nothing is going to touch David Levithan's beautiful, Every Day. Read my review HERE.)  If you haven't already decided that you need to read The Diviners, let me be the one to tell you that you must! It is pos-i-tute-ly amazing!

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book is pretty scary, and there are some intensely graphic murders.  Also, there is loads of drinking, as several scenes take place in speakeasies.  No sex to speak of, and really not much language.  I would say this is appropriate for 5th grade and up, as long as the reader isn't too easily spooked, and isn't intimidated by the length of the book. (ages 10+)

** Don't miss my GIVEAWAY of this book as part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop!  Click HERE for details!  International.  Ends 11/01/2012 **

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop: Win a Copy of THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray

Thanks for stopping by YA Litwit on the 2012 Spooktacular Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and The Diary of a Bookworm.  This year I am giving away Libba Bray's newest book, the creepily awesome The Diviners (read my review HERE), and this is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway!  Go ahead and fill out the Rafflecopter to enter, and don't forget to check out the rest of the goodies my fellow bloggers are giving away on the hop!  Best of luck and Happy Halloween!

Oh, and while you here, check out my OTHER awesome GIVEAWAY!  Click this LINK for your chance to win a copy of Dear Teen Me, where 70+ MG and YA authors write letters to their teenage selves!  It's not to be missed!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

ARC Review: Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch

Publisher:  Scholastic Press
Publication Date:  October 1st, 2012

On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.

Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn's only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn't for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn's mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father's work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run---with only one place to go.
With MAGISTERIUM, Jeff Hirsch brings us the story of a complex, captivating world that will leave readers breathless until the very last page.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I haven't read Jeff Hirsch's acclaimed debut, The Eleventh Plague, yet, but it is up there on my list of already-published books to read.  When I got an advance copy of this, his second book, I was really excited.  Because I had heard so many fabulous things about The Eleventh Plague, I went into Magisterium with pretty high expectations, and I was not disappointed!

My first impression of this book was great!  It has one of the most fabulous covers I've seen this year.  The art is beautiful in a kind of dark, foreboding way, and it has a gorgeous combination of colors.  I'm not usually overly impressed with Scholastic's covers, but they really delivered with this one.  Honestly, I was a tiny bit afraid that what was between the covers would have a difficult time measuring up to what was on the outside (kind of like people sometimes, you know?)...

Fortunately, the story was good too.  It's extremely original; very different from everything else out in the YA book world right now.  First off, I'm having hard time classifying it.  It kind of fits within several different genres, while not really fitting into any single one completely.  It has dystopian elements for sure, or rather, utopian-unless-you-step-out-of-line elements.  It also has elements of sci-fi, with the protagonist's life ambition being space travel and her father being a mad scientist type.  The genre I most closely identified it to was Fantasy, though.  On one side of the "Rift" you have your technological utopia/dystopia, while on the other side, the side most of the novel takes place on, it is pure fantasy.  It too lived under an oppressive leadership, but this one was fashioned from magic, rather than technology.  Those with the most "Affinty" ruled, and those with less were forbidden to use it, or risk death as traitors to the Magistra.  Each side of the Rift had its advantages, technology on one side, magic on the other, but what was cool was that each side's strength only existed its own side of the border, and became useless the moment one crossed it.  This made for a peaceful, if tense, arrangement between the two governing entities; the people just accepted the lies they were told about what existed on the other side of the border.  Everything changed when the protagonist's scientist father created a device to make the wearer able to cross the border, and still be able to retain his/her strengths from the other side.  Both sides get word of this device, and want it, and that is when the adventure really begins.  Unstable alliances are made, betrayal lurks around every corner, and all out war ensues...

The plot was really good.  I liked how the story played out, and there weren't any questions left unanswered in the end, but at the same time, it was written in an open-ended sort of way, leaving room for a possible sequel.   I also really liked the characters.  The protagonist, Glenn, was great.  She was strong, smart, and principled, but also very human.  She had a couple of really selfish moments, and in a way, those were what made me connect with her.  I also really liked Kevin, her BFF and sort-of love interest.  There were a few times I questioned his intelligence and mental stability, but in the end I got him.  The old witch, Opal, was another character I thought highly of.  She was tough and cunning, and I liked that she helped Kevin and Glenn, even though she knew who they were and what it could cost her.  My favorite character, however, was Aamon.  Not only was he a fantastic creature, a feast for the imagination, but he was a kick-ass warrior, and kept me guessing as to what his motivations were right up until the very end.

This book did have a few issues, but they ended up not being all that major.  The pacing of the story wasn't very even.  There were times when it felt very disjointed, making me feel like I was reading a different book.  The same fantastical descriptions that really brought this book to life at some times, dragged it down at others.  There were times when I felt like some of the elaborate constructs of the setting and plot and were unnecessary, slowing the story down, while at others, I was absolutely enthralled and couldn't stop reading.  Then there were times when I was confused because I felt there wasn't enough description.  I also sometimes felt like some things were rather predictable, especially Glenn's strange connection to the Magisterium.  That said, there were a few reveals that took me by surprise, even if the timing was a bit convenient.

Overall, despite my minor misgivings, I really liked Magisterium.  It was unique and packed with adventure.  I can't give it five stars because of the aforementioned problems with execution, but I still feel like it is well worth a read by anyone who is a fan of Dystopia and/or Fantasy.  If a second book is ever written, I will definitely read it.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  Violent, but otherwise squeaky clean.  This is appropriate for readers grades 4 and up (ages 9+).

**Don't forget to enter my GIVEAWAY for a SIGNED copy of Lauren Oliver's fabulous new book, THE SPINDLERS! Click HERE to enter! US/CAN. Ends 10/20/2012.**

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite YA Contemporary Authors

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! I've been really slack lately in posting memes.  There are a few that I love doing, but honestly, I've been so behind in my reading a reviews, that I just haven't gotten to them.  Fortunately, this weekend has been rather tame in comparison to the past many...  

This week's topic is a tough one for me; "Top Ten Authors In X Genre".  It would be easier for me to choose from genres I really like, but I like a challenge, so I'm going with a genre I don't often read.  It's not that I don't like YA Contemporary, it's just that it happens to be a genre that (in my humble opinion) produced more crap that quality, and I don't have time to weed through it.  That said, there are a few authors in this genre that I will read EVERYTHING and ANYTHING they write, so I wanted to give them props.  (Click each author's name to go to their webpage.) Here goes...

YA Litwit's Top Ten Favorite YA Contemporary Authors
(in order)

10.  Laura Wiess~  I've only read two of her books, Ordinary Beauty and Such a Pretty Girl, but that's all I needed to know that I will read all of her other books, and anything she publishes in the future.  She GETS it.  Her writing absolutely rips your heart out and stays with you long after you are finished reading her books.  If you haven't picked up anything by her, do it now.


9.  Terra Elan McVoy~  Terra is a local author, and happens to be the first author I ever attended a signing for, but even if she wasn't, she would be on this list.  Several years ago a bookish friend suggested I read her debut, Pure.  I loved it!  She really understands the mind and motivations of teenage girls, and she writes them in such a great way.  She doesn't dumb down or sugar-coat.  She digs deep into teen relationships with their peers, their significant others, and their parents, explores the highs and lows, and aptly expresses them.  She's real and she has a light and energy that shines through in her books.  I'm actually really excited for her upcoming book, Criminal, too.  I can't wait to read how she writes another genre (Thiller).  It's out in May of 2013.


8.  Gayle Forman~  I contemplated leaving her off this list because she only has two well known books out, but I decided not to because those two books are two of the best books I've read in this genre.  I loved If I Stay and Where She Went with all my heart.  I read each one in one sitting, and ugly cried during both- we're talking snot-bubbles and swollen-face.  I love how it all ended up and I can't wait to read her next story, Just One Day, out in January.


7.  Maureen Johnson~  Maureen is smart and funny and sarcastic, and I just love her.  She's written about a gazillion books, and I just love the way she writes.  She manages to tackle some tough stuff without it ever seeming heavy.  I laugh so much when I read her stories, but always walk away having gained something.  Also, she is the BEST person ever to follow on Twitter.


6.  Lauren Myracle~ Lauren writes both MG and YA and it is all worth reading.  I love that my 11 year old has grown up with her, and that she continues to be her literary idol.  Actually, grown-ups don't come much cooler than LM.  I wish I could be her kid (as does my daughter).  She also happens to be one of the most banned authors out there, but that is because she is real, and I really think teens appreciate that (even if some of their curmudgeonly parents don't).  Her amazing book, Shine, was my favorite book of 2011 (read my review HERE).


5.  Kody Keplinger~  It could be that she is practically a teenager herself, by I think Kody Keplinger is one of the most dialed in YA authors around.  I have found her books easy to identify with when I think back to my teen years, and when I talk to kids who have read her books, I often hear that they feel like she could be writing about them or one of their friends.  She is sharp and doesn't hold back.  Add to that the fact that she is enormously talented for someone so young, and there is no other option but to expect amazing things in the future from her!


4.  Stephanie Perkins~  There's YA Contemporary and then there's YA Contemporary Romance, and the latter is really not my thing, but I ADORE Stephanie Perkins.  I very reluctantly read Anna and the French Kiss, after much cajoling from nearly every bookish friend I have, and I loved it.  Then I read Lola and the Boy Next Door and it became clear that I would forever read everything she writes.  I'm a total fangirl!  She does YA Contemporary Romance like nobody else.  All others in that category should bow down.  I know that is a bold statement to make after only two books, but I dare you to read them and disagree...

3.  David Levithan~  I very nearly bumped him up to the number one spot because of his latest book, Every Day (read my review HERE), which now sits near the top of my list of favorite books EVER (it holds a firm position as #1 of 2012), but when you look at the two authors above him, you'll understand...  Still, some of my favorite YA Contemporary novels are by him or co-written by him (A dream of mine?  For him to co-write a book with #9 on this list, his good buddy, Terra McVoy!), and really, if I could, my top three would be a three-way tie because I love them all (almost) equally. Honestly, it is like asking me which one of my three kids is my favorite; It depends on the day and my mood...


2.  Ellen Hopkins~  I read every one of Ellen's books the minute they come out, but they usually have such a profound effect on me that it takes weeks, sometimes months to write my review.  Sometimes I never write it because I can't articulate my thoughts. It is a fact that EVERY teen and most adults should read ALL of her books.  She doesn't ever paint pretty pictures, but her books are no less beautiful for it.   If you have never read anything by her, go ahead and put whatever you're reading now down (unless it's Every Day by David Levithan- you have my permission to finish IT...).  I suggest Perfect because it is my favorite of her books (read my review HERE).


1.  John Green~  The master of YA Contemporary.  Nerdfighter extraordinaire.  This guy rules, and if I had to guess, I would say that every author on this list would agree with me that he deserves to top it.  He doesn't have as many books under his belt as some of the other authors on this list, but everything I've read by him has had a profound effect on me in one way or another; has changed the way I look at the world and relationships.  In fact, if you look back on my past Top Ten Tuesday posts, you will see his books over and over again.  John Green's books are fantastic and they get better with each new one.


So there is my Top Ten Favorite YA Contemporary Authors.  Do you agree?  Did I miss anyone?  I would love to hear your thoughts!  

And one more thing...  I wanted to mention a few YA Contemporary authors to watch out for.  Authors on this list only have one YA Contemporary published (they may have books from other genres, but I'm not counting those), and they were so good, I felt they deserved a mention...

Katie McGarry~ Her debut, Pushing the Limits, was amazing.  It made me finally admit to myself that I didn't actually dislike YA Contemporary as a genre.  If her subsequent books are as good as her first, she has a really bright future ahead of her.  Her next book, Dare You To, a companion to Pushing the Limits, comes out in 2013.  Read my review of Pushing the Limits HERE.

Trish Doller~ Another 2012 debut author who came out with a bang.  Something Like Normal is one of the most compelling YA Contemporaries I've read (read my review HERE).  I can't wait to read more of what Trish has to offer.  Fortunately, we won't have to wait horribly long.  Her second book, All That Was Lost, comes out in October of 2013.

Megan Bostic~ Megan's debut, Never Eighteen, was a touching story that has stayed with me.  It's been a year and a half since I read it and I still think about it sometimes.  I loved her characters and the voice she gave them.  Can't wait to read what she has up next!  Read my review of Never Eighteen HERE.

Jackson Pearce~ Jackson is one of the masters of the Fairy Tale Retelling, so when I found out her first YA Contemporary was coming out, I was leery.  I wasn't sure what to expect, and frankly, I wasn't sure I liked the idea of it.  I was so happy to be wrong because Purity was fantastic, and ended up being my favorite of all her books.  I hope she decides to write more of this genre, because she seems to have a knack for it.  Read my review of Purity HERE.

John Corey Whaley~ In my opinion, his debut, Where Things Come Back, was the most underrated book of 2011 (read my review HERE).  I know it won awards and stuff, but it just didn't get the love, attention, and praise from the blogger community that I thought it should have.  It was brilliant and touching and funny.  Plus, he is just adorable.

Jesse Andrews~ His debut, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, is one of my favorites of 2012.  Hands down my favorite humorous book of this year.  I laughed so hard I peed a little several times while reading it.  I like witty, and Jesse Andrews has wit in spades.  Read my review of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl HERE.

Lauren Oliver~  Lauren is best known for her Dystopias (Delirium and Pandemonium) and her MG Fantasies (Liesl & Po and The Spindlers), but her YA Contemporary, Before I Fall, is actually some of her best work.  I would love to see Lauren write more in the genre.

**Don't forget to enter my GIVEAWAY for a SIGNED copy of Lauren Oliver's fabulous new book, THE SPINDLERS! Click HERE to enter! US/CAN. Ends 10/20/2012.**