Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Reading Recommendations

Mostly because I kind of swooned for Will in Sophie Jordan's Firelight, I decided this week's theme will be love interests. Specifically, the boys from a girl's POV. Not that I have anything against it going the other way but right not, I'm in the mood for the boys. Since I'm limiting myself to boys in books already released, I'll leave out Will... and Lend from Paranormalcy. But know that if I could, they'd be in the list. And while I know there are plenty of other viable options, I'm limiting myself to six. And while I do have a huge soft spot for Alex from Perfect Chemistry and Adrian from Vampire Academy... I am letting some other hotties share the spotlight.



Sebastian from Kiss It by Erin Downing: Dark and brooding with a great ability for banter, I fell for Sebastian from the start. He's a bit of a playboy, or so it seems, and I am a sucker for those kind. There's a brokenness in him, however, that adds to his appeal. All around, Sebastian is one to drool over. I might have had a few fantasies of my own about him, right alongside Chaz.

Will from The Ghost and The Goth by Stacey Kade: Will is a tormented ball of adorable. He is intense and caring but hides because of his ability. His thoughts are a mix of teenage boy and mature, knowing man. The way he sees things is interesting and despite the way he comes off, he holds huge potential. Also, he's a leg man. I respect a leg man.

Aiden from The Naughty List by Suzanne Young: I've dubbed Aiden Track Pants Boy. And he has a special place for me. He's horny but sweet, protective but vulnerable. He's a great mix all around and I kind of want him for myself. One of these days, I'll figure out a way to hijack him from Suzanne's head. And manifest him. And watch him wear nothing but track pants. Yeah, no shirt. That's right. I went there.


Astley from Captivate by Carrie Jones: Maybe he's evil. Maybe he's not. It's hard to tell with Astley but what I do know is that he is downright awkward at all the right times. I kind of think of those sour patch kids commercials with it comes to Astley... a little twit at first then he does something sweet and endearing that makes your heart melt. Or at least he did mine.

Jesse from How It Ends by Laura Wiess: Jesse is an intriguing character, older than Hanna but obviously tempted by her. He is strong and there for her despite the dirtier thoughts he has. He shows her what a good relationship can be and he holds a huge amount of promise. Not to mention, anyone who can be dubbed as karate biker boy is inherently amazing.

Lucian from Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey: I have to admit, I fell hardest for Lucian when things started going bad with Jessica. The darker side of him had a certain appeal to me though I won't give details for those who haven't read it. Bottom line- both behaving and dark, Lucian is darn sexy. And maybe I'd let him bite at my neck a little. You know, a tiny nibble...


I enjoyed all of these books and not only because of the boys. I definitely recommend them- the boys were just a big perk. Admit it. You all love tormented balls of adorable and Track Pants Boy too.

Book Review: Firelight by Sophie Jordan

SUMMARY:

A hidden truth.
Mortal enemies.
Doomed love.

Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.


OPINION: 5 STARS

Exceptional, distinct and invigorating, Firelight is a fantastic mix of romance, angst and the supernatural. The world Jordan has created is phenomenal, filled with detail and such intense thought has clearly gone into everything about it. From the descriptions of Jacinda’s drake side to the way she reacts in different environments to the emotions she feels, Jordan includes everything seamlessly.

Jacinda is a character completely unlike any other, based in what she physically is. A dragon at her core, Jacinda and her kind have the ability to morph into humans to blend. As a dragon, she is still coherent and the same girl but there is a stark contrast between Jacinda’s mind as part of her pride and Jacinda thrust out into the human world. Jordan handles this switch perfectly, infusing a high amount of angst and discomfort. Jacinda battles between a maturity that lets her understand why she has to be in a human school with her wants, desires and even needs. Her struggles are intense and breathtaking, and the constant tug and pull of her body in response to different people and situations comes across fantastically.

Will is as divergent as Jacinda, tormented and caught by the nature of his family. He holds a certain intensity that is memorable and appealing, struggling against being a hunter and what it means. His first encounter with Jacinda is written beautifully, and the ensuing push and pull of their connection and relationship drives a strong portion of the book. In unexpected and heartfelt ways, the couple are united and understand each other in ways others cannot.

The other supporting characters are convoluted and as well developed as the main characters. Though her actions are frustrating and some of her responses, particularly through Jacinda’s biased eyes, seem irrational, Jacinda’s mother is a very well done character. Her side can be seen because of the way Jordan writes the book, slipping in enough thoughts on Jacinda’s behalf as well as interactions for the reader to understand the mother. Tamra falls in a similar role, coming off as immature and selfish at times but her reasons and motivations are also clear. Characters initially easy to dislike shift to hold a sympathetic element while others remain disliked if not growing to something stronger.

The writing is fantastic, rapt with a vividness not always seen and enveloping the reader from the start. The descriptions stood out from the first page, as did Jacinda’s distinctive voice. There is a strong romantic element to this book, showcasing Jordan’s strong, inherent writing ability both with action intense scenes as well as emotion and yes, this woman can write some intense, fan yourself kissing scenes. The overall tone shifts constantly, pulling the reader with it.

The plot is brilliant and absolutely unique, focused on both Jacinda’s character development and decisions as well as actions and events beyond her control. The ending is shocking and not easily predicted until a certain point and Jordan slips in plenty of other clues, hints and turns to keep the reader stunned and guessing. A few shocking plot twists really drive the plot, smacking the reader in the face and keeping the pages turning. While some elements could be compared to other fantasy books, it doesn’t take away from the overall feeling and effect this book leaves the reader with. Even with this, Jordan tweaks them to make them all her own and shifts them to her characters and world.

Firelight is a well paced mix of action and emotion, built on a startling new premise with an astonishingly well built world. The blend between the draki world and the human world comes through strongly, and the level of thought Jordan put into building her world is very clear and highly appreciated throughout. Detail intensive and vivid imagery, strong and distinct characters, fluid writing and an original plot all pull together to make Firelight an incredible hit and a must read.


Details:
Source: ARC received for review from the author/publisher in exchange for honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061935085
ISBN-13: 978-0061935084

Sophie Jordan's Website

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick is Blank Confession by Pete Hautman, set to come out November 16 from Simon & Schuster.

Summary:
Shayne Blank is the new kid in town--but that doesn't stop him from getting into a lot of trouble very quickly. The other kids don't understand him. He's not afraid of anything. He seems too smart. And his background doesn't add up. But when he walks into the police department to confess to a murder, it quickly becomes apparent that nothing is as it seems. There's more to Shayne--and his story--than meets the eye. As the details begin to fill in, the only thing that becomes clear is that nothing about Shayne's story is clear at all.

My Thoughts: I think Shayne has a lot of potential to be a great MC, and I love the way he's presented in the premise. A mix of a stereotype and someone unique, I already like the kid. I also really love murder mysteries, especially the way this one is pitched with Shayne going to confess seemingly on his own. I definitely am interested to see what the truth is- and how things paly out for Shayne.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One Question Blog Tour with Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Welcomed today is Lauren Barataz-Logsted, author of the upcoming The Education of Bet, out July 12. As part of her blog tour, I was lucky enough to get to ask one question- and course I chose one of my interview favorites.


If you could be transformed into any one person for a day, what would be your pick?

This was a tougher question than it first appeared to be. There are so many possibilities! Bill Gates. Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton. Carly on General Hospital - I love her clothes and fake diamond jewelry. There are too many possibilities! And then it came to me. William Shakespeare. Can you imagine being Shakespeare for a day? Wow. Just wow.

Thank you for stopping here and for that great answer. I have to agree- Shakespeare's life would have been great to experience for a day. Make sure you guys continue to follow this one question tour, over at Shooting Stars Mag tomorrow. In case you missed it yesterday, you can still find Monday's stop at Jenn's Bookshelves.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Blog Tour: Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala

Here today to celebrate the release of her debut novel Tell Me A Secret is Holly Cupala, stopping by as part of her promotional blog tour. This is a very emotional, powerful read with a strong premise and brilliant characters and writing. If you haven't picked this one up yet, I definitely recommend it! For today's stop, Holly's been gracious enough to answer a few questions!


If you found yourself in Rand's situation in high school, how do you think your parents would have reacted?

It would have been a very difficult thing for any family in my town. People can be so harsh, especially when it’s someone else’s problem. But I think my parents would have risen to the occasion—as Miranda’s parents do to some degree, even though they must overcome grief as well as their own baggage. I’m very proud of the way my parents have come through adversities.

What did you find to be the most challenging aspect of developing Rand’s pregnancy?

In my original conception of the story—pun not intended!—the outcome of Miranda’s pregnancy was going to be quite different, and far more tragic. But when I got to that part, I couldn’t write it. Part of the inspiration for the novel was a tragic event of my own, but Miranda’s story was meant to take a different turn. Miranda would find hope and redemption, despite the loss of her sister and her suffocating family circumstances. You will have to read the book to find out what happens!

Rand has a high affinity in her art for labyrinths—what was your motivation for choosing this theme as opposed to something else?

The labyrinths came intuitively for the story of an artistic girl making sense of her past and present, with just enough light for her next step. But I have always been fascinated by labyrinth literature. Some of my favorite authors are Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges, whose writings have a kind of labyrinth twistiness to them. I love symbols and metaphors (in fact, I had to cut a bunch because there were too many!). I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get labyrinths out of my head for the next book (STREET CREED, Fall 2011), but then a whole new metaphor system arose for that one…hint: armor and power. Very fun to write!

If you could pair Rand with any character from any book, what would be your pick?

Hmmm…who would Rand like? Kartik from A Great and Terrible Beauty? (No wait, that’s me.) I always imagine Kartik to look like my devastatingly handsome Indian husband. In fact, Kamran, who is Persian, kind of looks like him, too…

Character-wise, I think she’d maybe like Owen from Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen, or Sebastian from Deb Caletti’s The Nature of Jade. Or Creed, from STREET CREED! Swoon. I can’t wait for you to read about him.

What is the most fearless thing you've done?

Besides write a bare-your-soul book? Hmm. I cliff-jumped 40 feet one time. I learned to overcome crippling shyness (yes, I know, seems completely unbelievable now). I’ve found the hope in hard times. I’ve sung for YouTube! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NApll2FHjLY)

What is the most private thing you're willing to share?

The journey Miranda takes, from grief to hope, very much paralleled mine as I was writing the book. The story arose from such a very personal place—it’s astonishing and wonderful and frightening to see it go out in the world and strike a chord with readers such as yourself. It continues to amaze me!

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?

Lemon bar. Sweet and sour, with a irresistible, gooey crunch. ;-)

Thank you Holly and congrats on a fantastic release!


Book Summary:

Tell me a secret, and I'll tell you one...

In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda’s death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister’s world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.

Then two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears. Stripped of her former life, Miranda must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister’s demons and her own.


In this powerful debut novel, stunning new talent Holly Cupala illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her future.



You can also get a two chapter preview of the book here. Make sure to keep following the tour tomorrow at Marjolein Book Blog, and continue to get chances to win prizes from Holly! You can also find out more about this fantastic debut author here.

TELL ME A SECRET Tour Contest Entry Rules
• Leave comments at any official tour stop or Holly’s blog (www.hollycupala.com) throughout the tour! Each comment counts as an entry (one comment per post*).
• Tweet about the tour (@hollycupala) and tell us what you think!
• Post about the tour, then leave a comment at my blog with a link.
Each week's prizes will be announced at Holly’s blog the following week - check back to see if you've won and contact us at the contact link at www.hollycupala.com (we will hold prizes for 2 weeks).
* Comment calculation: for instance, during week one you can comment once at every official stop, and once on any of my posts for that week to be entered in that week's prize drawing.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review: Stranded by J.T. Dutton

SUMMARY:

Who abandoned Baby Grace?

A farmer’s discovery in his cornfield thrusts a small farm town into a raging media frenzy—and Kelly Louise into a new home. Who knew a person could feel so completely stranded somewhere with national news coverage?

How is Kelly Louise supposed to shed her virginal status when the baby in the cornfield shadows her every hair flip, every wink? And the one boy around who rates anywhere near acceptable on the Maximum Man Scale only has eyes for her cousin, Natalie (who only has eyes for Jesus).

But Natalie has a secret. Everyone is so busy burying the truth about Baby Grace, they can’t see who they’re burying alive.

Welcome to Heaven, Iowa.

OPINION: 4 STARS

Definable, sprightly characters, a blend of serious and humorous, and a strong setting are the most notable aspects of Stranded. The drastic changes Kelly Louise is suddenly pushed into provide a driving force for both the plot and development with her own character, and the overall way things play out runs smoothly. A great YA voice that brings life to Kelly Louise while still being something likable for a range of readers also embolden this book.

Kelly Louise is as unique as her name, a city girl pushed into a country setting with a very strict, religious grandmother and cousin. Her love and obsession with boys provides a great contrast to Natalie’s uptight ways and the trouble she often finds herself in comes off primarily as comical because of the situation. Given the heavily religious nature of her grandma and cousin, as well as the constant Christian tones of the town, Kelly Louise's determination to lose her virginity adds another bit of flare to the story overall. The reason she ends up moving to Heaven comes out pretty early on and is one more thing she has to deal with. Her views on the situation bring out her character strongly, as do her interactions with her peers. There is a noticeable difference between her and her peers as she finds herself in uncomfortable situations and dealing with an unexpected inability to fit in and find friends.

Natalie is an interesting character, a girl with a woman’s body but lacking such a mature mindset. After finding herself in a bad situation, she tries to set things right and move forward. Her battles against Kelly Louise provide tension as well as humor, competition bred both of out the situation and being the same age but having very different childhoods. Natalie’s background comes up often, also helping lend her an overall public persona of being a good girl who can do no wrong. Kelly Louise feels the friction from this, and given that she is the narrator, there is a certain bias and dislike towards Natalie as a result that helps build the overall tone and plot.

Kenny is the boy who lives next to Kelly Louise’s grandma, the son of a drunk and the boy everyone assumes will end up in jail. A trouble maker, a loner, and often getting high, Kenny butts heads with Kelly Louise while also providing some sort of camaraderie and friendship towards her. As their relationship starts to grow, becoming something more than bickering school mates but still not entirely what Kelly Louise would really want, another element and source of tension is added overall to the story. Despite the way he comes off, Kelly Louise finds a different side of Kenny and he provides a source of mixed feelings for the reader.

Though the abandoned baby incident happens before Kelly Louise and her mother move into Heaven, it is still constantly brought up throughout the town. The circumstances behind it do become known and as Kelly Louise struggles to understand and reconcile, so does the reader. Dutton has pitched numerous questions into this book, handling it all masterfully and smoothly with both a gentle hand and humor. There is tremendous character growth for Kelly Louise as the story progresses, both in the way she views the world and those directly around her but also in her maturity level and mental setting.

As the plot progresses, and the investigation and truth regarding baby Grace comes out, the overall situation and turmoil builds. With plenty of high school type incidents to keep the teenage tone, Dutton creates a strong mix between high school and life. Things finally build to a surprising climax, driven primarily by Kelly Louise and rendering this a big story in character growth and development.

Dutton’s writing is strong and refreshing, giving a strong light to Kelly Louise and bringing both this character and those around her as well as the setting to life. Kenny, Kelly Louise’s mother, grandmother, Natalie and Kenny all are strongly built characters, coming through memorably and boldly. The relationship between Kelly Louise and her mother is a close one, having a blend of mother/daughter and friends, even when the situations become stressed. Stranded is a powerful read despite the rampant comedic relief and is the story of a quirky teenage girl who suddenly finds herself in an uncomfortable situation and dealing with things possibly above her head.

Details:
Source: Finished hardbound copy received from author free of charge for review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (June 8, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061370827
ISBN-13: 978-0061370823

Author's Website

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In My Mailbox

It was an amazingly good week in books for me plus Alyson Noel came to Dallas for a signing on Thursday. Oh yes, I went. Oh yes, there were pictures. And, oh, remember those awesome orange Chucks I got from Heidi Kling? That's right. Alyson signed them. It was, well, awesome! Not to mention, it was the first shoe she had ever signed.

For Review:
Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Everlasting by Angie Frazier
Indigo Blues by Danielle Joseph
Minder by Kate Kaynak
Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan
(Very big thank you to Sophie Jordan, Angie Frazier, Danielle Jospeh, Kate Kaynak and Simon & Schuster)



Yes, that's me in my Paranormalcy T-Shirt from Kiersten White. With Alyson Noel.

And here is Alyson signing my shoe... and the final product!


That was my week. What did everyone else get?

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Author Interview: Jennifer Murgia

I know you've heard of it, maybe even read it, but are you eager to know more about the world of Angel Star, created by Jennifer Murgia? I thought so. She's been gracious enough to stop by to answer a few questions!

What made you decide to use an 8 pointed star to signify angels?

I love plausible plotlines and on occasion I have found myself Googling information because a story has been so captivating. I wanted to add that element to Angel Star, yet stick with something unique. My mother has a book of ancient symbols and the Octagram was a perfect fit!

Can you share something about Teagen and Garreth that didn't make it into the final draft of the book?

Actually a good chunk of my first draft made it into the final copy of the book. The editing was less tedious than I expected (whew!), if anything, paragraphs and scenes were reworked or rephrased but the material stayed pretty much the same.

If you could pair Teagen and Garreth with any character from any book (romantically or otherwise, your choice), what would be your picks for each?

Honestly, I can’t compare them to anyone else.

This book, based on the premise, is, in large part, a battle of wills. What is the biggest battle of wills you've had to fight?

I think everyone is faced with indecision at times and sometimes choosing right over wrong can get a bit blurred. For me? I guess it comes down to a thought process within myself. My reaction to upset is always defensive at first and I’ve had to learn to think before I act in reaction to something.
If you could step into someone else's shoes for one day, who's life would you want to experience?

I would love to be Stephenie Meyer for a day. What a whirlwind her life has become! I can only imagine the rush. I’m experiencing just a tiny example of it, but wow . . . her books, the fans, the movies!

What is the most fearless thing you've done to date?

Putting my heart and soul into a book and sending it off into the world.


Thanks Jennifer! Congrats on getting your book out there! Make sure you guys pick up this book soon!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Contest Winners!

I've got four contests to announce winners for tonight- as always, thank you so much to everyone who entered. I'll send out emails after this goes up- you have 48 hours from when the email goes out to get back to me or I pick a new winner.


Suzanne Young Giveaway: Since I put the wrong Twitter name on the form (it's really suzanne_young so go follow her now) and since she really is one of my favorite authors with tremendous talent, I am throwing in a second winner:
Signed Books from Suzanne: ChickLitGirl
Books paid for by me: Jordyn
Swag pack for best swear substitute: Anna, with Snickerdoodles because not only does it definitely sound like something Tessa would say, it's my favorite kind of cookie.

Signed copy of A Blue So Dark: Jessy

Sea giveaway: Danielle Finnegan
Sea swag pack for best fear: Jessica Secret with escalators because I have the same fear, especially the down ones. And my friends make fun of me to no end for it.

Evil Within ARC: Amanda Baird

Thanks again and make sure to check out my current and upcoming giveaways!

Summer Reading Recommendations

After some thinking, I decided to focus this week on traveling, whether the book is one that the setting is outside of the US (as I do live in the US, making such settings exciting for me) or great travel around the US. Particularly since it's summer time, travel seems like a great theme.



Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson: Though this one stays in the US, it does a fantastic job on not only visiting many places both well known and not, but describing them and the local features. From focusing on the Kentucky Derby in Louisville to discovering Chic-Fil-A, Sonic and other fast food chains as well as diners, I had as much interest in the scenery as I did the plot on this one.

A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: This one takes places in Australia, where the winter and summer months are switched from what I am used to in the US. This alone added something interest, reading about characters celebrating Christmas in summertime. Some of the phrases also stayed with the Australian setting, adding a different spark for me.

Kiss Me, Kill Me by Lauren Henderson: This is part of a trilogy, the final book of which just came out several weeks ago. Set in England, the wording and settings are different but it was kind of nice to read about British students going through similar things as US students would despite the different backgrounds and school styles.

Beautiful Americans by Lucy Silag: Set at the only French boarding high school, this series (the second book of which is Wanderlust, already out) centers around four American students studying in France. The blending between American and French is great, causing some interesting situations and overall, creating a fantastic setting to go with the great story line.

A Field Guide for Heartbreakers by Kristen Tracy: This is also American students in a foreign country, this time centered in Prague and for a summer program rather than a full year abroad. The characters do their sight seeing, taking the reader with them through the local highlights with vivid descriptions to build the picture for the reader.


I know there are more, but these are ones that I've read and have stood out to me largely because of the setting. Karen Healy's Guardian of the Dead is set in New Zealand and Heidi Kling's Sea takes place in Indonesia though I haven't yet read these two. These are the recommendations I've got for you guys this week! Hope you enjoy them!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book Review: A Note From An Old Acquaintance

SUMMARY:

Brian Weller is a haunted man. It's been two years since the tragic accident that left his three-year-old son dead and his wife in an irreversible coma. A popular author of mega- selling thrillers, Brian's life has reached a crossroads: his new book is stalled, his wife's prognosis is dire, and he teeters on the brink of despair. Everything changes the morning an e- mail arrives from Boston artist Joanna Richman. Her heartfelt note brings back all the poignant memories: the night their eyes met, the fiery passion of their short- lived affair, and the agonizing moment he was forced to leave Joanna forever. Now, fifteen years later, the guilt and anger threaten to overwhelm him. Vowing to make things right, Brian arranges a book- signing tour that will take him back to Boston. He is eager to see Joanna again, but remains unsure where their reunion will lead. One thing is certain: the forces that tore their love asunder will stop at nothing to keep them apart. Filled with tender romance and taut suspense, A Note from an Old Acquaintance is an unforgettable story about fate, honor, and the power of true love.


OPINION: 5 STARS

Emotional, passionate and poignant, A Note From an Old Acquaintance is a striking read about the power of love. With starkly contrasted characters, touching and fluid writing, and a bold storyline of passion and decision, this book holds many elements that grab the reader and pull them in from the start. Divided into three sections, the book first sets the stage of the present before transporting them back fifteen years, building the characters at that time and showing what has brought them to the present, before moving back to tie things up and reunite these impassioned lovers.

Brian is intuitive and insightful, coming from loving and strong parents who have passed much of that strength down to him. Falling for Joanna from the first time he sees her, Brian takes many risks to be with her despite knowing she’s engaged. There is a spark and connection between the two instantly, something almost tangible to the reader. As things progress, however, and Joanna’s fiancĂ© becomes aware of the swift moving, intense affair, the potency of Brian’s character comes through in stunning ways. There is a shift between the late twenties boy of the middle section of the book and the broken, lost man of the first and final. Having always regretted letting Joanna go- something clear from the start even as he sits by his wife’s comatose body- Brian’s pain and confusion is palpable.

Joanna is a character as complex as Brian, creative and wild yet holds a potent ability to love once the right flame comes along. Despite her feelings towards her fiancĂ©, she cannot deny the way Brian makes her feel and the freedom he gives her. While Eric keeps her restrained and on a pedestal, Brian encourages her to push her art and branch out. As a writer, Brian understands the creative freedom and constraints that come with an artful lifestyle and it is this deeper connection that also pulls the two towards each other. Her character grows and changes as strongly as Brian’s, a woman as broken over losing Brian as he was her.

Eric is a seemingly vicious man, ruthless when it comes to getting what he wants by way of business but much of that same pushing transfers into his marriage. His views of what love is and how to show it are skewed, a few well placed scenes providing some sympathy but overall the decisions this man makes, while providing a large driving force for the plot, is a hard man for the reader to like. Instead, he shows even more boldly how well suited for each other Brian and Joanna are, as well as the strength of their connection. The contrasts between Eric and Brian are innumerable, with little cross over and an easy understanding to the reader about their true selves.

The plot is, in its simplest form, an easy one- an affair during Joanna’s engagement in which she finds a man better suited for her and to whom she loves far more passionately. Yet Brian walks away, leaving her with Eric and breaking them both. When Joanna contacts him out of the blue fifteen years later, at a time when Brian’s writing career is hot despite his struggle to write his latest book yet his personal life is in shambles, the trepidation and desire he feels about replying to Joanna’s email comes through boldly. Both the past and present sections are strongly well written, building the characters and their motivations.

Though the book is written in third person, the reader slips into the minds of Brian, Joanna and Eric, learning what drives them and forging a unique connection with each. Walker’s writing is very poignant, painting vivid pictures and inducing strong emotions. There is something unique about the relationship between Brian and Joanna, a certain intensity to their affair that isn’t always present in such situations. There is a distinction between each character’s mentality despite the third person perspective, each focus tailored to the character and creating more of a first person bond.

While some events of the book are predictable and there are hints laid throughout out to explain things in advance, the main driving force of this book is what causes the lovers to separate and what they decide to do once they are back together fifteen years later. Walker includes enough subtle mystery to make the reader want to keep reader for answers but the intensity of the writing, emotions and characters keeps them hooked in a far great manner.

Overall, this book pulls the reader through the same journey the characters go on, twisting in surprising ways and instilling a flurry of emotions to different situations. The writing is strong, the plot smooth and well paced and the ending a very well done one with an understandable and explainable reason for its outcome. The strong differences in the characters- not only between each but also the past and present selves of them- create a memorable dynamic. For anyone who has ever experienced any sort of love, this is a fantastic read and an alluring one.


Details:
Source: Finished copy received for review from author for review
Paperback: 360 pages
Publisher: iUniverse (June 11, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1440133336
ISBN-13: 978-1440133336

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Author Interview + Contest: Shannon Delany

To celebrate her book birthday today, Shannon Delany has taken the time to answer a few questions for me! First and foremost- congratulations on the release finally being here, Shannon! Readers, stay tuned after the interview for your chance to win a copy of 13 T0 Life.


If you suddenly morphed into a wolf, what would be the first thing you would do?

Shake out my coat and start to explore the nearest wildwood with my heightened senses of hearing and smell.

Since wolves lick others in the mouth as a show of dominance/submission rather than the "kissing" we dub it to be, would you let a wolf lick you in the mouth?

Ew, no. Wolves also lick all sorts of spots on their own bodies... Need I say more? ;-)

If you could pair Jessie with any character from any book, what would be your pick?

I'm afraid Jessie's only fit to be paired with one guy and he's in my series. She'd either drive other guys crazy or be driven crazy(-er?) by them.

What is the most fearless thing you've done?

Submit a story I wrote by the seat of my pants to a major NYC publisher. ;-) That and jabbing a wounded (and therefore angry) horned bull in the rump with a shot of penicillin. Four times.

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?

Snickerdoodle. Relatively unknown, a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy with a finish that hopefully makes you think.


Thank you, Shannon, and congrats again on the release! To win a copy of 13 To Life, Fill out this form!

This contest is international- I will order the book for the winner off Book Depository so as long as they ship to your country, you're set! Contest will end Tues, July 6 at midnight CST.

Answer this question: If you suddenly morphed into a wolf, what would be the first thing you did?

The winner for the book will be random draw but the most creative answer to the question will win a swag pack Shannon has kindly donated!

But wait, there's more! For all you Twitter users, get #13ToLife to trend TODAY (June 22) on Twitter and I will choose another winner- trending it will be the best birthday gift we readers can give to Shannon so let's make it happen! UPDATE: Get #13ToLife to trend today and Shannon will throw in some more prizes as well!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Author Interview: Suzanne Supplee

Stopping by today is Suzanne Supplee, author of the recent release Somebody Everybody Listens To.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of the entire process to write and publish this book?

I really love music, so listening to LOTS of country music, old and new, and researching artists and the music business in general was very enjoyable.

If you could pair Retta (romantically or friendship or both) with any character from any book, what would be your pick?

Oh, Bobby McGee, of course. I think I have a crush on Bobby. He’s so good and solid and responsible. Not to mention cute! Plus, he isn’t afraid to tell Retta the truth. The trouble is Bobby has this awful girlfriend, Tercell.

Did you notice any large differences between writing this book and your earlier novel Artichoke Hearts?

Yes, in some ways this one was more difficult. I had a publisher but no book yet. I sold Somebody based on the idea. It’s a big compliment for an editor to trust you in that way, but it’s also completely nerve-wracking because you’re so afraid you’ll deliver something she won’t like or wasn’t expecting.

If you could become someone else for a day, who's shoes would you want to step into?

I like my own shoes very much, but if I HAD to pick, I would like to step into Anne Tyler’s or Joyce Carol Oates’ shoes for the day. Maybe I could take some of their genius with me when I returned to my own shoes.

What is the most fearless thing you've done to date?

The most fearless thing I’ve done is to become a mom and write books. You spend so much of your time and effort striving so that your books and kids will turn out well, then you have to let them go.

Thank you again, Suzanne, and congrats on the latest release! If you want to know more about Suzanne and her work, check out her website.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Book Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

SUMMARY:

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.


OPINION: 5 STARS

Linger easily withholds the same overall tone, intensity and beauty that shone brightly in Shiver, engulfing the reader instantly. The strong characters developed in Shiver return just as vividly, their personalities pulling through and progressing more in response to new characters and situations. Maggie’s characteristic, notable, highly fluid and gorgeous writing continues to lull the readers, weaving emotional, connection and intimacy throughout. She slips in stunning oxymoronic descriptions, creating an overall beautiful picture no matter the moment, setting, or emotions.

Grace, while well developed already, continues to hold her same individuality. The chapters in her POV give perfect insight, understanding easily not only her feelings for and need towards Sam but her overall view of the world. Even at her less than shining moments, Grace is a very striking character. Her strong beliefs and views, attitudes and opinions continue to forge her through the events in Linger.

Sam is impossibly more complex after the events of Shiver, learning to live and move past everything that’s happened. His heart is still mending, his loyalties both bound and splitting, and his core character coming through strongly even when the POV is not his own. He is as lovable and affectionate as in Shiver, understanding both the world and Grace in surprising ways. His maturity continues to grow and be showcased, as does the depth to which he loves Grace.

Cole is a new character to the world, and one as complex and well developed as the star lovers. Sarcastic and flippant, he tests Grave and Sam and adds a certain spark to the overall tone. The reader gets an intimate look into his mind, his personality coming out at a steady pace and with the same lyrical descriptions that defines Maggie’s inherent, brilliant writing. He is a strongly contrast character to many already seen and his interactions, specifically with Isabelle, are fantastic to read.

Isabelle is also back, her responses and motivations continuing to surprise the readers. She is a very give and take character, a spitfire in some areas and a follower in others. With sections now in her perspective, the reader will get an even better look at her life and views, as well as form the same intense connection with her they already feel with Sam and Grace.

The plot is surprising, playing on events hinted at and brought up in Shiver but extending them, while also adding in new ones. The full meaning of what it means to be one of these wolves, the way their lives play out, and the ultimate future of it is both beautiful and heartbreaking. The caveats, nuances and unknowns about it are also brought very much to light. There is never a dull moment, a drifting pace, or a needless scene. Everything is in there for a reason, woven together masterfully even when the reader doesn’t realize it. The events pull together for a shocking, blow out ending that is magnanimously jarring.

Linger is a step above Shiver, building on an already valiant world. The overall thought, effort and detail that has gone into the entire world is showcased, as is Maggie’s story telling abilities and inherent writing style. The ending is a cliff hanger, tying up some events but leaving distracting, mind-grabbing ones open for the next book.

Details:
Source: ARC received from publisher for review free of charge
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (July 20, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545123283

Summer Bash Giveaway

I've teamed up yet again with Eleni at La Femme Readers to thank all of our followers with a Summer Bash Giveaway!

The books up for grabs are:



* Crescendo (Hush, Hush, Book #2) by Becca Fitzpatrick*
* Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, Book #1) by Cassandra Clare*
* Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy, Book #6) by Richelle Mead*



* Mockingjay (Hunger Games, Book #3) by Suzanne Collins*
* Nightshade (Nightshade, Book #1) by Andrea Cremer*
* Paranormalcy by Kiersten White*


**CONTEST RULES**

There will be 6 Winners who will be picked by random.org and first place gets first grab, second place chooses next and on down the line.

This is a joint contest and not individual - please don't try entering in the comment field on both our websites as it is linked to the same form.

The contest will run through Sunday, July 18th at midnight EST time, at which point all prizes will be pre-ordered for you on The Book Depository. These are not ARC's but finished, pre-ordered copies. And yes, this is INTERNATIONAL. As long as The Book Depository delivers to your country than you'll be able to enter.

(Please enter through form and not through comments, thanks!)
!! FILL THIS FORM OUT TO ENTER !!


Full details on extra entries is on the form, but here's the links for you to follow authors on Twitter

Becca Fitzpatrick - @becfitzpatrick
Cassandra Clare - @cassieclare
Richelle Mead - @RichelleMead
Andrea Cremer - @andreacremer
Kiersten White - @kierstenwhite

From me and Eleni, thank you for constant, awesome support of our blogs!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In My Mailbox

Nice slow week for me with great titles. I've also been making great progress on WIP2... passing the 50K mark today. I should have the draft by next weekend if things go as planned. I might celebrate... with a trip to the bookstore even though I've been good for awhile about not buying haha.

For Review

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Review: Dark Flame by Alyson Noel

SUMMARY:

In Alyson Noel’s most darkly seductive Immortals novel yet, Ever fights for control of her body, her soul—and the timeless true love she’s been chasing for centuries.


Ever is trying to help Haven transition into life as an immortal. But with Haven drunk on her new powers and acting recklessly, she poses the ultimate threat—exposing their secret world to the outside. As Ever struggles to keep the Immortals hidden, it only propels Haven closer to the enemy—Roman and his evil companions.

At the same time, Ever delves deeper into dark magick to free Damen from Roman’s power. But when her spell backfires, it binds her to the one guy who’s hell-bent on her destruction. Now there’s a strange, foreign pulse coursing through her, and no matter what she does, she can’t stop thinking about Roman—and longing for his touch. As she struggles to resist the fiery attraction threatening to consume her, Roman is more than willing to take advantage of her weakened state…and Ever edges closer and closer to surrender.

Frantic to break the spell before its too late, Ever turns to Jude for help, risking everything she knows and loves to save herself—and her future with Damen …


OPINION: 4 STARS

*Note: This review IS spoiler free for the SERIES.*

As with the previous three books in this series, the plot and characters always seem to find the perfect way to grate my nerves and make me want to smack them. And yet, as with the others, I am always intrigued from the start, pulled in, and eager to know more. Noel has written some of the most stubborn characters around, pitching numerous battles of will that always end in clashes so extreme, it sometimes throws the reader. The simplicity of one giving in always makes me scream and yet, it is an endearing quality for every character possessing it and a large attribution to the plot. I seem to have a love/hate relationship with this series, always relieved when a book is over only to turn around the next second wishing I could have more now. That is a mark of a gifted writer to twist a reader like that and Noel has nailed it with each book.

Ever continues her slightly misguided ways, determined to finish things already set in motion in earlier books. She has the same determination and generally positive her way is the right one. The latter has been one thing that has bothered me through the books though it does strike true to her character. In Dark Flame, however, Ever goes through tremendous personal growth, finally showing strong development that her character has resisted in previous books. She is far more sympathetic in this one, some of her motivations even better explained and more understandable. Ever is constantly finding herself in outrageous situations, the path to them always a convoluted one that is impossible to predict and the girl can never catch a break. While Noel continues to throw the left hooks and toy with not only Ever but the reader as well, a few plot lines that have been present from the start are tied up in this one, some are starting to reach their end, and new ones are opened.

Damen continues to be the sweet, lovable guy he is, though he takes a little bit of a back seat in this installment. His relationship with Ever is an interesting one, and continues to progress and develop in fantastic ways. In the same way Ever seems to always manage to redeem herself, Damen grows and gains status with readers as well. His history is extensive, given his chronological age, and the flashbacks to his past and the ways he has spent his centuries always come in at the right moments to remind the reader of the reality of his and Ever’s lives as immortals. Although they are in a modern time and Damen has certainly changed with the times, their roots are defined and reminded.

The well defined supporting characters continue to be in Dark Flame, primarily Roman, Haven and Jude. They play some interesting roles and progress the plot in surprising ways. The way the reader feels about them is very liable to shift and change within the book- another mark in favor Noel’s writing abilities to create such complex characters whom hold an abundance of gray areas.

The plot progresses at a relatively steady pace though I did feel jarred out of the story at times, both in the writing itself- at times it almost seemed too good for what was needing to come across- and because the passing of time seemed to happen at obscure times. A few places, several days had passed without me as a reader realizing it until it’s mentioned in passing after a new scene has already begun. Perhaps I wasn’t being an astute reader but I did find myself stopping a few times. Noel’s overall writing, however, has strengthened with this installment. Her descriptions are vivid, her settings vibrant, and the small details that make the difference between good and great abundant.

Dark Flame is the best installment in this series yet, ending in a very shocking way that leaves high promise for the next book. The readers’ appetite will be whetted for more, the constant addictive craving Noel seems to infuse in every book continuing to guarantee her strong readership. The characters are advanced and developed, the plot progressed and the continued possibilities opened. Numerous new questions and intrigues spark, and the overall feelings toward certain characters shift in a constant flow. Noel includes plenty of surprising twists, unexpected tie ins and histories, and never lets the reader know what else she has planned. The predictability present at the beginning of the series is gone, leaving only a burning need for more.

Details:
Source: Finished hardbound copy received from publisher for review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (June 22, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312590970
ISBN-13: 978-0312590970

Author's Website

Series Website

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Reading Recommendations (3)

This week's focus is books relating to abuse, a subject often hard to read but one that has some strong portrayals throughout YA.



Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scot
t: This is actually the first book by Elizabeth Scott I read, my interested piqued by the premise. It's a very quick, one sitting read that I personally blazed through but intense with emotion. It is gutting to read, particularly since the narrator is still locked in the abusive situation rather than free from it and trying to recover.

Such A Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess: Having thought she was safe from her sexually abusive father, Meredith finds out he's being released from prison early and will be home- before her 18th birthday to signal freedom. The dynamic is astoundingly well written, and Meredith's need for escape and refusal so simply forgive the man for what he did not only to her but to numerous others is captivating to read, even if gutting.

Lessons From A Dead Girl by Jo Knowles:
Focusing on friend abuse, this one takes a look at situations that are real but most certainly fly under the radar. Though much of the back story is told in flashbacks, with the long term effects showing up now, this one overall is still a surprising read.

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield: This one blends not only sexual abuse but the seemingly extreme ways victims use to cope and the mechanisms the brain uses for protection- including complete blocking of the memories in Kendra's case. Trying to both remember and continue to hide from it, and struggling to cope and hide her cutting, Scars is gripping from the start with a few story arcs to keep the pace pushing strongly.

The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride
: Though this one is new, having just been released this year, it still takes an interesting style in presenting the sexual abuse scenario. This time, it's child abduction and a hostage situation until she finally escapes. Making it stand out more, however, is the story being told from the best friend's POV rather than the abused girl's. Because of that, this one has a bit of a different overall feel, style and progression but the underlying theme is still there.


All four of these are powerful but well worth it and memorable books. For those of you who enjoy the books that twist your emotions and challenge your line of thinking, these are definitely books to pick up this summer. I know there are more out there but these are some of the ones I've read that have stood out to me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Review: The Chosen by Carol Lynch Williams

SUMMARY:

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated polygamous community without questioning her father’s three wives and her twenty brothers and sisters. Or at least without questioning them much—if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her 60-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family.

OPINION: 5 STARS

Powerful, gutting, and twisted, The Chosen One is a no holds barred look into a polygamist community. This is one of the first books I’ve read in a good while that has really tangled my emotions, shifting the way I think of things. As someone not raised in such a society, my initial thoughts were disgust. With even the first introduction of not only Kyra’s father’s three wives but also the long list of children he’s fathered between them, my own perceptions were narrowed and repulsed.

As the book progresses, however, Williams does an astounding job casting Kyra’s entire family into a sympathetic light. There is a very stark contrast between Richard, her father, and his brother Hyrum. While Richard takes a very loving route, even in discipline and keeping his wives and children obedient, Hyrum is very much on the tough love, physical side. Williams doesn’t keep this cloaked, adding in a few wrenching scenes that really bring out this difference. Despite being a part of this community and having three wives, Richard is a great father and a kind man. He loves his wives and his children, and he is abiding by the rules and beliefs set forth by the same community he was raised in.

Kyra is an uncommon character because of the community she was raised in, mature past her chronological age as a result. At thirteen, she’s helped raise her full and half siblings, been raised to know she will one day be chosen and placed with a man as one of his wives, and is heavily relied on by her mothers. Though she has one older sister, Emily isn’t mentally on the same level as the others, rendering Kyra as the oldest girl. The responsibilities because of it come off easily, creating a strong sense of the world she lives in. She is strong willed and determined but very calculating; perceptive and intelligent but still rash in some of her decisions.

Her struggle with her devotion to her family and her unwillingness to be married to her sixty year old uncle is a poignant, captivating, and visceral one. The intense love she feels towards her father, her birth mother, and her siblings comes through as one of the most notable elements of the story. Marrying anyone, not just her uncle, means leaving her family. Though the girls are married off young in her community, there is still that childlike part of Kyra who wants to stay with her sister and best friend. She can't imagine being away from her mother, leaving everything she’s known for years. Her responsibilities will be massively shifted, her entire world and daily routines altered to cater to her new husband.

There is a bold mix of rebellious and obedient in Kyra, rooted in her family ties. Threats against her family hold potential to bind her, tie her down and resign her to the future she doesn't want. It is incredibly difficult to read her entire struggle, along with the reactions of her family. The community, as a whole, is a very different one, run by one person given power through birth. The Prophet Childs is the one to deem Kyra as the seventh wife of Hyrum, and he uses brute strength and violence throughout the community to force obedience.

Many scenes in this book are brutal and rough to read, made harder by the general feelings most readers will have going into this book because of their own opinions and world views. It is very difficult to swallow and accept this way of life without ever having been immersed in it. To the masses, these polygamist societies are wrong and it’s hard to get such an insiders’ perspective on them. This is further compounded by how much Kyra fights it- and how little hope she has in actually winning.

The book is told in alternating bits of the present and the past, bringing up other characters, her childhood, and her trips beyond the Compound to check out books- something banned in her community- from the mobile library. Her interaction with a boy of the community also comes into play, helping to drive the current parts of the plot as well. Though the time span changes rapidly, it helps to break up the intense emotion which is infused throughout the entire book. Despite how hard it is to read much of this book, Williams breaks it up enough to let the reader keep going. I read it straight through without stopping, gripped by Kyra’s story and my own burning desire to know if she could avoid marriage to Hyrum.

The ending is incredibly bittersweet but unabashedly fitting for the book. Though there could be several outcomes, each has a multitude of negative aspects. In essence, Kyra is in a no win situation because no matter what happens, it will not be perfect. Will she escape, or die trying? Will her family suffer more for her actions? Will she end up with Hryum, forced to be another wife and at his complete service? Will she be broken? These are a few of the driving forces throughout the book, some of them open until the end. There are unanswered questions at the end regarding a few things but the reader is left in the same mental state as Kyra, overcome with emotion and trying to process everything that has happened.

This is a profound book that is near impossible to adequately explain. I am both in awe of and applauding Williams for broaching this topic and handling it so masterfully. Her writing is fantastic, giving a strong voice to Kyra while still showing the reader the full scope of the community she lives in. The impact of their beliefs and views and the power a few hold over the others come through in a way that is memorable and gripping. This is a book that has forced me to rethink things- and also be grateful for the way I was raised. Despite its somewhat grotesque nature, its vividness, and its gutting effects, I highly recommend this book to anyone that can stomach it.

Details:
Source: Library
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312555113

Author's Website

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick is Three Quarters Dead by Richard Peck, set to hit shelves October 28, 2010 from Dial.

Summary: Kerry is chosen by the coolest clique in school and so she thinks life has finally begun. But then it seems all over when her three friends are killed in a shocking car accident. Or are they? Only weeks after the accident, Kerry receives a text from one of the girls: We're all 3 here at my aunt's in the city. Take the 3:50 train. B there.

My Thoughts: The title alone is interest grabbing and the premise sounds like a great mix of a few different "ideas" combined to make something new. Nothing like the dead popular girls to come back at you to make a day, right? Then there's the cover, primarily creepy but most definitely holding appeal.