Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Review: A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

SUMMARY: This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog’s search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, A Dog’s Purpose touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here?

Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden-haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey’s search for his new life’s meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8-year-old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog.

But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey’s journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders—will he ever find his purpose?

Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh-out-loud funny, A Dog's Purpose is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog's many lives, but also a dog's-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man's best friend. This moving and beautifully crafted story teaches us that love never dies, that our true friends are always with us, and that every creature on earth is born with a purpose.


The Short Version:
Heartwarming and innovative, A Dog's Purpose does a wonderful job of giving human thoughts and cognition to our most loyal friends. While potentially stereotypical in some aspects, but hilarious and well meaning all around, readers will fall in love with Bailey. With a tight narrative and an interesting sort of description, this one will have readers hooked from page one.

The Extended Version:
Starting out, Bailey is a pup born to a feral mom, learning how to scavenge and fed for himself in a lot of ways. Frustrated with his siblings, and having plenty of reminders to readers of the way dog's seem to see the world, he's voicy and fun from the start. Invigorated by the world around him, and eager for new things, there is simple joy in even just reading Bailey's adventures.

While the summary makes it clear Bailey dies, more than once, those parts are still wrenching, a cold splash in a warm setting. Regardless, Cameron weaves them in easily, without lingering too long on that aspect, before plunging the reader back into everything. With smooth transitions between the different lives, and an always constant reminder that our narrator is, in fact, a dog, there is something boldly unique and wonderfully handled about this book.

With a humor that is natural and easily folded into the story, this book is as amusing as it is warming and inspiring. Though a few areas were a reminder that we don't really know what goes on in a dog's head, and some stereotypical aspects we perceive in dogs cropped up, the narrative style is still smooth and easy to follow, giving a vivid voice and life to not only Bailey but dogs everywhere.

The pacing is steady, keeping readers as invested in the story as Bailey is. Giving readers a look at our every day world through new eyes, A Dog's Purpose is as fun as it is enlightening. With plenty of excitement and adventure along the way, and some truly sentimental moments as well, this one is a fast, enjoyable, and endearing read.

Source: Paperback received from publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Paperback: 336 pages 
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: May 24, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

SUMMARY: Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better?

Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands her--and riles her up--like he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what's expected.

Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall....


The Short Version:
Inspired and affecting, Virtuosity is a stunning blend of romance and determination. With a protagonist who is obviously unique and different, yet easy to get behind and understand, and a love interest that is both charming and awkward, the characters absolutely shine. Beautifully written and smoothly executed, Martinez’s debut is both stellar and memorable.

The Extended Version:
Carmen is anything but normal, not only because of how talented she is with the violin but from her upbringing and day to day norms as a result of her talent. Having few friends, and a certain shyness in social situations, she is both enjoyable and empathetic. Struggling both with stage fright and the full impact of her dreams, and what it would mean to either win this competition or not, she faces some rough situations. Her development and growth is fabulously handled, with her motivations and defining points both obvious and subtle throughout.

Jeremy is the kind of cocky that is anything but, both charismatic and uncomfortable. Holding his own secrets and reasons for competing, yet having a certain raw truth about him that will grasp readers, Jeremy is not only a perfect opponent for Carmen but a great love interest as well. While his loyalties certainly come into play, and readers cannot always guess exactly what is going on with him, Jeremy’s overall characterization is as fleshed out as Carmen’s.

Though a simple plot in nature, Martinez ratchets up both the adrenaline factor and the questions as well, throwing in plenty of twists throughout to keep readers guessing. With some poignant and arresting scenes mixed in with more lighthearted, fun and even softly romantic ones, the pacing has a smooth and easy flow to it, never letting readers get bored. Though more open ended in nature at the conclusion of the book, Martinez leaves both her characters and her readers in a good place, letting them imagine their own final endings for both Jeremy and Carmen.

Beautifully written, almost lyrical in nature, with an edge infused throughout the writing, Martinez’s talent shines in both the descriptions and the voice. Thrusting readers into the life of competitive and career orchestra, without making it overbearing, she not only builds her settings but the specific world as well. Keeping an authentic and easy to mesh with note to everything, the realism of this book is both vivid and kept in the background, in the perfect blending of the two.

Different from many books in its genre, and a fantastic blend of competition and romance, Virtuosity is a stellar and gripping debut. Showing readers a specific world that is likely new to them, while still keeping a teenage and fun element to everything, Martinez will engage readers from page one without any problem. Her characters are fabulously done, and both endearing and memorable, making Virtuosity a must read.

Source: ARC received for review from publisher
Reading Level: Young Adult  
Hardcover: 304 pages 
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: October 18, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mini Reviews: In Honor, Bittersweet and Someone Else's Life

It's mini review time again, in which I gush about some books I've read and loved, but that don't come out for awhile... you'll get the full review closer to release but for now, let the gushfest commence!

In Honor by Jessi Kirby: I loved Jessi's debut, Moonglass, and let me say, In Honor does not disappoint. Once again, she's got absolutely stellar characters that you will fall in love with. With the perfect blend of grief and fun, this book is one of those that is emotional without being a constant kick in the gut, yet gets all the points across. I loved Honor's character, from the rough truths she has to face to watching her try to figure out what to do now that her brother, and the main person to really be there for and take care for her, is gone. And then there's Rusty, who is, in a lot of ways, your typical cocky playboy jock, yet he's got this softer side that peeks through at the right moment to make. A girl. Melt. He's that boy who's broken and a mess, who you want to fix, yet you can tell he's got some of his crap together, and when he finally gets it all together, he'll be amazing, even if crude and maybe even cruel sometimes. I loved the banter between Rusty and Honor, and their shared pain over losing Finn. Then there's the roadtrip aspect, which was fun and well done, without stealing too much of the focus of the book. Seriously. This book is awesome, so make sure you add it to your must read list.

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler: Hockey boys! Cupcakes! Wintertime romance! This book is so fun in so many ways, yet has plenty of rougher elements to it too. And every chapter title is the name and description of some kind of cupcake, which are so original and sound absolutely delicious. I am pretty sure Sarah has a fallback in cupcakery if writing somehow goes south for her, but considering how awesome this book is, I just don't see that happening. But seriously, I loved Hudson, loved seeing all the crap she was dealing with and really, even if she was maybe bratty at times, it made sense, and I got it, and I understood her. Then there's Josh, who is charming and sweet and just the right amount of gushy softness despite being a hockey boy... yeah, he will make you swoon, trust me. So whether you're a Sarah Ockler fangirl or not, you do not want to miss this book. And even better? Now that the pub date has been moved up, instead of waiting till August 2012, you just gotta last till January 3.

Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale: This is one of those books that you just can't put down, even when it seems almost like a soap opera. And okay, so a few of the characters were brats in their own way and yet, when I try to imagine myself in their situations, I think a little selfishness and frustration is allowed. There are a few story lines twisted together in this one, and some hard truth questions thrust into the limelight, and overall, Katie does it very well. I loved the blending of England and America, seeing Rosie's first visit to the States, yet also getting plenty of her life and culture from England in there too. And the writing of this one is so great, very easy to read and understand even for an American, despite the English MC, yet holding plenty of obvious notes to remind you that Rosie is, in fact, British. Add in the emotional air that is palpable throughout, and Katie has definitely nailed it with this one.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In My Mailbox

Books! I got them. Let's talk about them.

For Review:
In Honor by Jessi Kirby (Started - love it so far!)
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler (Note: Formerly called The Language of Impossible Dreams, so it's got the old cover on the ARCs. The book is awesome though!)
Chained by Lynne Kelly
Double Clutch by Liz Reinhardt
The River of Time Series by Lisa Bergren (Waterfall, Torrent and Cascade)
(Huge thanks to Jessi Kirby + Simon & Schuster, Sarah Ockler, Lynne Kelly + Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Liz Reinhardt and Lisa Bergren)

So that was my week in books! Let me know what you got, and belated Happy Thanksgiving, since I know I didn't post after Monday of this week till now. 

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Character Interview: Jake from Saving June

Stopping in today is Jake, one of the characters from Hannah Harrington's (awesome) debut Saving June. I definitely loved getting to know this boy in the book, and I bet you will too.

When you heard the news about June, what was your first thought?

I think it took a few days before I had any coherent thoughts. I can’t really describe what I was thinking and feeling—it was too much and all at once to sort out.

Would you have preferred the road trip to be only you and Harper, or were you glad Laney came along?

At first I was... less than thrilled to be trapped in a vehicle with both of them. But even though Laney got on my nerves sometimes, I was glad to have her there. She knew how to handle Harper. I don't think Harper could've done it at all without Laney, to be honest. Plus, Laney... she's an all right girl. Or whatever.

If you could have met Harper while June was still alive, do you think you still would have fallen for her?

I don't really believe in the whole fate thing, but yeah. I think it would've happened no matter what. It's just one of those things.

What's it like to kiss Harper?

Like listening to your favorite song in the world for the first time, every time. And by that I mean: beyond words.

Boxers or briefs?

I'm a boxers guy. Especially ones with cartoons on them.

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?

Something with coconut in it. People love me or hate me. Sometimes both at the same time.

Thank you, Jake, and congrats to Hannah on the release! Make sure you guys check out Saving June, hitting shelves TODAY! You do not want to miss this book!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mini Reviews: The Disenchantments and Wanted

Oh yes, it is indeed that time again... when I gush over some books I've recently read and loved that won't be coming out for awhile. So while you won't get my full review till closer to their release, you will get some of my thoughts now.

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour: This is one that I would have read in one sitting, if I didn't start it at bedtime and have to actually force myself to put it down so I could get at least four hours of sleep. I truly loved basically everything about this book, but especially Colby. He is such a stellar protagonist, that kind of boy who is soft and emotional, who you overlook more often than not but when you realize he's there, holy heck you realize it. Sure, he's a bit of a mess, and he might seem sort of whiny sometimes, but really? He's not. It fits the situation, it fits him, and he's just... an awesome guy. The story has a great mix of things directly focused on and related to Colby, and plenty of pulled back things to focus on the band, on Bev, on them figuring everything out. The road trip angle was a great addition without being a prime factor in the book. There was just such an intensity and emotional air to this entire book, and the writing is fantastic. The voice is absolutely spot on, especially for the kind of boy Colby is and that is actually, in my opinion, a style that is incredibly hard to write and yet Nina nails it. So whether you are a die hard contemp fan or not, whether you aren't so big into male POV or not, read. This. Book.

Wanted by Heidi Ayarbe: I am a total Heidi Ayarbe fangirl, and this book reminds me yet again why. Life is far from perfect. It isn't always cut and dry, tied up in a pretty bow, and Heidi sticks to that in her books, this one being no exception. Honestly, this book got to me in ways I can't explain without giving spoilers, but I was shell shocked and uncomfortable and a host of other emotions. But on top of all that, it's just... an awesome story. A modern day Bonnie and Clyde, while holding on to some elements of how old time Westerns are and just... so very different from so much out there. There is an underlying grit to this book that doesn't drive it, just adds to it, and I think Heidi did a perfect job with the connection between Michal and Josh, and the budding romance between them. And as always, the writing is fantastic, and pulled me in right from the start.

Author Interview + Contest: Mary O'Connell

Hitting up the blog today is Mary O'Connell, author of The Sharp Time, but instead of answering my questions normally, I've challenged her to answer using only music lyrics... and let me tell you, Mary rocked it. No pun intended.

Describe The Sharp Time.

“If you’re after getting the honey, then you don’t go killing all the bees.” Johnny Appleseed, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros.

Describe yourself.

“From the séance where you first betrayed your open heart on a darkened stage…a celebration of your teenage station.” Supernatural Superserious, REM

Emotionally, what was writing this book like?

“I went down, down, down, and the flames got higher. “ Johnny Cash, Ring of Fire

What is the best part about writing for teens? “

“I want to make something beautiful for you and from you.” Something Beautiful, Sinead O’Connor

What was your first kiss like?

“William, it was really nothing.” The Smiths, William, it was really nothing.

What season would you describe yourself as?

“Such was my need on a chronic Christmas eve.” Sinead O’Connor, Something Beautiful

Thank you, Mary, for answering my questions and taking the challenge to use the lyrics!

Now if you're eager for this book, then you're in luck! Now's your chance to win a signed copy!

To enter, just fill out THIS form.

Contest is US Only and ends November 28.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

In My Mailbox

Books! I got them! So let's get right to it, shall we?

For Review:
Rush by Jeremy Iversen
Forbidden by Syrie James and Ryan James
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
(Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster and HarperTeen)

Borrowed (Thank you Pam!)
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
A Million Suns by Beth Revis

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (Love this book!)
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn
Mercy Lily by Lisa Albert

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: Love Story by Jennifer Echols

SUMMARY: She's writing about him. he's writing about her. And everybody is reading between the lines..

For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions--it's her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family's racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin's college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter . . . so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment?

Then, on the day she's sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He's joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin's heart with longing. Now she's not just imagining what might have been. She's writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter . . . except this story could come true.


The Short Version:
Comical and sexy, Love Story is intriguing and will most definitely live up to expectations for a lusty read. With two central characters who hold a thick tension between them, and a well developed supporting cast, this one easily sees sparks fly in more ways than one. Though abrupt in the end, this one is strongly written and well scripted, making Love Story a fun and engaging tale.

The Extended Version:
Erin has a fierce determination in her, the kind that often pushes into stubborn and frustrating territory. Despite this, she is an easy character to appreciate and understand, and her resolve to figure things out and manage on her own, no longer receiving any support from her wealthy grandmother, drives much of her characterization. Though clearly still holding plenty of “rich girl” qualities to her, the changes she goes through as the story progresses are endearing and well developed.

Hunter is cocky and self-assured in a classical kind of way, the type of love interest who is hiding plenty of deeper, more emotional layers with a rough exterior to mask it. Holding plenty of his own secrets, and leaving readers questioning much of about him, Hunter is a mystery to figure out. The times where he eases up and softens, though, will have readers melting, and the challenge of breaking him is an alluring one.

Notable about this book is how smoothly Echols weaves the stories Hunter and Erin write for their class into the story, reflecting it back against the overall plot. From the character’s reactions to the stories to the way each one progresses the plot in its own way, the stories add a unique and very well done element.

While admittedly some parts of this book lagged in pacing, and the stubbornness between Erin and Hunter sometimes pushed into frustrating and hard to rally behind, this book is still intriguing and addicting. The overall air is both comical and lustful, giving readers the fix they look for in Echols’ books. With some unexpected twists, and fantastically timed reveals, there is plenty to keep readers wanting to turn the pages while still giving plenty of time for the tension and lust to build almost to an exploding point. Though the ending felt too rushed for the road that led the characters there, Echols still delivers a great story.

The writing is filled with voice and easy to fall into, giving even more life to Erin’s character while also managing to get much of Hunter into it as well. There is an obvious shift in tone when both Erin and Hunter's written pieces are put in, giving an even better look into each. With just the right amount of steam and tension added in, and an undercurrent of sorrow despite humor overall, this one has the perfect blend of emotions.

Fun overall, lusty and challenging, Love Story is easy to fall into and addicting to finish. Despite the feeling of an abrupt ending, and a few pacing lags, the questions about characters that come up and the twists that Echols throws in keep things interesting and engaging.

Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: MTV
Publication Date: July 19, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick is Kiss the Morning Star by Elissa Hoole, coming April 28, 2012 from Marshall Cavendish.

Summary: The summer after high-school graduation, a year after her mother’s tragic death, Anna has no plans – beyond her need to put a lot of miles between herself and the past. With forever friend Kat, a battered copy of Kerouac’s DHARMA BUMS, and a car with a dodgy oil filter, the girls set out on an epic road trip across the USA. Maybe somewhere along the way they’ll prove or disprove the existence of God. Maybe they’ll even get laid . . .

It’s a journey both outward and inward. Through the Badlands and encounters with predatory men and buffalo. A crazy bus ride to Mexico with a bunch of hymn-singing missionaries. Facing death, naked in the forest with an enraged grizzly bear . . . Gradually, Anna realizes that this is a voyage of discovery into her own self, her own silent pain – and into the tangled history that she and Kat share. What is love? What is sexual identity? And how do you find a way forward into a new future – a way to declare openly and without fear all that lies within you?

My Thoughts: I am always game for a road trip book. And then books that really question love and sexuality and all that? Yep. Count me in. I suspect this book will be filled with both laughter and tears, and many, many shenanigans. I mean, really, naked in the woods and facing death by grizzly? Yes please. I love watching characters face their past and figure things out, and this one sounds like a great character driven book with plenty of outside stuff going on to push things along the way. Also, this cover? I love it. It's simple yet elegant, but also holds a lot of fun and promise in it.

Character Interview + Contest: Max from The Pledge

Hitting shelves today is Kimberly Derting's awesome dystopian The Pledge, which just so happens to feature another hot boy who is indeed in my Boy Closet. And, lucky for you guys, said hottie has not only agreed to answer some questions but is bringing you the chance to win a The Pledge prize pack! So let's get to it!

So, you definitely have a few secrets of your own. What was the hardest part about keeping them, especially from Charlie?

The hardest part was that, even before I was sure about who she was, she intrigued me and I wanted to get to know her better. That’s tough to do, though, especially when classes (and not the school ones) get in the way.

What is your opinion of the classes being separated by language?

For the longest time, I never really thought about it because that was just the way of things. It’s like asking someone how they feel about kids being separated in school based on their ages. It wasn’t until I got older, and started seeing the injustices of our class system, that I realized it was wrong. People should be allowed to choose what, and who, they want to be.

What's it like to kiss Charlie?

I don’t know, it just felt…right.

If you could be in any other book, what would it be?

I’d say The Hunger Games, but that whole fight-to-the-death thing is kind of a turn off. Maybe White Cat by Holly Black, because in my world boys don’t have any magic. Besides, who wouldn’t want to do a little curse working once in a while?

Boxers or briefs?

I’m definitely a boxer kind of guy.

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?

Chocolate chip. Not for any symbolic reason or anything, just because they’re delicious.

Thank you, Max, for stopping in and congrats, Kim, on the release! Make sure you guys go pick up The Pledge - you do not want to miss it!

But, if you can manage to wait, you also have the chance to win a signed copy of the book and a swag pack!

To enter, just fill out THIS form.

Contest is US Only and ends November 22.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In My Mailbox

I had an unexpectedly and awesomely good week, so let's just get right to it all!

For Review:
Wanted by Heidi Ayarbe (Already read - fantastic book!)
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Truth by Julia Karr
Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne
There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff
Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand
Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson
Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer Hubbard
Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig
A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink
The Right and the Real by Joelle Anthony
The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
(Huge thanks to Heidi Ayarbe + Balzer & Bray, Penguin, HarperTeen and Kathryn Miller Haines + Roaring Book Press)

Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton:
So, I beta read this one last summer, and sure, Courtney and I talked extensively about it and I probably asked her just about every possible questions about her characters, and we often debated motivations, etc, but honestly, I hadn't realized how much I was helping her with this book. Even with the late night texts of encouragement during all the revising. So when I found out that THIS is the dedication.... Yeah. (And dedication aside, Wings is seriously awesome, and kicks everything up several notches from Angelfire!)

(Remember that B&N gift card I had? Yep. Happy Birthday to Me...)
The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton (Romance, and yes I bought it for the cover)
Changing the Game by Jaci Burton 
Switch by Tish Cohen
The Cardturner: A Novel About a King, a Queen and a Joker by Louis Sachar
Skyship Academy by Nick James

Borrowed from Melina:
Dead to You by Lisa McMann

Won from Loni
Possess by Gretchen McNeil (This book is awesome! And the cover is shiny!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

This or That + Contest: Heather Davis

Hitting up the blog this lovely afternoon is Heather Davis, author of Wherever You Go. If you haven't picked this book up yet, make sure you do, because seriously, it's awesome. And while there is definitely a sad and emotional element to her book, this post is all fun... because I threw a list of random pairings at Heather, and she's let us know what her preference is for each!

Peanuts or Cashews: Peanuts. (And I love peanut butter!)

Toucans or Macaws: Toucans? I used to love Froot Loops

Zebra or Okapi: Zebra

Chinese Food or Italian Food: Always Italian. I’ve been studying Italian for a year and went to Rome last spring. I love it.

Curtains open or Shut: Open during day, shut at night.

Belly Button Ring or Cartilage Pierced: Decorate yourself however you like, people.

Zoo or Museum: Museum

Boxers or Briefs: Boxers

White or Dark Chocolate: Normal chocolate = brown.

Country or Rock: Rock

Barefoot or Socks: Barefoot!

Policeman or Firefighter: Policeman
Sharpie or Gel Pen: Sharpie

Thank you, Heather, for stopping in and congrats on another release!

And to celebrate the book release, Heather is also giving you guys the chance to win a signed copy of Wherever You go!

To enter, just fill out THIS form.

Contest is US/Canada only and ends November 18.

Cover Reval + Contest: Wanted by Heidi Ayarbe

So, yesterday you found out what was wanted around my apartment (and for the record, the white faced bandit has struck yet again. This time at a towel...). Today, you get to not only tell me what YOU want, but you can finally check out the cover for Heidi Ayarbe's 2012 release WANTED. So before we get to everything else... I bring you guys...

I love it. It's so simple, and very different from a lot of other covers out there. Not to mention, I think it really does fit so well with the book itself.

So congrats, Heidi, on the cover and on another fantastic release!

Eager to get your hands on an ARC of Wanted? Or one of Heidi's other books? I thought so, and you're in luck!

Not only do you have the chance to win a signed ARC of Wanted and some swag, but you also have the chance for a signed copy of Freeze Frame or Compromised!

So what do you have to do? Just fill out THIS form!

You are automatically entered to win Wanted.

Want a chance at the other stuff? Then just upload your own Wanted poster, like what we did yesterday, and you're entered for a chance to win a copy of Freeze Frame! There's a spot on the form above for your entry link.

And what about a signed copy of Compromised? Easy. Just tell us in the entry form what NEW Bonnie & Clyde pairing you'd make out of YA characters, and you're automatically entered.

These contests are all international, and end November 20, so make sure you get to it!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

WANTED: A Cover, A Contest, And More

Coming tomorrow is the cover reveal for Heidi Ayarbe's 2012 book WANTED, a great book with a little Bonnie & Clyde element to it. But instead of just throwing the cover up, we're making this one a bit more interesting. Today you find out what Heidi, Girls in the Stacks and I all want. Tomorrow, you get the cover and tell us what YOU want.

And so... now:

Yep. Toby was caught red handed in his destruction. My shoe. A review book. An envelope with another review book. So with that.... WANTED: A Good Dog. Or, my stuff back. Either one. Don't let that face fool you, either. Nope. This criminal is totally devious.

So come back tomorrow, because you'll have the chance to upload your own Wanted poster, enter for a chance to win a signed ARC, and more!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Author Interview: Megan Miranda

So, there's this book coming out in January which is easily one of my favorite books of 2012 already, called Fracture. And it's by Megan Miranda. And you need to make sure you put it on your want and get the day it comes out list. This is just the perfect Kari book, so intense and emotional, with great characters and an awesome story line. And now, Megan has been kind enough to answer some questions for me!

Without spoilers, of course, which scene in the book was the most emotional and intense for you to write?

So, without spoilers… there’s this scene in Fracture that takes place in a car, and then just outside of it. No, not that one. Not that one, either. The one with Delaney driving. You’ll know it when you get to it. I promise.

If you were Decker, watching your best friend go under the ice, how would you react? Would you be able to wait eleven minutes?

I like to think I would be the hero—but, just like in Fracture, people don’t always react like they think they will. There are different types of bravery and different elements to heroism. And sometimes the bravest thing you can do is wait—wait for the way that won’t get anyone else killed. I honestly don’t know which person I am. It’s one of those things that I don’t think you can really know until you’re in the situation. Fight or Flight, right?

What was the hardest part about the science aspect of the book for you?

There’s a fine line between what science can and cannot explain, and I was definitely walking that line. So deciding when to adhere to nothing but the facts and when it was okay to step over that line was difficult—when to delve into the what-ifs, the maybes. I’ve had several people ask if I considered Fracture science or paranormal, and truthfully, I consider it both. I came at it from the science angle, but paranormal really means anything that cannot be explained by science… yet. And I think that’s exactly where Fracture falls.

If you could pair Decker and Delaney with any character from any book, who would your pick be for each and why?

Like just to hang out? I’m going with that. I’d stick Decker in a room with Adam from Where She Went. I think they’d find that they had a lot in common. Not that they’d talk about it or anything…

I’d love for Delaney to meet Ed Kennedy from I Am The Messenger (and if you haven’t read that book, for the love of everything, DO IT) – they both kind of wonder what they are supposed to do with what they have. What they can do, what they should do. They both think a lot about the meaning of it all, you know? I think they would have an easy understanding of each other. A comforting one.

You, Delaney and Decker are dropped into a room full of Death Eaters. What happens?

Truth: I just Googled Death Eaters. I think that’s a pretty fair sign that I die first.

If you were a demigod, what god/goddess would be your parent?

Um (watch as I evade the question), I am definitely not demigod material.

What kind of cupcake would you describe yourself as?

One with caffeine. Or bacon. Possibly both. Do they make those? Because they should. They really, really should.

Thank you, Megan, for answering my questions!

Fracture is out January 17, so make sure you get it. Seriously. You want it. It's awesome. And Decker is Boy Closet material for sure. Which means you can't actually have him, because he's already in my Boy Closet, but you can still look at him and such. He's worth it. Yep.

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick is The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes, coming May 8, 2012 from Candlewick.

Summary: Paige Sheridan has the perfect life. She's pretty, rich, and popular, and her spot on the homecoming court is practically guaranteed. But when a night of partying ends in an it-could-have-been-so-much worse crash , everything changes. Her best friends start ignoring her, her boyfriend grows cold and distant, and her once-adoring younger sister now views her with contempt. The only bright spot is her creative writing class, led by a charismatic new teacher who encourages students to be true to themselves. But who is Paige, if not the homecoming princess everyone expects her to be? In this arresting and witty debut, a girl who was once high-school royalty must face a truth that money and status can't fix, and choose between living the privileged life of a princess, or owning up to her mistakes and giving up everything she once held dear. 

My Thoughts: I admit it, I am a sucker for a "fall from grace" kind of story, and the girl who has it all suddenly not having it... well. There ya go. I want to know why her friends all treat her how they do, and I want to see how she gets past everything. I want to know what she has to own up to... and how it all turns out. This book sounds like the perfect mix of fun and intense, and I so cannot wait! Not to mention, the cover is so simple and appealing, with quite a bit of hope inherently in it. Now to get my hands on this book...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Author Book Picks: Megan Bostic

Stopping by today is Never Eighteen author Megan Bostic to talk about some of her favorite books. Yeah, a hard topic to narrow down for, but it's always interesting to see what authors love!

Favorite books? How much time do you have? I’ll name a few: To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Beet Queen, The Crucible, and Fahrenheit 451. I could go on and on, so I’ll stop there.

As far as recommendations, reading time is scarce these days, so I’m going to just mention a couple books I’ve read the last few years that have impacted me greatly.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. This book stayed with me for a long while. I always describe it as tragic beauty. After I read it, I knew I wanted to write contemporary realistic fiction. That’s when I wrote Never Eighteen. I can’t wait for the movie.

Deadline by Chris Crutcher. I read this because it seemed similar in theme to Never Eighteen. Admittedly, it was the first Chris Crutcher book I’d read and I loved it. The characters were all very real to me. I can’t wait to read more of his books.

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach. This was a 2011 debut. I was blown away. Geoff’s protagonist, Felton, has a voice so unique and well written; I fell in love with him instantly. The supporting characters were quirky and funny, but thoughtful as well. It’s one of my favorites from this year.

Popular by Alissa Grosso. Another 2011 debut, this one surprised me. Do not judge the book by its name. This is a story with many layers and Alissa wrote it well. So many unique characters, but they’re all people we’ve probably met along our journeys. The ending will knock your socks off.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. Can I just say “Oh my god!?” This is one of those books you don’t want to read, but can’t put down. My daughter and I both read it in a day. It’s a disturbing story that had to be told.

My personal library is eclectic. Aside from all the books I’ve mentioned above, on my shelf you’ll find a lot of Stephen King, probably my favorite writer ever. I love mysteries from Dennis Lehane and Harlan Coben. The Harry Potter series is a given, as well as Twilight.

I’ve got a shelf of classic poetry, Dickinson, Whitman, Blake, Wordworth, Keats, etc. I’ve got some random contemporary novels that include Kite Runner, Lovely Bones, Wicked, Life of Pi, and so many more.

I have three or four shelves dedicated to YA, one of those shelves solely Class of 2k11 books. I also have a shelf of books from people I met through the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, a couple I’d highly recommend are Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan, Greyhound, by Steffan Piper, and Bloodroot by Bill Loehfelm.

Once again, I could go on and on. I don’t think you can ever have too many books. Maybe someday I’ll have the time to read them all.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

In My Mailbox

Most of this week's books were surprises, so let's just get right to it, shall we?

For Review:
Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham
Immortal City by Scott Speer
Cracking the Ice by Dave Hendrickson
Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep
(Huge thanks to Hilary Weisman Graham, Razorbill, WestSide Books, and KensingtonTeen)

Gifted from Leah Cypess
Nightspell (Signed - thank you, Leah!!)
Reckoning by Lili St. Crow
(One of my favorite series, finally coming to an end!)

The Death Catchers by Jennifer Anne Kogler

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Author Interview: Estevan Vega

Stopping in tonight is Estevan Vega, author of Arson and the recently released sequel Ashes. If you love dark and twisted books, then be sure to get these ones!

If you found out your son was going to be born like Arson, burning from the inside, how would you react? 

Um...freaked out. I think most of us...no, all of us would be freaked in a way. I mean, how messed up is that, to have your child, whom you view as this beautiful new creation of life, what is supposed to be, in essence, you, coming out of your wife or girlfriend as a monster on fire. It's pretty crazy. And creepy. And terrifying, and that's the effect I was aiming for when I wrote chapter 1 of ASHES. You see pregnancy scenes so often in movies. You've seen the frantic ones and the somewhat calm ones, and I remember wanting to write the birth scene of Arson long before I even started writing the sequel, but I thought it would have more potency opening the sequel with it. I remember seeing the birth scene in Orphan a few years ago, and I'm like, "I gotta top that."

What was the hardest part about writing ASHES, versus writing ARSON? 

I think a lot of people think writing a sequel is easy, because you know the characters already and how they'd react and whatever, but I was terrified going into this writing process. First off, I'd never written a sequel before. Second, I wasn't sure if I could. And C...how was I supposed to follow up what I, and a lot of readers, considered my best work? I got this pressure that I wasn't used to now swimming in my veins. I wasn't sure where the story would go. I had ideas, sure, but not a definitive ending, and I even wrestled with a lot of the plot lines. But eventually, I was able to just focus on telling the story and upping the ante...which, you know, is kinda one of the rules. If I were to identify the most challenging process of all, after facing my fear of screwing up my favorite character, I'd have to say writing Joel and Aimee. I knew I wanted them in the story, but they were becoming this mammoth complication. I was writing chapter after chapter and for some reason, it just wasn't going anywhere or it just didn't come off "real" enough to me. And if I wasn't buying it, my audience wouldn't buy it either. So I ended up scrapping about 40 or so pages of Joel and Aimee scenes and rewriting them all, going in an entirely new direction. Thankfully, that new direction was found, because it allowed me to discover, with the suggestion of my dad, Kyro, one of the most unique characters in ASHES.

If you could pair Arson and Emery with any character from any book, who would you pick for each? 

My publisher is also an author, and he's written a book called AIREL. It's about a teenager who hasn't found out she's an angel yet, and a sick group of other fallen creatures who are after her. Story line is pretty tight. I think Emery would be a cool side character in that book. She'd be that cool chick in the corner nobody pays attention to except to stare at her creepy mask. Fits with the whole theme of AIREL also, of feeling like you don't belong. For Arson, I'd put him in I am Legend. For those who haven't read it, it's much better than the Will Smith version, and it's actually about vamps. Creepy, gross vamps. Robert Neville is this vampire hunter, and I think he could use a sidekick, one who could create fire. I mean, how much easier would it be to nuke a bunch of vampires instead of having to stake em or constantly be using garlic? It'd be so sick.

It's just you and Arson, and a room full of Death Eaters. What happens? 

A lot of violence. Probably some name-calling. A minor flesh wound would most likely occur as well. The second the outbreak starts and the weird, British baddies arrive, I'm, of course, looking for the nearest machine gun, praying, or rummaging through my pockets searching for Harry Potter's cell phone number. (Why am I always misplacing that frickin' thing?) Arson, on the contrary, is telling me to chill out while raging up for a lot of butt-whooping. Wands or no wands, those pansies, and that weirdo without a nose, are going down.

What kind of dinosaur would you describe yourself as? 

Pachycephalosaurus. Google that ish. 

Book Review: Crossing Lines by Paul Volponi

SUMMARY: Adonis is a jock. He's on the football team and he's dating one of the prettiest girls in school. Alan is the new kid. He wears lipstick and joins the Fashion Club. Soon enough the football team is out to get him. Adonis is glad to go along with his teammates . . . until they come up with a dangerous plan to humiliate Alan. Now Adonis must decide whether he wants to be a guy who follows the herd or a man who does what's right.

From critically acclaimed author Paul Volponi comes this discussable and finely wrought story of bullies, victims, and the bystanders caught in between.


The Short Version:
Overall, Crossing Lines does a pretty good job of blending sexuality, bullying and coming of age. Though admittedly lacking in character depth, and an overall campy feeling to the characters, this one is harder to really get into but still an enjoyable enough read. With some great points made, a stable realism, Crossing Lines is a quick but useful read.

The Extended Version:
Adonis was, admittedly, a character that was hard to really relate to. He seemed too much of a stereotypical jock, going with the team in everything and having no real interests other than football and girls. When the team takes an obvious disgust to Alan, Adonis goes right along with it. His biggest drive, however, for siding with his team even while they make Alan miserable is that he wants the girl he's interested in to think he's great, and because he simply doesn't have the gall to stand on his own. While there is a realistic element to that, the motivations for this specific character didn't mesh quite well enough to pull it off. That being said, his inner struggle about letting Alan suffer, and what finally make him go against his team have a strong impact both on him and the reader.

The rest of the cast is, unfortunately, just as lackluster, overall, as Adonis. Fitting too neatly into stereotypes, with a strong campy feeling, no single character really stood out. With pretty much all the girls seeming to back Alan with no questions asked, and the guys having an outward dislike for him, the lines, so to speak, seemed too obviously drawn. With a father who had an obvious dislike towards Alan as well, and who seemed to back his son in it, it is understandable why Adonis struggled like he did and yet, his mother sided easily with the sister, who did all she could for Alan. While Alan did have a great and clear cut inner strength, his overall role seemed to simply be the catalyst to changing Adonis in a way that overshadowed who he actually is.

The plot itself, however, had an easy pace.  Straightforward in execution, working towards the bullying event that really tests Adonis, but with a too easy and quick fall out afterwards, this one is a fast read that gets its points across. Though hitting too hard into stereotypical football jock, the battle of self versus team and trying to find your own way is the driving element of this story.

The writing is smooth, having a simplicity to it. Though it's hard to say whether that simplicity is simply the writing or truly the mindset of Adonis, it still does a good job of bringing out the confusion in him. With a few rougher and more poignant scenes, and some great banter and dialogue, the writing serves its purpose without pulling the reader out of the story.

Overall, this one didn't have the potency to it that it could have, but still provided a good read with some great points. Lacking in characterization most of all, it was hard to really side with and get behind any specific character. While the ending felt too easy and rushed, the bigger points of the book had an easy flow and connection between them. Despite it's faults, Crossing Lines does a great job of battling inner turmoil and individualism against a group, particularly when faced with something uncomfortable.

Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Hardcover: 240 pages 
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: June 9, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick is Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwing, coming March 12, 2012 from Katherine Tegan.

Summary: Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”—known to everyone as the Glitterati—without them suspecting a thing is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her: evening the social playing field between the haves and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of thefts at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could Aidan wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

My Thoughts: I love the Robin Hood aspect of this, but also that it's in a contemporary and fun setting. This one sounds like it will be mostly cute and hilarious, but with some heavier stuff mixed in to it. I want to see not only the trouble Willa gets herself into, but what ends up happening... and okay, so I want to see some romance with Aiden. And then there's the cover, which is eye catching and flirty. So. Yeah. Want.