Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Multicharacter Interview: Allison Van Diepen and The Vampire Stalker

As you all know, I seriously love anything character related, so when I had the chance to interview not one but three of Allison van Diepen's characters, I got a little crazy excited. So without further ado, and focusing on her newest release The Vampire Stalker, I introduce to you guys:

Alexander Banks, the notorious vampire stalker.

Amy Hawthorne, an avid reader.

Vigo Skaar, the vicious leader of the vampires. 

Describe your perfect date in 5 words. 

Alexander: No. Time. For. Such. Frivolities.

Amy: A date with Alexander Banks!

Vigo: The blood of innocent victims. (chilling grin) 

You're dropped in a room full of Death Eaters! What do you do? 

Alexander: Kill them. What else is there to do?

Amy: RUN.

Vigo: Join my friends for a meal. 

What is your theme song? 

Alexander: Two Steps Behind. Because I’m always just a few steps behind the vampires—until I kill them.

Amy: Undisclosed Desires. I shouldn’t reveal how I feel about Alexander.

Vigo: Indestructible. That’s what I am. 

What kind of shoe would you describe yourself as? 

Alexander: My trusty leather soft-soled boots, perfect for stalking vampires without making a sound.

Amy: I’d love to say a beautiful ballerina flat, but probably a plain old sneaker.

Vigo: A steel-toed boot.

Thank you, Allison, for sharing your characters, and thank you Alexander, Amy and Vigo for being here today.

Now make sure all of you guys check out The Vampire Stalker, and get to know these characters even more!

Author Top Ten: Leah Cypess

Here on her release day for her awesome book Nightspell is Leah Cypess to share with us her top 5 YA boys. I mean really, what better way to celebrate a book release than with hotties?

[1] Eugendies from Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia series. There is NO competition for the #1 spot on this list! Eugenides is a thief who consistently outsmarts everyone he comes up against. I love smarter-than-life characters. He does lie a lot, but I forgive him for that because he’s so clever.

[2] Alan from Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demons trilogy. Okay, so I have a thing for smart guys. Smart beats out handsome by about a million to one in my books. Alan is also unscrupulous, manipulative, and single-minded. *swoons*

[3] Red from Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (not published as YA, but it won an Alex award, so…) In case you were worried about my taste for the smart and unscrupulous, I present to you the kindest, most patient, most sensitive, most tortured-by-unrequited-love-but-too-nice-to-do-anything-about-it hero in fantasy. There’s this scene where he brings the main character to the ocean so that she can run barefoot in the sand before he proposes a marriage of convenience to her, even though he really loves her and wants the marriage to be real. *stifled sob*

[4] Garion from the Belgariad by David Eddings. My first book crush! He’s an honest, unassuming boy who doesn’t realize it’s his destiny to fulfill an ancient prophecy. And become a king, even though he’s completely uninterested in power. All he wants is to do the right thing, and to do it earnestly and sincerely.

[5] Jace from Split by Swati Avasthi. Okay, so the bad boys are back. But not really… Jace has a dark side that he’s fighting with all his might. The book is told from his point of view, so he’s not just the love interest; he’s a very real, complicated person with an extremely compelling voice.

Thank you, Leah, for sharing your favorite boys! I have to admit, Jace is a favorite of mine too. Congrats on the release, and let's not forget that Nightspell has an endearing hottie if it's own, just in case readers needed another excuse to go buy this book!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Character Interview: + Contest: Andrew from Stupid Fast

You guys all know how much I love interviewing characters, so I'm delighted to have Andrew here today! Andrew is Felton's little brother, who's the main character in Geoff Herbach's hysterical debut Stupid Fast. Check out the interview, get to know Andrew, get a taste of the laughs in this book, and then stick around for your chance to win a copy of Stupid Fast!

What did it feel like the first time you played piano?

It wasn’t easy, so it was not fun. I had to work hard. Now, I still wouldn’t say it is fun, but I do like to know that I’m very good at it and so I try to play music that challenges me so that I know I’m better than an ape. That’s most important to me, that I am not an ape. Or a monkey. Or a dog. I like animals and they are nice, but I don’t want to wander around without my clothes and I don’t like how animals smell, so I don’t want to go around believing I’m supposed to stick my nose in their bottoms, like dogs do. That’s ridiculous.

What's your biggest pet peeve about your brother?

He calls me crazy sometimes. Me? I’m crazy? That’s about as dumb a thing as I’ve ever heard. He chooses to pretend nothing is wrong. I choose to look at what’s wrong and dive in and fix it. His problems will last forever. My problems will hurt for a little very badly then I’ll be free of them. Who is crazy?

If you could spend a day with anyone, who would you pick?

I would pick Glenn Gould who I believe to be the greatest interpreter of Bach ever. He is dead, however. He liked drugs and he also liked to sweat and sing. I don’t like either. I would also like to spend a day with Crocodile Dundee. I like his leather vest. I also like his knife, which is big, and would serve me well if I’m doing some gardening for Jerri.

What do you think of your brother kissing Aleah?

What do you mean? I suppose it’s fine. I would like Aleah to be my sister, so I hope they get married, but I don’t believe there’s much chance, because Felton really knows nothing about what Aleah does, which will become a barrier. Maybe I should help Felton learn about good music? Felton likes theme music from TV shows. He also likes some music from the 80s and 90s, but only because Dad did. I saw Felton get tears in his eyes from the theme song to The Office.

What kind of cake would you desecribe yourself as?

That’s a good question. Have you ever had that red cake that has white frosting? It’s a Waldo Cake or something like that. Red and white. I went to my friend Emily’s house one time and her mom made that cake. She said don’t worry if you think you’re bleeding from your bottom tomorrow, because you’re not. It’s just food coloring. Cake doesn’t occur red in nature. It has to be dyed. I forgot about her warning about the food coloring and I made Jerri come into the bathroom and then she took me to the emergency room. I would like to believe I could make someone that terrified.

Thank you, Andrew, for those fun answers, and that has to be the most creative answer to my cake question yet!

Make sure you guys all check out Stupid Fast, out June 1!

But for your chance to win a copy of the book, just fill out THIS form!

Contest is US/Canada only, and ends June 6.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Book Review: With or Without You by Brian Farrey


Eighteen year-old Evan and his best friend, Davis, get beaten up for being loners. For being gay. For just being themselves. But as rough as things often seem, at least Evan can take comfort in his sweet, sexy boyfriend Erik--whom he’s kept secret from everyone for almost a year.

Then Evan and Davis are recruited to join the Chasers, a fringe crowd that promises them protection and status. Davis is swept up in the excitement, but Evan is caught between his loyalty to Davis and his love for Erik. Evan’s lied to keep his two worlds separate. Now his lies are about to implode…and destroy the very relationships he’s been trying to protect.


The Short Version:
A beautiful blend of light and emotional, and holding all the makings of true writing talent, With or Without You navigates a a coming of age story with a gay protagonist in a realistic, relatable, and easy manner. Evan is a fantastic central character, not defined by his sexual orientation and driving home the point of just how normal he is, and shines even amongst a cast of other dynamic, well defined characters. With a well paced, gritty, and thought provoking plot, and never shying away from the truth of things, With or Without You is a stunning debut.

The Extended Version:
Evan is an easy character to like, and one who stresses about some things while has the ability to let other things roll right off his back without issue in a way that gives readers a true sense of who he really is. Torn between his best friend and the boyfriend he's kept a secret, he toes the line between truth and secrets, love and loyalty, in a way that any reader, gay or straight, can relate to and enjoy. From his artistic abilities to the compassion that seeps from him, Evan is very mutlifaceted, and most notably, his sexuality is simply another aspect of him. It doesn't define him any more than being a boy does, nor is it something that he constantly focuses on and harps on, leaving him relatable to even female and straight readers.

Erik, his boyfriend, is near perfect, and pitched in a way where even his flaws simply add to that perfection. He and Evan truly make a good couple, bettering each other and leaning on each other. Some of the most poignant, tender scenes in the book are between these two, and though they certainly face their set of issues, they have a strength that plays off each other that helps define both their personalities and their relationship. In love with Evan, and forgiving of many things, Erik also is not a complete door mat or willing to let Evan hold all the cards, making not only his character stand out but forcing Evan to face things he might not want to.

Davis, Evan's best friend, is a striking character, one who's motivations and psychology come through strongly, even if it puts him in a negative light. The reasons he's going down the path he is are clear, understandable, and even heartbreaking, and add in a realism that will gut readers at times. The growing tension between Davis and Evan push the plot at a rapid pace at times, and are handled in a way that shows every aspect without only relying on the differences between them to drive things.

The plot is a fantastic one, bringing in new concepts and elements not seen in other books and weaving them in perfectly. Never focusing simply on a coming out type of gay story, and not even particularly "gay angsty" in the usual sense of it, Farrey has brought to light not only problems and issues gay teens are forced to endure but also the options, however beneficial or not, they are presented with. From influences of new characters to the rights and wrongs, so to speak, of being gay, this book thrusts the reader deep into the heart of things without being preachy, cliche, or unsympathetic. Even a range of views on being gay are incorporated, yet the focus of the book remains on Evan throughout. From his love of Erik to his loyalty to his best friend, he endures plenty of things most every teen and even adults has or will, and is tested and tried in ways that push his own boundaries.

Farrey's writing is bold and talented, giving a strong and very realistic to Evan. Though male POV, this book isn't particularly vulgar simply because of that, giving it a connection for a female readership. With emotions infused into so many of the pages, and some incredibly wrenching scenes scattered throughout, Farrey has proven his ability to be a mutlifaceted writer. Mixing in lighter, fun, and sweet scenes, and also adding in a heavy focus on Evan's art and pitching it in a unique way, the writing pulls readers in as much as Evan's character and the story.

This is a book that will make readers think, likely for the better, and that isn't using gay characters just to try to be edgy. The realism stands out, and the fact that being gay doesn't define a single one of these characters makes everything shine more. Though some scenes hold some rough elements, the book overall is not graphic, handling the truth in things in a sympathetic manner yet never shying away. Resonating and memorable even after the last page, and ending in a very fitting place for the book's events. With or Without You is a must read by all.

Source: Received from author in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Young Adult 
Paperback: 368 pages 
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: May 24, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In My Mailbox + Chills & Thrills Teen Book Tour

Lots of books this week, in part because some I'm borrowing showed up, and I also went to the Chills & Thrills tour last weekend and got some books there too. The write up on that event is below the IMM part, so let's just get to it!

For Review:
 Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook
Audition by Stasia Kehoe
Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
The Detention Club by David Yoo
Forgiven by Janet Fox
The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Rinehardt
Crush Control by Jennifer Jabaley
All You Desire by Kirsten Miller
Ordinary Beauty by Laura Wiess 
(HUGE thanks to Eileen Cook + Simon & Schuster, Holly Cupala + Stasia Kehoe, Tracy Deebs, David Yoo, Blue Slip Media, Dana Rinehardt + Random House, Booksparks PR, Penguin, & Simon & Schuster)

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

 Gift from Holly Schindler:
Signed copy of Playing Hurt (Love this book!)

Gifted from Kelsey
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (Signed from her launch. Great book!)
Goddess Boot Camp by Tara Lynn Childs
In the Arms of Stone Angels by Jordan Dane
Flawless by Lara Chapman
IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

So that was my week in books, and the last are ones I bought at the signing event. Lara Chapman ended up not being able to make the signing, but definitely still bought her book. Really looking forward to it! 

The signing was awesome, as YA author signings tend to be. This one had Jennifer Archer (Through Her Eyes), Tracy Deebs (Tempest Rising) and Tara Lynn Childs (Forgive My Fins, the Oh My Gods books). All three of these ladies are fantastic, and bantered with each other throughout the whole thing. It was hilarious, fun, and they had some great answers to the questions from the audience. After the Q&A session and signing was over, I hung around and had coffee at the cafe located in A Real Bookstore, and area author Rosemary Clement-Moore hung out with us too. Loved talking books and writing with all four of them! 

 The ladies!

 Tara! I don't remember what she was talking about here... but I can guarantee you it was good.

 Jennifer Archer, talking about writing ghosts

 Me with Jennifer!

 With Tracy! 

 With Tara!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Author Interview: Cat Patrick

Taking over my blog today is Forgotten author Cat Patrick, to answer my crazy questions!

If there was one thing you could tell London from the start of the book, before everything happens, what would it be?

I think I’d tell her to trust herself because she has good instincts about what’s right for her. And I’d tell her to remember that whatever the situation—however difficult it may seem at the time—it will always get better.

London made the headline of the paper! What does it say?


If you could pair London with any character from any book, who would it be?

While there are a ton of swoon-worthy male characters, I wouldn’t dare split apart London and Luke. But as for girlfriends…

Anna from Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss is a great example of a strong, independent and fun friend for London. I think she’d have her own thing going on but still be able to support and love London for who she is.

I can also see pairing her with someone on a rocky path like Hannah Baker from Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why in the hopes that London’s condition might provide perspective for her deeply troubled friend.

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

I had to take a quiz to see which goddess I’m most like in order to answer this question. According to the results, I’m most similar to Athena. The quiz reminded me that Athena was born fully-armed, is a talented craftswoman but not a girly-girl, and likes to play make believe. Wikipedia says she’s the goddess of wisdom, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, female arts, crafts, justice and skill, and above all else is a protector.

I’m not sure what qualifies as “female arts,” but with the rest of those attributes in mind, I, the fake demigod, am cool with having Athena as my parent.

What kind of cake/confection would you describe yourself as?

A Gray Salt Caramel from Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle: I’m a little bit salty but mostly sweet. 

Thank you, Cat, for taking the time to answer my questions and congrats on the release!

Make sure you guys all check out Forgotten, coming June 7!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Author This or That: Micol Ostow

Here today, in a rapid fire style interview, is Family author Micol Ostow! Check out her answers, and see how it compares to what yours would be!

Lemurs or Monkeys
Monkeys! My husband has traveled all over the world and for whatever reason, has zillions of pictures of himself posing with monkeys, so it's become sort of a running joke with us. We always visit the zoo when we travel, and we ALWAYS visit the primates!

Cake or Pie
Yes, please!

Car or Truck
Subway. I actually hate driving. But if I have to - car.

Fireman or Policeman
Depends on the situation, I suppose!

Spike or Angel
Can't I have both?

Theme Park or Water Park
Theme park. LOVE theme parks. Not the long lines, but the cheesy rides...LOVE.

Country music or Rock music
Neither. Really cheesy, generic pop, or really moody indie.

Unicorn or Hippogriff

House work or Yard work

Gerbil or Mouse
Ew. Dogs.

House or Grey's Anatomy
Addicted to them both. But I think Dr. House is way more swoon-worthy than McDreamy, for what it's worth.

Coffee or Tea
Coffee. My body is 90% caffeine.

Vegas or Cancun
Cancun - for the beaches and the sun, not the partying. My favorite vacation is a book, and a beach.

Mall or Mail order
Mail order. I'm a total shut-in (aren't all writers?) and I have a serious problem with online shopping. Just ask my husband. (Or don't - I don't want to get in trouble!)

Salty or Sweet
Preferably both at the same time: chocolate covered pretzels, kettle corn, peanut butter cups...You get the picture!

Thank you, Micol, and congrats on the release!

Now make sure you guys all check out Family, out now!

Book Review: Nightspell by Leah Cypess


A stand-alone companion novel to the much-acclaimed MISTWOOD. When Darri rides into Ghostland, a country where the living walk with the dead, she has only one goal: to rescue her younger sister Callie, who was sent to Ghostland as a hostage four years ago. But Callie has changed in those four years, and now has secrets of her own. In her quest to save her sister from herself, Darri will be forced to outmaneuver a handsome ghost prince, an ancient sorcerer, and a manipulative tribal warrior (who happens to be her brother). When Darri discovers the source of the spell that has kept the dead in Ghostland chained to this earth, she faces a decision that will force her to reexamine beliefs she has never before questioned - and lead her into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens the very balance of power between the living and the dead.

The Short Version:
Mystical and creative, Nightspell blends a well developed world with a stellar cast for an engaging, refreshing read. Though companion to Mistwood, Cypess builds the world new and smoothly for first time series readers, letting everything happen seamlessly and often unnoticeably. With several unexpected twists in the plot, a strong and beautiful writing style, and plenty of deeper undercurrents, Nightspell will find a great home with many fantasy fans.

The Extended Version:
Darri is stubborn and headstrong, determined and loyal, and makes for both a caustic and relatable central character. Rapt with guilt over her sister having been traded years before, but desperate to set her free even at Darri's own sacrifice, her full personality is strong, well developed, and clear from the start. The tension with her brother adds a great element to the story, without coming off as cliche or just a convenient plot device, while still creating a realistic, strong bond between the two despite their differences. From beginning to end, Darri goes through tremendous character growth and development, perfectly handled and in reaction to a range of different events and situations she faces.

Kestin is charming and suave, yet tormented in his own way, and the combination creates a fantastic, notable, and swoonworthy character. He's a hard character to fully describe without giving a few key things away, but he has a very strong role in the book and adds immensely to both the development of other characters and the plot. Kestin's loyalty to his country yet how personalable he still is adds a great element to his characterization, and readers will fall completely in love with him.

Darri's sister comes across with a strong personality, with the changes in her from before she left to current written smoothly and easily, giving readers the full scope of what's happened. Stubborn and frustrating at times, but someone you want to hug at others, she adds a bold presence. Closing out this phenomenal cast of characters is Clarisse, a girl you can't quite figure out right away, and minor characters throughout the castle that are vivid when they're on the pages without taking over.

The plot of this one has a great pace, and though very character driven in many places, the world and it's elements tie in to create a completely engaging read. With carefully timed reveals and subtle hints into the overall mystery, Cypess has pulled in a range of elements and used them to a huge advantage. For first time readers of the series, everything makes sense, with no sense of having missed something that would make reading Mistwood vital, but the small things that integrate between the two are also present to reward and compliment previous readers.

The writing is fantastic, having a very magical element to it and doing a tremendous job of building the emotional atmosphere. With a sense of foreboding often lingering, and fully capturing the uncomfortableness of being living in the land of the dead, Cypess navigates personal and social biases in an endearing way. From beautiful descriptions to intense emotional, this one includes everything. Though written in third person, the reader gets to know Darri and her mind very well, yet also gets more into the other characters in a way that strengthens reader connections while still keeping the focus on Darri.

Tying everything related to this book up, the ending is satisfying in a way that might take some time to sink in and fully appreciate but is there all the same. Betrayals and alliances, relationships and friendships, this book covers a range and does it well while still keeping a strong focus on the characters. With some poignantly handled scenes, an original and well built world and plot, and a stellar cast full of fantastic characterization and development, Nightspell grabs readers from the start and doesn't let go.

Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Young Adult 
Hardcover: 336 pages 
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: May 31, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach


Fifteen-year-old Felton Reinstein has always been on the smallish side, but in his sophomore year he starts growing...and growing.

During gym one day he smokes the football jocks in a 600-yard race. Felton has never been interested in sports, but there's no doubt-he is "stupid fast." As he juggles his newfound athletic prowess, his mom's sudden depression, an annoying little brother, and his first love, he discovers a shocking secret about his past which explains why he's turning out the way he is.


The Short Version:
Delving straight into the teenage boy mind and hitting on topics both funny and hefty, Stupid Fast hits right into the struggles of a teenage guy from first love to finding himself to dealing with a quirky family in a great way. With a main character that truly is "average," a jerk at times and a total sweetheart at others, confused and awkward but then confidant and sure, this one is engaging and real. Through rambling in voice at times, and most definitely very boy in a way that could be a turn off to some female readers, the story is well written and well developed, providing a solid debut.

The Extended Version:
Felton's mind is most definitely a very interesting place, kind of all over but captured in a way that the reader can still follow the rampant paths he goes down to also build his character. He's a good guy, definitely on the dorky side of things but hopeful for that to eventually change, and though he's not always the best towards his brother, how much he does care for his mom and brother come through strongly. From making new friends and losing others to falling for a girl, Felton nagivates a range of adolescent issues and does it with his own style and humor.

Aleah is intelligent and creative, catching Felton's attention from the first time he hears and sees her playing piano while he delivers the morning paper. The way their relationship grows is done perfectly, getting all the awkwardness that comes with the territory yet also not relying only on that. She pushes Felton in subtle ways, and opens his eyes to things he might otherwise miss.

Rounding out a rather small cast of characters is Andrew, Felton's nerdy little brother who has his own memorable personality and role in the story, and his mother, Jeri, who is a key to much of the story's overall events. Definitely different in her views of parenting and the world, the impact Jeri has on her two boys is clear, understandable, and adds a strong family element overall. Other jocks from the school come in at times, some playing on the dumb jock stereotype while others break right through that mold and even provide a great friendship for Felton.

The plot is pretty basic in nature, centering around just a few things but each is fleshed out and woven together well. The writing is incredibly voicy, giving a huge personality to Felton. Though rambling at times, and sometimes going too far down the random tangents Felton's thoughts take, the humor and overall progression outweight the occassional lulls. With some mystery also lingering around, this book is as much about finding out what's going on with Jeri as it is going along for the ride with Felton as he figures things out. The plot pacing holds steady overall, shifting between internal narration and external action and events in a way where one doesn't overshadow the other. If you can handle the very boy voice, and the dorky but humorous and fun aspect of this book, then it's definitely a recommended debut.

Source: ARC received from author/publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Young Adult 
Paperback: 320 pages 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: June 1, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick is Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, coming October 18 from Random House.

Summary: As far as romantic pairings go in the year 2195, you don't get much more unlikely than an upper-class schoolgirl and a poor miner from enemy tribes. Filter in the fact that he's a zombie, and you're definitely talking about star-crossed love.

Dearly, Departed is a cyber-Victorian/steampunk romance that takes place in the shadow of a new ice age. Nora Dearly, a mouthy teenage girl and apparent orphan, leaves school for Christmas - only to be dragged into the night by the living dead. Luckily for her, though, the good ones got to her first. From her reanimated rescuers she learns not only that zombies are roaming the countryside, but that her father is one - and that he's in terrible trouble. She also meets Captain Bram Griswold, a noble, strong, and rather sweet undead boy for whom she starts to fall.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Pamela Roe, is just trying to carry on with life as best she can in the wake of Nora's disappearance - when she ends up killing an evil zombie in self-defense. Pam is galvanized into action, and ends up leading a group of survivors as the city of New London is thronged by the ravenous dead.

Upon hearing of Pamela's plight, Nora and Bram set out to rescue her friends, find her missing father, and maybe just save what's left of the world.

My Thoughts: Cyber/steampunk? Zombies? Undead love interest? Yes please. This has awesome and amazing and fun written all over it! I love basically everything about the premise of this book, right down the creepy mystery aspect of it that it builds so freaking well. I want to know all of this book's secrets. I want to see how this particular romance builds and grows. I want to know if they save the world. Just. All of it. And then there's the cover, dark but hopeful, beautiful but gothic... Want want want. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

In My Mailbox

I hope you guys all had a great week! I'm heading off to the Chills & Thrills Teen Book tour today with Jennifer Archer, Tera Lynn Childs, Tracy Deebs and Lara Chapman... so excited! That haul will be in next week's post, but in the meantime, here's what I got this week! So excited!

For Review:
Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Everfound by Neal Shusterman
The Taste of Apple by James Laidler
Populazzi by Elise Allen
OyMG by Amy Dominy
My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody
(Huge thanks to Kody Keplinger + Little Brown, Farrar Straus & Giroux, Simon & Schuster, James Laidler, Harcourt, and Amy Dominy)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: Hereafter by Tara Hudson


Can there truly be love after death?

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won't want to miss.


The Short Version:
Smoothly blending the focus between the romance and the ghost angle, Hereafter is a beautifully written new take on the afterlife. Pulling the reader in early and making them feel as though they are right there with Amelia, the story has a lulling flow to it. With an amazing love interest, great world building, and fantastic execution, this one feeds both the romantic and plot desires of the reader.

The Extended Version:
Amelia is presented in an unusual way, in that from the start, she remembers very little about her self. The unfolding of all this is handled perfectly, happening at a pace that both she and the reader can appreciate and handle. She is strong in subtle ways, and weak in some more glaring ways, but both play into her overall personality. Hudson has navigated the obstacles between making this a fully dimensional character from the start while still having things hidden and unknown smoothly and beautifully. Her entire character progression was so well done, and there is such a clear difference in her mindset and behaviors by the end of the book in response to everything that happened.

Joshua comes in early and has a strong, steady presence, with an array of lovable qualities about him. There wasn’t unnecessary fanfare in regards to him, or his responses to things, and he played a huge role in the overall plot apart from simply being the romantic lead. His personality is as fully fleshed out as Amelia’s, growing stronger as things continue in a very realistic way. The reader also gets to know his family, which helps not only progress the plot but build his character and background, and Hudson plays all of it out perfectly.

Eli, too, is a well done character, with his motivations clearly portrayed but still holding enough of a sympathy aspect that he isn’t completely hated. Cocky and self assured, but still able to be pushed off his pedestal, Eli is enjoyable to read about and amusing in nature, but still holds this undercurrent of danger that is both appealing and appalling. His entire role in the book is also explained at just the right moments, keeping the reader guessing until the very end.

The romance is a very huge focus for this book, but never once did it feel forced or there just because the author felt like it had to be. Watching Amelia fall for Joshua was fun and endearing to read, making me fall for him quickly and root for both early on. Much of the plot is a result of their budding romance, but Hudson still gives focus on other things when it’s needed, and without making only their feelings for each other be the driving factor. From awkward to sweet to sensual, this couple covers the range and does it with grace.

The worldbuilding in this one is fantastic, so smoothly integrated it’s hard to actually explain how it happens. Hudson’s new take on the everafter is new and intriguing, pulling in the notions of heaven and hell just right without being a turn off or preachy. With small things that end up playing a huge role later, and big things that play an even bigger role, the effort and attention to detail Hudson put into this book is clear and fully appreciated. The plot, too, is phenomenally well done, having a great pace that really moves the romance along without it being rushed, but also gives plenty of attention to everything else that is going on, especially with the actual hereafter thing.

Closing out an already amazing book is the writing, that is almost lulling with how well done and gorgeous it is. Rapt with vivid imagery but never once taking away from everything else to get that description across, Hereafter easily pulls the reader in and doesn’t let go. The well done characters, the sweet, tender and endearing romance, and the plot itself all pull together for one fantastic read.

Source: Received from author/publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Young Adult 
Hardcover: 416 pages 
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 7, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Character Interview + Contest: Finn from She Loves You, She Loves You Not

Today's lovely guest in the spotlight is Finn, a girl I think all of you will end up loving, from Julie Ann Peters' She Loves You, She Loves You Not. She comes into the book in a great way, and adds so much to this book! And because she's so awesome, Finn is bringing you guys the chance to win a copy of the book as well, so stick around after the interview for that!

Hi Finn! I'm loving your bike! Let's start out with a fun question. If you had to choose one celebrity crush, who would it be?

I’m not into the whole pop culture scene, since I’m too busy working to make a living. I like people who are real. Johnny Depp reminds me of every drunk I’ve known. Does that count?

I think it totally counts. What is one item that you simply cannot live without?

Transportation. I need to know I can leave when it’s time.

Okay that I understand, and am the same way. But let's get to the good stuff. When you first met Alyssa, what were your thoughts (other than that she was waitressing in flip flops that is)?

She was Carly, her mother, in every way. The resemblance was a shock, to tell you the truth. Then later, I thought she was horning in on my territory. There aren’t a lot of jobs in Majestic, and I needed all the money I could save for my bike. Then later… well…

Inquiring minds want to know. Boxers, thongs or bikini underwear?


Do you have a favorite memory from your time spent travelling?

It’s not the people I’ve had to put up with. I’m not a people person. Other than Colorado, the most beautiful place in the world is Montana. Miles and miles of uninhabited, unspoiled landscape. I’m happy anywhere there are open roads and destinations unknown.

How would you describe Arlo?

“Bastard” pretty much sums it up. The guy’s got a martyr complex coming out his ass. So why do I work for him? Because I refuse to let him, or anyone else, beat me down.

Finally, and thank you SO much, we're kind of itching to know. Really. What is it like to kiss Alyssa?

No words.

Thank you, Finn, for answering my questions. I'll let you get back to Alyssa now. And thank you, Julie, for taking your time out as well, and congrats on another great release! This one is out June 1, so make sure you guys all check it out!

And now for your chance to win a copy of She Loves You, She Loves You Not, just fill out THIS form!

This contest IS international, and ends May 29.

No entries will be accepted through comments, but Finn, Julie and I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Character Interview + Contest: Harlin and Charlotte from A Need so Beautiful

I've recently been lucky enough to sit down with Harlin and Charlotte, the stars of Suzanne Young's (amazing) A Need so Beautiful! Those of you who know me well already know of my intense love for Harlin, and how incredibly hot he is, so sitting down to talk to him for a bit was, well, exciting. And because I want all of YOU to read this book, stick around after my interview for your chance to win a copy of the book! But first, I bring you... Harlin and Charlotte.

Kari: Hi guys! Thanks for being here today. First, tell my readers a little bit about yourselves, and what your favorite thing about the other is.

Harlin (to Charlotte): Is she serious?

Charlotte: Yes, Harlin.

Harlin: Okaaaay. I'm Harlin. I have a motorcycle. I'm a dropout. Wow, I sound like a delinquent.

Charlotte: You kind of are. But Kari, he's also a sweetheart. Even if he pretends like he doesn't care, Harlin's a kind soul.

Harlin: I think you're trying to make out with me.

Charlotte: Oh my God, shut up. *laughs

Kari: *smirks at Harlin* I can't say I'd blame her if she was... But while we're on the subject of making out, tell me about the first time you kissed her.

Harlin: Now this is just voyeurism.

Charlotte: It was sweet. And technically, I might have kissed him. *looks over* Did I?
Harlin: Probably.

Charlotte: Either way, we just kissed. Standing in the halls of Saint Vincent's, covered in green paint.

Harlin: Sounds kinky.

Kari: Alright, I'll give you a break on the tongue antics, for now, and ask instead about the first time you... realized how much you liked each other? Kidding. Let's get to the meat of your story. Charlotte, if you could redo things and let Harlin in on things earlier, would you? Or do you think he had to stay on the dark with this one?

Charlotte: I can't change things. And I'm not sure I would. I want to be normal. I want to act normally. All I want is for Harlin to remember me and the best way to do that is to keep living.

Harlin: She should have told me.

Charlotte: No. No, it was better this way. *looks away

Kari: *smiles sadly at Harlin* I might agree with Charlotte, at least on this one. But if you could tell her anything, without repurcussion, what would it be?

Harlin: I would never say anything mean to Charlotte. I'll do anything for her and she knows it.

Charlotte: I do.

Harlin: And if she wants to lie and sneak around...

Charlotte: Stop

Harlin: ... then I know it was for a good reason. We're solid, Kari. End of story.

Charlotte: *puts head on Harlin's shoulder

Kari: Can't argue with that, and I for one loved your story. And okay, I admit it Charlotte, you have one of the best boyfriends around. I think it's about time to wrap this up, so is there anything either of you want to say to my readers before you go off to have that make out session?

(TOTALLY how I picture Harlin)
Harlin (to Charlotte): See, she knows you too well.

Charlotte: Thank you, Kari. Harlin's alright. *side eyes him*

Harlin: Mm, hmm....

Charlotte: Okay, yes. He's great. But our story... it's not just about us. It about love. Real, unflinching, unbound love--from the universe. From... somewhere else. And how the light loves, how it acts, it's painful sometimes. But I have to think that--

Harlin: --it's just so beautiful.

So there you guys have it. Hope that was a nice enough teaser to entice you to want this book! And who can really complain about super hot boys, and kissing?

Now if you want to win a copy of this book, just fill out THIS form to enter!

Contest ends June 5 and IS international, as long as The Book Depository delivers to your country. This is a preorder, and not an ARC. The book will not be shipped until release, which is June 21.

No entries will be accepted through the comments, but they are more than appreciated!

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick is Eve by Anna Carey, coming October 4 from Harper Teen.

Summary: The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

My Thoughts: Epidemics, etc, are always something that piques my interest in books. So set something after a virus AND its vaccine have done major damage, and throw in some twisted fate after graduation? I'm hooked. I totally want to know what that fate is, the truth behind the virus (man made, perhaps?), and I want to know what Eve finds on the way. The fact that there's a hot boy totally helps. The fact that he's rebellious helps more. And I think this is a romantic angle everyone can get behind, because if he's out int he wild, how much contact with girls has he had? I think this romance will be fiery and sweet at the same time, but I also really do love the life versus love stories. So often, even in the "real world" that is a choice people have to make, and I love watching characters endure it. Then there's the cover,  creepy with the bridge and the fogginess as the colors fade, yet potentially hopeful with the actual pastel colors. Even more, I love that it really does look as though the girl is running, clearly to something uncertain, yet going all the same.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mini Reviews: Don't Breathe a Word and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Yep, it's that time again: Mini Reviews. Pretty much, I won't be posting my full review of these two books for awhile but want you guys to at least know some of my thoughts (read: these are amazing and I have to talk about them).

Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala: For those of you who read Holly's debut, Tell Me a Secret, you already know how emotional her writing is, and this one does not disappoint. There is such a potency to her writing that is never far from the reader's mind, even in the moments that make you smile or laugh. This one has some great lines in it, breaking the tension at the right moments but still keeping things tight against the overall story. And man is it an amazing, brilliantly crafted story. These characters are so multidimensional, so fleshed out. From wanting to smack some to wanting to hug and protect others, Holly once again has elicited some of the strongest emotions from me towards characters ever. The street life is written in so perfectly, giving a full view of it in a way that makes it so clear Holly did her research. It's just amazing, across the board, start to finish, and an absolute must read that you can't put down. I read it straight through, in one sitting, engaged the entire time. Books like this are why contemporary is my favorite genre. It will make you think, twist your emotions, turn your stomach, pull you through Joy's journey, and leave you glad for it in the end.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin: Okay, truth time. No review, mini or long, can do this book it's full justice. Seriously, it's phenomenal and amazing and brilliant and just... astounding. And don't think this is one you'll just read a little on. Nope, Michelle grabs you from page one and doesn't let you go. And even when you're "done" 454 pages later, you won't really be done with this book because it is ALL you'll be thinking of. And a huge part of the brilliance in this one? It's impossible to really talk about it without giving spoilers, because it is THAT intricate, THAT well crafted, with reveals at all the perfect times to let pieces fall into place while still keeping this air of mystery that is palpable and addicting. Then there's the characters. Mara is one of the most fascinatingly done characters, in part for reasons I can't say without spoiling things, but dang. Everything she goes through, her reactions and emotions and everything else... are so realistic, so beautifully done, and is a true testament to the natural, amazing writing ability Michelle has. And Noah. Oh, Noah. I know this is a lofty statement, but I'll say it. He is the hottest boy in YA. That's right, he even beats out my love of Adrian from Vampire Academy because he is the cocky jerkwad with the giant heart, which is a HARD thing to pull off and yet, Michelle does it, so smoothly it's like she didn't even try. This boy will make you grin, swoon, melt, and some other things that I'll refrain from saying for the sake of my younger readers. And I could keep going, and want to keep going, because that's how amazing this book is, with the amazing banter (I also say this: it's the best banter around, not dependent only on insults, and is smooth and flowing and so natural), and stellar writing and unique descriptions and brilliant story. Basically, whether you like contemporary or supernatural, read this one. It straddles that line perfectly, and it is basically flawless. I adore it. End of story.

Author Guest Post: Talking Characters with Jo Treggiari

You guys all know how character oriented I am, from what plays the biggest role for me in a book to what I want to know from an author. So when I had the chance for Ashes, Ashes author Jo Treggiari to guest post my blog, I immediately wanted something character related. And let me say, she didn't disappoint, sending over an awesome post all about how her characters come about. Whether you're a reader or a writer, check this one out because it's definitely interesting!

Most often when I begin writing something new, I start with the protagonist. The process is pretty vague at the beginning. Usually I can’t really pinpoint an ‘aha’ moment, it’ll be a swirl of ideas and pictures and thoughts swimming around in my head for days or months. I take lots of long walks and that’s usually when my conscious mind or my subconscious mind taps me on the shoulder and say ‘hey, why don’t you write something about so and so, or such and such?” A lot of ideas are discarded or re-shelved but if there comes a moment when I have a super clear image in my head of a girl or a boy or a dog or whatever, then usually a story can unfold from there.

With ‘Ashes, Ashes’ it was a variety of things. I’d been reading a lot about global warming. My young kids were enduring a plethora of vaccinations. I was intrigued by my 2 year old daughter’s fearlessness, and most importantly one of my oldest and dearest friends had almost died in the Indian tsunami of December 26th 2004. She was swept out to sea and endured over 72 hours of pain and terror before being rescued. Afterwards she questioned her bravery, and that made me start thinking about bravery and cowardice and trying to do the right thing even when we’re scared.

Once I had a pretty clear idea of my main character, Lucy, who was drawn from all the places writers draw from – themselves, friends, strangers, imagination…etc, the other characters sort of fell into place. I knew what kind of boy I wanted Aidan to be- truly himself, fearless in a different kind of way but full of doubts too. And I had a lot of fun writing Del who is a complex character as well and has to make certain moral choices different from the ones Lucy makes, and then live with them. I hope that the dimensions in my characters are clear. Grammalie Rose, the oldest member of the scavenger camp and the person who keeps everyone together, is loosely based on my Italian nonna, although I made Grammalie Polish and a little more sarcastic. The fighter Leo was inspired by my old boxing trainer, who is pretty much the most noble person I have ever known.

Once I have a general idea of my main characters I write out sketches for them- anything from what they like to eat and wear to how short their tempers are. But often when I am writing, my characters deviate from my outline. It’s one of my favorite parts of being an author. I really feel that my characters have begun to live and breathe once they start thinking and acting for themselves even if they sometimes take over the plot.

Thank you, Jo, for sharing that! I admit you've got me thinking about my own characters now, too....

Make sure you guys check out Ashes, Ashes and meet Lucy, Auden, Del and the rest of Jo's characters, out June 1!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Book Review: Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade

 After being sent back from the light, Alona Dare - former homecoming queen, current Queen of the Dead - finds herself doing something she never expected: working. Instead of spending days perfecting her tan by the pool (her typical summer routine when she was, you know, alive), Alona must now cater to the needs of other lost spirits. By her side for all of this - ugh - “helping of others” is Will Killian: social outcast, seer of the dead, and someone Alona cares about more than she’d like.

Before Alona can make a final ruling on Will’s “friend” or “more” status, though, she discovers trouble at home. Her mom is tossing out Alona’s most valuable possessions, and her dad is expecting a new daughter with his wicked wife. Is it possible her family is already moving on? Hello! She’s only been dead for two months! Thankfully, Alona knows just the guy who can put a stop to this mess.

Unfortunately for Alona, Will has other stuff on his mind, and Mina, a young (and beautiful) seer, is at the top of the list. She’s the first ghost-talker Will’s ever met—aside from his father—and she may hold answers to Will’s troubled past. But can she be trusted? Alona immediately puts a check mark in the “clearly not” column. But Will is - ahem - willing to find out, even if it means leaving a hurt and angry Alona to her own devices, which is never a good idea. 

Packed with romance, lovable characters, and a k
iller cliffhanger, Queen of the Dead is the out-of-this-world sequel to The Ghost and the Goth.


The Short Version:

Both sassy and hefty, Queen of the Dead takes many of the elements found in the first book and expands them in a great way. With the same vibrant characters, new twists to the overall story along with a plot specific to this installment, and an easy shift between the dual perspectives, Kade's writing continues to remain strong, engaging, and fulfilling. Though the ending of this one is a major cliffhanger, it leaves things in the perfect spot for the final installment, with little to be predicted.

The Extended Version:
Alona continues to be her somewhat arrogant self, yet the way being dead has effected and shifted her is also clear. Though she most definitely makes some poor choices, her motivations are easy to understand and see, and the lurking pain she endures shows at just the right moments to keep a brash character sympathetic. Her connection to and feelings for Will had both a fun and gentle element to the book, showing a different side to both.

Will is still somewhat of an outcast, caught by what he is but looking for answers. His affection to Alona comes off in a hilarious way, both annoyed and intrigued by her, and the things he'll do for her, even when she frustrates him, speak volumes for his person. He is fleshed out even more in this installment, with further exploration of his ability, his family, and who he is.

The plot of this one centers around a few major things, that all combine and play into each other in a way that is hard to predict, but completely entertaining to read. With the same humor and fun along the way, despite some of the deeper moments of the book, Kade has built a fantastic world that is vivid and easy to understand. Her worldbuilding continues to grow, revealing new things at the perfect moments, while still doing a remarkable job of keeping things centric to her characters.

Kade's writing has an easy flow to it, with a distinct voice between both Will and Alona. The shifts between the chapters are easy to follow with the perfect endings, tying up one part before changing to the other character. The back and forth between the two is well handled, while still having two different story lines going as well.

This installment kicks things up, showing both the good and bad of both characters in new ways, and even changes the rules some. Kade does a great job of refreshing the reader for book one without data dump repeating things, and gets right into the action quickly. With a new character that adds plenty of mystery and twists, and awesome new elements, Queen of the Dead is a great read that keeps things light and fun.

Source: ARC received from publisher/author in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 272 pages 
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH 
Publication Date: May 31, 2011

Character Interview + Contest: Nick from The Lucky Kind

Here today I have Nick from Alyssa B. Sheinmel's The Lucky Kind to answer a few questions! This is a book that I really loved, and you guys know my even bigger love of boy POV books, so Nick was just a fantastic narrator for me! So meet Nick, get interested, then go check out his story, but you can have a chance to win it right after the interview!

1. Describe yourself in four words.

I kind of think of myself in relation to the people around me. So that would make me a son, a boyfriend, and a best friend. But that’s only three words, so for the fourth, I’d probably say that I’m a New Yorker.

2. If you could tell your parents one thing without repercussion, what would it be?

Don’t lie to me. If I’m not strong enough to hear the truth now, then hearing the truth is the only way I’ll ever become strong enough.

3. What's your favorite thing about Eden?

I have two favorite things: first, she almost always tells me exactly the way she feels about whatever I’m doing or saying. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of trying to be a good boyfriend. And, two, I love how hard it is to make her laugh because when I actually do manage to get a laugh out of her, I feel pretty amazing.

4. What's it like kissing Eden?

Each of her kisses is different; they’re never quite the same. There’s always the familiar taste and feel of her, but they change depending on her mood, on the time of day, on whether it’s sunny or cold outside. But no matter what, it feels like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

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

I can see my dad as Poseidon. He’s the kind of person who could take a rough sea and make it calm.

6. Because the ladies around here like to know, boxers or briefs? 

Umm…Ask Eden.

Thank you, Nick, for answering my questions! Even the embarrassing ones... 

The Lucky Kind is out now, so make sure you guys all check it out!

You can also enter to win one of two copies of The Lucky Kind by simply filling out THIS form!

Contest is US Only, and ends May 23.

No entries will be accepted through the comments, but please do leave a note for Nick and Alyssa!