Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review: Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

SUMMARY: Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans, killing them to absorb their energy. But this summer the underwater clan targets Jason Hancock out of pure revenge. They blame Hancock for their mother's death and have been waiting a long time for him to return to his family's homestead on the lake. Hancock has a fear of water, so to lure him in, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter, Lily. Easy enough—especially as Calder has lots of practice using his irresistable good looks and charm on ususpecting girls. Only this time Calder screws everything up: he falls for Lily—just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined. And just as his sisters are losing patience with him.


Very interesting in concept, with some original twists mixed into mermaid lore, Lies Beneath is a blend of love, loyalty and revenge. Though I had a tough time with the voice in this one, and had a hard time really getting into the world created, there was still an underlying intrigue that kept me reading. Notable, though, is the murderous side of the mermaids, and the connection between Calder and his sisters. Pulling in some dark elements, and very emotional at times, Green navigates plenty of realistic issues even in her finned hero.

Calder was an interesting character, and his longing for no longer being bound to Lake Superior and his sisters was endearing and hopeful. Though it sets him apart in not such a great way with mermaids, it bridges a gap to readers and navigates some harder issues. Though I didn’t feel like he grew all that much overall, and I didn’t completely understand what was driving him at some points, Calder was still a character I wanted to find out more for, and who I rooted for.

His sisters, in some ways, actually seemed to outshine Calder, though I think that is in large part because of the distinct way he viewed each of them. With varying levels of affection for each one, and a quiet frustration involved at being so attached to them, each of the sisters stands out with vivid personalities. Then there’s Lily, the girl Calder falls for and who throws plenty of kinks into the family’s plans. Different in some great ways, and very firmly rooted in who she wants to be, Lily was a great character both as a love interest and just as someone for readers to want to get to know.

The plot of this one had some good twists in it, though there was some predictability to it. While a few elements turned me off, and I had a really hard time with some of the specifics of how the family works, and the different bonds between them, I still really enjoyed finding out what was going to happen, and seeing if Calder would gain the freedom he so desperately wanted. With some intensely emotional scenes, and an ending that is far from perfectly happy, but rather something bittersweet and very fitting for the characters and story, Lies Beneath is a nice twist on mermaids with some stand out scenes.

Source: Netgalley 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Hardcover: 320 pages 
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 12, 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Exclusive Cover + Title Reveal + Contest: Emily Murdoch's Upcoming YA

I am so ridiculously excited to be taking part in the cover reveal Emily Murdoch's upcoming contemporary YA debut! This book was formerly titled The Patron Saint of Beans, and now has a new title... which you will see, below, on the cover!

And now is where I hush for a bit to let you ooh and awe at this gorgeous piece of work!

Um. Yeah. Is that not gorgeous, and intense? The straight on face of the girl, and the force of her stare is pretty freaking potent. Plus I love the woods, and even the little pond going on. Oh. Man. You guys, I want this book SO much. I've wanted it for months already, but now that there's something visual to it. Woo. Want. Need. Whine.

And now for what the book is about!

A broken-down camper at the Obed Scenic and Wild River National Park - dubbed the Hundred Acre Wood - is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey has ever known.

Sure, coping with a bipolar mother on meth is no picnic, but beneath the sun-dazzled canopies of Hickory and Walnut, Carey's violin transports her from their bare-bones existence in the same way her little sister, Jenessa, finds comfort in her stash of second-hand Pooh books.

Life is dependable that way, until Mama goes into town for supplies and vanishes off the face of Tennessee, sending social services in her wake with a one-way ticket back to their father - a stranger in an even stranger world. 

Guys. I need this book in my life something fierce. But you know what's even better? A portion of the proceeds will benefit Taylor Hendrix's Christmas Project: Seventeen-year-old Taylor, battling osteosarcoma, gathers gifts in backpacks to brighten the spirits of cancer teens in hospital during the Christmas holidays.

In case you missed it, that blurb up there on the cover? It's by Jennifer Brown. Yes, the amazing woman behind Hate List, Bitter End and Perfect Escape. And here's what she has to say: "Within two pages, I was so hopelessly hooked, I felt like the story had attached itself to me... This is one of those books you devour." 

Yeah. Woo! This one is coming April 2, 2013 from St. Martin's Griffin, but if you're like me, and absolutely cannot wait, then you're in luck! I have a chance for one lucky person to win an ARC of this one!

To enter, just fill out THIS form!

Help spread the word about the cover reveal and title change, be it on your blog, in a tweet, or on facebook, and leave the link in the form. This contest is US only, and ends July 6.

And don't forget to stop by Emily's blog, because she has even more to say about all this, and admit it, you know you want her side of things! Also be sure you add If You Find Me to your Goodreads shelf, and follow Emily on twitter. Her tweets rock, and she has some of the cutest pets around.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review: Ferocity Summer by Alissa Grosso

SUMMARY: "An engaging, realistic journey into drug addiction and bad decision making. Grosso's Ferocity Summer is a riveting read."--A.S. King, author of the Printz honor book Please Ignore Vera Dietz Would you rather be dead and know it, or alive and not know it?

Scilla Davis is haunted by a horrible accident that she was involved in last summer--a drunken, reckless joyride that ended in tragedy. With a big trial looming, life seems empty, unreal, and utterly hopeless. It's especially painful watching her best friend, Willow, slowly destroy herself with pills and booze. Yet Scilla can't seem to wrest Willow--or herself--from a path of self-destruction.

But there might be a possible escape from this nightmare. As a dangerous new drug called Ferocity sweeps the nation, an FBI agent asks Scilla to turn narc and help locate the Ferocity kingpin. In exchange, she could avoid conviction for her role in the accident. All she has to do is deceive and betray people she's known all her life...


This is a book that admittedly left me with mixed feelings. Many parts of it felt choppy, with confusing transitions that pulled me out of the flow of the book several times. Despite this, though, there was a quiet compulsion about that kept me interested, and Scilla herself was a different and enigmatic sort of character. She definitely is intelligent, with a very dynamic and partly cynical view on the world, and yet she is, in many ways, a slacker and someone who doesn’t even try to get past the hurdles put in front of her. This was frustrating at times, yet in an understandable and well scripted way, and Scilla will definitely intrigue readers. Her overall development had a good flow to it, and who she was before the accident and who she is now comes through clear, as does the way she changes by the end of the book on top of what’s already happened.

The plot of this one fell through in some places for me, slowing down and dragging at times and seeming to move too fast and jumpy at others. I admit, the big climax was kind of a letdown, and yet this is still a book that I mulled over for awhile after finishing it. Pulling in the drug aspect in a very realistic and forthright manner, and tying in the accident from the summer before and Scilla trying to figure everything out now, this one has several different arcs to it. Though they weren’t always tied together too smoothly, there was still an endearing and engaging quality about them.

One of the most notable things about this book, I think, is how Scilla deals with everything, and the way she views things. Despite being in a sexual relationship with her best friend’s boyfriend, the relationship really is just t hat: sexual. They aren’t dating, and in a lot of ways, Randy turns Scilla off and disgusts her. She doesn’t think too highly of him, and yet there is something achingly realistic and breaking about the times the two share. Partly out of convenience and partly from hormones, and also just natural curiosity, I love the way Gross wove this part of the story in, without it being gratuitous or taking too much focus away from the bigger things. Also in this thread is how Scilla tries to figure out loyalty, right and wrong, especially when it comes to Willow, her best friend. Torn between doing what’s best for her, and not betraying Willow, and facing some pretty hefty things, Scilla is authentic and a character I don’t regret getting to know.

The writing of this one didn’t follow the usual style of YA voice, yet it still had a distinct nature to it. Grosso does a great job of letting readers know how smart and perceptive Scilla is, and also just how different her view of the world is. Pulling in sorrow, humor, and fear, there is a range of emotions in this one, each filtered through Scilla’s unique mindset.

Overall, this one did have some parts that lacked for me, yet I loved the characters and some of the arcs incorporated. Gutting at times, frustrating at others, yet also hopeful, Ferocity Summer is far more than just a coming of age, and definitely one to be checked out.

Source: Netgalley 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Paperback: 288 pages 
Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: May 8, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Exclusive Harlin POV Scene + Contest (A Want so Wicked)

Today's the day! Suzanne Young's A Want so Wicked is officially released! I love this book in a ridiculous number of ways, even a little more than I loved A Need so Beautiful. I am SO excited that it's finally out there for everyone to pick up.

To celebrate, I asked Suzanne to write a scene from Harlin's POV, between A Need so Beautiful and A Want so Wicked, and now I am crazy excited to get to share it with you guys!

So with that, I bring you DESIRE! And a chance to win a signed copy of A Want so Wicked, after Harlin in all his sexy (and sad and broken) glory.

I stand at the railing of the Rose City Bridge and stare down at the black water. Air—icy and crisp—blows up the collar of my leather jacket, slapping it against my cheek. The numbness in my fingers would make it impossible to draw this scene now, even as the spiral bound sketchpad bites into my hip from where I rolled it and stuck it in my pocket. Water laps at the concrete pillars below, inviting me in.


My phone vibrates, but I make no move to answer it. Instead I close my eyes as the next gust of wind blows my hair across my face. My brother Jeremy tells me I should cut it, but I don’t. I can’t. I feel like I can’t do anything. He doesn’t remember Charlotte. I still do. I remember how she would cut my hair in the bathroom, towel draped over my shoulders. How her fingers would stray to lightly stroke the skin of my neck, and I’d murmur something dirty. Or loving. How she’d promise to be gentle, and how I’d promise her everything.

The phone stops vibrating and I open my eyes again, letting out a held breath. I’m sure it was Monroe—ready to offer more advice, more insight into why things had to be this way. But it’s bullshit. He’s bullshit. And I told him so before I left.

What I didn’t tell him is that I feel the pull, the desire to find someone. Desire. It’s not the same thing I felt for Charlotte—my Charlotte. With her it was about love and lust and life and... death. I look down at my boots. Right now I’m consumed with the thought of my own death, and how if there truly is light, truly is goodness in this world... that Charlotte will somehow find me there. In the light.

Vines of tremors spread up my arms, wrap around my heart and squeeze. I wince and look toward my Harley. I have to leave now, go to wherever I’m needed, wherever I Desire. Monroe told me about my plan, job, curse. I don’t think the aching will stop until I do what I’m supposed to.

But nothing can ever stop the way I ache for Charlotte.

See what happens next in A WANT SO WICKED.

I call first dibs on hugging the sad out of him, amongst other things, so back off on that front. But you can totally stare from afar.


So there you guys have it. A little exclusive tidbit to make your mouths water, and yes, you will see plenty of Harlin in A Want so Wicked and trust me, it. Is. Good.

And for those of you who can stand to wait to read this book, I am bringing you the chance to win a signed copy of A Want so Wicked!

To enter, just fill  out THIS form!

This contest is US only, and ends July 10.

No entries will be accepted through the comments, but you know you want to leave one anyhow. I mean, come on, it's Suzanne's release day and she wrote this scene just for you guys!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Character Interview: Adam from One Moment

I've got Adam from Kristina McBride's One Moment here today to answer a few questions to celebrate the book's release!

When you first found out Joey was dead, what was your first thought? 

Where’s Maggie? Joey’s dead, but Maggie’s missing. And I have to make sure she’s okay.

What’s your best memory with the whole group? 

Fourth of July, last year. The lake, the bonfire, the fireworks, and Pete playing guitar. 

With just Maggie? 

Dancing at the party that first night of Memorial Day weekend, before everything our group had become was destroyed.

Boxers or briefs?


What’s the best kiss you’ve ever had? 

Still waiting for the best kiss. And hoping. And wondering if it’ll ever happen.

What kind of dinosaur would you describe yourself as? 

The kind that is patient, but always ready to do what needs to be done. Even if that means it’s time to destroy something that I love.

Thank you, Adam, for stopping by, and congrats, Kristina, on the release!

One Moment is out tomorrow, and is a beautiful and emotional story with some great twists in it, so be sure you guys check it out!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

SUMMARY: A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family's love

Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she's blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong--until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She's not really a Murphy, but the gifts they've given her have opened up a new future.


With a great blend of humor and emotions, One for the Murphys is a cute and endearing read. While some parts of it felt a bit disjointed, and I would have preferred a little more depth and fleshing out to some aspects, it’s still an enjoyable and engaging story. Strong characters help make this one shine, and the lively but damaged protagonist will draw readers in.

Carley has a great natural wit to her, and a different way of viewing the world that isn't simply a product of her upbringing. Though she most definitely loves her mother, and holds a certain level of loyalty there despite the faults her mom has made, Carley also takes huge steps in recognizing that the life she’s led is far from normal. The kind of girl to keep her emotions in, and putting up an immediate fight rather than let someone get close to her, she’s a hard egg to crack but one that is definitely worth it. With a stunning character arc overall, her story is a sweet one that will resonate.

Mrs. Murphy has a strong presence throughout the book, challenging Carley in some big ways. Still loyal to and protective of her family, she navigates the lines between her children and the foster child smoothly. Never outright taking sides, and having plenty of battles of her own, Mrs. Murphy is a beautifully done and realistic character. While her husband sometimes comes across as conveniently brash, the way Carley slowly came around to him added a great note to the book, and also went far to help develop her character. Then there’s the three boys, each with their own distinct personality. The boys make for some great scenes, and watching Carley interact and get to know each individually was one of the best parts of the book.

This one has an overall simple plot, focused heavily on Carley learning to accept both the help and love she’s being offered. While there were some parts that felt incohesive and not as smoothly transitioned as they could have been, and a few places that lagged in the overall pacing, there are still scenes both funny and sorrowful in this one. The writing is sharp and natural, and the chapter titles are fantastic. Though not as fleshed out overall as I would have liked, One for the Murphys is still a cute read with some great messages to it.

Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 10 and up 
Hardcover: 256 pages 
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication Date: May 10, 2012)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

From the Writing Post

This is me, with my writer hat on again. This time, what's on my mind is going into a project that scares you.

I'm near the end of the percolating stages for the next book I want to write. I say percolating, because I am, overall, a pantster. Sure, I have an idea of the overall big picture, of where I want the book to go, even some key scenes. But I do not know, chapter by chapter, what will happen. I have no idea what my characters are going to go through. Which, usually, works for me. In truth, the scenes I end up loving the most are ones that happened when I just let my characters do what they wanted, or, more accurately, needed. I write on emotion and instinct, rather than anything too specifically mental and intentional.

But the book I am getting ready to start? I don't think my come what may mentality is going to work. I'm planning a nonlinear timeline, alternating between the past and present, leading up to, around, and after a very big event that is definitely a Before and After kind of turning point for my main character. I am not good at writing nonchronologically.

So this project? It scares me.

There are so many ways it can go wrong for me, so many holes I might end up writing myself into, or maybe not even seeing. A big part of me is, in truth, scared that this new concept is going to almost break me, much like SlackerBoy did. And some days, while I debate some more key specifics of this book, I wonder if I can handle that again.

But then I also think, how would I handle it if I didn't write this book, simply out of fear?

I realize that the obvious thing is to just try, and if it doesn't work, it doesn't work.

But that doesn't work for me. I'm generally an all or nothing kind of girl. So once I start this project, lord help me, I will finish it. No matter the tears, the hair pulling, the breakdown. Which sounds all empowering when I say it now, but when I'm in the throes of feeling like I am being completely outsmarted by imaginary people I made up in my head, by a book that I am supposedly the puppetmaster for... honestly? It's really hard to deal with.

I have no good advice on dealing with that. I can only say that I know, ultimately, I will start this project, because the idea is that strong in my head. And I know I will likely whine and kick and scream along the way, but I will write it. I don't even let myself think about what if it's not good... because I trust myself to make it good. Even if it takes a year and a half. Even if I do 6 rounds of revisions from the original draft just to get it to where people can read it. Even if it nearly breaks me.

Because even the project that I think might be the most breaking one I've ever written... didn't break me. So neither will this one. So fear and all, I am going with it, because I want to both grow as a writer and challenge myself, but not let fear shy me off from any book idea my brain latches onto with fervor.

Just as soon as I figure out how to blend the past and present...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review: Crazy by Amy Reed

SUMMARY: He’s falling in love—and she’s falling over the edge of sanity. From the author of Beautiful and Clean, a heartwrenching exploration of a romance marred by mental illness.

Connor knows that Izzy will never fall in love with him the way he’s fallen for her. But somehow he’s been let into her crazy, exhilarating world and become her closest confidante. But the closer they get, the more Connor realizes that Izzy’s highs are too high and her lows are too low. And the frenetic energy that makes her shine is starting to push her into a much darker place.

As Izzy’s behavior gets increasingly erratic and self-destructive, Connor gets increasingly desperate to stop her from plummeting. He knows he can’t save her from her pain... but what if no one else can?


Visceral and stunning, Crazy is a perfect look at the spiraling into depression and mania, and the fear that comes with it. Readers will fall in love with the two central characters who are as similar as they are different. With an interesting writing style, told entirely in emails, and plenty of gutting moments, Crazy is a beautiful and thrilling book.

Connor is sensitive and sweet, the kind of guy who is quiet and not always noticeable yet a rock once he’s in someone’s life. Somewhat of an outsider, and mostly just too smart to fully connect to his peers, Connor understands Izzy in a way she isn't used to, yet also in a way that he doesn’t fully grasp either. With a stable home life, and a fairly typical but not completely stressed relationship with his mom, Connor has a lot going for him, but is smart enough to know it. Clearly in love with Izzy, and frustrated at times with her distance and responses, she tests him in ways he can’t always understand and react to.

Izzy is fun, wild, and volatile. Battling her own demons of sorts, and trapped in that limbo state of knowing she’s overreacting to things but being unable to stop it, the growing danger around her is palpable, gutting and realistic. Someone who pushes those close to her away in times of stress, and who admittedly treats Connor pretty badly at times, just how much she is really reaching out for help is infused in nearly every page in her perspective. Certainly bordering into crazy territory, but fighting it the entire way, Izzy’s character is easily understandable, even for readers who haven’t been personally in her situation.

While reference is made to Connor and Izzy’s friends and family throughout, there is no immediate contact for readers with them for most of the book, due to the email style. This direct electronic dialog adds a new level of emotion, making this book visceral and physically painful, with a different sort of intimacy to the characters about it because of the unflinching honesty in every email. From normal frustrations and wants to things that neither character can fully grasp, there is a huge range of emotions, events, and experiences in this book.

There is a steadiness to the pacing that will keep readers both acutely aware of the days that sometimes go by without a reply from one of the characters, as well constantly gripped and engaged in the story. With a direct look into Izzy’s mind as she falls further into the depths of darkness, the psychological aspect of this story is both thrilling and gutting. With a painful climax and a well done ending for the story, this is one of those books that readers will be unable to put down, no matter the late hours.

The writing is poignant and real, not so much a second person narrative style as just reading someone’s personal emails. With gaps between some of the emails, and a stunning sense of urgency embedded into others, the passing of time is easy to follow. Pulling readers in just as easily as if this was “normal” narrative style, Reed is a truly talented writer who is proving herself once again in a new way.

With some fun moments mixed into an otherwise painful background, and a desperation to both characters that is prevalent in their words, Crazy is stunning, bold and breathtaking. Pulling off the email style perfectly, and unflinching in every aspect, Reed is a truly talented author who shines with this book. Even those who don’t love contemporary fiction need to pick this one up, and they won't be able to forget it.

Source: Galley Grab 
Reading level: Ages 14 and up 
Hardcover: 384 pages 
Publisher: Simon Pulse 
Publication Date: June 12, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cover + Trailer Tour: Anastasia Forever by Joy Preble

I am so excited to be a part of the exclusive ANASTASIA FOREVER BLOG TOUR! Only a lucky few have the chance to debut this trailer, and I’m beyond thrilled to see where Anne’s dreams lead her in the third and final installment of the DREAMING ANASTASIA Series. Will she unlock the secrets of the past before they destroy her future?

Here’s the scoop on the DREAMING ANASTASIA Series!

There is so much to love about this series as Joy brilliantly blends Russian history, romance, magic and mythology into an enticing adventure.

In DREAMING ANASTASIA, Anne Michaelson begins to have unusual dreams and discovers that she is the only one who can save the daughter of the last tsar of Russia, Anastasia Romanov. Believed to be dead by the world, Anastasia has been kept captive all these years by the Russian witch Baba Yaga, and only Ethan, a handsome and mysterious 18-year-old, can help Anne free Anastasia.

Anne once again leaves behind her ordinary life in HAUNTED to join forces with the mysterious and gorgeous Ethan as the journey with the Romanov continues. This time she is haunted by classic figures from Russian mythology, a rusalka, , a Russian folklore mermaid with a malevolent streak – and a particular interest in Anne, who tells her that Anastasia is still alive. As she and Ethan team up, Anne’s search for the rusalka’s identity reveals deep and startling secrets - including the true source of Anne’s powers.

Now in ANASTASIA FOREVER, having survived Baba Yaga and the Rusalka, Anne finds herself bound by the witch to undertake a journey into past, present, and future that will determine her destiny - and that of everyone she loves.

Catch a preview of the danger, romance, and magic await Anne in this exciting glimpse ahead of ANASTASIA FOREVER by taking a look at a special sneak peak with the first three chapters here!

Now check out the trailer

ANASTASIA FOREVER comes out this August, be sure to look out for all things Anastasia at Joy’s website

Release Day Top Five + Contest: Something Like Normal

Today, Trish Doller's debut, Something Like Normal, is officially out on shelves. This book is easily one of my favorites ever, and as of right now, my favorite book of the year. This is one of those books that I wanted so, so badly, I was bordering on petulant waiting for my copy. It's also a book that just completely captivated me.

So to celebrate what I think is a truly stunning and worthy book, I'm giving you the guys the top five reasons everyone needs to get their hands on a copy of this one, and I'm giving you the chance to win your very own copy!

5. I totally cried. And I am not a crier. I can name several books that had most everyone in tears and other than maybe some misty eyes, nothing from me. But this one? Tears. More than once. Not really an ugly cry for me, but getting close to it. (Don't let the tears shy you away. It's a good cry.)

4. The writing is amazing. Seriously. There is something so to the point, yet also with some amazing descriptions, and an easy flow to it that just totally sucks you in. And since we all know writers only get better with time, considering how strong her debut was... we can expect amazing things from Trish down the road. (Which is why you all need to go buy the book, to ensure there are more books from Trish.)

3. The story. This is the best mix of romance, figuring your crap out, overcoming some pretty big things, and just learning who you are. Sure, Travis has been through a lot. And yeah, I'm not a boy, and I've never served in a war. But I still totally related to Travis. I got him, I got his struggles. This is a book that will heat you up and cool you down just as fast. It will tear your heart apart and stitch it back together. It will just get into every part of you, and stay with you for a long time after you're done. This is one of those books that is a painful journey, but one of the best ones you can possibly take. (And it's just silly to let yourself miss out on it.)

2. Harper. I have a total girl crush on her. She may not be the character's head you're in, but you still get to know her really well, even the parts of her that aren't blatantly stated or shown. She doesn't take crap, per say, but she also doesn't hold grudges longer than needed and doesn't just let things fester until it's too late. She can forgive, but she's not a doormat, and she is just, really, the kind of girl that we should all, at least in part, strive to be. (She also totally cracks me up. And saves baby sea turtles.)

1. Travis. Not only is this book male POV (And done amazingly, might I add), but Travis is just. Wow. He's that cocky, somewhat arrogant dude that you just want to punch in the face, but he's also that intense, caring, perceptive guy that you want to break through the front of and get to know, and he's that guy who is broken, but not so broken he's beyond repair. He is just an all around amazing, flawed, realistic, honest, loyal, true guy, and okay so I totally would do him, but I also would love to just know him. (Yes, he's totally that guy who you want to kick in the balls even while you hug him and protect him. Cue Melty Kari.)

Stole this from Trish's links. It's just perfect for Travis.
So there you guys go. That's just 5 of the numerous reasons why you should not let this book pass you over. Even if you're not so big on contemps... even if you don't connect as well to a male narrator... you NEED this book.

Which is why I am giving away a copy of this book, to one lucky winner.

To enter, just fill out THIS form!

This contest ends July 3, and IS international, as long as The Book Depository delivers to you.

No entries will be accepted through the comments, but you should totally leave a comment anyway. I mean, we ARE celebrating here!

New Cover Reveal: Taken by Erin Bowman

Okay, I normally don't scramble to post about a new cover right away. I know it can get kind of annoying when your reader feed is filled with the same post over and over. But, this time, I made an exception because, frankly, not only is this cover just totally gorgeous, it's for an author I think is seriously awesome and would love to meet in person one day, and for the book that is my number one most wanted right now.

So before I do some more gushing, I give you the cover for Erin Bowman's upcoming debut Taken:

Umm. Yeah. Is that not just a totally stunning, eye catching cover? I am so utterly enamored with this cover it's possibly bordering on ridiculous. This is totally a cover to make out with. Admit it. You know you want to.

I love the color scheme of this one, first and foremost. The dusky feeling, the hint of something bad to come, yet also the light that maybe is a bit hopeful? But more than that, I love the tree. Creeptastic! And the mirror effect of the tree on the ground, like it's trying to swallow the people up. Um. What? Not to mention, I love that the boy is looking back - especially mirrored down it's a great effect.

And really, I just love, love, love this cover.

I have been drooling for this book since last year. It is easily the book I want more than any others right now. And frankly, you should want it just as much as me!

And because Erin has, honestly, gone all out for her cover reveal, head over to Pub(lishing) Crawl to see not only her reaction to her cover (I mean, come on, that's always one of the first questions we ask authors) and the full jacket flap/summary, but also for an interview with the cover designer!

Also, make sure you stalk... I mean follow... Erin on twitter and let her know what you think of her cover. But I totally call dibs on slipping it tongue... Ahem. She is fabulous to follow, not to mention she runs #namethatbook on the first Thursday of every month which is just a kickass game.

You can add Taken to your Goodreads shelf here as well. You know you want to.

Congrats, Erin, and another awesome job, Harper! I totally cannot wait to get my hands on this book!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Review: Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols

SUMMARY: A sexy and poignant romantic tale of a young daredevil pilot caught between two brothers.

High school senior Leah Jones loves nothing more than flying. While she’s in the air, it’s easy to forget life with her absentee mother at the low-rent end of a South Carolina beach town. When her flight instructor, Mr. Hall, hires her to fly for his banner advertising business, she sees it as her ticket out of the trailer park. And when he dies suddenly, she’s afraid her flying career is gone forever.    

But Mr. Hall’s teenage sons, golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson, are determined to keep the banner planes flying. Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business — until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers — and the consequences could be deadly.


This is very possibly my favorite of Jennifer’s books, so stunning in its characterization, original in some of the ways she twists things in, and all together just so well put together. With a great narrative voice mixed into the bold and fluid writing we know and love from Jennifer, Such a Rush is easy to fall into and impossible to put down. This is the kind of book I stayed up way too late reading, and then tried to sneak reads at work to be able to finish. Sexy at all the right times, and unafraid to bring in depth, emotion and pain, this one is the perfect mix of drama and romance.

Leah is an amazing character, one who has plenty of battle wounds that causes her to keep a barrier up against others, someone who is ashamed of the trailer park she lives in yet determined to have more in her life. Able to take care of herself, in large part due to her less than stellar and often absent mother, Leah is a bit of a firecracker but a great one. She’s intense, loyal and passionate, with this stunning strength to her, and yet the moments when that crumbles, letting the vulnerability shine through are some of the best in the book. With instances of self doubt, and even letting her own self worth drop, Leah is a very easy character to understand and relate to. While her specific situation might be different than many other’s, the way she reacts and takes everything isn't. Add in her love of flying and determination to be a pilot, and she is a very memorable character.

Grayson is an equally stellar character, a guy who has made some mistakes and suffering for it now after the loss of his father and brother. Feeling like he has so much to make up for, and suddenly trying to take care of his family, Grayson is a whirlwind of emotions and intensity that will leave readers breathless. Torn between what he wants and what he thinks is best, and seriously stubborn to a fault, Grayson is the kind of guy you want to hit as much as you want to hug. Like Leah, he has this rough exterior with a soft interior, and watching the moments when he softens, when he lets his feelings show through are poignant and enamoring.

One of the most notable aspects of this book is the realism, not only of the raw emotion infused so perfectly but the trailer park lifestyle Leah has always known. Ribbed on for being poor, spacing out one meal to last her two or three, and stuck without transportation beyond walking or the school bus, the very different way of life she knows compared to her peers is beautifully showcased without being stereotypical or offending. Using what she has to further herself, albeit at the expense of her reputation, Leah is hurt at the sexual way she is often viewed yet unwilling to tone it down (even though often times, she doesn’t fully realize how she’s coming across) if that means having nothing. Holding herself to a higher self worth than many of the people who live in the trailer park with her, and especially compared to her mother, Leah’s struggle and determination to break free is so gutting and poignantly done. Also steeped perfectly in realism is the pilot aspect of this, from learning to continuing to fly, and everything in between.

Though heavily focused on Leah’s struggles and the overall emotions, there is also a great plot mixed into this one. With plenty of unexpected turns, Such a Rush will keep readers gripped and engaged. Though sometimes heavy on the flight stuff, it’s woven in so smoothly and naturally that it feels fitting, rather than overbearing. While a few of the plot twists are a little predictable, it’s one of those things where the clues are given to let you predict it and yet, when it’s revealed, you still feel a little sucker punched. Testing the lines of love and loyalty, friendship and more, and doing it smoothly and with flair, Such a Rush is everything a contemporary should be and more.

Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review 
Hardcover: 336 pages 
Publisher: MTV Books
Publication Date: July 10, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sun-Proof Fiction Contest: Win 1 of 3 Prize Packs from HarperTeen

HarperTeen is at it again, putting together some awesome promotional stuff. Now that summer is here, they're offering samples of nine of their (totally awesome) paperbacks, and calling it SPF9... you know, Sun-Proof Fiction. Because, really, books make great shade! Just picture yourself, lying out this summer, soaking up some sun, blocking said bright sun out with a book and getting lost in it.

So to celebrate, I've got 3 SPF Prize Packs up for grabs!

There will be three winners, one for each pack below:

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson
Darkness Before Dawn by J.A. London
Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell
The Temptation by Alisa Valdes
Something Deadly This Way Comes by Kim Harrington

Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mylnowski
Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
Social Suicide by Gemma Halliday

To enter, just fill out THIS form

There will be three winners. This contest is US only, and ends June 27.

And if that's not enough for you, HarperTeen has even more awesomeness going on all month long, and on their Facebook page, where you can enter right now to win 1 of 9 Prize Packs!

Did you know… books provide excellent shade? HarperTeen is giving you the chance to sample your very own Sun-Proof Fiction with nine of our most fantastic summer reads in paperback. During the month of June, we’ll be tweeting our favorite beach reading photos with #spf9 hashtag, giving away books and more on HarperTeen’s Facebook, and spreading the word that books can be better than sunglasses.

Cover Reveal: The Reese Malcolm List

I am so incredibly excited to share the cover of Amy Spalding's debut, The Reese Malcolm List, with you guys today!

The Reese Malcolm List is coming February 2013 from Entangled Teen, and I absolutely cannot wait for it!  So without further ado...

Is this cover not completely adorable? Not to mention, I love the blurb from one of my favorite authors on it...

So in case you missed my post last week talking with the cover model and the author, here is at the very least the summary of the book:

Things I know about Reece Malcolm: 
1. She graduated from New York University.
2. She lives in or near Los Angeles. 
3. Since her first novel was released, she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list every week. 
4. She likes strong coffee and bourbon. 
5. She’s my mother. 

Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm, until the day her father dies and she’s shipped off to live with the mother she’s never met. All she has is a list of notebook entries that doesn’t add up to much. 

L.A. offers a whole new world to Devan—a performing arts school allows her to pursue her passion for show choir and musicals, a new circle of friends helps to draw her out of her shell, and an intriguing boy opens up possibilities for her first love. 

But then the Reece Malcolm list gets a surprising new entry. Now that Devan is so close to having it all, can she handle the possibility of losing everything? 

Add it to your Goodreads shelf, and join me in the ridiculous wait for this one!

You can also check out all the bloggers who helped with both the tour leading up to the reveal, and the cover on their sites:
Young Adult Anonymous
Novel Novice
Clear Eyes, Full Shelves
The Book Cellar

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Character Interview: Calder from Lies Beneath

Today I've got Calder, the merman star from Anne Greenwood Brown's debut Lies Beneath, to answer a few questions in celebration of the book's release!

What’s the best memory you have away from your sisters?

I don’t want to give any spoilers so I’ll go way, way back and say that my best memories away from my sisters was the time I had alone with my mother. She’d take me to foreign film festivals and use the subtitles to teach me how to read. We went to all kinds of movies though--not just foreign ones. The movies were where we learned just about every human trick we know: how to drive a car, what to wear, how to flirt . . . . Movies with my mother . . . yeah . . . those are about the best memories I have.

Describe Lily in three words.

Brave. Beautiful. Non-conformist.

Boxers or briefs?


What’s it like to kiss Lily?

Geez, you don’t mess around. Well, let me put it this way, in my past, I did things I don’t like to think about now. I stole the best parts of people. I absorbed their joy into my soul. It made me feel like I was flying, like I could defy gravity. Kissing Lily makes me feel better than that. And the best part is, when we’re done, she’s still alive to kiss me again.

What was the first thing you thought when you got up this morning?

Hard to remember. Either, where did I stash my pants? Or, is it too early for the coffee shop to be open?

What kind of dinosaur would you describe yourself as?

Um... the kind that’s trying really hard not to be a dinosaur? Is that a cop out? Okay, okay remember that movie Jurassic Park? There’s a dinosaur in it that looks really appealing--kinda sweet--but then you get close and it spits poison in your eye. I guess that used to me, in a way. But not so much anymore.

Thank you, Calder, for dropping in and congrats, Anne, on the release!

Lies Beneath is out today so be sure you check it out!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Review: A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

SUMMARY: Whitley Johnson's dream summer with her divorcé dad has turned into a nightmare. She's just met his new fiancée and her kids. The fiancée's son? Whitley's one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin' great.

Worse, she totally doesn't fit in with her dad's perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn't even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she's ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn't "do" friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn't her least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

Filled with authenticity and raw emotion, Whitley is Kody Keplinger's most compelling character to date: a cynical Holden Caulfield-esque girl you will wholly care about.


A Midsummer’s Nightmare is, to date, my favorite of Keplinger’s books, showcasing her growing talent immensely. With a very compelling and beautifully scripted protagonist, and diving deeper into the emotions this time around, A Midsummer’s Nightmare is both stunning and aching. Moving at a smooth clip and holding a great blend of sweetness and rougher stuff, this one is striking both in the vivid voice and gripping characters.

Whitley is, in all honesty, a mess and at times, selfish in a potentially turn off way. And yet, Keplinger has written her so deeply that not once did I dislike her, but rather felt so much for her. Still stuck in the fallout of her parent’s divorce six years before, and living with a mother who has yet to get over it and constantly gripes about the dad, she acts out in some big ways in an unconscious effort for attention. A party girl through and through, Whitley keeps a barrier between herself and everyone else, classifying ‘friends’ only as though she plays drinking games with before going their separate ways. While getting past the partying ways plays a role in the story, it’s small compared to everything else she faces, most notably not only letting people close to her but seeing the truth in her parents. Idolizing her dad at the start of the book, but facing some big issues with him as things progress, there is a huge family element to this that Keplinger weaves poignantly. Whitley’s entire characterization is stunningly done, pushing her to some dark places and never making things too easy for her.

Nathan is an equally well done character, somewhat of a mess as well but in different ways. He challenges Whitley like no else does, and easily sees through the front she puts up. With scenes both awkward and tender between the two, but also having some hefty and painful ones as well, the growing relationship between Nathan and Whitley adds a huge element to the book. Though the fact that they’ll soon be stepsiblings certainly comes into play, the fact that they also have feelings for each other and aren’t actually related also wars against that. Keplinger straddles that line smoothly, and goes far to develop her characters more because of it. Nathan is definitely a guy that will make readers melt, with a soft intensity to him and a big heart.

Then there’s Bailey, the soon to be stepsister, who is full of life and able to draw even cynical Whitley out of her shell. Forgiving even of the bigger things, and instantly accepting, she’s a great addition not only to the story but to Whitley’s story arc as well. While Whitley’s dad holds a certain distance from as the book progresses, her stepmom tries her best to be there, even when Whitley blatantly pushes her away. Torn between her fiancé, her children, and the stepdaughter she refuses to hate, Sylvia stars in some big and well done scenes.

The plot of this one focuses on Whitley trying to figure everything out and get over the several years worth of anger she’s built up, but Keplinger keeps things moving steadily and has enough subplots weaving through to keep readers engaged. Though there are some explosive and painful scenes, a few of them felt like they were over a little too quickly and easily for me, and one of the more potent plot lines felt like it wrapped up too easily and fizzled. Apart from this small facet, this book is intricate and intriguing, and will not only punch readers in the gut a few times but bring unstoppable grins to their faces as well.

Source: Hardcover received from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reading Level: 14 and up
Hardcover: 304 pages 
Publisher: Poppy
Publication Date: June 5, 2012

Author Interview: Amy Reed

Here today is one of my favorite authors, Amy Reed, for an interview in celebration of tomorrow's release of her third novel, Crazy! I am a total fangirl of Amy's books, of the rawness in them and the power behind them, and this is totally an autobuy author for me, so you can imagine my excitement at the chance to interview her... so really, let's just get to it.

Crazy is your third novel, all of which deal with rough content. What’s the hardest part about writing in this thread for you? The best?

I guess the hardest part is putting my characters through such painful experiences. Sometimes I really torture them. But it’s always for a reason—there’s a lesson to be learned, there’s something they need to discover about themselves in order to make better, more empowered decisions in the future. The best part is knowing that some reader out there will relate, that maybe reading my characters going through certain things will show them that they don’t have to.

Of all your characters, which was the most fascinating for you to write, that’s stuck with the most?

The boys are always the most fascinating to write because it takes a lot more searching to get them right. Jason from CLEAN especially. It would have been so easy to make him a stereotype. It would have been so much easier to make him a two-dimensional villain to hate. But I really challenged myself to love him, to discover the source of his cruelties. I think he sticks with me because he was my biggest surprise as a writer.

Who do you think needed the other the most, Izzy or Connor?

What a great question. It’s hard to say; they both needed each other so much. Izzy, in the end, may have needed Connor to literally save her. But she also just needed him to see her, and to care enough to do the hard thing and confront her. But Connor needed Izzy to push his buttons the way she did. Ultimately, he learned how to be brave, how to do the difficult thing instead of being passive. He risked losing everything in order to do the right thing. There’s nothing braver than that.

Describe Izzy and Connor in three words each.

Izzy: intense, brilliant, fragile

Connor: gentle, loyal, genuine

What god/goddess would be your nemesis?

Aphrodite. She’s like the mean girl at school. Everyone’s under her spell and thinks she’s all about love and romance, but really she’s manipulative and jealous and emotionally unstable.

What kind of shoe would you describe yourself as?

A clog

Thank you, Amy, for stopping in and congrats on the release!

Crazy hits shelves tomorrow, so make sure you pick it up, and if you haven't already, do yourself a favor and go ahead and pick up Beautiful and Clean as well. You'll want everything Amy writes.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Review: What I Didn't Say by Keary Taylor

SUMMARY: Getting drunk homecoming night your senior year is never a good idea, but Jake Hayes never expected it all to end with a car crash and a t-post embedded in his throat. His biggest regret about it all? What he never said to Samantha Shay. He's been in love with her for years and never had the guts to tell her. Now it's too late. Because after that night, Jake will never be able to talk again. When Jake returns to his small island home, population 5,000, he'll have to learn how to deal with being mute. He also finds that his family isn't limited to his six brothers and sisters, that sometimes an entire island is watching out for you. And when he gets the chance to spend more time with Samantha, she'll help him learn that not being able to talk isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Maybe, if she'll let him, Jake will finally tell her what he didn't say before, even if he can't actually say it.


Softly charming though not quite holding the emotional depth and intensity I had hoped for, What I Didn’t Say is a cute romance with a twist thrown in. With an overall sweet and nice main character, despite the major mistake he makes, this one is easy to fall into and get behind. Navigating things after a major life altering event, and holding a strong family component to it, there is something compelling about this one despite the ways it left me wanting more.

Jake is a caring guy, and one with a strong drive in him to keep going. Devastated after the accident, and angry almost more at himself than anything, he finds the will to keep going pretty quickly. Though I did feel like he settled into his new life almost too quickly, he has such an intense support system that it does make sense to some extent. Still, he had his moments of self pity and depression, but also reminded himself of all the things he still has. Guilty about what he’s put his family through, and leaning on them in the ways that really count, Jake pushes past the whole no longer able to talk thing pretty quickly and focuses back on what’s important to him, namely figuring things out with the girl he’s loved for so long. He goes through some great change in his mindset towards things, not only because of what’s happened to him but due to other things thrown at him as well, and there is something endearing about him that will warm readers.

Admittedly, I didn’t feel like there was anything too specific driving this book. The pacing fell off more than once for me, and things seemed to just amble along. Ultimately, it’s a romance, despite the way the blurb makes you think there’s a lot more to it. This book is about Jake trying to figure out things with Sam, taking into account the situations they are both in individually, and then together, but keeping the primary focus on their budding relationship. Truthfully, I felt like actually losing his ability to talk wasn't too big of a factor in the book, beyond giving Jake more of a reason to want to talk to Sam in any way he can. There are some very wrenching moments to this book, but they are few and far outweighed by the sweet ones. Though some of those sweet moments were a little too, well, sweet, for my liking, and kind of corny at times, there is still a lot of heart in this book.

This one is well written, although I felt like the voice lacked a little for a male character. The setting for this one is very well described, bringing it to life in a great way. The impact living on a close knit island has had on Jake is shown throughout the book, and Taylor does a good job of doing this without it being forced or obvious. While there wasn’t quite enough drive in this plot for me, and I went in wanting much more emotional turmoil and depth, this was still a feel good and cute read that fans of romance will enjoy.

Source: Netgalley 
Paperback: 326 pages 
Publisher: CreateSpace/Keary Taylor
Publication Date: April 30, 2012

Cover Reveal Blog Tour: The Reece Malcolm List

I'm all kinds of excited to have Amy Spalding here today to celebrate the upcoming cover reveal for her YA book that hits shelves February 2013 from Entangled Teen: The Reece Malcolm List!

So let's get right into finding out about Amy and her book!

Check out Tuesday’s post at Young Adult Anonymous to find out how my unique cover story started, Wednesday’s post at GReads! to see how I convinced my publisher to let me have a custom photograph shot, and yesterday’s post at Novel Novice to learn about the styling for the book cover. Thanks so much to A Good Addiction for having me today!

So once I had my photographer and location—I needed a model. Luckily, living in L.A., it’s not exactly tough finding one. But for me it was even easier, because a friend of mine happens to look young enough to more than pass as a teenager, plus she has a great background in young adult lit!

AMY SPALDING: Hi Cassandra, thanks for taking time to talk to me!!

CASSANDRA MORRIS: Of course! I love talking to cool people. Or any people, really.

AS: You have a pretty interesting career - can you give me an idea of your background and all the projects you're involved in?

CM: Thanks! These days, I’m a Jane of All Trades. I’m an actress who specializes in voiceovers. I play cartoon and video game characters, those random girls you hear on radio spots, and I narrate audiobooks (sometimes called books on tape). I’m also a Prom Expert! I write about prom, homecoming and formal fashion for About Prom and for David’s Bridal. And this fall, I’m going to photography school. Phew!

AS: Being a prom expert sounds like the most amazing gig ever. Can you tell me more about it?

CM: I write a lot about how to pick out the perfect dress and which accessories should go with it, formal hairstyles to try, makeup looks for prom, how to get a date to the dance, how to plan proms, and stuff like that. It’s a lot of fun. I still can’t believe I get to look at pretty dresses all day and then write about them. I’ve always loved getting dressed up, and now I get to help girls look amazing for one of the most memorable nights of high school!

AS: How did you get into reading YA audiobooks?

CM: I went to a voiceover audition that needed a young-sounding girl to read a book called Dear Zoe by Philip Beard. I had never done an audiobook before, but as soon as I read the audition chapter, I knew that I wanted it. I just loved the story and connected with it and really wanted to bring it to life. I ended up booking it, and it become my very first audiobook job! Afterwards, that studio started using me for more and more audiobook jobs, and eventually my name got around to other studios, too. It just kind of built up from there.

AS: What are some YA audiobook titles you've read? Which were your favorites? Have you had any interesting experiences with any?

CM: I’ve read almost 100 of them… a lot of them were part of a series like Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl and The Clique. Right now I’m working on The Lying Game series.

The best was doing Pretty Little Liars. I recorded them consecutively over a month and a half, and my studio engineer and I were dying to find out who A was. At the end of every few chapters we’d exchange theories and be like, “It’s got to be Spencer!” or “No way, it’s the police officer!” My engineer was a 20-something guy, by the way. He was really into it.

AS: Obviously when Jessie and I were casting the model for the cover of The Reece Malcolm List, you were the first person we thought of. How do you feel about being an adult who gets to play a sixteen-year-old?

CM: I’ve always looked way younger and been way shorter than my age, so I’ve always had to deal with the “you’re HOW old?” question and people not believing me when I tell them how old I am. That, and freaked-out stares. I guess I don’t really mind it.

The only time I don’t like it is when I’m in a “professional” environment and people assume I’m a high school intern who doesn’t know anything about anything that’s going on… when really, I’m the person who should be answering all their questions.

AS: Are you excited to be on a book cover?

CM: Yes! I did some kids modeling when I was little, and I always wanted to be on a book cover because I was such an avid reader. But, I was never picked for one. So, this is seriously a childhood dream come true! And it’s doubly special because it’s a friend’s book, so it means so much more. I can’t wait until it comes out. I’m going to buy five copies!

Tune in Monday to Clear Eyes, Full Shelves to find out more, and come back here on Wednesday, June 13, for an exclusive reveal of The Reece Malcolm List’s cover!

You can add The Reece Malcolm List to your Goodreads shelf here, find Amy on twitter, and check out Amy's website.

About Amy: Amy Spalding grew up in St. Louis, but now lives in the better weather of Los Angeles. She received a B.A. in Advertising & Marketing Communications from Webster University, and currently works as the Digital Media Planner for an independent film advertising agency. Amy studied longform improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, and can be seen performing around L.A. Her debut novel, The Reece Malcolm List, will be published by Entangled Teen in 2013, and combines many of her favorite things in life, including Stephen Sondheim and boys with great hair.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

SUMMARY: It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?


Completely captivating, enthralling and entrancing, This is Not a Test is the perfect blend of the contemporary and emotional components I love from Courtney Summers, with the upped stakes and risk that comes with a zombie takeover. With an intriguing blend of one character’s mental state of ready to give up and a group of people who want nothing more than to live, This is Not a Test will challenge readers in the most painful but beautiful of ways. There is a guttural rawness to this one that will keep readers turning the pages, marking this as the kind of book that lasts long after the last sentence.

Sloane is broken in the best kind of way, a girl who is so beat down from everything in her life that she’s ready to be done. Finally taking the step on her own to end it all, but not succeeding as she hoped, Sloane finds herself immersed in a life or death situation that she feels like she’s unable to get out of. After pushing through everything and finding shelter and safety, Sloane isn't sure how she can kill herself now. Not so far gone that she’s unable to think of the others, but still so wrapped up in her pain she is determined to find a way, there is something poignant but brutal about being in her mind. Taking the opportunities she can to figure things out for herself, yet having to wreak the consequences of her decisions, Sloane is tested in some new and unexpected ways that will capture readers. She goes through a tremendous amount of growth and change, both in who she is and the way she sees the world and reaching beyond simply finding a reason to want to live.

There is a relatively small but strongly build cast with this one, pitching several different personality types against each other. Tensions are high, and an undercurrent of fear keeps people on their toes and in each other’s faces. While Sloane sticks to the sidelines, she is still a constant presence and has her own impact on each person. Summers does a remarkable job of making each character stand out in a way that keeps readers from getting them confused, and also will make different readers react to and side with different characters, depending on who they are, and never making them feel like they’re siding with the wrong person, nor is the reader’s take on everyone dependent on Sloane’s. The way the situation impacts each character is beautifully portrayed, even though Sloane’s perspective, and each character will leave their own mark.

Having a strong driving force behind it that is more than just a base instinct to survive, and holding a high psychological feel with a strong emotional component, This is Not a Test has a smooth pacing and a style that will draw readers in. With some mystery to it, and a few unexpected and gutting twists thrown in, this one is both a character and plot driven kind of book. The effects of being holed up against the outside world for so long are explored, and the rising emotions and desires that come with it are shown, both outwardly and between the lines. While there is an element of romance to this one, it is far from the main point of the book, and happens in a realistic way, with bursts of intensity and then moments of softness as well.

Written in the same strong and fluid way that defines Summers, and having a vivid voice to it, this is the kind of book that cannot easily be described but is an absolute must read. Even if you don’t care too much for contemporary books, or for zombies, this book is so expertly done and entrancing that it shouldn’t be passed over. This book is a stunning exploration of human drives and desires, of finding your way back from being so far gone there's no hope. Beautifully navigating a sea of desolation, and setting it against a backdrop of strong survival, This is Not a Test clashes the two concepts in the most painful but realistic of ways, leaving readers gutted but better for it.

Source: TLA
Reading level: Ages 13 and up 
Paperback: 336 pages 
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: June 19, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Book Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

SUMMARY: A gorgeous debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.


Charming and cute, My Life Next Door is a feel good kind of romance with a few rougher moments thrown in. Pulling in an opposites sides of the tracks type of elements while still twisting it to something specific to this book, and not relying solely on it, this one pitches a softly growing relationship that soon turns passionate and determined. With great chemistry, and some strong characterization, My Life Next Door will leave readers a bit breathless.

Sam has a good head on her shoulders, even if her mother somewhat brainwashes her, particularly in regards to the family next door. Still, Sam sees beyond just what her mom does, and imagines herself over there plenty of times. When that starts to become a reality, Sam is tested against her mother in some surprising and well developed ways. Add in the big event the summary hints at, and Sam most definitely has some pretty big decisions to make. Even when she's seemingly at her worst, her mindset is solid and easy to understand, making her a very sympathetic character and one readers will certainly root for.

Jase makes for a great love interest, even if he was a little bit too perfect and put together for me. Though he does have his moments of weakness or even selfishness, for the most part, I felt like he had to be pushed to almost an extreme for these to show through. Still, there is something solidly endearing about him, a wit and charm and softness that will have readers melting. He is far from the usual broken or even cocky kind of bad boy seen in many YAs, and he definitely proves that being a rebel isn't the only way to get readers drooling. The chemistry between Sam and Jase is powerful, searing at times and completely captivating. Add in the way his own character develops, and the decisions he has to make, and there is more than just romance between these two.

This book is somewhat of a slow burn, building things between Sam and Jase at a steady but not immediately fiery pace, while also pulling in some other story arcs. While to some extent, this one was a little too romance focused for my tastes, having only secondary elements of something deeper, it's still an enjoyable and cute read. Though I did understand for the most part the way things went, there were some aspects that seemed a little too convenient or forced for me. Regardless, I enjoyed the heat between Sam and Jase, and especially love the way Fitzpatrick has blended the two different lifestyles right next door to each other. The secondary characters were all well developed and fun, and Jase's entire family has a starring role and memorable element to them. The writing is beautiful, very fluid and having some great descriptions, and it easily pulls readers in from the start. Both contemporary and romance lovers should definitely add this book to their radar.

Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Hardcover: 304 pages 
Publisher: Dial
Publication Date: June 14, 2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review: The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks

SUMMARY: When Wendy Geller's body is found in Central Park after the night of a rager, newspaper headlines scream,"Death in the Park: Party Girl Found Strangled." But shy Rain, once Wendy's best friend, knows there was more to Wendy than just "party girl." As she struggles to separate the friend she knew from the tangle of gossip and headlines, Rain becomes determined to discover the truth about the murder. Written in a voice at once immediate, riveting, and utterly convincing, Mariah Frederick's mystery brilliantly exposes the cracks in this exclusive New York City world and the teenagers that move within it.


A well crafted mystery with a interesting central character, The Girl in the Park pulls in some known elements in a well done way. Though the choppiness of the chapters and scenes, and the rapid switching between past and present, made it hard for me to fully delve into the book, there is still something addicting and intriguing about the book. Pulling in some rough emotional aspects, and having a quick pacing, The Girl in the Park is a fast but thrilling read.

Rain is more than just the shy girl – she’s the girl who’s been bullied enough due to her cleft palate and speech problems that she’s quiet and keeps to herself. When Wendy busted through that, and befriended her despite the physical problem, she definitely left a mark on Rain. Though the girls aren’t really friends now, there is still a quiet sense of kinship that drives Rain to want to find the truth behind Wendy’s death. Pulling in instances from the past and cataloging not only the good times but the bad times between them as well, Rain goes through a tremendous amount of growth that is scripted in a choppy yet well done way. Though she has her moments of weakness, and definitely has a few flaws, she’s a great character with a strong story and drive in her.

Wendy is brash and showy, the kind of girl who goes after other girl’s boyfriends and seems to have no qualms about it. A girl who gets around, and one who is the life of the party even in a bad way, it’s almost no surprise when she turns up dead on the park. Still, despite the in your face way about her, Wendy had a soft side to her, and was a great friend when it counted. Though she was the kind to get hurt easily, and created her own problems, readers will sympathize with her, and not just because she ends up dead.

The mystery around Wendy’s death, and the ensuing investigation, are well executed in a smart and realistic way. With little clues dropped here and there, but keeping the bigger things hidden, readers will make some connections but not all of them, giving them some feeling of control while still eager to find out the truth. Having a strong emotional and sympathetic element to it, and almost painful in the full scope, the actual reasons for everything are both realistic and understandable.

Quietly enthralling, though hard for me to get into due to the style of the writing and scene shifts, The Girl in the Park is a fast and fun read. I love murder mysteries, and this one didn’t disappoint. With a captivating central character, and pulling in some great elements, this one is enjoyable and worthwhile.

Source: Netgalley 
Reading level: Ages 14 and up 
Hardcover: 224 pages 
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Publication Date: April 24, 2012

Author Interview: Gwendolyn Heasley

Dropping in today is Gwendolyn Heasley to talk about her sophomore novel, A Long Way From You. For those of you who've read Gwendolyn's first book, Where I Belong, you'll definitely recognize the main character this time around: Kitsy! So let's get right to it.

While Where I Belong is about a city girl in Broken Spoke, A Long Way From You is dropping a Broken Spoke girl in the city. What was the most interesting part of switching it around for this book?

In 2008, I moved from Columbia, Missouri where I was a student at Missouri University (Mizzou) to Manhattan. In some ways, it was easier to write A LONG WAY FROM YOU because I still was new to New York when I was writing about Kitsy being new to New York.

Just like Kitsy, I know what’s like to move to a place that you mostly knew from movies and TV and how it’s a crazy (but exciting) experience to find out it’s a real place.

Was it difficult to shift from Corrinne's mindset to Kitsy's?

Although I’m sure I don’t always succeed at it, I always try to write my minor characters as full as my main character. When I wrote WHERE I BELONG, Kitsy, although a minor character, was very real and alive to me. Although I didn’t write a lot about her in WHERE I BELONG, I always had a good idea of who she was. Her voice was already in my head so it wasn’t too hard to switch.

What's your favorite thing about Kitsy?

Kitsy is brave. I moved to New York City at 26 and it took me a while to adjust, which makes sense for my personality. I adapt but it takes a while.

Kitsy comes to New York at 17. Of course, she has some misadventures, but I love her courage and her desire to get the most out of her experience. As Nicki Minaj puts it “everybody dies but not everybody lives.” Kitsy is very alive and works very hard for her opportunities but she also makes sure to enjoy them.

When you got your cover for A Long Way From You, what was your reaction, and how well do you think it fits for the book?

The cover of the book is Kitsy and Tad in a rowboat in Central Park. (The building in the background is the famous Eldorado, a residential building that’s home to many famous people including Alec Baldwin and Michael J. Fox.)

There’s a scene in the book where Kitsy and Tad do rent a boat in Central park, so I think the cover is very fitting. I also think the cover reflects how New York is surprising, which is a theme in the book. Even in the middle of a concrete jungle, you can still rent a rowboat and enjoy nature.

I love the cover and hope readers will too!

If you could pair Kitsy and the Art Boy with any character from any book, who would you pick for them? That’s is the hardest question I’ve gotten.

I think I would pair Kitsy with Katniss from Hunger Games. They are both driven by the love of their younger sibling.

I think I would pair Art Boy (Tad) with Shadow from Cath Crowley’s Graffti Moon. He communicates best through his art.

What kind of dinosaur would you describe yourself as?

Well, I’m not sure what kind of dinosaur others would describe me as…but my favorite is the archelon, a giant sea turtle. I think it’s amazing that ancestors of the archelon still swim our oceans and I love how turtles are at home in water and land.

Thanks, Gwendoln, for stopping in and congrats on the new release!

A Long Way From You hits shelves today so make sure you check it out!