Sunday, September 30, 2012

In My Mailbox (53)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

WON:

Thank you, Goodreads!
LIBRARY:

So stoked to read both of these!


PURCHASED:

Free for a limited time on
Nook, Kindle, and Kobo!


I'm on a book buying ban until February -
except for book club books!



What did you get this week?  Anything good?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Faerie Ring (The Faerie Ring #1)

The Faerie Ring
Kiki Hamilton
343 pages
Released: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: library
★★★★☆


You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I was sucked in right away when I started The Faerie Ring, which is a delightful little tale about a girl named Tiki who makes a living on the streets as a pickpocket along with a small ragtag group of friends  she considers family.  Together they live in an abandoned clock shop.  When Tiki accidentally finds her way into Buckingham Palace, she pilfers a unique ring to hawk for some money, but little does she know it's an important ring calling a truce between the mortal and faerie world.

Kiki Hamilton creates a charming little world in The Faerie Ring, which takes place in 1870s London.  It was interesting to go back in time through The Faerie Ring and read about the royals in Buckingham Palace and the grand parties they threw, as well as to take a look at the region and the no-so-rich who inhabited it.

Tiki was, by far, the best part of this book.  She was spunky and independent and even though she had a love interest or two in the novel, she did not rely on a male to save her whatsoever.  More than her spunk and independence, however, I loved her love for family.  Tiki really teaches us that you don't have to be biologically related to be family and family important no matter what.

Of course, the plot on the whole was fantastic and is what kept me reading as it moved along at a fast clip.  It was great learning about the faerie and their ring and how that impacted the human world.  It was a wild goose chase between Tiki "finding" the ring and having to get it back to its rightful owners and I'm looking forward to learning more about it in the next book, The Broken Wing, which was released this past August.

Four stars!  The Faerie Ring is a delightfully charming, light read that all fans of fantasy and fairy should enjoy.  Also, if you're a fan of Oliver Twist you'll enjoy that novel's presence in The Faerie Ring and the parallels between the two.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Eve & Adam

Eve & Adam
Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate
291 pages
Release date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Source: the publisher
★★★★★



You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I can't remember when I first heard of this book but I knew immediately I wanted to read it.  Obviously people really remember this writing duo for their Animorphs series under the name K.A. Applegate, which if I'm not mistaken I did read in elementary school.  But Katherine Applegate wrote a book series when I was in middle school called "Making Out" and that was my most favorite series at the time.  I devoured those books.  Ah, happy memories, but I digress.  I really wanted to read Eve & Adam and when a copy landed on my doorstep, I may or may not have done a little happy dance.

Based off the cover, I really thought Eve & Adam was going to be a futuristic sci-fi novel and while Eve & Adam is heavy on the science, it actually takes place in present day San Francisco!  When Evening Spiker, daughter of the infamous Terra Spiker of Spiker Biopharmaceuticals, gets into a bad car crash her mother whisks her away from the hospital into her own private facility.  While Eve heals, her mother gives her a project - design the perfect boy using the company's new genetic simulator.  While Eve is at the facility, she meets Solo - an attractive young man working for her mother.  But there's more to Solo and Spiker Biopharmaceuticals than meets the eye.

I loved this book!  Eve & Adam opens right away with the car crash that severely injures Eve, so I was drawn in from the first page and after that there was no reason for me to put the book down!  Immediately we learn about the "project" Eve's mother wants her to work on and as the novel goes on we learn more and more about what Spiker is really up to, what really happened to Eve's father and Solo's parents, and everything all comes together in one fantastic web of plot.  I wasn't bored for a minute and neither will you if I can convince you to pick up this book.

Seriously, pick up this book!  Even though the book is based on science, there was nothing boring or science-lecture-y about it.  The authors did a great job at making the science interesting and it really made me think about how these things are either possible right now, or are on the path to being possible in the not-so-distant future.  It really brings into question the idea of "playing God" both in the medical and scientific professions.  I think we can all agree that as humans we shouldn't be "playing God," but I can obviously see where it would be tempting to do so.  Even though Eve's mother was made out to be a bitch of a woman, I understand where she was coming from when it came to her daughter.

Five stars!  I highly recommend Eve & Adam for all young adult fans.  It's got some science, some romance, and definitely some action - I think there's a little something in this book for YA fans of all types.  This is definitely a series I will be continuing on with.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Velveteen (Velveteen, #1)

Velveteen
Daniel Marks
447 pages
Release date: October 9, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: the publisher
★★★★☆



You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I can't think of the last time I wanted to read a book so bad and I'm very thankful an advanced copy of Velveteen showed up on doorstep.  I was attracted right away to the description - Velvet, a teenage girl who has been brutally murdered by a serial killer she calls Bonesaw, lives in Purgatory now.  Purgatory is a dusty, falling down kind of place where everyone has a job assigned to them.  But Velvet feels her job gets in the way of what she really wants to do - go after Bonesaw and get revenge.

My initial thought before reading Velveteen was that it was going to be about Velvet getting her revenge against her killer.  I expected a lot of the novel to be spent focusing on that, but ultimately I was wrong.  While it was initially a little disappointing that Velvet wasn't going to spend all that much time with Bonesaw (she only ventures over there a few times in the novel) Daniel Marks totally made up for it in other ways.

First, the world building.  As humans, we naturally spend time thinking about the afterlife.  Is there one and what's it like?  I'm sure we all have visions of how wonderful Heaven is (my version includes endless shelves of new books ripe for the reading and a never ending supply of mashed potatoes) and how horrible Hell would be (a definite lack of books and mashed potatoes.)  But what is purgatory?  It's a little more difficult to imagine that one.  Maybe it's just plain white space?  Maybe you get a simply furnished dorm-room while it's decided what will happen to you next?  Maybe the mashed potatoes are made from flakes?

Daniel Marks answers all these questions in Velveteen, as he builds purgatory in a way I could have never imagined.  It's made up entirely of items salvaged from the surface, buildings put together by the hands of its inhabitants, I couldn't help but picture a city of crooked buildings covered in ash, like something out of a Tim Burton movie.  Marks does a fantastic job at setting scene after scene and I felt like I could easily picture the whole thing.  I think this book would translate well onto the big screen.

Second, the romance.  I can forgive Velvet for not attacking Bonesaw every day since she was a little busy with the new recruit to purgatory - Nick.  It's obvious from the moment they meet that there's going to be something going on between the two of them.  There's something attractive about Nick's carefree manner - he just died and went to this creepy place, but he's still chill and flirts with the best of them.  I can see why Velvet would be attracted to him - but she's so stubborn!  Velvet's personality might be off-putting if I were to meet her in real life, but as a character in this novel, I adored her.  I love the way she was willing to break rules to do what she believed in.

And that brings us full circle to Bonesaw, her killer.  I can't even begin to tell you how horrific the things are that he does.  You're just going to have to read for yourself and be shocked.  Read it, I say!

Four stars!  While Daniel Marks manages to build an utterly fascinating world, the pace of the novel at points was a little slower than I would have liked.  But ultimately Velveteen is an absolutely fantastic novel, perfect for this time of year.  It's out October 9th and if you're looking for just one book, dark and deranged to read before Halloween, it's got to be this one.  Velveteen was hauntingly gorgeous.  I'm definitely on board to continue on with this series.

Cover Reveal: Belonging by Karen Ann Hopkins

I read the first book in this series by Karen Ann Hopkins earlier this year.  (You can read my review of Temptation here.)  I'm a big fan of Amish fiction and to have had the chance to read a young adult piece of Amish fiction was exciting to me and I really enjoyed it.  I've been looking forward to the sequel, Belonging, ever since and today HarlequinTeen posted the cover on Facebook.


Ah, it's so pretty!  I love the colors with the sunset and the way the couple is standing and dressed.  Rose didn't dress very conservatively in the first novel, but here we can see she's trying a little harder, even though that dress is obviously still not Amish-approved because of the length and sheer sleeves.  I just can't wait to start reading Belonging and see how their relationship continues.  I have a prediction - we'll see if I'm right!  Belonging comes out in May, so if you haven't had a chance to pick up Temptation yet, I recommend that you do soon.

Who I Kissed

Who I Kissed
Janet Gurtler
312 pages
Release date: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Little Shop of Stories ❤
★★★★★


You can read the Goodreads summary here.

A friend (Hey, Kim!) gave me this advanced copy of Who I Kissed and I was excited to read it, but for all the wrong reasons it turns out.  I was looking for a fluffy contemporary and the cover of this book certainly says that, but the insides are completely different... and so much better than fluff.  There should be a peanut on the cover of this book, not an attractive high school girl with a hot dude standing behind her.  Why?

Who I Kissed is about a girl named Samantha who accidentally kills a boy by kissing him.  Alex was highly allergic to peanuts and Samantha didn't know, so when she kisses him at a party to make another boy jealous after eating a peanut butter sandwich... all hell breaks loose at the party and Alex dies on the way to the hospital.  Now Samantha must live with the stigma of her peers for accidentally killing one of the best-loved boys in school.

Oh.Em.Gee.  I has hooked from page one, I tell you, page one!  Before Samantha goes to that infamous party, we get to learn a little bit about her - she's a shy, serious gal who studies hard even on the weekends, rarely parties, and takes her swimming career very seriously.  She eats well and exercises and her idea of going nuts is going to a movie at night.  I loved Samantha from the beginning because she reminded me of me in high school - minus the swimming.  So when she aims to make her crush/almost-boyfriend, Zee, jealous at a party (yes, this part is a little fluffy) she decided to kiss the attractive Alex who evidently had a thing for Sam as well.

The fluff stops here.  Immediately Alex cannot breathe and, well... you know what happens after that.

I was really impressed with the way Janet Gurtler wrote Sam's character.  Aside from being relatable, I found every little thing Sam did to be realistic.  It's how I would imagine myself handling the situation.  Beyond Sam's character, I found the whole book to be realistic.  Even the kiss, though it sounds far fetched, seems like something you might see on the news these days.  Nut allergies are on the rise and the debate over what to do about it - ban nuts from schools? ostracize the allergic kids to a separate table? - brings a fiery passion from both sides of the debate.

I'm not going to lie - until I read this book, I was one of those people who thought nut allergies was no big deal.  I didn't think peanut butter should be banned from schools because of it, but now I've done almost a one-eighty on the issue.  Absolutely ban peanut butter from schools if it will ensure a life is saved.  No kid is that picky that they will only eat peanut butter, and if they are it's your responsibility as a parent to broaden their food horizons.  Leave the PB for the weekends.  Thankfully, there is research going on regarding peanut allergies.  According to the author, a vaccine is the the works and I've seen a few stories on the news in the past year about progress being made with exposure therapy.  Perhaps someday this won't even be an issue, but in the meantime Who I Kissed is an excellent example of a young adult novel taking on a serious issue head on.

[Where do you stand on the nut debate?  Let me know in comments!]

Also, let me just note without being spoiler-ish: there's a surprise ending that I loved.

Five stars - this book was amazing, realistic, enthralling, and really brings to light the debate about peanuts.  I read the whole thing in one night, and I would have done it in one sitting if I could have.  Please don't pass off Who I Kissed as contemporary fluff based off the cover and please give it a read.  I guarantee you'll enjoy it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Brightest Kind of Darkness, Tour + GIVEAWAY



Brightest Kind of Darkness
P.T. Michelle
248 pages
Released: June 28, 2011
Publisher: the author
Source: Refracted Light Tours
★★★★☆



You can read the Goodreads summary here.

When I was contacted to participate in this blog tour, I immediately jumped on board because I have seen this book all over the blogosphere and even though I've been wanting to read it, I hadn't gotten around to it.  Well, here was my excuse and I really enjoyed it!  I'm just going to say it: Brightest Kind of Darkness is like a romantic YA version of  of Final Destination and I loved every minute.

Nara dreams just like everyone else, but Nara's dreams are different - they show what the next day will bring for her.  Nara doesn't want to mess with fate so she tries to ignore her dreams, but when Nara dreams her school will be bombed, she feels she has no choice but to interfere.  Suddenly, she can no longer see her future in her dreams and those she saved are being injured at an alarming rate.  Can she figure out what's going on and fix it before it's too late?

As I mentioned, I really enjoyed this novel.  I was hooked from the first chapter when Nara must call the police to report tomorrow's bombing in order to save lives, but I was even more on the edge of my seat as the plot continued and it's clear that what Nara did changed her ability.  When she meets the school loner, Ethan, I was even more intrigued.  Not only because of their blooming romance, but also because of Ethan's relation to what Nara is experiencing.

Not only do Nara and Ethan work together on a history project together (hey, did they ever finish that?) but Ethan also knows where Nara's dreams have been going.  I don't want to give it away but the whole concept was pretty intriguing.  I'm really interested to read the next book and see them continue on in their fight against fate.

Four stars!  Brightest Kind of Darkness is a great, quick read that is guaranteed to leave you on the edge of your seat wanting more.  I, for one, am looking forward to reading the sequel, Lucid, as soon as I can.

If you're interested in this series by P.T. Michelle, be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win e-copies of Brightest Kind of Darkness and Lucid (international) or a signed copy of Brightest Kind of Darkness (US only).  You can check out the other stops on the tour here for more reviews, guest posts, excerpts, and of course the grand prize giveaway, which includes signed books and Nara's necklace!

Some other info:
BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS, BOOK 1
Nara Collins is an average sixteen-year-old, with one exception: every night she dreams the events of the following day. Due to an incident in her past, Nara avoids using her special gift to change fate…until she dreams a future she can’t ignore.
After Nara prevents a bombing at Blue Ridge High, her ability to see the future starts to fade, while people at school are suddenly being injured at an unusually high rate.
Grappling with her diminishing powers and the need to prevent another disaster, Nara meets Ethan Harris, a mysterious loner who seems to understand her better than anyone. Ethan and Nara forge an irresistible connection, but as their relationship heats up, so do her questions about his dark past.

Read an excerpt

LUCID: BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS, BOOK 2
Once Nara combines her prophetic ability with Ethan’s power to outsmart Fate at his own deadly cat-and-mouse game, she’s more determined than ever to help Ethan learn the meaning behind the raven sword tattoo that suddenly appeared on his back after their confrontation with Fate.
During her quest to uncover the tattoo’s secrets, Nara enlists the help of some new friends and discovers her own surprising connection to Ethan.
While Nara digs deeper into the mystery, her desire for answers leads her down a dangerous path full of powerful and ruthless enemies. Swept into an age-old battle, Nara quickly learns that keeping one’s enemies close can be a necessary evil, making an intangible enemy she can control far more preferable to the human enemies she can’t. 

Read an excerpt

ABOUT P.T. MICHELLE

P.T. Michelle is author of the young adult series BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS. When P.T. isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading or taking pictures of landscapes, sunsets and anything beautiful or odd in nature.

LINKS: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Newsletter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Magisterium

Magisterium
Jeff Hirsch
310 pages
Release: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: the publisher
★★★☆☆


You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I read Hirsch's The Eleventh Plague last summer, loved it, and even got my advanced copy signed at the 2011 Decatur Book Festival.  So naturally, I was pretty excited to read Hirsch's sophomore book - Magisterium, due out in a week from Scholastic.

Glenn has lived by "the rift," her whole life.  She lives in a modern world, but she's told never to cross that line marked by red lights, that who knows what terrible things lay on the other side.  Glenn is content to live her life, believing only what she sees and not believing what her friend Kevin says - that there's magic on the other side, a whole other world.  When Glenn's father, a mysterious inventor/scientist is wanted by the authorities, Glenn finds herself fleeing to the other side with Kevin with a special bracelet her father made.  It's there she'll find things beyond her wildest imagination.

Magisterium is a post-apocalytpic dystopian that slowly morphs into a fantasy.  It might seem like a lot of genres, but they all work very well together and I think this will make Magisterium appealing to almost any young-adult reader.  I really found the double-world in Magisterium interesting.  Glenn grew up on one side of the forest and blinking red lights, where children are essentially told there are scary things on the other side, never go there.  Meanwhile, those on the other side are told the same thing!  This idea of "polarization," as the author puts it, was very intriguing.  Not only do these groups of people live, not knowing anything about each other at all, but Glenn also finds herself in her own little polarized world.  On the one hand, Glenn takes everything as she sees it but on the other hand, her best friend, Kevin, and her father, believe there's much more to their world than what they see.

I don't think it's a spoiler to say Glenn was wrong and Kevin was right.  Glenn and Kevin have such a great dynamic in Magisterium.  They're best friends and while Kevin wants something more, I never got the impression that Glenn did.  To see them interact throughout the novel was fantastic; their relationship was complicated and realistic and was one of my favorite parts of the novel.

Magisterium isn't just a book about dueling worlds, mystical creatures and magic, however.  It's also very much so a story about the importance of family.  Glenn's mother disappeared when she was a young girl and even though Glenn believed that was it, her father believed there was more to it, that she was still out there and could be found.  I loved how much Glenn cared for her father.  While she was making plans for her future in the beginning of the novel, she also wanted to be sure her father would be cared for in her absence.  It was very sweet.

Three stars.  I really did enjoy Magisterium, but I didn't love it as much as The Eleventh Plague.  I loved the plot and the ideas behind the plot of family and polarization, but I found parts of the novel to be a tad confusing.  I highly recommend this one to fantasy fans, though, I think you'll really enjoy it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

In My Mailbox (52)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.


NetGalley:

Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes



The Girl Who Was on Fire



Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George



Won:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman



Ebooks Purchased:

Unspeakable by S.R. Johannes



Destined by Jessie Harrell



From the library:


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Liar, The Bitch, and the Wardrobe

The Liar, The Bitch and the Wardrobe 
Allie Kingsley
291 pages
Released: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Berkley
Source: publisher
★★★★☆



You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Let me start off by saying The Liar, The Bitch and the Wardrobe is a perfect beach read.  If you live somewhere in the country where it's still warm, you're going to want to pick up this book and head out to the beach this weekend.  Sit on the sand and read this baby cover to cover - you won't regret it.*

Allie Kingsley writes an intriguing tale about Lucy, a young woman fresh out of college who wants one thing and one thing only - to be a professional (and famous!) photographer.  So at the encouragement of her dreamy guidance counselor, she heads off to Los Angeles from her small town and scores an internship with famed fashion photographer Stefano Lepres.  But when things with Stefano aren't what she anticipated, she finds herself working for a famous actress instead.  But will that make her happy or disappoint her, too?

The plot drew me in right away, though the farther and farther Lucy got into her escapades, the more agitated I got with her.  To me, she was being blind and stupid and I kept reading hoping for some sign of redemption by the end of the book.  Thankfully, Lucy usually had that little voice in the back of her head telling her right from wrong, even if she ignored it sometimes.  The Liar, The Bitch and the Wardrobe is a relatively short book at under three hundred pages so that combined with the quickly paced plot made this one a fast and enjoyable read.

What's interesting about The Liar, The Bitch and the Wardrobe is that it's been "styled" by celebrity stylist Robert Verdi, which means Verdi picked out all the clothes the characters wore.  That was one of the most enjoyable parts of the novel - reading about the fashion Lucy and her rich friends purchased and wore.  The Liar, The Bitch and the Wardrobe really is a glimpse into the lives of the rich and the famous.

Four stars!  Or maybe three and a half.  You'll love this book if you love following celebrities and their antics.  Fans of the Devil Wears Prada and the like will also really enjoy The Liar, The Bitch and the Wardrobe, which reads like a more hardcore version.  I should point out to my readers devoted to YA that this novel falls under the category "new adult" or "adult."  *There is copious drug use in the book, so keep that in mind before picking it up if you don't like reading about those situations.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Butter

Butter
Erin Jade Lange
272 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: NetGalley
★★★★★


You can read the Goodreads summary here.

The book's description immediately caught my attention.  Obese high school student "Butter," weighs in at 423 pounds.  His days are pretty much the same, get up, eat a massive breakfast, go to school and sit alone to eat a massive lunch, got home, play the saxophone, have some dinner and chat with his crush online, who doesn't know who he is.  But when Butter makes the decision to commit suicide by eating himself to death online, suddenly his classmates are paying attention to him.  With some newfound popularity, Butter isn't sure whether he wants to go through with it after all, but if he doesn't will he still be popular?

Butter was such a fantastic novel and it didn't disappoint me one bit.  There have been novels about bullying in the past, but Butter takes it one step further and really captures that dynamic between the bullies and the bullied.  Butter is riveting, dynamic, and just so extremely significant in this day in age.

I really liked the way Erin Jade Lange wrote the character of Butter.  She really illustrated the relationship between emotions and eating - something a lot of people struggle with on a daily basis whether they're overweight or not.  There's so much discrimination against the obese these days, people fail to realize the obese are people, too.  That really came across in Butter.  Sure, Butter was massive, but he also had a sense of humor and he was a killer saxophone player.  There was so much more to Butter than just eating and being fat.

Above all, Butter just seemed realistic to me.  Thank the Lord I've never been 423 pounds, but I know what it's like to be teased and used.  I think there's a bit of Butter in each of us and that make him a very relatable character.  Anna and her friends also seemed realistic to me.  I can identify people I went to high school with who acted the exact same way about one thing or another.  As for the subject matter, unfortunately in our modern world is was also realistic; our youth are becoming more and more obese with every study that comes out; high schoolers are bullied and encouraged to kill themselves everyday.  Sadly, it wouldn't at all surprise to me to read in the paper at a teenager somewhere killed him/herself over the Internet.

But Butter isn't all doom and gloom!  As I mentioned before, Butter has a sense of humor and his interactions with the adults around him, from his high-school's band teacher to his doctor whom he sees very frequently, are all rather up-beat.  Butter is able to laugh at himself and with others, taking the edge off what would otherwise be a very heavy novel.

Five stars!  Butter is such a breakthrough novel.  It's an absolute must read.  Erin Jade Lange has the ability to tackle several serious subject without making the book feel heavy.  Butter was a delight to read and I'm looking forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

In My Mailbox (51)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

FOR REVIEW:

Broken by A.E. Rought



SWAPPED FOR: 

Forgotten by Cat Patrick



Magic in Manhattan by Sarah Mlynowski 


A big thanks to Strange Chemistry for sending me Broken - it sounds fantastic! 


Friday, September 14, 2012

The Dark Unwinding

The Dark Unwinding
Sharon Cameron
318 pages
Release date: September 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: the publisher
★★★★☆



You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I was excited to read The Dark Unwinding for two main reasons - first, it was being compared left and right to Jane Eyre, my all time most favorite classic.  Second, it was also classified as steampunk.  I was only let down on one account.

When Katharine's aunt suspects her uncle of squandering away the family fortune, she sends Katharine to check up on him, fully anticipating to send him off to an asylum.  But when Katharine arrives at the estate, she discovers an an eccentric uncle, but not a person who belongs in an asylum.  She spends a month hoping to find a way to convince her aunt to let the estate be, all the while falling in love with the house and it community of people.  But mysterious things are occurring and she soon begins to wonder if it's she who belongs in the asylum...

There are obvious parallels that can be made between The Dark Unwinding and Jane Eyre.  I won't go into them all now, but I will say I absolutely fell in love with the gothic setting, the big house and its moors.  Sharon Cameron did a fantastic job as describing the house and its eccentric inhabitants.  Even though the big house is practically desolate, that doesn't mean The Dark Unwinding was lacking for great characters.  Katharine was a strong heroine in her own right and her uncle was interesting to read about.  I can see why some might want him in an asylum since people didn't know as much about mental health in the mid-nineteenth century, but it seemed to me he was sane, just maybe a little autistic and/or OCD.

I found the plot to be rather interesting.  It was obvious something was up when Katharine (affectionately called Simon's Baby by her uncle) began hearing noises, noticing things in different spots than they should be, being accused of being drunk by her maid but not remembering what happened... I wondered right along with Katharine if she was the crazy one, but I knew she couldn't be.  Indeed something bigger was going on and as story came together in the last few chapters I was surprised at the turn of events, but it all made sense in the end.

But where was the steampunk?  Much like the romance in the novel, it was lacking.  The only steampunk element in the novel were the toys and inventions Katharine's uncle makes, which admittedly use a lot of gears, but there were no multi-use parasols or dirigibles or any other steampunk elements.  I was disappointed in that.

Four stars - I loved the gothic setting, but the book was seriously lacking in steampunk.  If you're a fan of Jane Eyre (or any such classic novel) I think you'll enjoy The Dark Unwinding.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ordinary Beauty

Ordinary Beauty
Laura Wiess
290 pages
Released: June 2011
Publisher: MTV Books
Source: purchased
★★★★☆


You can read the Goodreads summary here.

You can add this to the list of books I never would have read if it weren't for my book club, mainly because I'd never even heard of it until I learned it was our September selection.  Why hadn't I heard of this book, especially when it seems books that will make you weep (TFiOS, anyone?) are becoming more and more popular?  But the plot description appealed to me so I wasn't sorry to pick it up and read it.

Sayre was unplanned and unwanted and her mother never hesitated to share that with her.  Growing up with a drug and alcohol addicted mother was hard, but now, just two weeks after having left her, Sayre is told her mother is on her death bed at the hospital - liver failure and this time she won't be leaving the hospital alive.  It's a stormy winter night when Sayre tries to get to her mother's bedside, and along the way she can't help but remember what it was liking growing up not knowing whether or not her mother loved her.

Ordinary Beauty is told through two different story lines with the same point of view.  The first is what's going with Sayre right now - her mother is dying in a hospital bed and she's trying to get there before it's too late.  The second is a series of flashbacks of Sayre's life, from when she was a toddler through now, and everything that happened in between; different homes, different people in her life, different emotions.  The time shifts of the narrative really added to what Sayre was experiencing.  The flashbacks occurred at exactly the right time and helped us understand what Sayre was feeling in that moment.

And you would think that growing up having lost several loved ones and having to spend most of your time with a drugged out mother who doesn't give a shit about you would give you an unbreakable sense of depression, that you would succumb and become like her, that all your memories of your childhood would be black and terrible and not worth remembering.  But I was surprised to see that not all of Sayre's flashbacks are bad.  There are times in her life that she was truly happy and that made me smile.

Of course, there were those times when things were horrible.  Ordinary Beauty was heart wrenching.  It was very difficult to watch a lovely, smart little girl have to live like she did.  I grew up sheltered, I mean I'm not stupid, I know these things go on, but to see it in such a personal way was heartbreaking to me.  Me, the gal who never sheds a tear at books (but readily will at jewelry commercials) teared up a little.  Ordinary Beauty is a unique wave of emotions, it gets harder and harder to read as you go on, but you can't put it down.

Four stars!  Don't let the sad topic of the book keep you from reading Ordinary Beauty.  It's ultimately a beautiful story of hope and understanding.  Why this book doesn't even have three hundred ratings on Goodreads is beyond me, and I hope I have convinced some of you to seriously give it a look.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sultry with a Twist (Sultry Springs, #1)

Sultry with a Twist
Macy Beckett
320 pages
Release date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: NetGalley
★★★★☆


You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I don't often review romance novels on my blog since I think my followers are more of YA kind of crowd, but I do enjoy reading the occasional romance novel.  So when a gal from my online book club announced she was getting published, I knew I wanted to read it and was glad to get the chance through NetGalley.

Mae-June July Augustine left Sultry Spring years ago in exchange for Austin, where her dream of owning her own bar is finally being realized.  But when a warrant for her comes to light that she didn't even know about, she finds herself back in her childhood town doing a month of community service.  It doesn't help that she's away from her business just weeks before it opens, and it really doesn't help that the man who broke her heart all those years ago is still in Sultry Springs, just waiting it seems to break it again...

Sultry with a Twist is a small town romance with big heart.  There were so many enjoyable things about this little romance novel!  The first thing that struck me was the author's voice - Macy Beckett has  a fantastic writing style; she's great at describing a scene and infuses little bits of humor throughout.  As a result, Sultry with a Twist had me smiling throughout.

The characters were fantastic; I don't think I've ever cared about romance novel characters as much.  June was, obviously, my favorite.  She was making her own way in the world and didn't need a man to save her, except for that one time she was bitten by a snake.  June was a bit accident prone and it made her that much more likable.  Luke was a great character as well, but for different reasons.  He was very hard on himself, but it was obvious to me (and June) that deep down he's a good-hearted man.  And pretty sexy, too!

Four stars - Sultry with a Twist was a step-above your average romance novel.  It had an adorable plot and great characters that I actually cared about.  Macy Beckett writes with humor and charm and infuses her characters with the same spunky personalities.  If you're into romance at all, I highly recommend you get a copy of this when it comes out October 2nd.  Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to reading the next books in the series when they arrive in 2013.

In My Mailbox (50)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren

A handful of these books came last week, but I neglected to mention them in my DBF excitement.

FOR REVIEW:






PURCHASED: 


Free on Smashwords!


SWAPPED FOR:





A HUGE thanks goes out to Random House, Penguin, Zest Books, and Harlequin for sending me some great books this week.

What did you get to read this week?  Anything tasty? 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Covet (The Clann, #2)

Covet
Melissa Darnell
488 pages
Release date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Source: NetGalley
★★★★☆



You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Savannah and Tristan have broken up and while Tristan thinks they could have found a way to stay together, Savannah knows it was for the best.  Her powers as a teenage witch-vampire hybrid are starting to come to fruition and she doesn't want Tristan to get hurt.  Meanwhile, other things are afoot in the Clann world...

Covet is the second book in The Clann series.  The first book, Crave, I read last fall and you can see my review here.   Covet had that same special magic in it that Crave did, that something indescribable that drew me in and reminded me what a fantastic series this is.  As with the first novel, I found the characters to be fully developed and distinct, particularly Savannah and Tristan.  Even though they had different though processes on their relationship, it was obvious they still wanted to be with each other.  It was interesting to watch them struggle with the same issue in different ways.

Of course the plot was intensely interesting, as well.  There was always something going on in Covet.  It starts with what happens to Savannah's grandmother and the action and plot just doesn't really stop until the end of the book.  Oh, the end of the book!  I was flipping the pages on my Nook just as fast as I could for the last twenty pages or so.  I absolutely cannot wait until next year to find out what happens next.  I have a feeling that the next book is going to be just as great as Crave and Covet were.

Four stars!  The book dragged a little in the middle but despite its almost five hundred pages in length, I was addicted and didn't want to stop reading for most of the novel.  The ending was utterly spectacular and has me wanting more... now!  But I have to wait for the next book, Consume, to come out in 2013.  If you haven't started this series yet, I highly suggest that you do!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Forsaken (The Forsaken, #1)

The Forsaken
Lisa M. Stasse
275 pages
Released: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: Southern ARC Tours
★★★☆☆


You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Alenna is growing up in the U.N.A - an new super country that consists of Mexico, the U.S., and Canada.  All sixteen year olds have to take a test to determine their criminal tendencies and when Alenna takes the test, she's shocked to wake up and learn she's failed.  She's now on "The Wheel," an isolated place where few make it past eighteen.  She knows she's not supposed to be there, so when others on The Wheel start plotting an escape, she's in.

I hate writing difficult reviews.  I had a few problems with The Forsaken, but I don't want to stop anyone from picking up this book because I know there are people out there who will love it.  I can only report my feelings while reading it honestly.  I will admit, the first pages of The Forsaken really drew me in.  I was intrigued with the concept of the U.N.A and even more interested in the process all teenagers have to go through to determine whether or not they're criminals.  Obviously I knew even though Alenna thought she was a good girl she would be sent away, but it was what happened after she was sent away that got me.

After Alenna arrives on The Wheel I found my interest waning in the plot and it actually wasn't until the last four chapters that I really felt I couldn't put the book down.  As a result it too me a week to read.  The middle of the novel has many similarities to The Hunger Games (I could have written an awesome paper in high school comparing the two) and I even got a little bit of The Lord of the Flies vibe from the book as well, though Piggy was sadly absent.  Quite frankly, it wasn't what I was hoping for.  I didn't feel attached to any of the characters, even by the end of the novel, and I didn't feel any chemistry between anyone in the token love triangle.

On a positive note, the ending really did grab my attention and gave me hope for further novels in the series.  The futuristic world building in the last few chapters were fantastic and I wish that had been the basis of the novel.  Three hundred less pages about The Wheel and three hundred more pages about Alenna's family, the U.N.A, and it's technologies to deal with its presumed enemies would have been more interesting to me.

Three stars.  Two and a half if I dabbled in half stars.  The Forsaken is The Hunger Games meets Lord of the Flies to me.  I recognized a lot of elements from both novels, but ultimately I found the similarities to The Hungers Games to be too much.  I felt like the plot lagged too much and was going to give it two stars until the last four chapters changed my mind.  But, there are a lot of Hunger Games fans out there who have loved The Forsaken, so I definitely think it's worth a look if you're on the fence.



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Decatur Book Festival Recap + GIVEAWAY!

DBF Recap


What?  Is that me with Meg Cabot?  It is, so let's jump right in.  After hitting up the library book sale my husband and I headed over to the Baptist church to hear Meg Cabot.  She was hilarious!  I loved listening to her talk and even my husband, who I dragged with me to the festival in the hopes he would carry my heavy backpack, was giggling along.  Afterwords we headed outside and got my books signed.  I told Meg I was a little starstruck and then blathered on about Goodreads or something.  She politely smiled and signed my books.

After that signing, it was time to hoof it over to the Decatur library where I slid into my seat just as Margot Livesey started talking about The Flight of Gemma Hardy.  This is a book I've been wanting to read for a long time.  I've taken it out of the library twice but have never had a chance to read it before it was due (pathetic excuse, I know) so when I saw Margot was coming to the festival, I bought myself a copy and had it signed.  She reminded me so much of my high school English teacher, which I assured her was a good thing.  I didn't get a pic from this event, I forgot because we were in a hurry to make it over to....


Um yeah, David Levithan.  He's kind of a big deal.  His talk about his writing was very interesting, since he touched on the topics of gender and sexuality and such.  His main focus was his new book, Every Day, which is about a soul named A who wakes up every day in a different body, so A doesn't have a gender.  I have an ARC of that book, which I had him sign, but I unfortunately have not had a chance to read it yet.  I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson last year and loved it, so I have high hopes for Every Day.

So the David Levithan event was outdoors and the weather was appalling.  It was in the low 90s but the dew point was over 70 and the sun was really beating down.  My next event was in the same outdoor spot, I was absolutely melting!  


But why wouldn't you stick around to hear Kendare Blake talk about Anna Dressed in Blood?  She was a hoot to listen to and we learned all about her love of cheese and turtle saving.  I was sad to learn, however, that Girl of Nightmares is the last we'll see of Anna and friends.  Le sigh.  Those are my signed books on the table and I'm holding up some schamncy iPhone covers, which you can win in my giveaway below! 


(So I was just collecting my random swag for said giveaway and actually read what Kendare Blake wrote in my book.  I was telling her about how my husband thought her book sounded interesting until she mentioned the magical cat.  We chatted about how husband doesn't like magical cats in his books.  So this is what she wrote - "For Sandra and the guy who is not into cats."  I just showed my husband and he said, "Now I have to read it!")

My husband abandoned me at this point in the day, something about having to go to work to make money to pay for my book habit or something, so I wandered over to the Baptist church again and met up with the friendly group of Nesties (my online book club) who had travelled from lands afar for the festival.  There were pictures taken but I don't have those at the moment.  Erin Morgenstern's talk was very interesting and her signing line was huge!  I think she's a little in awe about how popular her book became.

Sunday, the weather was pretty much the same and even though I prayed for rain to cool things off, none came.  I had plans to stay for the whole day, but I couldn't hack it.  I only went and saw Barry Lyga talk about how we, too, can be serial killers and get away with it.  I got my book signed and then booked it (har har) out of there.  I got myself an iced Pumpkin Spice Latte, came home, put my feet up, and read.  What a great way to end a bookish weekend.

And now for a giveaway!

The only book I picked up at the library book sale is a seemingly new copy of Entwined by Heather Dixon.  I loved this book and since I didn't find anything there for me, I picked this up FOR YOU!  So, you can win a hardcover copy of Entwined as well as a ton of DBF swag including bookmarks, iPhone covers, sample chapters, and the like.  Enter with the Rafflecopter below.  Ages 13+, US only.  

Win this stuff!  And some other stuff I accidentally left out of the picture.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 3, 2012

Overnight Sensation + GIVEAWAY!

Overnight Sensation
Hal Eisenberg
233 pages
Released: July 28, 2012
Publisher: the author
Source: the author
★★★★☆



You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Jonah Levine is an average teenager, that is until he becomes an overnight sensation with his band.  The only problem is, the song that was accidentally leaked to the radio station that made his band HitStreak such a sensation is not actually by them... it's by his father's band, which was marginally hot in the 1970s and recently got back together.  Whoops...

Overnight Sensation was utterly entertaining!  I picked it up off my desk to skim for a minute and the next thing I know, I'm sitting on the couch really invested in Jonah's story.  Jonah thinks it's pretty cool that his dad's band is getting back together so when he gets ahold of a song they just recorded, he e-mails it to his friends to see what they think... and suddenly it's on the radio, credited to their fictitious band HitStreak.  The hole they're digging themselves just gets deeper and deeper as the novel goes on.  Quite frankly, I was just waiting for it to blow up in their faces - in a very entertaining way.  I don't want to give away the ending, but I will say that even though it wasn't at all what I was expecting, it was a great ending.

The musical references in this book were fantastic.  I've got a great appreciation for young people who can appreciate music like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and Jonah and his friends definitely did.  The song that is released on the radio is called Every Little Bit Hurts and it's definitely got that retro vibe.  How do I know?  You can listen to the actual song here!

There was really nothing to dislike about Overnight Sensation.  As far as independently published novels go, this is absolutely one of the better ones.  Four stars!  Overnight Sensation is a great, quick read - perfect for back to school.  It's a clean book, nothing objectionable in it at all; the worst swear word you'll read is "crap," so I think it's also appropriate for a wide range of readers.  Fans of other YA novels featuring music will really enjoy this one.

Interested?  Thanks to the author, I have an e-copy of the book as well as some swag to giveaway to use the Rafflecopter below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 2, 2012

In My Mailbox (49)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

This week IMM is all about the Decatur Book Festival!  You may have noticed me tweeting about it a bit recently.  It was this weekend and I'm super excited to live in a city that loves books and reading so much, it holds the biggest book festival in the country annually.  Long after I move away from the Atlanta area, I will travel back for DBF.  Anyway, I thought about doing a video blog, but I was sunburned today and look like Rudolph and you can see the outline of my sunglasses.  I will spare you having to watch that while I babble on for twenty minutes, but feel free to laugh at that image.

And here are a few more images for you.  These are the books I purchased beforehand to take with me to be signed.  They came Monday/Tuesday.

LOVED Anna Dressed in Blood and I'm eager to read Girl of Nightmares

I'd seen some buzz lately and they sounded interesting, so these got added
to my "to be signed" pile as well.
Heather Wells is one of my favorite series!  I loved The Night Circus so
I got that signed, and I've been wanting to read Gemma Hardy for a long time.

As usual, the day started bright and early with the Decatur Library book sale.

I swear my next phone will have a better camera.  Anyway, H is on a
cooking kick, so he picked up these.
I found this in with the adult mysteries.  Uhhh... anyway, I really enjoyed
this fairy-tale retelling so I think it will be part of my DBF giveaway!
There were a couple booths with YA independent authors.  I noticed this
book, which I've seen around the blogosphere and purchased it.  The swag
will end up in said DBF giveaway.  Stay tuned!

Let me talk a bit about The Childe.  I stumbled across this booth while looking for the one with Untraceable.  There were these fantastic 3-D book displays in front of it; I should have taken a picture.  Anyway, turns out C.A. Kunz is a mother-son writing team - how adorable is that?  They were both there and thrilled to talk to anyone about their books, but when they found out I was a blogger they became even more animated.  They gave me a copy of The Childe along with some swag.  They really sold me on this book when they mentioned the main character, Cat, is entering high-school when she begins to change and she doesn't know what's happening.  I love those kind of plot lines!  Carol and her son, Adam, were delightful to talk to and that makes me want to read The Childe even more.  I'm looking forward to reviewing it this fall!

Finally, husband and I bought these shirts.  I liked the "read-cycle" one for me because I'm a huge fan of PaperBackSwap, used bookstores (particularly Eagle Eye, holla!) and libraries, all of which are awesome ways to read-cycle.  The shirt is such a fantastic kelly green color in real life.  If I didn't think it would hurt my sunburn, I would wear it tomorrow.  Husband picked up the "food for thought." shirt since he's really been into cookbooks lately.


So that's that with my mailbox this week.

PS: Stay tuned next week for my full recap including pics with authors and stuff.  And, if you're really, really nice to me, there will be a giveaway in it for you.  I bet now you regret laughing at my sunburn.  Muhaha.