Thursday, May 30, 2013

Burning Down the House

Published:  May 16th, 2013
By: David Iserson
ISBN-13:  9781595143709

Being Astrid Krieger is absolutely all it's cracked up to be.

She lives in a rocket ship in the backyard of her parents' estate.

She was kicked out of the elite Bristol Academy and she's intent on her own special kind of revenge to whomever betrayed her.

She only loves her grandfather, an incredibly rich politician who makes his money building nuclear warheads.

It's all good until...

"We think you should go to the public school," Dad said.
This was just a horrible, mean thing to say. Just hearing the words "public school" out loud made my mouth taste like urine (which, not coincidentally, is exactly how the public school smells).

Will Astrid finally meet her match in the form of public school? Will she find out who betrayed her and got her expelled from Bristol? Is Noah, the sweet and awkward boy she just met, hiding something?

     From all of the reviews that I've read about this book, it seems to be one that you either REALLY like/love or one that you straight-up hate!  I am more in the truly like camp of feelings for this particular book.  Astrid Krieger is a truly messed up individual.  She comes from a very rich family, where everyone except for her crazy Grandfather pretty much ignores her and she's been taught that power is everything, that to need anyone else is the worst kind of weakness imaginable.  So when Astrid is betrayed by one of her minions and kicked out of her boarding school, she is determined to find out why exactly they got her kicked out and how they managed it.  In the meantime, she's stuck in public school with the unwashed masses but a boy named Noah might just make things more bearable until Astrid can regain her rightful place at Bristol Academy.  When all Hell breaks loose and her life becomes more of a mess than even she ever imagined, can Astrid pick up the pieces and learn to let someone else into her world finally? 
     I liked the premise of this book and there were a lot of extremely interesting characters.  This whole book centers around Astrid learning that she can't keep everything and everyone distanced from herself forever.  She is a complete and total asshole to everyone around her, the only person being an exception to that is her Grandfather.  Astrid has never truly had friends, only co-conspirators.  She can't stand anyone in her immediate family and refuses to call the exchange student who's obsessed with her by his actual name, instead calling him Pierre.  But when she meets Noah he starts to break through her shield of sarcasm and rudeness.  I loved that she lived in a rocket ship on the property instead of in the house with her family.  I loved the therapy sessions with her former headmaster and thought that his assignment for her was pretty genius.  The way she tries to enact a change in her life, while still being an aggressive, truth-telling bomb of human being was heartbreaking at times and absolutely hilarious at others. 
      I think that my favorite character was a toss up between her Grandfather and Lucy, her hair-chewing friend that she accepts into her life reluctantly.  Both had a certain vulnerability (Lucy's was more obvious) that made Astrid actually stop and think about her actions at times.  Yes Astrid does horrible things to people with practically zero reason: trying to sell the local police station to China, robbing convenience stores, the way she treats Pierre, smashing a Twinkie into a bitchy girl's hair at school.  But she also does good things like giving away burgers at the Dairy Queen, going to Lucy's birthday party and roller-skating when no one shows up, saving her sister's wedding by getting the groom to the church when it looks like he's gonna run for it.  By the end of the novel she is still herself, but has learned that to be an awesome person she doesn't have to alienate everyone.  My main complaint would be the meandering plot that seems to go in a million directions and gets slightly ADD as it moves along.  It takes way too long for Astrid to figure out the mystery behind being kicked out of boarding school, especially who was really behind it.  I had figured out by the halfway point at the latest.  And Astrid's self-monologues did get somewhat repetitive at times.  Overall, it was a seriously amusing and funny book that had memorable characters and a decent plot.  I would recommend it to fans of the more recent run of crazy comedies like Pineapple Express and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, who enjoy an edge reminiscent of that T.V. show New Girl, for which the author is a writer.
VERDICT:  4/5  Stars
*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published May 16th, 2013.*

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It Was All An Illusion

Expected Publication:  June 11th, 2013
Born of Illusion (Born of Illusion # 1)
By: Teri Brown
Balzer & Bray
ISBN-13:  9780062187543

Anna Van Housen is thirteen the first time she breaks her mother out of jail. By sixteen she’s street smart and savvy, assisting her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, and easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums and mentalists in 1920’s New York City. Handcuffs and sleight of hand illusions have never been much of a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her true gifts secret from her opportunistic mother, who will stop at nothing to gain her ambition of becoming the most famous medium who ever lived.

But when a strange, serious young man moves into the flat downstairs, introducing her to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, he threatens to reveal the secrets Anna has fought so hard to keep, forcing her to face the truth about her past. Could the stories her mother has told her really be true? Could she really be the illegitimate daughter of the greatest magician of all?

     Anna is in one of the most exciting times of her life so far.  The stage show she performs magic in, while her Mother does work as a medium, is really gaining momentum and their private séances are attracting richer patron.  Making ends meet is becoming easier and Anna's Mother wants her to act like a respectable young lady.  But Anna has been keeping a dangerous secret - while her Mother only pretends the ability to contact the dead, Anna actually can.  She is also able to see visions of the future and has witnessed some great disasters, such as the Titanic and the Spanish Influenza, firsthand.  Now with a mysterious young man named Cole moving in down the hall and some suspicious things happening, can Anna keep herself and her Mother out of danger?  And can they keep their show going when Houdini's quest to expose false mediums starts to encroach upon their best methods?  Also, will Anna ever find out once and for all if she really is Houdini's illegitimate daughter? 
     Anna is a wonderful character and so easy to identify with as a reader.  She's growing up and after an unsteady childhood, with no real home and her volatile Mother as the only person constantly in her life she wants a sense of permanence.  But at the same time, Anna longs to be a true magician and be recognized for her town great talents instead of as her Mother's opening act and possibly being the daughter of Houdini.  Most of the book revolves around the mystery of who is trying to hurt Anna and her Mother after Anna has a vision where they are both in mortal jeopardy.  Her relationship with her Mother is rocky at best, but Anna loves her and is loathe to actually do anything to hurt her in any way.  The way she treats Anna became a source of serious frustration throughout the book, as she uses her for whatever is convenient and then tries to get her removed from the show when she upstages her, tries to fix her up with an obviously slimy/untrustworthy young man, etc.  It got on my nerves and only served to make me feel even sorrier for the heroine - which I suppose was the author's intention! 
     The romance was cute but I felt like Anna and her cute new neighbor Cole should have just stayed friends.  Also, the manager's nephew was an obviously not-so-good guy.  And it made things all the more obvious when the author kept getting Anna into situations where he keeps proving this fact over and over again.  It got very anvil on the head, un-subtle and it began to annoy me slightly near the end.  To make a comparison, verging on those old movies where the girl goes with the handlebar mustache guy who ties her to the train tracks and the hero has to save her.  Yeah, that sums up that aspect for me personally.  I did like the historical details that snuck into the story, like the silent Houdini movies with the piano/organ in theater, the cute 1920s clothing (everyone say 'cloche hats') and the ever present shadow of Prohibition.  But I also felt like by isolating Anna from the rest of the regular world so completely in her upbringing and current living situation, that the author missed out on some fun opportunities.  There were no speakeasies in this book and as someone who loves that sort of thing, I found that disappointing.  Extra points for the mafia presence near the end of the book.  Definitely added to the historical resonance for me and made things fun during the blackmail portion of the mystery. 
     Favorite character award definitely goes to Mr. Darby, who Cole lives with, and is a grumpy, old-man inventor.  He has a funny banter thing going with Anna and they occasionally have breakfast together.  Mr. Darby is absolutely hilarious and the fact that he can never invent anything that hasn't already been thought of definitely endears him to me even more.  With a somewhat predictable mystery and a plot that drifts for some of the book, overall this was still an enjoyable and decent read.  I just wanted more from it than I got.  But maybe there will be some more answers in the sequel than there were in this initial installment (a.k.a. is she Houdini's DAUGHTER???!!!)  But I'm not sure if it will be something that I'll read.  I know a good many people who would love this book to pieces and I highly recommend it for fans of Libba Bray's latest book, The Diviners
VERDICT:  3.75/5  Stars
*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via Edelweiss. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is June 11th, 2013.*

Monday, May 27, 2013

I Do Have A Name and I Am Someone

Published:  April 4th, 2013
Nameless (A Tale of Beauty and Madness # 1)
By: Lili St. Crow
ISBN-13:  9781595143570

When Camille was six years old, she was discovered alone in the snow by Enrico Vultusino, godfather of the Seven—the powerful Families that rule magic-ridden New Haven. Papa Vultusino adopted the mute, scarred child, naming her after his dead wife and raising her in luxury on Haven Hill alongside his own son, Nico.

Now Cami is turning sixteen. She’s no longer mute, though she keeps her faded scars hidden under her school uniform, and though she opens up only to her two best friends, Ruby and Ellie, and to Nico, who has become more than a brother to her. But even though Cami is a pampered Vultusino heiress, she knows that she is not really Family. Unlike them, she is a mortal with a past that lies buried in trauma. And it’s not until she meets the mysterious Tor, who reveals scars of his own, that Cami begins to uncover the secrets of her birth…to find out where she comes from and why her past is threatening her now.

     Camille Vultusino isn't really one of the New Haven royalty, a daughter of the most powerful of the seven Families that rule the city.  She is just a little girl, found by Enrico Vultusino, head of the family, wandering in the snow broken by abuse and unable to speak.  Now she is on the verge of turning sixteen years old and Cami is starting to ask questions about who she really is, and where she appeared from as a child.  With Papa Vultusino making the change into full-fledged vampire and her adopted 'brother' (with not so brotherly feelings) is busy taking the reigns of the family and his place among the Seven, Cami is feeling lost and alone.  When Tor shows up with sacrs like hers and a mysterious past, she starts taking dangerous risks to get some answers.  But the truth may be far more horrifying than she ever could have imagined.  With a secret that might consume them all can Cami, Nico, along with her friends Ruby and Ella, avoid total destruction in the face of pure evil?  Or will it take them over completely?
     I have seen so many negative and lukewarm reviews of this book that I really was unsure what to expect.  But when I began to read it, I was immediately sucked into the story and found myself attached to the characters.  Cami might be taken by some readers to be whiny, manipulative and annoyingly weak.  I found her to be just another human being, struggling to heal from hurts in her past and become a better person.  Yes, she plays the victim and the martyr in this book which got on my nerves.  But I thought the author also managed to give her quite a good sense of humor in the internal musings and narrative that belong to Cami for the most part.  I think pretty much everyone can identify with feeling like you don't fit in and wanting to find somewhere that you do.  But Cami does do some pretty stupidly-impulsive things while trying to accomplish this very common goal. 
     The dystopian/steampunk type world that the author creates did get slightly confusing at times, as the world build wasn't slowly and carefully done - as a reader, you get tossed into the deep end immediately.  The supernatural aspect and alternate history (focus on Tesla versus Edison being one point, of many) was fascinating.  The world in the novel retained an almost Victorian aspect due to the Revolution of the supernaturals shortly after the first World War.  There is a mixture of magic and technology that for the most part is hinted at, but never really focused.  The only history the author really ever focuses on is Camille's.  Romance when it is well done can really add to a novel, especially in a fairy tale retelling and that floats my boat when it happens.  But this was not one of those times.  Honestly with a confused and volatile 'hero' like Nico and his competition being Tor who turns out to being something COMPLETEY DIFFERENT from how he is initially represented, I felt like it was just a convenience romance build on the part of the author.  Just because Camille and Nico have known each other forever doesn't mean they have to end up together and that Cami has to make the choice she does in the end of the book.  It made sense for her character, but still felt like the easy way out.  The truth of  Cami's birth and early childhood is truly horrific and the stuff of nightmares.  It was some of the best horror writing that I've encountered in the YA world since I finished reading The Devouring series by Simon Holt which terrified the Hell out of me, incidentally! 
     But my favorite characters in this novel with the most promise were Cami's friends Ruby and Ellie.  They were most obviously the incarnations of Red Riding Hood and Cinderella.  I am super excited to read their individual novels, because the author managed wonderfully rich characterizations in this book for them, which rarely happens with secondary characters in YA fairy tale retellings.  It made me happy!  Ruby made me laugh and smile with her rebellious, smart ass but loyal as a tiger ways.  Ellie made my heart bleed with the abuse she was suffering and the haunted life she was living.  Overall, this was an inventive retelling of a classic fairy tale (even with some flaws).  Rarely is a book 'perfect', or even close so I can honestly say that there was nothing overwhelmingly annoying to me as a reader in any of the flaws listed above.  It's a fairy tale and the characters in the originals weren't exactly 3-D and living color either.  I would highly recommend this for hardcore fairy tale fans and people who want something fresh and new.

VERDICT:  4.25/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Thursday, May 23, 2013

If You Find Me, Save Me

Published:  March 26th, 2013
If You Find Me
By: Emily Murdoch
St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN-13:  9781250021526

There are some things you can’t leave behind…
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

     Carey and her sister Jenessa have been living with their Mother for as long as they can remember, in a camper deep in the woods of a National Park.  They have been neglected and abused, with Carey taking care of Jenessa mostly by herself.  Than one day after their Mother has been gone for longer than ever before, a social worker and Carey's long lost Father come to get them.  Carey and Jenessa are taken home with Carey's Dad and brought back into a confusing, new world full of things they don't understand.  Both girls are forced to adjust to public school and normal life with their new Dad, Stepmom Melissa and jealous, angry stepsister Delany.  But they are holding onto a secret that is causing them both pain and suffering, and has made Jenessa completely silent with it's harshness.  Can they trust someone enough to let go of their old life and tell their heartbreaking secret? 
     This book absolutely broke my heart to pieces.  Carey is only fifteen but has spent the last ten years living with her volatile, mentally unstable Mother and caring for her younger sister pretty much like her own child.  The girls are both malnourished, socially ignorant and Carey has viewed her years of abuse as something that's just a fact of life.  Watching Carey and Jenessa, who refuses to speak, try to understand and become part of the world around them is devastating.  They have to get used to normal food after a unrelenting diet of beans, a family after only having each other and Carey especially has to face up to how the abuse of her Mom and a stream of others has changed her in unavoidable ways.  My main complaint would be the ugly behavior of their new stepsister Delaney, who takes to Jenessa but immediately hates Carey and does everything she can to make her life difficult.  Another thing that bothered me was the switch from friendship with Ryan, to romance.  I felt like it didn't really fit with the story and was awkward for me as a reader (especially the scene where they interact at Carey's first-ever party).  Just felt out of place in a story where the main focus is abuse, neglect, and trying to get past it.  I loved Carey's friend Pixie, who has skipped a (couple) grades and feels out place.  She has such a gigantic personality and becomes a person for Carey to hang onto when things get confusing or a little rough. 
     Carey's dialect was well-represented in the writing and I loved the fact that she eventually picked up her violin again, not letting all the bad things take away something beautiful from her for good.  The constant way everyone is always telling Carey how 'beautiful' she is had me rolling my eyes and sighing.  Why was that in any way necessary?  Yeah, she's such a special person and has done some extraordinary things in the name of survival.  So why the focus on her looks?  That did irk me more than a little bit.  But the transitions that Carey and Jenessa went through while trying to adjust were very realistic and well written.  I didn't quite entirely guess what the big secret was but I had an idea and I wasn't really that far off.  It didn't make it any less horrifying, but it wasn't as shocking as it could have been.  I felt like the clues throughout the novel were definitely less than subtle.  I liked the ending and overall it was a beautiful and haunting book that I'd recommend without hesitation!
VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars
*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published March 26th, 2013.*

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Girl Who Wouldn't Submit and Say 'Die'

Expected Publication:  June 11th, 2013 
The Girl Who Was Supposed To Die
By: April Henry
Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN-13:  9780805095418
“Take her out back and finish her off.”

She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know where she is, or why. All she knows when she comes to in a ransacked cabin is that there are two men arguing over whether or not to kill her.

And that she must run.

In her riveting style, April Henry crafts a nail-biting thriller involving murder, identity theft, and biological warfare. Follow Cady and Ty (her accidental savior turned companion), as they race against the clock to stay alive.
     Cady wakes up in a place she doesn't recognize, not even knowing her own name.  But she's missing fingernails, has been beaten and hears two men arguing about killing her once and for all.  So she escapes to save her life, and it is very dangerous.  Once she's on the outside, Cady is taken under the wing of a mysterious teenage boy named Ty who gives her a place to stay and helps her hide from the people who come hunting her down.  But although Cady can run, she can't hide and time is running out for her and her family.  Can she protect herself, expose a secret conspiracy and save her family before it's too late?   I have read other books by April Henry before, my favorite of which was called Girl, Stolen and it starts out similar to this one.  I always wondered what would have happened if the main character, Cheyenne, in that book hadn't been blind.  The existence of Cady kind of answered that question for me as a reader!  She was a bad-ass, no question about that.  Even when she had no clue who she really was and thought she might have accidentally killed a man, Cady was determined to find answers and wouldn't let herself be caught.  The beginning and middle of the book are intense and kept me on the edge of my seat.  You discover everything as Cady does, so things come of as much as surprise to the reader as the characters.  I liked that Ty chose to risk himself to help the downtrodden girl in his line at McDonald's - and that he kept helping once he realized it was a life or death situation.  The action is very fast paced and the conclusion races toward you when reading it.  But I felt like the situation with "Aunt Lizzie" was glaringly obvious and definitely a step down from the subtler terrors of the book's beginning and middle.  Also, the introduction of the evil company working on *SPOILERS!!!* biological warfare was a bit much.  I mean, yeah, I could see an evil corporation torturing a teenager to get at her parent(s), but the CEO being involved reminded me of some campy cartoon villain.  "If it wasn't for those darn kids..."  I felt like things were wrapped up far too neatly at the end, with no true consequences (everyone lives and the bad guys are punished adequately, plus Cady gets the guy).  I did think that the reason Cady blocked everything out made complete sense though.  Overall, the plot was well drawn, the mystery was interesting and it was fairly decent in execution.  I just felt like there was some sloppiness near the end and that it became a little bit of a caricature of itself.
VERDICT:  3/5  Stars
*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via Netgalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is June 11th, 2013.*

Monday, May 20, 2013

Epically Devoted to You

Expected Publication:  August 27th, 2013
The Bitter Kingdom (Girl of Fire and Thorns # 3)
By: Rae Carson
Greenwillow Books
ISBN-13:  9780062026545

The epic and deeply satisfying conclusion to Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy. The seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.

"Carson joins the ranks of writers like Kristin Cashore, Megan Whalen Turner, and Tamora Pierce as one of YA's best writers of high fantasy."-Locus magazine

Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion-a champion to those who have hated her most. Riveting, surprising, and achingly romantic, Rae Carson has spun a bold and powerful conclusion to her extraordinary trilogy.

     Elisa is now an outcast from her own kingdom as she flees after a betrayal and somewhat successful  from one of her noble subjects, who is out to steal her crown.  But she is also on a journey to rescues Hector, the leader of the royal guard (and the man she loves) from death at the hands of the Invierne.  With the help of some old friends and some new ones, and some surprises along the way, Elisa will travel through hostile territory into a land that could devour her.  Will she be able to save Hector without sacrificing herself?  And when they escape Invierno will there be a kingdom left to return to?  So, this book was EPIC!  A summary can never quite do it justice and the one I've provided definitely reinforces that fact.  The journey from Elisa's kingdom into enemy land with Beren, Mara and Storm (former Invierne royalty) was the start of the book, but it's once they rescue Hector that shit really starts to go down.  Once they are in Invierno (having picked up a stray along the way) and have rescued Hector, the Invierne council tries to trick them and they end up escaping through mines with a supposed monster lurking in them.  I kid you not (and you will see this comparison a lot most likely) but the only thing running through my mind was the adventure in Lord of the Rings down in the mines of Moria!  Things are tied up quite nicely with Elisa's godstone as well, when she manages to complete her appointed task and it is no longer part of her life.  I have to say that a lot of my favorite parts of this book involved Elisa's friend Storm and the little slave girl they pick up, 'Mula', who later renames herself.  There are reappearances by Ximena, our favorite priest and of course, Cosme and Alodia who learn once and for all not to underestimate Elisa who shows them just what a bad-ass she is when they all come under attack!  I did like that Alodia and Elisa's relationship and their issues with one another are NOT just resolved with a neat bow and given an easy solution.  Yes, they love each other but they will always have a strained and uneasy relationship because of their interactions and dynamic growing up.  Thank you Rae Carson, for giving us some REAL siblings instead of the generic BFFs found oftentimes in YA. 
      There is some heavy political dealing going on in this book, with contracts being signed and empires being created.  But it never takes over the characters which are the main focus of the plot, and so manages to avoid straying into the realm of boring.  I did think that the sudden control of the godstone magic that both Elisa and Storm gain in the middle of the book was somewhat contrived and I felt like it was in there as a bit of a plot device.  But it didn't bother me, because the action was non-stop and distracted me from it's un-believability at times.  The majority of this book was gritty and realistic though, in the best way possible.  Not everyone is always happy with Elisa and sometimes doing the right thing means potentially hurting others and destroying property.  This is also represented in the portions of the novel narrated in Hector's P.O.V. where we get a look inside his mind and are able to see the events of his captivity and subsequent rescue/escape unfold.  He is definitely a kick-ass hero for sure.  Strong and silent, but we get to see his deeper feelings as well.  A well done P.O.V. switch, which can be a difficult thing to pull off.  Especially in the last novel of a series with an established pattern of narration. 
      The ending of the book was awesome and there were some truly great parts to this book, but the message of empowerment and self-confidence was definitely a gigantic part of this book.  It was a great ending to a consistently great series.  I won't say any more to avoid spoilers, but if you're a fan of the first two in the series, you will be satisfied with the conclusion for sure.

Most Memorable Quotes:

(Storm's reaction to Elisa's sister Alodia)

'She's wonderful.' said Storm.  He wears a loopy smile, as if someone put a little too much duerma leaf in last night's tea."

(Elisa's and Alodia talk about her 'beauty'.  Best quote in a YA book EVER!)

'I startle at the compliment. Then I smile. "I'm beautiful to the one person who matters."
[Alodia] nods. "Hector's mouth will drop open when he sees you."
"I hope so. But I meant me. I'm beautiful to me." 

VERDICT:  4.75/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is August 27th, 2013.*

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Happiness Is A Warm Gun...

Published:  April 2nd, 2013
This Is What Happy Looks Like
By: Jennifer E. Smith
ISBN-13:  9780316212823

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?

     Graham Larkin is a famous movie star with a career on the rise.  Ellie O'Neill is a small-town girl who has a quiet life, with a few secrets of her own.  When Graham accidentally send her an e-mail about his pet pig Wilbur they start sending e-mails back and forth, opening up and telling each other things no one else knows.  So when Graham's newest movie needs to change location at the last minute he suggests Ellie's small hometown in Maine.  All he wants is to meet the girl he thinks he could fall in love with.  But a series of misunderstandings and outside influences threaten their attempts to get to know each other in real life.  Can Ellie and Graham work through their issues and allow themselves to be open to true love?  Or is it just another internet hook-up gone wrong?
     Out of Ellie and Graham, he was definitely my favorite character.  He obviously was bewildered by his sudden fame and had originally wanted to go to college, never even considering acting.  But now that he's in the Hollywood sphere, he only does it because he loves the job.  And Graham is far from a cocky douchebag like most teen mega-stars are portrayed as being.  Ellie herself is a bit more of an enigma, being the illegitimate daughter of a very famous politician her Mom had an affair with.  They changed their last name and moved far away from D.C. when the scandal broke.  Ellie's Mom is far from pleased when she finds out her daughter's potential boyfriend is famous and will put her in the limelight again.  My only thing is that the drama between Ellie and her best friend was overblown and annoying.  I felt like the best friend was a complete bitch about things and Ellie just allowed it and made excuses for her, practically being a puppy when she started talking to her again.  After ignoring Ellie for practically an ENTIRE MONTH!  WTFH???  This book was fluff and after Smith's last book, I went in expecting a short and sweet puffy cotton ball.  And that is exactly what I got from this book.  Although I will say that the revelation of the paparazzi exposing who Ellie's Dad is, and nobody caring sort of pissed me off.  Seriously, after making such a huge deal out of the situation/secret it's just a (and I quote from the book) 'footnote' and Graham is more important???!!!  Yeah, I don't think so.  But the romance was sweet, the underlying satire and witty exchanges made me smile and though the relationships were fairly 2-D they were realistic enough.  Overall a fun read, but don't go into it expecting Sarah Dessen-style character development, because you won't get it.
VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars
**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Nantucket Blue Giveaway Winners!

     Hello everyone!  I know that not many of you entered the giveaway, but all of you were excited about it (which I appreciate very much)! :)  Well the winners were chosen Saturday morning, at 12 am so here they are:

Grand Prize:  Marissa
First Runner Up:  Lisa
Second Runner Up:  Kristen

All of the winners have been contacted and everything has been shipped to them.  I hope they enjoy their prizes! :)  And don't worry I plan on doing another giveaway soon so there will be another chance for a fun prize or two coming up.  Just keep an eye out for more contests!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

We Meet Only In the Shadows

Expected Publication:  August 6th, 2013
Dark Shadows / Vampirella Vol. 1
Written by: Marc Andreyko, Illustrations:  Patrick Berkenkotter & Jose Malaga
Dynamite Entertainment
ISBN-13:  9781606903957

Two legendary vampires meet for the first time in this epic crossover!  Investigating a series of disappearances and murders puts Barnabas Collins and Vampirella on a collision course with each other! Can these two very different vampire heroes set aside their mutual distrust and team up to bring down the notorious and brutal "Big Apple Butcher," or will their bloodthirsty natures destroy them before they can solve the crimes? And who - or what - is pulling the strings of the "Butcher"? The answer is an evil older than Barnabas and Vampi combined! All this, plus appearances by Quentin Collins and Pantha! Critically acclaimed writer Marc Andreyko (along with artists Patrick Berkenkotter and Jose Malaga) brings them all together in an adventure that can only be described as a bloody, and we mean very bloody, good time!

     This was a crossover between the 'Dark Shadows' (1970s) T.V. soap opera fandom and that of famous comic hero Vampirella.  In this story, the heroes combine forces to investigate a rash of murders and disappearances that have a distinctly supernatural touch to them.  Barnabas Collins gets involved because a woman who is descended from one of his victims is killed.  He has sworn to atone by protecting his victim's families, so he must solve her murder.  Vampirella is involved because it's on her home turf.  They fight for dominance and her fun nature clashes with his serious, old-fashioned one.  They also have help from his cousin Quentin Collins and her fellow supernatural friend, Pantha.  The murderers are both historical figures, which was a nice touch in a comic series arc about vampires playing detective.  But the best thing about this series was it's sense of humor.  It was consistently amusing, fast paced and kept me interested from beginning to end with no boredom at all.  It was splashy, gory and colorful in the best way.  The artwork was right alongside the written story, every step of the way. It never detracted from it or felt wrong/misplaced in any way.  The perfect amount of camp was involved, especially when you consider that the main characters are a highly sexualized (practically nude) female vampire, and another vampire from a really cheesy, old soap opera.  Yes, it was fairly predictable and left the door open for further crossovers.  But in this instance, that was perfectly alright with me.  I highly enjoyed it and it's definitely a clever read for comic lovers who want a bit of wit in their speech bubbles! :)  But I will caution that there is copious amounts of blood, violence, nudity, and other adult content.  So be forewarned if you're thinking of reading this one and that bother you.  Overall, recommended to fans of good comics, whether they're familiar with the original fandoms that are rebooted, or not.
VERDICT:  5/5  Stars
**received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via Netgalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is August 6th, 2013.**

Monday, May 13, 2013

Never Getting Back Together...My Brain Would Explode

Expected Publication:  May 21st, 2013
All I Need
By: Susane Colasanti
Viking Juvenile
ISBN-13:  9780670014231

The last night of summer is only the beginning.

Skye wants to meet the boy who will change her life forever. Seth feels their instant connection the second he sees her. When Seth starts talking to Skye at the last beach party of the summer, it’s obvious to both of them that this is something real. But when Seth leaves for college before they exchange contact info, Skye wonders if he felt the same way she did—and if she will ever see him again. Even if they find their way back to each other, can they make a long-distance relationship work despite trust issues, ex drama, and some serious background differences?

     Skye just wants to meet the boy of her dreams, but the bonfire is the same every year - no one interesting ever comes to it.  Seth wants to get over his ex-girlfriend and meet a girl he can learn to give his heart to again.  When they meet each other at the bonfire, it's love at first sight.  Spending the next 24 hours together, they make plans to meet the next morning and exchange contact information.  But then something comes up and Seth is unable to make it.  He heads off to college and Skye heads home from the beach, both wondering about the other and longing for them over the course of the year - even while dating other people.  The next summer when they both return to the beach, Skye and Seth begin a romance for the ages, but can it survive ex-drama, school issues, friendship problems and each of them holding back one last part of themselves from the other?  Can they let go and be transformed by love and begin a brave new future together?
     This book made me nauseated within the first 10 pages.  That is a very unfortunate record to hold and I was highly disappointed.  I should have known from the summary that it was going to be a completely NOT my kind of romance book.  I expected for it to be starry-eyed in the beginning, but also that the main characters would develop and mature over the course of the book.  Instead Skye spends the whole book fixating on how perfect Seth is and how much she loves him, how they're meant to be together.  Until they have a big fight (because he's keeping things from her) and she acts like a spoiled brat, and Seth acts like a complete dick.  They both get into relationships with other people, but spend their time comparing them to their supposed 'soulmate' and basically just using them.  The better parts of the book are during Seth's first year of college, when he's not yet with Skye.  She is just as immature before the relationship as during it, honestly speaking.  When things begin to sour in their relationship Seth applies for an art internship and Skye applies to good colleges, not necessarily really close to Seth.  She's accepted to NYU and really considers going.  But then she and Seth make up from their fight and Skye goes to the not so great college really close to his.  And of course he gives her a promise ring, promising to love her forever.  Gag me now please!  No seriously, GAG ME.
     Not much really happens through the course of this book, other than a really superficial and unhealthily obsessed relationship between two very selfish teenagers.  Never once does Seth really acknowledged that he's keeping things from Skye to 'protect' her, but in the process is enacting a parent-child type of relationship rather than an equal, romantic one.  Oh yeah, and there's some sex and they talk about how great that is a lot for the middle third of the book.  Except when Skye starts acting like a princess, expecting hotel rooms every time (even though Seth is painfully poor and she is a privileged girl, who takes it for granted) and being disgusted by his dorm room.  I did like the depiction of Seth's parents and their fight to have a real relationship and stay together, even in the face of his Mom's illness and his Dad's business failing (an 80s themed roller rink that he started in honor of his romance with his wife).  It was painful, beautiful and true - everything Skye and Seth's 'romance' was not.  Sometimes their friends are amusing, but mostly Skye's BFFs Jocelyn and Kara who are just as shallow as her, are more annoying than anything else.  Seth's roommate Grant is just a self-righteous douchebag most of the book.  And when he does change it doesn't really matter.  Overall, this is a book that reads like it's for twelve year olds.  But the subject matter is inappropriate for anyone under 15 or 16 (unless they don't mind sex and college talk that they won't relate to at all).  This book was a disappointing mess, with a message to girls that seemed to be that it's okay to give up everything for a guy as long as it's 'true lurrrvvveee."  Spare me, please.  Not recommended to anyone who has a brain not made of bubbles, and any sense of feminine romantic equality/pride.
VERDICT:  0.75/5  Stars (For Seth's awesome parents and their roller rink only)
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is May 21st, 2013.*

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I Don't Wanna Go To This Crazy, Messed Up School

Expected Publication:  May 21st, 2013
Night School (Night School # 1)
By: C.J. Daugherty
Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN-13: 9780062193858

Allie's world is falling apart...

She hates her school. Her brother has run away. And she's just been arrested.


Now her parents are sending her away to a boarding school where she doesn't know a soul.

But instead of hating her new school, Allie finds she's happy there. She's making friends. And then there's Sylvain, a suave French student who openly flirts with her. And Carter, the brooding loner who seems to have her back.

Soon, though, Allie discovers Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. Nothing there is as it seems. And her new friends are hiding dangerous secrets.

     Mysterious boarding school, dangerously hot boys, good girl gone bad - what's not to love?  Unfortunately, a lot of things in this particular book.  First issue being the inconsistencies in Allie's character.  She goes from acting out and being arrested repeatedly, to doing what everyone tells her to and believing anything they say, even when things aren't adding up.  The synopsis pegs this as a book with a major mystery.  That mystery being what exactly Night School is, who is in it, why and what they are trying to gain in life from it.  Instead of being answered slowly bit-by-bit, this is jumbled and shoved together in answer format in the last 10 percent or so of the book.  Most of this book is spent on Allie's decision between mysterious, charming, hot French boy Sylvain and not-so-bad boy, 'womanizer' Carter.    A lot of time is also spent on Allie's friendship with unstable, but fun and sweet Jo who I found myself more interested in than Allie herself.  That is, until Jo was turned into a complete moron by her treatment of others (namely Allie and Carter) and becomes a complete cliché in the last third of the book.  The whole book spends its time having mysterious animal attacks, students not being allowed outside after dark and the separation of the Night School kids being waved in the reader's face like a big, fat paranormal clue.  It is a tease and a liar peoples!  In the big revelation at the end, we find out that the secret is a Skulls type of secret society (like the movie from 2000 with Joshua Jackson) that is made up of rich douchebags who indoctrinate their children and basically rule the powerful positions of the world!  WTF??? 
     Also, at the Summer Ball that Allie and friends become obsessed over at the halfway mark of the book, she is practically date-raped by Sylvain (who is supposed to be a nice guy) and we're made to think he's trying to mind control her through supernatural means.  This is never explained to my satisfaction (or probably anyone else's, really).  Also, there is a horrific fire and another student in murdered - which everyone then pretends was a suicide and no one calls the police.  At this point Jo goes completely off the rails, does stupid shit and then blames everything on Allie!  Things only devolve from there till the ending.  The romance between Allie and Carter is set up from the beginning of the book, but when it actually happens it felt very staged to me.  He's a sweet guy, but she spent most of the book hating him and going for Sylvain (which doesn't say much for her taste).  And Allie's long-lost brother Christopher who disappeared and is the reason for her bad behavior/sadness, is suddenly spotted in bad-guy Nathaniel's army and thrown into the ending like loose change no one knows what to do with, cause there's not quite enough for a candy bar.  Again, WTF???  All in all, not what I was expecting and very deceptive in the way it was marketed and tried to court me as a reader.  But for all that, I still managed to finish it and really liked/enjoyed the slow burn and funny dialogue of the first 2/3 of this book.  Which made it all the more heartbreaking when it crashed and burned.  It was a world of no at the end and that made me very sad.
Some memorable quotes:
(From when Jo teaches Allie to play chess)
'Allie held it up and made a neighing sound.  Jo gave her a withering look.
     "Pony," said Allie weakly.
     "Get serious Allie," Jo said.  "This isn't a game.  Not really.  Because chess is really war.".........
Trying to look serious, Allie placed her knight where she was told, but shooting Jo a rebellious glance, she murmured, "Good horsie" under her breath.
(About going back to school and leaving the chapel open behind her and Carter)
"We'll get in trouble if it's left open," she reasoned.  "And I really don't think it would be great for Jo to be quizzed by Zelazny right now.  Besides, what if a fox gets in and eats Jesus?"
(Worst passage in the book, during the fire at the dance, starts with Jo speaking about her boyfriend Gabe just leaving her when the fire starts)
"Eloise says everyone's fine, so he's fine.  It's just...he just left me there.  In a fire." 
     "Oh, babe."  Allie reached out to squeeze her arm..."He made sure you were safe first, right?...And you know what?  He has faith that you're tough, and can take care of yourself.  And that's kind of cool."
VERDICT:  2.5/5  Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is May 21st, 2013.*

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Reaching Out, Possessing You

Published:  January 1st, 2013
The Dead and Buried
By: Kim Harrington
Scholastic Point
ISBN-13:  9780545333023

A haunted house, a buried mystery, and a very angry ghost make this one unforgettable thriller.

Jade loves the house she's just moved into with her family. She doesn't even mind being the new girl at the high school: It's a fresh start, and there's that one guy with the dreamy blue eyes. . . . But then things begin happening. Strange, otherworldly things. Jade's little brother claims to see a glimmering girl in his room. Jade's jewelry gets moved around, as if by an invisible hand. Kids at school whisper behind her back like they know something she doesn't.

Soon, Jade must face an impossible fact: that her perfect house is haunted. Haunted by a ghost who's seeking not just vengeance, but the truth. The ghost of a girl who ruled Jade's school — until her untimely death last year. It's up to Jade to put the pieces together before her own life is at stake. As Jade investigates the mystery, she discovers that her new friends in town have more than a few deep, dark secrets. But is one of them a murderer?

     Jade and her family have finally moved into a nice house in the city and she's excited to be going to school with people other than the same ones she's always known.  But nothing really prepares her for the fact that their new house is the most notorious in town and for good reason: the former queen bee of her new school, Kayla, died there only a few months ago!  Oh yeah, and she's haunting the place too and won't move on until Jade solves her murder.  And Kayla's not afraid to be vicious and cruel to get what she wants, including possessing Jade's little brother and threatening to kill him.  But with so many people crushed under Kayla's wrecking ball combination of personality and actions, which one of them actually killed her?  With the help of Kayla's ex-boyfriend Donovan, investigating all of her former friends is still a daunting task.  But will the discovery of her secret diary crack the case?  And can Jade save her family from destruction when the truth is finally uncovered once and for all?
     I love a good ghost story and it seems like they're a somewhat rare species in the YA genre lately.  Usually authors go for the shiny, more monsterish paranormal beings.  But I liked the old-school decision on the part of this author to go with a ghost.  Jade as a main character would come across as kind of bland to some I suppose, but I thought she was strong and refused to let herself be bullied by other people into doing things she didn't want, or think were right.  Case in point, her 'friendship' with Faye and also with Kane.  She went along with them, but only to a certain point and then she cut them off and did the right thing.  I loved Jade's sweet interactions with Donovan, and the underlying darkness at first because of the possibility of his involvement with Kayla's death.  A nice touch on the part of the author was making Jade unique, with her gemstone hobby and I liked the fact that her Dad and Stepmom weren't the normal deadbeat/asshole YA parents that inhabit about 90% of all YA novels.  They loved her, even the Stepmom Marie, no matter whether they always got along or agreed with each other.  The whole possession thing freaked me the HELL OUT.  Seriously, could you imagine a ghost taking over your body, let alone the body of someone you love?  Enough nightmare material to last a lifetime.  The avoidance of  love triangle definitely worked in favor of me liking this book.  Super sick and tired of anything even remotely resembling a love triangle.  No more please, writers of the world!  Just no more, my brain begs of you.  
     Kayla's diary entries and the unraveling of her bitchy drama in life just did nothing at all to make me like her.  And after finding out why her killer actually shoved her down the stairs, I kind of sided with the killer a little bit.  The resolution of the mystery wasn't entirely predicatable at first, but I wasn't surprised either, especially with how entirely OBVIOUS it is that the person set up to be the killer couldn't be, unless Harrington was a really lazy and bad writer.  The effort throughout dissuaded me from that thought pretty quickly.  I did like the reactions of her parents when they finally believed her about Kayla haunting the house.  I feel like the scene was supposed to be scary, but it kind of made me laugh out loud.  Overall a fun, quick read and a decent ghost story.  The mystery is basic but not completely cliché, and I would recommend it to those who enjoy ghost stories and a don't mind a bit of sweet romance thrown in, or normal family issues, etc.  I found it refreshing for a change.   
VERDICT:  3.75/5  Stars
**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Don't Look a Gift Horse In The Mouth...

Published:  March 27th, 2012
By: Andrea J. Buchanan
Open Road E-riginal
ISBN-13:  9781453220214

Daisy has an electrifying secret that could save her life—or kill her
High school sophomore Daisy Jones is just trying to get by unnoticed. It doesn’t help that she’s the new girl at school, lives in a trailer park, and doesn’t even own a cell phone. But there’s a good reason for all that: Daisy has a secret, unpredictable power—one only her best friend, Danielle, knows about.  Despite her “gift” (or is it a curse?), Daisy’s doing a good job of fitting in, and a gorgeous senior named Kevin even seems interested in her! But when Daisy tries to help Vivi, a mysterious classmate in a crisis, she soon discovers that her new friend has a secret of her own. Now Daisy and her friends must deal with chilling dreams and messages from the beyond. Can Daisy channel the power she’s always tried to hide, before it’s too late? 

Extra features include:•   A short graphic novel telling Vivi’s story•   Danielle’s journal, revealing her deepest thoughts •   Lyrics and video links for Kevin's music (songs composed by Fredrik Larsson, otherwise known as YouTube sensation FreddeGredde). 

    This one I requested off Netgalley, originally because I thought it was a re-pub of some '90s teen paranormal book - and I love those cheesy things to death! :)  So imagine my surprise when I saw a Twilight reference in the dialogue - but it was a nice surprise.  The main character Daisy is the new kid in school for what seems like the millionth time when she and her Mom move because of trouble at her last school.  She has an ability that they've kept a secret, to manipulate electricity and it makes her a death sentence to things like cell phones, computers, mp3 players, and anything electrical.  The only person she tells is her new friend Danielle, until Daisy saves another classmate Vivi from an overdose in the school bathroom.  Afterwards Vivi confesses to Daisy that she has her own personal ghost, Patrick, who's been with her since she was little.  And he says that the girls are connected somehow.  When Daisy, Vivi and even Danielle start sharing dreams of things that never happened to them, and people they've never met - but who really did exist in the past - they begin to wonder what it all means.  With the help of cute senior boy Kevin, the girls begin to piece things together and discover that not everyone is who they say they are, and that someone wants revenge on them.  Can they stop evil from destroying them all or will it consume them completely? 
     It was a little bit short and did read kind of young for my tastes.  But I really enjoyed the fact that for the most part, the main character's special powers weren't the focus of the book.  They were just a part of who she was as a person.  The main focus is really on the relationship between Vivi, Danielle and Daisy, how their past lives intersected and why Patrick (who Vivi is in love with and calls her 'angel') is haunting the three of them.  As the plot moves along, things do get a little bit convoluted with Daisy's inability to be around technology without breaking it getting glossed over and the situation with one of the teachers being solved way too neat and tidy in the end.  Honestly the sarcastic quips, overdramatic flair and fun personality of Danielle kept things moving along for me as a reader.  I liked Daisy, who as a sweet, shy, good-girl was a nice foil for Danielle's over the top ways and Vivi's naïve, stupid, head in the sand life philosophies!  Kevin as a love interest was very sweet and boy next door, but I liked his banter and interactions with Daisy.  I also highly enjoyed how present Daisy's Mom was in the book and in the best possible way.  So nice to see a parent represented in a YA book and not made into a monster, or a complete cliché.  The ending wasn't a complete surprise but the twists and turns kept me going through the book.  Plus this release included some really cool extras: a graphic novel by Vivi of what happened in the book, the lyrics of Kevin's songs and a link to his YouTube channel, and Danielle's diary which clears up some confusing things about her possession.  The inclusion of mythology was nice and the fact that it was the story of Eurydice and Orpheus was pretty awesome - they don't get a lot of play in contemporary fiction.  Overall an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to those who don't mind books that read younger.  It has an awesome enough premise and execution to make up for it. 
VERDICT:  4/5  Stars
*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published March 27th, 2012.*

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Lone Ranger Rides Again!

Expected Publication:  July 9th, 2013
The Lone Ranger Omnibus, Volume 1
By: Brett Matthews (Story), Sergio Cariello (Illustrator) and Paul Pope (Illustrator)
Dynamite Entertainment
ISBN-13:  9781606903520

Dynamite's The Lone Ranger series - written by Brett Matthews and expertly rendered by Sergio Cariello and Paul Pope, with incredible covers by the amazing John Cassaday - is a must-read for long-time fans of America's favorite hero of the Wild West! Now for the first time ever, all 25 issues, plus The Lone Ranger: Creed #0 FCBD story, are available in one-amazing collection! The Lone Ranger Omnibus Volume 1 features 632-pages of this classic Eisner Nominated series, as well as a complete cover gallery! Read the entire story of how John Reid was transformed into The Lone Ranger, and, along with his partner Tonto, set a new standard of justice in the Old West!

     I have heard of Lone Ranger before and know about the T.V. show from the 50s, the comic books and even the racist stereotypes of the character Tonto, his Native American companion.  Never have I experience any of these things firsthand before now.  What the hell took me so long???  Seeing as this was a review copy, only the first hundred pages or so was collected in it, instead of the 600 and some in the full volume that will be released in July.  But the first hundred pages held more than enough adventure, tragic backstory and hero origins to make any comic book proud.  I loved the balance between dark and light in the artwork.  It had splashes of major color, like the real Old West but also represented the darkness in Lone Ranger's life and it's evolution while dealing with the massacre of his family, all the while not trivializing it or making it into 'statement' art like so many graphic novels become.  I loved the depiction of Tonto as his friend, equal and mentor in revenge, avoiding stereotypes for the most part except for a depiction of him carrying come scalps, but to say that no Native American ever scalped anyone would be PC rewriting history, so it didn't bother me all that much as a reader.  This comic managed to represent copious amounts of violence without becoming an exercise in unnecessary gore like another I read fairly recently, a retelling of Sleepy Hollow which could have taken lessons in tasteful violence from the newest incarnation of the Ranger.  As a fan of Westerns such as Young Guns, The Angel and the Badman, Dances With Wolves, Lonesome Dove (book and film), and the miniseries Into The West, this had an apprehensive start for me.  I knew I would enjoy it in some capacity, but was unsure quite how much - I was rewarded for my faith with a comic that I really loved.   My copy left off with a cliffhanger and I want to know if the Lone Ranger ever has a showdown with Butch Cavendish, the main villain of this rebooted series! :)  I guess I will have to get my hands on a full copy when it's published.  All I can say is that this comic managed to avoid some of the traps that comics trying TOO hard often fall into - lurid or sparse artwork, too much text, clichéd action sequences - and it definitely impressed me as a reader.  I don't know if I'll be seeing the upcoming film, but I'm a definite fan of the upcoming graphic novel!  Recommended for fans of Western novels and films, who like the tragic hero stories and have a thirst for justice.  I don't know how fans of the original comics will feel, but I'd like to think they'll enjoy it.
VERDICT:  5/5  Stars
*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via Netgalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is July 9th, 2013.*

Monday, May 6, 2013

Like Today Never Happened Before

Expected Publication:  May 28th, 2013
Dare You To (Pushing the Limits # 2)
By: Katie McGarry
ISBN-13:  9780373210633

Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. "Dance with me, Beth."

"No." I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again....

"I dare you..."

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

     Beth Risk has been taking care of her drug addict Mom for years and when she picks a deadly new boyfriend who likes to take things too far, Beth is still doing the rescuing.  But then when things get out of hand and Beth is arrested for destruction of property while covering for her Mom (yet again), her Uncle Scott finally steps in and takes custody of her.  Forced to live with someone she hasn't seen in years, who Beth hates for abandoning her to join a Major League baseball team, she's taken away from her friends and her life for a new reality she doesn't fit into.  Ryan Stone has been the baseball star, perfect son, popular guy with the most beautiful girlfriend in school with nothing to mess it up.  But then his perfect family shatters when his brother Mark tells a secret their parents won't hear and is kicked out for it.  And Ryan is picked for a writing competition that might interfere with his baseball games/obsession.  Not to mention the new girl in town who is totally different from all the other girls Ryan knows, who refuses to be charmed by him.  Can something that starts as a dare be the relationship that saves both Ryan and Beth from a life unlived or lived for others?  And can it survive when everyone is against them? 
     I really enjoyed this book, but have since come down from any illusion of LOVING it.  I fell in love with Noah and Echo in Pushing the Limits but went into this one expecting to hate Beth's guts, because in the previous book she was a spiteful, selfish and cruel bitch who had no real reason to hate Echo but tore her down every opportunity she got.  With what a screwed up character she is, I wasn't surprised with Beth's home life being the way it was.  But to be honest I felt like the big revelation as to why her Mom 'hates' her was extremely clichéd and had me rolling my eyes more than anything else.  This whole book revolves around drugs and abusive behavior and sometimes the preachiness of 'doing the right thing' got on my nerves.  While Beth was broken, hostile and self-sabotaging in a such a realistic way I hated AND felt sorry for her, Ryan was the opposite.  He knew what he wanted in life: baseball.  This book was about him branching out and learning to live his own life, along with the fact that it's okay to have more than one interest or passion.  We see that while he has both parents and lives in a fancy house, Ryan still has a miserable home life.  Also, he tends to act like a complete asshole sometimes.  For example, when he nominates Beth for Homecoming Court against her wishes, asks her out based on a dare (but he does tell her about it before they get serious, so props for that), etc.  The whole 'rain in a bottle' thing was cute but kind of not really a ohh and ahh moment for me personally.  Honestly loved the romance, but felt like Beth moved past her problems unrealistically and that her Mom trying to get better wasn't very true to what would really happen.  Her Mom would die of an overdose in real life - just sayin'.  The slut and druggie plot tropes really grated me as well, but as most of the book is spent in Small Town, USA away from direct interaction with those plot lines I could ignore my annoyance.  Also, I would have kicked Beth's ass to the curb for using me to 'run away' with her Mom and getting me almost beat to death.  Yeah Ryan, we get it you're a saint/martyr and you should get laid! :p  A really good book for what it was, which was an issue romance with characters that were overtly unlikable for most of the book.  The fact that I was smiling and happy at the end says that Ms. McGarry has some major talent despite the clichés, tropes and overall bad patches.  I recommend this to fans of contemporary YA issue books and angsty romances with fairy tale endings.  I am a sucker for those FT endings and that accounts for my high rating in some capacity! :)
VERDICT:  3.75/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley and a print copy as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is May 28th, 2013.*

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Under My Skin

Published:  October 28th, 2010
Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies # 1)
By: Isaac Marion
Atria/Emily Bestler Books
ISBN-13:  9781476717463

R is having a no-life crisis—he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization.

And then he meets a girl.

First as his captive, then his reluctant guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.

     Zombies are not my thing - AT ALL.  Especially not zombie love stories, which feel a little too much like they're cribbing from the Twilight playbook.  This book is the story of a boy (if you can call a zombie that in any real capacity) named 'R' and a girl named Julie.  One day when 'R' is out hunting with the other zombies living at the airport with him, he munches on Julie's boyfriend Perry.  Which does something weird to him and causes 'R' to kidnap Julie to keep her safe from the other zombies.  The story follows them as they grow closer and 'R' regains some of his humanity bit by bit.  Together they try to change the world and bring together the zombies and the remaining humans.  But can they really make a difference and what consequences could there be for a zombie and a human girl in a forbidden romance?  Never until just now did I realize all the Romeo & Juliet parallels between character names and even the reduxed storyline!  It was more than I expected, with the almost human 'families' that the zombies form with each other and the guidance provided by the elders, known as the 'Boneys' because they are nothing but skeletons.  I loved the fact that 'R' lived in a 747 and listened to Sinatra, with a romantic streak a mile wide.  But I felt like the fact that zombies munch on people and gain their memories/feelings was a little bit simplistic in theory and never really explained to my satisfaction.  Also, Julie is scared at first but accepts 'R' into her life a little too easily, especially knowing that he was most likely the one who ate her boyfriend Perry.  The scenes within the compound when Julie and her friend are trying to disguise 'R' from everyone and pass him off as human were more than a little ridiculous and unbelievable.  I mean, really?  These people who spend their entire lives keeping the zombies out and trying to eliminate them aren't going to notice when there's one in their midst?  They're not even gonna look closely at a supposed 'friend' from another compound?  Gimme a break!  And the way this ends, with the zombies beginning to transform into humans again because they're starting to 'feel' and experience things like the living (a.k.a. love and other schmaltzy things) made me want to gag!  If you're going to have it be a zombie/human romance, don't cop-out at the end and make things all shiny and new, with the zombie becoming human!  I liked the humor and oddness compared to other zombie novels, but the romance completely tanked this book for me.  Romeo & Juliet is so overplayed and I am so sick of retellings that try to camouflage themselves that I could scream.  Not the book for me at all and I wouldn't recommend it unless you're a fan of zombie books, romance and overly graphic/gory descriptiveness.
VERDICT:  2.75/5  Stars (Mostly props for originality and description I could picture in my head - and keeping me reading, which is the ultimate challenge.)
**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Catch A Severed Head, and Put It In Your Pocket...

Expected Publication:  August 27th, 2013
The Beginning of Everything (Originally titled 'Severed Heads and Broken Hearts')
By: Robyn Schneider
Katherine Tegen
ISBN-13:  9780062217134

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes?

Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a lyrical, witty, and heart-wrenching novel about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.

     Ezra Faulkner had it all - the girl, the car, the friends, popularity, jock status and the possibility of an athletic scholarship.  But then one night after he left a party, Ezra was in a horrible car accident that shattered his leg and destroyed his dreams for the future.  Now his friends are no longer involved in his life and his girlfriend, Charlotte, is dating his former best friend.  So he finds himself sitting with Toby, his friend from elementary school who caught someone's severed head on a Disneyworld rollercoaster and was ostracized for it.  Ezra also becomes the newest member of the debate team, as his schedule has been changed to accommodate for no longer being on the tennis team.  This is how he meets new girl Cassidy, who is mysterious and smart, completely different from anyone he's ever met before.  They begin a whirlwind romance, but with all the secrets she's keeping things may not last as long as Ezra hopes.  Can he become the person he always should have been and will his life ever be the same now that Cassidy is part of it? 
     I went into this expecting it to be more like reading a Sarah Dessen book than anything else.  That would have been totally fine, seeing as I love Ms. Dessen's books but what I got was something special in its own right and very original!  Unlike the synopsis implies, Ezra's friends are still trying to half-assed include him in their lives and activities.  But they do it in stupid, unfeeling ways like inviting him on sporty trips he can't be part of because of his leg.  And he's rightfully angry and confused, because none of them stayed to help him when he was hurt in the accident, they all left because they didn't want the cops to bust them for the party.  None of them visited him in he hospital either.  Toby's reacceptance and integration of Ezra into his life, group of nerd friends and the debate team he captains is wonderful.  He is an excellent example of taking an unfortunate circumstance and not letting it derail you (aka the severed head).  Also, he's not afraid to tell Ezra when he's acting like a douchebag.  Cassidy was my least favorite character, although the friendship and eventual romance between the two of them did make me smile.  But she is hiding some major secrets and has a serious superiority complex, acting like everyone else is dumber than her and beneath her notice.  Her stunts at the debate team competition are stupid and juvenile, and made me angry even though I understood her pain (if not her jacked up reasoning).  I guess that was the point of some of the events in this book, life doesn't always make sense and we don't always know people as well as we think we do.  The best thing about this book is the transformation of Ezra (definitely for the better) and how he becomes a completely different person gradually through the course of the book. 
     There was some very smart, witty dialogue but I never felt like I was being pandered to and I never got an impression of phoniness from any of the characters (except for Cassidy, but it fit with her habit of trying too hard to be okay).  Ezra's narration was very teenage boy, real and involving some deep feelings but also dealing with moments without common sense and garden variety teen behavior.  He's caught between letting himself change and trying to hang onto the way things used to be, even if they no longer fit into place the same way.  That's something everyone can relate to.  The ending was heart-wrenching, but wonderful in that it was completely unexpected and more true to life than most contemporary YA books turn out to be.  I did feel like some of the pop culture nostalgia was more in line with mid to late twenty-somethings and not teens.  For example, Furby and Tamogachis were both mentioned! Although Ezra's Halloween costume is pure late 2000s and will make you laugh if you have a sense of humor like mine!  Also, the twist involving an unknown connection between Cassidy and Ezra felt like it kind of came out of nowhere and didn't fit in with the feeling to the rest of the narrative.  Highly recommended for fans of contemporary YA romance/coming of age stories, who like a book that will play with their emotions and make them fall in love with the characters.
VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is August 27th, 2013.*