Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sorry, I Can't LARP With You...

Published:  May 7th, 2013
The Summer I Became A Nerd
By: Leah Rae Miller
Entangled Teen
ISBN-13:  9781620612392

On the outside, seventeen-year-old Madelyne Summers looks like your typical blonde cheerleader - perky, popular, and dating the star quarterback.  But inside, Maddie spends more time agonizing over what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book than planning pep rallies with her squad.  That she's a nerd hiding in a popular girl's body isn't just unknown, it's anti-known.  And she needs to keep it that way.

Summer is the only time Maddie lets her real self out to play, but when she slips up and the adorkable guy behind the local comic shop's counter uncovers her secret, she's busted.  Before she can shake a pom-pom, Maddie's whisked into Logan's world  of comic conventions, live-action role-playing, and first-person-shooter video games.  And she loves it.  But the more she denies who she really is, the deeper her lies become...and the more she risks losing Logan forever.


     I generally tend to like/love most of the books I read published by Entangled Teen.  They always manage to find either really off-the-cuff, odd but loveable stories or ones that are just so fluffy they are a great break from all the heavy fic out in the world.  This book is some combinations of the two.  After a humiliation that Maddie suffered in middle school when she let her freak flag fly, she has done her absolute best to make everyone forget that it ever happened.  On her quest to achieve this, Maddie has gained mega-popularity by denying the things that really interest her and pretending to be someone she's not.  Most of the time Maddie has is spent doing things she hates, she doesn't even really like her boyfriend, and is desparate not to lose her best friend, who is the only one she really loves in her fake life.  Only during the summer does she have a break from all the lying.  Nerdy t.v. show marathons, comic books and not having to shop 'for fun.'  But she goes to the local comic store so she won't have to wait for the last issue of her favorite comic for months before it can be shipped offline to her.  Of course the boy behind the counter is Logan, a nerd from school who has the power to blow her cover.  Hilarity ensues and romance blooms.  But can Maddie finally learn that to really be happy she has to be true to herself?  Or will she continue with her fake life and lose any chance she really has with Logan?
     I have to say that while I understand the appeal this book held with all the people who recommended it to me, I really wasn't really all that pleased with it.  I spent the majority of the book disliking Maddie and thinking she was pretty damn stupid.  I got past my popularity woes when I left middle school and entered into high school, so maybe that's why I couldn't really relate to her.  In the synopsis it sounds like a bearable plot, but it practice the obsession that Maddie has with popularity (at the cost of her own happiness) was extremely obnoxious.  She treats going to the comic book store like a secret spy mission for chrissakes!  Everything she does in regards to her nerdy obsessions was over the top and I wasn't always able to suspend my disbelief.  And the absolutely low opinion she obviously has for a girl who has been her best friend for years now, is disgusting to me.  She spends the whole friendship lying to her on the pretext that she won't like Maddie if she knows the truth.  Well guess what, that's not a real friendship then is it?  I thought not!  The crushy flirting and escapades with Logan were adorable and I love when he takes her LARPing (live-action-role-playing for those who don't know the acronym).  Watch Role Models (with Paul Rudd) and you'll get kind of an idea of what it is, only not as detailed or nerdy as it appears in this book!  Near the end of the book when everything hits the fan, the plot started to drag for me.  Yes, by the conclusion girl gets boy and finally removes her head from her ass.  There were a lot of cute scenes in this book, but I guess I need to just avoid books with popularity as a main issue from now on.  I just won't really care enough to empathize and will probably end up being a mean old lady, like I was just now.  Not for me anymore! :)  But I think a younger teen, probably about 12-16 would like this book.  They could probably relate a lot better!

VERDICT:  2.5/5  Stars

*I 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 on May 7th, 2013.*

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Speak Nothing But The Truth

Expected Publication: September 26th, 2013
All The Truth That's In Me
By: Julie Berry
Viking Juvenile
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.
     Judith is as outcast in Roswell Station, with most of its inhabitants thinking she's dumb and covered by sin due to tragic events from two years ago.  She can speak, learn and feel just as she did before - the only difference now is that the boy she loves is ignoring her and she is missing half of her tongue, which her captor cut out of her mouth.  No one calls her by name anymore and her brother only addresses her as 'Worm.'  But when the town comes under attack, Judith must make a decision that will change things forever: retrieve her captor (who everyone in town believes to be dead) and possibly save everyone, or stay silent and watch everyone she cares about die.  But the fallout of playing the hero may be greater than Judith ever could have imagined.  With both good and bad consequences rearing their heads, she may be forced to finally tell the truth of what happened in the two years she was gone.  Can Judith speak out against  Lottie's murderer and clear her own name of evil?  Or will Judith be convicted of things she's innocent of?  Also, can she ever have another chance with Lucas, the boy she still loves with all her heart?
     From the cover and synopsis, I expected this book to be a contemporary fiction book along the lines of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  What I got instead was a historical fiction novel, set in the heart of America during the time of the Puritans and their unyielding beliefs/morals.  Judith is a sixteen year old girls who was kidnapped and sent back with half of her tongue cut out.  Unable to tell everyone what happened (and not eagerly willing to either, for reasons that become evident when the truth finally comes out at the end), they all assume that her virtue is gone and shun her, much like Old Order Amish used to shun their people who broke the rules and refused repentance.  Judith is denied even her basic humanity and the book is told in her letters to Lucas, the boy she has loved since childhood who no longer notices her.  This book was heart-wrenching, told with such emotion and hesitance on Judith's part.  Yet there was a deeper observation gained from the loss of her speech that lent something truly unique to the narration. 
     The journey of Judith from the start of this book to the finish is of a girl who has lost her very identity, struggling to regain some sense of self and independence along with it.  I loved the connection that grew between Judith and her brother, Darrell, was so wonderful in its reality.  They don't all of the sudden love and respect each other.  He still calls her names and they still fight.  But when Darrell gets wounded in the battle things slowly begin to change.  I especially love when Judith starts going to school with Darrell (even if she does have to deal with the creepy schoolmaster making advances on her cause he thinks she can't tell anyone).  Her friendship with Maria and their speech therapy were well done, helping Judith to understand that it wasn't wrong or evil for her to speak up for herself again.  Maria helps her realize her own strength.  The relationship with Lucas seemed really one-sided a lot of the time, probably mostly as an after-effect of the style of the narrative.  We see, hear, feel and overall experience things as Judith does.  We don't really get any outside points of view or experience perspectives in this one.  Judith's revelations at the end of the novel regarding her virtue and the identity of Lottie's killer weren't necessarily truly shocking to me as a reader, but her decision to tell the whole truth struck me as really brave, especially when they all want to punish her for crimes they're unsure of and for just being too different.  The transformation of Judith through the novel is something to behold and even with pacing that is awkward sometimes, this book is one of the best that I've read this year.  It will destroy you in ways that only a truly good book can.  I highly recommend this to readers who like historical fiction and aren't averse to intense subject matter.  Not for the faint of heart! :)
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 is September 26th, 2013.*

Top Ten Tuesday # 3

      Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, which allows bloggers to share lists of some of our favorite (and not-so favorite) things.  This week we’ll be highlighting the top ten beginnings/endings that we love out of everything we've read.  This is going to take some serious consideration, but I definitely have ten beginnings and endings that I love.  It's just thinking of them all...  So here goes:
Beginnings (no particular order of favoritism)
1.  I Capture the Castle - "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.  That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket, and the tea-cosy."  How this could not make anyone instantly like Cassandra, the book's narrator and want to read more I have no clue.  One of my favorite books.
2.  Tuck Everlasting - "The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning."  This perfectly describes the bittersweet, reflective tone of the rest of the book.
3.  The Outsiders - "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."  This sentence will haunt me for the rest of my life.  I first read it when I was ten years old and the impact of this book as a whole is massive on me as a person.  The ending line is the same as the first, which shows true vision by bringing the story full circle.  Such a great book.
4.  The Blue Castle - "If it had not rained on a certain May morning Valancy Stirling's life would have been entirely different.  She would have gone, with the rest of her clan, to Aunt Wellington's engagement picnic and Dr. Trent would have gone to Montreal.  But it did rain and you shall hear what happened to her because of it."  Aren't you intrigued?  Go read it and you won't be disappointed!  Entirely entertaining, touching and hilarious.
5.  Their Eyes Were Watching God - "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board."  This whole book is a heartbreaking tale of one woman's lost happiness, longing for more in life and unconquerable spirit.  It will leave you in a quivering ball of tears at the end and this first line definitely foreshadows that!
Endings (no particular order of favoritism) 
1.  The Virgin Suicides - "It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn't heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together."  This encapsulates the empty ache the reader feels at the end of the book.

2.  The Giver - "For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music.  He heard people singing.  Behind him, across the vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left,  he thought he heard music too.  But perhaps it was only an echo."  You can't help but feel that joy right along with Jonas, when he finally makes it out.  The ending of this book is just so hopeful that when you close it, everything seems to be looking up.
3.  The Great Gatsby - "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."  I'm probably not the only one quoting this for my list, but it's definitely one that sticks with you.  Especially since the whole novel is basically an exercise in self-destruction, by people who can't forget the past.

4.  Anne of the Island - "I don't want diamond sunbursts or marbles halls.  I just want you."  Not quite the LAST line in the book, but it's close enough.  And that is such a great depiction of true love in action.  Also, it makes me swoon! :)
5.  The Soldiers of Halla - "And so we go.'  It's my way of saying that I'm prepared for the next adventure.  The next chapter.  The next challenge.  Whatever comes my way, I'm ready for it.  Because that is truly the way it was meant to be....."  Through all the ups and downs of the series, all the characters face fear and death headlong, diving straight into their many adventures.  'And so we go,' is a phrase that defines the whole Pendragon series.
     What about all of you guys?  What are your favorite ten beginnings/endings in books?  I can't wait to read all your lists and discover some things to share thrills about!  Happy Tuesday y'all and it was great hangin' out with you! :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

We Will Probably Break Up Someday...But This Was Fun!

Expected Publication:  October 1st, 2013
Unbreakable (The Legion # 1)
By: Kami Garcia
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13:  9780316210171
Supernatural meets The Da Vinci Code in this action-packed paranormal thriller, the first book in a new series from New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia.

I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.
When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.
     It's just been Kennedy and her Mom, ever since she was a little girl.  Then when she's out one night, Kennedy comes home only to find her Mother dead under suspicious circumstances.  This is just a couple days after she thought she saw a ghost in the cemetery.  It turns out what she saw was a spirit.  It had been sent to kill her Mom and now it's after Kennedy.  Twin brothers Jared and Lucas mysteriously appear and take Kennedy on a mission with them.  It turns out her Mom was part of something called the 'Legion,' a secret organization that fights an evil demon who wants to take over and destroy the Earth.  It's up to Kennedy, Jared, Lucas and two other teens, Alara and Priest, to take on the evil and banish it once and for all - before it completely devours them for good.  With all five of the adult legion members dead on the same night, the task will definitely not be an easy one.  And with each evil sprit they face and each puzzle they solve, the kids get closer & closer to either losing it all, or saving the world.  But which decision leads to the right outcome?
      I will say one important thing before starting this review in earnest: this book is complete and utter brain candy.  Reading this is more like getting a peek at a Supernatural episode script, rather than a YA book.  Sometimes this worked in it's favor and other times it didn't.  The action-packed pacing, tantalizing hints of romance between Kennedy and Jared, and the snarky banter/intense dramatic moments between all the characters definitely made it an enjoyable read.  I loved the scenes when the kids are searching for pieces of the puzzle (that's all I'm going to say about it!) and they are ghost hunting.  The scenes are believably terrifying and sent chills up my spine.  Especially with the dead Mother and Son in the well.  *Shivers*  But probably the worst part about this book being non-stop action was that we were given the bare minimum of character description/back story/development in this book.  Just enough to keep me, someone who prefers character-centric reading, to stay involved.  But I always felt like I was lacking a certain something I can't do without for very long. 
     Sometimes the interactions (especially the romantic ones of Kennedy and Jared) come across as melodramatic and bordering on ridiculous.  Kennedy's 'problems with trust' due to her cheating boyfriend seemed out of proportion to me.  She seems a lot more focused on that than her murdered Mother as well, in my opinion.  And Jared letting go to 'protect' her (while not fighting her right to ghost hunt with them all) comes across as stupid and doesn't make much sense in the context.  Kami Garcia definitely knows how to write a cliffhanger though, and I will be picking up the second book.  While it wasn't the best piece of literature ever, it was still fun and gave me enough action to satisfy me on some level.  That's all I need in a book sometimes, a little bit of fun.  Go in expecting that and you won't be disappointed! :)
VERDICT:  3.5/5  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 is October 1st, 2013.*

Friday, July 26, 2013

Follow Me Friday # 24

     So, Feature & Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee andAlisonCanRead. It's where you answer the weekly question and then link yourself and you go and check out other blogs of your interest, helping to support out endeavors as a community. Also, do it just because it's fun! :)
Q:  What do you do with your books after you’re done reading them?
A:  My books stay with me if I'm in love with them.  If not, they get given to the library for their book sale, traded at my used bookstore, or given to friends who want them.  Or I donate stuff to the Salvation Army as well! :) 
     What about you guys, what happens to your books when they're done being read by you?  I can't wait to see your answers, have a great Friday guys and thanks for stopping by my little corner of the blogosphere!  I do prefer you follow me on Bloglovin, but I also am trying to build a following for my Facebook and Twitter accounts as well.  All the links are on the right sidebar! :)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

You Are Mine For Keeps

Published: May 6th, 2013
You Are Mine (Mine # 1)
ISBN-13:  9780981616247

Serena knows a few simple things.  She will always be owned by a warlock.  She will never have freedom.  She will always do what her warlock wishes, no matter how inane, frivolous, or cruel it is.  And if she doesn't follow the rules, she will be tarnished.  Spelled to bald, inked, and barren for the rest of her life - and worth less than the shadow she casts.  

Then her ownership is won by a barbarian from another country.  With the uncertainty that comes from belonging to a new warlock, Serena questions if being tarnished is really worse than being owned by a barbarian, and tempts fate by breaking the rules.  When he looks the other way instead of punishing her, she discovers a new world.  The more she ventures into the forbidden, the more she learns of love and a freedom just out of reach.  Serena longs for both.  But in a society where women are only ever property, longing for more could be deadly.  


     The author, Janeal Falor, sent me a review request for this book a couple of weeks ago.  It is really easy to let books sit on a to-read shelf forever when you don't know the author personally.  And with a galley backlog as long as mine, you really have to be careful and considerate of the author who is requesting your micro-managed time! :)  I took a week to decide and downloaded a sample for my Kindle from Amazon.  When finishing those first five chapters only made me downright desperate to read the rest of the book, I knew I could give Janeal and her characters the time and effort that each author deserves from a reviewer.  I have read a lot of negative reviews about this book alongside the positive ones and maybe this comes from my imagination being tangled up inside my intellectualism, but all the complaints were ones that had me going, "Really?" with an eyebrow raised to the sky in consternation.  I've come to the conclusion that this is a book that you either get, or you don't.  And those are the best kind in my long-suffering reader's opinion.  Now onto the actual content of the book!
     The main character Serena is one of many sisters and they all live in a society where women are looked upon as property, with their only worth being that of their breeding capabilities.  Serena finds herself chafing at not speaking her mind, not being able to choose her future for herself (husband and otherwise) and for just being punished for who she is.  I loved Serena as a main character.  She has a seriously independent spirit, but in the context of the society she lives in still feels the need to be obedient and follow the Women's Canon (a stifling list of rules and behavioral expectations for women).  Serena hasn't let the constant hexes and beatings from her Father break her spirit and is something of a protector for her sisters, whom she loves with a burning sense of loyalty and true worry for their futures.  The society itself is so well built and described that I felt like I was walking alongside Serena.  I especially liked Janeal's descriptions of the magic and her intricately drawn sense of mutli-generational tradition, especially in regards to the extremely horrific engagement ceremony.  If it seems like I'm being overly vague, it's because this book is one you need to experience for yourself and I'm trying not spoil anything! :)
     Romance is an underlying theme in this book and with a woman being her husband/father/brother's property it's one that plays a rather large part.  But really the focus here is the obvious lack of romance in Serena's society.  Her new owner Thomas, who buys her after her blood is tested on her 17th birthday and found highly magical, is cruel and cares nothing for her.  If anything, Thomas promises to be just as hateful and menacing as her own Father.  But when Serena is won by a barbarian who kills Thomas and gains his property is when the real contrast starts.  In Zade's (the barbarian's) society, women are not treated as property.  They can have possessions and make decisions for themselves, even holding jobs without being tarnished members of society.  Alongside her second oldest sister Cynthia who is her main companion,
Serena learns what it means to be free and make decisions for herself.  One of her biggest ones being to employ a tarnished dressmaker, Katherine.  Interacting with Katherine who is in the lowest rung of society but has a wonderful spirit really encourages Serena that it's alright for her to become her own person.  She helps her learn that she has options in life and doesn't have to follow the commands lain out for her.  She can be her own strength and do what she thinks is right, even when it's dangerous.  It's not just Serena that's transformed either but Cynthia and one of their other sisters right alongside her as they view her being treated as a human being.
     This book is full of complex familial relationships, beautifully drawn friendships and camaraderie between women, alongside the building romance between Serena and Zade as she learns to trust him and view him differently from any other man she's ever known.  This book was one of the best that I've read this year and it also has a murder plot, intrigue and spies to keep a reader going alongside the complex workings of a very messed up society.  I truly loved the ending especially and am really excited to read the next book in the series, whether it focuses on Serena or another one of the characters I was introduced to.  If anyone is hesitant to read this book just ask yourself if you like a book that makes you think and you have an open mind.  If so, this might be the one for you.

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

*I received an e-copy of this book from the author in exchanged for an honest review.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book was published on May 6th, 2013.*

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Eat Your Heart Out

Published: June 11th, 2013
Another Little Piece
By: Kate Kayrus Quinn
ISBN-13:  9780062135957

The spine-tingling horror of Stephen King meets an eerie mystery worthy of Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series in Kate Karyus Quinn's haunting debut.

On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn't know who she is. She doesn't know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.

Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese's fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.


     Annaliese Rose Gordon has suddenly reappeared after being gone for a year, with everyone thinking she was dead.  The last time anyone saw her was at a party, screaming and covered in blood.  Now that she's back, Anna can't remember anything about her past or where she's been for the last year.  She begins to uncover the past with only a straight razor carved with the names of other girls, half-memories and a creepy boy following her around talking of someone called 'the Physician.'  But when she begins to truly investigate with the help of her outcast neighbor Dex, she discovers that some things are better left buried.  Anna just may have made a bargain with the devil and with a desperate, unholy hunger about to consume her she must decided whether to continue on the path to Hell or finally make the right decision.
      The book starts off with Anna in a mental ward, being assessed by Doctors after she has been missing for a year.  With a chunk of her brain missing and her memory gone with it, Anna is almost completely dissociated from reality.  She calls her parents "the Mom" and "the Dad" not really claiming them as her own.  It turns out this attitude is for good reason, as Anna is an interloper who got the real Annaliese to make a devil's bargain and give her body over for Anna's use.  Using the wishes of other girls and their desperation, Anna has been body jumping since her own life was abruptly shattered.  The whole concept of the 'deal' was completely and utterly creepy.  As someone who doesn't generally read horror, the especially graphic passage of text describing Annaliese cutting out Anna's heart and eating it could have been enough to make me stop reading - if I wasn't too damned curious for my own good!  One thing that almost did make me stop reading was the stalkerish behavior of Annaliese's previous 'boyfriend' Logan, but with the what could be called a curse working on his sensibilities, I had to cut him some slack.  But he was pretty disturbing.  
     The characters in this one are pretty abstract, although we get to know both Annaliese and the creature/lost girl Anna through flashbacks/memories as she starts to regain knowledge of her many lives and deaths.  Honestly the whole subplot with Frankie and the Physician just made things all that much more creepy.  Especially since Frankie's sick obsession is what propels his continued interest in Anna, even after she is in the bodies of other girls.  Quinn definitely captures the feeling of being an outcast in a world where you decidedly don't belong.  I thought the revelation of Dex's secret and why he's so obsessed with terrible things to be interesting, if a bit cliched.  The ending of this one was okay, but I think I would have been happier and it would have made a lot more sense if no second chances were afforded.  It just didn't sit right with me.  The connection between Anna, Gwen (Annaliese's best friend) and Annaliese was interesting and well drawn.  It was a believable way for Anna to ingratiate herself into the life of her next victim.  I give the author major props for keeping me so invested, even when my stomach was in turmoil! :)  I definitely see the parallels between this and the type of grotesque horror that Stephen King specializes in.  Even with paranormal undertones, the graphically horrific situations were enough to turn my stomach.  This may not have been the right book for me personally, but it was a really interesting debut and I'd definitely recommend it to fans of horror, who have strong stomachs for gore.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via Edelweiss.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book was published on June 11th, 2013.*

Top Ten Tuesday #2

     Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, which allows bloggers to share lists of some of our favorite (and not-so favorite) things.  This week we’ll be highlighting the top ten words/topics that will make us avoid picking up a book.  This is only my second time participating in this meme you guys! :)  And I'm going to brainstorm to see if I can come up with ten deterrents of my own, but if not I'll enlist my brother Collin to take over half of the list.  

Anna's Top Ten Words/Topics That Make Me Avoid Books

1.  Urban Fantasy - There are occasional exceptions to this (because I'm a sucker) but I like my Fantasy to be straight up and either light or high - nothing urban or contemporary being the main focus/setting in it.

2.  Incest - So there are quite a few books with faux incest in YA as a big plot device.  I just can't do it!  Every time it makes me think of my own brother and totally squicks me out beyond all measure.  It makes me want to crack open characters' heads with their own nasty stupidity.  This is probably the main sticking point with me on the original three books in the Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare.  It just grosses me out to the max and lowers my opinion of the characters majorly.  So, yeah.  There's that! :)

3.  Steampunk - I have once again made exceptions for this, but I don't really care for steampunk AT ALL.  It just kind of bores me, as I'm not a gears/machinery kind of girl.  And real history is so interesting that you don't need alternate reality-type fantasy elements to create an awesome story!  It can be done without them.  Not my thing.

4.  Androids/Clones - I should have avoided Cinder by Marissa Meyer for this exact reason, but the fairy tale aspect sucked me into reading it.  I have no sympathy for androids (clones maybe a little).  They are robots - no matter how 'human' they may seem they are NOT human.  They are machines.  A case of pointless exposition and misplaced emotions in my opinion.

5.  Humans In Love With Ghosts - I just read a book with a love triangle between a human girl, a ghost boy and a human boy.  If I had known about the triangle prior to reading, I'd have probably avoided it with a major effort.  It just always seems so pathetic and pointless for a human and ghost to love each other (except in the movie Ghost - if it's Patrick Swayze it's always acceptable!).  I always want to scream at them to get a life and quit being so emo.  Especially when they only meet after the ghost is already dead.  Maybe if they spent as much time on their life and real people as the stupid ghost, they wouldn't create a hopeless situation!    

6.  Zombies - They are CORPSES.  Yet they are being romanticized in the tradition of vampires, a la books like Warm Bodies.  I'm sorry, that is not okay at all with me.  It's gross.  I even have issues with Snow White, being personally iffy near the end, and am wary that the Prince was a closeted necro.  To have that full on explored in zombies makes me ill.  Leave the dead buried where they belong!  I also don't want to read about Grandpa Jerry eating someone's brains.  Not my kind of book.

7.  Animals as main characters - There is a reason that I have never read the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.  I just have a hard time investing myself in the lives and concerns of animals.  People are already interesting enough to me and animal sidekicks fully fill my needs as a reader.  I have made exceptions like the truly amusing The Mouse and the Motorcycle.  Also books like the Berenstain Bears, Bunnicula, and Mercer Mayers' Little Critter series.  But that was then and this is now.  I just don't give a flying f*** about a dog's inner monologue.  Time travel to me 15 years in the past and you might be able to catch me in a receptive mood.  Might.  

8.  Divorce - I am 23 years old, unmarried and with no children.  If a book has an interesting cover/title I'll read the synopsis.  If it says the word 'divorce' I'm out like a light.  Just not something I'm interested in, especially since it also signals middle-aged characters usually and I'm not there yet by any means.  It bores me to tears!

9.  Menopause - I will read books about women's book clubs (it is a failing in my character - I blame my Mom for this one).  If any of them ever mentioned menopause I would quit.  Such is the reason I've never read Nancy Thayer.  Maybe in another 40 years or so, but not now.

10.  The Next...*Insert Million Dollar Moneymaker Title Here* - I know other people will probably say this in regards to specific fandoms, like Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games.  I don't have a specified anger, just a generalized one (like this wide-sweeping garbage ass statement of a 'recommendation').  This pisses me off like no other, because it turns people off of good books that are most of the time NOTHING LIKE what they are compared to!  I know a lot of people who are avoiding Divergent because of the Hunger Games comparison.  I might have as well if I hadn't read it before it started being compared to HG.  It just makes me really mad!  If you were here you'd probably see flames shooting from my eyes right now! LOL

What about all of you guys?  What are the ten things that put you off the most with books?  I can't wait to read all your lists and discover some things to commiserate about!  Happy Tuesday y'all and it was great hangin' out with you! :)

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Cherry, Everything Is Alright

Expected Publication:  September 10th, 2013
Cherry Money Baby
By: John M. Cusick
Candlewick Press
ISBN-13:  9780763655570

Hollywood glitz collides with workingclass aspirations in this satirical tale of an impulsive starlet and a sharp-witted small-town teen.

Cherry Kerrigan loves her simple life, her family’s tiny trailer, even working at Burrito Barn. Forget college — she’s marrying her sweetheart from next door. But here comes Ardelia Deen, a glamorous starlet who sweeps Cherry into a world of fast cars and penthouse parties. Now Cherry’s small-town life just seems so . . . small. When Ardelia drops a bomb of an offer — one involving a baby — Cherry knows her life will change forever, no matter what she decides. John M. Cusick focuses his signature wit on Hollywood royalty and the wide-eyed dreams of Small Town, U.S.A. in a novel about discovering who you are . . . and changing your mind.


     Cherry Kerrigan is just a small-town girl, working in a burrito place and living in a trailer park with her Dad and little Brother.  In love with the boy next door, Cherry is loving her life just the way it is.  She doesn't even really see the appeal in leaving for the great world outside the town lines.  When Lucas, her sweetheart, asks her to marry him life is just that much sweeter.  But when Cherry saves movie star Ardelia Deen (who is in town shooting her latest movie) by giving her the Heimlich, things starts to change.  All of the sudden Cherry is on T.V. and being watched by all of America, made out as stupid trailer trash who doesn't know anything at all.  Hanging out with Ardelia begins to make Cherry wonder what she really wants in life and if staying behind while her best friend goes to college is really good enough after all.  Agreeing to help Ardelia find a surrogate to carry a baby for her, Cherry's life is consumed by her new friends, causing the gap to grow between herself and her old life.  Can she find a place to belong or will she be stuck between Hollywood, high society and the trailer park?  
     Oh my goodness!  This book was not at all what I was expecting, but that's in the best way possible.  Cherry Kerrigan is smart, but she's a sarcastic bitch who doesn't try hard enough in school.  She doesn't want to go away to college and is proud of her life just the way it is.  I love Cherry so much.  Even when she's being a pain in the neck she's still really likeable, or at the very least really funny.  The fact that Cusick avoids caricaturizing her as stupid trailer trash really endears him to me as a writer.  The romantic relationship between her and Lucas is wonderful, with a true connection between them.  Also, the depiction of an interracial relationship (Lucas is black, Cherry is white) in a small, hick town was touched upon with an episode that takes place on the street when a cop asks Cherry if Lucas is bothering her.  Cherry of course, basically tells the cop to go f*** himself and calls him Barney Fife.  But it's not the main focus of their romance which is truly awesome.  The biggest focus is on the trust between them and how it  transforms from absolute to tenuous throughout the book.  But the love is still overflowing between them and I love the graffiti art of Lucas that connects them on an even deeper level.
     The family issues were so realistic that it was amazing to me when I was reading it.  Not just for Cherry, but for Ardelia too.  Ardelia's close friendship, practically sisterhood with her friend Spanner was antagonistic but loving.  The scene closer to the end of the book when Ardelia humiliates her in front of some wealthy, 'important' guests was hard to read if simply for the fact of how easy it is to take a friend's love for granted.  The relationship between Cherry and her Dad, a struggling auto-mechanic who wants more for his kids, was full of warmth, discipline and I love that he was a major presence in her life (even though he was constantly working and not always able to be there).  There was a huge contrast between that and the pronounced lack of a Mom in her life.  When the whole surrogate selection plot pops up, Ardelia and Cherry's insecurities and gaps in parental education become painful to witness.
     Life in the fast lane with partying, movie stars and drugs is something that starts to get a hold on Cherry at times.  But just when you think she's starting to lose herself, she does something that totally brings her back to herself.  As the book goes along, especially after Cherry gets high and almost cheats on Lucas and a tragedy befalls her family (pretty much financially ruining them), she has to make some pretty hard decisions about how to make things right.  I don't agree with other reviewers that the direction of the last portion of this book turned cliche.  Yes, if it were any other book I might say it did.  But with the amount of sheer emotion packed into every moment and confrontation, it was anything but cliched to me as a reader.  To me the ending was perfect and the friendship between Ardelia and Cherry throughout this book was a high point for me.  It was about the journey of figuring out who you are when the world proves to be scarier and bigger than you ever imagined.  Movie star or girl in a trailer park, life kicks you in the ass either way.  I highly recommend this book to fans of Where the Heart Is, who also like a book with some sharp (funny) edges to go along with the warm and fuzzy emotions.

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

*received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley and 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 is September 10th, 2013.*

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wings To Touch the Sky

Published: July 9th, 2013
Raven Flight (Shadowfell # 2)
By: Juliet Marillier
Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13:  9780375983672

Neryn has finally found the rebel group at Shadowfell, and now her task is to seek out the elusive Guardians, vital to her training as a Caller. These four powerful beings have been increasingly at odds with human kind, and Neryn must prove her worth to them. She desperately needs their help to use her gift without compromising herself or the cause of overthrowing the evil King Keldec.

Neryn must journey with the tough and steadfast Tali, who looks on Neryn's love for the double agent Flint as a needless vulnerability. And perhaps it is. What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely—but in whose favor, no one knows. 

     Neryn is finally with the rebels at Shadowfell, but now she must prepare to leave and seek out the four Guardians for her training as a Caller.  It is imperative that she be trained in the ways of her gift, especially when it becomes clear to everyone that the war will come sooner than they had originally hoped.  With the companionship of gruff and reluctant Tali (who would rather stay behind to guard and guard the leader of the rebellion instead) traveling with her and the intermittent help of the Good Folk along the way, things still are harsh and dangerous.  Can Neryn manage to keep momentum until her task is complete or will she fail and bring down the cause with her?  Also, Flint is still playing double agent to evil King Keldec and with the annual 'festival' approaching his loyalty will be called into question - with potentially devastating results.  Can Flint and Neryn both survive long enough to make it back to each other?
     I thought the first book in this series was decent, so when I spotted this up on Netgalley I requested it.  Just to see if there was a chance Marillier could make me fall in love with this series.  I honestly feel just as ambivalent as ever about everything to do with it.  This book spends most of it's time with long-winded description, little action can be found in the plot and even with an especially big cliffhanger/shocking plot twist near the end I still felt like saying, 'so what?'  Neryn doesn't get on my nerves quite as much as she did in Shadowfell, but I still don't like her enough for her to carry an entire book for me.  This novel didn't have the harsh strength of Flint as her counterpoint to balance things.  Instead it introduced Tali, a guard from the rebel camp who slowly by the end of the book becomes a friend and comes to play a more important role in the uprising.
     I just felt like this book had next to no conflict, in terms of moving forward the plot.  Most of it meanders dreamily with a feeling of disconnect.  The few big events (the encounter with Enforcers, the grisly 'festival' and the surprise violence near the end) do little to break up the monotony of the book, which is mostly a really boring travelogue with a semi-interesting account of a friendship that develops between the two girls.  The Good Folk were another disappointment, with their lack of any real resistance to being enlisted into the troubles of men.  After the conflict within their own ranks over whether or not to help Neryn in the first book, in this one they pretty much agree straightaway.  It felt like Marillier didn't want to bother with giving any more of them TRULY distinct personalities as Neryn's friends (excepting a couple she names close to the end) and having to spend more time on them in the future.  It all came across as very stilted and forced to me as a reader.  And yes, the Neryn and Flint relationship felt somewhat contrived as well.  In the first book I never pegged him as having the same depth of feeling that Neryn did - in this one her borders on reckless desperation during his scant scenes in the book.  Overall, mediocre at best and boring with a touch of annoying at worst.  I probably won't be reading the third book (unless I decide to torture myself, like I do a good majority of the time anyways) and would only recommend to die-hard Marillier fans.
VERDICT:  2.5/5  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 on July 9th, 2013.*

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

With a Rebel Yell

Published:  June 1st, 2013
Rebel Spirits
By: Lois Ruby
ISBN-13:  9780545426237

Infused with history and mystery, this tale of ghosts, love, and murder takes place in present-day Gettysburg, where the Civil War still looms large.

Lori Chase doesn't know what to think about ghosts. She may have seen a few in the past, but those were just childish imaginings...right? Only now that she is living in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, spirits seem to be on everyone's mind. The town is obsessed with its bloody Civil War history, and the old inn that Lori's parents run is supposedly haunted by the souls of dead soldiers.

Then Lori meets one such soldier--the devastatingly handsome Nathaniel Pierce. Nathaniel's soul cannot rest, and he desperately needs Lori's help. Because Nathaniel was not killed in the famous battle. He was murdered. Lori begins to investigate the age-old mystery, stumbling upon shocking clues and secrets.

At the same time, she can't help falling for Nathaniel, just as he is falling for her....

     First off before I dig an deeper than the surface of this book, the title is a COMPLETE misnomer!  This book centers around the ghost of a soldier from the Union, a.k.a. the Northern Army.  Not the Southern one, who are referred to as the 'rebel' army.  Therefore it makes no offense, and is slightly confusing.  There, now that inconsistency is out of the way, let's get on with the actual review! :)  Lorelai 'Lori' Chase is a sixteen year old girl who is forced to move with her parents to Gettysburg, away from all her friends, so they can finally open their own Bed and Breakfast like they've always wanted to.  The building they've purchased comes with an inherited staff, some creaks and fix-it situations - oh yeah, and did anyone mention the ghost of a murdered soldier?  Lori has been keeping a secret from her parents and her best friend for a long time that makes this ghost a nuisance.  She can see him and communicate with him.  Lori has been able to see spirits for years.  With the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg approaching, soldier Nathaniel Pierce only has a short amount of time to discover who murdered him and why so he can rest in peace.  With treasure, scorned relatives and battlefield mayhem clouding the truth will Lori ever be able to help him find out what really happened?  And how can she stop herself from falling for such a charming guy...even though he's dead?   With treasure at stake things quickly turn deadly and it will take all her wits for Lori to make it out alive. 
     What's new Scooby Doo?  That's what I felt like saying as I read a good majority of this novel.  It reads like a movie-of-the-week suspense piece and the middle grade feel/style did it no favors for me either.  Of course, sucker that I am, I couldn't resist a book involving a Civil War ghost and a murder mystery.  *Slaps forehead dramatically.*  D'oh!  This wasn't a badly written book by any means - a cute, cookie-cutter middle grade, paranormal romance. It was just unfortunately predictable, the characters were bland without any real development/spice and the whodunit was pretty cut and dried.  Oh yeah, it also employed the dreaded paranormal love triangle and insta-love tropes.  The cute lawn boy who's in his summer before college or the ghost of a Union soldier (who actually seems like kind of a smug dick most of the time to me).  Choices, choices and of course they both luuurrrvvveee Lori and want to be with her.  Yeah, sure.  Also, this whole thing takes place in less than a week.  To me that just comes across as lazy under the pretense of plot momentum.  Ruby mentions some seriously great stuff like reenactments on battlefields, cemetery 'ghost' tours and presidential connections to her own murder mystery.  But that's all they are in a really short and underdeveloped book - tidbits of things that could have made this book far better than it was. 
     This is the kind of book that 12 year old me would have devoured and 'loved forever and ever!'  (As evidenced by my recent Caroline B. Cooney re-reads, I was nowhere near as harsh [i.e. bitter] of a book reader back then]).  I would read anything with pages and ink at that point in my life, so that isn't really saying much.  Even Ruby's attempt at inserting interesting guests at the B&B fell short of a working plot device.  The ending is very neatly tied up, but is very vague in terms of answering what the characters will end up doing/being.  I would recommend this to teachers with reluctant readers, and those who want to get a kid interested in history with some light fiction.  Overall, not for me but I'm sure it would entice someone to read and I do give props to the author (and subtract some personal points) that she kept me reading to the end.
VERDICT:  2/5  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 on June 1st, 2013.*

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #1

     Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, which allows bloggers to share lists of some of our favorite things.  This week we’ll be highlighting authors whom we feel deserve more recognition.

     So guys, this is my first time participating in this particular meme! :)  I figured since these are such a big part of blogging and being social within the community, that I should be more active with the weekly memes and visit some other blogs.  This week's topic is: Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition.  All of these authors are linked to their Goodreads profiles, so that you can get further information if interested! :)

Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

1.  Cidney Swanson - With the amount of love out there for paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi floating out in the blogosphere especially, you'd think that Cidney Swanson would be a lot more known than she is! :)  I discovered her when I won her first book, Rippler on LibraryThing.  I was an immediate fan of her writing.  And her second series was set on a colonized Mars!  Anyone who likes fantasy should check her out.

Rippler (Ripple, #1)  Chameleon (Ripple, #2)  Unfurl (Ripple, #3)
Saving Mars (Saving Mars, #1)  Defying Mars (Saving Mars, #2)  Losing Mars (Saving Mars, #3)

2.  Lisa M. Klein - She writes some awesome YA historical fiction, which seems like it has been on the verge of completely out of fashion lately.  I just never hear all that much about her, even though she covers such a wide range of subjects.  My favorite book of hers was set in the lost colony of Roanoke.  She has also written books about Ophelia, a daughter of Lady Macbeth (if she'd had one), and book about a girl who's friends with Shakespeare.  Historical fiction fans should definitely try her out!

Ophelia    Cate of the Lost Colony  Lady Macbeth's Daughter
Two Girls of Gettysburg 

3.  Karsten Knight - His first series of books (#3 hasn't been released yet) is about Gods and Godesses reincarnated as teenagers.  The main character, Ashline, is a Polynesian volcano Goddess.  It's an action packed, thrill ride with fun characters and great writing.  It's also a LOT better than most of the highly marketed mythology reads in YA (I could name one Harlequin Teen series in particular...).  He definitely deserves to be more well-known.

Wildefire (Wildefire, #1)  Embers and Echoes (Wildefire, #2)  Afterglow (Wildefire, #3)

4.  Leah Cypess - She is an author of high fantasy and her first book, Mistwood, was one of my favorite reads of 2011.  It's just as exciting as Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers and has some wonderful mystery and characters in it.  Definitely an author to keep watch on.  I loved the companion novel to it just as much and her short story in the Two And Twenty Dark Tales anthology was deliciously chilling and I'm eagerly awaiting her new book in 2014.  More people should be reading her, especially high fantasy fans, as that genre can seem stale at times for lack of ingenuity.

Mistwood (Mistwood, #1)  Nightspell (Mistwood, #2)  Buried Above Ground: A Nightspell Novella  Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes

5.  Tara Altebrando - Tara is an author who has written a few books, but the one I first read by her Dreamland Social Club is one of the most interesting contemporary YA fictions I've read in the couple years since I joined Goodreads.  It's full of lush descriptions and is all about one family's journey to overcome a major loss.  She has a way of making words become magical and just walk off the page, full of life.  I highly recommend her to fans of Sarah Dessen who want something a tad more whimsical where the setting is basically another main character!

Dreamland Social Club  The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life  The Pursuit of Happiness  What Happens Here

6.  Dodie Smith - So, I'm rocking it a little old-school with a classic YA author here.  But I feel like when people are cramming classics down your throat they're missing a couple of serious gems with this British author.  She definitely has a unique form of writing, with no two of her books being in the same layout.  One of my top ten coming of age books is her story, I Capture the CastleShe captures the ache of being caught between teen and adult perfectly - plus this book has some of the wackiest, most loveable characters I have ever read.  I recommend this to anyone who wants a great classic for their to-read list.  And if you like her, check out The New Moon with the Old as well.  A great author who is overlooked all too often.

I Capture the Castle  The New Moon With the Old  The Hundred and One Dalmatians

It Ends With Revelations  The Town in Bloom

7.  Rosemary Clement-Moore - Moore's writing is something I've checked out of the library and seen at my local Barnes and Noble on occasion.  It's not something I really see talked about that often though.  Which is surprising, given the great sense of humor and interesting plots she manages to come out with in her novels.  She mainly writes paranormal fiction, but always has a fresh twist on things.  I'm always interested to read something new written by her and wish more people knew about her awesome books!

Prom Dates from Hell (Maggie Quinn: Girl Vs. Evil #1)  Hell Week (Maggie Quinn: Girl Vs. Evil #2)  Highway to Hell (Maggie Quinn: Girl Vs. Evil #3)
The Splendor Falls  Texas Gothic  Spirit and Dust

8.  Cat PatrickCat is one of the authors I am most excited about in YA right now.  Every book she writes has an interesting, and completely fresh premise.  It makes me excited as a reader to know that anytime I pick up one of her books I'm in for a great story and it will be completely different than the one before it.  She writes really awesome characters, that make you feel like they're standing right next to you and her novels also have plenty of action.  She deserves to be spotlighted at the bookstore and needs to be getting WAY more attention than she is right now from popular culture!  I feel like her books could be used as tools for reluctant readers especially, if only more people knew about her.

Forgotten  Revived  The Originals  Just Like Fate

9.  Robin Bridges - Another author that is on her first series, but it is such a good one I have to mention her to y'all.  She is so underplayed it's not even funny!  Necromancers, shapshifters, vampires, dark and light fae in the Imperial Court of Russia in the late 1800s.  Her attention to historical detail, Russian lineage/naming differences and realism in her settings is wonderful (never becoming tedious, thank God!).  Also, it is definitely different from any other paranormal fiction series that I've read or had recommended to me.  Katerina is such a strong main character, who longs to be a doctor.  There is also some swoony romance in these books.  I feel like a broken record, but once again I just wish more people knew about this series.  I feel like it could have immense popularity, but I had to fight to find the second one at any library near me.  It took almost a year after publication before I could read it, which is always sad to a reader.

The Gathering Storm (Katerina, #1)  The Unfailing Light (Katerina, #2)  The Morning Star (Katerina, #3)

10.  Megan Shepherd - So far she has only published one book, but her next is slated for release in January 2014 and I am beyond excited to read it!  I was unsure what to expect from an author whose book was inspired by/based on The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells.  Having a YA novel based on a classic is very hit or miss.  Shepherd definitely hit the mark head on with it though!  She is an exciting new voice in the genre of horror, especially the YA subsect of horror which is scandalously lacking at times.  Great descriptive language, settings, characters and a plot that leaves you shivering with anticipation.  I just wish the publisher marketed her better, because if my local B&N is anything to go by, she's not being spotlighted very much.

The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter, #1)  Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter, #2)

What about all of you guys?  Who are the ten authors you think are underappreciated/not recognized enough?  I can't wait to read all your lists and discover some new reading material!  Happy Tuesday y'all and it was great hangin' out with you! :)