Thursday, September 29, 2011

Contest Craze: Alternate Ending

This is the Alternate Ending Challenge, hosted by The Book Blog Experience and Princess Bookie!

Challenge:  Pick one of your favorite books and write an alternate ending to it. Post it to your blog.

Book:  Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Alternate Ending:  If you haven't finished the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, then don't read any further because I don't want to spoil anything for you. (And while you're not busy reading this post, please, please, please pick up this series! It. Is. AWESOME.)

For those of you who aren't afraid of me spoiling anything, I didn't completely rewrite the ending of Monsters of Men, but I chose to add a little something. The conclusion is ambiguous (but hopeful) and since I like happy endings, I decided that I'd push Viola and Todd to a more certain future.

Here's where Patrick Ness left Todd, life or death uncertain:
"Viola? Keep calling for me--And I'll keep searching for you--And I'll find you--You bet yer life on it--I'll find you--Keep calling for me, Viola--Cuz here I come."


I stare blankly at the wall before me, trying hard to hold onto hope--hope that Todd will wake up, hope that The Sky will lead us true, hope that the Spackle and my people from the spaceship can make peace. The chair creaks with age, the only noise in the almost empty room.

Then quietly, so quietly that I think I must be dreaming, I hear it. It. 


The sound is weak but so familiar.

The journal slides out of my lap as I lean forward, brushing my hand over Todd's forehead, praying for things I want so much I can't even find the words.

"Todd? Todd, can you hear me?"

Viola? Are you there?

Todd's Noise hangs in the air between us, and then his eyelids flutter, just a little, so faintly that anyone watching with less intensity would miss it. Eyes locked on his, I will him so hard to wake up I know he has to feel it.


But this time he says it with his voice.

Juts Because Winner

Wondering who the Just Because Giveaway?

The winner of the mystery prize pack is...Kristina S.

Congratulations! I'll have your prize pack out as soon as I hear back from you. Make sure to check your email. :-)

To everyone who entered, thank you so much for entering, following and spreading the word. I hope to see you around!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: Witches of East End

The three Beauchamp women--Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid--live in North Hampton, out on the tip of Long Island. Their beautiful, mist-shrouded town seems almost stuck in time, and all three women lead seemingly quiet, uneventful existences. But they are harboring a mighty secret--they are powerful witches banned from using their magic. Joanna can resurrect people from the dead and heal the most serious of injuries. Ingrid, her bookish daughter, has the ability to predict the future and weave knots that can solve anything from infertility to infidelity. And finally, there's Freya, the wild child, who has a charm or a potion that can cure most any heartache.

For centuries, all three women have been forced to suppress their abilities. But then Freya, who is about to get married to the wealthy and mysterious Bran Gardiner, finds that her increasingly complicated romantic life makes it more difficult than ever to hide her secret. Soon Ingrid and Joanna confront similar dilemmas, and the Beauchamp women realize they can no longer conceal their true selves. They unearth their wands from the attic, dust off their broomsticks, and begin casting spells on the townspeople. It all seems like a bit of good-natured, innocent magic, but then mysterious, violent attacks begin to plague the town. When a young girl disappears over the Fourth of July weekend, they realize it's time to uncover who and what dark forces are working against them.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review of Elsewhere

Is it possible to grow up while getting younger?

Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice. Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward? This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.
[from Goodreads]

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Readers wondering "what if...?"
High point:  The idea
Low point:  For slightly younger readers
Reader maturity:  13+

For some reason, I thought Elsewhere was a dystopian novel with a similar cover to Matched. So I was a little surprised at first to discover that the heroine is, for all Earthly intents and purposes, dead. But even being dead, Liz is a force to be reckoned with, getting into trouble and trying to find her purpose in the years she has left until she returns to Earth.

Elsewhere is a book for younger YA readers and maybe even older MG readers, so it's a quick read, with a simple plot and straightforward characters. But don't let the simplicity fool you. Elsewhere tackles a lot of interesting questions about love and the purpose of life. Many of the situations force the reader to think about how time is being spent now, because there may not be a later.

The set-up of Elsewhere (the place) is pretty extraordinary. I don't want to ruin anything, but I was impressed by the physical rules of the place, as well as the rules in place for the citizens of Elsewhere. And I loved the mention of celebrities and their new Elsewhere careers (especially Marilyn Monroe's).

Since my views on what happens after death don't include reincarnation, this book made me a little uncomfortable at first, but eventually, it became clear that Elsewhere isn't pushing an agenda; it's simply a what-if fiction novel.

Title:  Elsewhere
Author:  Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: YA - Contemporary
Year:  2005
Book Source:  Purchased

Monday, September 26, 2011

Contest Craze: Zombie Survival

This is the Scariest Word Challenge, hosted by That Teen Can Blog! and Princess Bookie.

Challenge:  Choose two characters to fight along side of you.
Choose the fictional world in which you will be fighting in
Choose a weapon/superpower/ability to use to fight
Go to this site and choose one of the 8 words to be your mode of transportation

Post it. 

Characters:  Four from Divergent and Gale from The Hunger Games 
(I haven't read beyond The Hunger Games so maybe it turns out he can't fight at all, but I don't know yet.)

Setting:  Hex Hall (or somewhere in that universe)

Weapon/superpower/ability:  energy manipulation--throwing balls of lightning, blasting open doors, jumpstarting car engines (this could come in very handy!)

(original image courtesy of Collington)

Mode of Transportation:  bulldozer
(It's pink!)
 (image courtesy of Alastair Smith)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Red Riding Hood

The blacksmith would marry her.
The woodcutter would run away with her.
The werewolf would turn her into one of its own.

Valerie's sister was beautiful, kind, and sweet. Now she is dead. Henry, the handsome son of the blacksmith, tries to console Valerie, but her wild heart beats fast for another: the outcast woodcutter, Peter, who offers Valerie another life far from home.

After her sister's violent death, Valerie's world begins to spiral out of control. For generations, the Wolf has been kept at bay with a monthly sacrifice. But now no one is safe. When an expert Wolf hunter arrives, the villagers learn that the creature lives among them--it could be anyone in town.

It soon becomes clear that Valerie is the only one who can hear the voice of the creature. The Wolf says she must surrender herself before the blood moon wanes...or everyone she loves will die.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   2 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Those who enjoy/don't mind love triangles
High point:  A revamped fairytale
Low point: The love triangle and the confusing events
Reader maturity: 15+

Though I adore the premise of fairytale retellings, Red Riding Hood didn't hold much allure for me. The novel contained many great elements, such as the backdrop of a terrified and cloyingly strict village, as well as the mystery of the wolf's identity. Little bits and pieces of the Wolf's history are exposed by Valerie's memories, and clues to the Wolf's alter persona are revealed through the same medium.

Unfortunately, I found the characters of Henry and Peter predictable--one the kind and good businessman's son and one the rakishly handsome outcast. As might be expected, those two, combined with Valerie, create a love triangle, which is one of my least favorite plot devices, since the outcome is always cruel to someone.

Though I liked the idea of the story and even the overall plot (sans love triangle), but I was confused about some of the events and wasn't sure if I, as the reader, was supposed to know certain things or if I was supposed to be as oblivious as the townsfolk.

While Red Riding Hood wasn't a book for me, if you like retellings and don't mind love triangles, it might be worth a look.

Title:  Red Riding Hood
Author:  Sarah Blakley-Cartwright
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2011
Book Source: Won from Reading, Writing and the World of Words

Friday, September 23, 2011

Contest Craze: Who Should be a Couple?

This is the Who Should be a Couple Challenge, hosted by Princess Bookie herself!

Challenge:  Write up a blog post telling us who should be a couple but are NOT a couple.

Couple:  Mary Quinn and James Easton

Why I Want Them Together:  They go well together because Mary is independent (she's a spy!), with a stubborn streak to match James' own. And his adventurous side needs a woman who can fight the bad guys with him instead of sitting at home, drinking tea or whatever ladies of genteel breeding did in Victorian London.

Also, they have such great chemistry in the books! I want to see where that takes them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Just Because Giveaway

I've been feeling a little down the past few weeks, and while doing a ton of reading (which always makes me feel better), I decided to pass on a little literary sunshine to someone who might need a little end of summer pick-me-up.

Here's how it works:

I'm going to make a mystery prize pack with 3 or 4 (depending on how many I can stuff in the envelope) of the following (previously read) ARCs. The winner will get to choose *one* book that will definitely be in the envelope, but the rest will be a surprise. (And who doesn't like book surprises?!)

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (ARC)
The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone (ARC)
Moonglass by Jessi Kirby (ARC)
Impossible by Nancy Werlin (ARC)
Grace by Elizabeth Scott (ARC)
Bandits by LM Preston (ARC)
Divergent by Veronica Roth (ARC)

Rules in a Box:
  1. You must be a follower.
  2. You must be 13 or older to enter.
  3. The prize pack is US only since I'm handling shipping. No P.O. Boxes.
  4. Ends at 11:59 pm CDT September 28th, 2011.
  5. Winners will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond.
  6. Entries will only be accepted using the FORM, and you MUST include your email address so I can contact you. No email = no books.
  7. Winner will be chosen using a spreadsheet random number generator. 
I reserve the right to amend the rules as needed. (Hopefully this won't happen, but just in case...)

What's one thing that *always* makes you feel better when you have the blues?

If you can't see the form below, you can find it here.

Contest Craze: Timeless

This is the Timeless Challenge, hosted by Black Fingernailed Reviews and Princess Bookie.

Question:  If you could go back to any time period what would be your choice and why?

Answer:  The 1950s and/or 1960s! I'm just a smidge obsessed with the fashion (and I've been on a Mad Men kick). I love the floaty skirts (doesn't Betty's just make you want to twirl?) and how ladylike all the women were. Of course, I wouldn't be in the profession I'm in now if it was 1950 and not 2011, but if I could have the best of both worlds--beautiful dresses and science--I would be ecstatic.

The '50s and '60s were also Alfred Hitchcock's prime, and it's also when my favorite (summer) movie was made--The Long, Hot Summer (1958). 

But mostly I want the dresses.

(courtesy of AMC via Glamour Daze)

Giveaways, Week of 9/18

Don't forget to check out my Just Because Giveaway!

1. Fantastic Book Review is giving away The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. Ends 9/27.

2. Addicted 2 Novels is giving away 2 boxes of ARCs. Up for grabs are:
Ends 10/10.

3. The Book Swarm is giving away two $15 Amazon gift certificates to promote Banned Books Week. Ends 10/1.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: Passion


Luce would die for Daniel.

And she has. Over and over again. Throughout time, Luce and Daniel have found each other, only to be painfully torn apart: Luce dead, Daniel left broken and alone. But perhaps it doesn’t need to be that way. . . .

Luce is certain that something—or someone—in a past life can help her in her present one. So she begins the most important journey of this lifetime . . . going back eternities to witness firsthand her romances with Daniel . . . and finally unlock the key to making their love last.

Cam and the legions Outcasts are desperate to catch Luce, but none are as frantic as Daniel. He chases Luce through their shared pasts, terrified of what might happen if she rewrites history.
Because their romance for the ages could go up in flames . . . forever.

Sweeping across centuries, PASSION is the third novel in the unforgettably epic FALLEN series.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Contest Craze: Top 5 of 2012

Here are my top 5 anticipated releases for 2012, as part of the Top 5 Challenge hosted by Princess Bookie.

1. The Calling by Kelley Armstrong. I haven't read this series yet, but I love The Summoning, The Awakening and The Reckoning.

"Maya Delaney’s paw-print birthmark is the sign of what she truly is a skin-walker. She can run faster, climb higher, and see better than nearly anyone else. Experiencing intense connections with the animals that roam the woods outside her home, Maya knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s able to Shift and become one of them. And she believes there may be others in her small town with surprising talents.

Now, Maya and her friends have been forced to flee from their homes during a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set. Then they’re kidnapped, and after a chilling helicopter crash, they find themselves in the Vancouver Island wilderness with nothing but their extraordinary abilities to help them get back home. Plentiful action and romance in this second installment in the Darkness Rising series will keep readers enthralled to the very last page." --Goodreads

2. Insurgent by Veronica Roth. YAY!!!! I love, love, love Divergent, so I'm super excited about the sequel! And the cover is pretty

"One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so." --Goodreads

3. Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey. Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side was a lot of fun. I have high hopes for the sequel! 

"It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is—and whom she can trust—before it’s too late?" --Goodreads

4. Spellbound by Rachel Hawkins. After Hex Hall and Demonglass, I can't wait to find out what happens next to Sophie (and I hope she changes her mind about which boy she picked). 

"Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?" --Goodreads

5. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. Last but not least...I haven't read Delirium yet, but I trust Lauren Oliver. (Before I Fall was that good.) And doesn't it just sound awesome?

"After escaping from Portland, Maine, Lena makes it to the Wilds and becomes part of an Invalid community, where she transforms herself into a warrior for the resistance. A future without Alex is unimaginable, but Lena pushes forward and fights, both for him and for a world in which love is no longer considered a disease. Swept up in a volatile mix of revolutionaries and counterinsurgents, Lena struggles to survive—and wonders if she may be falling in love again." --Goodreads

Contest Craze: Scariest Word

This is the Scariest Word Challenge, hosted by The Non Reluctant Reader and Princess Bookie.

Challenge:  In a book you are currently reading, find the scariest word in the 13th chapter.

Google the word to find an image you like.
(Ok, I used Flickr so I could easily find something shareable.)

Post it. 

Book:  Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
(I think this book is awesome, and I normally don't even like fantasy.)

Word:  poisons
(Image courtesy of ephotography)

Review of Moonglass

I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both. 

Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.

While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.

[from Goodreads]

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Contemporary fans looking for something deep
High point:  The questions that arise
Low point: The first third of the novel
Reader maturity:  13+

At first, I wasn't particularly impressed by Moonglass, even after (or perhaps because of) all the amazing reviews that I'd read of it. But about a third of the way through, the story picked up, and for the rest of the novel, I could barely put it down. Moonglass is a beautifully raw read with a delicate portrayal of the long-reaching effects of mental illness.

As I mentioned, the first part of the book didn't draw me in, but I kept reading because so many bloggers raved about it. And it was worth waiting for. Anna is fairly two-dimensional at first, until she confronts her past and all the pain behind it. She's got a great support group, although her dad is distant. There are a lot of secondary characters in Moonglass that really make the novel special, from people who knew Anna's mother, to the lifeguards, to Anna's new classmates. The love interest was pretty standard, but Anna has two great friends, both of whom surprised me with the depth of their friendship. I expected them to be fly-by-night and shallow at best, but they bring some really good energy into Anna's life.

Living on the beach, Anna's life is filled with surf culture (and runner culture). Her moods frequently seem to parallel those of the ocean, but it's never forced. Though the writing never struck me as flowery or overdone, the drama seeps off of each page--pain and hurt and hope. Even though the reader is submerged in it, it never seems heavy because there's always the promise of something more in the hunt for the rarest of moonglass.

Title:  Moonglass
Author:  Jessi Kirby
Genre: YA -Contemporary
Year:  2011
Book Source:  Won an ARC from Random Chalk Talk

Monday, September 19, 2011

Contest Craze: One True Pairing

This is the One True Pairing Challenge, hosted by My Cute Bookshelf and Princess Bookie.

Challenge:  Create a blog post with your OTP (One True Pairing). Explain why they’re your favorite YA couple.

Book:  The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

One True Pairing:  Todd and Viola

They're my favorite YA couple because they're good, honest people who are trying to save the planet and each other at the same time, goals which are frequently at odds with each other. But they make the best of the situation they're in, and as long as they have each other, they believe everything will be okay.
(Images courtesy of Wikipedia here and here)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Contest Craze: Lucky Number 7

I've never done a Mini Challenge before but after seeing The Mod Podge Bookshelf's entry, I thought I'd give it a go. This is the Lucky Number 7 Challenge, hosted by The Elliott Review and Princess Bookie.

Challenge:  In a book you are currently reading, find the 7th word on the 7th page.

Google the word to find an image you like.
(Ok, I used Flickr so I could easily find something shareable.)

Post it. 

Book:  Stork by Wendy Delsol 
(I love this book, btw, and can't wait to review it!)

Word:  expectantly

(Image courtesy of CaptPiper)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Bad Girls Don't Die

When Alexis's little sister Kasey becomes obsessed with an antique doll, Alexis thinks nothing of it. Kasey is a weird kid. Period. Alexis is considered weird, too, by the kids in her high school, by her parents, even by her own Goth friends. Things get weirder, though, when the old house they live in starts changing. Doors open and close by themselves; water boils on the unlit stove; and an unplugged air conditioner turns the house cold enough to see their breath in. Kasey is changing, too. Her blue eyes go green and she speaks in old-fashioned language, then forgets chunks of time.
Most disturbing of all is the dangerous new chip on Kasey's shoulder. The formerly gentle, doll-loving child is gone, and the new Kasey is angry. Alexis is the only one who can stop her sister — but what if that green-eyed girl isn't even Kasey anymore?
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Ghost story guzzlers
High point:  The ghost's history and the creepy factor
Low point:  It's a formula ghost story...but that's not necessarily bad
Reader maturity: 13+

Once upon a time, I had this thing for ghost stories. It went on for years, and finally ended...oh, who am I kidding? It never ended. I love ghost stories, but I've been hard-pressed to find a decent YA version. I was raised on thrift store, 50 cent paperback 1980s versions that had been passed around for years. Those sated my adolescent thirst for restless spirits, but I've been looking for something higher in quality. Fortunately for me (and you...and ghost-story-guzzlers everywhere), Bad Girls Don't Die is a wonderfully executed ghost story.

Bad Girls Don't Die hits all the high points--ghosts, magical trinkets, creepy dolls, possession--while managing, somehow, not to be cheesy or trite or boring. Ghost stories have a formula, one that Bad Girls Don't Die follows faithfully, but it doesn't feel tired or formulaic. For one thing, the main character, Alexis, and her relationship with her family feel very contemporary. She's got real-world problems along with her otherworldly issues.

Alexis makes two new friends during the course of the novel, both of whom defy stereotype and prove to be Alexis' saving graces. I particularly liked the cheerleader. She was so no-nonsense, and even though she and Alexis became friends really fast, it didn't seem unusual, especially given the circumstances.

Bad Girls Don't Die even managed a rational history for the ghost. This is where a lot of ghost stories veer off-course, in my opinion, with lots of nonsense about why the ghost was so angry. This story made a lot of sense though, both in how the person became a ghost and why the ghost wanted what it did. The revelation of the ghost's death sent shivers down my spine.

With solid characters and an intense plot, Bad Girls Don't Die is the next iteration for those of us who grew up adoring ghost stories. And even if you didn't, it would be a great book to jump-start an adventure into a new branch of paranormal YA.

Title:  Bad Girls Don't Die
Author:  Katie Alender
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2009
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: Dreams of Significant Girls

Brought together each summer at a boarding school in Switzerland, three girls learn a lot more than just French and European culture. Shirin, an Iranian princess; Ingrid, a German-Canadian eccentric; and Vivien, a Cuban-Jewish New Yorker culinary phenom, are thrown into each other's lives when they become roommates.

This is a story of 3 paths slowly beginning to cross and merge as they spend the year apart, but the summers together. Through navigating the social-cultural shoals of the school, developing their adolescence, and learning the confusing and conflicting legacies of their families' past, Shirin, Ingrid, and Vivien form an unbreakable bond.

[from Goodreads]

With Want to Read Wednesday, I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Giveaways, Week of 9/11

1. Shortie Says is celebrating 500 followers with a huge giveaway. Ends 9/18.

2. I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read is giving away Dreamland by Alyson Noel.

3. Lisa's Loves (Books Of Course) is giving away Dreamland by Alyson Noel. Ends 9/24.

4. Bloody Bookaholic is giving away Dark Souls by Paula Morris. Ends 9/28.

Review of If I Stay

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen year old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make and the ultimate choice Mia commands.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Anyone hungry for literary-inspired introspection
High point:  The emotional involvement
Low point:  Some of the potential conclusions to the posed questions
Reader maturity:  15+

It's not often that I'm so impressed with a book, I can't find the words to describe my awe of it, and I'm even more rarely inclined to talk about books with my family and friends. If I Stay is one of those novels that left me speechless and yet also moved me so much that I tried to share the news of its brilliance anyway.

My copy is well-worn, not because I've loaned it out to all my friends, but because it was that way when I bought it. I like to think that it made the rounds, from friend to friend. It's a good kind of worn, not ill-cared-for but well-loved, and with good reason.

If I Stay is one of the best introspective novels I've ever read. Whereas novels such as this tend towards the boring (for me), If I Stay kept me reading and turning pages. Mia possesses such strength and kindness, as well as the naivete that abounds in youth, but If I Stay is never overly hopeful or optimistic. It's grounded in grief and the love of Mia's family, especially her grandparents.The flashbacks never felt forced or as if they served a purpose; they truly seemed like flashbacks of an average life. When the pieces fell together, they created a beautiful mosaic of past and present, mistakes made and battles fought.

My only issue with the premise of If I Stay is that, by postulating that people are given a life or death choice, the ones who die must have chosen death. While I love the thought that people hold on for their loved ones, I don't much care for the alternative--that those who die didn't care enough about their families or their lives to stay. I know I'm veering into philosophical territory, but when I looked too deep, I started getting frustrated. So maybe the key is not to consider the implications of that choice.

If I Stay made me sad, it made me happy and most importantly, it made me think about the things that are important in the life I've been given, and I highly recommend it.

Title:  If I Stay
Author:  Gayle Forman
Genre:   Fiction - Contemporary
Year:   2009
Book Source:  Purchased

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Fateful

Eighteen-year-old maid Tess Davies is determined to escape the wealthy, troubled family she serves. It’s 1912, and Tess has been trapped in the employ of the Lisles for years, amid painful memories and twisted secrets. But now the Lisle family is headed to America, with Tess in tow. Once the ship they’re sailing on—the RMS Titanic—reaches its destination, Tess plans to strike out and create a new life for herself.
Her single-minded focus shatters when she meets Alec, a handsome first-class passenger who captivates her instantly. But Alec has secrets of his own. He’s in a hurry to leave Europe, and whispers aboard the ship say it’s because of the tragic end of his last affair with the French actress who died so gruesomely and so mysteriously. . . .
Soon Tess will learn just how dark Alec’s past truly is. The danger they face is no ordinary enemy: werewolves exist and are stalking him—and now her, too. Her growing love for Alec will put Tess in mortal peril, and fate will do the same before their journey on the Titanic is over.
In Fateful, New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray delivers paranormal adventure, dark suspense, and alluring romance set against the opulent backdrop of the Titanic’s first—and last—voyage.
[from HarperTeen]
Rating:   3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Readers who rejoice at the combination of history and werewolves
High point:  The fresh take on the Titanic
Low point:  Tess' reaction to both Alec and the Bad guy
Reader maturity: 15+

I find it prudent to warn you that when I was in elementary school, I went on a huge Titanic reading bender. Everything I could find, from the classics to ghost stories...if I could get my hands on it, I read it. And then suddenly I stopped, because you know what happens at the end of every novel? [Spoiler alert if you've been nodding off in history class your whole life] Everyone dies. Well, not everyone, but a lot of people. The sinking of the Titanic was a terrible event and could have easily been prevented. So I stopped reading about the Titanic.

I had that in the back of my mind when I started Fateful by Claudia Gray. Was I ready for another depressing novel where I would have to remain detached from the characters so I wouldn't be sad when the ship sinks into the sea with them in it? Well, I don't know if I was or not, because Claudia Gray made Fateful about so much more than just the Titanic. It's Titanic...with werewolves! Cool, right? There was so much action, I didn't even have time to worry about who was going to make it.

Fateful totally revamps the Titanic genre, giving it a fresh spin and a lot of heart. Throughout the novel were lots of little tidpits about pay and clothes and servants that I found particularly interesting, since most novels don't focus much on the living conditions of the lower class. The idea of transporting a werewolf on a boat (how else would they participate in intercontinental travel?) was well thought-out, with every detail and complication accounted for. Alec is a total gentleman, and I loved the way he treated Tess, our heroine. His father was also a stand-out character to me, due to his excellent manners and class, especially in contrast to Tess' employer. Tess and Alec's foe is a bit predictable, but the ways that Tess foils his plans are brilliant. In each sticky situation, I looked forward to finding out how she was going to wriggle her way out of that one.

I mentioned that Fateful has a lot of heart, and it's true. Along with covering the paranormal and the expected emotions that come along with that, there are two secondary storylines that I loved. One of them would be terrific grounds for a novel on its own, and both were beautifully written explorations of love, friendship and loyalty.

There were a couple of niggly, nitpicky things I didn't like (and that I might not even mention if I hadn't received the book for review), such as how Tess just went all to hormonal pieces whenever Alec was around. She's a level-headed, sensible girl all the rest of the time, and I found her complete disregard for logic and reason in his presence a stretch of the imagination, even in a book about werewolves. And there's a Bad Guy in this novel that I had a few issues with. It's obvious that he's a Bad Guy, with capital letters, but Tess' reaction to him, like hers to Alec, didn't seem quite in line with her character. The claims about his brutality and what he would do were substantiated, but the reasons given as his motives were shaky at best.

Overall, I thought Fateful was a fresh take on werewolves AND the Titanic that will be particularly enjoyable to paranormal/historical buffs, although it feels modern enough to appeal to all paranormal YA readers. It's the first work by Claudia Gray that I've read, but now that I've been introduced to her writing, I'd like to pick up the Evernight series.

Title:  Fateful
Author:  Claudia Grey
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural, Historical
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Received an ARC for review from HarperTeen

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Giveaways, Week of 9/4

1. I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read is giving away a copy of All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin.

2. Addicted 2 Novels is giving away Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Ends 9/14.

3. Lisa's Loves (Books of Course) is giving away All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin. Ends 9/17.

4. Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm is celebrating two years of blogging with a giveaway of ARCs of  Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. Ends 9/30.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review of Betwixt

For three teenagers, dark mystery has always lurked at the corner of the eyes and the edge of sleep. Beautiful Morgan D'Amici wakes in her trailerpark home with dirt and blood under her fingernails. Paintings come alive under Ondine Mason's violet-eyed gaze. Haunted runaway Nix Saint-Michael sees halos of light around people about to die.
At a secret summer rave in the woods, the three teenagers learn of their true, changeling nature and their uncertain, intertwined destinies. Riveting, unflinching, beautiful, Betwixt shows a magic as complex and challenging as any ordinary reality.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:  1 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Someone tired of the same-old, same-old paranormal
High point:  It stands out from the YA paranormal crowd
Low point:  Mixed-up mythologies
Reader maturity: 15+

Betwixt was, like the word, kind of strange. Aside from the title, however, I wasn't impressed. There were several things that really stuck out to me as confusing, frustrating my efforts to enjoy the novel.

From page one, I was confused. The reader is switched back and forth between several different characters, and at times, it was several pages (pages, not paragraphs) before I figured out the POV. Surprisingly, my favorite character was Nix (the male POV--collective gasp, everyone!), but the two girls weren't much competition. Reading through Morgan's sections made me feel slimy, and Ondine didn't do much for me.

Since it was so hard to follow a character chronologically, it took me a while to figure out what was going on, and even then, it didn't make sense. For one thing, the book starts out as a contemporary, and then all of a sudden, it's a paranormal involving something called the Ring (capital R) and the ring (little r). I'm not sure what that was because the phrase "the ring" was actually used for three different things, and half the time, I couldn't figure out which of the two lower-case rings was being referred to.

Betwixt also didn't keep its own mythology straight (well, I don't think it did; what with all those R/r/rings, maybe it did, and I just didn't notice). In one section, we're told that the changeling fay (fay, not fey) must join in the Exidis (their version of a rapture, I think) by a certain age (early twenties or so) or their bodies will wear out and they'll live forever in pain. Later on, it's explained that one of the changelings that stayed behind (something to do with a R/r/ring), but one of the main characters is older than the age where his body should've worn out how was he still walking around as a main character??

And [spoiler alert] in Betwixt, the fay "borrow" human bodies until the Exidis, and then the humans live out the rest of their lives in the bodies. What happens to the humans while they're being inhabited? Do they know it? Do they remember what happened in their first 20+ years? Or do their families think they've all gone insane overnight when they can't remember two decades worth of stuff because their lives were being lived by changelings?

And how do the fay know that if their bodies wear out, all that's left is pain, pain and more pain? It's not like any of them "died," so to speak, and then came back and told everyone else what it was like. [End spoiler]

I wanted to like Betwixt because it's different from what I've been reading lately. Unfortunately, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Title:  Betwixt
Author:  Tara Bray Smith
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Faeries
Year:   2007
Book Source:  Purchased

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of The Shadowing: Hunted

What would you do if you found out that not only could you see ghosts, but a load of demons were about to cross over into our world, and you were the only person who could stop them? That’s exactly what teenager Callum Scott faces in my new horror series, The Shadowing. His only backup is ghost boy Jacob and his giant spectral dog, Doom. And those demons aren’t going down without a fight. Soon Callum’s being hunted, and by something you wouldn’t want to encounter in your worst nightmares… If you like skin-crawling horror fiction, you’ll love The Shadowing!
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   2 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Younger paranormal YA readers
High point:  "Chime children" are new to me
Low point:  Written for a younger audience
Reader maturity: 13+

While I'm usually a fan of British and paranormal, especially when they're together, The Shadowing:  Hunted didn't do much for me. As such, I'll try to keep this short and to the point. I found the plot and writing a bit simple for the intended audience; with a little editing, it might do better as an MG novel. The...thing...that's doing the hunting is garish almost to the point of caricature. Again, this might be appropriate in a novel aimed at younger readers (to reduce the scariness), but it failed to provide a satisfying villain for older readers. The pacing and characterization were also inconsistent, with certain chapters full of excitement and exposition, and others seeming to serve little purpose in advancing the plot.

On a more positive note, the notion of chime children (the ones like Callum) is unique, and though I would've liked to have learned more about what made them the target of The Shadowing:  Hunted, I appreciated their addition to the paranormal genre. I also liked Callum's grandmother. Although uneven in temperament, she's got good intentions and a lot of wisdom to share.

All told, The Shadowing:  Hunted wasn't my cup of tea, but it might be enjoyable for younger YA readers.

Title:  The Shadowing:  Hunted
Author:  Adam Slater
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2011
Book Source: Won an ARC from First Novels Club