Monday, October 31, 2011

Giveaways, Week of 10/30

Don't forget to enter the Monster Mash & Bash Giveaway and the giveaway of an ARC of A Long Long Sleep, hosted here at Bookish in a Box!

1. Stuck in Books is giving away an ARC and a signed, finished copy of Cold Kiss by Amy Harvey, a signed ARC of Supernaturally by Kiersten White and a signed, finished copy of A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies. Ends 11/4.

2. To celebrate 2 new reviewers, Between the Covers is giving away The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa and One Grave at a Time by Jeaniene Frost. Ends 11/6.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Supernatural Saturday Review: Another Faust (Another #1)

One night, in cities all across Europe, five children vanish-only to appear, years later, at an exclusive New York party with a strange and elegant governess. Rumor and mystery follow the Faust teenagers to the city-s most prestigious high school, where they soar to suspicious heights with the help of their benefactor-s extraordinary -gifts.- But as the students claw their way up-reading minds, erasing scenes, stopping time, stealing power, seducing with artificial beauty-they start to suffer the side-effects of their own addictions. And as they make further deals with the devil, they uncover secrets more shocking than their most unforgivable sins. At once chilling and wickedly satirical, this contemporary reimagining of the Faustian bargain is a compelling tale of ambition, consequences, and ultimate redemption.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   3 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Paranormal fans looking for something a little dark and different
High point:  How shocked I was at Madame Vileroy
Low point:  I wasn't invested in any particular character
Reader maturity: 13+

It's rare that I enjoy a book that has absolutely no characters that I like.

It's even more rare that I enjoy a book that leaves me feeling a little bit slimy and gritty.

Another Faust is unlike any book I've ever read. I didn't like a single character and wasn't interested in anyone in particular, but just the same, I wanted to know what happened next. I cringed from the Governess Vileroy and shuddered whenever Victoria's time to steal the spotlight had come. I grimaced when Christian messed up, and I almost closed the book when I found out what Belle had done. Bice was the one redeeming character but she was so dull...or so I thought.

My favorite character (and I can't believe I'm writing this) was the evil Madame Vileroy herself. She's so well-written that, even though I was revolted by what she was doing, I was also impressed at what a smooth operator she was and how cunningly she deceived her crew.

Daniel and Dina Nayeri set Another Faust apart from the usual YA morality tale, by not actually teaching any lessons. I've never read a book that landed so squarely in the middle of an issue. It was interesting to find myself seeing both sides of a never-ending war. Their partnership as authors also results in a novel that has very believable characters. The girls act like girls, and the boys sound like boys (not like girls think boys sound).

If you're looking for something a little darker and less of a fairytale than your average YA fiction, Another Faust is worth a look!

Title:  Another Faust
Author:  Daniel & Dina Nayeri
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2009
Book Source:  Received for review from Candlewick Press

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review of Sovay

It’s England, 1783. When the rich and beautiful Sovay isn’t sitting for portraits, she’s donning a man’s cloak and robbing travelers—in broad daylight. But in a time when political allegiances between France and England are strained, a rogue bandit is not the only thing travelers fear. Spies abound, and rumors of sedition can quickly lead to disappearances. So when Sovay lifts the wallet of one of England’s most powerful and dangerous men, it’s not just her own identity she must hide, but that of her father. A dazzling historical saga in which the roles of thieves and gentry, good and bad, and men and women are interchanged to riveting effect.
[from Goodreads]

Rating:   2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Historical adventure readers
High point: Strong writing
Low point:  Didn't engage me
Reader maturity:  13+

The summary above is a bit misleading. While Sovay does include thieves and gentry and part of the novel is spent with Sovay as a highwayman, much of the novel centers around The French Revolution, exploring its impact on both the French and the English.

Sovay is a bright, progressive girl, but she's also quite spoiled and naive, though the latter two are frequently forgotten by her male companions who are impressed by her unusual independence (for a woman). Due to the uniqueness of it, I liked the parts of the story where Sovay plays a highwayman; I didn't realize that such robbery was so common at that time.

Sovay's brother, Hugh, and Captain Greenwood, a highwaymen, were my two favorite characters. Hugh is the perfect, protective older brother, and Captain Greenwood is the honorable rapscallion. The introduction of the French Revolution into the plot was also a high point, as I haven't read much about it since A Tale of Two Cities. There were lots of small new plot developments along the way, and Sovay actually feels like it could be two books, which was a nice surprise, getting mulitiple adventures in one.

I believe that if Sovay had been written to an older audience, I may have enjoyed it more; as it stands, Sovay is an action-packed story with a fearless heroine, perfect for an older MG or younger YA audience.

Title:  Sovay
Author:  Celia Rees
Genre:   Fiction - Historical
Year:   2008
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: A Beautiful Dark

On the night of Skye’s seventeenth birthday, she meets two enigmatic strangers. Complete opposites—like fire and ice—Asher is dark and wild, while Devin is fair and aloof. Their sudden appearance sends Skye’s life into a tailspin. She has no idea what they want, or why they seem to follow her every move—only that their presence coincides with a flurry of strange events. Soon she begins to doubt not just the identity of the two boys, but also the truth about her own past.
In the dead of a bitingly cold Colorado winter, Skye finds herself coming to terms with the impossible secret that threatens to shatter her world. Torn between Asher, who she can’t help falling for, and Devin, who she can’t stay away from, the consequences of Skye’s choice will reach further than the three of them could ever imagine.

[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.

Monster Mash & Bash Hop

Monster Mash & Bash Hop/Giveaway
Hosted by A book Lover’s Dream
October 26th-31st 

I'm giving away a paperback copy of Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender. It was a sufficiently creepy ghost story, and I loved it!

I'll be sending this from either Amazon or The Book Depository so as long as The Book Depository ships to your country, the giveaway is international! Just fill out the form below.

While you're here, don't forget to enter to win an ARC of A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan!

Rules in a Box:
  1. You must be 13 or older to enter. 
  2. You must be a follower.
  3. The prize pack is International since I can ship from The Book Depository. No P.O. Boxes.
  4. Ends at 11:59 pm CDT October 31st, 2011.
  5. Winners will be contacted by email and will have 72 hours to respond before I pick a new winner.
  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...)

Make sure and stop by the other blogs in the Hop! 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Supernatural Saturday Review: Night World #1

Vampires, werewolves, witches, shapeshifters -- they live among us without our knowledge. Night World is their secret society, a secret society with very strict rules. And falling in love breaks all the laws of the Night World.In Secret Vampire, Poppy thought the summer would last forever. Then she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now Poppy's only hope for survival is James, her friend and secret love. A vampire in the Night World, James can make Poppy immortal. But first they both must risk everything to go against the laws of Night World.
Fugitives from Night World, three vampire sisters leave their isolated home to live among humans in Daughters of Darkness. Their brother, Ash, is sent to bring the girls back, but he falls in love with their beautiful friend.
Two witch cousins fight over their high school crush. It's a battle between black magic and white magic in Spellbinder.
 [from Goodreads]

Rating:  2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Fans of LJ Smith
High point:  Daughters of Darkness
Low point:  Didn't get to know the characters well enough
Reader maturity:  13+

Surely by now it's no secret that I love the works of LJ Smith. I recommended several of the series here and you can find my reviews of the four original Vampire Diaries books here.

But when I tried out Night World, it was missing something. I think maybe it's that Secret Vampire, Daughters of Darkness and Spellbinder are stand-alone novels, and I felt like I didn't get to know the characters well enough.

Of the three, I liked Daughters of Darkness best. It was missing the rose-colored glasses of Secret Vampire (Poppy is just a little bit too emotionally buoyant for me) and the unsubstantiated drama of Spellbinder (I don't see how someone could be so mean to someone else just because, especially with an ending like that). The characters really seem like family, and the story was one of the more creative ones. It was full of tension with secrets and danger popping up around every corner. I really wanted to know what happened to Mary-Lynette after the closing of the novel!

Overall, Night World #1 left me unmoved, due to something I can't quite put my finger on. However, it's written in true LJ Smith style with lots of innocent passion and everygirl tales so if you enjoy her other works, Night World might be right up your alley.

Title:  Night World #1:  Secret Vampire, Daughters of Darkness, Spellbinder
Author:  L. J. Smith
Genre: Young Adult Horror and Suspense
Year: 1996
Book Source:  Purchased

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Giveaway of A Long, Long Sleep

I loved this book so much that I want to pass it on, so I'm giving away an ARC of A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan.

Links for extra entries:
Author Interview

Rules in a Box:
  1. You must be a follower.
  2. You must be 13 or older to enter.
  3. This giveaway is US only since I'm handling shipping. No P.O. Boxes.
  4. Ends at 11:59 pm CDT November 12th, 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...)

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interview with Anna Sheehan, Author of A Long, Long Sleep

I'm very pleased, honored and excited* to present the first ever Bookish in a Box author interview!

(It's really more of a Q&A, but that's close enough, right?)

A Long, Long Sleep absolutely thrilled me (you can read my rave review here), and I knew I had to find out what was going on in the author's head while writing it. Since this is the first author interview I've done, I was incredibly nervous, but Anna Sheehan and my contact at Candlewick were very accommodating. Thanks to both of you for making this possible!

Without further ado:

Rumpelstiltskin is the first thing I thought of when I read the blurb on the back of A Long, Long Sleep. What inspired A Long, Long Sleep?

AS:  A Long Long Sleep was inspired as I had the thought that every parent has while chasing down an errant toddler – "If I could only put you on pause!" Of course, I’d never do such a thing, but I realized, there are people who would. And if so, what would that mean to the person who endured it? Of course, Sleeping Beauty did play a part. I always wondered how someone asleep for a century would reincorporate herself into a world that had moved on without her.
What kicks off your thought process? Did the 62 year/Sleeping Beauty element or the Plastine storyline (or some other part) of the story come first? 

AS:  Well, about the same time as I was chasing that toddler, I had the good fortune to hear a writer – the screenwriter Blake Snyder – mention the phrase, "Stasis equals death." This meant that if your protagonist does not change his or her situation than it might as well be death. But the phrase resonated, and the book sprang from that. The Plastine was an element that grew from the Bodyworlds exhibit – human corpses infused with plasticine and paraded around the world for entertainment and profit. It struck me as wholly amoral, akin to the Nazi’s who made buttons and soap out of human remains, so I took the concept a step further, and made that the antagonist. Really he’s a personification of the manipulation that Rose’s parents and that world has inflicted upon human beings. Rose was emotionally created by her parents. Otto was twisted by UniCorp. The Plastine is an extension of that manipulation of man.
I really enjoyed all of the little futuristic tidbits that you placed throughout the story—the notescreens, the hover skiffs, the NeoFusion batteries. It reminds me a lot of Ray Bradbury’s work, with the heavy focus on humanity in an alien setting. What made you decide to incorporate the science fiction element?

AS:  Thank you – being compared to Ray Bradbury is one of the highest compliments I’ve received so far. The sci-fi stuff came naturally from the stasis. My choices, given the circumstances, were either sci-fi tech or fantasy magic, and frankly, Sleeping Beauty has had magic versions all over the place. I didn’t really want to tell Sleeping Beauty, exactly, but I wanted a story that echoed the concept of a faerie tale without actually being a retelling of one. The science-fiction element that I have is intentionally light – Rose isn’t a physicist or a military strategist or a world leader. She’s a privileged high-school student who loves to paint. The state of the general world technology wouldn’t interest her. The sequel we are planning has a more direct look at some of the technology of this world, because it’s more important to the main characters in that story than it is in this one. In a first-person character-centric novel, the focus has to be on what the character herself would see, not on what a sci-fi buff would look for in a futuristic setting.
After the Dark Times, things improved for everyone, because "there weren’t enough people left to waste." Do you think that the human race needs a wake-up call that big to get our attention or are we redeemable before we reach that point?

AS:  I don’t know. This vision of a golden-time following a dark-time isn’t a new one. I took it from The Great Wave, Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History by David Hackett Fisher, an economist. What tends to happen is that society comes to a breaking point, hovers there until a crisis occurs, breaks, falls, and then stabilizes. That’s where Rose wakes up, at the start of that stable period. As for whether or not human beings are redeemable... human beings aren’t societies. It’s like trying to determine the difference between a glass of water and an ocean. Can you purify a contaminated glass of water? Certainly – usually you can just boil it. Can you boil the sea? Well, you shouldn’t even try. Almost all people are redeemable, bar complete sociopaths (and some of them can at least be trained to behave.) Whether or not all people can or will do it at once is a question I’m not prepared to be responsible for.
When was the moment that you realized "This is it. I did it. I’m an author!"? What was it like?

AS:  It actually happened twice. The first time was when one of my short stories was published in an anthology (The Pen and the Key, for anyone who’s curious) alongside authors such as Anne Rule, J.A. Jance and Terry Brooks. Wow, I thought. There’s my name, right alongside them. But there was a significant gap between then and my first published novel, so I was beginning to doubt myself. Then the book sold, sold again in Brazil, went to a five way bidding war in Germany, and I thought – okay. I’m definitely an author. What was it like? Satisfying. I’d been at it for a long time.
And just for fun: A person from the future comes to you and offers you a trip to any time and place of your choosing. You’re allowed to bring one thing with you. Where/when do you go and what do you take?

AS:  Awh! Can’t I just go to Faerie, instead? I’d love to see what happens in the future, just because I haven’t been there. There’s another part that would like to see Elizabethan England, or tenth century Ireland. As for what I’d bring – I can’t even imagine that any of it would work. If I went to the past, a lifetime supply of asthma medication, as otherwise I’d be dead. In fact, bring me a pharmacy and a surgeon. For the future... goodness knows! As I said, I’d much rather be shunted sideways into Faerie.

What are your three favorite books of all time?

AS:  Oh, toughy. Child of Faerie, Child of Earth by Josepha Sherman was my security blanket book for years, so I’ll have to go with that one. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was the first thing I ever memorized, so I’ll have to go with that one, too. And can you be nice and just give me the entire collected works of Diana Wynne Jones? Because I don’t think I can pick and choose there. Diana’s works saved my life.

Anna, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

Readers, do you want to win an ARC of A Long, Long Sleep? Check back tomorrow for a giveaway!

*It may or may not have taken me 12 hours from receiving Anna's email to actually finish reading it and reply because I was so excited, I couldn't sit still long enough to type anything coherent.

Want to Read Wednesday: Hourglass

One hour to rewrite the past . . .
For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

[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, October 18, 2011

Review of A Long, Long Sleep

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose— hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire— is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes— or be left without any future at all.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Anyone who ever read a Bradbury story and thought it was awesome
High point:  The combination of emotion and science fiction
Low point:  Nothing, nothing at all
Reader maturity: 13+

If you love novels that make you think, novels that make you want to cry (just a little) for the main character and novels that have fantasy and action and sci-fi stuff, then you should definitely pick up A Long, Long Sleep.

From the blurb on the back cover, I didn't think I was going to be particularly rah-rah about it, but once I started It reeled me in with the 2nd paragraph and never let go.

A Long, Long Sleep is, among other things, emotionally intense, which is unusual for a science fiction-y novel, but I love the pairing of deep thought with the clinical cold of technology. Most of the book deals with Rose trying to figure out her place in a new world, 62 years after she left hers, but it's so much more than that. A Long, Long Sleep presents several ethical dilemmas, from the technology that got Rose where she is today to genetic research on aliens. One of my favorite topics that was tackled in this novel was Rose's self-esteem and the line between selfishness and self-preservation. It's presented in a very organic manner, and I didn't realize it was a plot point until the very end.

Speaking of plot points, I love a novel that keeps me guessing and surprises me along the way (as long as the surprise is believable, of course). A Long, Long Sleep delivered more than once! I just knew I had figured out who had sent the Plastine assassin (which I won't explain more because I don't want to spoil anything), and I turned out to be totally wrong. Once the real programmer was exposed, I was completely shocked! It changed the way I saw the first 90% of the novel, which was really cool since I was thinking one thing looking forward and another looking back.

A Long, Long Sleep is one of those rare novels that achieves perfection in writing and form, and I can't recommend it strongly enough!

Title:  A Long, Long Sleep
Author:  Anna Sheehan
Genre:   Fiction - Science Fiction, Fantasy
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Received for review from Candlewick Press

Stop by later in the week for a Q&A with Anna Sheehan and a giveaway of A Long, Long Sleep!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Giveaways, Week of 10/16

Starting a day earlier again. :-)

1. Babbling Flow is giving away:

Ends 10/28.

2. Katie's Book Blog is giving away 5 Dark Days books. Up for grabs are:
  • Supernaturally
  • A Beautiful Dark
  • Cold Kiss
  • Eve
  • Fateful
Ends 10/22.

3. Gripped Into Books is giving away a book of your choice (up to $15) in celebration of the one year blogoversary.

4. Jennifer's Musings is giving away an Overprotected (authored by Jennifer herself!) prize pack. Ends Friday.

5. Katie's Book Blog is giving away a scary 4 book prize pack. Up for grabs are:
Ends 10/31.

Supernatural Saturday Review: Angel Burn

Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces, and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil. In the first book in an action-packed, romantic trilogy, L..A. Weatherly sends readers on a thrill-ride of a road trip - and depicts the human race at the brink of a future as catastrophic as it is deceptively beautiful. They’re out for your soul . . . and they don’t have heaven in mind.

[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Paranormal readers
High point:  The road trip and fight scenes
Low point:  The Church of the Angels
Reader maturity: 13+

In Angel Burn, Willow, a supernatural hybrid, finds herself the target of The Church of the Angels and their leaders, the angels themselves. She finds help in an unlikely ally, the assassin Alex, and a few other warrior humans who see the angels' deception for what it truly is.

L. A. Weatherfly has a way with a pen (or in today's age, a keyboard). In Angel Burn, I found myself fighting alongside Willow (in my head) almost from the beginning. She reacted to her situation much as I think anyone one--without heroics or extreme actions. She's initially suspicious, then in denial, then suspicious, then terrified, then determined, then bold and courageous, all a seemingly natural progression (I assume, at least, since I've never been the target of anyone's fatality-inducing wrath). She also teaches a great lesson about how we're more than what we're made of and more than what we think are.

Alex and Willow fell in love too quickly for me, but this was tempered by the realization by both of them that it was too fast and their actual relationship moved at a much more believable pace. Willow even has morals that she stands up for and that Alex respects! Go Willow! Go Alex! I liked reading about a main character who can think on her own and who doesn't succumb to (what she thinks are) other people's expectations of her (and I mean that about more than just the situation with Alex). Alex had a bit of cliche tough-guy-outside, sensitive-guy-inside thing going on, but he wore it well with a legitimate history to back it up.

The concept of angel burn itself was cool too, as an explanation of society's ills, that thousands of people are sick or brainwashed and don't even know it. Angel Burn hinted at a greater infiltration of the world's governments, and I'm hoping that's explored more in the sequels, Angel Fire and Angel Fever.

There was one little thing that bothered me...Angels aren't my favorite supernatural beings, but Angel Burn isn't the first book I've read with angels as the protagonists. Something about this book made me uncomfortable, especially in the first half. Before a few secrets come to light, I wasn't sure if I liked where the story was going, but eventually it worked itself out.

If angels are your thing or you like paranormal YA in general, Angel Burn is worth picking up. It's got a little of everything--action, romance, paranormal, mysteries, conspiracies and CIA infiltration, to name a few. While it did make me a little nervous at first, Angel Burn is a well-written YA adventure that will have you rooting for Willow and eager for the next course.

Title:  Angel Burn
Author:  L. A. Weatherly
Genre:   Fiction - Fantasy
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Received for review from Candlewick Press

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: Carrier of the Mark


Their love was meant to be. 

When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRĂ­s. 

But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction.

[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, October 11, 2011

Review of Twisted (Pretty Little Liars #9)

It’s been a year since the torturous notes from A stopped and the mystery of Alison DiLaurentis’s disappearance was finally put to rest. Now seniors in high school, Aria, Spencer, Hanna and Emily are older, but they’re not any wiser. The Pretty Little Liars have more secrets than ever - twisted secrets that could destroy the perfect lives they’ve worked so hard to rebuild.

Aria’s jealous of her boyfriend’s new exchange student. Spencer’s getting a little too cozy with her soon-to-be-stepbrother. Hanna’s one scandalous photo away from ruining her dad’s Senate campaign. And Emily will do anything to get a swim scholarship.

Worst of all: Last spring break in Jamaica, they did something unforgivable. The girls are desperate to forget that fateful night, but they should know better than anyone that all secrets wash ashore … eventually.

[from Goodreads]

Rating:   2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Contemporary YA readers
High point: The mysterious new A
Low point:  The change in character personalities
Reader maturity: 15+

It's no secret around my house that I'm addicted to the Pretty Little Liars tv show. I love it! It's so campy and melodramatic and the girls think they're so grown up...It's funny and mysterious and charming at the same time, a characteristic that it shares with its parent novel, Pretty Little Liars.

While a fantastic YA mystery novel, the girls in Twisted were lacking what little innocence they retained in Pretty Little Liars. It's obvious from the beginning (so I'm not spoiling anything) that they're hiding not only their personal secrets, but something worse than ever before. Their choices were so immature, especially given their ages, that I had a hard time feeling any sympathy for them.

BUT...these are the Pretty Little Liars we're talking about. They're not supposed to be grown up, mature, law-abiding citizens, so once I got over my irritation at their childishness, I fell headfirst into the campy drama that is Rosewood. And it was a lot of fun!

Twisted isn't so much of a whodunit as it is a what-was-done, and it was really nicely constructed. Things are revealed slowly, but the novel never drags. There's always some new drama or scandal to catch the reader's (and the girls') attention. I missed all the novels between the first and this one, but the author does a great job of filling in what the reader needs to know. I was...puzzled, due to the mysteries that follow Hanna, Aria, Spencer and Emily, but never confused.

In a nutshell, if you love the camp and melodrama that comprise the Pretty Little Liars television series and the books that spawned it, Twisted is a fun addition to the trend.

Title:  Twisted (Pretty Little Liars #9)
Author:  Sara Shepard
Genre:   Fiction - Contemporary
Year:   2011
Book Source:  Received for review from HarperTeen

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Undercurrent (Siren #2)

The sirens are back, but Vanessa may be the biggest threat of all. . . .
Nothing has been normal since Vanessa Sands learned that her sister was murdered by sirens—femme fatales of the watery depths—and that everything she believed about her family was a lie.
Her boyfriend Simon’s been the only person Vanessa feels she can really trust. But now there are some secrets she can’t tell even him. And when Vanessa finds herself in the sights of Parker, Hawthorne Prep’s resident charmer, she needs someone to confide in more than ever. Doubting her relationship with Simon, unsure of Parker’s intentions—and of her own—and terrified by what she’s learned about herself, Vanessa has never felt so alone.
But personal problems must be put aside, because the Winter Harbor sirens are back for revenge. Now, Vanessa must face her past and accept that she is just like her enemies—every bit as alluring, every bit as dangerous.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Paranormal fans tired of the same-old, same-old
High point:  The scary sirens
Low point:  Readers need to be familiar with the first Siren novel
Reader maturity: 15+

It always helps to start a series at the beginning, and unfortunately, I began the Siren novels with the second book, Undercurrent. While some sequels allow the reader to jump in, Undercurrent really requires knowledge of the events of the first book. It took me a long time to figure out the reason behind Vanessa's weird habits and her strange relationship with Simon. That's my own fault, though, for not reading the series in order, so I'll try to review the rest of Undercurrent with that in mind.

Sirens sound really scary. They're not a mythological creature that I've read much about, and wow...they're vicious. Zara and Raina and all the other sirens are truly selfish, which makes them terrifying. They're cold and calculating and stop at nothing to lure their prey.

Vanessa wasn't my favorite MC ever; she was a little bit impulsive, going off half-cocked to "find answers" and instead getting herself into awkward/dangerous situations over and over again. I really liked her friend, Paige, though; she lent some everygirl to the novel. One of the things I did like about Vanessa is her persistence, even if that caused problems sometimes. She's dedicated and loyal and refused to be brushed off while investigating the mystery of her birth.

I didn't really connect with Undercurrent, but I suspect that may be due to my confusion about what happened in the first novel. I was too busy scrambling to piece together more than one mystery to take the time to appreciate the writing or growth of the characters. Undercurrent is an interesting read; however, if you haven't read Siren, I highly advise reading it before you pick up Undercurrent so you can fully appreciate it.

Title:  Undercurrent (Siren #2)
Author:  Tricia Rayburn
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2011
Book Source: Won an ARC from First Novels Club

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review of Vixen (Flappers #1)

Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination.

Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . .

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . .

From debut author Jillian Larkin, VIXEN is the first novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic new series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . when anything goes.
[from Goodreads]

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Historical fiction fans
High point: Learning about the 1920s
Low point: The 1st half of the book
Reader maturity: 13+

I debated for several weeks how to best phrase this review and finally decided the simple approach is best.

At first, I didn't think I liked Vixen, but about halfway through, I realized that, several times, I sat down to read for 5 minutes and when I next checked the clock, it had been 20! So it's a little slow to start, but with a little patience, you'll soon reach the good stuff.

If you like historical fiction, Vixen is a great read. As I mentioned, it's a little dull for the first half of the novel; it feels like very little happens, and I didn't like any of the characters in particular. In the second half, things really get rolling with Gloria's second life and Lorraine's seedy past. Everything slowly creeps out of the shadows and culminates in a shocking ending that tellingly leads to a (deserved) sequel.

Oftentimes, I don't like books that switch POVs; it can be confusing and hard to really get to know a character. However, Ms. Larkin uses the technique skillfully, and I think that, in this case, it adds to the mystery of everyone's whereabouts and goings-on. (Also, I liked Gloria but Lorraine was my favorite, so this way I got to see things from Lorraine's POV and not just what Gloria thought about Lorraine.) There are a lot of things going on in Vixen, from flappers to Prohibition to interracial relationships. Gloria (and Lorraine) seem a little too progressive for belief, given their conservative parents/friends/schools/upbringings, but it allows a modern reader to identify with the girls.

Vixen is a great start to a new series about the 1920s in America, and if you enjoy historical fiction, it's definitely worth picking up.

Title:  Vixen
Author:  Jillian Larkin
Genre:  YA--Historical Fiction
Year:  2010
Book Source:  Won an ARC from Writer Musings

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Want to Read Wednesday: Ruby Red


Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

[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.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Contest Craze: Favorite Books of 2011

Here are my top 5 books from 2011 (so far), as part of the Favorite Books of 2011 Challenge hosted by Princess Bookie.

1. Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender. I've been hunting for a good YA ghost story for years, and I finally found one!

"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?
" --Goodreads

2. You Are So Undead to Me by Stacey Jay. Sometimes, I'm in the mood for a fun book.

"Fifteen-year-old Megan Berry is a Zombie Settler by birth, which means she's part-time shrink to a bunch of dead people with a whole lot of issues.

All Megan wants is to be normal and go to homecoming, of course. Unfortunately, it's a little difficult when your dates keep getting interrupted by a bunch of slobbering Undead.

Things are about to get even more complicated for Megan. Someone in school is using black magic to turn average, angsty Undead into flesh-eating Zombies, and it's looking like homecoming will turn out to be a very different kind of party the bloody kind.

Megan must stop the Zombie apocalypse descending on Carol, Arkansas. Her life and more importantly, homecoming depends on it." --Goodreads

3. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness. This was the explosive ending to the amazing Chaos Walking series. I couldn't have asked for a better ending (unless I had to).

"'War,' says the Mayor. 'At last.' Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they're so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await? But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge - the electrifying finale to the award-winning "Chaos Walking" trilogy, Monsters of Men is a heart-stopping novel about power, survival, and the devastating realities of war." --Goodreads

4. Stork by Wendy Delsol. I haven't posted my review yet, but fyi, this book is so satisfying.

"Family secrets. Lost memories. And the arrival of an ancient magical ability that will reveal everything.

Sixteen-year-old Katla LeBlanc has just moved from Los Angeles to Minnesota. As if it weren’t enough that her trendy fashion sense draws stares, Katla soon finds out that she’s a Stork, a member of a mysterious order of women tasked with a very unique duty. But Katla’s biggest challenge may be finding her flock at a new school. Between being ignored by Wade, the arrogant jock she stupidly fooled around with, and constantly arguing with gorgeous farm boy and editor-in-chief Jack, Katla is relieved when her assignment as the school paper’s fashion columnist brings with it some much-needed friendship. But as Homecoming approaches, Katla uncovers a shocking secret about her past — a secret that binds her fate to Jack’s in a way neither could have ever anticipated. With a nod to Hans Christian Andersen and inspired by Norse lore, Wendy Delsol’s debut novel introduces a hip and witty heroine who finds herself tail-feathers deep in small-town life.
" --Goodreads  

5. Divergent by Veronica Roth. Wow. Just wow. I love dystopian, and this is one of the best books in the genre.

"One choice.
One choice decides your friends, defines your beliefs, and determines your loyalties . . . forever.

Or, one choice can transform you.

In Veronica Roth's debut novel,
Divergent, a perfect society unfolds into a dystopian world of electrifying decisions, stunning consequences, heartbreaking betrayals, and unexpected romance." --Goodreads

Supernatural Saturday: Review of You Are So Undead to Me

Fifteen-year-old Megan Berry is a Zombie Settler by birth, which means she's part-time shrink to a bunch of dead people with a whole lot of issues.

All Megan wants is to be normal and go to homecoming, of course. Unfortunately, it's a little difficult when your dates keep getting interrupted by a bunch of slobbering Undead.

Things are about to get even more complicated for Megan. Someone in school is using black magic to turn average, angsty Undead into flesh-eating Zombies, and it's looking like homecoming will turn out to be a very different kind of party the bloody kind.

Megan must stop the Zombie apocalypse descending on Carol, Arkansas. Her life and more importantly, homecoming depends on it.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Zombie fans who want something lighthearted
High point:  Megan and the surprise ending
Low point:  The campiness...but camp can be fun
Reader maturity: 13+

You Are So Undead to Me took me totally by surprise. It had me laughing aloud and rooting for Megan from start to finish.

By no means a serious, dramatic novel, You Are So Undead to Me keeps that in mind, reveling in camp and kook but with a strong plot and characters to keep it from feeling silly. The concept of Zombie Settlers, people who are born to put the semi-dead at rest, is fresh and thoroughly explained. Megan is a charming MC, self-deprecating and just a tiny bit sarcastic in the way of of high school girls who aren't quite sure of themselves yet. She is a little obsessed with/about/over her crush, but then...what high school girl isn't? Everyone from her parents, to the Council, to her best friend, to her crush, to her enemies and Megan herself are integral to the plot, which is filled with twists and turns that left me guessing until the end.

One of the best things about You Are So Undead to Me is that the last third of the book took me completely by surprise. I had the ending all figured out in my head, and I turned out to be completely wrong. It was wonderful! I love it when an author creates a plausible, yet completely unexpected, answer for the events of a book. And it was a good ending! Lots of action, fighting, Zombies, fire, kissing--it all left me waiting anxiously for more Megan Berry, Zombie Settler.

Title:  You Are So Undead to Me
Author:  Stacey Jay
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2009
Book Source:  Purchased

Giveaways, Week of 10/2

I'm starting this week's giveaway post a little early since it's Saturday. It seems a little pointless to make one for a week that only has 6 hours left in it. :-)

1. A Good Addiction is giving away an ARC of Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday. Ends 10/3.

2. Alison Can Read is celebrating a birthday by giving away a $30 Amazon gift card. Ends 10/10.

3. Katie's Book Blog is giving away a Halloween Prize Pack for Birthday Bash Giveaway #1. Up for grabs are:
  •  Generation Dead by Daniel Waters 
  • You Are So Undead To Me by Stacey Jay 
  • The Devouring by Simon Holt
  • a Build-A-Bear Small Frys Fall bear
  • a Build-A-Bear pumpkin outfit
  • Halloween nail polish (purple, black, orange)
  • Halloween nail files
  • Halloween slipper socks (not in photo)
  • light up ghost
  • and Halloween candy!
Ends 10/31.

4. Jennifer Laurens is giving away a signed copy of Overprotected, a tote and some cute spider web earrings. Ends Friday.

5. In the Hammock is celebrating 1300 followers with a Spooky 1300 Follower Giveaway. Up for grabs are:
  • Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade
  • After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel
  • Between by Jessica Warman
  • Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
  • The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
  • Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper
Ends 11/1.

6. A Good Addiction is giving away Eve by Anna Carey. Ends 10/1.

7. Reading 'Cause I'm Addicted is giving away Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick. Ends 10/17.

8. Reading 'Cause I'm Addicted is a;so giving away Eve by Anna Carey. Ends 10/12.

Contest Craze: Collections

This is the Collections Challenge, hosted by Princess Bookie herself!

Challenge:  Write up a blog post telling us all about your collection. What do you collect? Why do you collect it?

Collection:  Do books count?

Just kidding.

I collect magnets from places I visit (they're lightweight and easy to pack and pretty easy to display on my refrigerator. I'm really picky about the design of the rest of the rooms in my house, but I'm okay with the refrigerator being covered in cheap bits of touristy stuff.

I've got Dorothy's ruby slippers from one of the Smithsonian museums (it was actually the air and space museum on the mall, but the movie/media museum was being renovated and a few exhibits were on display down the hall from the airplanes) and some fake feet slices from Body Worlds (someone asked me if they were real once. No. and a mini Mount Vernon, among lots and LOTS of others. They're arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner on my fridge-canvas.