TGIF at GReads! (14) & Weekly Recap

Friday, September 30, 2011

This Friday blog hop is run by Ginger at GReads! (who also created this beautiful button). Each week she posts a new question for us to ponder. Click the button to join in!

This week's question is:

Banned Books: How do you feel about the censorship of the freedom to read? Do you think the education system needs to be more strict on what children are exposed to in books?

I strongly believe that the regulation of reading material among kids is the duty of parents. If parents have objections to material available to kids, it is their job to communicate that to their kids and teachers. Parents have the right to remove their kids from educational programming that they don't agree with, but just because some parents may find material objectionable doesn't mean that nobody gets to read it.

The right to free speech is one of our greatest liberties and is not something to be taken lightly. Self-expression is so important to public discourse on societal wrongs and to the further development of society in general. Ideas, in any form, can and should be expressed, and not one person should ever feel afraid to speak their mind. People take offense to a wide variety of materials, words, and concepts, and it is because of that subjectivity that limits on expression are so dangerous. The moment we start to homogenize our thinking is the moment our society starts to crumble. Progress is born on a foundation of daring, bold thoughts. We have to take risks and listen to the very things that frighten or abhor us in order to better understand the world around us.

Help me celebrate novel and bold ideas as part of Banned Books Week, and support authors who dare to be different. The Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop ends tomorrow, so click the link at the top of the page to enter!

My weekly recap is inspired by the phenomenally talented, kind and generous Small Review. If you are not already following her, you are really missing out. Also, have I mentioned how much I love Cool Text? They're the folks that allow me to make these cool (and simple) text buttons - for FREE!

If you're a first time visitor, or just didn't get the chance to stop by this week, here's what you missed:

GLOW by Amy Kathleen Ryan
2/5 stars

WISDOM'S KISS by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
3/5 stars

Let's Talk About...Virginity in YA Fiction

Waterfall Wednesday

Enjoy your weekend everybody!

Review: Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book: Wisdom's Kiss
Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Release date: September 12, 2011
Source: ARC for review from NetGalley

Summary: (from Goodreads) Princess Wisdom, known as Dizzy, longs for a life of adventure far beyond the staid old kingdom of Montagne.

Tips, a soldier, longs to keep his true life secret from his family.

Fortitude, an orphaned maid, longs only for Tips.

These three passionate souls might just attain their dreams while preserving Montagne from certain destruction, if only they can tolerate each other long enough to come up with a plan. Tough to save the world when you can't even be in the same room together.

Magic, cunning, and one very special cat join forces in this hilarious, extraordinary tale by the author of Dairy Queen and Princess Ben. An incredibly creative tale told with diaries, memoirs, encyclopedia entries, letters, biographies, even a stage play, all woven together into a grand adventure.

First impressions: The short chapters and 8 POVs made it easy to get into this book. I was so anxious to see what style was coming next that I breezed through huge chunks of this novel in each sitting.

Lasting impressions: Though the book seemed gimmicky at times, it was a cute story with a fun ending.

Conflicting impressions: Some of the narrative styles made it more difficult to follow the action, and I had to read certain sections a couple of times to know what was happening.

Overall impressions: I'm not usually a middle grade reader, but something about this one drew my eye. I liked the idea of a special cat, and the POV structure appealed to me as well. I wanted to see what Catherine Gilbert Murdock (sister to Eat, Pray, Love's Elizabeth Gilbert, by the way) could do with all of the styles - memoir, play, letters, etc.

Unfortunately, the varying styles didn't always serve the story in the most effective way. The alternating perspectives tended to be a bit jarring with their frequency, even if they made for quick reading. The letters did give us nice glimpses into well developed characters, but the play script, in particular, didn't tell us much we couldn't have gotten from other points of view.

The story itself was interesting, with a cute reveal at the end that adds a little something for fairy tale lovers. I enjoyed the characters, but some added backstory would have helped me understand the political games beyond the superficial. I think this is a great book for younger readers looking for a unique narrative and an adventurous plot.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Waterfall Wednesday (5)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hosted by Tina at Tina's Book Reviews, Missie at The Unread Reader, Joy & Serena at Edgy Inspirational Romance, Nic at Irresistible Reads and Jenny from Supernatural Snark, each week we'll be reading and discussing a set of chapters from the book. There will be prizes for participants, so click the button for more information and to sign up!

Discussion Questions for Chapters 24-28 & Wrap Up

1. After Gabi is injured, the doctor gives her a tonic. Gabi questions the doctor several times what is in it but he refuses to tell. Would have you taken the tonic in Gabi situation?

No way. I'm all about trying new things, but if some shady guy hands me a mysterious "medicine" I don't think I could take it. I'd call for a royal food taster first. ;)

2. Before the games Gabi asks Lia to let Lord Forabosch win in the archery event as people especially Lord Forabosch are becoming suspicious of them. But during the games Lord Forabosch upsets Lia trying to throw her off her game. So Lia decides to win. Do you think she did the right thing by not letting Lord Forabosch bully her or do you think she took an unnecessary risk?

It was definitely risky, but I get where Lia was coming from. It's so hard for me to stay cool when people are especially aggravating or not playing fair. Was it the right choice for Lia? Probably not. With that much attention on them, they certainly didn't need to show off Lia's archery skills to boot!

3. When Gabi is dying and she and Lia decide to return to the tombs so they can get the cure at home but they have to tell Marcello the truth. Even though Marcello thinks that it is madness that they are from the future he believes in Gabi because he loves her. Do you think this is believable? What would you have done if you were Marcello?

I definitely wish Marcello needed some more convincing. Wouldn't that have been exciting if Gabi had to leave unsure of whether he believed her? That she'd have to come back if she wanted to prove it to him? That would have been exciting. With all of the books on time travel I've read, and movies I've seen, I like to think that I could be accepting of someone telling me something outlandish like that...but in reality I'd probably write them off as crazy.

4. In the end Gabi and Lia return home. Do you think Gabi will return to Marcello? Would you go back?

I think Gabi loves Marcello too much not to at least try to get back. I think it's one of those situations where you wouldn't know unless you were in it. Would I travel back hundreds of years for someone I was convinced was my soul mate? I think maybe I would. Besides, it would be nice to leave all your modern troubles behind and start over, wouldn't it?

5. Looking back at Waterfall what was your favourite moment?

I love when Gabi and Lia are reunited. I was so worried about Lia through the first part of the book, and to finally have her be safe and a worthwhile partner in battle was a huge relief. Maybe it's because I have a sister myself, but I just couldn't enjoy the book fully until I knew what happened to Lia!

Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book: Glow
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release date: September 13, 2011
Source: ARC for review from Around the World Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them...

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.

First impressions: Heart-pumping action gets things moving right away in this sci-fi space adventure. Waverly's ship, the Empyrean, comes under attack almost immediately, just as she's trying to navigate the pressures of her boyfriend Kieran's proposal.

Lasting impressions: I was disappointed in the black-and-white outlook of this one, with very little gray area explored.

Conflicting impressions: Some of the moral issues Ryan tackles throughout the novel had very little nuance. The religious zealotry and adolescent boy power struggles particularly left me cold.

Overall impressions: There's something to be said for a book that you already know you're not enjoying, yet compels you to keep reading it anyway. This was one of those books.

Very early on, I knew I wasn't connecting with Waverly, and the choices made by almost every single character frustrated me. Yet I kept reading. The action is incredibly well-written, with the pace pushing you page after page, until the next thing you know, you're halfway through the book. Too bad the entire time I was reading it, I was growing more and more horrified by the ugly and unsympathetic characters.

Kieran is a nice enough boy, but he lacks any real leadership skills, despite being set to inherit the ship from the captain. Seth is set up as an interesting counterpoint in a potential love triangle, but the minute he's left alone with Kieran the two of them duke it out in an over-the-top power competition where they torture each other. Without any accompanying backstory, we have no other frame from which to analyze their actions, leaving the reader stuck watching two boys do very bad things without any understanding of why they're doing them.

*very slight spoiler alert!* Over on the New Horizon, Waverly is doing the best she can to take charge of the girls who have all been kidnapped from the Empyrean. *end spoiler* Waverly turns out to be a mostly effective leader, who questions what she is told by the adults around her, and strives to rescue her friends and family that were attacked by the New Horizon's crew. She meets their captain, Pastor Anne Mather, who is nothing but a shrill old woman who uses religion to control her ship's passengers.

Pastor Mather could have her own post entirely. She is a villain for whom Ryan creates a sympathetic angle (years of misogyny and abuse by the male elite), yet her actions are so indefensible that I couldn't possibly side with her. The answer to violence and oppression is never more violence and oppression. This is something Waverly begins to understand while interacting with Mather, and I suspect it will be explored in future books.

Given how much I disliked the experience of reading this pessimistic, depressing tale, I worried I wouldn't finish it, or would give it one measly star. However, the dramatic action and the fact that I had such visceral reactions to the material made me realize that it was probably just not the book for me. I think there are plenty of people that would eat this one up with the vivid characterizations and interesting plot around the power of religion and fertility in human development, but in my opinion, this one fell flat.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Let's Talk About...Virginity in YA Fiction

Monday, September 26, 2011

I've been spending a lot of time lately stewing privately over thinking about various issues/trends in YA books I've read, and I want to start discussing them here on the blog. I've been whining so much in the past few weeks about how I want more content besides reviews and memes, we go. I hope to hear your thoughts on these topics as well!

One thing I've noticed a lot of in YA fiction is the reliance on virginity as a key plot point. Whether virginity helps keep the population under control, or helps the heroine fulfill her destiny, there seem to be more than a few instances where remaining a virgin becomes critical to the novel's positive outcomes. Lately I feel as if I, as a YA reader, am getting clubbed over the head with the message "Virgin good, slut bad!"

There are a variety of techniques used to keep heroines virgins in books. There's the "I don't want to hurt you" technique. This is epitomized by Bella and Edward, where he couldn't possibly have sex with her because he wouldn't be able to control himself and might accidentally damage internal organs or something. This is most often seen in paranormal romances where sex is denied because the vampire/werewolf/whathaveyou is FAR too dangerous and therefore they can't possibly be together. Because sex makes you lose control and that is BAD.

There's the "if you lose your virginity you fail to fulfill your destiny" technique. The one that most readily comes to mind is Rampant, where Astrid can only be a powerful unicorn huntress if she abstains from sex. Forever. Girls can't possibly juggle a job AND a sex life, right? In order to be 100% focused on their futures, they must deny themselves love and the natural expression of it and just be happy killing unicorns.

Then there's the "doomsday" scenario. This is where the girl can't have sex because Bad Things will happen to her or the people she loves. I spotted this one in The Mephisto Covenant, where having sex meant that Sasha would turn into a homing beacon for the villain and he would instantly be able to track her and kill her. Again, sex = bad.

Bad, bad, bad.

Now, I'm not saying I want to see a bunch of books about irresponsibly promiscuous teenagers. I don't want to read a book about irresponsible promiscuity, period. I would, however, like to see books where young women make informed choices that reflect what is best for them and their lives. If a girl wants to have sex, and has the maturity and knowledge to do so safely, why not have a book explore that decision?

I'm sure there are books out there that deal with this topic in meaningful ways. I don't doubt that there are a lot of girls getting good information about sex from books that deal with it in a pointed fashion. What bothers me is the sense that a lot of these messages about the value of virginity are undercurrents that slip past the radar. If you read enough books about sweet, heroic virgins that are better people because they have chosen not to have sex, you start to think that's the only right choice. It devalues the many teen girls that have chosen not to remain virgins. And if you follow teen sex statistics at all, you'll know that's a very high number.

I'm tired of reading books where the protagonist must remain a virgin or bad consequences follow. I'm tired of our culture's insistence that virginity is something precious to young women. More than anything, I'm tired of these characters' decisions being taken from their control and passed along to someone else. Whether it's Edward sticking to his dated chivalrous guns, or an inherited vocation dictating their choice, or even the threat of certain death, young heroines are not being given the power to make their own decisions when it comes to whether they are ready to have sex. Instead, the decision is handed to them by external circumstances, and that's not something I like to see.

Have you noticed other ways in which virginity is celebrated in YA fiction? Do you think I'm way off base? Sound off in the comments, and let's get a discussion going.

Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Welcome to the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & I Read Banned Books! There are over 250 blogs signed up for this giveaway hop, and each of them is giving away some book-related prize. This hop is celebrating Banned Books Week, so lots of hosts are featuring banned books or related information. Included below is the Linky for this hop, so be sure to check out all of the other awesome giveaways!

My giveaway is for two frequently banned books: The Hunger Games (one of my all-time favorites) and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (a National Book Award winner and one I hope to read soon) AND it is open internationally! If The Book Depository ships to you, you can enter! As always, you must be at least 13 years old to enter, and only one entry per person.

Following is not required. This giveaway is open from 9/24 to 10/1, and the winner will be announced on 10/2. To enter, fill out the form below. Good luck!

Don't forget to hop around to the other giveaways!

River of Time Giveaway Winners!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thanks to everyone who entered my River of Time series giveaway! The results have been tabulated, and with a little help from, the winners are...

Congratulations Denise and Michelle! Be sure to check your email so I can get your books out to you as soon as possible. Happy reading!

Not a winner? Starting tonight at midnight, I'm participating in the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer! and Jen at I Read Banned Books. It's running all week long, so be sure to check back here to enter!

TGIF at GReads! (14) & Weekly Recap

This Friday blog hop is run by Ginger at GReads! (who also created this beautiful button). Each week she posts a new question for us to ponder. Click the button to join in!

This week's question is:

Reading Challenges: Did you sign up for any this year? How has your progression been?

I finished one! Finally! I'm officially done with 12 books for the Debut Author Challenge. That was by far my favorite challenge of the year, and I hope to read a few more before the year is out.

As for the other challenges, I'm progressing pretty well. I'm on track to finish by the end of the year, which was the goal, and I've narrowed down my choices to books I already own in an attempt to avoid a lot of book buying before the holiday season. I can't wait to do a big recap post in the new year for all of the cool books I read for these challenges!

My weekly recap is inspired by the phenomenally talented, kind and generous Small Review. If you are not already following her, you are really missing out. Also, have I mentioned how much I love Cool Text? They're the folks that allow me to make these cool (and simple) text buttons - for FREE!

If you're a first time visitor, or just didn't get the chance to stop by this week, here's what you missed:

PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White
4/5 stars
YA Paranormal Challenge

5/5 stars
Fantasy Reading Challenge

4/5 stars
Debut Author Challenge

Waterfall Wednesday

Enjoy your weekend everybody!

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: September 27, 2011
Source: ARC for review from Around the World Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.

She's wrong.

First impressions: I tried really hard to avoid reading much on this book before I read it. It was majorly hyped at BEA this year, and everyone has been buzzing about it since. I wanted to keep this one fresh, so I had few expectations. That made the beginning a lot of fun to experience, with no idea where we were going. I loved the letter up front that tells us "Mara Dyer" is a made up name to protect her identity. Mystery for the win!

Lasting impressions: Without question, the best thing in this book is the romantic interest, Noah Shaw. He is my new book boyfriend.

Conflicting impressions: Our heroine has a big change in direction in the last part of the novel, and her motivations went against the character we'd followed for so long. It made her actions disappointing and let me down as a reader.

Overall impressions: There are two big reasons you should read this book: Noah Shaw and masterful intrigue.

The entire book is spent playing catch-up, as we follow Mara Dyer trying to remember the blacked out portions of her memory where she may or may not have killed her friends. As she slowly pieces the story back together, we learn more about her and that she has strange powers that can have devastating consequences.

When she arrives in a new school for a fresh start after her family moves to Florida, she meets the notorious Noah Shaw. He's a playboy who has worked his way through most of the female student body, but he's not just a pretty face. He's insanely intelligent, incredibly caring, and feisty to boot. The banter between Noah and Mara is TO DIE FOR. Noah's witty comebacks, coupled with smoldering looks, had me fanning myself as I sped through the pages.

I was not crazy about the plot of this book once all of the information came to light toward the end. There were a few moments that didn't make much sense to me. Noah arrives in the middle of the night and leads Mara on a crazy trek through alligator-filled water, yet she never questions him on what they're doing. Really? Later, she makes a life-changing decision that seemed to go against everything we thought we knew about her and her feelings for her family and Noah. I didn't understand the motivations behind that choice, beyond the obvious need for retribution.

And the ending! If you are not a fan of game-changing twists, do not read the last page. It sets up a strange new chapter that I'm not sure I want to see explored. I made the mistake of skimming the last sentence while doing a page count check, and sort of ruined it for myself, so I repeat: DO NOT read the last page of this book!

I liked the supernatural elements in this one, although I do wish we'd gotten some more information along the way. Still, the overall story was intriguing and fun to read, and I haven't been this into a romance since Bella and Edward in Twilight. Noah is majorly swoon-worthy, and his chemistry with Mara is white hot. No matter what the novel's other shortcomings, it is completely worth a read just to spend some time with Noah Shaw.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

Waterfall Wednesday (4)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hosted by Tina at Tina's Book Reviews, Missie at The Unread Reader, Joy & Serena at Edgy Inspirational Romance, Nic at Irresistible Reads and Jenny from Supernatural Snark, each week we'll be reading and discussing a set of chapters from the book. There will be prizes for participants, so click the button for more information and to sign up!

Discussion Questions for Chapters 18-23

1. Gabi and Lia both face several life and death situations in these chapters, having to pick up weapons in defense of those they love and experiencing first hand the brutality of close combat. If you had the choice between picking up a weapon and standing on the front lines or staying behind to tend to the wounded as necessary, which would you choose?

I am a walking contradiction on this one. I always loved the idea of the military, and really really wanted to become a Marine for a while, but when I think about this scenario I would be much more comfortable behind the scenes. I have no desire to be caught on the front lines, thank you very much. I'll just enjoy the hard-fought rewards combat buys me.

2. Both girls get to wear extraordinary gowns to their victory celebration; what would your dream medieval gown look like?

I always wanted a sumptuous velvet dress, preferably with as much gold trim as possible. If I could be dripping in jewels that would also be acceptable.

3. Gabi has crude stitches put in and must endure both their removal as well as the cauterization of the wound. How is your threshold for pain? Do you think you would have simply gritted your teeth as Gabi does?

I have a pretty high pain tolerance, actually. I can take a lot. That said - I am a baby when it comes to anticipating pain. If I know it's coming it puts the fear of God in me, but after it starts I'm usually just fine. Maybe they work in tandem - I freak out so much that the reality never lives up to the hype?

4. Marcello wants to properly court Gabi after they express mutual feelings of affection, wanting to speak with her mother about his intentions. What do you think is the most romantic aspect of medieval courtship?

I think the feeling of being pursued would be nice. Not that this doesn't happen today, but there are certainly more ways for women to express their feelings. I think just knowing that a man had to come to you and beg you to be with him would be kind of cool.

5. Gabi and Lia find themselves with conflicting desires toward the end with Lia wanting to return home and Gabi hoping to stay. Do you think that Gabi is being unfair to Lia for wanting to stay, or is Lia being unfair to Gabi for demanding they go? A little of both?

I'm Team Lia on this one. No way would I be convinced to stay in medieval Italy just because my sister thought she was in love. Love you sis, but no. I'd tell her to suck it up and find a modern man. It's been a fun trip, we've got lots of nice memories, but let's get back to civilization. Sorry Gabs.

Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: September 27, 2011
Source: ARC received from Around the World Tours
Series: Untitled sequel planned for Fall 2012

Summary: (from Goodreads) Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grow dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

First impressions: There are some books that make their greatness known from the first sentence. This is one of those books.

Lasting impressions: I will never be able to do this book justice through my clumsy attempts at a review. Laini Taylor's work stands on its own, and this is definitely my favorite book of the year.

Conflicting impressions: Ha! It is absolutely laughable that I could even think of offering up a criticism of this phenomenal book.

Overall impressions: As I said on Twitter last night, JUST GO BUY IT!

There's really not much more I can say other than that. Go buy it. You won't be disappointed.

Karou does double duty in this one, functioning as both a normal art student in Prague and an errand girl for the mysterious monsters who summon her to fetch teeth. Yes, teeth. This is not your average paranormal.

And that is why I fell in love so hard. This book is unlike anything I've ever read. Is there any greater compliment you can pay a writer than telling them their work is inspiringly unique?

Laini Taylor, I bow down to you.

Karou and the bizarre world she inhabits are intensely captivating. I could barely stand to put this book down. I relished every word, and the suspense of not knowing what would happen at any given moment was exhilarating. Finally, a book that can genuinely surprise me!

Who is Karou? Why did Brimstone raise her? Why does she gather teeth from all over the world for him? Why is Akiva out to destroy her?

The answers to these questions are half the fun of the novel. I was in no hurry to find this information, and waited patiently for our blue-haired heroine to figure it out for herself. In the last third we are treated to a glimpse into lost memories, as Karou starts to put the pieces of her disjointed life together. There is more emotion packed into the final pages of this book than in the last 10 books I read combined.

This book is haunting, magical, strange, glorious, and beautiful.


Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book: Paranormalcy
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: August 31, 2010
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
Series: Paranormalcy #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

First impressions: I have to admit that with the number of people hoisting accolades upon Evie, I didn't want to like her. Or this book. Evie is like the super-popular girl at your new school that everyone says is so nice, but you don't believe them because anyone that popular, and pretty, and cool, cannot possibly also be nice.

But I can admit when I'm wrong. Evie is amazing.

Lasting impressions: The plot may be forgettable, but Evie and Reth and Lend are not. Or Lish. Or Raquel. Or David. Let's be real - the characters are what make this one.

Conflicting impressions: What happened in this book? I read it a week ago. This shouldn't be hard.


Hm. Evie wears pink boots? She meets a boy? A girl is on fire?

That's all I got.

Overall impressions: Despite the fact that my brain has turned to mush and I can't recall how this one ended (or, maybe, much of what happened in the middle), I do know that I liked it.

Evie is a force to be reckoned with, but not in the butt-kicking way you would normally associate with strong heroines. No, in Evie's case, it is entirely based around her strong personality. I dare you to read 5 sentences of this book and NOT be able to tell me everything about her. Trust me when I say that you know who she is immediately, and that is always a great thing.

Kiersten White's gift is writing strong characters. Each one of them, though colored by Evie's perceptions, is full and vibrant. In fact, even the ones that Evie likes (Reth) can still be so forceful that I can make independent judgments about them. (RETH.) This may be Evie's world, but we can still tell who is bad news. (Reth. RETH. RETH!!)

Ahem. So let's talk about Reth, shall we? It's not like I have strong feelings about him. Or feel the need to beat him to death with his own shoes.

Okay, I lied. I do have both of those things. I hate Reth, AND I want to beat him with his shoes. He is cocky, obnoxious, creepy, inconsiderate, rude, and a severe violator of Evie's freedoms and personal space. He carts her off to his house and traps her there, touches and kisses her when she doesn't want him to do so, and somehow the simple fact that he is an ex-boyfriend is supposed to make this okay? He's a fairy, which earns him negative bonus points, and I wish he was not in this book.

I hope I'm being clear as to how I feel.

Even with Grossy McStabintheeye, the book is still enjoyable. I'd rather have strong feelings about a book than no feelings at all. Evie is delightful, even with her tacky style (hot pink boots and zebra print, I'm looking at you), and I adored her main love interest, Lend. Their relationship moved at a snail's pace, which I thought made it that much more authentic. Throw in charming side characters and a unique setting, and this is one cute book.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

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TGIF at GReads! (13) & Weekly Recap

Friday, September 16, 2011

This Friday blog hop is run by Ginger at GReads! (who also created this beautiful button). Each week she posts a new question for us to ponder. Click the button to join in!

This week's question is:

Book Disappointments: Have you ever come across a book you were so stoked to read, but it failed miserably in your eyes?

Isn't that the worst feeling ever? I've definitely had some that stick out from recent memory. Between by Cynthia Tefft - I thought it would be like a young Outlander style book and I was so excited to read it...and then it offended me and I ended up not enjoying it after all. So sad.

Another big one? Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. It was such a disappointing ending to the build up of the previous three books. Why the random shift to Jacob's perspective? It irked me to no end that the middle third of the book just jumps away from the action. And after all their chaste waiting-for-marriage crap, I found the love scene less than desirable - and then she IMMEDIATELY becomes pregnant? Ack! No! Bad bad bad! And let's not even get into the horror show that was the birth scene, or Bella's fate as super vampire who needs no training, or the creep factor of Renesmee. I was such a fan of Twilight, and to have the series reduced to this crazy whacked out soap opera mess at the end really upset me.

In all seriousness, I could have a conversation for days about that book. Hit me up in chat if you ever want to get me going.

What books have disappointed you?

My weekly recap is inspired by the phenomenally talented, kind and generous Small Review. If you are not already following her, you are really missing out. Also, have I mentioned how much I love Cool Text? They're the folks that allow me to make these cool (and simple) text buttons - for FREE!

If you're a first time visitor, or just didn't get the chance to stop by this week, here's what you missed:

2/5 stars
Black Dagger Brotherhood Challenge

3/5 stars
YA Paranormal Challenge

BURNOUT by Adrienne Maria Vrettos
3/5 stars

Win the River of Time series!
I'm picking TWO winners for a complete set of Lisa T. Bergren's River of Time series and signed bookmarks.

Enjoy your weekend everybody!

Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

Giveaway: River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Yesterday, I promised a giveaway, so today I am here to deliver. In my excitement over the release of Lisa T. Bergren's conclusion to the River of Time Trilogy, Torrent, I completely forgot that I had copies of the first two books to give away!

That's right - copies! Plural! Today I am giving away TWO sets of the first two books in the River of Time series. That's two copies each of Waterfall and Cascade. Oh, and did I mention they also come with a bookmark signed by Ms. Lisa Bergren herself?

Well, they DO. And that is AWESOME.

To sweeten this already wickedly sweet deal further, I'm going to offer up a copy of Torrent to fill out each set. Because I promise that when you read the first two you won't want to wait to get the last book! I know there are lots of you out there that haven't had the chance to read this excellent series yet, and I want you to have the full experience.

So, to recap. Up for grabs to TWO winners are complete sets of the River of Time series, plus signed swag. The first two books (Waterfall and Cascade) will be sent by me with the signed bookmarks. The third book (Torrent) will be ordered and shipped direct to you from Amazon (since I don't have the physical copies myself). Because of monetary limitations, this giveaway is open only to US addresses. Don't despair, international folks! I'm taking part in the upcoming Banned Books giveaway hop and I promise it'll be open to you.

In the interest of saving me time and you effort, I'm going to keep this entry simple. All you have to do is leave me a comment with an email address where I can reach you. This giveaway will open when this posts and stay open for one week. I'll pick TWO WINNERS randomly and announce them next Friday, 9/23. The winners will have 72 hours to email me back, and if I don't hear from them I'll pick new ones.

No need to follow. Unless you want to, in which case I'll bake you cookies - but since we're in the blogosphere and you can't actually eat my cookies I'll just have to eat them for you. Trust me. They're awesome.

Questions? Hit me up in the comments. And good luck!

Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I have to apologize to you, dear readers. I have been kind of a bum blogger lately.

Sure, the posts are up (because I wrote them all in a flurry weeks ago) and sure, I've been keeping up with the steady flow of books flooding my life (I may have gone overboard with the ARC tours), but my online presence has been practically nil. I scan Twitter maybe once a day, haven't opened Google Reader in weeks, and am largely ignoring my inbox.

I am in a funk.

Work has been stressful, life has been stressful, and I keep getting sick. I haven't written or attempted to write anything in months, despite the ideas flitting around my head. It has not been sparkly rainbows and magical unicorns in my neck of the woods.

You probably noticed that I stopped commenting weeks ago. I promise it is not you. It's me. And I'm hoping that by airing my feelings here that maybe I can turn a corner.

Does this happen to you? Do you reach a point when you start questioning how much of your life is getting eaten up by your blog? How do you fix it?

Don't get me wrong. I've been reading some incredible books. Books and reviews are not the problem. But I don't want this blog to be just reviews, or reviews and memes. I want this to have real, proactive content, but the time commitment makes it all seem so overwhelming. I need something to get my creative juices flowing, but that doesn't require me to give up half my week. That half needs to be reserved for exercise.

I'm going to keep thinking about this, and will be making my way around the blogosphere to say "hi" soon. I miss you. I apologize for being an absentee bloggy friend. I thank you if you've made it this far and still care about what I have to say. To make it up to you, tomorrow I'm going to be putting together a giveaway.

Until then, you'll have to make do with a Paint.

Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

Review: Burnout by Adrienne Maria Vrettos

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book: Burnout
Author: Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Release date: September 13, 2011
Source: ARC received from Around the World Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) On the day after Halloween, Nan wakes up in a subway car. She is not dreaming. She doesn’t know where she’s been or what she’s done. She’s missing a whole day from her life. And she’s wearing skeleton makeup and a too-small Halloween costume that she doesn't remember putting on.

Nan is not supposed to wake up in places like this anymore. She’s different now, so far from that dangerously drunk girl who hit bottom in the Nanapocalypse. She needs to find out what happened to her, and fast. As she tries to put together the pieces of the last twenty-four hours, she flashes back to memories of her previous life. But she would never go back to her old friends and her old ways. Would she?

The deeper Nan digs, the more disturbing things get. This time, she may have gone one step too far. This time, she may be a walking ghost.

First impressions: Oh, Nan. Poor, poor Nan. Twice in the opening chapters we see her waking up from being blackout drunk - once as a memory, and once to set the plot in motion in real time. Adrienne Maria Vrettos writes these so picture perfectly that I actually winced. Nan's predicament is unsettling and upsetting, which sets up nicely the tone for the entire book.

Lasting impressions: Although this was an interesting book, I'm not sure it has the punch to make this one everlasting for me.

Conflicting impressions: While some aspects were extremely true to life, other parts had me shaking my head in disbelief.

Overall impressions: In general, Nan's story is not a happy one. This is no feel-good tale. I think the summary is a pretty big clue, but the opening chapters are certainly going to weed out the ones who want to read this and the ones who should probably close it up quickly and back away. Either you want to experience life through a teen's blackout drunk phase or you don't.

I hesitate to use the term "alcoholic" only because Adrienne Maria Vrettos dodges the term herself. Nan is an abuser, but mostly at the whims of her best friend, Seemy. She goes to sort of "rehab lite" and acknowledges that it wasn't the most hardcore of programs. Nan seemed more like a lost girl caught up in the peer pressure of Seemy's crazy existence rather than a bona fide alcoholic.

The book is told in alternating chapters of Nan in the present, slowly piecing together the last 24 hours that she can't remember, and vignettes from the past. We see how she met her friends Toad and Seemy, how she handles waking up in strange places, how she relates to her mother and little brother. Nan is insecure, and drawn to the vivacious Seemy like a moth to a flame. Based on the few interactions we see with her, it's not hard to follow how Nan could end up where this story begins.

Although it was interesting finding out how Nan woke up on the subway in a tiny Halloween costume, I didn't connect to the bigger life lessons here. Beyond the obvious - don't drink so much and don't be friends with people who suck - there isn't a lot of meat to this story. Vrettos hints at growth in Nan's relationship with her mother, and even at growth in her own self-confidence, but at under 200 pages, this quick read didn't quite nail the heart of these issues.

I felt the friendship with Seemy was well-executed, and I found their exploits to be quite imaginative, if a little over-dramatic. When Nan realizes who or what is responsible for her blackout, the plot veers into a scenario I found a little hard to believe. Was it exciting to read? Yes. Did I think that's what would have really happened? No effing way. Part of my disappointment with the book is that I felt it would have more impact if it had a more realistic ending. It was like I was watching the made-for-TV version of real events, when the actual story is more compelling than the media hyped version.

Bottom line is that this is a good mystery set around the bitter effects of drinking too much. Nan is a sympathetic character that finds herself in the most awful of circumstances, but ultimately rises to face the challenges of her day head-on.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

Review: Starstruck by Cyn Balog

Monday, September 12, 2011

Book: Starstruck
Author: Cyn Balog
Publisher: Delacorte
Release date: July 12, 2011
Source: ARC for review from Books with Bite Book Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) Gwendolyn "Dough" Reilly doesn't think she has much going for her — she carries a few extra pounds, her family struggles with their small bakery in a town full of millionaires, and the other kids at her New Jersey high school don't seem to know that she exists. Thank the stars for her longtime boyfriend, Philip P. Wishman — or "Wish." He moved away to California three years ago, when they were 13, but then professed his love for her via e-mail, and he's been her long-distance BF ever since.

At the beginning of her junior year, though, Wish e-mails that he's moving back to Jersey. Great, right? Well, except that Dough has gained about 70 pounds since the last time Wish saw her, while Wish — according to his Facebook photos — has morphed into a blonde god. Convinced that she'll be headed for Dumpsville the minute Wish lays eyes on her, Dough delays their meeting as long as she possibly can.

But when she sees Wish at school, something amazing happens. He looks at Dough like she's just as gorgeous as he is. But Wish is acting a little weird, obsessed with the sun and freaked out by rain. And the creepy new guy working at the bakery, Christian, is convinced that there's more to Wish's good looks than just healthy eating and lots of sun. He tells Dough that a mark on Wish's neck marks him as a member of the Luminati — an ancient cult of astrologers who can manipulate the stars to improve their lives. Is Wish and Dough's love meant to be — or are they star-crossed?

First impressions: Gwen/Dough is a fantastic narrator. She shows us who she is from the moment we meet her. She's funny, sarcastic, a bit down on herself, but able to handle anything thrown at her without losing sight of the big picture. There's no unnecessary drama here.

Lasting impressions: The realistic elements of the story were more meaningful than the paranormal Luminati stuff. I wish the astrology part had been introduced sooner so it didn't seem like it was tacked on to the back end of an otherwise interesting contemporary.

Conflicting impressions: I don't have very specific complaints, as the whole story was enjoyable. I think it could have been great, instead of just good, if we'd gotten some more development with Christian and the Luminati lore.

Overall impressions: Overweight and poor, Dough is resigned to a life in the shadows. Her best friend Wish moved away, leaving her to fend for herself in her mom's bakery, and the pounds added up after snacking on donuts all day every day. Now that Wish is headed back to town to be her in-person boyfriend and not just a long-distance boyfriend, she's panicky at the thought of him seeing her bloated new body.

It's a fear that hit home for me, and I understood Dough's plight. Her oblivious mom keeps buying her shapeless, cheap clothing, and they can't afford for her to get even a decent, flattering haircut. All the cards are stacked against her.

We spend a good portion of the first part of the book gearing up for the inevitable showdown with Wish...but it amounts to nothing. He's not horrified (not that we expected him to be, nice guy that he is), and the in-crowd seems to accept her without much thought. This is where I think the conflict could have been turned up to really make things more interesting. We expect Wish to be the nice guy, so why not have him react poorly to her looks? Do we really think the popular crowd would be so into a guy who has been MIA for most of their formative years that they'd gladly accept a loser like Dough? I'm not saying they had to be complete archetypes, but some of the more expected behavior would have made things more interesting for Dough and Wish's relationship.

Throwing a wrench into things is the new bakery worker, Christian, who seems to have an idea of what's "off" about Wish. Trouble is, other than a passing comment from Dough, Wish isn't really all that suspicious with his behavior. When Christian finally spills about the Luminati, it kind of seems ridiculous instead of being dangerous.

The action ramps up in the last part of the book, but suffers from the mistakes of Mockingjay in that Dough winds up unconscious during key points in the final scenes, thus denying the reader the chance to see how she gets out of her perilous situation. This was another big letdown for me.

I did like Dough enough to gobble this book in a few quick hours, and I appreciated the unique and fresh astrology elements. If you're interested in exploring love and insecurity, with a dash of paranormal, this is the book for you.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

Review and Book Club: Lover Unbound by J. R. Ward

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Today I'm participating in Bookaholic Does Blogging's Black Dagger Brotherhood Book Club for her BDB Challenge. Every month, in addition to reading one of the series' books, I'll be participating in her book club posts, so we can all gab about BDB!

Book: Lover Unbound
Author: J. R. Ward
Publisher: Signet
Release date: September 25, 2007
Source: Bought for Kindle
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #5

Summary: (from Goodreads) Ruthless and brilliant, Vishous, son of the Bloodletter, possesses a destructive curse and a frightening ability to see the future. As a pretrans growing up in his father's war camp he was tormented and abused. As a member of the Brotherhood, he has no interest in love or emotion, only the battle with the Lessening Society. But when a mortal injury puts him in the care of human surgeon, Dr. Jane Whitcomb compels him to reveal his inner pain and taste true pleasure for the first time - until a destiny he didn't choose takes him into a future that cannot include her.

1. On a scale from 1-5, what would you rate this book? Briefly tell us why.

Snooze alert! I gave this one 2 stars because it was so boring I almost couldn't finish it. I did enjoy getting V's back story, and I loved seeing John Matthew through his transition, but I found Jane to be completely unsexy and uninteresting. That made it difficult to sustain my interest in V's love story, and I do kind of wish they'd just made him gay instead of giving him a boyish woman to love. Major bummer.

2. There were a lot of revelations in this book. What did you think of the Scribe Virgin being V's mom?

I thought it was interesting, but the formula of having the Scribe Virgin solve all of their love problems is getting old. I felt this revelation didn't add much to V's story. I don't know if it just didn't have enough impact or if I'm not up on the significance, but I found the whole scenario very underwhelming.

3. Sticking to that theme, what did you think of the Scribe Virgin's request that Vishous become the Primale?

Well, I never believed he would actually become the Primale once Jane came into the picture. That's not how Ward rolls. If there's a love interest, then the Brother winds up with her somehow, so I didn't find much tension in the request to be the Primale. I did like seeing more of the Chosen and their culture, though.

4. Phury stepping up to the plate is nothing new -- what did you think of him taking V's place as the Primale?

I have mixed feelings. It was very noble of him, but it seems more like an escape and an excuse to martyr himself yet again. He felt he was the last, obvious choice, so made the most of it. I can't fault him for wanting to step up, but I feel bad for him more than anything that he can't ever really do anything for himself. He's such a pushover! Will he find true happiness ever? Guess the next book will tell us.

5. Back to the Scribe Virgin -- we learned that V has a sister she's been "hiding" for 303 years. What do you think will become of her? Do you think the Scribe Virgin will -- for lack of better terms -- let her live again?

I thought that was kind of weird and out of nowhere. I want to know more about the force that told the Scribe Virgin to have a baby, and only one. Why did she go against that? Is that God? Why have two babies and hide one? Hopefully I don't have to wait for Payne's book to find out!

6. What happened to Jane was a tragedy. What did you think of the Scribe Virgin bringing her back for V at the cost of her own happiness?

It was a nice effort, but I'm not clear on the rules. She's a ghost, but she's corporeal? It seemed like she was able to continue working and carrying on like normal, so it doesn't seem like much of a tragedy to me.

7. What did you think of Butch's theory that V thought himself to be in love with Butch because he was the first person V really cared about (until Jane)?

I think there is some truth to that. I also think that's kind of the definition of love. V obviously loves Butch, and because of that, he's attracted to Butch. Nothing wrong with that - they just have a different dynamic than that of the other brothers. I liked that Butch was cool with it, but wish he wouldn't have brushed it off as something other than truly being in love.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review
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