Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Length: 433 pages

Rating: 4/5

Cath's world is the Simon Snow fandom (she's kind of a big deal in the fanfic world), her identical sister Wren, and their dad. But college is a whole different story. Soon she's dealing with a sister who isn't talking to her, a surly roommate with an overly-friendly boyfriend, her dad who is a mess, and a fiction writing teacher who doesn't think fanfic is real literature. And all Cath wants to do is stay in her room and write. Can she learn to live in a nonfictional world?

Things I loved about this book:
  1. This book takes place freshman year of college. What's more life-changing than freshman year of college?! It's wonderful to read a book set here with all the trails and tribulations without it being this-will-be-life-changing preachy.
  2. This book really focused on family, and what it means to rely on them without being dependent. Plus, my sister and I always wanted to be twins, and now I live with twins, so I loved reading a story about twins (and not the Sweet Valley High version).
  3. Fanfiction. I loved the interspersed bits of fandom, especially Cath's own fanfic.
  4. Rainbow Rowell knows how to write a good romance!
Things I didn't love:
  1. Why is Cath so afraid of herself (especially herself in relationships)? The boy seemed to have more patience than is humanly possible (but I loved him for it).
  2. It's impossible to read this story without drawing direct parallels between Simon Snow and Harry Potter, and a large part of this book was focused on Cath growing out of the fandom and moving on without it, because it is often looked at as childish. This is great for Cath's character growth, but I didn't like these particular parallels, because I don't ever want to grow out of Harry Potter!
Overall, a great story of learning to take charge of your own life.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Seraphina (Rachel Hartman)

Title: Seraphina
Author: Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House
Length: 451 pages

Rating: 5/5

In a world where dragons and humans coexist in an uneasy truce and dragons can assume human form, Seraphina, whose mother died giving birth to her, grapples with her own identity amid magical secrets and royals scandals, while she struggles to accept and develop her extraordinary musical talents.

Seraphina is like Teen Wolf, and I mean this as the highest compliment. You think it's just going to be a stupid book about dragons and then you're addicted. I've read a lot of great books lately, but it's been a while since I've been thrown into a world so vivid and compelling that I couldn't stop reading, and when I did, all I wanted to do was pick the book back up.

It's part mystery, part fantasy, and a tiny bit of forbidden romance. I loved all the little details, from the garden in Seraphina's head to the fact that dragons can't have facial hair in human form. As readers, we don't only get to join Seraphina's journey of self-discovery, but we feel like we're on our own journey of world-discovery!

Occasionally I was a little confused as to why everyone loved Seraphina so much--she can be very prickly--but eventually came to love her, despite her flaws. 

I'm anxious for the second book to come out not only to find out what happens, but because I want an excuse to read this book again! Fans of high-fantasy, Tamora Pierce, and great books- this one is not to be missed!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Dream Thieves (Maggie Stiefvater)

Title: The Dream Theives
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Length: 439 (*ARC)
Rating: 5/5

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after... (Summary from Goodreads)

Remember how much I loved the first book in this cycle? You should probably just go read that review because I felt all those things and MORE after reading this second book. We get to know all the characters better, flaws and strengths, as well as the introduction of new characters, who range from awful to redeemable. Plus, there’s more bromance, and even a little more forbidden romance.

If you’ve read the first, you will LOVE this book. If you haven’t, watch this video, and go read it. Seriously, do it!

*I was lucky enough to snag an ARC at BEA of this, but the book comes out September 17th, and you can bet I’ll be at the bookstore that day! And then the day after, flailing about how much I want the third book. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Never Fade (Alexandra Bracken)

Title: Never Fade
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Hyperion
Length: 507
Rating: 4.5/5

In this sequel to The Darkest Minds, Ruby reluctantly joins with the Children’s League to bring down the corrupt government and destroy the camps she loathes. But when a crucial secret surfaces, Ruby embarks on a mission to find the truth, which is hidden in the most unlikely of places: on an unsuspecting Liam. In her search to find Liam, Ruby is torn between her mission with the Children’s League, and old loyalties. Ruby desperately fights to protect those she loves and bring justice to a corrupt world.

This book was just as wonderful and heart-pounding as the first. Ruby is thrown into a position of leadership, based on her ability to control others’ minds. But she is still frightened of that power, and the corruption she has seen it create.

Ruby finds herself in impossible no-win scenarios, and still refuses to quit. Not only is she physically beat up more than once, but a reunion with Liam is an emotional rollercoaster that packs quite a punch as well. But Ruby is stronger than she thinks she is, and as determined as she is not to care about the people around her (just look what happened last time), it’s not in her nature. And I loved this new batch of characters, especially Vida and Jude, just as much as I loved the first.

Unfortunately, YA literature has taught me that you can’t save the world without major sacrifices, and the world becomes even darker in this book. I should warn you that the language in this book is also more adult that in the first book* (which I thought was a really great way to indicate that these kids are growing up in a dark world).

I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the next book!

*I read this book in ARC form, and Alex has said on Tumblr that some of this language has been toned down for the book, coming out out October 13th- go get it! Also, follow Alex on Tumblr, because she's the greatest. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Something Like Normal (Trish Doller)

Title: Something Like Normal
Author: Trish Doller
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Length: 217
Rating: 5/5

Travis is home from Florida, on leave from active duty as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan. He’s not only haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death, but his brother has stolen his girlfriend and his parents are having marital trouble. What a vacation. But then he runs into Harper, a girl he’s known since middle school, and things start to look up.

This book was awesome. Like read it in one night, cry a little, laugh a little, have the characters grow on you as if they’re real people kind of awesome.

Things I loved:
-A male narrator who seemed REAL (and not just YA girl fantasy real). Travis is kind of a jerk, but the more you learn about him, the more you understand why and love him anyway.
-I learned so much about the U.S. Marines from reading this book. Trish really did her research to get at the issues marines face coming home, but without making them out to be sob stories or overly-dramatized heroes.
-The romance. It was like a Nicholas Sparks novel, but shorter, snippier, and better. Harper’s pretty great, and I liked her spunk.

Let’s keep this review short, because I want to direct you to the coolest thing ever. I’m a huge fan of the blog Real Men Read YA, who read this book, and then challenged Trish Doller to a rap battle.  Check out the comments, because it’s Something Like Freaking Awesome.

*I read this book months ago, and I still love it this much. Also, keep your eyes out for Trish's new book, Where the Stars Still Shine, which I loved EVEN MORE than this one, coming out in September!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

2nd Birthday Giveaway!

Hello everyone!

I can hardly believe this blog is already two years old!

So much has changed in my life since I first decided to create this blog at the Denver Publishing Institute in the summer of 2011. I've read hundreds of books, married off two of my best friends, found my dream job working games with Sporting Kansas City, married myself to a trophy, started writing for a sports website, interned at a library where I created a separate blog just for middle grade books, moved to New York, met so many wonderful authors, and found my other dream job working at a children's publisher (just to name a few of the crazier things!). And of course, I've eaten a ton of ice cream along the way.

It hasn't always been easy, and I haven't always been the best at posting regularly, but I love this blog. As a thank you to my followers, I'm giving away these ARCs to three different winners!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you for following and good luck!

PS Here's a present for you!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Just One Day (Gayle Forman)

Title: Just One Day
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Length: 369
Rating: 4/5

Sparks fly when American good girl Allyson encounters laid-back Dutch actor Willem, so she follows him on a whirlwind trip to Paris, upending her life in just one day and prompting a year of self-discovery and the search for true love.

This book is for every girl who wishes she could break out of her good girl image and do something wild.

Allyson does just this. But it’s not easy, and it actually goes horribly wrong. Willem disappears after their one day together, and Allyson is left inept and changed in ways she doesn’t know how to deal with. She spends the next year dealing with the emotional fall-out, but she becomes out a better person for it.

And not necessarily just because of Willem. Yes, the romance is key in the story, but it’s more because for that one day, she was a different person, and she loved it. She’s been changed as a person, and it takes her a while to find herself again. I loved the parallels in this book of how passive she is at the beginning of the book to how much of a go-getter she is at the end.

Call it New Adult or older YA or whatever you like, but I really like this sub-genre of YA that deals with self-discovery of college-aged protagonists. This book reflected (in more extreme ways) the changes I went through in college and while studying abroad, and the challenges I faced through those changes.

A wonderful book of older self-discovery and change, and I am anxiously awaiting the next book, Just One Year, which will be told from Willem’s perspective. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

In Honor (Jessi Kirby)

Title: In Honor
Author: Jessi Kirby
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 235
Rating: 4/5

Three days after she learns that her brother, Finn, died serving in Iraq, Honor receives a letter from him asking her to drive his car from Texas to California for a concert. And when his estranged best friend, Rusty, shows up suddenly and offers to accompany her, they set off on a road trip that reveals much about all three of them.

This book is the perfect road trip read. It’s poignant and fun and ultimately adorable. You will inhale it and wish there was more (and then maybe book your own road trip- that’s what I did!). I loved that this book wasn’t just about a boy and a girl, thrown together and voila: romantic tension. It was about Honor’s relationship with her brother, and Rusty’s relationship with Honor’s brother, and eventually, the relationship between all of them.

Honor, who skips college orientation to fulfill what she thinks is her brother’s dying wish, is just at the right age to really discover who she is, and this book is all about that discovery. Rusty is a bit of a disaster after falling out with his best friend, and then losing him, and he is the perfect foil to Honor, who think she has her life perfectly together. And don’t worry, there is plenty of swooning over Rusty to be done by the reader- who can resist a mess of a Texas gentleman?

The only reason this book didn’t make it all the way to five stars, is that there were a few clichéd things in the beginning of the book that made it hard to get into the story. The start of the road trip was a little too similar to the start of any Supernatural episode (car and soundtrack included). And I’m pretty sure Kyra Kelley (the girl whose concert they’re going to see) was just a stand-in for Taylor Swift. But maybe I’ve just spent too much time listening to Taylor Swift. Let me know if you thought differently!

In the end, this book made me cry, and laugh, and feel along with Honor, and I would definitely recommend it. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wild Awake (Hilary T. Smith)

Title: Wild Awake
Author: Hilary T. Smith
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Length: 375
Rating: 5/5

Seventeen year old Kiri has plans to endlessly practice the piano and water the azaleas while she is home alone and her parents are on a cruise. She does not plan on getting a phone call from a stranger who claims to have a bag of her dead sister’s stuff. With this call, Kiri embarks on a crazy adventure of love, loss, murder, music, and madness.

This cover is crazy, chaotic, and perfect. Also, there is an azalea etched on the front of the book and it’s amazingly perfect. (I’m a tiny bit biased because I know the designer but shhh that doesn’t change that it’s awesome).

I fell in love with Kiri two pages in- her quirky voice* made me want to be her best friend (come on, I’m way more deserving that her best friend and band mate Lukas!). Half way through (and with me obsessively picking this book back up every chance I got) I realized that she was my brand of crazy/compulsive/awesome.

Kiri is not your typical protagonist: she jumps into hot tubs fully clothed and befriends homeless people. And the boy she falls in love with is not your typical YA male lover: he’s got tattoos and a radio collection and is really good at fixing bikes.

Just as Kiri feels flawed and real, the book is real too. It deals with serious issues like family secrets, murder, mental illness, and self-discovery. With Kiri as your protagonist, you’re on this journey of discovery with her, and sometimes it’s hard and frustrating, and you just want to make things right. But overall, this book does a wonderful job of capturing just how messy, joyous, and heartbreaking life can be.

Check out Hilary’s Tumblr for the book:
And here's me in the store buying the book:

*Hilary and I were penpals for a year, and her voice is just as amazing as Kiri’s. She’s amazing, this book is amazing. Just go read it and save me the torture of trying to put the amazingness into coherent words! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Siege and Storm (Leigh Bardugo)

Title: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher:  Henry Holt and Co (Macmillan)
Length: 448
Rating: 5/5

In this sequel to Shadow and Bone, Alina and Mal are being hunted by the Darkling, who has escaped the Shadow Fold with an even darker power. Alina joins forces with a notorious pirate and returns to face the Darkling and rally the Grisha against him. But as her power grows, she grows further away from Mal, and risks losing everything.

I read this book in one sitting. It was that good. I thought the first book gave me feels, but this one had even more! So many unexpected turns and trials and terrible brushes with the Darkling. And Sturmhond, the notorious pirate, is possible the most fabulous character ever. I was in love with him the second we met.

However, in case anyone is curious, I am Team Mal all the way and was heartbroken every time they grew further apart.

I loved that this book had a powerful, yet flawed female protagonist. Alina is not even close to perfect, but she still stands for what she believes in, and fights to save her country at great risk to herself.

If you haven’t started reading this series yet, DO IT. And if you’ve already read these, check out these great additional stories Leigh wrote:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The 5th Wave (Rick Yancey)

Title: The 5th Wave
Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Putnam
Length: 475
Rating: 4.5/5

Aliens appear in the sky one day, and in a series of four waves, humans are almost completely wiped out. In the dawn of the 5th wave, Cassie tries to stay alive to rescue her brother, who was taken by The Others, disguised as humans. She knows she can trust no one, and the first rule of survival is to stay alone. But then she meets Evan Walker, who may be her only chance to save her brother, and rescue herself. But can she trust him?

This book had a LOT of hype. I was worried I would be disappointed. But this book actually lived up to the hype!

Normally, post-apocalyptic alien stories are not my thing. They tend to get really violent, and really bleak, really fast. But Cassie’s honest and clear voice kept me reading until I was too hooked to be frightened off by a few human-shaped aliens. The history of the invasion is woven into the story, so that you discover each horror as you become more and more attached to the characters and story. The narrator jumping, while confusing at first, was yet another successful way of drawing me into the story.

I yelled at this book a lot. Mostly, NO NO NO NO DON’T DO THAT WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT, which shows you how invested I became in Cassie, and co surviving. Part thriller, part mystery, part love story, this book will grip you and not let you escape, even when the aliens finally reveal themselves. I barely escaped the 5th wave and I loved it. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Darkest Minds (Alexandra Bracken)

Title: The Darkest Minds
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Hyperion
Length: 488
Rating: 4.5/5

Sixteen year old Ruby breaks out of a government-run rehab camp for kids who developed dangerous powers after a virus took out most children in the United States and threw the country into a panic. Ruby joins up with another group of escaped kids as they search for a legendary safe haven, called East River, for kids like them. But everyone, from the people searching for Ruby, to the teens at East River, has their own agenda, and Ruby is hiding her own dangerous secrets.

Want to know how great this book is? Story time! I was home for Memorial Day weekend, and requested this book from the library, in the off-chance that I would have time to read it. I started it, and didn’t want to put it down (but come on, it’s Memorial Day weekend and there’s no time for reading). Then it was time to leave, and so I took it with me, on the plane to New York, so that I didn’t actually have to put it down. I went to the bookstore in NYC the next day and bought a copy. (And then, yes, I had to ship the library book back to Kansas!)

Why couldn’t I put this book down, you ask? You can’t help but root for the characters, who have known nothing but brutality in the camps since they were children, but who still have some sort of belief that the world isn’t one giant terrible place. Ruby joins up with Liam, Chubs, and Suzume, and together, they become a family that believes in each other, and encourages each other to use their “dangerous powers” for good (and to escape the bad guys, because they’re constantly in danger).

The powers themselves were really interesting (who didn’t want to have a super power growing up?). These kids have real power in their hands—controlling minds, fire, electricity, and more—and some use it for good, and some for evil. This book was great at pointing out the grey areas of good and evil, and how hard it is to navigate that.

With awesome world building, characters, and twisting story full of impossible choices, this is one book you shouldn’t miss.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell)

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin
Length: 328
Rating: 4/5

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits who fight bullies, rejection, and countless other obstacles in their desperate battle for a love that lasts.

This book is beautiful. And tragic. It’s Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Romeo and Juliet with a classic 1980s soundtrack. It will make your heart ache. You will cry. But you will also want more than anything for the love these two 16 year olds have for each other to survive.

Tragic beauty usually isn’t my thing, but what I loved most about this book is how real the relationship between these two was. It takes them forever just to hold hands, and there is magic in the hand-holding. In so many YA books, it’s easy to forget the characters are so young, but in Eleanor and Park, you really feel like these characters are that young (and you remember how you felt at that age.)

This book is worth the hype, and worth the read. Bring tissues. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Shadowlands (Kate Brian)

Title: Shadowlands
Author: Kate Brian
Publisher: Hyperion
Length: 328
Rating: 4.5/5

Rory Miller barely escapes an attack by a vicious serial killer, and when he eludes capture, Rory and her family are sent into witness protection. Their new home is Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation town far too quaint and peaceful for a killer. But Rory can’t shake the feeling that she’s been followed, especially when weird things start to happen on the island.

I love this cover!

I am normally far too chicken to read horror/thriller books, but Kate Brian is one of my favorite authors, and after meeting her at an author event, I decided to give this book a try.

What a ride! I read most of this on the subway, and it was such a crazy feeling to be reading about a creepy murderer, surrounded by people going about their daily lives. Thankfully, those people made me feel a little safer, because this book is scary! Rory’s killer just keeps coming for her, and the creepiest bits were the short chapters peppered throughout that were told from his perspective. 

Rory was a great narrator the rest of the novel. I was terrified with her, but also rooting for her when she decided not to let the terror run her life, and to live every day, not just to exist. And finally, WHAT AN ENDING! I cannot wait for the next book in this trilogy! 

Here's Kate Brian and me at the book signing. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

If He Had Been With Me (Laura Nowlin)

Title: if he had been with me
Author: Laura Nowlin
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Length: 328
Rating: 2.5/5

Autumn and Finny have been inseparable since birth, but have grown apart during middle school and rarely speak in high school. After a terrible accident, Autumn reflects on her relationship with Finny, and how everything could have been different.

While I loved the middle of this book, I hated the beginning and the end. Why ruin such a great love story? Why do you have to make it Romeo and Juliet? Yes, one of the major themes is tragedy, but I don’t fully agree with Autumn that tragedy can be beautiful. (There was so much ranting after I finished this book- I would have flung it across the room if it hadn’t been 2am).

I disliked these parts so much because there was so much good in the book, and I felt it had been wasted. The book is set in St. Louis, one of my favorite places (and a rare setting for a YA book). It’s a terrific coming-of-age story that I couldn’t put down. Autumn was quirky and funny, and wore a tiara, because she wanted to. And Finny is the ultimate boy-next-door who you can’t help but love.

But on the other side, tragedy looms everywhere, teen pregnancy is rampart, and I was left way too disgruntled. In my opinion, this book was trying too hard to be great, and it got in the way of actually being great. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Unspoken (Sarah Rees Brennan)

Title: Unspoken
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Random House
Length: 375 pages
Rating: 3/5

Kami is best friends with the imaginary voice in her head. His name is Jared, and when he turns out to be real, the sleepy town of Sorry-in-the-Vale gets quite the wake-up. Because their connection isn’t the only magic that’s been awakened when the Lynburns return to town.

This book was great, but in such a messy way that I couldn’t fully enjoy it. Let’s start with the great. Kami is awesome and quirky, and can take care of herself. She’s not even close to being a helpless heroine. Many of the other characters are quirky, weird, and awesome in their own way too. I was a huge fan of Kami’s best girl friend, Angela, whose main traits include beauty and laziness. The dialogue between characters is quick and funny, and you want to be friends with these people. Plus, the idea of being able to speak to someone else in your mind has always fascinated me, and I loved the way it was brought to the page.

But there were so many things that confused me and kept me from being swept into the story. Maybe this is because I read this book in ARC form (although it seems unlikely) but there were never page breaks when switching scenes or narrators, and it was a headache to keep up. I also didn’t fully understand the motives of the characters, especially Kami and Jared, when they fought both to be together and to be apart. Both of these characters were all over the place, literally and figuratively.

While I was not pleased with the cliff-hanger ending, it did make me want to read more. Maybe things get neatened up in future books?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Raven Boys (Maggie Stiefvater)

Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Length: 409 pages
Rating: 5/5

Blue has always been told that she will cause her true love to die. Her general rule is to stay away from boys, so she doesn’t find this premonition a problem until she meets Gansey on the Corpse Road on St. Marks Eve, the night that spirits of the soon-to-be-dead show themselves to the clairvoyant members of Blue’s eccentric family. Gansey is a Raven Boy from the rich boarding school down the way and all Blue knows about his is that he will die in the next year, and she may be the cause. Blue’s rule to avoid boys is soon abandoned and she is drawn into Gansey’s world, filled with his friends Ronan, Adam, and Noah and their obsessive search for a specific kind of supernatural.

Because I feel like numbering things today:

1.      I love Maggie Stiefvater. I had the pleasure of meeting her last year, and she’s awesome. If that’s not enough to convince you, she also plays the bagpipes.
2.      This book was intoxicating and addicting and gave me all the FEELS.
3.      BROMANCE. Finally, because I needed some good YA bromance. I adored all of the Raven Boys- their quirky ways and heart-breaking faults, and they way they supported each other no matter what. Blue isn’t used to having boys in her life, but she fits right in with the boys, and despite all unhappy predictions about true love, this isn’t just an unhappy love story.
4.      Welsh lore and supernatural elements were perfectly interlaced in an everyday world. 
5.      This is one of those “so good you have to go out and buy it ASAP” books.
6.      I need the sequel. Like, now.
7.      I obviously loved this book and you should definitely give it a try!

Monday, May 13, 2013

WIN an ARC of Gorgeous

Welcome to this stop on the Children's Book Week Giveaway Hop where you can win an ARC of Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick.

Title: Gorgeous
Author: Paul Rudnick
Publisher: Scholastic
Length: 305
Rating: 3.5/5

When Becky Randle’s mother dies on her eighteenth birthday, she is devastated. But in her mother’s things she discovers a phone number that changes everything. Tom Kelly, the world’s top designer, offers to make Becky three dresses, guaranteed to turn her from trailer park girl to world’s most beautiful woman. Remade as Rebecca, she flawless in everyone’s eyes except her own. But it’s Becky, not Rebecca that falls in love with the prince of England, and Becky isn’t sure Tom Kelly’s magic is enough to make the prince see the read girl inside the beauty.

This book was a fun and snarky, with something important to say about popular culture and how we see beauty. Also, the cover is, well…gorgeous!

I liked the conception of the fairy-tale magic of this book. Becky is only Rebecca when she’s with other people. Alone, she looks in the mirror and sees her normal self. There’s no makeover and the magic is really in perception. This makes the book more relatable, because everyone sees themselves differently than other people see them.

Becky’s story goes to all extremes. She stars in a movie with Hollywood it-boy Jate Mallow, is on the cover of Vogue, and of course, dates the prince of England. My favorite part about all these crazy adventures is that she brings her best friend Rocher (named after the chocolate of course) along with her. Rocher keeps Becky sane, and keeps the reader sane with her witty voice of reason through all the crazy adventures.

This book is unlike any other YA book I’ve read. While at times a bit long-winded in its lavish descriptions of the culture, this book will make you reevaluate the power beauty, both inside and out. 

Sound like the perfect fit for you? Enter to win below (US and Canada entries only please):

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find more giveaways on the hop HERE

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mind Games (Kiersten White)

Title: Mind Games
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 241
Rating: 4.5/5

Fia does everything they tell her to, because if she doesn’t, they’ll kill her sister Annie, and probably her as well. Fia is the ruthless hands—killing, stealing, deceiving—of an organization that uses women with special brain powers to their own secretive ends. Both sisters are being used, and both are tired of it. Because they’ll do anything to protect each other, will they ever escape?

First of all, thanks to Epic Reads for the chance to win an ARC of this book. If you’re not following Epic Read’s Ustream of #TeaTime every Wednesday, you should start now!

I couldn’t put this psychological thriller down! It was like that time sophomore year of college where I watched the entire series of Alias. Fia was like an early, angrier Sydney Bristow, and I loved her for it. It takes a certain amount of authorial skill for me to love angry, messed up characters, and Kiersten White gets it just right. Both Annie and Fia have done some awful things, but you like them, despite it all.

Another thing I loved about this book was the power that women held. Yeah, many of them were being ruthlessly used by a male-dominated evil corporation, but the real power (as Fia proves) lies with the women. Here, natural “womanly” traits, such as the ability to feel emotion and to trust instincts and intuition are actual brain powers.

And instead of the typical YA male-female relationship driving the plot, it’s the relationship between sisters that drives everything Annie and Fia do. Of course there are boys (good-looking boys) along the way, but everything comes down to the powerful bond between sisters, something which anyone with a sibling can get behind.

If you like a good mystery/thriller, this book is for you.

Watch author Kiersten White tell you about her favorite Kick Butt Girls! Here's one of my favorites, Shannon Hale:

And more! Including Sydney Bristow! And Veronica Mars!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Goblin Secrets (William Alexander)

Title: Goblin Secrets
Author: William Alexander
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Length: 223
Rating: 4.5/5

While searching for his lost brother, Rownie escapes Graba the witch’s household and takes up with a troupe of goblin actors. Danger follows Rownie everywhere as Graba tries to get him back, and the Guard of the city of Zombay search for human actors. Because in Zombay, it is illegal for anyone but Goblins to act, for masks and those who wear them hold a certain power. What magic has Rownie gotten himself involved in?

Goblin Secrets was the 2012 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature, so of course it’s a great read. It’s got adventure, mystery, and magic. Even though it’s classified in my library as a “Juvenile” book and  marketed toward readers aged 8-12, this book deals with a lot of big topics. Rownie learns about family, home, and finding where you belong.

In Zombay, everything you know about the world is turned on its head. Acting is illegal, goblins exist, and masks come to life. I liked that the book was structured like a play, with acts and scenes rather than chapters, which fit wonderfully with the importance of theatre. The book never talks down to its readers, and instead, you discover as you go.

A definitely read for young readers looking for a fun, challenging read. Or older readers looking for the same! 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Front and Center (Catherine Gilbert Murdock)

Title: Front and Center
Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Length: 256
Rating: 4.5/5

After Dairy Queen and The Off Season, D.J. Schwenk is back, and hoping to fade back into the background. She just wants to be plain old DJ again, but everyone in her life has a different idea. Like her brother Win, and college scouts, and her basketball coach. And for some reason, as hard as she tries, D.J. can’t stop thinking about Brian Nelson. So as much as she wants to be in the background, it seems an unlikely fate for D.J.

I loved the first and second book so much, you know I started reading this one the minute The Off Season’s audio book finished. My only complaint with the early books is that D.J. was a little too shy and naïve about the world. But in this third book, D.J. is forced to face the future and what it might hold for her. Already grown up so much more from the events in the second book, the questions D.J. must answer in Front and Center really make her grow as a person, and will make the reader love her all the more as a character.

This entire trilogy is great for readers of all ages and comes highly recommended!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Where She Went (Gayle Forman)

Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Length: 264 pages
Rating: 4.5/5
Three years after the catastrophic events in If I Stay, Adam is a famous rocker and Mia is a celebrated classical musician. But things are not as rosy as they appear, as both are still haunted by the events in If I Stay, and their break up which followed. A chance meeting in New York City forces them to confront the past.

I attempted to listen to this book like I did the last one, but it was so good I grabbed a hard copy and read it in one sitting. I liked this book even more than it's catalyst, maybe because there was less death. Still a good amount of moping and troubled souls, but it was all very cathartic. It's as if this book is the therapy to If I Stay; completely necessary and quite soothing once you work through the knots the characters have tangled themselves in.

Adam and Mia have both changed a great deal in three years, and it's easy to hate them for destroying each other in such complicated ways. But in this book, we finally get to hear Adam's voice, and get his side of the story. And when Adam and Mia finally meet again, they, and the reader, gets some much needed closure.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Days of Blood and Starlight (Laini Taylor)

Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Length: 517
Rating: 5/5

In this sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou has finally learned who she really is. But this revelation and the betrayal it exposes shatters her world. To avenge her people, Karou is pulled into a deadly war between angels and demons that has been raging on for centuries.

This book is both stunningly gorgeous and terribly tragic. I had the pleasure of meeting author Laini Taylor at a book signing, where she admitted that it took her a while to realize that this book had a completely different tone from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone, the tone of a war book.

This isn’t the magical, romantic world of Prague any more. Karou teams up with the monsters, but still struggles to find the clear line between good and evil, while the reader roots for it to never exist, because we love characters on both sides of the war. We get the same struggle from Karou’s angel, Akiva, and I loved seeing the world from his point of view.

The book was just so beautiful, and so well-written, and I’m so upset I have to wait for the third book in the trilogy to come out. Until then, all I can do is hope that Karou and Akiva can find some sort of peace, because I’ve come to love them and all their friends so much!

You can find a great interview with Laini Taylor here.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Scarlet (A.C. Gaughen)

Title: Scarlet
Author: A.C. Gaughen
Publisher: Walker & Company (Bloomsbury)
Length: 292 pages
Rating: 5/5

Will Scarlet is Robin Hood’s greatest thief, a necessary asset as they struggle to protect the people of Nottingham from the evil sheriff. When the sheriff hires the thief taker Gisbourne to hunt them down, Scarlet’s deepest secrets are threatened to be exposed. Not only is she secretly a girl, but she also has a past with the evil Gisbourne, and he’ll stop at nothing to take her, and Robin Hood, down.

It took me a couple chapters to really get into this book, but once I did, I didn’t want to put it down. Scarlet is everything you want in a kick-butt heroine: smart, quick, good with daggers, full of secrets, and hopelessly bad at romance. She gets struck by arrows, fists, and mean words, and while her first instinct might be to run away, she always gets back up, no matter how bruised she might be.

As someone who loves the Robin Hood story, I thought this was a very clever retelling. While the gist of the legend is the same, it made me think of all of the characters in new and unexpected ways.

While it was written to be a stand-alone book, I was excited to hear that there will be a sequel coming in 2014. I can’t wait!

Scarlet (Marissa Meyer)

Title: Scarlet
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan)
Length: 452 pages
Rating: 5/5

While Cinder tries to break out of prison and remain invisible to the entire Commonwealth, over in France, Scarlet is trying to find her missing grandmother.  Desperate, Scarlet teams up with Wolf, a mysterious street fighter. Their paths collide as their missions intertwine, and it’ll take both Cinder and Scarlet to stop the evil Lunar Queen Levana from taking over the globe.

I really liked Cinder, but I liked this installment even more. In fact, I’m throwing a small tantrum right now that I have to wait another year for the next book (there will be four all together- the last pair are called Cress and Winter). Such brilliant fairy-tale retelling! I love how the elements of the stories we love are reimagined and interwoven into the great story against the evil (ugh I hate her!) Queen Levana. The story gets deeper, the characters get better, and the world gets put in even more peril. What’s not to love?

Not to mention how much cute guy action we get in these books- a definite plus. Wolf is dangerously dreamy. The guy Cinder teams up with to break out of jail, Captain Carswell Thorne, doesn’t get to romance much, but he’s hilarious as he tries in his attempting-to-be-suave ways. And we could never forget about Prince Kai, who we get to see as he’s left with the mess Cinder leaves.

I’d eat this book up if the ravenous Wolf hadn’t gotten to it first!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Crewel (Gennifer Albin)

Title: Crewel
Author: Gennifer Albin
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Length: 360
Rating: 4.5/5

Sixteen year old Adelice is caught in a tangled web of the world, literally. Her parents tried to hide her secret talent for weaving the physical fabric of reality, but she is discovered and taken to join the elite, beautiful women who control everything in the world. Adelice is soon caught in a web of lies, political intrigue and forbidden romance and must decide if it is worth controlling the world when you’re not allowed to control your own destiny.

This science fiction/dystopia mix was a incredible fast read because the pace of the book just goes and goes and there is no stopping! I found it a little hard to picture the world as a series of intertwined strings that can be moved and rewoven, but really liked the concept overall.

Other things I liked: the names in the book were all so creative! Also, author Gennifer Albin lives in Kansas City, and I saw her at another author event the back in November. It was pretty great. Finally, what an awesome title.

As with most dystopias, Adelice struggles with control, trust, and the pressure to do her duty. How frustrating to have the power to control the world, but with someone always controlling you! I was a little disappointed that Adelice’s hardest decisions always forced her to her breaking point, almost cheapening the decision, really giving her only one viable option. It’s hard to explain without giving away the plot, so let me know if you’ve read this one and agree or disagree!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Off Season (Catherine Gilbert Murdock)

Title: The Off Season
Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Length: Audio book: 5 discs, 6 hours
Rating: 4.5/5

After Dairy Queen, D.J.’s life is looking up. She’s successfully the only girl linebacker on her team and she’s almost got a thing going with Brian Nelson. Things go horribly wrong when her oldest brother Win is injured playing college football and D.J.’s life starts to fall apart. As autumn progresses, DJ must figure out football, boyfriends, best friends, and most of all, family.

You all know I usually hate audio books. But actor Natalie Moore brought the already beloved D.J. to life for me. I felt that D.J. was sitting in the car next to me on my roadtrip, talking about her life and trying to figure it out. I laughed out loud, I cried, and I wanted more of D.J. in my life!

All of the characters grow in this book, especially D.J., who learns that being in People magazine is not the worst thing that can happen to you. As the reader, you can’t help but continue to root for D.J. and the rest of her family and friends as they go through difficult times.

A wonderful sequel to a wonderful book!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Entice (Jessica Shirvington)

Title: Entice
Author: Jessica Shirvington
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Length: 438
Rating: 4/5

In this sequel to Embrace, Violet has embraced her status as a Grigori, part-angel and part-human, and her destiny to keep humans safe from vengeful angle exiles. As their battles with exiles heat up, Violet must come to terms with her partner Lincoln, even though their electricity can never go anywhere, and even though he seems to be keeping secrets from her. When all the exile trouble points back to Phoenix, Violet must also come to terms with him, and how powerful his hold on her still is.

While this book wasn’t quite as good as the first, and all the angle history and hierarchy was still hard to follow at times, this book also had a lot going for it. Violet continues to be awesome, never quitting and still trying to figure out who she is and how the guys in her life fit into that. And of course the romantic tension is still at the high level seen in the first book.  

I also liked all the new characters introduced in this book with the new Grigori- makes for much more excitement and interest. If you liked Embrace, you’ll enjoy the sequel, and look forward to the next book in the series!  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Shadow and Bone (Leigh Bardugo)

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Length: 358
Rating: 5/5

Alina is a perfectly ordinary orphan living in the war-torn nation of Ravka. But when she travels into the Shadow Fold, a dark place filled with monsters that divides Ravka and is the nation’s greatest weakness, everything changes. To save her best friend and fellow orphan, Mal, she summons power she didn’t know she had, and when her power is discovered, she is whisked off to the capital to join the magical elite Grisha. There, she is given every privilege and becomes the favorite of the most powerful magician of Ravka, the Darkling. But nothing is as it seems, and with darkness looming over Ravka, Alina must learn to control her power and escape control by others, including the Darkling.

This book was awesome. It’s fantasy, and pleased me down to the depths of my fantasy-loving heart, but not a fantasy so confusing as the scare off non-fantasy readers. It’s also a Russian-based fantasy, which creates a really great magically unique world.

The story arc in this book was brilliant, and everything tied in very neatly by the end, including the title.  Seeing things from Alina’s point of view put us right in the story, naïve and learning, just like Alina. All of the characters were complex, with more to them than expected, and I loved Alina and Mal most of all. And of course the Darkling was fascinating.

In an interview with Amazon, author Leigh Bardugo said, “The message at the heart of the story is basically that the things that you fear most in yourself, the things that make you different, are also the things that give you power. And that embracing them can make you beautiful.” THIS IS WHAT YA IS ALL ABOUT!

Pick this book up; you won’t be disappointed. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reached (Ally Condie)

Title: Reached
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin)
Length: 512 pages
Rating: 4.5/5

Reached is the final book in the Matched trilogy (find reviews for Matched and Crossed here). Cassia has chosen to join forces with the Rising, a rebellion against society. But when things get out of hand, she finds herself paired with both Ky and Xander to find a cure for the disease that threatens to destroy everything.

Can we just pause for a second and love on the simple beauty of these cover designs? The green/blue/red symbolism continues to feature and shine in the final installment of the trilogy.

The first book started with the power of choice, and the question of what you could give up to have the freedom to choose. Cassia is swept up into something much bigger than herself when she makes her choice, and Xander and Ky make their own choices to be swept into the Rising as well. But nothing in this book is ever black and white, and there are some great moral dilemmas about choice, love, freedom, and who to follow.

I liked that this book was told from three narrative perspectives: Cassia, Ky, and Xander. I liked also that it wasn’t a simple love triangle. These characters were driven by more than just their love for one another, and Ky and Xander had their own significant relationship outside of their love for Cassia.

In the end, Reached was a satisfactory conclusion to an enjoyable trilogy. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Diviners (Libba Bray)

Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Length: 578
Rating: 3.5/5

It’s 1926 and seventeen year old Evie O’Neill is sent to live with her uncle Will in New York after a parlor trick in Ohio goes wrong. Evie is used to hiding her supernatural talent (until she gets to drunk on illegal booze, hence the trouble in Ohio). But after a girl is murdered and branded with a cryptic symbol, the police involve Will, and Evie finds that her talent might be the only way to solve the evil that has awakened with each new murder.

I love Libba Bray. Her stories always have the craziest twists, and she does a great job of blending genres together. The Diviners was a mix between historical fiction, the supernatural, and steampunk.

Sometimes it felt as if the book was doing too much to involve all these elements though. There were so many storylines and characters to keep track of with secondary characters all hiding weird secrets and secret talents like Evie’s. The book almost seemed a prequel or just a set-up to another book, which should have been called The Diviners, because the reader learns little about what the Diviners actually are in this book. I loved the detail, but the book is so long, and way too much to reread to remember all the detail before a sequel comes out. So my main complaint is that perhaps the editor should have been a little more heavy handed to make it an easier read (and then reread, because I’m definitely interested in the sequel).

However much wading through the storylines I had to do, I loved the scenes painted of the Roaring Twenties. The language and the setting in this book were amazing, and Bray clearly did her research to paint an accurate (but also supernatural) picture of New York in the 1920s. Who knew being a flapper could be so dangerous! Worth a read if you’ve got a little time on your hands!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

If I Stay (Gayle Forman)

Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Length: Audiobook: 4 hours
Rating: 4/5

After an car wreck kills the rest of her family, 17-year old Mia must choose between staying and coping with her enormous grief, or leaving her body and joining her family.

Normally I don’t like books that deal with death. I like escapism rather than realism. But this book was beautifully done. In the audiobook format, I really got a sense of Mia’s voice and the character came to life under actress Kirsten Potter’s portrayal.

While this book was haunting and tragic, it was also quite beautiful. We meet Mia as the catastrophe occurs, and then through flashbacks, learn her story and become quite attached to her as she decides whether to stay or go. This book will make you take a long look at how you value family, love, choice, and life. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

ARC GIVEAWAY!! Mila 2.0 (Debra Driza)

Welcome to this stop on the YA Giveaway Hop!

What book can you win? An Advanced Reader's Copy of Mila 2.0!

Title: Mila 2.0
Author: Debra Driza
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Length: 470
Rating: 2.5/5

Mila thinks she’s an ordinary teenage girl who has recently moved into a small Minnesotan town after a fire left her father dead. But when the military comes looking for her, she discovers that she’s actually part of a secret government experiment that her “mother” stole from the science lab. Talk about life-changing.
Things I loved:
1. The cover is gorgeous, and fits the story perfectly.
2. Even though the back cover hinted at what Mila is, I was still taken by surprise at what exactly she is. Plot twist!
3. Mila is such a kick-butt girl narrator who can handle just about anything.

Things I didn’t love:
1. While I loved Mila’s abilities, I didn’t love her as a narrator because it took her so long to accept herself for what she is.
2. The boys in this book seemed a little too convenient to the plot.
3. This trilogy is called the “Bourne Identity” which does not seem terribly creative.

If you like spy books, give Mila 2.0 a try and let me know what you think. It doesn't come out until March 12, 2013! (Thanks to Epic Reads for this copy of the book- sharing the love!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find a list of ALL the blogs participating the in the YA Giveaway Hop HERE!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Origin (Jessica Khoury)

Title: Origin
Author: Jessica Khoury
Publisher: Razorbill
Length: 394
Rating: 4/5

Pia has been secretly raised by a group of scientists hidden in the Amazon rain forest to be the first of an immortal race. She longs to join the scientists and fulfill her destiny, but she’s also curious about the outside world that’s been hidden from her. On the night of her seventeenth birthday, she sneaks out of the compound and meets Eio, a native who will change Pia’s life forever.

In a new wave of YA fiction (this Publisher’s Weekly article calls them mash-ups), this book is a hybrid of a couple different things.  It’s almost a dystopian that could be, as the scientists try to create a perfect race of people. They call Pia perfect as often as they can, and the Pia we meet at the beginning of the novel is a bit annoying because of it. She’s the gem of the scientist’s compound, and has been spoiled and taught to think highly of herself. Pia thinks she knows everything because she’s endlessly studied science and math, and that’s what the scientists value.

But then her curiosity gets the better of her and she ventures into the unknown. She realizes how little she really knows about the world around her, and suddenly, curiosity (and an attractive local boy) humbles her, and she becomes a much more likable character. Like the main characters of many YA dystopians, Pia must decide whether to be a perfect and safe bird in a class cage, or to give up everything for freedom and a chance to fly.

I liked the moral questions this novel brought up. What is right? The perfection of science or imperfect arts? Should you be who you want to be, or what everyone needs you to be? Origin takes the coming of age story to a whole different level, and it’s one you’ll most likely enjoy.