The Darlings Are Forever Review

Monday, January 31, 2011

Title: The Darlings are Forever
Author: Melissa Kantor
Publisher: Hyperion
Published: January 4, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher

Jane, Victoria, and Natalya. Together, they are the Darlings. Best friends forever. They have matching necklaces, their own table at Ga Ga Noodle, and even a shared motto: May you always do what you’re afraid of doing.

When the friends begin freshman year at three different high schools in distant corners of New York City, they promise to live by their motto and stay as close as ever. The Darlings know they can get through anything as long as they have each other. But doing scary new things is a lot easier with your friends beside you. And now that the girls aren’t spending all their time together, everything they took for granted about their friendship starts to feel less certain. They can’t help but wonder, will they really be the Darlings forever?

Jane, Victoria and Natalya are best friends – always have been, always will be. They’ve been inseparable since kindergarten, but the time has finally come for the three girls to separate when they entered high school. One is in school for performing arts, one is desperate to stay under the radar while her father runs for Senate, and the third is attending a prestigious private school on scholarship. Three best friends now have three separate paths and must find the time to remain the best of friends or go their separate ways and grow apart.

When I received this book for review, it was described as a cross between The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Sex & the City for the younger lot. First of all, let me say how much I loathe people saying this book is the “next something,” or “this book for the younger lot.” It implies too much, and it takes something away from the originality of the story for me, making it feel a bit lackluster and unappealing. I tend to look for things that break the mold. All that aside though, The Darlings are Forever is a sweet and sassy tale of three friends growing up and learning to stay the best of friends through both thick and thin. Melissa Kantor has a definitive writing voice that’s simple but accessible, and masters multiple points of view with ease.

The Darlings of Forever is, perhaps, not the most original story, but it’s definitely well-written and appealing despite not necessarily thinking outside of the contemporary fiction box. The three girls, Jane, Victoria and Natalya were each well-rounded and individual, they had their own voices and story lines, and the plot delicately wove these three stories into a single, sweeping arc about growing up and the value of friendship overpowering differences. The Darlings are Forever manages to balance three separate viewpoints and still hold individual voices for each, which is tricky, so I definitely appreciated that. I also thought the individual love interests were sweet and simple – not overdone or cliché – just nice and sweet, going with the theme of the book.

We all know I’m not the biggest fan of contemps, so when a book defies the odds and exceeds my expectations, you better believe I’m going to sing its praises. The Darlings are Forever is sweet and refreshing, and perhaps the most realistic portrayal of young girls growing up and being friends because, hey, not all teens are into drugs/sex/partying. I give it a very strong 4.5 out of 5, and I’d recommend this to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy a good chick-lit and contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Author Interview - Melissa Kantor

Melissa Kantor is the author of books such as  (just to name a few) Girlfriend Material, Confessions of a Not It Girl and most recently, The Darlings are Forever. A veteran of YA contemporary fiction that appeals to all age levels, Melissa was kind enough to take a few moments out of her super busy day and chat with me about The Darlings are Forever, which I reviewed today! So, without further ado...the interview...

1. Please describe The Darlings are Forever in five words or less!

BFF + different schools = very complicated

2. Do you have a favourite character in The Darlings are Forever and if so, who is it and why?

There's a part of me in each of The Darlings. Jane is my first actress character, and I was a big actress in high school, so a lot of what happens to her (but not everything--you'll see why I've added that last note) happened to me. And Natalya can act selfishly--putting her own hopes and dreams before the needs of her friends, and I think that's something I used to do a lot (and can still do if I'm not careful). So I feel very sympathetic to her. And Victoria feels like everything she does around the guy she likes is sooo lame, which used to happen to me all the time. Because I feel so sympathetic to each of them, it's hard for me to have a favorite. I feel like I love them all, even when they're being their worst selves.

3. What inspired you to write The Darlings are Forever?

I wanted to write a book about best friends who have to make plans to see each other. I know that might sound like a silly premise, but I think it's really, really hard to go from seeing someone every day (several times a day) at school to suddenly having to figure out how you're going to get time with that person. Can you stay best friends if everything about your life--where you live, where you go to school, all of your extra-curricular commitments--stand in the way of your seeing that person?

4. You can either have your best friend or all your books on a deserted island. Which do you choose and why?

Oh, definitely my best friend! What's the fun of all those books if you can't talk about them with anyone?

5. What does friendship mean to you?

Friends are people who love everything about you; it's not that they don't know you have faults, it's more that they know your faults and they still wouldn't have you any other way.

6. Is there anything else you would like to tell your readers?

I'm going to be visiting book clubs in the New York City area in the spring. So if you have a book club and you're reading The Darlings Are Forever, email me at with the time and date of your book club meeting!

To find out more about Melissa and her writing, visit her website HERE, visit her blog HERE, or find her on twitter HERE. Again, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us, Melissa - it was fun!

In My Mailbox 1/30

Sunday, January 30, 2011

In My Mailbox is an amazing weekly meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren that features the books we have received during the week. It's so much fun because we get to see what our fellow bloggers stumbled upon this week and add even more to our piles of books! Without further ado, this week I received the following books:


Recovery Road by Blake Nelson (ARC) - (Thank you, Scholastic)

Madeline is sent away to Spring Meadows to help with a drinking and rage problem she has. It's a pretty intense place, but there is the weekly movie night in town--where Madeline meets Stewart, who's at another rehab place nearby. They fall for each other during a really crazy time in their lives. Madeline gets out and tries to get back on her feet, waiting for Stewart to join her. When he does, though, it's not the ideal recovery world Madeline dreamed of. Both of them still have serious problems. And Stewart's are only getting worse....


12.21.12 by Killian McRae - (Thank you, Killian)

Archaeologist Sheppard Smyth has staked his career and the honorable memory of his deceased wife and partner on proving his widely-panned theory: Cleopatra VII, last ruler of Ancient Egypt, was murdered. When a statue of the doomed Queen is discovered in an Olmec excavation site in Mexico, Shep rushes to investigate and, hopefully, find the proof that has evaded him for so long. Soon, he finds himself in the middle of the rivalry between the sexy, enigmatic international thief, Victoria Kent, and infamous rumored Russian mobster, Dmitri Kronastia.


Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum (ARC) - (Thank you, Savy from Books with Bite)

In the stirring tradition of The Secret Life of Bees and The Poisonwood Bible, Amaryllis in Blueberry explores the complexity of human relationships set against an unforgettable backdrop. Told through the haunting voices of Dick and Seena Slepy and their four daughters, Christina Meldrum's soulful novel weaves together the past and the present of a family harmed--and healed--by buried secrets.

"Maybe, unlike hope, truth couldn't be contained in a jar..."


Maybe this Time by Jennifer Crusie (ARC) - (Thank you, Savy from Books with Bite)

Andie Miller is ready to move on in life. She wants to marry her fiancé and leave behind everything in her past, especially her ex-husband, North Archer. But when Andie tries to gain closure with him, he asks one final favor of her before they go their separate ways forever. A very distant cousin of his has died and left North as the guardian of two orphans who have driven out three nannies already, and things are getting worse. He needs a very special person to take care of the situation and he knows Andie can handle anything.


No vlog again this week, guys, sorry! My schedule has changed up a bit, and with all the chaos in my life, I just haven't had proper time to record a vlog. I'm hoping to get back to it soon! Remember, today is the LAST DAY to enter my international giveaway for The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card. You do NOT have to be a follower, but your support is much appreciated if you are! Click HERE to enter!

Shrouded Secrets Review

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Title: Shrouded Secrets
Author: Joel McGrath
Publisher: CreateSpace
Published: December 2, 2010
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Pages: 400
Source: Author
When a teenage brother and sister inherit secret metaphysical powers, they are unknowingly hunted by a group of clandestine immortals. While one of the siblings will reluctantly choose the path of righteousness, the other will defiantly dabble with the promise of true power and the darkness that accompanies it. As David James begins his freshman year of high school, he learns that his older sister Danielle's popularity isn't genetic. However, their lives change dramatically with the discovery that they possess power which grants them vast unearthly abilities.

The more they strive for reasonable normality, the more unstable their powers become when combined with the stresses of high school teenage life. While jealously, love, and anger unhinge their once typical lives, temptations to abuse their newfound gifts are manipulated by a shrouded and unyielding adversary who seeks to cast earth into a modern dark age. Soon secrets will injure the ones they love as the burden of true power begins to isolate them. Not even the ominous prospect of a crumbling world matters when each of them finds that they are helpless to control their own desires.
David and Danielle James are your average, ordinary, everyday teenage brother and sister, or so they thought. They soon discover an incredible secret though, and it’s deadly. The two have an extraordinary amount of powers, leaving them either destined for a path of greatness or one of destruction. Desperate to learn the source of their power and their new destiny, David and Danielle have enough on their plate without a new force entering, hell-bent on acquiring their abilities. Can David and Danielle find balance when their world begins to fall apart, or will they go down with it?

How many of you have heard of Shrouded Secrets? Nobody? I’m not surprised, to be honest. There is pretty much zero hype surrounding the book, and when the author, Joel McGrath, asked if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing his book, I decided I had to do my research first. Shrouded Secrets is your classic untimely superhero story with a brother/sister twist, sending you on a journey with two teenage siblings as they try to comprehend the meaning of their lives, and their powers. Part superhero saga, part comic relief, Shrouded Secrets is a bit of a hidden gem in a sea of stories about uncommon heroes.

Shrouded Secrets was a bit of a wild ride, to be honest. The story kicks off in the first few pages, hooking you and connecting you with David and his sister, Danielle. You can feel David’s quirkiness and it resonates, balancing Danielle’s superiority and popularity. The introduction of powers feels perfectly untimely, if you catch my drift, throwing a wrench into the plot and propelling it forward. The great characters mesh well with a well-rounded plot, giving the reader something to immerse themselves in. I will admit, however, the plot did have a series of lulls and highs though, and there were a good amount of punctuation errors scattered throughout. However, they didn’t really detract from the overall story of Shrouded Secrets.

All in all, Shrouded Secrets is a nice start to a new superhero series, and I was pleased with the outcome – especially because there is a definite lead in to the next book without leaving us with an absurd cliffhanger. I give Shrouded Secrets a high 3.5 out of 5, and I’d recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy a rich blend of fantasy and sci-fi, and those who enjoyed the Percy Jackson series.

I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

Friday Fix #43 - Meet Tara!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Friday Fix is a takeover of my Friday blog post by other bloggers who have volunteered their time and energy to "star" in their very own guest post on Friday. Only one mandatory rule (you can't get out of it!) - you must answer five of the most random questions I throw your way. The rest is up to you. Remember, if you'd like to be featured on the Friday Fix, send me an email, and let me know! So, without further ado, here are the Tara from Fiction Folio!

The Most Random Questions in the World...

1. When does something stop being vintage and start being antique?

When I think vintage, I think cool and hip like my Backstreet Boys CDs and my Care Bears blanket. When I think of antiques, I think of things like my Caboodle or my crimper. So I'm going to go ahead and say something turns antique when it's too old to be considered cool anymore. (This is all subjective, of course)

2. How does a real estate of office sell their office without causing confusion?

That would be very tricky. I think the best way to go about this would be to hire a guy to stand outside of the office in a banana suit singing a fun little ditty to everyone who came by. You always look at the guy dressed up as a hot dog or some other food right? So you would have to pay attention to what he had to say.

3. Where does a toetag on a dead person go if they have no toes?

That's a very good question. I wonder why he/she doesn't have any toes... perhaps an unfortunate ice skating incident? Anyways, I guess the tag would have to go on one of their fingers because that's the closest thing to a toe. I bet the strings aren't long enough to go around their ankle.

4. Why can ghosts walk through walls and doors, but they never fall through floors?

I think the commander of all ghosts decided that being a ghost sucked pretty bad, so he/she decided to give them a little break and give them the ability to float around their chosen haunting ground. That way, they could still move from room to room through the walls, but they wouldn't have to worry about falling through the floor. Unless of course, they decide they want to fall through so they can go downstairs, in which case they just will themselves to fall and voila!

5. Why do we call beans "the magical fruit" if they are vegetables?

Beans are called the magical fruit because we all know the only thing beans are good for is an amazingly-immature-but-ever-hilarious tune to sing when we were younger (or just yesterday...). Could you imagine singing "Beans, beans, the magical vegetable, the more you eat, the more you you become incapable?! Completely ruins the whole point of the song. And makes for a very boring childhood.


Ok, Tara, you said you thought you weren't funny. Good thing you didn't try, or I would've died laughing. As it is, I think I grew an ab from your Friday Fix, so thank you for that. For the rest of you, if you haven't checked out Tara's blog, Fiction Folio, really should. Preferably stat. She's awesome, and her posts are all amazing if I do say so myself. And I do.

Finally, a quick reminder, there's just a few days left to enter my international giveaway for The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card. You do NOT have to be a follower, but your support is much appreciated if you are! Click HERE to enter!

The Adoration of Jenna Fox Review

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Title: The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Publisher: Square Fish
Published: April 29, 2008
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 266
Source: Personal Copy

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox has just awoken from a year-long coma — so she’s been told — and she is still recovering from the terrible accident that caused it. But what happened before that? She’s been given home movies chronicling her entire life, which spark memories to surface.

But are the memories really hers? And why won’t anyone in her family talk about the accident? Jenna is becoming more curious. But she is also afraid of what she might find out if she ever gets up the courage to ask her questions. What happened to Jenna Fox? And who is she really?
Jenna isn’t sure who she is anymore, and it’s not your normal teenage angst, crisis of conscience sort of thing. Jenna Fox truly has no idea who she is. After a terrible accident and a year-long coma, Jenna wakes to a world where she has no memories of anything except those of being a toddler. She does, however know everything about world history, and she can spew the great works as though they’re simple conversation. But Jenna no longer eats. Jenna isn’t sure what’s real and what’s not, and Jenna has to decide if she’s strong enough to find out what really happened to her while she was asleep.

I’ve really never read any reviews for The Adoration of Jenna Fox. No, I’m not kidding. There was something about this book that made me not really understand it just by reading the back cover, so I didn’t pick it up. I’m so glad I read it now though. Mary E. Pearson has created a world within The Adoration of Jenna Fox that’s neither reality nor true fantasy. It’s not a utopia, but it’s not quite a true dystopia either. That’s the beauty of the book. The world in which Jenna lives is sort of a gray area. Neither black nor white, it’s a world where ethics are blurred and morals are changed to fit the person, and it’s world that both terrifies and fascinates me.

You know those books that stay with you long after you finish them? The Adoration of Jenna Fox is one of those. It’s a bit of a slow-burning book. The prose isn’t flowery or fancy, but rather simple and succinct, letting the voice of Jenna, the narrator, lead the story. She’s believable, relatable, and heartbreaking. She has one of the most realistic and endearing voices I’ve read in a dystopian book in a while. Her confusion resonates from every page and adds to the element of mystery coursing through the book. The Adoration of Jenna Fox is the story of one girl living in a society where things changed while she was asleep, and in order for Jenna to catch up, she must discover the truth about what’s happened to her.

I can’t believe I waited so long to read this one. I give The Adoration of Jenna Fox a 5 out of 5, hands down. While this book doesn’t really fit into one set genre, I’d recommend it to both YA and adult audiences, especially those who enjoy dystopian, science-fiction and mystery novels because there’s a bit of something for everyone.

Waiting on Wednesday 1/26

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. As always, there are some amazing upcoming books, but this week I'm particularly excited for...

Title: Putting Makeup on Dead People
Author: Jen Violi
Publisher: Hyperion
Published: July 26, 2011
Pages: 336
Genre: YA, Contemporary

It's been four years since Donna Parisi's father passed away, but it might as well have been four days. Donna makes conversation and goes through the motion, but she hasn't really gotten on with life. She's not close with anyone, she doesn't have a boyfriend and she's going to college at the local university with a major that her mother picked. But one day Donna has an epiphany. She wants to work with dead people. She wants to help people say goodbye and she wants to learn to love a whole person--body and soul. She wants to live her life and be loving, at grieving and at embalming and cremating,too.

Even as she makes the decision, things start to change. Donna makes friends with the charismatic new student, Liz. She notices the boy, Charlie, at her table and realizes that maybe he's been noticing her, too. And she begins to forgive the rest of her family for living their lives while she's been busy moping.

Jennifer Violi's gentle, moving story of a girl who finds a life in the midst of death will appeal to any reader who's felt stuck and found inspiration in an unexpected place.
Contemporary Fiction has never really been my thing, but I'm branching out this year (so help me, God), and I'm looking for options that break that formulaic mold I feel like I see. Putting Makeup on Dead People sounds powerful and a little bit quirky, which I like because it adds an element to the story that might otherwise feel lacking. Plus, I love the twist on the ordinary "girl-loses-someone-she-loves" plot. Besides, who can resist a cover that makes you turn your laptop upside down to figure it out? No really...I did, and I actually love it. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Talk to Me Tuesday #4 - Literary Pet-Peeves

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Talk to Me Tuesday is a brand new weekly meme where we will discuss anything (and everything) literary-related in an open forum of honesty. Questions for the next week will be posted one week prior to the post on the Features page. If you'd like to participate in this weekly feature, simply create your post, link back to me, and add your post to the wonderful Mr. Linky below. Have fun, and have at it!
This week's question: Do you have any specific literary pet-peeves in the genres you read and why?

There are so many things about YA literature that I love. I enjoy the no-holds-barred emotional plot lines that authors use to push the boundaries of the genre. I love the amount and vast nature of the sub-genres within YA including contemporary, dystopian, Christian, fantasy, science fiction and more. I love that the YA genre encourages all reading ages and levels to dip their toes into the proverbial waters of literature. All that aside, however, let’s be honest. There are always a few flaws lurking behind the corners or, shall I say, smacking us over the head repeatedly until we beg for mercy.

For me, my biggest literary pet-peeve in YA is the emergence of the love triangle. Good Lord. Really? Girl meets boy. Girl experiences instant love. Boy falls head over heels. Girl meets other boy. Other boy falls head over heels. Manly exhibition of brute force. Grrr! Argghhh! One boy wins! Girl and boy live happily ever after and make babies with strange names…oh…sorry…I went on a tangent. In all seriousness though, Twilight created a phenomenon with its popularity. And yes, I'm glad more people are reading, but no, I'm not glad so many books follow the same mold.

The amount of books with love triangles these days, including my beloved The Hunger Games, is a bit absurd. The only reason I could stomach the love triangle in The Hunger Games is because of the intensity of the action in the book overshadowing the need for a super-sappy subplot drenched in a boring romance. Here’s a thought - if you absolutely MUST do a love triangle…two girls fighting for one guy? But hey, what do I know? I'm just looking for something fresh like true love. Between two people. Now that is is a novel idea.

Here's what some of your fellow book bloggers said were their biggest literary pet-peeves:

Liz from Consumed by Books says, “I hate it when authors throw in so many unbelievable plot twists that their novel reads like a soap opera.”
Amber from Books of Amber says, “At the moment, it’s love triangles. It’s more of an annoying cliché at the moment – there are so many of them in YA literature!”
Nikki from Wicked Awesome Books says, “Insta-love. I hate it. Give me some buildup, some friendship, a little date time, then maybe I can accept that two characters are in love. I want people to get to know one another before they decide that they could die for one another.”
Jess from Tangled Up in Blue says, “When an author’s voice is too forced. Seriously, no one speaks like an English grammar text book.”
Heidi from YA Bibliophile says, “Characters that never grow…they go through the whole book and are the same as they started!”
Yes, there are other things that plague me in YA literature such as authors dumbing down the prose (sorry, we’re just fine reading at a high level, thank you very much), when the tone is overly conversational, or when the plot lags, but for me, it’s the love triangle that takes the cake. I want to see a book step out of the norm because I tend to find a lot of the love triangles formulaic. Again, yes, some work well, but others…well, I’d love to see something break the mold, or better yet – become something new entirely.

Want to weigh in and do your own Talk to Me Tuesday post for this week? Go ahead and link up!

Priscilla the Great Review

Monday, January 24, 2011

Title: Priscilla the Great
Author: Sybil Nelson
Publisher: Worldmaker Media
Published: December 15, 2010
Genre: Upper MG, Sci-Fi
Pages: 276
Source: Author

Meet Priscilla Sumner, an ordinary seventh grader with extraordinary gifts. As if middle school isn’t hard enough, not only does Priscilla have to fight pimples and bullies, but genetically enhanced assassins trying to kill her and her family. Armed with wit, strength, and a genius best friend, Priscilla must defeat the Selliwood Institute, an organization dead set on turning children into killing machines.

Add an older brother annoyingly obsessed with Christina Aguilera, mischievous baby twin brothers who could scare the sin off of Satan, and parents more puzzling than a Rubik’s cube in the Bermuda triangle and expect a smoking page-turner!
Priscilla is pretty much your average tweenage girl. She has crushes, she has a best friend, she experiences bullying and all the stress the middle school entails. Priscilla, however, has something else going for (or against) her, depending how you look at it. Priscilla has incredible superpowers that leave her vulnerable in ways that her classmates could never imagine, but also give her amazing power and potential, making her a veritable fire hazard in school. Can Priscilla master her powers with the help of her best friend in time, or will she fall prey to a heinous plan to turn children into monsters?

It should be made known that I don’t read too much Middle Grade literature because it tends to be a bit too flat or unemotional for me. However, when the author, Sybil Nelson, approached me to try Priscilla the Great, I was intrigued by the premise containing superpowers. You all know I’m obsessed with superpowers. So, I decided to give it a go. Priscilla the Great is a fun, engaging tale of a young teenage girl grappling with the realities of life while throwing fire-starting, mind-reading and more into the mix. Written in a simple but descriptive prose, the book flows well, and kept me rooting for Priscilla throughout.

The book starts with a bang, showing us Priscilla in a precarious situation, then backtracks to show what led Priscilla to her current situation. I loved the beginning of the story. When books launch full-speed into the action, I’m immediately caught from page one. However, I was a bit disappointed by the amount of backstory that was crammed right into the first part of the story after the initial plot-opener. To be honest, the book came to a screeching halt for me. Luckily, Priscilla the Great picked up speed again and built up to a fun and exciting page-turner, in part because of the great characters. Both Priscilla and her best friend, Tai, a genius, were laugh-out-loud funny and perfectly balanced with the plot.

Despite the rocky first bit of Priscilla the Great, I was quite impressed by the story as a whole (despite my cover love totally not being satisfied by the cover). It’s a bit like a cross between Percy Jackson and superhero comic – definitely entertaining. I give it a 4 out 5 overall, and I’d recommend it to fans of upper MG and lower YA reads, especially those who enjoy a good science fiction story.

I received this book free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

In My Mailbox 1/23

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In My Mailbox is an amazing weekly meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren that features the books we have received during the week. It's so much fun because we get to see what our fellow bloggers stumbled upon this week and add even more to our piles of books! Without further ado, this week I received the following books:


Red Moon Rising by Peter Moore (ARC) - (Thank you, Hyperion)

Being only half-vamp in a high school like Carpathia Night makes you awhole loser. But Danny Gray manages to escape the worst of the specists at his school. Thanks to genetic treatments he had as an infant, most people assume Danny's other half is human. Which is a good thing.    


Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. 

Sorry there's no IMM Vlog this week, guys! I have work this morning, and I didn't have time to record a video last night. Plus, I figured two books was ok as a regular post. Either way, leave me a link to your mailboxes, and I'll be sure to check them out!

Revolution Review

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Title: Revolution
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Delacorte
Published: October 12, 2010
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Contemps
Pages: 496
Source: Personal Copy

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.
Andi wants all of it to end. She's tired of the pain, plagued by guilt over her brother's death, and wishes there were a way for it all to just stop - and she's tried multiple times. Desperate to save his daughter from expulsion and self-destruction, Andi's father brings her to Paris to finish her thesis so she can graduate and have a life, but Andi is certain nothing will change...but it does. Andi finds the diary of a girl named Alexandrine who lived hundreds of years ago, and yet, their lives have uncanny parallels. Both girls loved and lost. Both are desperate for a purpose, and both are bound to a life that is so similar that the two are destined to meet in some way.

I have to admit that despite all the rave reviews for Revolution, I had my reservations. First, the hype is often so much better than the book. Second, books with multiple story arcs from two MCs tend to be either hit or miss with me because both have to be entirely relevant and believable. Jennifer Donnelly has created a masterpiece in Revolution. The writing is fluid and beautiful, haunting and mesmerizing, and the story is, in no way, light. I was captivated by the different story lines, and the snippets of the Alexandrine's diary were interwoven beautifully, so the story never seemed jarred or abrupt. Revolution swept me along from Andi's world to Alexandrine's and had me rooting for both characters the whole time.

I think the biggest highlight of Revolution was the character development. Andi and Alexandrine were perfectly defined and separate, yet I could see something so similar in them - despite their similar losses and pain. I often toyed with the idea that the girls were actually one and the same - almost a reincarnation, if you will, with the previous soul helping the current one. Perhaps I read too much into that, but it worked. The description of Andi's life felt a bit more real than Alexandrine's to me, but at the same time, the detail that went into revealing Alexandrine's world in the French Revolution was beautiful. Now, the only lowlight I will give this book was the eventual climax, to be honest. It's noted in the summary, and I felt it missed the mark with the story line. Luckily, the strengths of Revolution overwhelmed that weakness.

Overall, I really enjoyed Revolution. Part history, part fiction and wholly moving, it was a swift, powerful read. I give it a very strong 4.5 out of 5 with the only deduction being the climax. I would recommend this to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and historical fiction.

Friday Fix #42 - Meet the Mad Scientist & Noah the Victorian Punk

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Friday Fix is a takeover of my Friday blog post by other bloggers who have volunteered their time and energy to "star" in their very own guest post on Friday. Only one mandatory rule (you can't get out of it!) - you must answer five of the most random questions I throw your way. The rest is up to you. Remember, if you'd like to be featured on the Friday Fix, send me an email, and let me know! So, without further ado, here are the Mad Scientist and Noah the Victorian Punk from Steampunkery & Book Reviews!

The Most Random Questions in the World...

1. Can you cry real tears underwater?

Mad Scientist - *gasps* Mad Scientist does not leak salt water (I might rust). However, I would have to say it is in the human nature to be full of emotions. One knows the results are most likely in the line of tears, I tend to lean towards morbid anger. Most people see it as a sign of some sort of weakness so we try to hide our tears while we bath. Underwater can't be much different albeit be a bit hard to literally cry underwater for a good while. Breathing does need to cocur in order for in take of oxygen to happen. BUT... It is a good place to let out the tears and have them wash away at the same time. No one would see the said weakness.

Noah the Victorian Punk - Of course you can, but it's truly difficult if it's a large body of water and you are fully submerged because it's hard to hold your breath and cry while under the water. Although I wouldn't know from personal experience *clears throat*.

2. If you had a three story house and were in the second floor, are you upstairs or downstairs, or can't you be both at the same time?

Mad Scientist - If I had a three story house I would of paid to have a fourth... Second floor, I would be upstairs from the first floor and downstairs from the third floor so by process of elemaniation I would have to concure with the hypothesis of being both at the same time. Logically speaking of course.

Noah the Victorian Punk - It depends, of course, where you are standing. If you are in the parking lot, then you live upstairs. However, if you are visiting your neighbor on the 3rd floor than you live downstairs. Although, I think living on the second floor means you live in the middle which I hear has a better rate of constant homeostasis.

3. Why do we say we're head over heels if we're happy? Aren't we always?

Mad Scientist - We are head over heels namely not because we are happy persay, I would like to think of it as acting like a comeplete backside once we think we are in love which makes random people happy. I don't understand it, Noah believes I happen to have a clockwork heart but we all know that is not completely true.

Noah the Victiorian Punk - I'd say it's because sometimes you can have your head theoretically stuck someplace that is possibly lower than your heels. Although I would think that something in the middle region of the body would be a bit more accurate (namely the bum region). But then again, have you ever tried to put your heels above your head, it's not an easy feat.

4. How does Freddy Krueger wipe his bum?

Mad Scientist - *grin of horror* Oh my, I believe you have just added the weirdest images to my head. I think they should address this in his next film. My first thought it is that he doesn't wipe. *Ugh* Gross. Next guess would be that he air dries and/or just rubbs his bum on a wall. LOL! Which would be percuilar to see but would be again gross. *whispers to Mr. Krueger* Freddy, dear when ever you are in need of service call 1-800-Vic-Punk for any services you may need. I heard he is great at assisting!

Noah the Victorian Punk - Oi, mate, bloody hell! I'd say very carefully otherwise, that is some pain that I cannot fathom and I hope to never experience in this or any lifetime. Even if I am burnt all the way through my trousers and several layers of skin.

5. Do woodpeckers ever get headaches from slamming their faces into trees all day?

Mad Scientist - *blushes* Peckers, too inapproiate. Onward with the question... I know I get headaches from them. If I was a woodpecker and had to slam my face into a tree over and over I think I would change my occupation to swan. They just get to swim and look pretty & perhaps Edward would find met. Although, they contiue with their feat of finding food inside of the tree instead of else where I would have to conclude that they possibly don't get headaches but live with a constant one so they never feel the pain. Ever there. Poor creatures.

Noah the Victorian Punk - This question brings to mind all kinds of thoughts that are probably inappropriate for this blog (but hysterically funny albeit dirty), so I will say that I would think so. I mean, the wood is tough but those little peckers can only take so much before they are worn out with exhaustion that their heads are in a bit of a trauma and must rest, at least, for a couple hours before they have the ability to peck again (Okay, I'm laughing, because I'm a bit perverse).

Ok, seriously? I cracked up. A lot. Thank you, Mad Scientist and Noah the Victorian Punk, for all the ridiculous answers and smiles - and thanks for putting up with my insane questions! To all of you - their blog is just made of awesome. If you haven't already, please drop by Steampunkery & Book Reviews for a fun, informative blog with a great new spin on YA literature!

A quick reminder, there's a little over a week left to enter my international giveaway for The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card. You do NOT have to be a follower, but your support is much appreciated if you are! Click HERE to enter!

No Going Back Review

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Title: No Going Back
Author: Jonathan Langford
Publisher: Zarahemla Books
Published: October 5, 2009
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 312
Source: Author

A gay teenage Mormon growing up in western Oregon in 2003. His straight best friend. Their parents. A typical LDS ward, a high-school club about tolerance for gays, and a proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment to the state constitution. In NO GOING BACK, these elements combine in a coming-of-age story about faithfulness and friendship, temptation and redemption, tough choices and conflicting loyalties

Paul is your everyday LDS (Mormon) teenager. He enjoys video games. He is an upstanding citizen on his way to earning his Eagle Scout badge. He works hard to be a good member of his teacher's quorum and be a good and faithful Christian. Paul is also gay. In a religious society where emphasis is placed on the value of family and carrying on the Lord's word to a wife and children, Paul must grapple with the idea that unless he changes, he can never have any of that. He must also face scrutiny, judgment, and ridicule in a society where he consistently receives conflicting messages about whether or not who he is as a person is morally wrong.

When I was approached to read No Going back by the author, Jonathan Langford, I was struck by just how poignant this book sounded. Having lived in Salt Lake City for more than four years and developed many LDS friends, I have come to learn a lot about the culture, the belief system and the values. I, in no way, judge what the LDS believe, but I figured this would be a fascinating read, especially with an LGBT context. Langford has created a masterpiece in No Going Back. Brimming with morals but never preachy, heartwrenching but never overdone, the story of Paul is one of valor, life, and love of belief and oneself - something everyone can relate to on some level.

There are a lot of strengths in No Going Back. The prose is real and honest - a bit too gritty and brutal at times, but it works between a male teenage MC and his friends. Paul is well-rounded and tangible, and I enjoyed the level of detail when it came to showing what Paul was attempting to reconcile with in the LDS religion. Now, that's not to say that No Going Back was without his faults. I think there were a few secondary characters like Sandy, the bishop's wife, that simply didn't ring completely true for me. She felt a bit one-sided and flat. I also wish that the time period for the book was explained better. It was important when discussing Paul's decision to vote or not vote on the issue of gay marriage.

All around though, No Going Back was a powerful, moving read with a strong message of friendship, family and tolerance. Whether religious or not, I believe everyone can find a meaning in this book, and need for a few tissues, as it's a tearjerker. I give it a very strong 4.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend it to both fans of YA and adult novels, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and LGBT story lines.

I received this book free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected by opinion or review of this book.

Waiting on Wednesday 1/19

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, and specifically spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. As always, there are some amazing upcoming books, but this week I'm particularly excited for...

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Publisher: Tor Books
Published: September 2011
Pages: Unknown
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Thriller

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story. . .

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.
Colour me crazy...I might have a thing for the macabre with this title. But seriously?! That is one crazy, creepy, pretty cover, and let's be honest, Anna Dressed in Blood sounds like a fun twist on your run-of-the-mill paranormal story these days. Plus, I don't think there are nearly enough books about ghosts. It seems a bit like Bloody Mary for the younger lot, so yes, sign me up! I can't wait to read this (sooooo long from now). What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Talk to Me Tuesday #3 - Male vs. Female MCs

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Talk to Me Tuesday is a brand new weekly meme where we will discuss anything (and everything) literary-related in an open forum of honesty. Questions for the next week will be posted one week prior to the post on the Features page. If you'd like to participate in this weekly feature, simply create your post, link back to me, and add your post to the wonderful Mr. Linky below. Have fun, and have at it!
This week's question: Do you have a preference between male and female MCs, and why?

Someone actually asked me this the other day, and I was a bit surprised because A) I’d never really thought about it before and B) I wasn’t sure it really mattered until I actually decided to sit down and think about it. Before I go on, let me preface this by saying that there is always an exception to the rule when it comes to my opinions on books and literature in general. I know…colour me fickle. But here’s the thing – whether it’s a male or a female MC, I want to be able to get to know the character because, frankly, if I can’t get into their head, the book tends to be a bit hopeless for me.

I also think when it comes to MCs that the tense is important in my preference. If it’s third person, I can get to know the character (male or female) a lot easier than in first person. For example, Harry Potter, and yes, HP is my go-to example because I think it’s a literary masterpiece. Harry’s character is accessible, continues to grow throughout, and takes us on a journey with him. For me, this works.

Now, if I’m reading first person, I have to say that I usually prefer reading from a female perspective. In a book like Crash Into Me (which I ended up not reviewing on my site), the MC was completely inaccessible to me because of just how masculine he was. I felt a bit lost. Another book with a male MC that didn't work for me was Girl was much too teenage boy...and too crass. However, in Leaving Paradise, I see a perfect example of balancing both a female and male MC. Seeing both distinct POVs and finding an understanding with both Maggie and Caleb worked for me. I could relate to both.

Here’s what some of your fellow bloggers weighed in on their thoughts of male and female MCs.
Anna from Her Stardust Soul says: “Emotionally I connect with male and female MCs equally, like Harry in Harry Potter and Sarah Dessen's MCs. But as far as experiences go, it's easy and fun to relate to the girly troubles of female MCs.”
Tara from Hobbitsies says, “I prefer female MCs because I enjoy the male-induced swooning more than what would occur with a male MC.”
Rachel from Crack a Spine says, “I prefer female MCs, the reason being I feel a stronger connection when reading, as females are more emotional than males.”
Liz from Midnight Bloom reads says, “I like either male or female MC's as long as they are likable enough. It's also nice if I find some sort of common ground that persuades me to hear out their stories. Hearing either kinds of POV's has its advantages.”
So, I think my general thought is that if the character is accessible, relatable and honest, I don’t really think it matters if they’re male or female. Yes, I enjoy some nice male eye-candy from a girl’s perspective, but it’s not the end-all/be-all for me.

Want to weigh in and do your own Talk to Me Tuesday post for this week? Go ahead and link up!

Tuesday Teaser/Teaser Tuesday #42

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Here are the rules: Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page, and BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Some of the boys were...effeminate. Most of them seemed pretty normal, though. 

No Going Back by Jonathan Langford

And now, for my Tuesday Teaser...For those of you who don't know, I do my Tuesday Teasers differently (and yes, I add this disclaimer every time). Each week, I feature two sentences (or more) of something I've written, leave it up all day, then remove it around 11 PM. You're welcome to comment on it, love it, hate it, or simply read it at your leisure...if you'd like, of course. This week's teaser is from my current WIP, RACE.

It’s a strange feeling, this fatigue. I’m weary to the bone, as though my body is thousands of years old and ready to wither away into oblivion.

Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead Review

Monday, January 17, 2011

Title: Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead
Author: Eileen Granfors
Publisher: CreateSpace
Published: August 1, 2010
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Pages: 280
Source: Won
Like "Esperanza Rising" and "Rules of Attraction," this coming-of-age novel, "Some Rivers End on The Day of the Dead" follows a Hispanic teen, Marisol. She and her mother are on the run from their home in Tijuana, Mexico. Her father, investigating the drug wars as a journalist, has been murdered. But Marisol's new home is a riverbed camp in a rich California suburb.

A wildfire separates Marisol from her mother and her school. Cut off and alone, she challenges herself to find a way to reunite with her family and to celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico to honor her father with the proper traditions.
Marisol is living in the wind with her mother after her father, an investigative journalist, is murdered for his investigation into the drug wars. No matter what though, Marisol knows she still has her mother to hold onto, and as a young teen, that’s what she holds onto as her lifeline. Then, a wildfire strikes, and Marisol is separated from her mother. Desperate and alone, Marisol makes a promise to herself. Not only will she find her mother, but she’ll reunite with the rest of her family on The Day of the Dead, allowing herself and her family to give her father the final rest he deserves in her culture.

I won this book a bit ago, and I’ve seen it around, but never really gave it a second thought. While the cover is very artistic, it really failed to jump out at me. However, I received a nice note from the author, Eileen Granfors, who said that her book is often turned down because Marisol, the MC is too innocent. I have a thing for indie books, so I was definitely intrigued to see what agents saw (or didn’t see) in Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead (which, coincidentally, is a mouthful of a title). Granfors has spun a tale that’s sweet, endearing, and cultural, giving you a taste of Marisol’s life while propelling you on an adventure with her.

I have to say that the prose of Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead wasn’t really exceptional per se, and I don’t think anything struck me as absolutely remarkable, but it wasn’t a bad book overall. Yes, Marisol was very innocent and sweet, but I think it worked for the context of the story. I also think the major highlight of Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead were the hints of characterization enmeshed in Marisol’s heritage and culture. It also had a powerful theme of friendship, family, embracing one’s heritage, and coming-of-age, which kept the story moving. I do have to admit though, I felt that Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead felt a bit unpolished, if you will, and the plot wasn’t exceptionally fast-paced, either, lagging a bit at times.

Overall, Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead is a sweet book. The themes and underlying values of the book breathe life into it and redeem most of what the book lacks. However, I can’t say that this was my absolutely favourite book, and as contemps are hit or miss with me, this wasn’t a true hit. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I’d recommend it to more of an upper MG/lower YA audience who enjoy contemporary fiction.

In My Mailbox 1/16

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In My Mailbox is an amazing weekly meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren that features the books we have received during the week. It's so much fun because we get to see what our fellow bloggers stumbled upon this week and add even more to our piles of books! Without further ado, this week I received the following books:

For Review:
The Darlings Are Forever by Melissa Kantor (Thank you, Hyperion)
No Going Back by Jonathan Langford (Thank you, Jonathan)
Shrouded Secrets by Joel McGrath (Thank you, Joel)

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

What did you get in your mailboxes this week? Leave me a link, and I'll be sure to check them out!

The Water Wars Review (Spoiler-free!)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Title: The Water Wars
Author: Cameron Stracher
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published: January 1, 2011
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 240
Source: Personal Copy

Welcome to a future where water is more precious than gold or oil-and worth killing for.

Vera and her brother, Will, live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him-pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group, and greedy corporations. Timely and eerily familiar, acclaimed author Cameron Stracher makes a stunning YA debut that's impossible to forget.
The Water Wars follows Vera, a teen living in the Republic of Illinowa, a region decimated by lack of rain, harvesters, and people snatching every ounce of water from the sky. Inland and in trouble, class differences are vast, and Vera and her brother Will are very little more than middle class. When she meets Kai, the beautiful blonde boy with a mysterious background and every stranger wealth, she finds a friend in the midst of her bone-dry life. But Kai mentions a river, hidden and coveted, and Vera and Will are determined to find it and quench their unending thirst. This dangerous goal sends them on a perilous journey of life and death because in a world without water, every drop is worth killing for.

I’ve been cover lusting after The Water Wars for months now, and when release day came, I couldn’t wait to get my paws on this one. Cameron Stracher has created an eerie dystopian world in which water is more valuable than oil or any other natural resource. Led by a government known as the Water Authority Bureau (WAB) that is rumoured to be corrupt, what’s left of what was once America is dry and desolate with pirates searching for water, a government providing synthetic food and poisonous ocean water, and families slowly withering away. The world of The Water Wars is beautifully dark and intricate, letting the reader into a world where we’ve wasted our most precious resource until the last drop.

I’ll admit, The Water Wars got off to a bit of a rocky start for me because there was a lot that Stracher was trying to introduce to the reader. The details of the Republics and Empires of the world, as well as the technology and government overshadowed some of the initial character development because I wanted to know who the heck Kai, Vera, and Will really were. Once the scene of The Water Wars was established though, the action propels forward, spiraling darker and darker and letting us see the true colours of the characters. With just a hint of romance and a true familial bond, I was very pleased with how The Water Wars progressed.

Overall, The Water Wars was a very good read with an incredibly powerful and poignant message for the reader. A fictional book about conservation and the need to store, rather than waste, our resources, The Water Wars is great for a younger generation. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I recommend The Water Wars for a YA audience, especially those who enjoy a hint of sci-fi and dystopian stories.

Friday Fix #41 - Meet Jen!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Friday Fix is a takeover of my Friday blog post by other bloggers who have volunteered their time and energy to "star" in their very own guest post on Friday. Only one mandatory rule (you can't get out of it!) - you must answer five of the most random questions I throw your way. The rest is up to you. Remember, if you'd like to be featured on the Friday Fix, send me an email, and let me know! So, without further ado, here is Jen from In the Closet with a Bibliophile!

The Most Random Questions in the World...

1. If you're "not yourself today," then who the heck are you?

A crazy deranged soul named Alice who loves popsicles and ice cream and maybe even some cookies. She doesn't think rationally and yells on command. I'm sensing some possible anger issues as well.

2. If you don't pay an exorcist, can you be repossessed?

Depends on the exorcist, If it's anything like Downside Ghosts (by Stacia Kane), then the exorcist would pay me to remove the ghost, so it's not a problem. Otherwise, my thinking is that demons are scary and should be avoided at all costs so if you must be exorcised, and you have to pay, always pay because the exorcist could try and release the demon/possessor from it's prison of ungodly terror. *shudders* And that would not be pretty.

3. Why is a building called a building if it's already built?

Well, the person who made up the word "building" was too lazy to think of another one for the finished product so he/she/it? was like "We can just have the word be a verb and a noun and call it day. Who wants coffee?"

4. What happens if someone becomes addicted to therapy?

They get to pay someone $300 an hour to tell them that they aren't "really" addicted to therapy and that it was a very nice session and they will see them again tomorrow for their next session where they will discuss their feelings concerning their "so-called" addiction to therapy and that it's not really a big deal to talk about your feelings to a dedicated professional for 10 hours a day as long as you can "find yourself" in the next 10 to 20 years.

5. Why do we say something is out of whack? What is whack?

Whack is seriously and totally when something is off the charts, out of sync with it's normal sway in the world...yo! So we say things are out of whack because we think it makes us sound urban and super cool, which by the way, it totally does. Which, I'll have you know, that there are multiple meanings of the word "whack" many of which definitely don't go with that saying and also...they make me giggle. (because I'm a total nerd!)


Jen, thank you so much for dropping by and dealing with all my absurd musings! To the rest of you, I've been following Jen's blog for almost a year now, and she never ceases to amaze me with her insightful reviews and humour. I highly recommend you drop by her blog, In the Closet with a Bibliophile, to check it out and say hi!

A quick reminder, there's just over two weeks left to enter my international giveaway for The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card. You do NOT have to be a follower, but your support is much appreciated if you are! Click HERE to enter!


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