Cover Reveal & eARC Giveaway - Black City

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I am so excited to feature an incredible upcoming title from Penguin BYR, set to release on November 12, 2012. The novel in question? Black City by the incredible Elizabeth Richards. It's the perfectly blend of post-apocalyptic drama, romance and adventure. So, without further ado, the equally awesome cover!

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love.

Bonded by a mysterious connection, that causes Ash’s long dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong. When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

Elizabeth Richards is an award-winning journalist, Black City is her debut novel. Ms. Banks spent her early career writing for videogame publications such as CUBE, P2 and GamesTM and now works as a website editor. 

Previously, she ran a successful lifestyle website geared towards teenage girls. She won the Jane Hayward Young Journalist of the Year award for her feature on girls in the games industry, and was named 'Editor's Choice' in the industry trade magazine, MCV.

Elizabeth is also an incredibly talented artist, as you can see by her sketch below Illustrating her characters with a careful, beautiful eye, her work is stunning!

But first, a little the entire first chapter HERE!

Amazing...right?! And's your chance to win an eARC of Black City!

The rules are simple. As always, you do NOT have to be a follower, but it is always appreciated! This giveaway will end promptly at 7 AM EST on Wednesday, March 7, 2011 and is open internationally. Winners of the galleys will also be entered to win one of five portraits of Ash and Natalie (pictured above) and autographed by the author, herself. These winners will be chosen randomly by the author, and this is open internationally, as well.

Click HERE to enter!

The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee Review

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Title: The Traitor in the Tunnel
Author: Y.S. Lee
Publisher: Candlewick
Publish Date: February 28, 2012
Genre: YA, Mystery, Hist-Fic
Pages: 373
Source: Author

Queen Victoria has a little problem: there's a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency puts quickwitted Mary Quinn on the case, where she must pose as a domestic while fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales. But when the prince witnesses the murder of one of his friends in an opium den, the potential for scandal looms large.

And Mary faces an even more unsettling possibility: the accused killer, a Chinese sailor imprisoned in the Tower of London, shares a name with her long-lost father. Meanwhile, engineer James Easton, Mary's onetime paramour, is at work shoring up the sewers beneath the palace, where an unexpected tunnel seems to be very much in use. Can Mary and James trust each other (and put their simmering feelings aside) long enough to solve the mystery and protect the Royal Family? Hoist on your waders for Mary's most personal case yet, where the stakes couldn't be higher - and she has everything to lose.
Mary Quinn has seen her fair share of crime and mystery, but things are about to get even stickier. Posing as a maid in Buckingham Palace, she must catch a petty thief plaguing the Queen and the royals. What she does not expect, however, is the sinister plot she uncovers; one that is far murkier and messier than she had originally anticipated. Now, Mary is up to her elbows in lies, gossip and deceit, and for some reason, the Agency is unusually silent. She must navigate her way through the mystery and corruption to discover the underlying issue of the crime, and she must solve it quickly because things are about to go from bad to worse.

I’ve always been a bit iffy on the whole mystery and crime-solving genre because, let’s be honest, sometimes these series get so played out halfway through, and yet the books just keep coming! I’m so excited to say that this is definitely not the case with The Traitor in the Tunnel, which is the third book in the Agency series. Somehow, veteran author Y.S. Lee continues to deliver the drama and intrigue with each installment, upping the ante every time. Rather than sticking to a formulaic pattern for her mysteries, she continues to deviate from the mold, offering touches of sleight of hand with each and every turn. It’s safe to say that this is one of maze of a mystery that will keep you on your toes.

Mary Quinn is, as ever, every bit the heroine. Never petty or meek, she’s a fighter, and her spirit resonates throughout The Traitor in the Tunnel. What’s best about her is that she truly thinks things through with every action she takes, and her thought processes are true to life. Furthermore, she has such a sharp tongue, and it really adds a touch of humour to an otherwise very serious plot. My favourite part of the series that continues through this installment is the fact that no matter how chaotic and messy the mystery becomes, there is a witty undertone that adds an air of lightness. Even better, the dialogue is honest, funny and really entertaining; keeping me invested the story line and the mystery, itself. Most of all, The Traitor in the Tunnel continues to bring 1850s London to life in a way that’s both completely enticing and realistic. I felt like I was living in Mary’s world, and I was invested in the mystery – and yes, I guessed everything wrong, yet again. The plotline branches out, encompassing a whole realm of possibilities, which could be confusing for some, but I felt it worked quite well, wrapping in a fast-paced, heart-pounding way.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by the third installment of the Agency series. Y.S. Lee continues to raise the stakes each time, and I’m officially completely hooked (not to say I wasn’t before). I give it a very strong 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy mysteries and historical fiction.

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.

Partials by Dan Wells Review

Monday, February 27, 2012

Title: Partials
Author: Dan Wells
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publish Date: February 28, 2012
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 472
Source: Publisher

Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with partials--engineered organic beings identical to humans--has decimated the world’s population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out.

When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.
Kira lives in a world where life is bleak, and the good really do die young. At 16 years old, she works as a medic in the hospital maternity ward, watching as the 5000th infant dies in the ward. Babies don’t live anymore since the Break, and scientists, doctors and researchers are trying desperately to find a cure for the virus that continues to plague all. Kira’s world is one where all must abide by the Hope Act, forcing all fertile girls to begin breeding at just 18 years old. Kira knows there has to be a better future, but when she decides to look for the cure herself, Kira begins to learn there is more to the world around her, her race and even the Partials, who they fear the most.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a post-apocalyptic novel, and I meant it that way. To be honest, they seemed a bit tired to me, and I’ve felt a lot of them have become formulaic and predictable. Dan Wells, however, decided to throw a wrench in what I thought with his novel, Partials. Rabidly entertaining and every bit the deliberate, slow-burning novel, the content, the writing and the characters sear their way into your memory, making you feel as though you, too, are living in the year 2076. Rather than simply painting a bleak and barren world, Partials presents to us a world that is utterly destroyed, separated into factions and has ripped at the seams. To put the pieces back together, you must lose yourself in a world that comes alive with each turn of the page.

Kira is one of the first female MCs in a long while that completely struck me with her tenacity and her strength. From the start, her demeanor and her voice were strong, despite her circumstances, and in a world in which women are merely destined to be breeders, she stands out beautifully. Partials also manages to paint a series of enemies so vastly different with multilayered ulterior motives that keep you guessing; wondering which side is actually right and when you’ll get the answers you seek. The Partials, too, were quite the enigma, though Samm’s character painted the novel in varying shades of gray. There was a part of me that loved him throughout, and there was a part of me that was both fascinated and terrified of him, as well. Partials is extremely sophisticated in its take on the YA genre. It doesn’t demean itself by dumbing down the content or glossing over the gorier elements. Instead, the novel lets the brutal elements singe the beautiful ones, tainting it with tragic beauty. There are overriding themes of military, science and politics, but they’re never cloying – simply fascinating arcs that lead the story line.

All in all, I was thoroughly impressed by Partials. Rich and engrossing, it was exactly what I needed to break out of my book funk. I give it a 5 out of 5, and with a cliffhanger ending like that, I can’t wait for the next installment! I recommend this book to fans of YA, dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction.

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

Blog Tour: The Traitor in The Tunnel by Y.S. Lee

I am so excited to be hosting the first stop of the blog tour for The Agency #3: The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee. This is one fantastic series of mystery novels that are thought-provoking, fun, well-written and articulate. Equal parts suspense, romance, intrigue and history, this series doesn't disappoint, and I'm SO excited to say that the third book steps it up yet another notch (stay tuned for the review tomorrow)!

The Traitor in the Tunnel releases tomorrow, February 28th from Candlewick! Be sure to get your copy because it's incredible! Here is the amazing Y.S. Lee with a very deep and thought-provoking guest post on phrenology! 

Victorian Obsession: Phrenology

Gently touch your fingertips to the side of your head, about a finger’s width in front of the top half of each ear. There. Do you have a slight bump in that spot? Or a hollow? A place where your skull changes shape? That, according to phrenology, is a measure of how alimentive you are; in plain English, how much you enjoy food and eating.

Phrenology is the “science” of interpreting personality through the shape and size of a person’s skull. It was immensely popular during the nineteenth century, and takes its name from the Greek words for “mind” and “knowledge”. Phrenologists believe that different parts of the brain control different aspects of character, and these zones of the brain are reflected in the contours of the skull.

This sounds hilarious and absurd to us. But to understand why the Victorians took it so seriously, we need to know that the nineteenth century was a time of immense scientific discovery and development. Chemistry. Biology. Medicine. Physics. Engineering. Sociology. Anthropology. All these fields were exploding, and Victorian men and women were tremendously excited – and confused – as a result.

To give one example, Victorians were the first to understand modern germ theory. Before the 1850s, people believed that foul odours made you sick. (There’s a certain logic to this: germs thrive in dirty places, which frequently smell bad.) But after a terrible cholera epidemic in London in 1854, a physician called John Snow discovered that the disease was spread through contaminated water. Two decades later, the German physician Robert Koch isolated three specific germs (the ones that led to anthrax, tuberculosis, and cholera – all deadly threats). That in turn helped Louis Pasteur to create the first vaccines against rabies and anthrax. These huge leaps in science, in just a thirty-year period, created the field of microbiology.

Now, if you lived in 1840 and someone told you that tuberculosis was spread by tiny creatures that entered your lungs, you might ridicule them. Or you might be tempted to believe them. And if you believe THAT, why not believe that different zones of the brain control different bodily functions, and that the skull is shaped around these different regions? After all, human skulls are all different in their bumps, as people are different in their quirks. And that’s the basic case for phrenology – another emerging science, as far as the average Victorian man or woman had reason to believe.

I suspect another reason phrenology become so popular is because it’s fun, and anyone can feel the bumps on their head and compare them to a phrenological chart. Like personality quizzes (either those in trashy mags, or their stuffy Myers-Briggs cousins), phrenology is a parlour-game – and the Victorians adored those, too.

So, tell me: how accurate is your phrenological measure of alimentiveness, described in the opening? I have to admit that I adore food, and have a significant bulge in the phrenologically correct spot!

Waiting on Wednesday: Perfect Escape

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

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: Perfect Escape
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: July 10, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art -- until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation.

Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all -- with enough distance, maybe she'll be able to figure everything out. But eventually, Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.
I've read a few of Jennifer Brown's books now, and she never ceases to amaze me. While I'll admit that I've started to have a bit of a soft spot for contemporary fiction, I'm still rather picky, and issue books are usually the way to go. I like some depth - more than the everyday romance and "boy meets girl" story. Because of that, I think that Perfect Escape might just be an awesome fit for me. It sounds like yet another deep, meaningful story in which I can become invested in the characters, so I can't wait! What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Save From a Natural Disaster

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. They'd love to share their lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week they will post a new top ten list that one of our bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.
Top Ten Books I'd Save From a Natural Disaster:

1. Watership Down - Daunting in size, I know, but this one is one of my absolute all-time favourites. It's beautiful, it's poetic, and, frankly, I don't know that it gets much lovelier than this! 

2. Many Waters - I have a few copies of this one. However, there are a couple of those copies without covers because I've worn them out by reading them too much. I don't think I could survive without this! 

3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - I want the whole series, and I'd probably sell my soul to save all seven BUT if I could only choose one and play by the rules, this would be it. Oh, Sirius Black. You have my heart. 

4. Time Windows - This is definitely not the best written novel I've ever read, but it may very well be what got me onto paranormal stories. It's beautiful and complex for its age range, and I love it to this day. 

5. Memoirs of a Geisha - I read this on a whim one day, only to find out months later that it was in our AP curriculum in high school. Needless to say, I loved it both times. It's so moving and beautiful, and the prose and backdrop are seamless. 

 6. My Sister's Keeper - Forget the movie. NEVER watch it if you can help it. It simply does not do this book justice. I cried for hours after this one, and I was just floored. It is so immensely powerful. 

7. The Glass Castle - I found myself re-reading this one last week to get out of a little bookish funk, and I remembered why I loved it so much. It's a quick read, but boy is it potent. That woman's story simply resonates. 

8. Between - This was a bit of a sleeper hit for me. I was worried when I first read it, but having read it a few times now, I'm just as blown away as the first time. This story sings with sadness, and I keep singing its praises. 

9. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - So sue me. I can't leave Noah behind! Plus, I just have to re-read that cliffhanger of doom daily. I keep looking for hints, or clues, or some little sign I missed. But no...just doom. 

10. Salamandastron - I love me some Redwall books, and the badgers were always my favourites. I think a close second would be Pearls of Lutra, but this one simply has to win. It's so beautiful and rich, and I think living in that mountain would be epic!

When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen Review

Monday, February 20, 2012

Title: When the Sea is Rising Red
Author: Cat Hellisen
Publisher: FSG
Publish Date: Februrary 28, 2012
Genre: YA, Paranormal Fantsy
Pages: 296
Source: Publisher
After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik.

Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it.
Felicita was born into a life of luxury and privilege in a magical family. However, because she is a girl, her life is destined to be one of choices made by others and a severe lack of control. She's to have an arranged marriage, and once she settles in with a new husband, she'll have somewhat of a new puppet master. When Felicita's best friend kills herself to escape this fate, Felicita chooses to do the same, in a sense. She fakes her death and escapes to the slums, finding freedom for the first time in her seventeen years. But peace doesn't last long. Ilven's rash decision called up an old dark magic, and Felicita must decide whether she belongs in her old life or her new one before it's too late.

I've read a lot of YA books in my time on this blog. And, frankly, there are times when I think I've seen and read it all. paranormal books have been tested, tried and true, and it's a very crowded genre, so when a novel dares to be paranormal fantasy, toe the line between adult and young adult, but reads just as well for all ages, I'm floored. Cat Hellisen took her imagination to the next level with When the Sea is Rising Red, creating a world that's every bit an illusion yet, at the same time tangible. Intricate and detailed, vivid and pronounced, the world of Pelimburg is dark and twisted, with a creative and fascinating world with an underbelly teeming with unanswered questions. It's a world in which you will become utterly absorbed.

Felicita was a brilliant character. She was rich and emote, rife with internal struggles. Yet, throughout it all, you could sense the desire to be free and happy. She truly wanted a place for herself in a world where she was controlled every day. Likewise, Dash was the epitome of charisma. Charming and intriguing, Dash was a well-rounded character that brought Felicita's strengths to the surface, allowing them to sing through every moment of tension in When the Sea is Rising Red. As much as the characters epitomized excellence, it must be said that the novel is very much an enigma. In once sense, the world of Pelimburg is entirely foreign and confusing. In another sense, it's brilliant, exciting and quaint. The two make for an immensely satisfying backdrop for a maze of an adventure. I think the beauty of When the Sea is Rising Red lies within the unanswered questions within the novel though. Rather than serving you a cut and dried plot that simply connects the dots, this story almost leaves those answers for you to decide, which is a power not often given to the readers.

In many ways, When the Sea is Rising Red soars. Rich and powerful, it's slow-burning, and it has me thinking days later. It's definitely one I'll be re-reading. I give it a very strong 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to both YA and adult audiences who enjoy paranormal fantasies.

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

In My Mailbox 2/19

Sunday, February 19, 2012

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:

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross (ARC) - Thank you, Egmont USA

Eden's Root by Rachel Fisher - Thank you, Rachel

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (ARC) - Thank you, Henry Holt BYR

Let's Talk: Book Hype

Friday, February 17, 2012

Let's Talk is what I like to call a semi-regular feature here at i swim for oceans. Does it happen every week? No. Will there be weeks when it happens more than once? Probably. Can you set your calendar by it? Heck no. Here on the little old blog, I like to host some of my very own discussion posts because, well, I like to converse with you all.

And so, Let's Talk will feature questions or prompts, which I will answer, too. Love it or hate it, weigh in or don't, it's my hope that Let's Talk will at least get you thinking...and maybe even get you discussing with the rest of us!

Question: Does the hype of a book make you more, or less inclined to buy it?

I've been thinking about this question for a while lately, after speaking to a few bloggers about the overwhelming hype that some novels seem to have these days. There are two sides of the picture for me. 

1. There are books that have no hype whatsoever, and I simply stumble upon them later and am blow away by just how incredible they are. 

2. There are books that have ridiculous amounts of hype, build up my expectations astronomically and then let me down. 

I'll be honest. Overwhelming hype deters me a lot these days because I'm tired of being over-excited and then disappointed after finishing a book. I think the last book I stepped out and bought simply because the hype was killing me, and I just had to see what it was all about, was Matched by Ally Condie. Was it a good book? Sure. Was it a great book (for me)? No. 

Just a few examples of this:

Then, however, there are the exceptions to the rule. You probably remember the hype surrounding The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. That one's launch was touted ad-nauseum, and I was scared to actually open the book when I finally got it for review. However, that one totally blew me out of the water. Truly, it was one of the most engaging novels I've enjoyed in a good while.

Just a few examples of this:

Then, there are books that have virtually no hype - a prime example for me being Between by Jessica Warman - that stun me. Yes, that one was a bit predictable, but I devoured it in a day. It was searing, soaring and powerful, and it spoke to me. And yet, for some hype.

Hype, for the most part these days, deters me from reading a book right away. I'm so scared of the disappointment I might possibly feel, so I look for hidden gems, instead. It's not a hard and fast rule at me. I read hyped books, but I think there's something to be said for finding the book nobody knows, too.

Please bear in mind that these are solely my personal opinions, and none of what I say is meant to be derogatory or degrade any authors or their books.

What about you?

Enthralled Anthology Review

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Title: Enthralled
Author: 14 Authors
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: September 20, 2011
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 443
Source: Publisher
A journey may take hundreds of miles, or it may cover the distance between duty and desire.

Sixteen of today's hottest writers of paranormal tales weave stories on a common theme of journeying. Authors such as Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Caine, and Melissa Marr return to the beloved worlds of their bestselling series, while others, like Claudia Gray, Kami Garcia, and Margaret Stohl, create new land-scapes and characters. But whether they're writing about vampires, faeries, angels, or other magical beings, each author explores the strength and resilience of the human heart.

Suspenseful, funny, or romantic, the stories in "Enthralled" will leave you moved.

This is a new one for me, and it's not something I can follow my normal reviewing process on, as Enthralled is an anthology of 14 unique stories from a wide range of YA talent today. The authors include Rachel Vincent, Sarah Rees Brennan, Jeri Smith-Ready, Mary E. Pearson, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Jessica Verday, Claudia Gray, Jackson Pearce, Carrie Ryan, Rachel Caine, Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, Kimberly Derting and Ally Condie. Needless to say, with talent like that, this anthology is a powerhouse of great writing, fresh ideas, dynamic characters and short stories that pack a powerful punch.

I've never reviewed an anthology before, so you'll have to bear with me as I navigate the full range of short stories that Enthralled carried. There were definitive standouts in the anthology, and I'll be honest and say there were a few stories that fell a bit flat for me. I'll also say that, at times, I think writing a short story might just be more difficult than writing a full-length novel. An author needs to encapsulate an entire novel in a just a fraction of that space without losing depth, intrigue and that emotional connection. It's because of this that I can honestly state that Sarah Rees Brennan's story, "Let's Get This Undead Show on the Road" really stood out. It had absolutely fantastic characters, hilarity and a fun/ironic setup that managed to execute a seamless story in a small amount of pages. Speaking of the characters, by the way, I want Faye's pumps that had stakes for heels, please. 

Unfortunately, with every gem, you'll have a few stories that fall short and leave something to be desired. In Enthralled, both "I.V. League" by Margaret Stohl and "Red Run" by Kami Garcia, unfortunately, fit that bill for me. Both stories lacked memorable characters, and the plot holes were severe, often leading me to become lost in the few pages I had to read. In the same vein, I struggled with Ally Condie's "Leaving." It felt a bit weak when I compared it to others and, to be honest, it felt like a tiny version of Matched. Thankfully, Jackson Pearce kicked Enthralled back up a notch with her story, "Things About Love." In a short story, a theme resonated above all else, and it left me thinking - a feat some of the other stories failed to accomplish.

Overall, Enthralled was a fun-filled anthology. While some stories far exceeded the limits of other stories, it was a good, cohesive read. If nothing else, I was given a chance to test the waters with some authors I've yet to try, and will absolutely read more of in the future. I give it a 3.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all YA fans, especially those who enjoy paranormal stories and are fans of the authors listed above.

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

Waiting on Wednesday: Above

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

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: Above
Author: Leah Bobet
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Publish Date: April 1, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 368
Matthew has loved Ariel from the moment he found her in the tunnels, her bee's wings falling away. They live in Safe, an underground refuge for those fleeing the city Above—like Whisper, who speaks to ghosts, and Jack Flash, who can shoot lightning from his fingers.

But one terrifying night, an old enemy invades Safe with an army of shadows, and only Matthew, Ariel, and a few friends escape Above. As Matthew unravels the mystery of Safe's history and the shadows' attack, he realizes he must find a way to remake his home—not just for himself, but for Ariel, who needs him more than ever before.

Ok, first of all, please take note of that exceptionally gorgeous cover. I mean, come on, drool! Then, read that premise a few times, and try to tell me honestly that you are not completely excited for this sounds like a beautiful, haunting and romantic take on the paranormal and, frankly, it sounds like something I've never read before. Obviously, that alone, sells Above to me. I cannot wait until this one is in my hands! What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Happy (Anti) Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Now, this is slowly becoming a tradition here at i swim for oceans. I am in a healthy, loving relationship, kiddos, but it doesn't hurt to tell you that I hate this so-called "holiday." Frankly, I think you should tell people you love them all year long...not on a day that's dominated by greeting cards and fake love. I'm jussayin'. So, in honour of my supreme dislike of this holiday, I decided I would do my very own UnValentine’s Day post for you all. This time, we're going to talk about love gone wrong. So romantic, right? WRONG!
Dark Song by Gail Giles – Yes, I love this book. I have never once made that a secret, but let me just tell you how horribly love-gone-wrong this book is. We’ve got a vulnerable main character, Ames, who is desperate to rebel because of everything complicated and messy happening in her life. We’ve got a so-called love interest, Marc, who manipulates, violates and demeans. Oh yeah, and he threatens her whole family.

Breathing Underwater – This one has schools in an uproar, trying to ban it because of the oh-so-sensitive materials for the even more sensitive eyes of the youth. Ok, first of all, dating violence exists. It does, so this book clearly reaches to those victims. Futhermore, it displays in full force the effects of a boy trying to escape the darkness in him and the girl trapped by his spell. That’s a love story gone wrong, if I’ve ever heard of one.

Stay by Deb Caletti – This is the classic story of misogynistic manipulation and the vulnerability of a YA character desperate to find herself. There was so much hurt, and danger, and unspeakable cruelty in this book that you’re left wondering if the good guys really do exist (they do). Consider this your classic (albeit amazingly written) tale of twisted and wrong YA love.

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown – You know how you always want your man to shower you with love and affection? Well, there’s a fine line between loving and possessing, and this book wholly grabs you and shakes you into a painful, bitter reality. Cole manipulates and possesses Alexandra throughout, never allowing her to see a shred of hope and leaving her to believe that A) not only is it her fault, but B) it will never happen again. Needless to say…we know that those lines never really mean anything.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick – Okay, this one’s got the trifecta. First, we’ve got the heroine who is easily swayed by the bad boy’s charm. We’ve got the “bad boy”/badass angel who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Nora’s feelings, and THEN we’ve got the scenes where he quite clearly takes advantage of her. Oh yeah, and she’s often crying and alone. I’m gonna call bad romance because, clearly, it doesn’t just stick to YA contemps.

What YA stories can you think of that feature bad love stories or love gone wrong?

Slide by Jill Hathaway Review

Monday, February 13, 2012

Title: Slide
Author: Jill Hathaway
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publish Date: March 27, 2012
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Paranormal
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered. Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

Vee, for all intents and purposes, is your everyday teenage girl. She deals with backstabbing teens, catty girls, boyfriend drama and life in a clique-driven high school. Vee is unlike other girls though because, when she least expects it, she is unable to prevent herself from sliding into another person's consciousness. She sees the world through their eyes, and she's come to terms with it. It might make her odd, and it might be inconvenient, but it's life. Life for Vee, however, is about to get very complicated. She slides into a killer's mind one night...her sister's friend...and she can't just let it go. Suddenly, she's involved in a murder mystery, and everyone's a suspect.

Slide has such a brilliant premise. Before I even begin to remark on the book and the writing, I just have to say that. Seriously, touching aspects of sci-fi and paranormal, as well as blending great high school drama and teenage qualms, it's got all the makings of a winner. Author, Jill Hathaway, has written an engrossing novel rich with vivid prose, great imagery and a sweeping, dramatic storyline. Her characters are solid and entertaining, the idea behind Vee's story is fantastic, and it's a page-turner, for sure. If you're looking for a fantastic who-dun-it, this is the perfect YA version. Fast-paced and action-packed, it's a fast read you'll be unable to put down.

Vee was a great character. She was multi-layered, and she had a lot of depth, making you become involved in her story. I felt for her, and I felt for her situation. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to lose herself in another person continuously. Even more so though, I can't imagine how it must have felt for her to feel as though she was actually holding the murder weapon. Her reactions are true and genuine, which definitely made me become invested in her story. Rollins, too, was a fantastic character. He was true and honest, making him a beacon in a maze of unease. Zane was an interesting love interest - not my absolute favourite, but he definitely added another layer to Slide, which contributed to the overall plot. The makings were all there for an absolutely perfect mystery, but here is my one qualm...the clues throughout the story actually felt more like reveals than clues. I felt like I was being pointed in the absolute direction of the answer. Frankly, I like it when a story keeps me guessing, and Slide, though fun and engaging, was pretty blatantly hinting at the culprit the entire time.

Overall, Slide was a great book. Truly, it was. Despite the fact that I wished it was more mysterious, it was well-written and engaging. I give it a 3.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy mysteries, sci-fi and paranormal stories.

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

In My Mailbox 2/12

Sunday, February 12, 2012

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:

Cold Fury by T.M. Goeglein (ARC), Thank you, T.M. Goeglein

The List by Siobhan Vivian (ARC), Thank you, Push

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons Review

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Title: Article 5
Author: Kristen Simmons (Facebook)
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publish Date: January 31, 2012
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher

New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned. The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes. There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard for her to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It’s hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow. That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings…the only boy Ember has ever loved.

Things have changed in the realm of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There are new laws in place, there's an omnipotent governing body and things are definitely not how they used to be. But Ember remembers what life was like before...before the raids and the trials and the fines. There is always risk though, and even though Ember knows her life depends on anonymity for the most part, she's thrust into a spotlight when her mother is arrested. Her life changes in that moment. Life is no longer simply black and white, but shades of gray because Chase is at the center of it all, and there is always a choice.

Dystopians have become so hit or miss for me lately. They're almost the new paranormal, in a sense, as they continue to spin the same old, same old story. Because of this, it's a breath of fresh air when something challenges the boundaries of the genre, setting a new height and goal for other novels to reach. Article 5 is one of those books. It's that perfect blend of spine-tingling action, breathtaking suspense, vivid imagery and fabulous characterization that lends to a story line that soars far greater than the synopsis or summary can even allude to. Kristen Simmons has crafted an incredible story that is extremely well-written, flows beautiful and paints a painfully bleak and frightening future world.

There's a subtle undercurrent and theme that carries throughout Article 5 that, above all else, I feel the need to point out. We all have choices. Right or wrong, good or bad, obedience or defection...every single person has a choice. That applies to every member of society from the very top and trickles all the way down. Ember was a powerfully evocative character that displays this so incredibly well. She's forced into a terrible situation and she's faced with the easy decision to submit, or she can choose the hard path - to escape. In a nutshell, it's her choice that forces Article 5 into heart-pounding action. Her counterpart and love interest, Chase, is everything I wished for and more. He's lit from within, and his personality resonates. He's forcible, but kind, and there's a hardened exterior around him that acts as an armour, shielding him from the pain of society and every action he has to take. The progression of his dynamic with Ember was tragically beautiful, and yet powerfully hopeful, as well. The true power of the novel rests in the ability to skillfully paint the harsh reality of the world in which the characters live. The world was so very bleak, gritty and and raw, and the words perfectly painted that picture, nearly rubbing salt in the proverbial wounds with each turn of the page. And, ultimately, the characters, the writing and the brilliant story line merged seamlessly to provide an engrossing new dystopian that keeps you guessing and cheering for your favourite characters long past the last page.

I am always so happy when I book knocks me out of a so-so reading funk, and Article 5 most certainly did that for me. It was an incredibly well-executed debut, and I can't sing its praises enough. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy futuristic dystopian novels.

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

Waiting on Wednesday: Glimmer

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

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: Glimmer
Author: Phoebe Kitanidis (Twitter)
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publish Date: April 17, 2012
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 352

When Marshall and Elyse wake up in each other’s arms with zero memory of how they got there or who they are, it’s the start of a long journey through their separate pasts and shared future.

Terrified by their amnesia, the two make a pact to work together to find the answers that could jog their missing memories. As they piece together clues, they discover they’re in the idyllic mountain resort town of Summer Falls, where everyone seems mysteriously happy, but as Marshall and Elyse quickly learn, darkness lurks beneath the town’s perfect facade. Not only is the town haunted by sinister ghosts, but none of its living inhabitants retain bad memories of anything—not the death of Marshall’s mom, not the hidden shame in Elyse’s family, not even the day-to-day anguish of high school.

Lonely in this world of happy zombies, Marsh and Elyse fall into an intense relationship...but the secrets they uncover could be the death of this growing love—and the death of everyone, and everything, they love in Summer Falls.

Hello, cover lust, my old friend! I swear, this is one of the prettiest covers I've seen in a long time, and those colours! Vintage with a touch of brightness...I love it. In all seriousness though, Glimmer sounds eerie, oddly dark and deeply fascinating. I love it when there are twists and turns and things that go bump in the night - even when everything looks perfectly normal on the surface. This one pops for me, and I can't wait to sink my teeth into it! What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Top Ten Books for People Who Don't Like Reading

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. They'd love to share their lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week they will post a new top ten list that one of our bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.
Top Ten Books for People Who Don't Like Reading:

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling - Well, frankly, I'd put the whole dang series up here, but let's start small. This series has sucked in children and adults, alike, giving the entire world a fictional character with whom to grow, empathize and love. It's amazing and powerful.

2. Virals by Kathy Reichs - Everyone loves a good mystery, right? Think Nancy Drew, only more modern, more precocious and far more endearing. This series is a ton of fun, plus it's fast-paced, action-packed and it definitely packs a delicious punch, sucking you into a great series.

3. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle - The beauty of this novel resonates long after the last page. I think it's a pretty underrated novel, and the made-for-tv movie destroyed it. Read this slim book, and you will see between the lines to the heart and soul of the story.

4. Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoirs of a Girl Who Couldn't Stop Praying by Abby Sher - I'm a sucker for a good memoir, and this one is holy epic powerful. Yes, I mean that. The writing is flawless, the pace is perfection, and it's true, undiluted humanity from start to finish.

5. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls - I told you I love memoirs! I bought this one on a whim a couple years ago when I was in a reading funk, and it booted me right back in gear. It's powerful, and the author's story is poignant and real, making you want to turn each page.

6. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult - I'm not a big women's fiction reader. I don't love chick-lit. This story leaps from the pages though, giving the reader a powerful, painful, emotional story in which to become completely absorbed. It's intense, and the ending is beautiful - far more beautiful than that horrid "movie."

7. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan - I got my entire family hooked on this, including my brother-in-law. It's a really quick book, as are the rest of the books in the series, but they hook you with humour, compassion and a great story line that carries throughout. Again...far better than the movie.

8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I swore up and down that I didn't want to read this series because I did NOT want to read about children killing children, but this is one of my favourite series of all times now. I got my family hooked on this series, as well, and I truly believe the story is rich and powerful.

9. The Lying Game by Sara Shepard - I didn't mind the Pretty Little Liars series, but this one far surpasses it, in my humble opinion. Both Emma and Sutton are fantastic characters, as are all the secondary characters, and it's an engrossing maze through each book.

10. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - I put off reading this one for a while, and I'm not really sure why. It's so much fun - definitely leaping from the pages much like other epic fantasy series. There are lots of dark twists and turns, so it will keep you guessing the whole time.

New Girl by Paige Harbison Review

Monday, February 6, 2012

Title: New Girl
Author: Paige Harbison (Twitter)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: January 31, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 304 Pages
Source: Publisher

They call me 'New Girl'...Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her. Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be. And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.

She’s the New Girl. It’s hard to be that girl, in and of itself, but it’s even harder when the It girl disappears and her absence opens the spot for the new girl at the prestigious school. Life is complicated and messy at Manderly Academy with conniving, lying and deceitful students, dark secrets and a messy underbelly that, for some reason, the new girl has become a part of. For some reason though, the New Girl is slipping into Becca’s shoes. It’s both a gift and a curse though because if, God forbit, Becca ever returns, the New Girl is going to have to retreat into the shadows again because Becca rules Manderly…and a new girl is always a new girl.

New Girl is a treacherous take on contemporary fiction, brimming with twists and turns that threaten to send the story spiraling out of control at any given second. This is the second novel I’ve read by Paige Harbison, and it’s no less challenging than the first. The author is skilled at crafting artfully dislikable characters, which I’m assuming was her intention. There’s a deep-seeded animosity that fuels New Girl along, spreading the characters thin through intense angst and discord. Rather than give us the calm before the storm that we seek, New Girl thrusts the reader into a full-on onslaught of bitter teenage rivalry and sinks its teeth into you from the start.

New Girl was quite the challenging read for me. I’m going to state that outright because I have an extremely difficult time becoming invested in largely unapproachable characters. That said, there were a few breaths of fresh air throughout. The “New Girl,” herself, was actually a rather sweet character. Though we don’t learn her name until the very end of the book, which was either really clever or completely convoluted (I haven’t quite decided), the new girl shields us from the torment that Becca and her cronies wield daily. Becca was one of those characters that I wanted to kick in the face…multiple times. Her cruelty, manipulative nature and overall foul demeanor made me loathe her from the start, and I struggled to reconcile with the fact that everyone seemed entirely content to continue doing her bidding despite it. She, quite literally, reigned over the school, and that was difficult for me to read. Furthermore, there was a lot of weakness going on with many of the characters. For instance, the new girl very frequently caved to Max’s insistence, making her appear weak. I wanted to like Max and the new girl’s blossoming romance, but because of the stop-and-go nature of it, the dominant vs. submissive personalities and the weakness I saw throughout, I just couldn’t relate. At times, New Girl was over-the-top outrageously dramatic, then completely flat at other times. I felt that changing from the past to the present, as well as the switch between perspectives was a gutsy move for a novel like New Girl and, ultimately, it lost me because I felt the novel was too stunted to carry the weight of the challenge.

Overall, New Girl was a pretty well-written novel, though I struggled to find the true meaning of the book. I enjoy a challenge, but for me, it was too messy to carry the weight of such heavy drama. Clever in much of its approach to bullying and teenage relationships/drama though, New Girl will definitely find its place in many a YA shelf. I give it a 2 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and the novel, Here Lies Bridget.

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

Fracture by Megan Miranda Review

Friday, February 3, 2012

Title: Fracture
Author: Megan Miranda (Twitter)
Publisher: Walker Children's
Publish Date: January 17, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 262
Source: ARC Trade

Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine - despite the scans that showed significant brain damage.

Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?

Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?

Delaney died that night. She was standing on the ice, and the next thing she knew, she was waking up in the hospital with only brief memories of what happened to her. Eleven minutes. That’s how long it took for her to be rescued from the icy water below the surface, and in those eleven minutes, Delaney touched the other side. But things are different now. Delaney is drawn to the dying, and she feels a sort of pull towards the other side. Everything’s changing, and Delaney needs to make sense of what’s happening to her – and why her feelings for her best friend, Decker, have suddenly changed.

I like drama. It’s no secret. I like it when things are messy and in disarray (in novels, of course, not real life). Fracture is one of those novels that touches on everything that is a little bit messy and out of place. Focusing more on nature of relationships and sense of self than anything else, Fracture touches on the very soul of humanity and brings it to light. Author Megan Miranda has crafted a delicate novel that perfectly merges dark with light, broaches difficult topics such as death and dying and captures a host of beautiful characters in a poignant and powerful novel. Merging a beautiful story line with sweet, poignant prose, Fracture stands out. .

I’m not a huge fan of love triangles or quadrangles, and that’s no secret, so having read a few reviews for Fracture, I was a bit concerned. Once I was about halfway through the novel though, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the nature of Fracture focused more heavily on Delaney, her condition and the aftermath of the trauma of her accident than anything else. Delaney was a great character. She was so relatable and honest, painful and pure. There was an innocence about her that resonated throughout the events of the story and fueled the plot forward. Decker, too, was a brilliant character, perfectly embodying the loyal best friend role. I will say, however, that the numerous secondary characters, including Janna, Troy felt a bit flat for me. There were so many issues, actions and inactions that felt unresolved when I closed the final pages on Fracture that I felt a bit let down. While I loved that Fracture stepped boldly into a realm of God complexes, survivor’s guilt, stress and everything messy that has to do with death and dying, I think it could have been fleshed out a bit for more power. The novel was hard-hitting, indeed, but I felt it moved too fast to leave any strong, lasting emotions in me. .

Overall, I think Fracture is going to make a powerful in the statement in the YA community. It’s a rich idea with great writing, and though there were some flaws, in my humble opinion, it wasn’t a bad book by any means. I give it a 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary and paranormal fiction. .


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