Team Amity - Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Saturday, March 31, 2012

I think I died and went to heaven yesterday. This miss came home to one HECK of a package on her doorstep. What is it, you ask? Well, I've been chosen to help TEAM AMITY to victory in a super awesome epic launch towards Insurgent by Veronica Roth. So, when I saw this on my doorstep, I almost died...with glee, of course.

So, what's all the hubbub about TEAM AMITY? Well, here's the deal. The masterminds behind HarperTeen have come up with a brilliant fan-driven click-through event to get the world ready for the next installment in this great series. This movement is led by five bloggers, who will each lead their factions. Those leaders are:

Divergent Fans— Dauntless
Divergent Examiner— Abnegation
Divergent Lexicon— Amity (THIS IS US!)
The Story Siren— Candor
Bookalicious— Erudite

So, here's what you can expect to see in the coming days. On April 2, Choosing Ceremony Day, each team leader will have 9 more team members inducted into their faction who have already been chosen by HarperTeen. These factions will then compete against one another in a fight for the most readers directed to their faction's site for the month of April.

There is MUCH more news to come on Monday, April 2 when it all kicks off, and I'll be offering up some super sweet gifts for all you lovelies who, I'm certain, will just have to side on TEAM AMITY with me.

Until then, follow our team leader on Twitter and Facebook, and be sure to tweet with the hashtag, #TeamAmity, to let the world know you're with us. Get ready for some faction fun, kiddies!

Let's Talk: What I Want More of From YA Books

Friday, March 30, 2012

Let's Talk is a new weekly feature here at i swim for oceans. I think it's important that we all have our say, and there's something to be said for raising our voices. Simply put, 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: What do you want to see more of from the genres you read?

Well, I read everything when I'm on my own time, but when on i swim for oceans time, I read primarily only YA (with a smattering of MG at times). Because of this, I think I've come to find that there are trends I love, trends I loathe and then there are those little hints of greatness which I desperately want more of. When I sat down to write my list of what I wanted more of though, I had nearly 30, so I decided to narrow it down to my top five.

Strong Female Leads – With the emergence of characters like Katniss from The Hunger Games, Juliett from Shatter Me and a handful of others, we’re finally seeing what I consider to be the weak damsels in distress (Bella Swan) outnumbered. I so desperately hope the trend increases, and we get to see more empowering girls for young YA readers.

TRUE True Love – We’ve seen the love triangles …ad nauseum. We’ve seen the insta-love…also ad nauseum. Neither of these two really do it for me. I’d love to see a paranormal, sci-fi or fantasy book tackle true love between two people as it develops slowly over time. I think that, in a nutshell, will be absolutely brilliant and fun to read.

Issue-Based Contemporaries – I like dark books. Extremely dark books. So, sue me. I want more of them all the time. I think there’s something to be said for contemporary books that delve into the true nature of humanity, touching on the brink of what makes us tick, and what tears us apart. Too deep for some, perhaps, this is the type contemp that I thrive on.

Superpowers – Is this a throwaway? Don’t we all want more superpowers? I must confess that this little nerdlett is a huge fan of them, and I’ve always loved flicks like X-Men and Superman. I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing a few more kickass superhero females with powers though!

Male Leads – Yes, I love strong female leads, but when a book launches onto the scene with a great male lead, a great voice and the ability to capture more than just the male audience, I’m sold. Think, The Lightning Thief, Harry Potter or even The Maze Runner. Those, my friends, are male leads I love.

Are there other things I want to see more of? HECK YES! I would love to see more whimsy. I would love to see more books that have leads that are different, or quirky, or just plain off (think Pure by Julianna Baggott.) I'd also really love to see a few more books out there that just push the boundaries of what we know and expect from the genre. It's those books that are going to stand out in the end.

Introducing Twist Literary!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Have you ever wondered what the next big thing in book publishing is? Well, a lot of book bloggers much like me do because, heck, we're all little nerdlets. Right? Right. The point, my friends, is that there is always something new and game-changing that just might be the next thing to shake up the market, and I'm introducing you to one such company that is right there on the cutting Twist Literary!

1. What makes Twist Literary different?

The rise of e-publishing has created this incredible opportunity to get really creative with the storytelling construct, and Twist Literary was created in response to that. The digital format gives flexibility to do some crazy things that you couldn't easily pull off with a traditionally-published book; for example, having the major arc of a series unfold through multiple perspectives, like in our debut series ALIBI. Twist Literary will continue to try new and innovative things in its books - that much is guaranteed!

2. Who are the masterminds behind Twist Literary ?

In the grand tradition of masterminds, evil and otherwise, the founders like to keep our identities under wraps. We'd rather shine the spotlight on our authors! But we are both YA writers and avid lovers of well-written YA.

3. Describe Twist Literary  in five words, or less, please!

Edgy YA with a twist!

4. What can YA bloggers, readers and the like expect from Twist Literary?

Stories that are compelling and impeccably written. Our authors are quite simply am-ah-zing. You can also expect hot boys, intrigue, and kissing. LOTS of kissing.

5. What makes Twist Literary  a name to watch, and why should we keep our eye on you guys?

Twist has several new series in development, and each one brings a fresh angle to YA storytelling. You should keep your eye on us because you never know what we might do next, and we also might steal your chocolate when your'e not looking.

6. Is there anything else you'd like to tell the YA blogosphere?

We heart YA and we heart YA readers. We hope you love ALIBI as much as we do! Oh, and please come harass us on Twitter (@twistliterary) and Facebook.

Twist Literary's debut series, Alibi, is available for online booksellers everywhere. Each 100 page installment will keep you hooked and wanting more. To learn more about the series, click HERE!

Waiting on Wednesday: Tiger Lily

Wednesday, March 28, 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: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publish Date: July 3, 2012
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 304
15 year old Tiger Lily, proud and fierce, wild and misunderstood, doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland, and immediately falls under his spell. Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, big-hearted but hard to reach, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily.

Soon, she is risking everything - her family, her future - to be with the haunted, hunted, courageous boy who loves her. When - as a punishment for her rebellious ways - she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter. With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.
There are two reasons why I just can't get enough of this book. First of all, those colours on the cover just kill me with gorgeousness. Second, it's Peter Pan! Really! How can you go wrong with that? Tiger Lily sounds like a brilliant twist on a beloved story, and it sounds like one heck of an adventure. There's nothing wrong with a fantasy story if it's done right, and I certainly think this sounds like a breath of fresh air. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Top Ten Books I'd Skip Work to Read

Tuesday, March 27, 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 Skip Work to Read:

1. Fever by Lauren DeStefano - I'm not kidding. With a cover like that, I'd practically swing the other way! I'm jussayin'! Truly though, in all honesty, the first book captured me upon re-read, and I'm totally invested in it now. I'm proud to say I'd skip just about anything to read it.

2. The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - I'm slowly pining away waiting for this one. That cliffhanger of doom simply destroyed me, and I MUST know what happens! I MUST, MICHELLE! I'm going to whine and waste away until I have book two, then I'm going to go all Harry Potter and play hooky to read it.

3. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling - Did you know that once upon a time, way back when I was an NCAA Division 1 swimmer, I played hooky from practice to read these books straight through? Well, I did. I went to all the midnight releases, got the books, and read the last few in about 15 hours each. Well done, self.

4. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead - I swore up and down I would never read this series. I hate vampires, I said! I will NOT read that rubbish, I told everyone! I was wrong. I became a Vampire Academy addict, and I can't help but stay up far past a normal hour to read this series.

5. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar - Ummmm I was never a contemporary fiction fan. Ever. In fact, I'm pretty sure I told everyone they were petty, annoying and trite...definitely not a match for my superior intellect. Well, I was wrong. I stayed up all night to read this one, and I'd gladly take a day off to re-read it.

6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I got into the series a bit later than some (about a year and a half ago), and well, naturally I was hooked. I read this book straight. I read the next book straight. I read the final book straight. I'd gladly take a day to read all three books back to back...straight...again.

7. Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle - It's always on my lists. I'm well aware of that, thank you very much. No matter how many times I read it though, it's simply not enough, and I feel a little bit like I get something more every time I re-read it. So, I'll continue to do so, and I'll most certainly take a day off to read it!

8. Pearls of Lutra by Brian Jacques - I love the whole Redwall book series, but there's something so very human about this book. I have to say I think it is one of the strongest standalone books in the series.

9. Dark Song by Gail Giles - There's something so dark and so incredibly fascinating about this book. It's mildly horrifying, and I'll be honest, it's one of the darkest books I've ever read, but it's like a trainwreck. You just can't look away.

10. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab - I expected nothing from this book at all. Nothing, I tell you. Yet, it was one of the most beautifully-written books I've read in a very long while, and I'm proud to say that it is so graceful and so lyrical that I'd very happily read it all day every day.

The Right & The Real by Joelle Anthony Review

Monday, March 26, 2012

Title: The Right & The Real
Author: Joelle Anthony
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publish Date: April 26, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Jamie should have known something was off about the church of the Right and the Real from the start, especially when the Teacher claimed he wasn’t just an ordinary spiritual leader, but Jesus Christ, himself. But she was too taken by Josh, the eldest son of one of the church’s disciples, and his all-American good looks. Josh is the most popular boy at school too, and the first boy outside the drama geeks to give Jamie a second look.

But getting her Dad involved in a cult was not part of the plan when she started dating Josh. Neither was her dad’s marriage to the fanatic Mira, or getting kicked out, or seeing Josh in secret because the church has deemed her persona non grata. Jamie’s life has completely fallen apart. Finding her way back won’t be easy, but when her Dad gets himself into serious trouble, will Jamie be ready to rescue him, and maybe even forgive him?
Jamie's life is on the brink. There is beauty in first loves, but there is also that touch of hidden danger in taking the plunge and diving headfirst into a maelstrom of emotions. When Josh gives Jamie a second glance, Jamie is smitten, and the wheels of her young teenage life start turning. Piece by piece, she watches as her family is drawn into a world of deceit and lies surrounding the Church of the Right & the Real. It's a church where they not only worship Christ, but the head of the church claims to be the second coming of Christ, himself. Her world is crumbling around her, and when Jamie realizes she has to step out, she finds herself on the outside, watching the inevitable collapse of all she holds dear. Can she fix it in time, or will all be lost forever?

Oh, hello, issue book! The Right & The Real is only the second book I've read with cults, and I have to say that it certainly is one heck of a no-holds-barred account of life within the confines of a strict, fanatical cult. Author, Joelle Anthony, has painted a haunting backdrop in which her teenage MC must learn to survive by all means necessary. Baring the heart and soul of a teenage girl in the clutches of the dark and twisted nature of a dangerous church, The Right & The Real holds nothing back. Giving the readers everything from love, to loss, to the very roots of forgiveness, this is one novel that promises the true art of human nature in its most basic form, and we're invited to share in the journey.

There is something so very, very troubling about The Right & The Real, and I found myself thinking about that fact long after I closed the book. It's simple, actually. This book could very well be real. In fact, there are most likely people out there in the world going through somewhat similar circumstances, and it's both painful and terrifying to think about. Through Jamie's eyes, we see just how very barren her world becomes with the Church of the Right & the Real throws her out. Left to her own devices, Jamie is helpless but to watch as her father continues in his path to self-annihilation within the church. Her father was a complex character whom I felt myself alternating between hating and pitying. He was a weak man, and the church clearly preyed on his need to find a sense of belonging. Yet, there was a part of me that wanted to kick his teeth in for overlooking the fact that his teenage daughter was struggling simply to make it from day to day. The throes of young love were sweet and dark, twirling through the mess of the story as we watch as Jamie attempts to somehow put her life back together. I have to mention above all else though, that The Right & The Real is one of those books where a secondary character steals the show. When you meet a LaVon, a caring, kindhearted and true man, you will understand the true nature of human compassion. It's incredible. Were a few things in the story a bit unbelievable? Sure. Overall though, the pieces fit together seamlessly.

All in all, I was, yet again, blown away by an incredible issue book. There's something to be said for horror stories that are scary simply because they could be real. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to both adult and YA audiences, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and issue books.

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.

Mini Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ladies and gents...for those wondering, occasionally I will do a Mini Review on my blog. As my blog has evolved, I've found that providing length, in-depth reviews takes time and a great deal of effort, which I'm always willing to provide. However, sometimes I read books just for fun, and when I do so, I feel it's time to give my thoughts as an average reader, rather than a book bloggin', reviewing fiend. All Mini Reviews will be labeled as such!

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Doubleday
Publish Date: September 13, 2011
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 387
Source: Bought
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
I've heard nothing but rave reviews for The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and one would think that would calm my fears. Much to the contrary, however, I was even more concerned going into reading this one. It had to live up to an extraordinary hype for me, especially when a novel is being touted as the "next Harry Potter" - a term that I feel so flippin' overused. I digress. The fact of the matter is that this novel has the innate ability to live up to its incredibly searing synopsis and spin you into a world where true magic is hidden as an illusion.

This book definitely had elements of other stories I loved, and there was a darkness tinging all the action, which made it all the more enticing for me, of course. Marco and Celia were beautiful, well-rounded characters whose love was a sweet and tangy mix of beauty and irony, fueling the plot and the reality of the circus. The full cast of supporting characters added depth, vivaciousness and life to an already fun and engaging story. Most of all though, the prose was stunning. While the novel is about magic and a world of illusion, the true magic is in the words. This one gets a 4.5 out of 5 for me, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy fantasy.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Let's Talk: Cliffhangers

Friday, March 23, 2012

Let's Talk is a new weekly feature here at i swim for oceans. I think it's important that we all have our say, and there's something to be said for raising our voices. Simply put, 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: Cliffhangers - love them or hate them?

I'm often on the fence about this one, kiddos. On some blogs, you'll probably find me saying I simply loathe them. That's true. Then, on other blogs, you might find me saying I just love them. I'm ashamed to say that's also true. I have my reasons though, and I certainly think they're justified because, hey, when a cliffhanger is done right, it leaves me loving a book even more and, heck! It probably has me completely invested in the series, too!

I think there's a divide between good and bad cliffhangers though, and I reserve the right to judge them on a case by case basis. A good cliffhanger has me thinking about the book long after I close the last page. I'll probably scour that ending for some hidden direction multiple times, too, just hinting at what's next. That, in a nutshell, is what a good cliffhanger should make me do. Bad cliffhangers, on the other hand, leave me wondering if I actually liked the story in the first place. They can leave a sour taste in my mouth and, frankly, often have me thinking it's a cop-out. So, naturally, I'm going to break it down for you guys. Here are my top three favourite and least favourite cliffhangers:

1. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - The Cliffhanger of Doom. Need I really say more? ADORE.

2. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake - This eerie cliffhanger still has me eerily fascinated. In a good way.

3. Delirium by Lauren Oliver - Beautiful. Poetic. Tragic. I'm still breathless after book two!

An honourable mention MUST go to Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles. I prayed for a sequel for years because of that one. Unfortunately, I now wished it had simply stayed with the cliffhanger - hence why it's not top-three.

1. Night Runner by Max Turner - I'm not even really sure how it boiled down to that...or why.

2. Witch & Wizard by James Patterson - Arguably a foul book with an even worse cliffhanger...can it get better?

3. The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong - It just felt like a pitch to the next book to me. Boring.

So, the bottom line is that when cliffhangers are used correctly, I'm invested in the series. You've officially got me hooked. When done wrong, however, I will most likely not even get near book two.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad Review

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Title: 172 Hours on the Moon
Author: Johan Harstand
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: April 17, 2012
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Page: 355
Source: Publisher
It's been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA's unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space--and change their lives forever.

Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band's ticket to fame and fortune. Midori believes it's her way out of her restrained life in Japan. Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.

It's the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space... no one is coming to save them.
NASA has decided to re-open its space exploration program. This time, it's different though. It's been a long time since anyone has visited the moon, and NASA has opened a worldwide lottery for teens and children to experience space firsthand. Mia is certain that her place is in punk rock, but her parents have other ideas. Midori wants freedom and believes a taste of fame will get her to America. Antoine wants nothing more to disappear and get away from his ex. It's the perfect chance to reinvent themselves and have a one in a million experience. The opportunity is so amazing, it might just be to die for.

I'm a sucker for horror, but allow me to delve a little deeper into that statement, please. I'm the girl that sat through Paranormal Activity after pushing to have it released in Utah, only to watch the entire movie through my fingers with my ears plugged THEN "sleep" with the light on for three days straight. Yes, I'm a hero. Well, needless to say, when I saw the reviews for 172 Hours on the Moon were mentioning an eerie, creepy and altogether horrific vibe, I obviously had to read it. Johan Harstad has crafted an ingenious blend of action, suspense, mystery, sci-fi and a touch of horror - just frightening enough to keep you awake at night wondering...what if? With a rich, vivid cast of characters and an explosive plot, it's sure to meet readers of a host of different genres.

172 Hours on the Moon is a bit of a different novel for me in that it was first published in the author's native Norway. Now, this can often lead to plot complications, mild language/content relationship and meaning mishaps, or in severe cases, an actual failure in story execution. This novel, however, didn't fall prey to these common ailments. There was something so eerily fantastic about the plot of the book that kept me riveted. While, at times, there was a touch of predictability in what was to come, the foreboding and foreshadowing was just strong enough to keep me tangled in the web of the story. Mia, Midori and Antoine were all fantastic characters. The fact that they were so vastly different from one another really enhanced the plot because we get to see the actions from three distinct viewpoints, which is a true asset. I loved that the three teenagers added just enough naivety to offset the distinct and tangible tension surrounding the veteran astronauts and the mission, furthering that horror-like feel for when the action really took off. While yes, parts were a bit too convenient or predictable, I'll bet that 172 Hours on the Moon will have you in its vice-like grip, too.

Overall, despite its flaws, 172 Hours on the Moon was a solid, engaging read. I think it's one that I'll let stew for awhile then read again, and I hope that readers will give it a chance. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy sci-fi and horror.

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

Loss Blog Tour: Guest Post & Giveaway

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You guys probably remember that not too long ago I reviewed a book called Loss by Jackie Morse Kessler and, much to happiness and surprise, it's my favourite book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series yet! That, my bloggy friends, is a feat in and of itself because series far too often go downhill after an extraordinary first-installment, which is what prompted this post last week.

So, for me it was a no-brainer when asked to participate in the blog tour for this all-too-awesome book. Today, I am so excited to welcome the amazing Jackie Morse Kessler, author of the series, to my blog. And what, pray tell, is she going to post about for us today? Well, I'm so glad you asked! Take the floor, Jackie!
Why Getting Sidetracked Can Be Good

When I first started writing LOSS, I knew, just knew, that Robin Hood would have to feature prominently. The protagonist of the story, a bullied teen named Billy, is given the bow of Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Pestilence is an archer—and hey, that meant that Robin Hood would have to come into the story! Brilliant!

Except it didn’t work out that way.

The entire second section of the book was supposed to be about Billy’s trip into the past, searching Sherwood Forest for the elusive White Rider, also known as Pestilence. Billy was going to hook up with Robin Hood and the Merry Men, learn a little something about himself, and eventually find what he was looking for, but not in the way he’d imagined. I actually wrote about three chapters of this part of the story. They were good chapters. Solid.

And completely wrong.

I knew this because I hit a wall and couldn’t write another word. For me, writer’s block happens when my forebrain has taken the story all the way down a path that my back brain knows won’t work. Man, that sucked. I wanted to write. I tried to write. No writing happened.

But…as I tried forcing the Robin Hood part of the story to happen, something else was going on. I was doing research about plagues and other diseases through the history of the world. I didn’t have a reason for it; I just started Googling about infectious diseases, and soon I had an entire notebook’s worth of notes, a page per plague. I had no idea what I’d do with the information; it certainly didn’t fit in to the spiffy outline I’d written for the book. But it was fascinating stuff, totally worth getting sidetracked over.

So there I was, with the book due in two months, and the story wasn’t working. I decided to try something radical: I threw out the outline, whipped out my notebook full of pox and other sicknesses, and started writing. And I wound up using all of the research that had fascinated me. The second section of LOSS is still about Billy’s trip into the past, but in a completely different way…with very different results. We get to see so much more about the previous White Rider this way. I’m very happy with how it turned out.

And it was all because I let myself do research that, I thought, had nothing to do with what I was writing.

Sometimes, it’s worth throwing out the outline. (Just don’t tell your editor!)


And now...the generous Jackie has offered a great giveaway! 

LOSS by Jackie Morse Kessler came out YESTERDAY

One lucky commenter below will win a small cover poster of LOSS — and will be entered in the grand prize drawing! The grand prize winner will receive signed copies of HUNGER, RAGE and LOSS — and will get to name a character in BREATH, the fourth book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series. The grand prize winner will be picked on Sunday, April 1, 2012. No foolin’. 

TO ENTER: You MUST be a follower to enter this giveaway, please! Leave a comment about what you think the best part about getting sidetracked is for you. Please leave your email address and give yourself a +3 in your comment if you tweeted it or liked the lil' ol' facebook from the link on the right. This giveaway ends at midnight EST on Friday, March 30! Good luck, all!

Let's Talk: Favourite Book Series

Friday, March 16, 2012

Let's Talk is a new weekly feature here at i swim for oceans. I think it's important that we all have our say, and there's something to be said for raising our voices. Simply put, 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: What series do you absolutely love, or can't get of?

Alright kiddos, you probably saw this one coming. It's my go-to! What can I say?! I have a bit of an aversion to series, as a whole, these days, but there are always those standouts that make me reconsider. Now, before I tell you what series I love, let me explain my aversion to series. I find that, too often, it feels like a cop-out. Series are so predominant these days that I almost want more stand alone novels. I think there are series (in my humble opinion) that should have stopped with book Shiver. So sue me...I stand by it!

However, there are plenty of series that prove me wrong though, and there are series that will always stand apart for me both together and separately. By that, I mean I would be completely content to read one part of the series and rest well at night. Would I still want the next book? Sure, but I would survive because that book was so brilliant. So, my friends, without further ado - the series I simply can't get enough of:

Need I say more?

Really though...

Favourite book = The Order of the Phoenix.

Favourite character = Sirius Black.

Favourite moment = Dumbledore & the Mirror of Erised.

Yes, I'm excited for the movie...

But I will always love the books more.

Favourite book = The Hunger Games.

Favourite character = Finnick Odair.

Favourite moment = Madge gives Katniss the Mockingjay pin.

I'm always finding new series, so I'm sure I'll have to add some to my list eventually, but for now, I'm sorry, those are my top two. If I had to list more, however, I'd need to add the upcoming the Mara Dyer series, all of the Redwall books and His Dark Materials. I'm the world's biggest geek!

Various Positions by Martha Schabas

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Title: Various Positions
Author: Martha Schabas
Publisher: FSG
Publish Date: February 14, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Trapped between the hormone-driven world of her friends and the discontent of her dysfunctional family, fourteen-year-old Georgia is only completely at ease when she's dancing. When she is accepted into Canada's preeminent ballet school, Georgia thinks it is the perfect escape.

Artistic Director Roderick Allen singles her out as a star, subjecting her to increasingly intensive training, and Georgia obsesses about becoming the perfect, disciplined student. But as she spends more and more time with Roderick, it's not so clear exactly what their relationship means. Is he her teacher and mentor, or is there something more? These blurred lines will threaten both Roderick's future at the academy and Georgia's ambitions as a ballerina.
Georgia has a God-given talent at ballet, and she has the opportunity of a lifetime dancing in a a prestigious ballet academy where she can live her dream. It's her escape from a crazy family and circle of friends she struggles to understand. It's the perfect chance for her to stand out and rise above it all, but something begins to creep into her focus. Roderick, her dance instructor, seems to find her a star, and there's something there. She can't quite put her finger on it, but it feels tangible and electric, and it could very well kill her career before it ever well as Roderick's future.

Guys, I have a confession to make. I'm addicted to ballerina books. I danced for about 12 years, but let me tell you; I'm built like a swimmer, not a dancer. So, I think I live vicariously through the actors in films and the characters in books. Needless to say, my veritable obsession made reading Various Positions by newcomer on the YA scene, Martha Schabas, a no-brainer. Written from the complex mind of a 14-year-old girl, this book is a no-holds-barred account of the bizarre hidden world of students and mentors, smothered by a mask of dancing, pointe shoes and competition. Written with a deftly unique hand, it's an insider's perspective on dysfunction, disorder and, frankly, chaos.

I can tell you right now that I've struggled with writing this review, but I feel that I need to put it up to almost wrap my head around what I just read. Various Positions is hyper-sexualized, extremely uncomfortable and disturbing. We're given a main character who, as a young teen, is painted as being very naive. Yet, somehow in her naivety, Georgia has stumbled across the allure of sex, and it seems to be the only thing that crosses the young girl's mind. Ever. She researches relationships between older men and young girls. She manipulates and deceives to get what she wants. She becomes nearly infatuated with an internet pornstar. The level of dysfunction in the novel was utterly appalling, and I have to admit I was rather horrified at the content within the pages. I was expecting a dance novel, and instead got a how-to book on disordered eating, inappropriate statutory relationships and near pedophilia, shrouded in a very thin veil of dance. Perhaps I missed the mark with this book, but I was hoping to see a development of relationships through the dysfunction, but only managed to watch Georgia and her classmates become more haggard and vulgar as the story progressed. If I'm being extraordinarily blunt, I don't really know what the theme or plot of the novel was because it felt so messy (in more ways than one).

I absolutely hate giving bad reviews because I know what authors put into their books, but I have be honest and say that Various Positions simply did not work for me. I'll even go so far as to say it is marketed towards the wrong audience, as I do not think the content is appropriate for the YA market. I give it a 1 out of 5, and I recommend it only to adult audiences who like issue-driven and disturbing contemporary 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: Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols

Wednesday, March 14, 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: Such a Rush
Author: Jennifer Echols
Publisher: MTV
Publish Date: July 10, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 288
High school senior Leah Jones loves nothing more than flying. While she’s in the air, it’s easy to forget life with her absentee mother at the low-rent end of a South Carolina beach town. When her flight instructor, Mr. Hall, hires her to fly for his banner advertising business, she sees it as her ticket out of the trailer park. And when he dies suddenly, she’s afraid her flying career is gone forever.

But Mr. Hall’s teenage sons, golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson, are determined to keep the banner planes flying. Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business--until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers--and the consequences could be deadly.
I told you contemps in the summer were my thing! There’s something about summer than makes me want to read about real people, real struggles, real dilemmas and real love. Such a Rush sounds like a whirlwind of adventure, and the veteran author has written some gems that I love already, so it’s a win-win, in my humble opinion. Plus, there seems to be a lot of adventure, action and drama, and that cover is to die for, so I’m completely sold! What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Top Ten YA Dystopian Books

Tuesday, March 13, 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 Young Adult Dystopian Books:

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I would be a failure of a blogger if I didn't put this book first. I put it off for a long time after this first book came out only because of the concept, but once I read it, I was completely and utterly hooked. This series is just about up there with HP for me!

2. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer - This is the only book in the series that ended up completely capturing me, but it did so in a way that has me loving it to this day. Written in diary form, we're given a first-hand account of one girl's desperate struggle for survival when the moon is knocked out of orbit.

3. Blood Red Road by Moira Young - There was such a strong divide on this book because of the dialect, but I was one of those bloggers that loved it. Once I became used to the voice of the novel, it became a complete strength, and the story was so strong and engrossing.

4. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - I actually don't think it's a cop-out for me to put two of the same series on this list because I feel they stand just as strong apart from one another. This one somehow managed to up the ante from an already intense book one, and I was hooked.

5. Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari - This was, again, one of those books where bloggers seemed to love it or think it completely missed the mark. For me, it was a complete win, however. With great characters, a fantastic storyline and a great writing style, I highly recommend it.

6. Partials by Dan Wells - There was something about this one that was just so sophisticated that made it stand apart from the rest. With a rich blend of military, science and political themes, it was more than just a tainted world. It was heartbreaking and fascinating.

7. Wither by Lauren DeStefano - When I first read this book, I honestly didn't love it. Perhaps I'd read a string of bad books, or I wasn't in the right mindframe, but it didn't work at the time. I gave it a re-read a month ago though, and I found it to be far more poignant and powerful than I remembered. This is definitely a success.

8. Pure by Julianna Baggott - Frankly, this should be higher on my list, but we'll just go ahead and say they're all on par with one another on this top ten. This was one of those books that just blew me away by the sheer enormity and originality of the story. It's one I recommend to everyone who asks!

9. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver - In an effort not to put series again and again on this list, I'm only putting book two, but Delirium is right there with it. Book two, for me, really stepped up its game and was even better than book one though, and that's what I look for in series as a book blogger.

10. Eden by Keary Taylor - Though this one wasn't originally a favourite of mine, I have to include it on this list because of the sheer originality of the world. It still possesses some of those YA cliches that drive me mad, but it is a fascinating world and concept, and it's one that gets better every time you read it.

Fair Coin by E.C. Myers Review

Monday, March 12, 2012

Title: Fair Coin
Author: E.C. Myers
Publisher: PYR
Publish Date: March 27, 2012
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Pages: 250
Source: Publisher
Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more disturbing: she thought she’d identified Ephraim’s body at the hospital that day.

Among his dead double’s belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin—a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he’s liked since second grade. But the coin doesn’t always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people’s lives as easily as it rebuilds his own.

The coin could give Ephraim everything he’s ever wanted—if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.
Ephraim is your ordinary teen about to run headlong into circumstances that couldn't be farther from ordinary. When he finds his mother doubled over, nearly dead from a suicide attempt, Ephraim has no idea that it's merely the tip of the iceberg. His mother was certain she'd seen her son dead at the hospital, but Ephraim's doppelganger died; not him. Among his possessions, Ephraim finds a coin, and he discovers it grants wishes, giving him the power to change bad situations to nearly perfect. His first wish proves that it, and he finds his mother darn-near Stepford. But the wishes might not be all they seem, and they very well might have dire consequences. Ephraim must establish control over the coin before it begins to eat away at everything in his life.

Last year, I complained that there weren't enough YA books on the market told from a male POV. I believe I also said that sci-fi and fantasy were becoming tired and boring, rehashing the same ideas each time. I'd like to extend a heartfelt thank you (and hallelujah!) to author E.C. Myers for creating a novel that not only defies the norm but commands the reader's attention. Fair Coin takes an intriguing and utterly original concept and sets a powerfully engaging story in motion with a dynamic set of characters, a heavy undercurrent of morals and a heart-pounding concept that tugs at your conscience long after you put the book down. Not too many stories can keep you guessing late at night what is going to happen next, or questioning your own theories, but Fair Coin does all that and more.

Ephraim was the embodiment of fun and life. I often find that female MCs become a bit washed out and dry, acting as mere shells of characters that you might find in other novels. In Fair Coin, however, we're given a teenage boy that's every bit the average teen, but there's a sense of goodness and caring within him that draws you to his core. The relationship between his best friend, Nathan, too was refreshing and honest. It was a great way to lead into the story, giving us two characters who have a very normal friendship and one that you don't cringe to read - something I find lacking in a lot of female-drama books. Furthering the dynamic cast are Ephraim's crush, Jena and his mother, both of whom are well-rounded and completely engaging. I never once felt they were simple secondary characters. Instead, everything in Fair Coin seemed to have a level of significance. The concept behind the novel isn't altogether new; we've all heard of wishes gone wrong. However, Fair Coin propels it to the next level, giving us adventure, tension and action, as well as a thought-provoking mystery that leads to a heart-pounding conclusion to this first book.

Needless to say, I thoroughly loved this book. Rather than finding just another same-old, same-old book, this one smashed through the mold, and I'm so thrilled to say it's probably my favourite read in 2012 thus far. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend this book to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy male MCsscience fiction and fantasy.

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.

Spring ARC Giveaway

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I am extremely blessed by the continued generosity of great authors and publishers who provide me with incredible books to review (and which I pretty much always end up buying, too!) Sometimes I end up with duplicates though, and rather than horde them, I feel it's time to give them away to all of you lovelies! So, without further's what's up for grabs in the I Swim for Oceans Spring ARC Giveaway:

Here are the rules: This giveaway is open internationally. You do NOT have to be a follower to enter, but it is always appreciated, and being one gets you bonus entries! This giveaway will end promptly at midnight (12 AM) EST on March 23rd. There will be THREE winners picked by First winner will select two books. Second winner will select two books. Third winner gets the fifth book. Still interested? 

 Click HERE to enter!

Let's Talk: Summer Reads

Friday, March 9, 2012

Let's Talk is a new weekly feature here at i swim for oceans. I think it's important that we all have our say, and there's something to be said for raising our voices. Simply put, 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: What are your go-to summer books and/or what are you most excited to read this summer?

It's almost that time of year again, kids! You know, that time for flip-flops, otter pops and sunbathing. Living in snowy New England the past two winters (which I love, mind you) has made me come to really appreciate summer, and we finally had a taste of warmth today. So, naturally, it had me thinking what summer reads I'm going to have to plop in my beach bag this year. I have my go-to books that I can't live without in my summer collection. I find that summer is a great time for contemporary, to be honest, and it's when I discovered my first love of all things contemporary - Raw Blue.

Raw Blue is arguably the best contemporary book I've ever read in the YA genre. There's something so tangible in the prose, and there's just a certain something the characters have that keeps me coming back for more. No matter how many times I read Carly's story, I can't get enough. With the surf, sun and sand as the backdrop, also known as Aussie land, it's got enough depth to keep you hooked on a hot summer's day, but just a touch of the summer lovin' to ensure you don't lose your love of the season. Of course, I have other favourites - namely Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler...oddly enough, another issue book. I think there's something wrong with me! (Kidding, of course.)

This summer, however, I am super excited to add some new potential favourites to my list! I have a whole bucket list of books for summer '12, but I've narrowed it to my top four, and I'm getting excited just thinking about them:

So, if you're looking for me this summer, I'll be at the beach...with all my go-to books and new favourites in tow!

Eden's Root by Rachel Fisher Review

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Title: Eden's Root
Author: Rachel Fisher
Publisher: Self-Published
Publish Date: December 17, 2011
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 352
Source: Author
It is 2033, and the world hovers on the edge of explosion as unexplained crop deaths lead to severe global food shortages. In the United States, the Sickness is taking lives slowly, creeping its way into every family. Fi Kelly has already faced the Sickness in her own family, toughening her beyond her years.

But a shocking confession from her dying father will push her toughness to its absolute limits. Saddled with an impossible secret and the mission of saving her little sister, Fi sets out to transform herself into the warrior that she must become to survive the coming collapse. Along the way, she will discover that evil can be accidental and that love can be intentional.
The year is 2030, and the world is on the brink of utter catastrophe. Faced with crop deaths, food shortages and imminent destruction, the human race is just barely struggling to survive. Fi is just a young girl, watching as the Sickness begins to touch her family, creeping into her house and threaten the ones she loves. When her dying father tells her his darkest secret though, Fi’s world is turned upside down. The secret is bigger than her father, bigger than herself and it’s bigger than anything one girl should ever have to bear alone. But Fi must make a decision – grow touch, and strong, and vigilant, or watch as the world crumbles around her, and her family falls first.

You know how much I like dystopians, guys. It’s my thing. Well, that and issue books. Do you think that says something about my psyche? I digress. Eden’s Root is a self-published novel by newcomer, Rachel Fisher. With a fascinating premise and startling realistic imagery, this novel fits seamlessly into the genre, standing apart, as well. Rather than simply taking an old idea and rehashing it, yet again, Eden’s Root tackles issues that could, potentially, happen, and it gives a heroine in which we can become invested and care for. Disastrous and disheartening, somehow the book seems to draw you into a world that, thought bleak, is one that you find a semblance of hope in, and you continue to look for more.

Because of my extreme love for dystopians, I should point out that I have very high standards. Eden’s Root features a complex cast of characters that are struggling against all odds to survive. The world is very much a bleak one, and it seems as though the conflict surmounts anything in the novel. Yet, somehow, through the action and suspense, we get to watch a Fi’s character grow and evolve, which is truly one of the strengths of the novel. Furthermore, the plot spins us into a web that’s multi-layered and tangled, but we never feel lost or confused as to how we’ve arrived in a certain place in the novel. The true beauty of Eden’s Root lies within the premise, itself though. We’re given a disastrous dystopian world that could actually come about. Imagine knowing that every bite of food you eat is slowly killing you, but you have no choice but to eat it and sustain yourself for a small while. It’s eerie, and it’s frightening, which lends a great strength to the story. My main issue with the novel, however, was that it felt a bit rushed and unfinished. We’re given a great set of plot arcs, conflicts and characters, but it seemed to piece itself together too quickly in the end, and I wanted to know more. In that sense, I feel as though the novel fell a bit short.

Overall though, Eden’s Root was a strong novel that will definitely find its place in the dystopian market, and I definitely expect to read a lot more from Rachel Fisher. I give it a 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy dystopian 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.


In an effort to raise awareness for Eden’s Root and author, Rachel Fisher, I’m giving away my copy to one lucky reader! Here are the rules: 

 You do NOT have to be a follower to enter but, as always, it’s much appreciated if you are! This giveaway is open internationally and will end promptly at midnight (12 AM EST) on March 15, 2012. Good luck! 

 Click HERE to enter!


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