Altered by Gennifer Albin Review

Monday, September 30, 2013

Title: Altered
Author: Gennifer Albin (Twitter)
Publisher: FSG BYR
Publish Date: October 29, 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher

Life. Possibility. Choice. All taken from Adelice by the Guild—until she took them back.

But amid the splendid ruins of Earth, Adelice discovers how dangerous freedom can be. Hunted by soulless Remnants sent by Cormac Patton and the Guild, Adelice finds a world that’s far from deserted. Although allies are easy to find on Earth, knowing who to trust isn’t. Because everyone has secrets, especially those Adelice loves most. Secrets they would kill to protect. Secrets that will redefine each of them. Torn between two brothers and two worlds, Adelice must choose what to fight for.

In this thrilling sequel to Crewel, Adelice is about to learn how tangled up her past and future really are. Her parents ran to protect her, but nothing can save her from her destiny, and once she uncovers the truth, it will change everything.
Adelice's life has gone from bad to worse. Once forced to live a lie to save herself, she's now fated to run from those who seek to hunt her down. Though the Guild wants her back, Adelice knows she needs answers. She can't go back now. It's her turn to fight for what she believes in and what she knows is right. But the truth is often hidden by the best kept secrets - and the ones we trust aren't always the most trustworthy. Will she learn who and what to believe in time?

Crewel, the predecessor to Altered, made a big splash in the blogosphere about a year ago. Though I enjoyed it, I also had a few qualms with it, so I was hesitant to actually give this sophomore installment a try. Gennifer Albin, it seems, has seriously stepped up her game with this novel. Upping the ante tenfold, Altered whisks us into an already broken and corrupt society and gives us a heroine in impossible circumstances. Equal parts whodunit mystery, gentle love and raging action, this book has it all, and it will grip you from start to finish.

It isn't often that you'll hear me rave about the second novel in a planned series. Too often, books fall prey to the sophomore slump, so I generally don't invest my time and energy in them anymore. Altered, however, completely caught me off guard. When I reviewed Crewel, I remarked that the biggest flaw of the novel is that we're given this incredible setup to a broken society, but the world-building never really took off. In fact, I felt it took a back seat to the plot in book one, and it definitely bumped my review down. Altered, however, gives us everything we could want and more. We finally understand why the world is the way it is today, we can fully sense just how dangerous the society is in which Adelice lives, and we know why she needs to run. Because of this, I was able to find myself wholeheartedly invested in her journey and her plight. Adelice, too, becomes a more powerful female protagonist. She seems to be discovering her own strength as the story progresses, and it gives us this wonderful sense of satisfaction when we see her hold fast to her beliefs and refuse to back down when things get tough. In terms of the romance in book two, I was actually pleased to see that it too a bit of a back seat to the rest of the story elements. There is just so much happening throughout the novel that too much romance would probably actually remove us from the story. As it is, Altered commanded my attention from start to finish. Whereas my mind wandered a bit in the first book, I was riveted this time around, and I'm so excited to find a series in which I can truly become invested again.

Overall, I really just loved Altered. It is a fantastic follow-up, and it's such a strong story that even the most diehard against series will love it. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy dystopian and science fiction stories.

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.

Let's Talk: Required Reading that Became Something More

Friday, September 27, 2013

Let's Talk is a 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!
What required reading from school made the biggest impact on you, and why?

I was a bit contrarian in high school. I'm a reader. You all know's kind of obvious by the fact that I've been blogging about the books I've read for the past three and a half years. With all that said though, I had the biggest aversion to required reading in middle school and high school. Guys, I'll read just about anything once. Hell, just put me in a hall of books, and I'll read my way out of there. Force me, however, to read something for grades, and something in me shuts down.

In most cases, my mind pretty much just says, "Nope. Not happening. You make me read? I say no." I remember forcing myself to read The Once and Future King, Les Miserable, A Talk of Two Cities and more - classics, mind you - and suffering through them. I think it was the fact that I couldn't enjoy them at my leisure. Instead, I had to cram and read for detail, instead of pleasure. 

Three books stand out to me from my school days, however, as literary works that I didn't absolutely mind reading. And, years later, I re-read them and remember just how profound they were the first time around.

All three of these books - Night by Elie Wiesel, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Giver by Lois Lowry managed to get past my ardent stigma against required reading.

They're vastly different books, but there's something similar about them, as well. They weren't just flowery prose for the sake of telling the story. They were powerful, profound, and they taught us a lesson without cramming it down our throats. There's a beauty to that that simply can't be matched by novels about medieval times and such. Now, to be fair, I'm sure the other books were profound to many a reader, and I've read them since my school days and found them to be rather enjoyable.

I'm not sure they match the poignancy, the power or the social context that Night, Fahrenheit 451 or The Giver do though. I think that these three are books that every teen needs to read, regardless of whether for pleasure or for school. They will make you think, they will make you feel and they will stay with you long after the last page.

Everything Breaks by Vicki Grove Review

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Title: Everything Breaks
Author: Vicki Grove
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publish Date: October 3, 2013
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher

Tucker was supposed to be the designated driver. But there was something about the beauty of that last true summer night, that made him want to feel out-of-control just once. He drank so much and so quickly that he was instantly sick. That left Trey to drive. "I'll catch up to you later," were the last words Tucker would ever say to his friends as he heaved by the side of the road. It was the last time Tucker would ever see them alive.

Tucker’s grief and guilt are just about unbearable and he wonders how he can continue living himself. When he meets the Ferryman who carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers that divide the world of the living from the world of the dead, Tucker gets a chance to decide: live or die. The temptation to join his three best friends on the other side may be too much for Tucker to overcome. A gripping, haunting and emotional read.
Tucker plays by the rules. He doesn't really even toe the line, but that one night, he decided to just let it all go - all the stress, all the pain - all of it. In an instant though, his actions (or inability to act) lead to events that nobody could have seen coming, but nevertheless leave him with an unimaginable sense of guilt. As he begins to spiral into a downward hole of depression and anxiety though, he finds that there is an out. He can with his friends...but he'd have to give up everything he has left. Is it worth it?

I was immediately drawn to Everything Breaks because of what is presented as an extremely emotional storyline. Despite added paranormal elements, we're offered a raw, vivid and unimaginable pain in which characters are given the ability to sink or swim. That's my cup of tea; reality. Author, Vicki Grove, has written a dark, grief-ridden tale that will sweep you up in a maelstrom of drama. With overriding themes of love, grief, loss and overcoming tragedy, Everything Breaks offers readers a profound and meaningful story.

I confess that I'm finding it a bit hard to formulate my thoughts on this novel because it seems to me that we're provided some excellent elements of storytelling, while others are left lacking. In regards to the novel's strengths, I must say that the character development is probably the best attribute of all. Tucker is such a tangible character, which makes his grief and pain all the more accessible through the story. From the start, the author paints a clear picture of not only his appearance, but his temperament, his past and the driving force behind all his actions. Furthermore, the secondary characters are also extremely well done. Trey, though he appears only fleetingly, is a powerhouse that drives the fury and whirlwind of action into which we're placed at the very start. Bud, Tucker's step-grandfather, was definitely the highlight for me though. We sense that he's losing it a little bit, but he's got this personality and light about him that keeps us invested in Tucker's journey with Bud. Unfortunately, however, it seemed to me that there was a disconnect in terms of the pacing, descriptiveness and overall plot otherwise. I found that, although Everything Breaks offers readers a ton of detail, none of it really explained what I needed to know or enlightened me as to what was driving the events of the story. I felt that that really affected what could have otherwise been a pretty steadily-paced novel. The plot, too, was almost a little bit too complex because of the lack of detail in the right places. Too often, I found myself thrown off as to how and why we ended up with Tucker and Bud in certain scenarios. I do think that the overall message and theme of the novel, which is clearly and tastefully revealed at the end, saved the novel a bit, but I closed the book feeling as though the resolution which we were offered just didn't feel right.

Overall, I'm still left a bit in the lurch as to why Everything Breaks didn't quite work for me. The author writes well, and the idea behind the story is solid, but I was definitely left wanting. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA stories, especially those who enjoy paranormal stories and those involving themes of grief and loss.

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: Oblivion

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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: Oblivion
Author: Sasha Dawn
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Publish Date: May 27, 2014
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 400

Two years ago, Callie was found in an abandoned apartment, scrawling words on the wall: "I KILLED HIM. His blood is on my hands. His heart is in my soul. I KILLED HIM." But she remembers nothing of that night or of the three previous days. All she knows is that her father, the reverend at the Church of the Holy Promise, is missing, as is Hannah, a young girl from the parish.

Their disappearances have to be connected and Callie knows that her father was not a righteous man. But the more she remembers, the closer she comes to the horrifying truth. And when a good looking guy in school helps her to remember what she's buried for so long, she might wish she never dug up the past.
What is it about me and scary books? You guys must think I'm a hero with nerves of steel. I'm really not. I quiver in fear at scary movies, and these books haunt my dreams, but I just. can't. stop. It's like an addiction, or a disease. But I digress. The thing about Oblivion that completely captivates me is the fact that it seems to have all the best parts of a thrilling horror story built-in, but it might just have one hell of a mystery, too. How awesome would that be?! Plus, the cover blends all of my new favourites -- words scrawled across, a haphazard title and a powerful close-up. Sold. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Top Ten Tuesday: The Best Sequels Ever

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

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.

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 great way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

The Top Ten Book Sequels Ever

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling - I dare you to tell me this isn't the best book in the whole series. I dare you. But seriously...does it get better than this? It has Sirius! 

2. Frostbite by Richelle Mead - I swore up and down when I started this blog that I would never read this series. Well, I did...and I loved it. This book made me certain the series would continue to work for me.

3. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman - Say what you want about the religious connotions of this series, but I love it. This novel (and the series as a whole) is such an outstanding example of fine literary work.

4. Mossflower by Brian Jacques - This series will always remain a favourite of mine, and this novel made it all worthwhile. Though it's a sequel, it's more of a prequel, and it really builds the series.

5. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare - I must admit that I stopped reading the series after I was disappointed with book three BUT book two was solid gold in my opinion.

6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth - It is so hard to really nail a second installment in a series and beat that sophomore slump. This book really managed to up the ante and further my investment in the series.

7. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner - All I'm saying is that if you haven't read this series, you are totally missing out. Book one was awesome. Book two was epic. Book three was mind-blowing.

8. Never Have I Ever by Sara Shepard - I wasn't a fan of the Pretty Little Liars series (love the show, not the books). This series, however, just gets more and more fun as we go!

9. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - I loved The Hunger Games, so when I read this book, I was pretty sure it wouldn't live up. What do you know? It rocked. It was even better than book one.

10. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan - I know this is middle grade. So sue me. Tell me where else you're going to get an epic, fun and enticing series about Greek mythology that keeps getting better.

Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky Review

Monday, September 23, 2013

Title: Anatomy of a Single Girl
Author: Daria Snadowsky (Twitter)
Publisher: Delacorte BYR
Publish Date: January 8, 2013
Genre: YA/NA, Contemporary
Pages: 277
Source: Author

After everything that happened — my first boyfriend, my first time, my first breakup—jumping back into the dating game seemed like the least healthy thing I could do. It’s not that I didn’t want to fall in love again, since that’s about the best feeling ever. But as a busy college premed still raw from heartbreak, which is the worst feeling ever, I figured I’d lie low for a while. Of course, as soon as I stopped looking for someone, an impossibly amazing—and devastatingly cute—guy came along, and I learned that having a new boyfriend is the quickest way to recover from losing your old one.

The moment we got together, all my preconceptions about romance and sex were turned upside down. I discovered physical and emotional firsts I never knew existed. I learned to let go of my past by living in the present. It was thrilling. It was hot. It was just what the doctor ordered. But I couldn’t avoid my future forever.
After a brief, hot, fantastic and fleeting relationship with her very first boyfriend, Dominique is now single (and ready to mingle). But it's so much easier said than done. Now that she's had a taste of first love, that rush and all the fun and excitement that comes with it, Dom is hooked and she wants more. To complicate things, Dom is now a pre-med student, and her life is busy, but Dom finds the perfect solution with Guy, a studious guy who, like herself, is looking for all the fun but none of the hassle. But a no-strings-attached relationship isn't as cut and dried as she might hope. Complications abound and, well, being single is often just as tricky as being in a relationship.

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel it's necessary to state that I did not actually read the first book in this series, as the author informed me that the books can read well as stand-alone novels. Anatomy of a Single Girl is a witty, humourous and engaging take on the rebound from a failed first love. Author, Daria Snadowsky, has crafted a novel that is sure to ring true, giving many a reader a chuckle reminiscing about their youth, their naivety and that overwhelming desire to find "the one." Often times heartfelt and sweet, other times serious and true, Anatomy of a Single Girl has a little bit of something for everyone.

I have to admit that I'm not entirely certain where I stand on Anatomy of a Single Girl though. There were a good many times in the novel that I found myself making note of Ms. Snadowsky's exemplary ability to paint a realistic and somewhat educational take on intimate relationships. Then, however, I would have pause, remembering that this is an actual novel - not a textbook. In the same breath though, I love that the book is written clearly and decisively with fully-fleshed out characters with whom you can empathize and relate. It seems to me that there were two stark contrasts in this novel. One the one hand, we're given a sweet and engaging tale of a girl navigating a series of firsts in her relationship and finding a guy (no pun intended) who is willing to share in these experiences and teach her along the way. On the other hand though, there was a part of me that couldn't help but think that this novel was erring on the side of a safe-sex handbook. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the laugh-out-loud moments in which Dom interacted with her parents, the shedding of the black-and-white images of relationships today and the super sexy Guy that we get to see as Dom's rebound. I guess I'd simply gone into the novel expecting more of a syrupy sweet story of a girl looking to overcome being single again and find a guy who is willing to be more than just a friend with benefits. Colour me a prude, but I  feel as though the sexual situations were just too frank in this novel, and it almost marred the fact that this is actually a sweet, realistic and believable coming-of-age tale. In truth, with a host of great characters, an accessible writing style and a great premise, this book should have been a slam-dunk for me, but I was left a bit...well, wanting.

Overall, Anatomy of a Single Girl wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't exactly what I was expecting either. Though it's marketing to a fairly YA audience, I don't think it's necessarily appropriate as such. I would say this is much more of an upper YA and NA tale. I give it a 3 out of 5 for the engaging writing, and I recommend it to the aforementioned age markets and those who enjoy contemporary stories.

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.

Once We Were: Kat Zhang Interview & Giveaway

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Title: Once We Were
Author: Kat Zhang (Twitter. Facebook)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: September 17, 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 352

Eva was never supposed to have survived this long. As the recessive soul, she should have faded away years ago. Instead, she lingers in the body she shares with her sister soul, Addie. When the government discovered the truth, they tried to “cure” the girls, but Eva and Addie escaped before the doctors could strip Eva’s soul away.

Now fugitives, Eva and Addie find shelter with a group of hybrids who run an underground resistance. Surrounded by others like them, the girls learn how to temporarily disappear to give each soul some much-needed privacy. Eva is thrilled at the chance to be alone with Ryan, the boy she’s falling for, but troubled by the growing chasm between her and Addie. Despite clashes over their shared body, both girls are eager to join the rebellion.

Yet as they are drawn deeper into the escalating violence, they start to wonder: How far are they willing to go to fight for hybrid freedom? Faced with uncertainty and incredible danger, their answers may tear them apart forever.

I am SO excited today to have the amazing Kat Zhang on the blog as part of the final leg of the Once We Were blog tour! Kat took some time out of her busy day to answer some of my most pressing questions because I'm super demanding like, here goes nothing!

1. The theory of dual souls in one body is both original and compelling. What, if anything specific, inspired the plight of Eva and her soul sister, Addie?

Thanks! I don't know if anything specific inspired their situation. I just got to wondering about the idea of being stuck in your own body. We all have an "inner monologue," so to speak, or a "conscience." What if that voice in the back of your head were a real, other being? What would it be like to be her, living and yet not living? The rest of the story really developed from that :)

2. If you lived in the world of Addie and Eva, do you think you'd be the dominant one soul, or would you be the one that settles, and why?

I dunno! Considering that recessive souls tend to disappear, I guess I'd rather be the dominant one :P However, in their world, I don't believe that the dominant/recessive divide is based on traits of the souls themselves. One is simply marked recessive from the beginning. Sometimes, a recessive soul can be tenacious enough to overcome its fate, but there was nothing it could do to avoid being marked in the first place. It's really a toss of the coin--or genes, as the case may be.

3. In ONCE WE WERE, we're offered a beautiful, touching romance, but it's complicated by the fact that Eva and Addie share the same body. What do you think the most challenging aspect of such a romance would be (besides the obvious)?

I think many of the challenges would be based on one's idea of "normal." Obviously, being in a relationship like this would be incredibly weird for most of us, because we're a part of a society that views certain kinds of relationships as normal. Hybrids would find it pretty difficult to conform to that kind of normality, but luckily for most of them (unfortunately, not our protagonists!), they were raised in a completely different kind of community--one where being hybrid is not unusual, and the kind of life people are expected to have is different.

4. If you had to choose a favourite soul between Eva and Addie, who would you choose and why?

That's like asking for a favorite child! ;) Well, I chose to write from Eva's point of view, and at the end of the day, I do think this series is, to a certain degree, more her story than Addie's (which isn't to say that Addie doesn't have her own story--just that it's Eva's that's explored more in the text). I empathize with both of them. Both are trying to figure out a lot of things in a really tough situation, and they both make mistakes and need each other, in the end, to balance themselves out.

5. If you could describe ONCE WE WERE in just five words, what would they be and why?

Choice, Precipice, Expansion, Discovery, Mistakes

Explaining too in-depth would be spoiler-y, but ONCE WE WERE is definitely a time for Eva and Addie to learn more about their world (and the one beyond it) and themselves. They're faced with a number of tough decisions, and they struggle with being (and becoming) the kind of people they want to be.

6. The drama really amps up in this second installment of the Hybrid Chronicles series. Can we expect a TON more drama before we see any resolution?

An entire bookful ;)


And now, here's the best part. Because of the amazing folks at HarperTeen, I was lucky enough to score two ARCs of Once We Were. I'm offering up one (1) ARC internationally to one lucky reader! This giveaway will end promptly at midnight EST on 9/26/13. Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All Our Yesterdays: Virtual Blog Tour & Giveaway

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Guys, I am so excited to feature one of the hottest up-and-coming titles in YA on the blog today! All Our Yesterdays has been on my reading radar for quite some time now, and you'd better believe I'm super stoked to finally post my full review of it in the coming weeks. 

But for now, I can tell you this with complete and utter certainty. There is a constant uphill battle in this novel - in the best possible way. We're given amazing characters, a plot that's to die for and a fast, engaging writing style that belies the fact that this is actually a debut novel. Right?! Can you believe it? I barely can. The point really is though, that All Our Yesterdays surprised a really good way. Just when you think that a genre can't get any better, it does, and we really do have Cristin Terrill to thank for that.

If you haven't read the book yet, or you don't know what it's about, allow me to share, please.

"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.'s amazing. If you guys haven't looked into reading or buying this bad boy yet, trust me when I say you're missing out, and honestly it's my duty to share, right? I'm giving away one (1) finished copy of All Our Yesterdays to a lucky winner. This giveaway is open internationally and will run now through Wednesday, September 25th and will end promptly at midnight EST. All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter to enter! Good luck! 
Find Cristin on: Twitter. Facebook. Goodreads. Website. Blog.

Waiting on Wednesday: A Mad, Wicked Folly

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: A Mad, Wicked Folly
Author: Sharon Biggs Waller (Twitter)
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: January 23, 2014
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Pages: 304

Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?
For those who have been following my blog for a while now, you know I have a penchant for historical fiction. Add to the glamour and glitz of the times a sort of caste struggle and you'd better believe I'm sold on a historical book like A Mad, Wicked Folly. I like the sound of an older protagonist struggling to find her place in the world, following traditions, while still trying to carve her own path. And hey, it doesn't hurt that the cover is pretty awesome (in a non-traditional sort of way). What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Fall TBR List

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

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.

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 great way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

Top Ten Books on My Fall To-Be-Read List

A lot of the books on my fall TBR list are actually winter releases, so I'm not sure if this is really cheating or not. However, they're all on my fall queue, so that counts, right? I swear, there are some AMAZING books coming out, and I have so many on my reading radar, that it was almost impossible to pick just 10. So, without further ado...voila!

Catherine by April Lindner

Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Fault Line by Christa Desir

Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell

Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce

Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always by Elissa Janine Hoole

Pretenders by Lisi Harrison

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Waterfell by Amalie Howard

The Well's End by Seth Fishman

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt Review

Monday, September 16, 2013

Title: Sean Griswold's Head
Author: Lindsey Leavitt (Twitter)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publish Date: March 1, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 288
Source: Personal Copy

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.
Payton's a freshman in high school. Her worries are small - grades and playing basketball - but life is about to throw her a curveball. When her mother breaks the news that her father's health is deteriorating and he's suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, she's devastated. Her parents kept the news from her and, in turn, she gives them the silent treatment, prompting her mother to get the guidance counselor involved. She suggests Payton find a focus object, and she does; Sean Griswold's head. And, pretty soon, Payton realizes Sean Griswold (and his head) might be the perfect distraction she really needs.

First and foremost, it must be said that I'm a cover slut, and the reason I waited so long to read this book is simply because I wasn't sure that the cover would hold contents which would really keep me riveted. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by Sean Griswold's Head and Lindsey Leavitt's incredibly sweet and sensitive novel. There's a delicate humour to this novel, which really makes Payton's story soar. Readers are treated to a light romance that gives us so many feels that we can't help but become invested in the story. Fun, flirty, serious and smart, Sean Griswold's Head has a little something for everyone.

There's a subtle, understated greatness to Sean Griswold's Head that I fear a lot of judgy readers like myself might otherwise miss. In Payton, we're offered an impressionable, vulnerable and lovable protagonist. There's a sensitivity and naivety to her that makes her easier for us to access, plus it really works because we get to watch as the revelation of her father's illness causes her to crumble. Then, the beauty of the novel is the we get to see her put those pieces back together by watching her fall for her focus object, Sean. In terms of romantic characters, Sean was pretty much the male counterpart to Payton's character. Their interests are in line, he's funny, he's charismatic and he's definitely cute, all of which have us rooting for a real shot for Payton and Sean. The humour that plays through their budding relationship and Payton's interactions, actions and inactions had me laughing out loud multiple times, which really lightened the otherwise heavy material. There was definitely a theme of strong family values in this novel, which I can really appreciate, as well. Too often in YA, I believe the parents and family become and afterthought. In this book though, the family dynamic plays a central role, and that is a huge plus for me because we really got to see how Payton shut them out but eventually began to grow up and allow her family back in. It was a beautiful coming-of-age story that was fun, flirty and downright sassy - definitely something special. If I had one qualm with the book, it was simply the ending. After building us up and bringing us through this whole journey, I felt it was really abrupt and, to be honest, I felt a bit cheated.

Overall though, I really enjoyed Sean Griswold's Head. Is some of it cheesy? Sure...but it's a really fun, engaging and emotionally charged story. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

This Song Will Save Your Life: Leila Sales Interview & Giveaway

Friday, September 13, 2013

Today, I am so excited to feature one of my favourite books thus far in 2013. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales turned out to be a hugely profound, powerful read that really resonated with me and many of my favourite bloggers. Leila took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions, and if you read on, there's even a giveaway. 

Watch the Trailer for This Song Will Save Your Life

Leila Sales: Website -- Twitter -- Facebook

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, This Song Will Save Your Life is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.

1. The beauty of This Song Will Save Your Life Is that so many people can relate to the story in so many ways. How did you manage to perfectly bottle that time of one's life and spin it in a way that it can resonate for so many people?

Wow. I’m honored that you thought the book accomplished that! I’m not really sure how to answer this question, though. I just set out to tell the story of one girl in a way that felt true, and I hoped that there would be readers out there who would understand her.

2. Did This Song WIll Save Your Life draw from your own high school experience in any way and, if so, how?

Sure. My friends and I started going out to a nightclub that really was called Start! in Boston when we were seniors. Some of Elise’s experiences at Start are inspired by my own. And I did experience bullying, though more in middle school than in my small, all-girls high school. I went to a big, impersonal middle school, where I think it was easier for kids to get away with reprehensible treatment of others. 

3. In This Song Will Save Your Life life, which is highly character-driven, music was almost a character in and of itself. What does music mean to you, and how did that impact your use of it through the story?

I think music is one of the purest expressions of emotion there is. Feelings are complicated, and hard to explain to other people; sometimes you just want to play them the song that exemplifies how you feel and say to them, “See? This. This is what I mean.” They probably won’t even hear that song in the same way that you do, but it seems like the closest we can come to letting someone else into our inner lives.

4. The characters within the novel are all characters we've all known at some point in our lives. Were they inspired by people you know, or are they just extremely realistic and genuine characters?

I borrow character traits from people I know, but I don’t borrow whole people. I’m most likely to borrow physical descriptions of people, like Vicky’s outfits and Char’s tattoo. But if you look at someone like Char, he’s an amalgam of many people I’ve known in my life, some of them well, some of them whom I just saw once in passing, and additionally he includes characteristics that I made up just for him.

5. In the vast realm of contemporary fiction, what do you think will make This Song Will Save Your Life stand out the most, and why?

Well, I hope it will stand out! I think there are a few things about this book that are unusual in the current YA market. A girl who becomes a DJ and a nightclub setting, of course, are not things you see all that often. I also think the romance doesn’t follow a typical YA romance track. And, while there are lots of books out there with suicide references (trust me—I’m a YA editor, I see a lot of them), most of them don’t have a character who acknowledges up front that her “suicide attempt” is a targeted bid for attention. For some reason there exists this belief out there that if a kid attempts suicide “just for attention,” then it doesn’t need to be taken as seriously as if he or she attempted suicide in order to actually die. I think that belief is pernicious and I wrote this book in part to address it.

6. If you could hope for readers to take one message away from this book, what would it be?

Different readers will take away different messages or truths, and I love that; I don’t want to control what every person takes home. For me personally, the heart of the story comes from Elise: “Sometimes people think they know you. They know a few facts about you, and they piece you together in a way that makes sense to them. And if you don't know yourself very well, you might even believe that they are right. But the truth is, that isn't you. That isn't you at all.”


And now, I have an awesome giveaway for you all! One lucky winner will get a hardcover copy of This Song Will Save Your Life, as well as a disc with the full book soundtrack on it. This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only, and it will end promptly at midnight EST on September 20, 2013. Still want to enter? Simply fill out the Rafflecopter to do so!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Two Lies and a Spy by Kat Carlton Review

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Title: Two Lies and a Spy
Author: Kat Carlton (Twitter)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: September 3, 2013
Genre: YA, Mystery
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher

When sixteen-year-old Kari’s dad sends her an unexpected text, she and her brother immediately go into hiding. Because when your parents are superspies and your dad declares a Code Black, it can only mean something bad. Very bad.

Kari soon discovers that her parents have been disavowed and declared traitors, and she’s determined to clear their names. Breaking into the Agency seems like a reasonable plan, especially with the help of a team that includes her longtime crush, Luke, as well as her two best friends—an expert hacker with attitude and a master martial artist—and Luke’s popular, vindictive twin sister. Oh, and a new guy, who’s as cute as he is complicated...
Kari's life isn't so black and white. With parents who work as top-level spies, she's learned to live her life in varying shades of grey because nothing is really ever quite what it seems. But a Code Black changes everything. Once her father declares it, she knows that something is really wrong, and she knows that she must do anything (and everything) she can to help her parents clear their names. The life of a spy is difficult though, and adding a teenage crush on top if it can only make things more crazy.

It's time for a confession. I have a thing for mysteries. Whether they be books, shows, films...whatever...I love them. What I really love though, is a mystery that is well thought out, well executed and engaging throughout. Two Lies and a Spy offers the young adult crowd all that and more.   Author, Kat Carlton, has given readers a lovable and fiercely independent protagonist in whom we find a heroine worthy of our praise. Twists, turns and young love abounds, making this book a heck of a ride.

For some reason, despite the lack of hype for Two Lies and a Spy, this premise immediately spoke to me, and I knew I had to get my paws on it. I was right, too. Kari was such a fantastic protagonist, and I loved that we were given a strong, empowering girl to follow on this mysterious journey. Perhaps the most endearing quality that I found in her was that, unlike so many other YA characters, Kari actually took the time to think things through before executing her plan, for the most part. She did make one recurring error that irked me a bit, but at the same time, she's a teen under extreme duress, so I can find it believable. On top of Kari's amazing character though, we're also given a host of secondary characters, each of whom is complete with a full set of character traits and a character arc of their own. The thought that went into the this, as well as the interactions between Kari and the other characters of the novel including, but not limited to Luke and Evan, really served to heighten this mystery experience. The one downfall I saw coming was a bit of a love triangle starting to emerge - you all know how I feel about those. Frankly, I find it to be a crutch. If a girl likes a guy, dang it. Stick to that. Give us something legitimate to build upon. However, it was luckily just a minor hiccup, and the story kept spiraling us further along. The mystery element was, at times, far fetched, but it was fun, and it definitely surprised me near the end, which is something not too many mystery books can do. The story wraps up nicely, despite a cliffhanger ending, and I felt satisfied and intrigued. 

Overall, Two Lies and a Spy was a fun, fast and engaging book. While it might fly under the radar for some, it's great read, and I definitely want to continue on Kari's journey. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I recommend this book to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy mysteries and thrillers.

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: Sekret

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

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: Sekret
Author: Lindsay Smith (Twitter)
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publish Date: April 15, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal Hist Fic
Pages: 352

Yulia’s father always taught her that an empty mind is a safe mind. She has to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia, especially because she seems to be able to read the minds of the people she touches. When she’s captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she’s thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power where she can trust no one.

She certainly can’t trust Rostov, the cruel KGB operative running the psychic program. Or handsome Sergei who encourages her to cooperate with the KGB. Or brooding Valentin who tells her to rebel against them. And not the CIA, who have a psychic so powerful he can erase a person’s mind with his own thoughts. Yulia quickly learns she must rely on her own wits and power to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.
Okay, while I've said many times that I'm over paranormal books, Sekret might really be the change I need to get back into it! I love when authors push the boundaries of their genres and really mix and match. Adding a paranormal element to a thrilling part of history? That's sheer genius, I tell you! I cannot wait to see just how eerie and tenuous this book could very well be awesome! What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Would Love to See as Films or Shows

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

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.

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 great way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

Top Ten Books I Would Love to See as Films or Shows
(where they wouldn't be butchered - in a perfect world)

1. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab - I swear this will forever remain one of my all-time favourite and surprise hit books. It's eerie, it's gorgeous, and it would be breathtaking on screen.

2. Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis - This one actually makes other dystopians quiver because it doesn't fall for the "bleak world, hot boy" mold. It's raw, real and powerful - all of which would be incredible as a film.

3. The Raft by S.A. Bodeen - I don't know how I can better explain my love for this book than to see I would probably die of sheer happiness if it became a movie. Think - Castaway - but for the younger lot...and a whole lot more eloquent.

4. Find Me by Romily Bernard - This one seems to have slipped under the radar for a lot of readers, but holy's creepy, and thrilling, and powerful, and real. I haven't read a such a good YA thriller in a long while. It would make a great show!

5. The Diviners by Libba Bray - Nothing is better than the 20's onscreen. I dare you to argue with me on that. Seriously, with a mystery, that time period and a whole lot of awesome, how in the world could it miss as a film?

6. Reality Boy by A.S. King - I recently finished this one, and I was thinking of how very harrowing it would be as a film - very gritty and emotional... just the way I love my films.

7. The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler - I didn't expect this one to have much depth, but it surpassed all my expectations. It's emotional, and it will make you weep out loud in a cinema.

8. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - Yeah, I maintain that this is one of the best paranormal, eerie and unbelievable books ever. That cliffhanger on screen? Yeah. Score.

9. Hate List by Jennifer Brown - This book is so striking and profound that I'm surprised it's not yet a movie. I've never been so emotionally invested in a character and town. Epic.

10. Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle - It's a Noah's Ark re-telling with a sci-fi twist. How would that NOT be perfect as a movie? 

Reality Boy by A.S. King Review

Monday, September 9, 2013

Title: Reality Boy
Author: A.S. King (Twitter)
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: October 22, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher

Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.
Gerald is the kid that everybody knew...and that nobody knew at all. Twelve years ago, his family invited TV cameras into their home to "help" them with their struggling family dynamic, complete with off-kilter and a dysfunctional child. Little did most of the viewing population know, every single moment was carefully crafted by someone more devious and psychotic than the rest, aimed solely at placing all blame and drama on young Gerald's head. Today, those memories, and that life, haunt him still. Will he ever be able to escape his past?

In a day and age where reality TV is, oddly enough, king, Reality Boy couldn't be more relevant for the YA crowd. Yet, for some reason, this book has missed the necessary hype to get readers excited for its potential. It flew under the radar for me, as well, and I almost turned it down, but I did see some promise for another dramatic and realistic storyline from author, A.S. King. I was thoroughly impressed by the depth of this book, the internal struggle brought to light and a boy so lost in a web of false impressions that he's not even sure who he is anymore. This book, this story and this raw, gritty and emotional journey will definitely stick with me.

Guys, it's been a long time since I've read an entirely believable male protagonist. There was such a heartbreaking authenticity to Gerald's voice in Reality Boy that made his plight resonate from the very first page. I couldn't quite get a grasp on his character at first because he is so very misunderstood, and a lot of what we are offered is what the very viewers of the reality show Gerald was a part of saw. He is such a broken, battered character - not externally though - so his wounds cut much deeper and, to most, can't even be recognized. He's simply seen as damaged. But there are so many facets to Gerald's character that make this story sing because as we peel back each singed, tainted and bruised layer, we begin to see that there is a genuine and vulnerable boy underneath who, above all else, simply wants to run from the nickname "Crapper" and the traumatic past that damaged him so much. Perhaps equally strong was the portrayal of Gerald's family throughout the reality TV process. Complete with a British nanny and staged scenarios, Lisi, Gerald and their malicious older sister, Tasha, are forced to live out their young lives for the world to see, digest and regurgitate - tainted by their own impressions, which haunt both Gerald and Lisi to this day. As the story progresses, we watch as this broken, shattered boy finds someone that sees him for something other than the poisoned image from reality TV, and as Hannah gently helps mend his heart, we can't help but root for their story to finally give Gerald the happy life he so desperately deserves. Now, be aware that the romance plays second fiddle to Gerald's journey, but it's done beautifully nonetheless, and I loved it.

Overall, I was completely floored by the sheer poignance and power of Reality Boy. I hope this book doesn't remain as under-hyped as it is now, and I really hope that readers give it a shot. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary 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.

Shabby Apple - A Girly Giveaway for All

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Guys, I thought I'd do a little something different today. One of my favourite clothing shops approached me a few weeks back to offer up something for my readers, and I just couldn't resist. While we're a book blogging community, this site is also a reflection of me, and I'm more than happy to give my readers a little taste of what makes me tick. So, without further ado...let me introduce Shabby Apple!

Shabby Apple offers ladies some of the finest, most original vintage clothing to express your very own retro style. Whether you're looking for retro jewelry, classic dresses or just a great skirt with an awesome fit and some fashionable flair, this amazing shop has something for everyone. A personal favourite of mine? The Gondola dress...tell me that doesn't just scream timeless beauty!

But, perhaps best of all, I get to offer up my readers another favourite of mine that I'm sure you'll love.

This fun, beautiful and undeniably flirty faux wrap dress is called Heart of Me, and it's been a staple in my wardrobe for a while now. There's something about the little pockets, the bloom of the skirt and the fun, crimson/coral colour that just exudes femininity. I kid you not when I say that this dress will fast become a favourite for you, too, whether for a date night, an office outfit or simply a day on the town. can WIN it!

To enter this giveaway, you must be a US resident or have a US mailing address (sorry!) This giveaway will end promptly at midnight EST on September 15th. To enter this great giveaway, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below!

Please note - this post is sponsored by Shabby Apple. All opinions expressed in this post, however, are entirely my own.


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