Hungry by H.A. Swain Review

Monday, March 31, 2014

Title: Hungry
Author: H.A. Swain
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publish Date: June 3, 2014
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher

In the future, food is no longer necessary—until Thalia begins to feel something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. She’s hungry.

In Thalia’s world, there is no need for food—everyone takes medication (or “inocs”) to ward off hunger. It should mean there is no more famine, no more obesity, no more food-related illnesses, and no more war. At least that's what her parents, who work for the company that developed the inocs, say. But when Thalia meets a boy who is part of an underground movement to bring food back, she realizes that most people live a life much different from hers. Worse, Thalia is starting to feel hunger, and so is he—the inocs aren’t working. Together they set out to find the only thing that will quell their hunger: real food.
In a genre that seems to have become a dime a dozen, it's simple to acknowledge the fact that Hungry stands out from the crowd. It's an intriguing concept to explore in a dystopian novel - a world without food and a government that holds a significant monopoly over all engineered sustenance that the population requires to survive. It's the type of book that will, without a doubt, hold a very captive audience, all the while creating a debate over whether or not a future this broken and irreparably damaged is actually something that could come about. 

I'll admit right off, however, that I'm on the fence about Hungry. I can fully appreciate the risks the author took to create a new and intriguing story, but I also had some inherent plausibility issues with the novel, as well. First and foremost, there is a physiological difference between hunger and nourishment, which I believe is rather forgotten in this novel. Hunger is a feeling, while malnourishment is what would actually come about if society was truly using their medication, or "inocs" to ward of hunger. Hunger is merely a symptom of the real source of the problem, so if the society was simply warding off hunger, I'm not sure it is ever addressded how the society actually receives adequate nourishment so they don't starve to death or eat each other. 

Hungry also features a rather prominent case of insta-love, which I'm fairly used to at this point, but nevertheless found disappointing. Our main character, Thalia Apple has this grumbling in her stomach, and she finds Basil, who is exhibiting all the same symptoms. Basil has created a method of smelling what food used to taste like, and the two bond over this unique hunger pang that nobody else seems to have. It was an instantaneous sort of connection though, and set in a backdrop of a world that's almost entirely virtual, having two flesh and blood characters embrace a virtual reality to find the root cause of their stomach pain just felt forced. I think, had we been given a richer back story of both of our main characters, I might have rooted for them more - or at least been more interested in their story. Instead, I felt as though their personas felt flat, and their love was less than soaring.

I did enjoy how very no-holds-barred Hungry was in terms of corporate greed. Instead of giving us an idea of who might be the bad guy, author, H.A. Swain shows us right out that One World has dominated the entire government and all the citizens of the world, forcing them into submission with their various drugs to ward off hunger, stave off starvation and hold them in their sway. It was an illustration of greed in its finest, and I was definitely rooting for their ultimate demise in the end. That said, it must be called out that I felt there were a few plot holes in terms of how One World actually managed to subdue generations before Thalia and Basil (namely her grandparents), forcing them into this virtual world in which they live. It felt a bit heavy-handed and forced, and I wish it was something that had been further explored.

In the end, I finished Hungry in a couple of days, but I closed the book feeling rather unsatisfied. Though an interesting premise, I think the execution was lacking in several key areas, and I think that it's a premise that needs to be researched - and conveyed - in a much more believable manner for me to truly become invested in this broken world. I give it a 2.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend it for those who enjoy YA, especially those looking for a different sort of dystopian novel.

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.

And We're Off

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I feel like I keep ditching you guys, and I'm sorry for that, but I'm really excited because I'm heading off on a cruise with the husband tomorrow! We're heading off to Los Angeles today to get to the port, and we're heading off on Norwegian for a little getaway before he heads off for specialized Army training in about 2 months. 

Because of high internet and roaming charges, neither Ryan nor I have any desire to pay all the fees, so we're going to spend this vacation unplugged. To any authors, publishers, etc that I have committed reviews to - everything will be posted according to schedule upon my return…thanks for your patience!

So, if you need me through March 30th, I'll either be:

A) swimming with dolphins in Mazatlan

B) learning to make salsa and salsa dance in Cabo

C) going zip lining and walking above the tree canopy in Puerto Vallarta

Or, of course, you know…overindulging on the ship :)

I'll miss all your beautiful faces, but I'll be back in the swing of things on Monday, March 31st!

The Studio Cover Reveal: Beautiful Girl by Lida James

Friday, March 21, 2014

You guys are seriously in for a treat today! Paper Lantern Lit, the brainchild of Lauren Oliver, Lexa Hillyer and more is releasing its very own boutique digital imprint, The Studio, making it a whole new power player in the publishing industry. Today, I'm so excited to reveal the cover of one of their very first titles, Beautiful Girl by Lida James. This new adult novel has crossover young adult appeal, and I think it might be the perfect book for reluctant NA readers like myself. Take a peek...


Beautiful Girl by Lida James
Preorder the book here
Publish Date: October 28th, 2014

Plot Synopsis
Sophomore year at Dutchess College has just begun, and Nicole is still haunted by memories of her first love, Zach. As the changing leaves fall on the stately Hudson Valley campus, she takes solace in running—pushing herself to go harder, faster, to be the best. With the wind blowing through her hair, she can almost convince herself that she is beautiful, that she will find love again.

So when Nico runs, quite literally, into the maddeningly elusive Justin, she’s convinced she’s found the guy to make her forget her ex—despite the warnings of her friends and her straight-edged running partner, Luke.

But when Nico is attacked in the woods after a wild night of partying, everything changes. Suddenly, Nico begins receiving anonymous threats, and she no longer knows where to turn for help—or whether even her close friends can be trusted.

All she wants is to be one of the beautiful girls—the ones who never have to chase perfection. But in order to uncover the truth, she’ll have to face a past she had hoped to leave behind forever. She thought she could outrun the darkness, but darkness has a way of catching up…and only one boy can save her.

Lida’s Thoughts on the Beautiful Girl Cover
I love the cover art for Beautiful Girl. She’s running but you can’t tell if she’s running away from something or if she’s being chased.  She’s not looking back and she has a slightly carefree gait, so you can’t tell if she’s afraid or if she’s unaware, reckless even, running into the woods alone at what appears to be dusk.   I think that really illustrates the themes in the book.  And I love the tag line – Darkness has a way of catching up.

When writing Beautiful Girl, I was inspired by books and television with a certain level of dark, but relatable grit. If you like Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, the TV show Girls, and The Secret History by Donna Tartt (my personal favorite college thriller), then I think you’ll love Beautiful Girl.


Lida James grew up in Brooklyn, New York and graduated cum laude from Vassar College with a BFA in English (and a lot of film credits, too). After working as a cameraperson on feature films in NYC she relocated to Los Angeles in search of mountains and waves.

Once there, she wrote and sold screenplays (and snowboarded and windsurfed). She continues to enjoy living in Los Angeles with her husband and their two children – all shredders like herself – and two rescue dogs. Beautiful Girl is her first novel.

Find Lida on Social Media: Twitter. Tumblr.

The Body in the Woods by April Henry

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Title: The Body in the Woods
Author: April Henry (Twitter)
Publisher: Henry Holt BYR
Publish Date: June 17, 2014
Genre: YA, Mystery
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her.

When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.
Mysteries have this innate ability to draw you into a story, whether you're invested or not, if only to fully understand and glean the outcome of the circumstances in the end. The Body in the Woods is no exception, as our author, April Henry, sets up an engaging new mystery series in which we're given characters very much like ourselves, and a whodunit setup that's gripping from the get-go. We're thrust into the world of our characters quickly, and readers are coaxed along a bath to discover a killer with our protagonists. Chilling and driven, it's the type of novel that might very well leave you breathless.

In many ways, The Body in the Woods succeeded. Ms. Henry created a novel that plays out quickly and rather cinematically, making it all seem extremely tangible and honest. Furthermore, though I was certain I knew who the killer was in the first couple of chapters, I was surprised to find myself thrown for a loop in the end. Rather than giving us the obvious, the novel plays upon what we think are our investigative skills, preys on our emotions and switches things up at the end. In this way, I was pleasantly surprised - literally. 

The Body in the Woods did, however, present a unique challenge to me, as well. The novel begins quickly, alternating points of view between Nick, Alexis and Ruby, all of whom are people we might know in our everyday lives. Unfortunately, however, because of the short chapters, I felt as though I was pulled too quickly from one point of view to the next, never really getting to see past the tropes of these characters that were set up. Furthermore, I struggled a bit with the dialogue between the characters at times. Ruby, for example, is a quirky girl that's fascinated with morbidity. Yet, I feel that might have worked better with subtle hints and undertones than blatant conversations with her parents about it. Alexis was the strongest of the three with her mentally ill mother, but I felt her mother was almost a bit cliche, as well. I think, perhaps, my biggest issue was that while this novel could have been extremely rich and complex, it ended up feeling a bit juvenile to me, and that let me down.

In terms of strengths though, it was incredibly fascinating that Ms. Henry offered us a sneak peek into a fourth point of view, as well - our killer. The Body in the Woods doesn't just give us the world through the eyes of the rescuers. Rather, it offers us the cold-blooded perspective of a murderer who must have his trophies and displays an insatiable bloodlust. That was a real strength to me, and it was definitely not something I expected to see in a novel like this. Should future books in the series feature such an element, I definitely think that will play to readers looking for more depth.

Overall, The Body in the Woods isn't without its flaws, but it was also an engaging and quick read. I'd love to read another book in the series to see if the quirks get sorted out and the story lines get a bit stronger. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy a good mystery.

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: Zac & Mia

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Title: Zac & Mia
Author: A.J. Betts (Twitter)
Publisher: HMH BYR
Publish Date: September 2, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 304

The last person Zac expects in the room next door is a girl like Mia, angry and feisty with questionable taste in music. In the real world, he wouldn’t—couldn’t—be friends with her. In hospital different rules apply, and what begins as a knock on the wall leads to a note—then a friendship neither of them sees coming.

You need courage to be in hospital; different courage to be back in the real world. In one of these worlds Zac needs Mia. And in the other Mia needs Zac. Or maybe they both need each other, always
I've been looking for the next great contemporary novel, after a series of significant lulls, and I have to say that Zac & Mia sounds like a real gem. This book was originally published in Australia, has won numerous prizes and sounds like it could be the type of story that takes my breath away. There's nothing wrong with a little angst if it's backed up by real emotion...right?! What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Spring 2014 TBR List

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's no secret that there are a gazillion incredible books coming out in 2014. If there was a number that reflected more than a gazillion, I'd be using that right now. My queue is just overflowing with incredible reads, and my choices were narrowed ever-so-carefully down to ten…all of which are coming along for my cruise (next week!!!) with the husband and I. So, without further ado…10 books that are this year's "spring break" reads.

Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Thirty Sunsets by Christine Hurley Deriso.

Where Silence Gathers by Kelsey Sutton
The Dark World by Cara Lynn Schultz
 Hexed by Michelle Krys.

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
How to Fall by Jane Casey
Adaptation by Malinda Lo
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

Mini Review: Briar Rose by Jana Oliver

Monday, March 17, 2014

Title: Briar Rose
Author: Jana Oliver (Twitter)
Publisher: Macmillan Children's
Publish Date: September 12, 2013
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 470
Source: Publisher
For Briar Rose, life is anything but a fairy tale. She's stuck in a small town in deepest Georgia with parents who won't let her out of their sight, a bunch of small-minded, gossiping neighbours and an evil ex who's spreading nasty rumours about what she may or may not have done in the back of his car. She's tired of it all, so when, on her sixteenth birthday, her parents tell her that she is cursed and will go to sleep for a hundred years when the clock strikes midnight, she's actually kind of glad to leave it all behind. She says her goodbyes, lies down, and closes her eyes..

And then she wakes up. Cold, alone and in the middle of the darkest, most twisted fairy tale she could ever have dreamed of. Now Briar must fight her way out of the story that has been created for her, but she can't do it alone. She never believed in handsome princes, but now she's met one her only chance is to put her life in his hands, or there will be no happy ever after and no waking up.
I was in the mood for a break from some heavier reads this past week, and when I stumbled past Briar Rose on my review pile, I knew I needed to give it a go. When done well, I'm fairly certain that there's nothing quite like the pure imagination and excitement of a fairy tale retelling. Jana Oliver gives us the world from our childhood, merged brilliantly with the world of fairy tales, broken dreams and the chance that magic might just come alive through the pages of this novel. 

In some ways, I feel as though Briar Rose really succeeded in its task. There was a definite magic about our protagonist, Briar Rose. Stubborn and headstrong, it was easy to paint her in the light of our traditional fairy tale heroine. She had an aura about her that transcended the modern setting and brought me back to the familiarity of Sleeping Beauty's tale, which was both a strength and a bit of a hiccup for me. In some ways, Briar felt entirely modern. The circumstances were tangible and traditional contemporary, but her character felt a bit like a throwback at times, which threw me off a bit. It's a tricky feat, merging past and present tales, and while I think Ms. Oliver managed a good balance, at times I wished that we stuck solely to the more modern and contemporary approach that the author touches upon.

Briar Rose, unfortunately, fell a bit flat in terms of the perspective of the novel. Written from a third person point of view and switching between characters, I felt as though I never really got to know the characters past the shades of grey that are provided by for every character in a novel. Just as I felt I was getting a grasp on Briar, we were thrust into another point of view, which felt extremely jarring. I also had issue with the relationship between Briar and Josh. Perhaps it's merely me, but the two seemed to loathe one another - openly, mind you - but the trials and tribulations of Briar's fate sealed some sort of cosmic bond between the two that healed any rifts that might have existed before. While fantasy asks you to suspend your disbelief, I still look for a truth in any relation ship between my characters, and I really struggled to reconcile with their connection.

In the end, though Briar Rose isn't the best fairy tale retelling I've ever read, I did enjoy it, nonetheless. It's the type of book that asks you to separate what you've read in the past from a loose basis of what you're reading in the present. It's a risk, but it will definitely pay off for some. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy loosely-based fairy tale retellings.

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.

Author & Book Spotlight: X&Y by Rebecca Finlayson

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Since I've been trying to manage my review queue a bit more, I stopped accepting self-published novels submitted for review on the blog. However, I am happy to feature these authors and their novels on the blog, and I'm so excited to share one such title, X&Y by Rebecca Finlayson, with you today. She's offering us a little insight into the world of writing, as well as a sample chapter for all of you. Enjoy! 


Notes from Rebecca:

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of finishing your first novel.

That is, as much as a novel can ever feel finished, but every author has to stop editing at some point and be brave enough to let their work out into the world.

The process of writing for me was very cathartic. I’d had this story buzzing around in my head for over a year before I actually had the time to sit down and write it, and with every word I typed it felt important that I kept on typing. I hope I’m not vain in saying that I feel “X&Y” is an important story to tell, and that Olivia Adonane (the heroine of the story) is a character that readers need to get to know.

How then, did it feel, to have my work rejected by agent after agent?

Well, rubbish, and saddening, to be perfectly honest. But then I read that agents typically get a few thousand submissions a year. Out of these, they only read about one hundred and fifty full manuscripts. And out of these they take on an average of three or four authors. So, not good odds.

I turned to self-publishing. As it turns out, it’s been a really good journey for me. I’ve had a lot of control over my work. I’ve been learning how to market (most of these lessons learned from Amanda Hocking) and I got to collaborate with my fantastically talented older brother on the front cover. I’ve been meeting (inasmuch you can meet people through email) some wonderful and really helpful book bloggers who are keen to help me get my story out there and read. And I’ve had the pleasure of seeing people download “X&Y” and give me feedback on how much they’ve been enjoying it.

There’s still a lot to learn about self-publishing, and about the book industry in general. But though I’m less na├»ve, I’m no less hopeful that people will keep downloading and reading my work and that the story will stay with them after the last page.

Below is the blurb and first chapter of “X&Y”. If you enjoy it, head on over to Amazon Kindle where you can find the book with a free seven-chapter sample.

Find Rebecca: Blog. Twitter.


A Snippet From X&Y

Thunder rumbles in the early hours of this morning and when I wake I think of Lily and what we’re going to do today. We’re meeting before school so we can post off our university applications together. To anyone who does not know who we are it seems such a little thing, but in this day and age it is not. My Ambition means I’m guaranteed a place at a prestigious institution, but Lily’s venture is a little more uncertain. Her portfolio, given to her parents when she was still in her mother’s womb, states that her Ambition is to be a waitress, which I’ve always thought was some kind of mix-up, as I’ve never thought she was right for the Service Industry. Very clumsy, and perpetually distracted by “higher things”, as she calls them, her different Preparation Experiences in cafes and restaurants have always ended spectacularly badly, though I will give her current boss come credit; she is unremittingly patient with her.

Lily is also extraordinarily clever, which is why I persuaded her to fill in a university application in the first place. Strange, I think, considering her family’s Ambitions, that her Tag gave her the chance to advance as much as she has. I know that Lily thinks this is too risky, bordering on dangerous – especially when the admissions boards find out about her humble family background. What harm is there in trying, though? Despite her reluctance, I know when she gets offered an opportunity to study Philosophy and Poetry she’ll be ecstatic and all the fear will have been worth it.

My own Ambition is very different. I will be following my father down the Designer route. First, six years of medical school followed by three more years of theoretical and practical study at the School of Human Design. I will learn how to create Tags with which to start unborn babies off on their uniquely selected paths, learn to further the research that reduces – and, hopefully, eventually eradicates – glitches in the System, and such like. My father is the most renowned Designer in the country, the head of the Triad – the Triad comprises of the country’s top three Designers – and one day I will take his place. It is a huge responsibility, but it is one for which I have specifically been Designed. I have no need to doubt myself.

“Good morning, father,” I chime, kissing him on the cheek as I bounce down to the dining room for breakfast, schoolbag and big brown envelope at the ready. I fling them down untidily on a chair and fix myself some cereal.

“Where’s mother?”

“Still in bed; she’s a little under the weather this morning. Not to worry though, she’ll be up and about in no time,” he says while sipping his coffee and reading the newspaper.

“What is the news like this morning?”

“Calm, as usual,” he smiles, and my curious doubts are quieted. Why do I harbour them? Our Society is near perfect. While other nations are constantly embroiled in bitter civil struggles, slowly destroying themselves from within, our country enjoys peace and prosperity. The “Utopia”, that the old writers dreamt of, is being achieved at last. I just wonder what the other countries are doing so wrong. Father soon breaks me out of my reverie.

“Is that what I think it is?” he asks, indicating the brown envelope.

“Yes,” I say proudly. “I wonder which school will want me.”

“All of them, I expect. Look how strong your application is, after all.”

“It doesn’t hurt that I have your name on it, though,” I say slyly.

“True,” he says, winking at me. “But if your Ambition was not to follow in my footsteps, they would turn you down as any other school would turn down an applicant whose Ambition did not meet with their requirements.”

“There’s something I wanted to ask you related to that,” I say. “You know Lily, my best friend?”

“Yes?” His tone is careful. He has never met Lily and there’s something about his wariness whenever I mention her that makes me uneasy, like he doesn’t think we should be friends.

“Do you know if her Tag and her Ambition portfolio got mixed up somehow before she was born?” I ask.

“I don’t know; I wasn’t assigned to her case. You would have to find that out from her hospital. Why?”

“Well, her Ambition is for her to be a waitress, but she’s not suited to that at all.”

“Waitressing is a perfectly good and sturdy profession,” my father says, his tone reprimanding.

“I know; I’m not being high and mighty. It’s just that, Lily doesn’t seem to enjoy it at all. She seems much more interested in pursuing Academia after Mandatory Education is over. I just wondered whether her original Portfolio was along the lines of some kind of Higher Educator, and the folder got mixed up in the hospital.”

“That’s impossible,” he says, though his dark eyebrows narrow a little over his thick-rimmed black glasses. “Are you sure this isn’t just some Secondary Interest that she is feeling quite strongly about at the moment?”

“I don’t think so,” I say, although my instincts tell me to shut up. “Even in between her work breaks she’s always reading a book of some poet or another. She excels at school – really, she would do much better at my school – and it crushes me to think she can’t do what she really wants.”

“She wants to be a waitress,” my father says quietly. “If her portfolio says so, then that is what her Tag has prepared her for, and that is what she will do. I think you might be seeing more in this situation than there is.”

“But-” I start to argue, about to reveal that I’ve helped her fill in university application, but something in his voice tells me that would be dangerous. His mobile phone rings and he frowns when he sees who is calling him.

“What is it?” he snaps into the phone. His eyes widen as the speaker on the other end rapidly relays information, though I can’t hear what he is saying. “I’ll come immediately.” He clicks off, his expression a mixture of annoyance and something else. Dismay?

“We’ll talk about this later,” he says quickly as he dons his suit jacket and picks up his briefcase and I assume he means our earlier conversation. “I have to go. I’ll see you for dinner. We’re going out to The Glade tonight.” He kisses my head and leaves. Soon I hear the car rev up and speed away, gravel flying everywhere.

“Sure,” I murmur, wondering what on earth that was about.

The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle Review

Friday, March 14, 2014

Title: The Edge of Falling
Author: Rebecca Serle (Twitter)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publish Date: March 18, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included.

Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realises that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.
The Edge of Falling is, first and foremost, a novel about the human condition and grief - something that might not work for everyone. The synopsis of the novel offers us something fairly generic; a girl who has experienced a great loss and is trying to get back on her feet, little by little. And, I'll admit, I expected a fairly generic novel, as well, with the obligatory love triangle that helps our protagonist feel alive again. What I didn't expect, however, was to read a novel that was so beautifully crafted in a way that many might not recognize. There's a great, terrible beauty to this book that invites you into the hollowness of despair as our author, Rebecca Serle, works to mend both our characters and ourselves.

Caggie was a tedious character to get to know, which can be a bit off-putting when first starting a novel. She's built powerful walls around herself to keep herself safe and others at a safe distance from the pain she feels she's bestowed upon others. As such, we feel as though we're standing on the outside for much of the front half of the novel, simply gazing in on this watered-down version of her life. I feel that Ms. Serle should be credited for her portrayal of grief in Caggie. I've seen many reviews state that they felt it was boring, and I'll admit that much of the first half of the novel is descriptive, hollow and a bit standoffish. However, there's also an incredible power in the way we're introduced to the life of our protagonist. Through her dulled eyes, and her world that's seemingly filled with emptiness and echoes, we understand the magnitude of her grief and her pain. It's an interesting and unique stance for the author to have taken, and I highly commend it.

While I found The Edge of Falling  to be a bit predictable, it's important to note that the story is not actually about the secrets behind her sister's death, or the untimely heroism of saving a former classmate. The story is much more introspective than that and, as such, hiding these plot points isn't necessarily the most important part of the novel. I will say, however, that it would have been nice to hold some elements a bit closer to the chest, if only to build the momentum of the novel a bit more towards the end. 

In terms of characters, we're offered a bit of a hodge-podge of Manhattan's elite. From Caggie, to her broken-down mother, to her friends and love interests, we're given an eclectic mix of people with whom we can relate. I did feel as though some of the secondary characters, such as Laila, felt a bit like tropes. I hoped for a bit more power and depth from their characters, but I could see that this was Caggie's story in the end, and it was her journey that was going to propel us through the novel. Ms. Serle's writing doesn't let us down, and her cleverly-articulated plot and prose is powerful for those who can read between the lines to understand the enormity of grief, guilt and moving on.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Edge of Falling. I think that it's a bit more high-brow than other novels on the market today, so it won't work for everyone, but the author gives us a lot to think about with a great deal of skill. I give this a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of upper YA and intelligent YA fiction, especially those who enjoy character-driven 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.

The Edge of Falling Blog Tour: Rebecca Serle Guest Post

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I am so excited to welcome Rebecca Serle, author of the upcoming novel, The Edge of Falling, as well as When You Were Mine, to the blog today! This awesome new novel is an incredible, in-depth exploration of how we cope with tragedy, true teenage life and the power to overcome. It's beautiful, and it's poignant, and Rebecca took the time out of her crazy busy schedule to answer a question of mine, so please welcome her to the blog today, and be sure to check out my review for The Edge of Falling tomorrow!


Question: In a novel that's very much about redemption and self-discovery, what do you think a background of the social elite has to offer the characters within the novel?

This is a great question, and a dichotomy I definitely wanted to explore in The Edge of Falling. Caggie is born into a privileged life: New York City, the Upper East Side, a famous family celebrated in the JD Salinger novel The Catcher in the Rye…on paper, it looks like the perfect life. Who wouldn’t want the fancy prep schools, black tie galas, backstage passes at Fashion Week, and the ability to travel all over the world? But when tragedy strikes, as it does for Caggie when her sister dies in a horrible accident, privilege, social status and material things become a sea you have to swim through to discover and embrace what really matters.

For some characters in the novel, like Caggie’s mother, social status becomes a crutch; a coping mechanism for her to process her grief. She depends on it, and the comfort it provides her. Her brother Peter, on the other hand, stays far away from home- and therefore, his family and his privilege- because he can’t deal with losing his little sister surrounded by the superficial lifestyle that his family embodies. Caggie is somewhere in the middle: she had an appreciation for the luxurious life she’s been able to lead…but she also feels a tremendous amount of guilt that she is still able to live, while her sister is not.

So what does privilege have to offer the characters in The Edge of Falling? Absolutely nothing.

Caggie and her family must learn to rely on themselves and each other, instead of on the things they can buy and the places they can go. Redemption cannot be bought, and self-discovery isn’t on the label of any haute couture gown- that’s what makes them priceless.

I hope you all will read The Edge of Falling, and remember to find me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts!


Find Rebecca: Website. Facebook. Twitter

Read the Synopsis for The Edge of Falling:

Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included.

Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realises that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.

Waiting on Wednesday: Breaking Butterflies

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Title: Breaking Butterflies
Author: M. Anjelais
Publisher: Chicken House
Publish Date: April 3, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 352

The closest he will ever come to happiness is when he's hurting her. Will she let him? A beautiful and twisted story of first love and innocence lost--written when the author was just eighteen.

Sphinxie and Cadence. Promised to each other in childhood. Drawn together again as teens. Sphinxie is sweet, compassionate, and plain. Cadence is brilliant, charismatic. Damaged. And diseased. When they were kids, he scarred her with a knife. Now, as his illness progresses, he becomes increasingly demanding. She wants to be loyal--but fears for her life. Only the ultimate sacrifice will give this love an ending.
There is something wrong with me. I have an addiction to the hard-hitting, powerful and often gruesome stories within the bounds of contemporary fiction because they are often the most intense and thought-provoking stories. Breaking Butterflies sounds like an emotional rollercoaster of feels, plus the psychological aspect of it is dangerously alluring. This could very well be one incredibly powerful novel...that I absolutely must read. What do you think, and what are you waiting on this week?

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Endangered Hearts Blog Tour: Excerpt & Giveaway

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I'm super excited to bring you something a little something different today on the blog! As you know, I've been doing my best to branch out and read a little more (see: this post, and my first NA review coming up next weekend). Today though, I'm happy to share with you a new novel from Amanda Lance, Endangered Hearts, which is on sale now! Find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads today. But first...let me share with you this scintillating excerpt...and a chance to win!


An Excerpt from Endangered Hearts:

Their reactions were simultaneous, and when the other realized that they were present a wide range of embarrassment came over the both of them.

“You” he breathed. Perhaps he would have yelled, shouted even, yet he was out of breath and the flush that had taken over her lovely face had also put him considerably out of ease.


The condition flamed within him again, and, out of instinct; he reached for the book that held his medication but knew it would be unwise to consume the narcotics in front of her, and so, stopped himself.

Kasper shut his eyes and heaved into the air. Without his medication it would be difficult to calm down, especially since she had not discontinued her staring at him. He could feel her gaze even through his eyelids with his back turned. Did the little peach feel so much when he watched her from far away? Did she feel so anxious? His stomach recoiled at the thought of causing her discomfort, a feeling he realized, more painful than the current state that plagued him.

“What are you doing up here?”


He tossed the instrument at the floor, though it must have been much harder than he intended, as it made Emilia flinch where she stood. Seconds later, her blue eyes were still wide with that horror he despised the most, that horror, that, somehow he had let himself hope, he would never see directed at him.

“You should not be up here! You were told—”

“B-but you’re bleeding” She informed him softly.

Without thinking, Kasper’s hand reached to the sting on his face. While there were few functioning nerve endings beneath the malformed tissue, he could feel that much pain. Sure enough, when he pulled away, there was some blood, and even more had dropped to his shoe, trickled to the ground below.

Emilia stepped towards him slowly, not unlike Kasper would a startled horse. And although he was only distracted briefly by his injury, it was not enough for Emilia’s move to go unnoticed.

“W-what are you doing?”

Kasper could not hide the panic in his voice, and he was much too stunned to back away—his fight or flight response failing completely. Regardless, Emilia had him boxed in, and with the grand piano taking up the quarter half of the wall and antique instruments lining the other half for decoration, there were few places for him to retreat. Though frankly, he was not sure if he wanted to.

“You’re bleeding” she said again, this time reaching out for him. Once again, he inhaled sharply, fearing and hoping she would try to touch him, horrified she would try to remove the mask he had lived behind and thrived in for so long. He recoiled just as her fingertips shadowed his cheek, but he felt no relief, seeing the hurt on her face as she backed away.

“Are you all right?” He heard her ask.

“A mere scrape.” Kasper swallowed hard, feeling a new sweat rise on his brow, though he was more cold than hot. His idiotic body could not even perform the most basic of functions properly, betraying him at this most desperate time!

“Let me see.” This time she waited until he offered the side of his neck to her, both of them knowing full well that his injury was more than ‘a mere scrape’. Though his injury was Emilia’s only concern, Kasper’s had reached the realization that he was completely incapable of denying her any request she saw fit to make.

Slowly, Emilia removed the handkerchief tied beneath her ponytail. Little did she know the action her enticed him considerably, enchanting him with the vanilla scent of her shampoo.

As he began to demand, ask, plead… “Don’t—” she did not listen and he could not pull away, allowing her to dab gently at the spots of red emerging from the deep set cut at his neck. Emilia was not distressed by the slight of blood, but rather by how powerful the strings of the violin had been to cut through the fine material of his shirt and damage his russet shaded skin. Though she did not fail to notice how thin his mask was and how easily it had been damaged.

“You’re lucky” she smiled. “You could have lost your eye.”

“Lucky” Kasper scoffed, though more to distract himself than her. “That is not a word I usually associate myself with.”

“Really?” Emilia smiled even wider, her expression completely eradicating the hurt that along his face and neck. He wondered again then, if she was not some sort of sorceress, fixing to steal his soul away—whatever remained of it anyway.

“How would you describe yourself?”

The ranging color of her blue eyes was too much for him. Kasper violently pulled the handkerchief from her; enjoying far too much the feel of her fingers against his.

“Myself? Well, let’s see? ‘Stricken’, ‘Unfortunate’, ‘jinxed’ to have the most disobedient employees that anyone has ever had!”

Emilia laughed. Seeing him struggle to insult her was unquestionably entertaining, no matter how awkward Kasper Zafar was one minute, he could be wonderfully articulate the very next.


Endangered Hearts by Amanda Lance

Emilia Ward is being watched.

And it isn’t just by her mother’s creep of a boyfriend or one of her many employers. Instead, she is certain it something else—someone else. However, in a life with college classes and alcoholic mother to look after, Emilia doesn’t have time to explore her suspicions. She would much rather think about her new job at Iram Manor, and more importantly—its mysterious and alluring owner.

After a lifetime of isolation and trapped in a disfigured body Kasper Zafar thought he knew pain. Confining himself to his work as an architect and the love of his music, he never expects the beautiful Emilia Ward to enter his life. Young and naive, his new housekeeper does not flinch at the sight of him, and is even so bold as to call him her friend.

Determined to teach her in all worldly things, the opposites grow closer and the role of student and teacher and interchange. Yet Emilia’s life outside the manor is not a happy one, and when Kasper’s attempt to watch over her fails, both will discover than love may be the most painful thing of all.

Find Amanda: Website. Twitter. Goodreads. Facebook


And now, here's your chance to win! Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win a signed paperback copy of Endangered Hearts. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mini Review: Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Title: Dangerous
Author: Shannon Hale (Twitter)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publish Date: March 4, 2014
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher

Maisie Danger Brown just wanted to get away from home for a bit, see something new. She never intended to fall in love. And she never imagined stumbling into a frightening plot that kills her friends and just might kill her, too. A plot that is already changing life on Earth as we know it. There's no going back. She is the only thing standing between danger and annihilation.

From NY Times bestselling author Shannon Hale comes a novel that asks, How far would you go to save the ones you love? And how far would you go to save everyone else?
Readers of my blog know that science fiction is my thing. It's the bread and butter of this blog these days, so you'd better believe that Dangerous had me wondering why in the heck I'd waited so very long to read it. However, upon reading past the premise and actually opening the novel, I believe it's fair to say that I understood why the hype was so very little for this novel. Shannon Hale is a best-selling author in her own right and, having read some of her work and enjoyed it in the past, I must say that I simply believe that this is a case of an author stepping a bit too far from her comfort zone. It's the type of novel that offers you perfection with a powerful and enticing premise, but only delivers a fairly mediocre result.

Dangerous gives readers a strong and straight science-fiction direction from the start, offering our characters the chance to go to space. Maisie has always dreamed of going to space and doing something more important than she might otherwise accomplish here on Earth. With her best friend Luther, she is determined to make something of herself. This, in and of itself, sounds like a great setup, and I was thrilled that we were going to be offered a strong protagonist with a male best friend. The only problem is that we soon realize Luther's only purpose is to become the third corner of a love triangle that is weighted far heavier than the actual plot points of the novel. Furthermore, our third love interest, Jonathan Wilder, simply enters to fill that void for a "bad boy," and readers are forced to watch as science-fiction melts down into a sort of syrupy romance.

Being a fan of Ms. Hale's, I read the full novel, hoping to see that the character tropes, which are extremely overabundant, relationship drama and  teenage lingo would settle and make way for the actual meat of the plot. Unfortunately, however, I found that Dangerous actually fell a bit more flat as time went on. Though readers anticipate danger and intrigue, the novel falls flat in that aspect, giving us little more than moody teenagers and hints at powerful science fiction plot lines. Maisie, though I desperately wanted to love her, could have been a stronger character due to her disability. Born with one arm, she had the chance to be strong, and empowering and sure. Instead, I felt as though her disability was merely a crutch for some teenage cruelty throughout.

I mean this sincerely when I say that I really wanted to love Dangerous. Ms. Hale is author to some of the most enjoyable books, including the Princess Academy and The Books of Bayern series. I wanted to love this one, but I couldn't get over the fact that so much of the novel felt trite and cliche. I give it a 2 out of 5, and I urge you to try the author's other titles, but if you enjoy science fiction lite, this is for you.

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.

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith Review

Monday, March 10, 2014

Title: The Geography of You and Me
Author: Jennifer E. Smith (Twitter)
Publisher: Poppy
Publish Date: April 15, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.
The Geography of You and Me is a story that, on the surface, doesn't seem entirely original, but once we crack open the pages, we find that we're on a whirlwind adventure with two characters who might very well be our best friends. Jennifer E. Smith has created a recipe for success with her contemporary tales. On the surface, we're privy to characters that seem sweet and succinct. Only after we continue reading the novel do we learn that there is a beautiful hidden depth to the story that only those with an open heart and an open mind will truly understand and appreciate.

First and foremost, there is a simplicity to The Geography of You and Me that makes the story follow a clear recipe for success. Our characters, Lucy and Owen are offered a chance meeting during crazy circumstances, but because both of their characters are so very open to the universe, to signs and to the possibility of the impossible happening, the story can proceed with ease. Like a modern-day fairy tale, Lucy and Owen spend a magical - albeit spontaneous and crazy - first night together during a New York City blackout. There's a power innocence to their encounter that immediately makes their relationship transcend the physical and almost resonate a powerful connection between two lost souls.

Owen was the type of literary guy that you absolutely can't help but fall for. He's suffered, and he's struggled through much of his life, but there's a purity to his heart that is palpable through each and every connection and interaction with Lucy. In a similar but contrasting way, Lucy's heart is vulnerable but open, and her dreams of finding hidden places on the map, learning new languages and meeting new people makes the story sing - and makes it feasible for the connection between Lucy and Owen to develop gradually but beautifully. I was amazed by how well Ms. Smith was able to inject a subtle but powerful backstory into The Geography of You and Me. In a novel that is so very heavily reliant upon the present and future, she managed to give us a full understanding of both why and how Lucy and Owen came to be the people they are today.

Ms. Smith has a way of writing stories that brings them alive. The Geography of You and Me didn't necessarily feel as though we were simply bystanders. Rather, I felt enmeshed in Lucy and Owen's long-distance relationship. Seeing the world through their eyes brought about a new sort of innocence, as well, that made it shine that much brighter. Discovering London through Lucy's excited, vulnerable eyes was a treasure, as was every postcard, every note and every heartfelt letter from Owen to Lucy (and vice-versa). Their stories healed a sort of loneliness that we first sense within them and that, in and of itself, makes watching their relationship bloom all the more worthwhile.

Overall, I was surprised to find just how much I enjoyed this book. Having been in a long distance relationship with my husband for a long time, too, it resonated that much stronger for me, and it had a sort of inescapable truth to it that made it really work. I give a very high 4.5 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and sweet, beautiful romances.

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.

Challenging Myself to Try New Things

Friday, March 7, 2014

I find it so comforting on this blog to live within my own little niche of young adult book reviews. I don't think there's anything wrong with that either. I think it's great for a blog to define their genre, their niche and what they like to review. However, I've decided that it's time to mix things up a little bit. Starting this weekend, I'll be featuring one review each weekend for a new adult book - a genre that I previously swore up and down that I just couldn't bring myself to read and review.

I stand by some of my original assessments from the aforementioned post. I do think that a lot of New Adult novels have yet to truly come into their own and give us more than just an overabundance of sex but little character growth. That said, however, I know that's not the case for a lot of the genre, so I'm interested to see what it has to offer.

Never you fear, kiddos...this is still a young adult book blog. I will still only accept young adult books for review (per my review policy). It simply means that for the next month, at least, I'll be reading and reviewing my own copies of select NA novels. I feel like this will give me the liberty to be open and honest about my ventures into the NA genre, which I kind of like, too.

So, what books am I going to explore in the coming month? Per recommendations, these are the NA books I'll be starting with...and I sure hope they're as good as you've all said!

Easy by Tammara Webber, Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase

I'm actually quite interested to see what I discover about the genre. I could learn to love it. Hell, it could totally reaffirm my original assessment of the genre and nothing could change. Either way though, I'm excited to venture into something new. In a month, I could love the genre, or I could simply be ambivalent. Either way, here's to trying new things!

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares Review

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares (Twitter)
Publisher: Delacorte
Publish Date: April 8, 2014
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love. This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.
There is something innately alluring about a tale of love in a time of supreme desperation. It's the type of story that offers readers a glimpse at forbidden romance, drama, sacrifice, pain, loss and love conquering all. So, without a doubt, if you add a science fiction element to the story, I'm most definitely completely captivated by this story. Ann Brashares is well known for her story, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and I remember the feelings and emotions I felt while reading that book well. She has this innate ability to make readers feel for and connect with her characters, so giving us a world outside our own seemed to be just the icing on the cake for me.

The Here and Now features the same fluid and easy writing style that Ms. Brashares is known for. Rather than offer us flowery prose with no meat behind it, we have a story that's cleverly written, honest, descriptive and beautifully insightful. More than once, a singular line would stand on in mind has truly deep and thoughtful - something that heightened the story and the overarching theme of love and survival in a broken society. These hidden passages added a layer of depth to the story that might have otherwise been lacking, and I most definitely appreciated the honest, powerful prose within the pages.

I must admit, however, that I struggled a bit with Prenna's character. From the start, we meet a girl who has a rebellions streak a mile wide. Her actions land her in imprisonment very quickly, which we can't help but find unsurprising. Yet, in another streak of fairly unsurprising events, Prenna is back out and attempting to change their broken world. I'll admit that I couldn't help but feel that that character arc was a little superfluous, if only because it was so fleeting, and we found ourselves pretty much back where we began with Prenna and Ethan anyway. Ethan, too, was a bit of a difficult one for me. Though I felt like we had a strong overview of his circumstances, we never really quite got to know him, and that frustrated me. I knew I was supposed to be completely invested in Prenna and Ethan's plight, but I felt more interested in the general setup of the world instead.

The setup of The Here and Now was solid, and I'll admit that I was extremely surprised that Ms. Brashares created such a complex world when all I'd ever seen from her before was a feel-good contemporary story. However, we're given two very distinct worlds - a broken present society and a disease-ravaged future society - both of which seem cold and bleak. The time travel element most certainly added a layer of drama to an otherwise fairly solid dystopian world, as well. However, I must say that I believe this fantastic setup and backdrop actually overshadowed our characters in the end. Instead of feeling that strong bond and connection with Prenna and Ethan, I felt as though they felt a bit flat, so we were left with an incredible world with characters we wanted more from. In fact, I think that, perhaps, there was so very much going on throughout the story that that's actually where we lost a bit of the depth.

In the end, I had mixed feelings about The Here and Now, though I think it was a solid story in general. I simply wanted a little more depth and a little less of the extras. I give it a very strong 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA fiction, especially those who enjoy dystopian stories with a science-fiction twist.

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.


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