Waiting on Wednesday: Otherbound

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sci-fi and fantasy seem to be the genres for me lately, as evidenced by the massive number of posts about it on this blog as of late. It seems as though authors are taking more and more risks - giving readers the opportunity to become invested in the unique worlds they've created and offering them a chance to like a genre they might have otherwise not. I have a feeling it's going to continue to take off with books like this, too! (And yes, it's on Netgalley!)

Title: Otherbound
Publisher: Amulet
Publish Date: June 17, 2014
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Pages: 400

Amara is never alone. Not when she's protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they're fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she's punished, ordered around, or neglected. She can't be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.

Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he's yanked from his Arizona town into Amara's mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He's spent years as a powerless observer of Amara's life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she's furious.

All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan's breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they'll have to work together to survive--and discover the truth about their connection.
There's something about this one (and it's not just that drool-worthy cover, that makes me need to read this one ASAP. I love when authors cross genres and give us themes and characters we haven't quite anticipated. Most of all though, I really love how very different this book sounds...and since I snagged it on Netgalley, I absolutely cannot wait to pick it up and give it a go! 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 to Read if You Like X-Men

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ever since I was little, science fiction has been my go-to genre. I can get lost in it, there's something innately amazing about it, and I love the fact that it is such a heightened version of our own reality. I think that's why the X-Men movies always worked so well for me. They're just superhero enough to appeal to the masses, but they have these bits of sci-fi and normal life mixed in that make them resonate to everyone. So, naturally, I've gravitated to books that remind me of that, as well...

Minder by Kate Kaynak. One by Leigh Ann Kopans. Altered by Jennifer Rush. 

Impostor by Susanne Winnacker. Origin by Jessica Khoury. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

Blackout by Robison Wells. Linked by Imogen Howson. Unremembered by Jessica Brody. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.

What sort of books would you suggest to fans of superhero novels, and why? Have you read any of these books and agree/disagree with my suggestions?

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

Learning to Love a Genre I Thought I Couldn't

Friday, April 25, 2014

When I started this blog 4+ years ago, I swore up and down that contemporary fiction wasn't for me. I thought it was trite, cliche, lacking any sort of power or feeling and basically just boring. Instead, I stuck with paranormal novels, and later fell deeply in love with the dystopian genre. I started to discover over time though, that I was craving a little more reality, and so I tread lightly into the world of contemporary.

I started to learn that not all contemporary novels are trite or cliche either. Some novels rely on fluffier, lighter premises, and those are the type of books that generally don't work for me. I've learned that while, yes, I love a good love story as much as the next person, I also love books where someone really raises the stakes on potential romances, such as:

I've started to learn that novels that explore self-discovery and transitions tend to be some of the most hard-hitting novels, as well. When a protagonist has to look deep within their soul to heal through some sort of emotional or physical trauma, I can't help but fall into their shoes. When done well, it's the type of book that speaks to me on every level. For example:

And, while I love the powerful emotion of dramatic contemporaries, there are also times that I'm really just looking for sweet. That doesn't mean I'm looking for less depth - simply that I want the happily ever after and that sweet, beautiful ending that gives you warm fuzzies. Mostly what I've learned over time is that I can't simply prejudice against a genre because I've read books that haven't worked for me in the past.

What genres have you avoided and tried to learn to love over time? Has it worked? Why or why not?

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown Review

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Title: Torn Away
Author: Jennifer Brown (Twitter)
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: May 6, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher

Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives -- but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents.

In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she's never considered before -- one in which her mother wasn't perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that's something no tornado can touch.
It doesn't happen often, but there are rare times when an author is able to consistently captivate you with his or her works, simply because each one captures the essence of humanity within their pages. Jennifer Brown is one of these authors for me, and Torn Away is the type of novel that will trap you in its clutches, begging for you to understand the true emotions we all feel when we strip aside all the pretenses. Whereas some novels offer us a villain, and some might even make us search within ourselves to find out if we're actually the villain in the tale, mother nature is our villain here, binding us in with a powerful, raging and unstoppable force.

Most of you who have been reading my blog for a long time now know that I have a love affair with Ms. Brown's books. Hate List shattered me into a million little pieces before artfully crafting me back together again. Torn Away, however, might just have edged right up there alongside my favourite with its raw, angry power. Jersey is the perfect protagonist for this type of story. She's an innocent girl with whom we can empathize in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy, if only because her grief, anger and loneliness is so very visceral. I felt, more often than not, that I was in her shoes, and her pain was shared with each turn of the page.

While yes, this is a story about a powerful and heartbreaking natural disaster, it's also a coming of age story in which Jersey must learn to come to terms with the overwhelming sadness and loss with which she was dealt. There's a beauty to her pain as Ms. Brown articulates every instance, every emotion and every scene with careful accuracy, painting them with broad strokes of pure emotion. Standing in Jersey's shoes through the tornado and then the aftermath of being shuttled to her father's family, I felt a hollow, aching emptiness that was nearly all-consuming. Her path and her future seemed so very bleak and littered with pain, which made the novel almost oppressive at times - but in a powerful manner. 

More than anything else, Torn Away is a novel that embraces the length process of healing in the wake of terrible loss. Ms. Brown has an innate ability to capture the true grieving process, asking readers to experience what her characters experience all the while. There's a delicate and haunting reality in each and every word of this novel, and it's the type of prose that will break you and heal you through the story, as well. I must say that though Jersey takes center stage in the novel, the secondary characters rang authentic and true, as well. Each one, however fleeting their appearance was, played a significant role in the healing process and served to raise the stakes of the novel.

All in all, though I've loved all of Ms. Brown's novels, Torn Away earns a special place up there with Hate List for me due to is awe-inspiring power. It's the type of novel that I'll recommend to readers time and again when looking for a real, gut-wrenching story. I give it a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy hard-hitting 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.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Unhappening of Genesis Lee

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I'm sorry I've been a bit of a sporadic blogger lately, kids. Morning sickness has dug its crafty, horrible claws into me, and I have to say that I've been pretty much an invalid. I'm working to get back on track though, and I'm hoping that, since this is the worst of it, things will go back to normal soon! So, without further ado...

Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publish Date: November 4, 2014
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Pages: 352

Seventeen-year-old Genesis Lee has never forgotten anything. As one of the Mementi—a small group of genetically-enhanced humans—Gena remembers everything with the help of her Link bracelets, which preserve memories perfectly. But Links can be stolen, and six people have already lost their lives to a memory thief, including Gena’s best friend.

Anyone could be next. Which is why Gena is less than pleased to meet a strange but charming boy named Kalan who claims that they’ve not only met, but that Gena knows who the thief is.

The problem is, Gena doesn’t remember Kalan, she doesn’t remember seeing the thief, and she doesn’t know why she’s forgetting things— or how much else she might forget. As growing tensions between Mementi and ordinary humans drive the city of Havendale into chaos, Gena and Kalan team up to search for the thief. And as Gena loses more memories, they realize they have to solve the mystery fast.
Science fiction will always be my one true literary love. From superhuman strength, to mind control, to endless and unlimited power sources, there's just so much to draw from and create with. The Unhappening of Genesis Lee sounds like the type of story that dominated my childhood - and that I'm hoping to pass onto my future children. Full of mystery, supernatural abilities and the struggle between good and evil...I hope this book lives up because it sounds like the perfect fit for me!

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

The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher Review

Monday, April 21, 2014

Title: The Oversight
Author: Charlie Fletcher (Twitter)
Publisher: Orbit
Publish Date: May 6, 2014
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 464
Source: Publisher

Once the Oversight, the secret society that policed the lines between the mundane and the magic, counted hundreds of brave souls among its members. Now their numbers can be counted on a single hand.

When a vagabond brings a screaming girl to the Oversight's London headquarters, it seems their hopes for a new recruit will be fulfilled - but the girl is a trap.

As the borders between this world and the next begin to break down, murders erupt across the city, the Oversight are torn viciously apart, and their enemies close in for the final blow.
There are a few times when, as a book blogger, I'm incredibly surprised at just how well a novel sneaks up on me and surprises me in the best possible way. In the case of The Oversight, we have a novel that is virtually unheard of in the young adult community, but manages to offer readers a full-bodied fantasy novel complete with great characters, a historical setting that's every bit alive as the magic within and prose that will keep you hooked until the very end. Charlie Fletcher's novel is sure to captivate fans of fantasy and historical fiction, alike. 

The Oversight, rather than simply thrust readers into an unfamiliar world, allows us the time to grow within the story and understand the rich backstory that's provided. The secret Oversight society was created to prevent the merging of mundane and magical elements, and it carefully and articulately illustrates to readers the dire consequences if the two merge. I was quite amazed by the skill and ease at which Mr. Fletcher set the pacing of the novel. With a rich, clear tone, we're invited to a world that's mysterious, a tad broken, but one that's easy to become fully invested in, as well. Furthermore, the plot, the world and all the hidden secrets slowly but deliberately unfold, giving us access to the background and the mysteries within little by little. 

It must be said that The Oversight puts much more emphasis and weight on the plot development than the character development, but that's not to say that our characters aren't every bit as important, as well. For example, the interactions between the last Hand of the Oversight and Lucy, an orphan girl who ends up on their doorstep through conspiratorial circumstances, make these characters every bit alive, as well. Lucy was a broken, shell of a character, but as the novel progresses, we better understand both her background and her worth. Likewise, Sara's journey is a complicated one, but it's one that's intricately woven into the plot points themselves, which makes for quite an adventure.

I think that, perhaps, one of my favourite aspects of The Oversight, is that it doesn't shy away from its gothic roots at all. Rather, this is the type of novel that embraces the darkness of its circumstance, and little by little bleeds light and hope into the story of its characters. From the dangers lurking in the dark, to the desperate duty of the Oversight to protect the human population, it's a muddled but delicious mess of darkness that readers will become utterly intoxicated by.

Overall, I must say that I was entirely surprised by The Oversight. This is the type of novel that you can't help but become invested in from the start - and it's the type of book that will take you by surprise. I truly hope it garners more attention because, though I didn't expect anything, I was blown away by it. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy gothic fantasy and magic.

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 Army of the Lost Blog Tour: Lily Herne Interview & Giveaway

Friday, April 18, 2014

It is my absolute pleasure today to introduce my lovely readers to a series that snuck up on me in the best possible way. The Army of the Lost is the thrilling third installment of the Deadlands dystopia series in which mother-daughter writing duo give readers a story unlike no other. Under the pseudonym, Lily Herne, Savannah and Sarah Lotz have crafted a story that embraces both the political climate of South Africa and a backdrop of a zombie apocalypse...and yes, it is that amazing!

The Army of the Lost Synopsis

One of us is dead, one of us is broken, one of us will betray the others and one of us will have to sell her soul to survive...

Eleven years after South Africa was ravaged by the walking dead, most of Johannesburg's survivors are forced to scratch out a living in the filth of Sandtown, an enclave in the old Sandton City mall, ruled over by a minority of rich, self-serving bureaucrats. Tommy, a bullied fourteen-year-old Sandtownite, dreams of joining the Army of the Left, a radical organisation intent on setting the city free of the dead that lurch around its walls. But fate has other plans for him.

Betrayed by one of their closest allies and sold to the highest bidder, Lele, Ash, Ember and Ginger - the remaining Mall Rats - find themselves sucked into the dark heart of Jozi's twisted political system. While Ash is forced to face his traumatic past and Ginger struggles to regain his sanity, Lele goes head to head against Jozi's most powerful manipulator - a man who has sinister plans for her. Meanwhile, left for dead on the outskirts of Jozi, Saint begins her own journey. A journey that she hopes will provide the answers to all of the Mall Rats' unanswered questions.
1. What made you choose a South African setting for your dystopian novel? Did past political unrest play some sort if part?

We live in Cape Town, so familiarity played into that choice quite a lot. At the time we wrote the first in the series, no one had written a walking dead novel set in SA, and someone had to address this appalling state of affairs (!) There is a political element to the novels – it’s almost impossible to write anything set in SA and not include an element of social critique. It’s in our DNA and the fallout from apartheid is still evident all around us. For example, there’s a huge rich-poor divide, which we’ve tried to comment on in the novels.

2. If you could use just five words to describe your protagonist, what would they be, and why?

In the first novel, our narrator Lele is sulky, gutsy, honest, jealous and impetuous. She also has the tendency to be quite rude (although that would make it six!) But as the series progresses, the people and traumatic events she encounters force her to deal with issues and situations with more maturity (she will always sulk though – we reckon that’s her signature emotion!)

3. What do you think sets your books apart from other dystopian novels, and what do you hope readers will take away from reading them?

Lauren’s Beukes’s fabulous Zoo City and Charlie Human’s insanely brilliant Apocalypse Now Now aside, there’s not a great deal of dystopian YA set in South Africa, so the setting probably sets the novels apart. In a departure from the first two novels in the series, The Army of the Lost is set in Johannesburg, and we had a great time coming up with different settlements and considering how the survivors in this city might have corralled themselves out of reach of the walking dead. For example, there’s an almost utopian society who have holed up in the self-sustaining Johannesburg Zoo, and as mall culture is quite prevalent in Jozi, the majority of the survivors are crammed into the Sandton City mall complex, ruled over by a handful of greedy bureaucrats (which isn’t dissimilar to what’s actually happening!) Primarily, we hope readers have a blast reading them!

4. What do you do to make sure your series continues strong from one novel to the next?

As well as (hopefully) including some plot twists that readers won’t see coming, we’ve tried to focus on character development and show how our protagonist have changed after experiencing the various horrible events we’ve forced them to endure. They aren’t the same people as they were at the beginning of the series (and they might not all be alive at the end of it…)

5. If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?

Savannah: I’d be a professional gamer, but as this really isn’t an option, I’d love to be an extra in The Walking Dead.

Sarah: Gosh. Tricky question. I love cars and driving, so I wouldn’t mind being a stunt/precision driver (!)


Doesn't it sound absolutely amazing?! Be sure to check out the other books in the series (Deadlands and Death of a Saint), as well. But for now - here's your chance to win a copy of The Army of the Lost all for yourself! This giveaway is open internationally and will end promptly at midnight MST on 4/25/14. Simply fill out the Rafflecopter for your chance to win! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn Review

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Title: Troubled Waters
Author: Sharon Shinn
Publisher: Ace
Publish Date: October 5, 2010
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 391
Source: Personal Copy

Zoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king's fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river.

It's there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right. But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood—and the secrets of the royal family—she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court.
Perhaps the most important part of an epic fantasy novel is the complexity and thoroughness of the world-building. Troubled Waters is the type of novel that completely excels in that department, giving readers a world that is accessible, tangible and powerful. Every element within the novel is thought out, well-crafted and offers us more than just the basics. From class divisions, to magic,  to alternate realities, Troubled Waters embraces all and somehow manages to make each part mesh together perfectly to create the type of fantasy story that you can't help but read.

Ms. Shinn, however, goes a step further and also ensures that the setting is of equal importance to the novel as the world-building. I could sense the stench of despair in the slums by the river, and I was enamored by the well-described opulence of the grand palace, as well. Zoe, our protagonist, is the reason why this story will remain with me though. She's beautifully flawed, and it's her imperfections that make her relatable and powerful. Furthermore, she had an aura of grace about her, as well as a rationale, intelligence and wit that fuels the adventurous plot.

A fantasy novel often has the ability to spin readers into the world in which its created, but Troubled Waters goes a step further, offering us glimpses of each caste, as well. I found it incredibly powerful that our characters actually fueled the plot, as well, which made them all the more valuable to the reader. With touches of political drama, as well as a thorough exploration (that manages to not be tedious) of power plays and the world of the King's court, there was simply so much going on that there never seemed to be a dull moment in the novel.

While romance seems to take center stage in many of the books I've read as of late, it was incredibly refreshing to read a story in which our protagonist is too level-headed to get swept away in the throes of passion. Yes, there is love, and there are delicate hints at a romance which serve to heighten the stakes of the story, but it's not the end-all, be-all of the novel. Rather, it's an added element which serves only to give readers a glimpse of compassion and a slow-building companionship.

Overall, I can't believe I've had this novel on my shelf for over 3 years, and I didn't pick it up. It's the type of fantasy novel that begs other such novels to pay attention to the details and give readers more of the world - and perhaps a little less drama. And, most of all, it's the type of book that I will most definitely re-read and recommend. I give this book a 5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of upper YA, especially those who enjoy strong fantasy novels

Waiting on Wednesday: The Jewel

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Title: The Jewel
Author: Amy Ewing (Twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: September 2, 2014
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 304

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty––because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence...and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.
While I admit that the dystopian genre is really quite tiring to me these days, I can't help but be utterly captivated by the synopsis of The Jewel. Combining a story of the "haves" and "have nots" with a forbidden romance and a broken, horrible world is usually the perfect combination for me. I must say that this cover looks like a bit of a cross between The Winner's Curse and The Selection, but it also sounds like it  might just be fitting for this novel. Here's hoping that a dystopian novel can still surprise me in the best possible way! 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.

Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn Review

Monday, April 14, 2014

Title: Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend
Author: Katie Finn (Twitter)
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publish Date: May 13, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

Gemma just got dumped and is devastated. She finds herself back in the Hamptons for the summer—which puts her at risk of bumping into Hallie, her former best friend that she wronged five years earlier. Do people hold grudges that long?

When a small case of mistaken identity causes everyone, including Hallie and her dreamy brother Josh, to think she’s someone else, Gemma decides to go along with it.

Gemma's plan is working (she's finding it hard to resist Josh), but she's finding herself in embarrassing situations (how could a bathing suit fall apart like that!?). Is it coincidence or is someone trying to expose her true identity? And how will Josh react if he finds out who she is?
Lately I've felt myself craving those fun, flirty and escapist summertime reads of my youth, so when I first heart of Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend, you'd better believe it fill the bill in its entirety. Chock full of mistakes, errors in judgment, teenage drama, young love, mixed identities and a whole assortment of wayward problems, it's the type of novel that transcends your typical summertime story. With twists and turns abounding, Katie Finn delivers a novel that's far more than the cover implies - and gets you invested from the start.

I'll admit that I thought this book was going to be a simple cakewalk tale of teenage love changing and evolving, but it turned out to be far more than I'd anticipated. Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend gave me all the bits of fluff that I wanted, while also providing me with a transformative type of tale in which I was able to actually journey with Gemma, our protagonist, as she spends her summer trying to change past wrongdoings. Gemma was a bit of a double-edged sword for me though. She wasn't the most intelligent character, and she often read as shallow and petty. She was blind to much of the obvious, and it made my first impression of her a bit sour.

That said, Gemma slowly but surely begins to face the music and understand the realities of life, as well as the past errors of her ways, which was fun to watch. Once at the Hamptons, we learn exactly how Gemma used to treat her past best friend, Hallie, as well as why she ended their friendship with juvenile cruelty. Gemma, though a nice (and fairly oblivious person), was a lot meaner in her youth, and learning why and how she changed definitely helped me to forge a stronger opinion of both her character and her actions.

The twists and turns within Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend were not all that earth-shattering - broken bathing suits, babysitting nightmares, cases of food poisoning and more, but they worked for a lighter summertime tale. Gemma, though hiding her true identity from Hallie as Sophie, needed these events to uncover the truth about Hallie, the truth about her past and reconcile with all the changes in her life. Adding a hint of romance with Josh, who I'll readily confess was the highlight of the story for me, it's the type of book that you can read in one sitting. Ms. Finn has a fun, engaging voice and a writing style that will have you whipping through the pages in no time.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend. Though not the deepest of stories, I found it quite entertaining, and I was surprised to see that it's the first book in a series (and yes, there's a worthy cliffhanger here, kids). I give it a 4 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and summer 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.

A Little Life Update

Friday, April 11, 2014

As most of my lovely readers know, I got married in January to my amazing husband, Ryan, who's made my life a million times better every single day. He was, in large part, the reason why I decided to come back to book blogging. His confidence in me is unwavering, and he supports me in all we do. We're enjoying our crazy lives as newlyweds married to the Army and awaiting solid orders for 2015.

You might remember from my cruise recap that we thought I had come down with norovirus or some sort of bacterial infection from the cruise. I was just not feeling well, and though we were settling back into our everyday lives, something just felt off. So, I went to the doctor here on post to see if they could tell me why, exactly, I felt so dang gross. Wellllll…her answer was simple… 

Guys, this was not planned, nor was it even on our minds for at least a year. We'd planned to wait until after our PCS next year to consider it, and we'd really wanted to travel more and enjoy our lives as newlyweds. But hey…God had other plans, and I guess He sped up our timetable. 

We're crazy excited, crazy terrified and crazy in shock right now, but we're living it one day at a time. So, here's to wicked heartburn, ridiculous flatulence and mood swings like no other…what can I say? Pregnancy is a beautiful thing ;) 

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel Review

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Title: The Break-Up Artist
Author: Philip Siegel (Twitter)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: April 29, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 329
Source: Publisher

Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the Gap. Becca Williamson breaks up couples.

 After watching her sister get left at the altar, Becca knows the true damage that comes when people utter the dreaded L-word. For just $100 via paypal, she can trick and manipulate any couple into smithereens. With relationship zombies overrunning her school, and treating single girls like second class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even her best friend Val has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, she receives a mysterious offer to break up the homecoming king and queen, the one zombie couple to rule them all: Steve and Huxley. They are a JFK and Jackie O in training, masters of sweeping faux-mantic gestures, but if Becca can split them up, then school will be safe again for singletons. To succeed, she'll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date and wiggle her way back into her former BFF Huxley’s life – not to mention start a few rumors, sabotage some cell phones, break into a car, and fend off the inappropriate feelings she’s having about Val’s new boyfriend. All while avoiding a past victim out to expose her true identity.
There's something about those feel-good stories that have great plots but spare you the depth and agony of many of the novels on our current to-be-read piles. That, essentially, is why I picked up The Break-Up Artist to read. I was surprised to find, however, that this was a book chock-full of emotion, relatable characters, a fun and engaging plot and a story of self-discovery that any one at any age can relate to. Author, Philip Siegel, has crafted a story that readers will enjoy, all the while rooting for the characters and hoping for a happy outcome - if only to spare ourselves from that awkward feeling of first love yet again.

Truth be told, I thought that I would have an inherent issue with our main character, Becca, because her actions, while justified to the masses, were often incredibly self-serving. Instead, I found myself admiring her snark, her wit, her cunning sense of self and the ultimate change of her persona through finding the one thing she sought to enjoy. The Break-Up Artist could easily have fallen into the trap of being too predictable and sugar-coated, but watching our disenchanted protagonist find and fall for someone was believable and exciting because it was a real, tangible connection - something that is too often lacking in young adult novels.

The Break-Up Artist is a novel where a secondary character definitely steals the show though, and it's been a while since I've read such a novel. Huxley, our resident mean girl, begins as what most readers will see as a trope. She's cruel, she's vindictive and she's shallow. And yet, as the story develops, we watch as Huxley's character becomes more well-rounded and fleshed out, and we better understand her persona and her actions, making her someone that we have an extremely difficult time not liking. 

I think that one of the biggest selling points of The Break-Up Artist, however, was simply that it felt so very real to me. The dialogue was spot-on, and the author gives readers a delicate balance of real life with a touch of stereotypical high school life, offering us a perfect mix of the two. While most of us don't want to relive our high school years because of just how uncomfortable and awkward they were, this is the type of novel that glorifies those awkward years, brings them to life and gives us characters with whom we can all relate and root for. Whether we were the invisible kid or the most popular student in school, it's a novel that's fun, engaging and rings true on a lot of levels.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by The Break-Up Artist. I went in looking for a palette-cleansing read, but I got a novel with a surprising amount of depth - and fun! It's definitely the type of book I'll re-read, purely for enjoyment. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I 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.

Waiting on Wednesday: Falls the Shadow

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Title: Falls the Shadow
Author: Stefanie Gaither (Twitter)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BYR
Publish Date: September 16, 2014
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Mystery
Pages: 352

When Cate Benson was twelve, her sister died. Two hours after the funeral, they picked up Violet’s replacement, and it was like nothing had ever happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to grant their children a sort of immortality—by cloning them at birth. So this new Violet has the same smile. The same laugh. That same perfect face. Thanks to advancements in mind-uploading technology, she even has all the same memories as the girl she replaced. She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.

Or at least, that’s what the paparazzi and crazy anti-cloning protesters want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that, though. She’s used to standing up for her sister too, and she’s determined to prove her innocence now—at whatever the cost. But the deeper she digs for the truth, the further Cate's carefully-constructed life begins to unravel, unveiling a world filled with copies and lies, where nothing and no one—not even her sister— is completely what they seem.
I'm all about sci-fi this year, or so it seems. The stories just seem to be getting more quirky, more edgy and far more dangerous, which excites me because I obviously like the twisted tales. There's something about cloning that seems inherently wrong - and terrifying - to me, and a novel that explores the potential negative ramifications of it seems like a gold mine of possibilities. Plus, that cover is going to haunt my dreams. 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.

Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley Review and Giveaway

Monday, April 7, 2014

Title: Ask Me
Author: Kimberly Pauley (Twitter)
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publish Date: April 8, 2014
Genre: YA Paranormal
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone.

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.
Just when it seems as though the paranormal genre has given readers all that it had to give, the dedicated authors who write it give us something much more than we could have ever expected. In the case of Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley, I'll readily admit to not expecting too much from the novel due simply to the extreme lack of hype surrounding it. So, imagine my surprise when the novel ended up blowing me away. This is the type of novel that captivates, enthralls, terrifies and consumes you long after the last page, giving you all you could want from the genre and so much more.

Ask Me presents as a fairly cut-and-dried paranormal novel, but we quickly realize within the first chapter, that there is much more to the story than the synopsis implies. Our protagonist, Aria, is an oracle, or a Sybil, a being of immense power and foresight. Yet her persona offers us the exact opposite. She's fragile, resentful of her gift and does her very best to block out the world - if only to block out their questions. If she hears the questions, she has to answer, and she's found that has made her extremely unlikable in social circles. When a classmate is murdered though, Aria knows she must learn to harness her gift, if only to stop a serial killer's mad rampage.

I found that the characters within Ask Me, for the most part, heightened the plotline immensely. Whereas Aria's power and demeanor grows in strength throughout the novel, we sense immediately that both Will and Alex are forces to be reckoned with. While one is outwardly aggressive, the other is quietly dangerous and outwardly personable. I'll admit that I knew the killer from the start of the book, but it didn't diminish my overall enjoyment of the novel, or the final reveal at the end of the book. I felt as though the characters held an equal footing in terms of development, and this created clear character arcs to heighten both the plot and the mystery.

 In all honesty, I found Ask Me to be an immensely satisfying paranormal novel with delicate and haunting touches of darkness throughout. While not outright horror, there is a subtle rage to our killer that taints the pages red and bathes us in a lurking danger that we're never quite immune to. By adding Aria's gift, we see the connection between her paranormal power and brute humane strength being used as power over others. While Aria believes her gift is a curse, she realizes that there is a power to it that can be used for either good or evil, and she must master it, learn it and fully embrace it before it's too late. Her journey, her confusion and her pain makes the novel stronger; perhaps even stronger than the mystery itself.

Overall, I was completely surprised by Ask Me, and it's the type of novel that I'd recommend to any readers of my blog, simply because it was that well written and fleshed out. I give this book a very high 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy paranormal mysteries and horror 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.


And now, a giveaway! The generous folks at Soho Teen have provided me with an extra copy for a giveaway for my readers. This giveaway is open internationally and will end promptly at midnight PST on 4/14/14. Simply fill out the Rafflecopter for your chance to win! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

That Time We Cruised to Mexico

Friday, April 4, 2014

As most of you know, last week I was MIA because my husband and I decided to take a warm honeymoon on a Mexican Riviera cruise. We'd previously done a cold  honeymoon, and it was fantastic, but we decided to get some warmth and enjoy the time together since he's leaving for training in less than two months now. Guys, it was so much fun.

Usually I prefer to keep my personal life off this blog and relegated to my other blog, but since I announced I'd be gone, I figured I'd show you what we did! Our Norwegian Star cruise had three stops; one in Cabo San Lucas, one in Mazatlán and one in Peurto Vallarta. So, without further ado...our vacation in pictures!

Cabo San Lucas


Puerto Vallarta

If you want to know more about each port stop we did, or if you'd like to learn more about the Norwegian Star cruise we took, I detailed it all on my personal blog. AND, if you ever get a chance to cruise...this is a great ship and a great itinerary! We had so much fun!

My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal Review

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Title: My Last Kiss
Author: Bethany Neal (Twitter)
Publisher: FSG BYR
Publish Date: June 10, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal Mystery
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss—the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died—is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn’t a suicide as everyone assumes. She can’t remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she’s worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend.

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she’ll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made—good and bad—that led to her last kiss.
In an age where ghost stories are a dime a dozen, it's refreshing to read a story about a girl who can't leave until she understands how she died. My Last Kiss explores the life and death of Cassidy Haines, a girl who had it all, until it was wrenched away from her three days after her seventeenth birthday. Police have deemed her death a suicide, but her memory is hazy, and though she knows she was going through a rough time, she knows she wouldn't have simply ended her life. To solve her murder and save her name, Cassidy must return to those she loved (and hurt) the most - if only to find some peace in her afterlife.

The premise for My Last Kiss isn't entirely original. In fact, I remember reading Between by Jessica Warman and thinking what a remarkable setup for a novel it was to return your deceased MC to the present day to uncover the truth behind their demise. My Last Kiss, however, offers us a little bit more. Secrets shroud the night of Cassidy's party, and we're asked to sift through the murky details with her to understand both why and how our protagonist died. Author, Bethany Neal, doesn't make it a cut-and-dried affair for us though, flipping between the past and present to get a glimpse at the alibis of the present day and the fragmented memories Cassidy has to uncover.

Whereas other novels have succeeded with this formula before though, I struggled with some of My Last Kiss, in large part because of the characters. There is a large host of secondary characters, all of whom are offered up as suspects in what Cassidy suspects is her murder. Of Madison and Aimee, her best friends, Madison was a cold fish, while Aimee wanted nothing more than to uncover the truth. Ethan, Cassidy's boyfriend, was devoted, loving and grief-stricken, while her fling, Caleb, was self-medicating the pain away. Ethan's friends played their roles, too, but I felt like many of the characters fell into their tropes and never transcended them. It was a hodge-podge of personas, and very few of them were incredibly likable or real.

In terms of the plot, My Last Kiss is slowly unfurled throughout the story as Cassidy pieces together life before and after her death. This was both a gift and a curse because I so wanted to better understand just why Cassidy would give up what she had with Ethan only to find comfort with another. And, in the end, I don't see her reasoning as solid, since she told him easily enough in the end. The murder plot was a maze - I'll give it that. I didn't know who the actual murderer was, but I definitely figured out a player in the plot, and I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see the actual repercussions after following the entire journey.

Overall, My Last Kiss was both a challenging and engaging read. While I feel as though depth of characters and reasoning behind the mystery was lacking, it was nevertheless a fast-paced, easy read. I give it a 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy lighter murder mysteries and paranormal 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.

Waiting on Wednesday: Evidence of Things Not Seen

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Title: Evidence of Things Not Seen
Author: Lindsey Lane
Publisher: FSG BYR
Publish Date: September 16, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 240

When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. Tommy was adopted, so maybe he ran away to find his birth parents. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in his own thoughts about particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pull-out off the highway, so maybe someone drove up and snatched him.

Or maybe he slipped into a parallel universe. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it is possibly true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.
Contemporary fiction seems to be a genre that's working fairly well for me lately, so I'm hoping that 2014 continues the streak and delivers many more hits. Evidence of Things Not Seen sounds like a gripping and emotional read - if a bit withdrawn - and it could very well be one of those sleeper novels that surprises people. That's the type of book I love the most; one with characters, a journey and an emotional journey to overcome. 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: Gateway Books

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

When I think back to how I thought things were when I first started blogging, I must say I was quite naive. I didn't really get how many genres, subgenres and possibilities there were in the world of books. It's safe to say that I read within my comfort zone most of the time, and I didn't often look for new things. Book blogging changed all that though, and some books...well, some books changed my perception of entire genres. We like to call those "gateway books."

Gateway Books to Dystopian:

Gateway Books to Science Fiction:

Gateway Books to Contemporary:

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


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