On the Fence by Kasie West Review

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Title: On the Fence
Author: Kasie West (Twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: July 1, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

She's a tomboy. He's the boy next door…Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world.

To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she's got a bigger problem than speeding tickets-she's falling for Braden. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.
There was a time (okay, many years) in my blogging journey that I swore up and down that contemporary fiction was child's fodder and that not a single author could capture my attention. I've eaten my words time and again since those days, and yet I always hesitate just a little when picking up a new summer read. On the Fence is the quintessential summer read - packaging and all - marketing to teenage and adult readers and offering a glimpse of love, growing up and the harsh realities of life. Author, Kasie West, welcomes readers into a delightful summer novel with open arms, enveloping you in the light of first love and self-discovery.

Perhaps my greatest trepidation when starting On the Fence was that there wouldn't be enough intrigue throughout the novel to keep me going. I shouldn't have been too concerned though, as we quickly learn that not all is as it seems. Charlie is a tomboy. Raised with three brothers and a father that's a cop, she can do anything the boys can. However, her mother passed away at a young age, and the girly things don't come as quickly to her. It's a foreign world that's she's condemned because it brings forth lost memories of her mother and because she fears it will separate her from her family - and the boys who love her most. There was a subtle beauty to Charlie's character arc. On the one hand, she's a powerful force of a girl, yet when displaced from her comfort zone, we see as that careful facade begins to crack and reveal a lost little girl within.

It must be said, too, that Braden has quickly secured the heartthrob of the summer title for me. I found him to be a highlight of On the Fence, in large part because he's somewhat of an enigma throughout. We can sense he's hiding something from Charlie through their interactions and encounters, but when we think we understand the reveal, we can also sense there is so much more to it. Braden was genuinely a good guy that cared for Charlie - as much as a sister as he might have as a love interest. He was protective, caring, kind and good-natured, but there was also a degree of respect and maturity that set him apart from the masses.

On the Fence was reminiscent of those warm summer nights of my youth. Powerful and evocative, this seemingly light summer novel is alive with family, warmth, friends and fun. And yet, as much happiness as we encounter, we also learn of a deep-rooted secret that changes Charlie's reality forever. I was immensely pleased with how that twist played out. It was simple and poignant, making way for changes in all of our characters' lives and allowing us the chance to watch and understand the growth taking place. Ms. West has crafted a masterful story that will resonate with the joys of summer long after the summer days have gone.

Novels like On the Fence are the reason I can humbly eat my words and say that the contemporary genre has much more to offer than I might have ever imagined. With a subtle power and grace, this is a book that you'll read fast, but once you close the last page, you'll wish you'd read it slower. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and summer reads.

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: Winterspell

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I have a little-known fact for all of you. From the time I was three to about 15 years old, I did ballet, and that's a big reason I picked today's WoW book. I was in The Nutcracker for three years in a row, and every single time I was a little soldier. No floaty dresses for this girl, obviously, which is why I quit ballet (I was a jealous one), but I digress. There's something atmospheric about this book that has me lusting after it hardcore.

Title: Winterspell
Publish Date: September 30, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 464

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor's ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother's murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer. Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted--by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they're to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets--and a need she can't define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won't leave Cane unscathed--if she leaves at all.
Okay, now if that doesn't sound original (and amazing), then I'm a monkey's uncle. Seriously, I've yet to read a paranormal novel that involves a Nutcracker theme with horror, curse-filled backstory, so colour me endlessly intrigued! Plus, that cover has me absolutely lusting over it because it looks so very wicked. Obviously, this is a must-have and a must-read on my list. I'm counting the days. 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: Series I Started but Didn't Finish

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I swear that series are both the biggest blessing and the biggest curse for book bloggers...or, at least for me. I'm the type of person that absolutely loves to follow along a real adventure for many books and, sometimes, many years (ie: Harry Potter). These days, however, I simply lack the patience when it comes to finishing series. I start them, and I want to be able to read right through. Often times, this is because I want to read everything right away. Other times, it's just because I can't stand the wait, and with a lot of books to review, they simply get left behind along the way. And then there's always the case of the series for which I'm excited, but the first book just doesn't entice me enough to continue.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Need by Carrie Jones
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Fallen by Lauren Kate
The Selection by Kiera Cass
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

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

The Dare by Hannah Jayne Review

Monday, May 26, 2014

Title: The Dare
Author: Hannah Jayne (Twitter)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publish Date: July 1, 2014
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher

Two jumped off the pier that night...but only one came back alive.

Bryn did everything with her best friend Erica. So when someone dared Erica to jump off the pier one night at Harding Beach, Bryn was right by her side. But when Bryn made it back to the surface, Erica was nowhere to be found. Bryn tries to make a fresh start by burying her memories of that awful night. But when a Twitter post from "EricaNShaw" pops up on her feed and a chilling voice mail appears on her phone, she realizes that someone isn't ready to let go of the past...
A good mystery or thriller has the ability to keep you thinking about it long after you've closed the book on the last page. I am the type of reader that is almost constantly in search of the perfect mystery, and I'll read anything and everything until I find that gem. Author, Hannah Jayne, is known for her gripping storylines, darker themes and embracing the underbelly of humanity. So, naturally, I was drawn to The Dare, if only because I wanted to better understand what happened to Brynna that night and what, or who, was determined to haunt her future. 

The Dare, in theory, had all the makings of the perfect thriller - a traumatized protagonist, a mysterious threat, a desperate attempt at a new life and a haunted past. I found myself struggling to connect with Brynna from the start though, and not simply because she was so walled off from the world. Having seen and experienced her best friend's death at her last school, she enters Hawthorne with the goal of flying under the radar. Yet, she feels as though the lurking stares, the eyes and the pain of her past never quite leaves her. She was very standoffish, as well, which made it difficult to access her emotions and understand whether they were fear-driven, or if she really was as selfish as she appeared. 

I read The Dare in one day, and I do believe that Hannah Jayne has a great writing voice that's both personable and likable. Unfortunately, however, I struggled to find myself getting fully invested in the story and the plot. For one, we're given a host of secondary characters including Darcy, Lauren, Evan and Teddy, but none of them are ever fully introduced to us. Lauren's character often blended into Darcy's, though Darcy was given this arrogant persona that only seemed to serve as a device to throw us off the real villan's trail. Evan was given a side-arc in which he comes out to Bryn, but it felt as though it was haphazard and only offered up simply to serve a later agenda in the story. And Teddy? Frankly, as a love interest, I never really got to know Teddy at all.

My main issue with The Dare, however, lies within the plot, itself. We spend a ton of time throughout the novel accessing Brynna's internal struggle and her fear of the water since the night of Erica's death. The threatening tweets, phone calls and emails are interjected throughout, but they don't feel like they take center stage at all. And, perhaps my biggest qualm of all is that we're barely even introduced to our villain in the story, but we're expected to take the giant leap in the end and simply accept those characteristics without question. I felt as though we finally started getting somewhere, then the novel abruptly closes and we're left with nothing but questions and a lack of plot development. 

I wanted to love The Dare because I really enjoy the writing and the voice, but it simply fell short of the spectacular mystery that I'd been hoping for. Had we been given an extra hundred pages, plus a little more depth to the story and the backstory, this is the type of mystery that could keep me awake for days. I give it a 2.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA - especially those who enjoy the author's style and light mysteries.

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.

Lamb to the Slaughter Blog Tour: Karen Ann Hopkins Guest Post and Giveaway

Friday, May 23, 2014

I have a treat for you guys today! As many of you know, I've been branching out a little bit and sort of stretching my wings, so to speak, on this blog. Having read Karen Ann Hopkins' YA books in the past, I'm thrilled to share with you her new adult Amish mystery and be a part of this amazing blog tour today. So, without further ado, please welcome Karen in sharing how she develops her incredible characters!

The process of developing the characters for my new Amish murder mystery, Lamb to the Slaughter, was much more intense than the way I went about it for my YA contemporary romance Temptation series. In Lamb, I wrote a very detailed outline before I even began writing. Each character had a specific purpose in driving the mystery forward, whereas in the Temptation series, I let the characters develop more on their own with a sort of stream-of-conscious style of writing. I must say, writing a mystery was definitely a more daunting endeavor than anything I’d done up until then.

I think the really intriguing part of Amish fiction for the reader is learning about a group of people from an entirely foreign culture and seeing how they interact with the rest of us. But it’s challenging to get that perfect combination of realism and entertainment. I certainly don’t want my novels to read like documentaries, but I do have to explain a lot about the Amish way of life to my readers so that they understand what the character’s motives are and the reasons they behave the way they do.

An excellent way to accomplish just that is through character development. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter of Lamb. I think it’s a great example of the fine balance between teaching the reader about the Amish, while not being too bulky with details.

I watched intently as the three men leaned over the body for only a moment. After simultaneously bowing their heads and closing their eyes for a silent prayer, they looked up at me with no emotion at all. Their hard eyes stilled my heart.

The bishop spoke, his voice level and calm. “This is Naomi Beiler. She is the daughter of Timothy and Patricia Beiler.”

I pulled the little notepad and pen from my back pocket and began writing.

“Do you know how old she is?” I asked the Amish men.

The bishop glanced at James, who finally spoke. “I do believe she’s the same age as my Roseanna—eighteen.” James Hooley’s nonchalance startled me, but I was careful not to let it show. “Has Naomi been missing?”

The two ministers looked in opposite directions, and neither at me. Bishop Esch took a few seconds to gather his words. “You will need to speak with the Beiler’s about that, Miss. I ask that you give them a few days to deal with the loss of their child.”

I couldn’t help but glance at Bobby who slightly shrugged his shoulders when he met my gaze. Jeremy looked at the Amish men with wide eyes and mouth slightly gaping. Todd held the small smirk of a very amused man. I exhaled and said, “Yes, of course. We’ll give the family time to mourn…but, we’ll need to have a few questions answered for the report today. I promise you, Mr. Esch, I’ll be very discrete when I notify them of the death.”

Too quickly, the bishop said, “Oh, there will be no need for you to talk to them today. I’ll bring the news to their home.” He must have recognized my incredulity at his dismissal of my authority. He added with a somber frown, “It will be much easier for Timothy and Patricia to hear the news from me, rather than a stranger. Your presence will upset them needlessly.”

I was a newly elected sheriff and I already had a young woman dying under strange circumstances in my jurisdiction. As if that wasn’t trying enough, I now had a clash of cultures on my plate too. The worst part was that I got what the bishop was saying. Still, I hated to deviate from protocol on my first investigation in Blood Rock.

I looked to Bobby for the answer. He seemed to be expecting me to do just that and was ready. He nodded his head subtly.

“Jeremy, please escort these men back to their homes.” I focused on the bishop, “Mr. Esch, I’ll honor your wishes on this matter, but I’ll be visiting the Beiler’s in a few days to get some questions cleared up. We need to know what happened to Naomi.”

“Yes, of course.” He tipped his hat to me and walked briskly back to the patrol car with the ministers.

Jeremy raised his eyebrows as he passed by. He was obviously as disturbed by the Amish men’s behavior as I was. Bobby made a soft huffing noise and began to motion to the emergency medical personnel to come over to help him with the body bag when I stopped him.

“Don’t you think those men were acting awfully blasé about seeing a young woman from their community dead in a cornfield?” My voice rose a little higher than I intended. I turned my back to the paramedics who were patiently leaning up against the ambulance, waiting for someone to give them the sign to approach.

Bobby said, “Ms.…ah, Serenity, you had better get used to the fact that the Amish will not be any help to you in your investigation. They don’t like outsiders, and they don’t want them knowing their business.” As my mouth opened, Todd cut me off, “Hell, they’re practically their own nation—not having to pay social security tax or serve in the armed forces. Did you know that they’re done with school in the eighth grade?” “Actually, it’s my understanding that the Amish can be drafted, but they only serve in non-combat roles, such as medical and food service,” Bobby told Todd.

Listening to the men shoot off their knowledge of the Amish made me realize how little I knew about the simple, yet flourishing culture. I’d grown up in town, only a few miles away from the field that I now stood in. I’d spent my time playing soccer, going to movies and hanging out with friends—that did not include any Plain people. The only interaction I’d had with the Amish back then was when I’d worked part-time at Nancy’s Diner in high school. Occasionally, one of the families had come in for lunch. When I’d left Blood Rock for college, I was even more separated from the rural living of the place I’d grown up in—a county that had a relatively small population, but a very large land area.

Before the two men could get into a long, drawn out conversation about the Amish lifestyle, I interrupted, “Bobby, are you telling me that there are different rules involved when we’re dealing with the Amish?”

Bobby smiled as if he was a grandpa humoring his grandchild. “No, that’s not it at all. I’m simply telling you in advance to expect them not to be forthcoming with you. I’ve been dealing with their nonsense for thirty years. I know what I’m talking about. The quicker you wrap this case up, the better.”

Thanks for stopping by today! I love to hear from readers and answer any of their questions (especially the Amish related ones)! I also have a special giveaway going on right now that I’d like to share with you. If you purchase Lamb to the Slaughter on either Kindle or Nook, you can be entered in a giveaway for a three book autographed set of the Temptation series. It includes copies of Temptation, Belonging and Forever! All you have to do is personally contact me on FB, Twitter, Goodreads or my website and let me know that you’ve purchased Lamb and I’ll get you entered. The drawing will be held on May 30th in conjunction with blog tour ending. This is a separate giveaway from the Rafflecopter above. Happy reading!

Find Karen: Website. Blog. Twitter. Facebook. Goodreads.


For this tour, we're also offering up a really amazing prize package, so be sure to follow along the tour for more chances to win every day! Up for grabs, we have a $100 Amazon Gift Card, an autographed set of Karen's amazing YA Temptation series and a traditional Amish-style hand-stitched wall hanging/lap quilt with the lone star pattern in country colours. Isn't that awesome? 

To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter! This giveaway is open internationally! Be sure to hop along to the next tour stop, as well, and continue entering for more chances to win...
a Rafflecopter giveaway
For a limited time only, Lamb to the Slaughter is available for just $2.99 from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, so be sure to get your copy today!

Find Lamb to the Slaughter: Goodreads. Facebook

The Dark World by Cara Lynn Shultz Review

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Title: The Dark World
Author: Cara Lynn Shultz (Twitter)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: May 27, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Fantasy
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher

Paige Kelly is used to weird--in fact, she probably corners the market on weird, considering that her best friend, Dottie, has been dead since the 1950s. But when a fire demon attacks Paige in detention, she has to admit that things have gotten out of her league. Luckily, the cute new boy in school, Logan Bradley, is a practiced demon slayer-and he isn't fazed by Paige's propensity to chat with the dead.

Suddenly, Paige is smack in the middle of a centuries-old battle between warlocks and demons, learning to fight with a magic sword so that she can defend herself. And if she makes one wrong move, she'll be pulled into the Dark World, an alternate version of our world that's overrun by demons-and she might never make it home.
The Dark World is set in a very familiar city for many of us - New York City, which lends a touch of reality to an otherwise fantasy and paranormal-driven story. It must be said that I've steered clear of the genre as of late, simply because I've felt that the paranormal felt overdone and outplayed, but with an author like Cara Lynn Shultz at the helm, this novel begged a second look. From the start, it's clear to readers why Ms. Shultz is a fan favourite. With a clear, descriptive and distinct voice, she welcomes us into a world that's dark, alluring and seductive, all the while giving us a thrill ride of an adventure.

In many ways, I feel as though The Dark World succeeded. Paige was a fantastic protagonist with whom readers will easily empathize and associate. Her friendship with Dottie, the ghost, makes her quirky, likable and honest, all of which are characteristics I crave. Dottie, however, was a true delight, as well. She's the type of secondary character that shines so brightly that her light and her personality almost overshadowed that of Paige, until we watch as that light is slowly but surely dimmed throughout the story, giving us more resolve to better understand the Dark World. Enter Logan, and it seems like we have the perfect setup for a paranormal novel, since he's easily just as engaging as Paige.

With a backstory that rivals Paige's, Logan is brooding and handsome, but there's also a humour and flawed reality to his persona, as well, so as their relationship began to develop, I found myself rooting for them quite ardently. Therein, however, lies my one main issue with The Dark World. While we, thankfully, steer clear of the dreaded love triangle, Paige and Logan's connection and ensuing love story was so entirely all-consuming that I felt it began to overshadow the other, perhaps more pressing, elements of the novel. I found that while I was salivating for more details of the paranormal and the Dark World, we were instead given Paige or Logan's desire to better understand one another or to know that the other is safe. It was, frankly, an extremely co-dependent relationship that, to me, weighed the story down.

The Dark World offers us many glimmers of true brilliance though, as well. Just when we think we've seen it all from the paranormal genre, Ms. Shultz gives us powerful new abilities, dangerous demons and an underworld that's eerie and just enticing enough to make us want more. So many tantalizing details are offered up, and it's clear to readers that the Dark World is dark, disturbing and gruesome. However, the writing is done so well that it has a near-cinematic quality to it - offering us a very visceral world to explore. 

In the end, I really enjoyed The Dark World, though I felt at times that it was simply setting the stage for future novels, rather than allowing itself to stand on its own. I think that Ms. Shultz has the ability to spin a remarkable new series from this premise though, and I'm desperate to read on and further explore the Dark World and Paige's journey. I give this a high 3.5 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy paranormal and fantasy.

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

Waiting on Wednesday: Blackbird

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

If I've mentioned it once, I've mentioned it a million times. Thrillers, horrors and mysteries are my thing, people. If a novel has some sort of gripping, dark action, or terror in its synopsis, colour me hooked. From my vantage point, there are a bunch more on the market this year, too, so I'm in luck!

Title: Blackbird
Author: Anna Carey (Twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: September 16, 2014
Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 256

A girl wakes up on the train tracks, a subway car barreling down on her. With only minutes to react, she hunches down and the train speeds over her. She doesn’t remember her name, where she is, or how she got there. She has a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of a blackbird inside a box, letters and numbers printed just below: FNV02198. There is only one thing she knows for sure: people are trying to kill her.

On the run for her life, she tries to untangle who she is and what happened to the girl she used to be. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. But the truth is more disturbing than she ever imagined.

The Maze Runner series meets Code Name Verity, Blackbird is relentless and action-packed, filled with surprising twists.
There are a few things about this one that have me absolutely hooked. First of all, to see a second person POV doesn't happen too often, and knowing that I enjoy Anna Carey's writing style gives me hope that it will be done well, too. Second, there's something cryptic, dark and terrifying about this synopsis that's just detailed enough to capture my attention, but just vague enough to keep me salivating for more. I'm sold on this one. 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.

Book Trailer Reveal: Dollhouse by Anya Allyn

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

There's something magical about playing dress-up when you're a little girl, just like there's something magical going on through the windows of a dollhouse. So naturally, when Paper Lantern Lit's new digital imprint, The Studio, approached me to help reveal the brand new book trailer for Dollhouse by Anya Allyn, there was no way I could resist. Dark, atmospheric and a little bit terrifying, this one has all the makings of a future favourite!

Dress-up turns deadly...

When Cassie’s best friend, Aisha, disappears during a school hike, Cassie sets off with Aisha’s boyfriend Ethan and their best friend Lacey, determined to find her. But the mist-enshrouded mountains hold many secrets, and what the three teens discover is far more disturbing than any of them imagined: beneath a rundown mansion in the woods lies an underground cavern full of life-size toys and kidnapped girls forced to dress as dolls.

Even as Cassie desperately tries to escape the Dollhouse, she finds herself torn between her forbidden feelings for Ethan, and her intense, instinctive attraction to The Provider, a man Cassie swears she has known before…

Because Cassie’s capture wasn’t accidental, and the Dollhouse is more than just a prison where her deepest fears come true—it’s a portal for the powers of darkness. And Cassie may be the only one who can stop it.

Anya Allyn grew up in Sydney, Australia, and now lives by the beach on The Central Coast. She spends her days with five incredibly cool males - four of whom are her kids.

As a child, she could be found reading, sketching comic strips or fainting during choir practice in her school convent. She has worked in entertainment, as a wedding hire manager, as a dating company receptionist (where she lasted a week!) and most recently as a Features' Editor for Fairfax Media in Australia. Dollhouse is her first novel.

Find Anya: Twitter. Website. Pinterest. Facebook

So, if you're as sold on Dollhouse as I am (and trust me, you should be), click any of the following links to buy because Dollhouse is out today!

Find Dollhouse on iTunes. Amazon. Barnes & NobleGoodreads

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis Review

Monday, May 19, 2014

Title: Otherbound
Author: Corinne Duyvis (Twitter)
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publish Date: June 17, 2014
Genre: YA, Fantasy, LGBT
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher

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.
Otherbound is a book unlike most of my normal reads. Fantasy is a genre that, at times, might seem all-encompassing, but it's only when an author tests the limits and bounds do we see what the story can really accomplish. Author, Corinne Duyvis, has created a masterful fantasy story that offers readers a glimpse at two different worlds, one of which is fantasy, and one of which is reality. Neither is without its faults, and the connection between these two worlds, harnessed involuntarily by Nolan is messy, unpredictable and dangerous. It's the perfect setup for a dramatic story that will cleverly weave us into a complicated and tangled web we're not sure we'll want to escape.

Nolan was both a tragic and engaging character. There is a deep, gritty and inherent sadness to his character that makes us understand and empathize with the depth of his connection to Amara. But while it might seem like an intriguing gift from an outsider's perspective, Otherbound quickly replaces that intrigue with a horrific sort of fascination. Nolan's gift is tedious. When he takes over Amara's mind, he leaves his body an empty shell - something that has inevitable repercussions that ground him in a painful reality. I found it intriguing that the author actually manages to progress his gift though, and up the ante, making it so he can take over Amara's body, as well. There was a dirty sort of connotation to it though, and the feeling left me uncomfortable and as vulnerable as Amara.

For Amara's part, she's never had an easy life. She was born into servitude, and it's all she's ever known in her entire life. But Amara's never been aware that Nolan can take over her mind either. It's only a reality on his end. We don't understand the depth of the violation until we watch as Nolan, simply trying to communicate with Amara, takes over her body, as well. There are undertones of physical assault, and watching Amara become powerless to both her actions and the fallout makes us uncomfortable. It was a clever way to better express the depth of Amara's loss of self though, and it made me want even more so for her to find an eventual freedom.

Otherbound was cleverly set in two very distinct worlds. Ms. Duyvis gives us a fantasy world that's tangibly intangible through Amara's eyes, then offers up a state of reality that mirrors our own by giving us Nolan. I enjoyed the polarity of the two, and I appreciated the fact that one world was so rich and vivid, while the other was painted in gray areas - allowing us to see the true dichotomy between both the worlds and our characters. I found it a bit confusing in the beginning when we transitioned between the two worlds, but it became easier as the story progressed.

There are many aspects of Otherbound that impressed me, but I must say that Ms. Duyvis's embracing of minorities and LGBT storylines was one of them, as well. Too often books like this give us tropes and don't offer any real substance. Though subtly scattered throughout, I found myself appreciating the author's style and finesse more and more. I think this was a solid, powerful debut novel, and it definitely leads me to want more from the author in the future! I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA and upper YA, especially those who enjoy fantasy.

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

The Evolution of Book Blogging

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I've been a bit reflective and contemplative about the past four years as a book blogger lately, and it's brought a few things to mind. The book blogosphere is an incredible unique little niche of the blogosphere as a whole, and it encompasses so many things. In the past four years, I believe that the vast nature of it has spread, as well, making it so that it embraces new genres, new authors and new mediums - all of which contribute to this ever-changing literary climate in which we find ourselves.

Whereas other blog niches seem to revolve around the same things more or less, the book blogosphere is one that seems to continue to morph with the changes and evolution of literature, as well. For example, as e-books and e-publishing have become more prevalent, I see more bloggers focus primarily on those niche markets. With the introduction of the newly-coined "new adult" genre, there are now niche blogs that focus primarily on that genre. It's pretty fascinating to watch.

However, it's brought new things to mind, as well, which I've shared with some other bloggers, as well. It seems that as the industry changes, blogs need to change with the times, as well, or they become stagnant. I've found that since my last hiatus, the book blogging world definitely changed, and I felt as though my blog lost a little traction then. I came back to a newly diverse and growing field of amazing book blogs that understood the new trends in the market, whereas I seemed to stay true to my roots. At times, it's great, but I also wonder about the overall longevity of my blog in this climate.

I know that sounds so doom-and-gloom, but it's really more of a reflection than anything else…one that's amazing and excited by all the changes I've been able to see come about in the past four years. For example:

  • The rise of Netgalley and subsequent rise of Edelweiss revolutionized the way that publishers could market their books to the book blogosphere who can, in turn, market the books to the public. 
  • The general acceptance and newfound prevalence of self-publishing has been refreshing to see and support, especially because it's been a hard-fought battle for many authors to prove their merit to the general public.
  • The rise of genres within certain markets (ex: dystopian in YA) has led to a growth-spurt in book bloggers and book lovers looking for a new sort of book to crave. It's exciting to have watched the boom of these little genres really take off.
  • The acceptance of book bloggers as grassroots marketers is an ongoing thing, but I've seen more and more authors and publishers really support and appreciate what book bloggers do, making it all the more worthwhile.

There a million other things I could probably list here, but it's fascinating to me that that list could change on any given day, week, month or year, as well. Book blogging has taught me that I need to roll with the changes, and it's something I'll be striving to do in the coming months. So long as I feel I can contribute even a little something to the book blogosphere, I intend to stick around.

The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Córdova Review

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Title: The Vicious Deep
Author: Zoraida Córdova (Twitter)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publish Date: May 1, 2012
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 372
Source: Publisher

For Tristan Hart, everything changes with one crashing wave. He was gone for three days. Sucked out to sea in a tidal wave and spit back ashore at Coney Island with no memory of what happened. Now his dreams are haunted by a terrifying silver mermaid with razor-sharp teeth.

His best friend Layla is convinced something is wrong. But how can he explain he can sense emotion like never before? How can he explain he's heir to a kingdom he never knew existed? That he's suddenly a pawn in a battle as ancient as the gods.

Something happened to him in those three days. He was claimed by the sea...and now it wants him back.
I've contemplated reading this series for a good long while now, but I'm always hesitant to start series without the rest of the books being out or imminent. Thus, with the third installment soon to be released in July, I figured it was high time to start reading The Vicious Deep and see what all the magic is regarding this underwater world that author, Zoraida Córdova, has created for us. It's been a long time since I've read a story with mermaids or mermen, and I'm always looking for stories that give readers a bit more angst, darkness and novels that are willing to raise the stakes. Reading the synopsis for this definitely promised us all that and more.

In theory, The Vicious Deep had everything working in it's favour. Ms. Córdova is an excellent writer, and she paints a picture that's vivid, entertaining and, at times, hilarious. I love the wit and charm that she interjected into Tristan's character, giving him both depth and a realistic teenage human male persona. It made him that much more tangible in what would have otherwise been intangible circumstances. That said, however, I suppose I expected the stakes within this novel to be a bit higher and more gruesome. With mentions of "razor-sharp teeth" in the premise alone, I was looking for the novel to spin us into a darker and, I'll admit, slightly more vicious world. I also found her use of present tense for the novel to be both a strength and a weakness at times. While it added urgency to the plot, it also made everything immediate and in the here-and-now, which made backstory a little less prevalent.

There were elements of The Vicious Deep that rang true though, and that I loved. In large part, Layla's character was just as strong as Tristan's. I never really felt as though she lacked the depth of an important character, and I really appreciated the fact that she was strong in her own right. Furthermore, this is one of those few novels in which the parents actually play a role, which is often a huge qualm with me. It was nice to see the author embrace the reality of teenage life - even in a fantasy setting. As the stakes are raised in the story though, I wanted to see more of Tristan's evolution, and I wanted to see him embrace and harness a power that was deep within him. Yet, armed with a magical dagger, he's thrust into melee with little to no training, and an attitude that belied his heroism.

Overall, despite a few hiccups along the way, I thought that The Vicious Deep was a strong start to a new series. I'm hoping to see that the plot holes and flaws are resolved along the way, and I'd really like to see the stakes raised with more drama in the future. I must also admit that the cliffhanger at the end of this book is a doozy, and it definitely left me less than impressed - until I remembered I have the sequel in hand. I give this book a 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy paranormal and mermaid 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: Salt & Storm

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I will never tire of three things in literature: witchcraft, historical fiction and magic. To combine the lot in one book seems to be the trifecta for me these days, and I'm getting pickier and pickier about what I review otherwise.  That said, it seems as though historical fiction is growing in both popularity and creativity these days, making it the perfect genre for me!

Title: Salt & Storm
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: September 23, 2014
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Pages: 416

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whale men safe and prosperous at sea. But before she could learn how to control her power, her mother, the first Roe woman in centuries to turn her back on magic, stole Avery away from her grandmother. Avery must escape from her mother before her grandmother dies, taking with her the secrets of the Roes’ power.

When Avery awakens from a dream foretelling her own murder, she realizes time is running short—for her and for the people of her island, who, without the Roes, will lose their ships and the only life they know.

With the help of Tane, a tattooed harpoon boy from the Pacific Islands, Avery plots her escape from her mother and unravels the mysteries of her mother’s and grandmother’s pasts. Becoming a witch may prevent her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers it will also require a sacrifice she never expected—one she might not be able to make.
Doesn't that sound pretty much epic? I love not only the setting, but the dire straits to which Avery and the other characters seem to need to go to save their magic and their lives. I haven't read a good historical fiction in a while, but I think this could break that streak for me because it sounds awesome. I can't wait to see if there's more to the black magic of the Roes than we think! 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 I Almost Put Down

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

You know the story...you have a million books to read and review, and you've started to learn that your reviewing time is valuable. Plus, you have a little less patience for the read that's taking just a little too long to get into. So, you're stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do you keep reading and hope things get better? Or, do you call it a day on the book and put it down? There are definitely books that I debated this very thing regarding, and I'm so glad I ended up finishing them! Take a look:

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
All These Lives by Sarah Wylie

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Blood Red Road by Moira Young
The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Between by Jessica Warman
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater
The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

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

17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen Review

Monday, May 12, 2014

Title: 17 First Kisses
Author: Rachael Allen (Twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: June 17, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.

Until Claire meets Luke. But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.

With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.
It doesn't happen to often, but sometimes I crave a lighter contemporary read bases more upon subtle human emotions than the base nature of humankind. 17 First Kisses seemed to specifically fit the bill with my craving for lighter summer reads becoming more prevalent. Author, Rachael Allen, has crafted a debut novel that speaks the truth about coming of age, navigating teenage friendships, the complexity of trying to find love at such a young age and the depth of emotions coursing through teenage veins. Sweet, satisfying and tenuous, it's the type of novel you'll keep in your heart long past a summer fling.

I had my doubts when I began reading 17 First Kisses, if only because such novels have proven to be trite and cliche before. I went in with an open  mind though, and I was pleased to discover that Ms. Allen has given us a novel that reads far truer and sweeter than many otherwise similar novels. Rather that simply give us the social circles of high school in a manner that's entirely cliche, she develops her otherwise stereotyped characters - the Queen Bee, the cheerleaders, the cliques - and turns those stereotypes on their heads. We suddenly see these overdone characters in a new, true and valid light that's three-dimensional, tangible and real, which separates it from the crowd.

Furthermore, it must be said that Claire was the perfect protagonist for 17 First Kisses. I had expected her to be the sweet nerd looking to find love, but it turned out she ran in the inner circle of high school, presenting me with a unique challenge in trying to find some sort of common ground with her. Some of her actions, including her quest for the perfect guy, were dubious at best, and I felt a disconnect with her from the start. I found it interesting, however, that Ms. Allen crafted a romantic story that was less about finding romance than Claire finding herself. That, in all seriousness, is why this novel worked for me in the end.

17 First Kisses features an easy-to-read, likable writing style with dialogue that's extremely reminiscent of high school and, therefore, rings true. There is also some incredible humour peppered throughout the novel, lightening the atmosphere and giving readers a hint of warmth in what is, at times, a tenuous tale if you're well past high school like myself. My one real qualm with the novel is the love interest, actually. I felt as though Luke read completely disingenuous, despite looking and speaking like the penultimate guy. I would have much rather had a sweeter, more relatable love interest for the masses.

Overall, I think that 17 First Kisses was a fun, light and engaging summer read that will work for a lot of readers. Though I had a few minor issues with it, I loved the author's clear, crisp writing style, and I'll definitely be on the lookout for more from her in the future. I give this book a very high 3.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy summer reads and 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.

Scan by Walter Jury and Sarah Fine Review & Giveaway

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Title: Scan
Authors: Walter Jury & Sarah Fine
Publisher: Putnam Children's
Publish Date: May 1, 2014
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher

Tate and his father don’t exactly get along. As Tate sees it, his father has unreasonably high expectations for Tate to be the best—at everything. Tate finally learns what he’s being prepared for when he steals one of his dad’s odd tech inventions and mercenaries ambush the school, killing his father in the process and sending Tate on the run from aliens who look just like humans.

All Tate knows--like how to make weapons out of oranges and lighter fluid--may not be enough to save him as he’s plunged into a secret inter-species conflict that’s been going on for centuries. Aided only by his girlfriend and his estranged mother, with powerful enemies closing in on all sides, Tate races to puzzle out the secret behind his father’s invention and why so many are willing to kill for it.
It's always a bit of a risk when you fall for a novel before you've ever read it. It's also a bit risky when that novel doesn't have nearly the hype you might expect it to have. Scan, however, is the type of story that doesn't really need the hype or the know-how surrounding it. Rather, it does better, slowly building, burning and consuming your mind as the action and adventure course through your veins. Co-authors, Walter Jury and Sarah Fine, knew what they were doing when they crafted this novel, and they gave all readers a story in which it's almost a little too easy to lose yourself in its world.

The alien vs. human conflict is an age-old one in literature, but it's one I've never failed to continue to be interested in. Scan was pleasantly surprising in this regard, paying homage to previous such stories but offering up its own take on intergalactic battles, as well. I found it refreshing that, rather than focus on everything but the drama, the authors focused heavily on the alien vs. human conflict. However, they did so in an incredibly powerful manner that wasn't as black and white as you might think from the premise. Just like you might imagine, not everything is simple. Not all humans are good, and not all of the aliens were bad, so it  made the enemy difficult to pinpoint from start to finish...making you question whether there was really any one guilty party.

Tate was the perfect protagonist for a story like this. He exuded much of the confidence, demeanor and cockiness that you might expect from a teenage boy. However, there was also a dark void in him that left him frustrated with his parents and with the adults in society. Until events unfold, Tate doesn't know what he's being trained for, and though his life is devoted to his training, he can't help but wonder why, and whether there is more to life than he experiences every day. I could appreciate that Tate was fighting an internal battle throughout the novel, and I loved that, through the events of the novel, we watch as he grows into his own person and evolves into a powerhouse worthy of his father's pride.

I did have some questions throughout the Scan though - some of which were left unresolved at the end. While this could easily have been a setup for the next novel in the series, it didn't help that the questions were nagging throughout the novel. I also must say that I wanted a bit more of the secondary characters in the novel. I felt as though Tate's mother and his girlfriend, Christine, were often mentioned but mostly overlooked. While I feel as though these character dynamics and relationships could have heightened the story significantly, I felt as though those relationships were simply touched upon and cast aside. I can appreciate that the story didn't revolve around a romance, but a simple mention begs for more detail.

Overall though, despite a few little issues, I really enjoyed Scan. It's the perfect novel for Trekkies and science fiction junkies like myself, rife with the possibilities of greatness in future novels. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy classic science fiction and alien 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. 


Thanks to the lovely folks at Penguin, I have a second ARC of Scan to give away to my lovely readers! This giveaway will be open internationally, and it will end promptly at midnight PST on 5/15/14. All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter for your chance to win. Good luck!

Waiting on Wednesday: In a Handful of Dust

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I feel like I swore up and down this past year that the dystopian genre was dead, but there are still a few books that absolutely blew me away and had me begging for more. One such author, Mindy McGinnis, wrote one of my all-time favourite dystopians, Not a Drop to Drink, and I've wanted more since the very last page of that book. Can you believe dreams do come true?!

Publish Date: September 23, 2014
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 384

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.
While I loved reading the story of Lynn in this novel's predecessor, I'm also pretty darn eager to see how the story works from Lucy's point of view. There was a raw power in Not a Drop to Drink that was painful, hopeless and distraught - very dystopian - that I really hope carries through into this novel. It made the first book remarkable, so I'm excited to see that this isn't a cut-and-dried sequel...rather a new point of view. Also, I must have this cover. Stat. 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: Book Covers I'd Frame as Art

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It's no secret that I'm a huge cover slut, and I think that books with beautiful covers are one of my all-time biggest vices. So, naturally, this topic speaks to my soul. Would you believe I actually have art prints of some of these amazing, amazing covers? My husband doesn't know what any of them mean, but that doesn't matter, does it really? 

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Splintered by A.G. Howard
Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler
The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake 

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

While We Run by Karen Healey Review

Monday, May 5, 2014

Title: While We Run
Author: Karen Healey (Twitter)
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: May 27, 2014
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopia
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher

Abdi Taalib thought he was moving to Australia for a music scholarship. But after meeting the beautiful and brazen Tegan Oglietti, his world was turned upside down. Tegan's no ordinary girl - she died in 2027, only to be frozen and brought back to life in Abdi's time, 100 years later.

Now, all they want is for things to return to normal (or as normal as they can be), but the government has other ideas. Especially since the two just spilled the secrets behind Australia's cryonics project to the world. On the run, Abdi and Tegan have no idea who they can trust, and when they uncover startling new details about Project Ark, they realise thousands of lives may be in their hands.
When I read book one in this series, When We Wake, I remember being distinctly impressed by the crossover nature of the novel, perfectly merging science fiction and dystopia into a melting pot of drama. So, naturally, as a series this excited me even more. Author, Karen Healey, has crafted a story in which our protagonists are out of touch with the reality in which they're now forced to live, giving readers a distinct "out of body" sort of impression with her novels. And, while book one offered us the world from Tegan's point of view, While We Run changes things up a little, and we now get to see the world through Abdi's eyes. 

I've always been a fan of the male perspective for young adult novels, in large part because I find it too rare. The voice in While We Run is certainly no exception. Abdi was a hauntingly unique character, and he's one that made it almost a little difficult to trust his voice, offering us a bit of a catch-twenty-two as we're exploring the world and the fallout of Project Ark. In the world in which Tegan and Abdi live, it's difficult, if not impossible, to trust anyone - especially each other. There is a distinct, acrid note of distrust in Abdi's viewpoint, and reading through his eyes, it was amazing to see the ability he had to truly manipulate a situation in his favor when necessary. He could break things, people and events into their tiniest counterparts, analyze them, and rearrange them to benefit him whenever needed, which made him a fascinating but dangerous character to follow.

What I loved most about While We Run though, was that it's more of a follow-up novel to its predecessor than most sequels I've ever read before. Rather than simply throwing us into the melee of a new problem or dilemma, this sequel explores much of the aftermath of the events of the former novel, as well as its significant impact on our characters today. I will say that it frustrated me, at times, to lack the action with whim I'm so familiar in sequels, simply because the stakes are already raised. However, it's a very internalized sort of novel in which you can't help but read, absorb and understand that while, yes, the fallout is happening all around, it's most definitely strongest for Abdi and Tegan, and that's where the power lies. 

While We Run is a bit of an outlier in terms of sequels, simply because it gives us a more open-ended finish than many of us might be used to. While we get a sense of resolution and conclusion, there's also a lot left unfinished, which gives us hope, nerves and undeniable curiosity for what happened next. It's a powerful and well-done tool of Ms. Healey's, and it might be the only time I'll ever enjoy an ending like that. I give this novel a strong 4 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy science-fiction and dystopian novels, as well as a male POV.

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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