Waiting on Wednesday: The Girl at Midnight

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

There's something about magical stories that will always, always, always speak to me. It doesn't matter if I'm 28 or 48…I think that a good fantasy novel will always have my heart, regardless of the age range for which it was written. I've seen a lot of intriguing novels preparing to hit the market lately, too, so you'd better believe I'm getting more and more excited!

Title: The Girl at Midnight
Author: Melissa Grey (Twitter)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publish Date: April 28, 2015
Genre: YA, Fantasy,
Pages: 368

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants...and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fir
Magic! Enchantments! Lost races and black markets! All of this sounds like an amazing recipe for success to me, and honestly, The Girl at Midnight sounds like it pretty much has my heart already. Echo sounds like the type of protagonist for whom I could really get onboard, and knowing that you have a heroine to root for is half the battle, right? I'm ready for this adventure, and I only wish it was releasing much sooner! 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.

Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto Review

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Title: Ghost House
Author: Alexandra Adornetto (Twitter)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: August 26, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

After the loss of her mother, Chloe Kennedy starts seeing the ghosts that haunted her as a young girl again. Spending time at her grandmother's country estate in the south of England is her chance to get away from her grief and the spirits that haunt her. Until she meets a mysterious stranger…

Alexander Reade is 157 years dead, with secrets darker than the lake surrounding Grange Hall and a lifelike presence that draws Chloe more strongly than any ghost before. But the bond between them awakens the vengeful spirit of Alexander's past love, Isobel. And she will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who threatens to take him from her.

To stop Isobel, Chloe must push her developing abilities to their most dangerous limits, even if it means losing Alex forever… and giving the hungry dead a chance to claim her for their own.
It's been a long while since I fell for a ghost story - or a paranormal story for that matter - so I figured it was high time I actually read a book like Ghost House again. It must be said before I review this book that I knew going in it would follow the somewhat stereotypical young adult paranormal formula. Why? Simply because it's far too seldom that I read a ghost story that scares the crap out of me but manages to charm me at the same time. So, I knew that we would see love, we would see drama and I was certain there would be a plethora of cliches, as well. Alexandra Adornetto is now a veteran author though, and with an avid fan base, I wanted to give this new series a chance.

Ghost House starts strong, developing a strong bond between readers and our protagonist Chloe, who can see ghosts. Though she's managed to turn them off and away for years, they're back in full force since the death of her mother, and she sees them everywhere. I liked that there was a delicate balance between the naiveté of Chloe, and this deep-seeded pain that ruled her actions, as well. She's torn between two worlds - the one she lives in, and the one that haunts her all the time. I understood her desire to escape it all. Furthermore, I was impressed to see that Chloe does develop through the story, and we get to see her mature and come into her own. Her explorations of her abilities and her desire to help Alex were definitely intriguing, and it was that degree of empathy that really hooked me on her persona.

In terms of secondary characters, Alex was a bit more tedious for me through Ghost House. I felt like he offered pretty much the standard insta-love connection to the story, and though I was intrigued by his backstory and his tragic past, I wanted to see more of a rich and layered personality from him. I also struggled a little with the budding relationship between Alex and Chloe, simply because I didn't see as strong of a connection from both sides. So, in the case of this novel, I was actually happy to see a love triangle develop - if only because it offered us a human counterpart to our ghostly lover. All that said though, I must admit that I felt the romance overshadowed the actual plot, which was a shame. What could have been a really strong ghost story about a girl coming into her own and helping the other side did, unfortunately, fall prey to a few too many cliches for me in the end.

Overall though, I must say that Ms. Adornetto's writing is much stronger this time around, in my opinion. I wasn't the biggest fan of the Halo series, and I think that she's learned to develop her characters better, which is a huge plus for me. That being said, I liked Ghost House, but I didn't fall absolutely, madly in love with it. I give it a strong 3 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy lighter paranormal dramas.

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.

Movie Review: Divergent

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I don't often do little reviews like this on the blog (at least, not since the beginning of my blog years ago), but Ryan and I sat down and actually watched the Divergent movie yesterday for the first time, and I felt the need to actually write down my thoughts on it. It's rare that I actually feel passionate enough - good or bad - to write a review, but I have to be honest…I can't help it with this one.

Part of the great power and charm of Divergent, the novel, is the fact that this passive, conformist society had such a sociopathic underbelly just teeming with dissatisfaction, resentment and power struggles. I found it to be a searing and scathing portrayal of what society could actually become someday, so reading the novel was extremely profound. Likewise, watching Tris grow into her own, find herself in a militant and powerful faction was a real treat - not to mention empowering to women everywhere.

Unfortunately, when we watched Divergent, the movie, both my husband and I felt a little bit cheated by the adaptation. Yes, we realize that cinematic portrayals will always take certain liberties for dramatic effect, but we felt as though the movie lost the actual power of the novel altogether. Rather than focus on this broken society, we get a brief interlude here and there about why society is split into factions, and then we focus on Tris's relationship with Four from there on in. Frankly, I feel as though Tris's character didn't resonate nearly as much as she did in the novel either.

Four was, and is, quiet and brooding, and I could definitely appreciate the fact that he fit the bill for me in the movie. However, I feel as though part of his tortured past that defined him so clearly in the novel was also simply glossed over. Whereas I wanted to see Tris and Four connect on a deeper level than just their Divergent connection, I felt as though we were left to settle for a cinematic, teeny-bopper romance that didn't capture a fraction of the power within the novel. Furthermore, both my husband and I remarked that the introduction of Dauntless in the movie was vaguely reminiscent of West Side Story, and I half expected these "hooligans" to break into song and start snapping.

Yes, I'm being extremely harsh about this movie, but when I see an adaption like The Hunger Games soar despite my expectations, I begin to understand that it actually is possible. Yet, I want more than just a pretty onscreen romance. I want power, and depth, and backstory, and it can be done. Sadly though, the Divergent movie just didn't do it for us, and we were sorely disappointed.

Did any of you watch the Divergent movie? If so, what did you think about it?

Wickedpedia by Chris Van Etten Review

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Title: Wickedpedia
Author: Chris Van Etten (Twitter)
Publisher: Scholastic
Publish Date: June 24, 2014
Genre: YA, Horror
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher

Cole and Greg love playing practical jokes through Wikipedia. They edit key articles and watch their classmates crash and burn giving oral reports on historical figures like Genghis Khan, the first female astronaut on Jupiter. So after the star soccer player steals Cole's girlfriend, the boys take their revenge by creating a Wikipedia page for him, an entry full of outlandish information including details about his bizarre death on the soccer field.

It's all in good fun, until the soccer player is killed in a freak accident . . . just as Cole and Greg predicted. The uneasy boys vow to leave Wikipedia alone but someone continues to edit articles about classmates dying in gruesome ways . . . and those entries start to come true as well.

To his horror, Cole soon discovers that someone has created a Wikipedia page for him, and included a date of death. He has one week to figure out who's behind the murders, or else he's set to meet a pretty grisly end.
It's not a secret that I have a penchant for horror stories - whether they be of the literary variety or the film variety. While they absolutely scare the heck out of me, there's something about a well-time horror novel or film that leaves your skin crawling, and you feel the need for constant vigilance long after that last page. So, naturally, when Wickedpedia appeared on my radar, I knew I needed to read it. There's an inherent danger to this online culture that we as a society live in, and I was thrilled to read a novel that was going to not only explore, but expand, upon it as well. And, without fail, author Chris Van Etten gives his fans horror in its truest, most gruesome form.

Wickedpedia quickly establishes itself as a front-runner in young adult horror, and I say that in the most complimentary way. Mr. Van Etten is extremely explicit with his carefully-timed details and this sort of no-holds-barred approach to the violent acts committed within the book. And, while I have a pretty strong stomach, my friends, I must admit that several of the crimes committed and described made even my stomach churn. While this won't work for some, I think that the author took a remarkably clever approach to horror by actually sticking hard to his guns and the genre because so much  "horror" is watered down in YA. That said, I do think that, at times, the descriptions of morbidity actually overshadowed some of the more pertinent character details that I craved.

This is the sort of novel that is very heavy on the plot, and I felt as though I sort of lost Cole, Gavin, Winnie and Josh to the actual events of the novel. And, to be entirely honest, I felt as though Cole's character lacked a lot of the depth I hoped from him. Interspersed throughout Wickedpedia is a sort of casual romantic arc between Cole and Lila. However, I felt that it played a serious second fiddle to the past relationship between Cole and Winnie, which left that part feeling a bit redundant and superfluous. Furthermore, while much of the novel is bouncing from graphic details of crimes to murders and mayhem, the ending sort of just appears out of the blue, and I was left hanging and, quite honestly, wondering whether my book was cut off. I'm all for somewhat open endings, but a huge buildup without a true finale left me feeling a bit cheated.

Overall, I have to say that though Wickedpedia had a ton of potential, I felt a bit ambivalent about it in the end. There was so much more development that I wanted, and while I think the author has great potential, I think that the balance between details just wasn't there. I give this one a 2.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to an upper YA audience who likes horror. Please also note that there are very gruesome and graphic crimes within this novel. 

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

Waiting on Wednesday: A Wicked Thing

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fairy tales are my jam, people. There's something about reading those stories that we read when we were little and seeing them come to life in all new ways that really gets the literary lover in me going. I like to think, too, that the magic is still alive, so seeing them portrayed in new ways, new lights and new times gives me great joy. Plus, something about it is just a beautiful breath of fresh air. Colour me sold on all fairy tale retellings.

Title: A Wicked Thing
Author: Rhiannon Thomas (Twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: February 24, 2015
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 352

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairytale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept. Everyone expects Aurora to marry her betrothed and restore magic and peace to the kingdom before revolution tears it apart. But after a lifetime spent locked in a tower for her own safety, Aurora longs for the freedom to make her own choices. When she meets a handsome rebel, he tempts her to abandon everything for a different kind of life.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.
First of all, this book is releasing on my birthday, so it has to be amazing. Second of all, Sleeping Beauty was by far my favourite fairy tale growing up, as evidenced by my watching Maleficent three times. There's something about the idea of a Sleeping Beauty that wants a little bit more; an Aurora that might put her own needs first above her own kingdom. I'm intrigued, and I'm totally in love with this cover (even despite hating the pretty girls in dresses trend). Sign me up, people! I'm sold! 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: Characters I'd Want With Me on a Deserted Island

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Let's be honest here…nobody really wants to be on a deserted island, do they? I have no desire to go all Castaway and make best friends with a basketball. If, however, I had to be stranded on a deserted island, I think that the right company might make such a tedious stay a little more bearable. Literary characters might be fictional, but I'm pretty sure any of these would enormously brighten my day on any deserted island. 

Four from Divergent - Because he's hot and principled. I like that combo.
Luna from Harry Potter - Because she's quirky and oddly intelligent, and I think she'd keep us sane.
Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars - Because it's a metaphor. Obviously.

Rose from Vampire Academy - Because she's a take-no-prisoners, tough, awesome girl.
Jace from The Mortal Instruments - Because I'm pretty sure he'd kick some ass.
Anna from Anna and the French Kiss - Because everyone needs a girlfriend to keep them level, right?

Legolas from The Lord of the Rings - Because he's really good with sharp, pointy things.
Finnick Odair from The Hunger Games - Because he's sexy without a shirt, and he always has sugar.
Teresa from The Maze Runner - Because someone needs to have a god soul on this island.
Ender from Ender's Game - Because he's a principled hero.

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

Thirty Sunsets by Christine Hurley Deriso Review

Monday, July 21, 2014

Title: Thirty Sunsets
Author: Christine Hurley Deriso (Twitter)
Publisher: Flux
Publish Date: July 8, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher

To Forrest Shephard, getting away to the family's beach house with her parents and her brother, Brian, is the best part of every summer. Until this year, when her mother invites Brian's obnoxious girlfriend, Olivia, to join them.

Suddenly, Forrest's relaxing vacation becomes a mission to verify the reality of Olivia's rumored eating disorder. But the truth behind Olivia's finicky eating isn't at all what Forrest expected. And over the next thirty days, Forrest's world is turned upside down as her family's darkest secrets begin to come to light.
This isn't my first novel from Christine Hurley Deriso, and I can tell you from the start of this review that it will not be my last. In the past, Ms. Deriso's novels have rang true in some respects but really lost me in others, so I hesitated to read Thirty Sunsets for a while. With a setup like the synopsis implies, I knew that this would be a hit or miss sort of novel in which either the protagonist captured me, or we would be left for petty subplots in the end. Fortunately, Ms. Deriso gives us a novel - and a heroine - that's worth rooting for, and I felt that I became invested in the story despite even my bold, preconceived notions.

Thirty Sunsets stands apart from Ms. Deriso's other titles in that it's a rich, multi-layered story. Instead of giving us all the facts and pieces of the picture from the start, we're left to slowly unravel this twisted maze of relationships between Forrest, her brother, her parents and Olivia. Furthermore, the this plot is twisted and winding, offering us drama in unexpected places that actually adds to the story in the best possible way by fostering relationships, heightening the tension and forcing our protagonist to really search inside of herself. I like novels that afford me the opportunity to be introspective, as well, and this is the type of book that really had me wondering "what would I do?" if I were in Forrest's shoes.

Forrest was immediately the type of character that I could become invested in, and I admired her protective, fiercely loyal personality. What I didn't, unfortunately, love was her willingness to believe her self-worth depended on a boy's interest in her. That said, I understand that this was a novel in which we're shown the self-deprecation that many teens feel when their feelings aren't reciprocated by the opposite sex. There was a strength of character within Forrest that slowly develops as the plot unfolds, and though I truly believe Scott is a despicable human being, he made her come into her own through a series of crazy events. While, at times, I felt that it was a little bit too heavy-handed and forced, I do believe that Forrest showed her potential and true colours in the end of Thirty Sunsets, and I could get onboard for that.

The fact of the matter is that Thirty Sunsets is a fast summer read. Avid contemporary fans will comfortably read this book in one sitting, which I think is a double-edged sword for a novel like this. On the one hand, I can appreciate so much depth in a slim book. On the other hand though, tackling issues like rape, teen pregnancies and unfolding family secrets requires a little more time, thought and overall analysis in the end for me. I don't think that a novel marketed as a summer romance should hide behind such a thin guise, especially when it shows the truth of destructive relationships and character growth. 

Overall though, I think that Thirty Sunsets was a strong title - albeit a bit too short for the subject matter. I'm just the type of reader that thinks that all options should be explored, as well as all background, which didn't necessarily happen in this case. I give it a strong 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA contemporary, as well as those who enjoy emotional books about relationships. 

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.

Books You'll Find on Our Baby's Shelf

Friday, July 18, 2014

As most of you know already, my husband and I are expecting our first little on this coming December! While that's made this little blog take a back seat at times this year because morning sickness sucks and growing a human is hard, I can't help but get excited to start building our baby's library. Isn't that what every good book blogger dreams of? I know this post is a little different than what I normally post here, but as I transition into motherhood later this year, I want to make sure that is a part of this blog - and that my love of books will be passed down in its entirety. 

We've already bought a few books, and we have a couple classics from family, but here are the top four that are on little baby Moore's bookshelf. Now we just impatiently await this little peanut's arrival! 

Who Flung Dung by Ben Redlich - Would you believe this treasure is from South Africa? My parents recently went back to visit our family and brought this silly story back, and you'd better believe I can't wait to read this to our nugget. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle - This is one of the very first books I read as a child, and both the illustrations and the story of transformation were magical to me both then and now. We're thrilled to read this wonderful book to little Moore.

On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman - Something about this book just screams love. This is the type of book that Ryan and I can read to the nugget and remind him/her that they are so very important in our lives. 

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein - I'm not the biggest fan of Mr. Silverstein, but this is one book that's been on my shelf since I was really, really young. Full of morals, love and soulful giving, I hope we have such a sweet, tender child.

What sort of books would you add to this list? I have to say that my nesting is in full swing, and the library for this baby is top on my list of priorities right now! 

One Past Midnight by Jessica Shirvington Review

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Title: One Past Midnight
Author: Jessica Shirvington (Twitter)
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Publish Date: July 22, 2014
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 368
Source: Publisher

For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she Shifts to her ′other′ life - a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she′s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she′s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.

With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments which bring her dangerously close to the life she′s always wanted... But just what - and who - is she really risking?
You know those books that you read but simply have to put it aside after reading because you don't know exactly how to review them? One Past Midnight is that sort of book, and though I was worried I wouldn't connect with this novel because I tried at first and just couldn't get into it. After seeing countless of great reviews though, I read it again, and I have to say that I couldn't have been more surprised - or impressed - by the depth of this novel. I read it in one day the second time around. Jessica Shirvington is no stranger to powerful fiction, having written the popular Embrace series. This novel, however, is in a nearly entirely different wheelhouse, offer twists, turns and incredible worlds that will spin you into a paranormal romance tale that's beautiful, rich and unlike anything you've ever read before.

I often find that the protagonists in paranormal tales are lackluster and lose their own identity within the plot or romance elements, but I'm pleased to say that One Past Midnight most definitely did not fail in this aspect. Sabine is a powerful, engaging and vibrant character that I can honestly all other YA characters should aspire to be. While living in two separate worlds, we still see this raw and real identity that exudes an honest sort of charisma from deep within the pages. She was flawed but likeable, and I felt that Ms. Shirvington really managed to make her humanity sing through her relationships with her families, her parents and her these two polar opposite lives.

One Past Midnight worried me at first because I felt as though offering readers two distinct worlds would be too much for a singular novel, but the story holds a near-perfect balance that really offers much more insight into not only Sabine's character, but also the impossible duality of having to live and breathe two completely separate lives. It must be said, as well, that while I was wary of the romantic aspect of this novel, Ethan and Sabine gave me nothing but joy. Rather than whittling down her characters to their teenage tropes, Ms. Shirvington allowed their individual personas, flaws and realities to merge into this beautiful arc that only furthered our commitment to them and their journey.

Overall, I wish I had the words to adequately state how much I loved this novel. Perhaps I was just in the wrong mindset the first time I tried to read it because it blew me away the second time around. I think that the only thing that was lacking was, perhaps, a little background as to why Sabine was the way she was, but it definitely didn't detract from my enjoyment of this novel. I hope that other readers will give it a go and love it as much as I did. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy paranormal romance novels.

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

Waiting on Wednesday: Red Queen

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I've been in a fantasy sort of mood lately, and I swear that these books have been very hit or miss for me lately. So, as you might imagine, my literary craving has been a bit of a double-edged sword. Luckily for all of us though, it seems like 2015 might just be the year for fantasy because some of the books I've seen floating around look like they might just be to die for.

Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard (Twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: February 10, 2015
Genre: YA, High Fantasy
Pages: 320

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army, she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a superhuman ability she didn’t know she had.

Except...her blood is Red. To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a budding Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince and Mare against her own heart.
Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. I find it extremely hard to put into words just how amazing Red Queen sounds to me. There's something about a novel that embraces royalty, deceit, powers, the lust for dominion and a strong female protagonist that just speaks to me, and it sounds like this novel has it all. I have to say that it sounds like fantasy is erring on a darker, more devious sort of note these days, and the tricky side of me is just loving it. Sign me up for 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.

The Program by Suzanne Young Review

Monday, July 14, 2014

Title: The Program
Author: Suzanne Young (Twitter)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publish Date: April 30, 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Pages: 405
Source: Personal Copy

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.
I've been avoiding dystopian novels like the plague lately, so reading The Program was very much like a warm welcome back to this genre that captivated me over a year ago. Giving myself a break from the genre gave me a chance to clear my mind, think objectively about such intricacies in a dystopian society and allow me to once again form connections and bonds with characters within their worlds. Suzanne Young offers up a dystopian reality that's vaguely reminiscent of other novels we've read before, but there are harsh extremes within this novel that set it apart entirely.

I found that the idea for The Program was incredibly well-presented, and I found that the double-edged sword aspect of the plot, itself, made for a memorable experience. Teenagers are known to be volatile, emotional and far too often unguarded, making them susceptible to extreme emotional swings, which are both frowned upon and immediately stopped within this society. One recorded outburst equates to a stint at the Program where teens are forever changed - and their memories are wiped. But the cost is high, and the moral implications within this novel are challenging, thrilling and exciting. Is life worth living without memories, emotions and feelings, or is life worth living solely as a shell? What emotions make you…you? These questions fueled my rabid reading of the plot, as well as my overall curiosity throughout.

I must admit, however, that I failed to make the strongest connection with Sloane or James though, and while I loved the setup and the intricacies of this novel, I desperately wanted to feel something for the two of them, as well. Much of their setup was focused upon their love story, which is established prior to the novel's beginning. I'm all for a pre-established relationship, but I need to understand each person's character and role within the relationship to better understand the dynamic of how they work and relate to one another, as well. Trust me, Sloane was a likable girl, but was she the most memorable at the end of the day? Perhaps not as much as I'd hoped, which did, unfortunately, lessen my desire to root for her.

Overall though, despite my struggle to fully connect with the characters within The Program, I was really surprised with how intriguing I found the setup of this novel to be. Furthermore, it must be said that Ms. Young takes her time building this eerily ordered world, and I'm definitely going to continue on this series - and hope that I learn to better understand Sloane, James and the other important characters, as well. I give this novel a 4 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it for fans of YA, especially those looking for a well-built dystopian.

Six Truths About Book Blogging

Sunday, July 13, 2014

In my four plus years, I've heard a lot of interesting myths about blogging that I've dispelled over time. There are, however, also things that I've learned are truth…and things that I've come to my own realization about over time, as well. I'm not sure whether these things I've learned are solely about book blogging, or if personal bloggers discover them, too, but I know that book blogging is an interesting niche to be in, and I'm so glad to be a part of it - good and bad.

1. My book blog has actually been a large factor in being hired to my past two jobs. With online media relying heavily on social media these days, being able to show that I have a strong social media background and significant ties to a social community has definitely opened doors for me. I didn't start listing i swim for oceans on my LinkedIn or resume until it was nearly 3 years old, simply because I wasn't sure it was professional enough. However, over time I realized that I put as much time and effort into this blog as many people do with their careers, and I've learned a ton, as well. Needless to say, it's opened a lot of doors, and I'm actually excited to call it part of my job today.

2. I have not made a single dime off this blog. Obviously, this is barring the countless ARCs and promotional materials that generous publishers, authors and marketers have sent me throughout the years. In terms of revenue though? I haven't made a thing. I knew a lot of bloggers when I first started that were hoping to make money off their sites, and I know that it is possible, but I haven't done so. I don't sell ad space, and I don't really hope to make money off this site. I do it because I love it, and I love sharing my thoughts on books.

3. Book blogging is extremely time-consuming. To read and develop quality posts and reviews, I spend close to 25 hours a week working on this blog, and I'll readily state that this is significantly less than I did years ago. I've found a balance now, and because I do it for enjoyment, I let my personal life dictate how much time I can or cannot spend on here. Do I feel guilty when I can't put up a post? Heck yes, but I'd feel more guilty if I put up something substandard.

4. I'm not entitled to page views or comments. I've become more relaxed about constantly staring at my blogging stats over time, but I have to admit it was an all-consuming task for over a year on this blog. And, to be honest, it made me feel like my blog was never good enough. I felt like my blog deserved comments, and it deserved to be viewed hundreds of times a day. The truth of the matter, however, is that my blog might be worthy of such comments and views, but I am by no means entitled to either. It's a give and take kind of world, and while some posts soar, others flop. It's the nature of the game. These days, I work hard to validate others without expecting my own validation in return.

5. My blogs are only as good as my own original thoughts. There was a time when I was afraid to tell the blog world that a book didn't work for me - especially if I was the only blogger I could think of that didn't like said book. The same goes liking a book most people hate. Here's the thing though…that's the beauty of blogging! It doesn't matter if others hated the book. Chances are, there is another person out there just waiting to hear that someone else loved it, too. That's why I'm no longer afraid to share my real, personal thoughts.

6. It takes time. Honestly, this is the biggest thing I had to learn with book blogging. Blogging is work, and to find any semblance of success, you have to show consistency and longevity. Have I always shown both? No, and it's hurt me in the long run. However, I'm happy knowing that after four years, there are still people that come by to read my thoughts, and for that, I will always love this blog and the book blogging community.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson Review

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Title: The Kiss of Deception
Author: Mary E. Pearson (Twitter)
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publish Date: July 8, 2014
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 492
Source: Publisher

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight—but she doesn’t—and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom—to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—even as she finds herself falling in love.
High fantasy holds a very dear place in my heart, which makes me extremely likely to pick up any fantasy novel - if only to search for those select few that will take my breath away. The Kiss of Deception offers up the picture-perfect premise; a princess with a destiny too difficult for her to accept without knowing her own destiny, two kingdoms destined for failure without her sacrifice and a love that could and very well might conquer all. With an author like Mary E. Pearson at the helm, we know we're in for a ride and, quite possibly, the adventure of a lifetime.

It must be said that regardless of the content of her novels, Ms. Pearson is an incredible author. She has a way of painting a world with her words, coaxing them to life and welcoming readers into remarkable new places. The Kiss of Deception is no exception to this fact. Rife with detail, the novel is brimming with confidence in its setup, and the air of the kingdoms within the pages is every bit as alive and real as we could hope it would be. Alternating between the grace of delicate and powerful quotes and the deft, heavy handed action, the world comes alive, and I was thrilled to experience yet another of Ms. Pearson's adventures.

I did, unfortunately, have a few issues with Lia's character and sense of self. On the one hand, I was completely on board with her journey to self-discovery. On the other hand, however, she made me face-palm at times because of her own selfishness. She knows what's at stake, and after we experience her relationship with her brothers, we expect a sort of unbreakable bond that will connect her to her life at home. Instead, giving little to no thought to the wake of destruction she might leave, Lia turns her back on it all. I wanted so desperately to forgive her for her selfishness due to her youth, but I felt like it overshadowed her development in my eyes.

Furthermore, I struggled a bit with the relationships within The Kiss of Deception. It's no secret that love triangles generally irk me to no end, but I can get on board if there is a clear winner in the equation…most times. Unfortunately, Lia's potential suitors emerge at the same time and become almost burdensome to the action and the unfolding of the plot, itself. While I enjoyed the polar dynamics of the two men, I felt that there was a significant lull in the story as we watch Lia's choice play out ever-so-gradually, and I struggled with that.

Overall, I wanted to be blown away be The Kiss of Deception, but I ended up being just fairly satisfied. Like I've said, Ms. Pearson is an incredible writer, and I will always read her books, but I do believe this one was a bit too tedious and hung up on certain details. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA and high fantasy, especially those who enjoy significant romantic interludes.

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 Cure for Dreaming

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

It seems like the darker the story, the better these days. I swear that doesn't reflect on my character though! There's just something about books with a little edge, a little extra oomph and a touch of the sinister that really grasp my attention…if only because they really stand out in a myriad of young adult novels. Plus, who can resist a twist on history? That's right. You can't.

Title: The Cure for Dreaming
Author: Cat Winters (Twitter)
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publish Date: October 14, 2014
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Pages: 368

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud.

These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women.
Suffragists? A stubborn young girl that's silenced through hypnotism? Colour me utterly intrigued. Ever since we suffered through a hypnotist at my senior prom, I've been pretty convinced that hypnotism is possible, but to what extent? This novel seems to present a curious combination of my favourites…history, eerie details and a touch of dark fantasy. Now, here's hoping that this novel turns out to be just as mesmerizing as its delicious cover. 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.

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters Review

Monday, July 7, 2014

Title: Lies My Girlfriend Told Me
Author: Julie Anne Peters (Twitter)
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: June 10, 2014
Genre: YA, LGBT Contemporary
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher

When Alix's charismatic girlfriend, Swanee, dies from sudden cardiac arrest, Alix is overcome with despair. As she searches Swanee's room for mementos of their relationship, she finds Swanee's cell phone, pinging with dozens of texts sent from a mysterious contact, L.T. The most recent text reads: "Please tell me what I did. Please, Swan. Te amo. I love you."

Shocked and betrayed, Alix learns that Swanee has been leading a double life--secretly dating a girl named Liana the entire time she's been with Alix. Alix texts Liana from Swanee's phone, pretending to be Swanee in order to gather information before finally meeting face-to-face to break the news.

Brought together by Swanee's lies, Alix and Liana become closer than they'd thought possible. But Alix is still hiding the truth from Liana. Alix knows what it feels like to be lied to--but will coming clean to Liana mean losing her, too?
I've been working to challenge myself more here on the blog with types of novels that might have scared me away when I first started reviewing young adult. Contemporary was the first big hurdle for me, in that I had to realize that not all contemporary novels were trite and cliche. LGBT novels have been a long time coming for me because I wanted to convince myself that these novels can hold more power than just preaching - and that they could transcend the norm in YA and show us true diversity. Lies My Girlfriend Told Me epitomizes stretching my boundaries and reading a novel that portrays two beautiful, powerful and broken relationships in the best possible way, offering readers exactly what we'd expect and more. Julie Ann Peters shows us that this is a book about navigating teenage life, loss and love - not just about being gay.

I think that it must be said that there is an innate power in Lies My Girlfriend Told Me, simply with the fact that Ms. Peters is showing us society is growing, evolving and changing with the times. While we know our protagonists are lesbians, it's actually not the central theme of the novel. The theme is love and loss, with characters who happen to be gay, have very real relationships and navigate the same sorts of drama we might see in every other novel. It was beautiful to see that the author didn't trivialize the sexuality of her characters, but she didn't exploit it either, which made the story all the more powerful.

Alix was a very broken and confused character with whom I could empathize right away. Her story and the death of her girlfriend was tragic and heartbreaking - only to be compounded upon by the revelation that there was another girl in the picture. Watching her navigate the grief, the loss and the betrayal felt true and honest, though I must say I was thrown off slightly by the budding relationship with Liana. I appreciated Liana's character for the depth and emotion that she provided, as well as the secondary perspective of such a great loss. I just didn't necessarily agree with their sort of insta-love connection. That said, however, grief is different for everybody, so it might have been their coping mechanism.

In the end, though I wasn't entirely sold on the instantaneous connection between our leading ladies, I was sold on how poignant this novel was and how much anyone can relate to it. Addressing powerful subject matter with well-developed characters, Lies My Girlfriend Told Me is a novel I'll be suggesting to anyone looking for a challenging, thought-provoking read. I give it a high 3 out of 5, and I definitely recommend to fans of young adult, especially those who enjoy contemporary and LGBT novels.

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

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson Review

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson (Twitter)
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: January 7, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 391
Source: Personal Copy

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.
You know those really amazing contemporary novels that you read and end up closing the final page absolutely speechless? The Impossible Knife of Memory is one of those books, and I have to admit that I'm not surprised. In a time when contemporary books didn't work for me at all, Laurie Halse Anderson's books rang true with a sort of genuine sincerity in the midst of novels plagued by meaningless, fleeting relationships and petty drama. Yet again, Ms. Anderson has crafted a story that, if you allow it, will speak to your soul.

I put off reading The Impossible Knife of Memory for a long time because I worried not only about the subject matter, but about the mixed reviews I was seeing from some of my favourite bloggers. I felt, from the start, that Hayley's voice rang completely true. Written from her perspective, we see layer after layer of venom, snide remarks, outward hostility and pretense, which offers her a thin facade from the world her father has created for them through his trauma. She's a very broken, shattered teenager, and while some might see her persona as "snark," I see it instead as a fading veneer that offers her little respite from the storm that rages both around her and inside of her.

The PTSD storyline is something I worried about. Being married to a war veteran and active-duty soldier, I've seen PTSD firsthand, both in mild forms like my husband's and in severe forms like some of his battle buddies. I've seen grown men hit the floor when weights fall in the gym - solely because of the sound bringing back a flood of memories. Naturally, I worried that The Impossible Knife of Memory might err on the side of cliches. Instead, I was surprised to find that Ms. Anderson tactfully shows us fragments of Andy's persona and illness, but she doesn't go into graphic detail. Rather, she focuses mainly upon Hayley, which gives us direction through the murky drama that PTSD entails. In the end, it must be said that this was well done because it is extremely difficult to paint a familiar portrait of an ailment that plagues its victims all in different manners.

This novel does offer us a romance, and while at first I felt that throwing Finn into the mix was merely a young adult ploy, I began to see it change and mold Hayley into someone new throughout the story. I've seen bloggers call it fake and forced, but I think that The Impossible Knife of Memory, for the most part, played this part well. While, I'll admit that the relationship started rocky for me, I began to see the beauty under the surface of their carefully-crafted snark and banter. Two broken souls were healing each other, and it was wonderful.

Overall, I was really impressed by The Impossible Knife of Memory. I think that the only real gripe I had with the story was the text-type throughout the book. There is something about seeing multiple abbreviations that makes me so irritated (and it does in texts, as well), and that threw me for a loop a few times. Despite that, I give this story a high 4 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

Waiting on Wednesday: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I can tell you right now that I'm not sure whether this is just the case of the pretty cover, but I'm all over science fiction…especially if it looks like this novel I've chosen today. I've said from day on on this blog though that sci-fi is my jam. Throw in a parallel universe, and you've got me hooked. Is it just me, or could this genre be the next big thing for YA?! 

Title: A Thousand Pieces of You
Author: Claudia Gray (Twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: November 4, 2014
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Pages: 368

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.
I think that the reason this science fiction novel, in particular, appeals to me is because of the underlying theme of humanity that spills over from the synopsis alone. So often, sci-fi relies on its mind-bending plot twists to keep readers entertained, while A Thousand Pieces of You asks readers to feel Marguerite's journey to avenge her father, as well as find herself. I'm really hoping that this one ends up breaking that unfortunate mold of pretty covers with flat middles…so, fingers crossed! 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: Literary Classics I've Loved

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I'm all about reading young adult these days, but that's not to say that I haven't read my fair share of the classics - or other genres, for that matter. I think the beauty of books is that there is just so much to choose from, and we have the opportunity to pick what does and doesn't work for us. While I only review young adult novels, I have to say that much of my literary tastes has been induced by classics that I've discovered long past. Here are the top ten that I've read - and loved - throughout my life.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

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


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover