Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: The Agency: The Body at the Tower - Y.S. Lee

Where I got it: Library
Rating: 4 stars
Cover Rating:  4 stars (Very fitting. The model is perfect.)
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: August 10, 2010
Publisher: Candlewick
Page Count: 337 p.
Sequel to The Agency: A Spy in the House

Mary Quinn is now a full member of The Agency and as such is trusted once again with a very important mission. She has to find out how John Wick was murdered at the building site near the Houses of Parliament. She disguises herself as a boy so that she may find work on the construction site and listen and follow the builders around. When she runs into an old acquaintance however she fears her cover blown. She heard nary a word from him about it though. She doesn't know if he recognizes her or not. She also doesn't know if she herself is in danger at this site. She has lot's to lose and a lot to still find out.

Again Mary throws us into an adventure in Victorian London. This book like the first one was still a tad on the slow-going side. I'm not sure what it is, but there's no sense of racing through the pages, which can definitely be a good thing. Y.S. Lee is certainly qualified to emerge us in a wholly realistic Victorian London world. It is not entirely unlikely that an Agency could have existed. It is quite fascinating to read about all the class and gender differences that Mary has to adapt to with her various disguises. It has to be tricky having to go in and out of different characters and still be yourself somewhere inside. The romance in this one was quite like the first novel. One must realize that this is set in 1859 not present day, so there is not a lot of scandalous and steamy scenes, since Mary is not a woman of the night. It still is delicious the banter between Mary and her love interest though. All the characters were very vivid and some downright frightening. If you liked the first novel I would make sure to check this one out. It will not disappoint. This novel can be read as a standalone, but why start on the second when you can start with the first?

First Line:
"A sobbing man huddles on a narrow ledge, clawing at his eyes to shield them from the horror far below." 

Favorite Line:
"Dawn came early, and with it consciousness."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

In My Mailbox #74

In My Mailbox brought to you byThe Story Siren

Very LeFreak has a problem: she's a crazed technology addict. Very can't get enough of her iPhone, laptop, IMs, text messages, whatever. If there's an chance the incoming message, call, text, or photo might be from her super-secret online crush, she's going to answer, no matter what. Nothing is too important: sleep, friends in mid-conversation, class, a meeting with the dean about academic probation. Soon enough, though, this obsession costs Very everything and everyone. Can she learn to block out the noise so she can finally hear her heart?

How can you tell if a river’s under a spell? River trolls, rock trolls, blue-wing fairies—the usual suspects. The stretch of the Mississippi where Claire lives has rumors of them all, not that she’s ever spotted any. But then Claire’s cousin Duke takes a swim and sprouts a horn—a long, pointy, handsome thing. After that, Claire doesn’t have much choice but to believe that something rivery is going on, especially since she’s the only one who can help Duke lose his new addition.

Fourteen-year-old Candace Ong is wasting away in wonderland—Eggroll Wonderland, the restaurant where her under-Americanized family toils in San Francisco. She loves rock candy and rock music, jelly beans and jelly shoes—and hangs with her best friend Ruby, whose wild life she envies. Candace wants more than another stifling summer stuck in the kitchen. So when a new opportunity arises, she leaps at the chance—even though it means leaving home to experience a tantalizing, dangerous life far beyond the dim sum ho hum. But the waiting world may be a lot more than one brainiac Chinese Lolita can safely handle.

Jaya, Maria, and Lola are just like the other eighth-grade girls in the wealthy suburb of Meadowbrook, New Jersey. They want to go to the spring dance, they love spending time with their best friends after school, sharing frappÉs and complaining about the other kids. But there’s one big difference: all three are daughters of maids and nannies. And they go to school with the very same kids whose families their mothers work for.
That difference grows even bigger—and more painful—when Jaya’s mother is accused of theft and Jaya’s small, fragile world collapses.
When tensions about immigrants start to erupt, fracturing this perfect, serene suburb, all three girls are tested, as outsiders—and as friends. Each of them must learn to find a place for themselves in a town that barely notices they exist.

That's what I got this week. What did you all get?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Short and Sweet

some of my favorite books under 200 pages.

So sometimes you really want to read a book to sort of cleanse your palette. A brief story can be just the thing when you have a few hours to read and don't want to get heavily vested in a huge read. So here are  fifteen my favorite YA novels that are just right.

Psyche in a Dress - Francesca Lia Block
Honestly I could have picked almost any one of Francesca's books because they are all quite brief, but this is one of my favorites.
But this is what I could not give up:
I could not give up myself

Psyche has known Love—scented with jasmine and tasting of fresh oranges. Yet he is fleeting and fragile, lost to her too quickly. Punished by self-doubt, Psyche yearns to be transformed, like the beautiful and brutal figures in the myths her lover once spoke of. Attempting to uncover beauty in the darkness, she is challenged, tested, and changed by the gods and demons who tempt her. Her faith must be found again, for if she is to love, she must never look back.

Godless - Pete Hautman
See also: Invisible and How to Steal a Car. (my review)
"Why mess around with Catholicism when you can have your own customized religion?"
Fed up with his parents' boring old religion, agnostic-going-on-atheist Jason Bock invents a new god — the town's water tower. He recruits an unlikely group of worshippers: his snail-farming best friend, Shin, cute-as-a-button (whatever that means) Magda Price, and the violent and unpredictable Henry Stagg. As their religion grows, it takes on a life of its own. While Jason struggles to keep the faith pure, Shin obsesses over writing their bible, and the explosive Henry schemes to make the new faith even more exciting — and dangerous.
When the Chutengodians hold their first ceremony high atop the dome of the water tower, things quickly go from merely dangerous to terrifying and deadly. Jason soon realizes that inventing a religion is a lot easier than controlling it, but control it he must, before his creation destroys both his friends and himself.

Green Angel - Alice Hoffman (my review)
See also: Green Witch (my review)
In lyrical words that "unfold like white flowers, petal by petal, each in its own time and season," Hoffman introduces us to Green, a gentle teen whose name reveals her connection to the earth and a peaceful beauty that contrasts with her sunny sister, Aurora. Yet when Aurora and her parents perish in tragic, fiery events in town, a solitary Green transforms herself into Ash: hard and closed, cropped hair, thorns on her sweater, with ink roses and ravens drawn on her skin. Facing an apocalyptic future of looters visiting her garden and suspicious looks from townsfolk, Green has only the family dog to keep her company. But when a ghostly greyhound and a hooded boy suddenly appear for companionship, she slowly realizes that "Ash" is only temporary, while "Green" is her soul, her life, healing all this time inside, waiting to be reborn.

Boy Meets Boy - David Levithan
This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.
When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.

Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
Since the beginning of the school year, high school freshman Melinda has found that it's been getting harder and harder for her to speak out loud: "My throat is always sore, my lips raw.... Every time I try to talk to my parents or a teacher, I sputter or freeze.... It's like I have some kind of spastic laryngitis." What could have caused Melinda to suddenly fall mute? Could it be due to the fact that no one at school is speaking to her because she called the cops and got everyone busted at the seniors' big end-of-summer party? Or maybe it's because her parents' only form of communication is Post-It notes written on their way out the door to their nine-to-whenever jobs. While Melinda is bothered by these things, deep down she knows the real reason why she's been struck mute...

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who's just walked in to his band's show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City;and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date.
This he said/she said romance told by YA stars Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night, with two teenagers, both recovering from broken hearts, who are just trying to figure out who they want to be;and where the next great band is playing.
Told in alternating chapters, teeming with music references, humor, angst, and endearing side characters, this is a love story you'll wish were your very own. Working together for the first time, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have combined forces to create a book that is sure to grab readers of all ages and never let them go.

The House of Dead Maids - Clare B. Dunkle (my review)
Young Tabby Aykroyd has been brought to the dusty mansion of Seldom House to be nursemaid to a foundling boy. He is a savage little creature, but the Yorkshire moors harbor far worse, as Tabby soon discovers. The ghost of the last maid will not leave Tabby in peace, yet this spirit is only one of many. Why do scores of dead maids and masters haunt Seldom House with a jealous devotion that extends beyond the grave?
As Tabby struggles to escape the evil forces rising out of the land, she watches her young charge choose a different path. He is determined to keep Seldom House as his own. Though Tabby tries to befriend the uncouth urchin, her kindness cannot alter his fate. Long before he reaches the old farmhouse of Wuthering Heights, the boy who will become Heathcliff has doomed himself and any who try to befriend him.

Living Dead Girl - Elizabeth Scott
See also: Grace (my review)
Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared.
Once upon a time, my name was not Alice.
Once upon a time, I didn’t know how lucky I was.
When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over.
Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her.
This is Alice’s story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.

Her and Me and You - Lauren Strasnick (my review)
I met Fred first. Fred: Hot. Enigmatic. Alex’s first friend in her lonely new town. Maybe her first…everything.
I met Adina the following Monday. Adina: Fred’s twin sister. Cold. Troubled. Trouble.
I kissed him. She pressed her mouth to my mouth.People warn Alex to steer clear of the twins, but Alex is drawn to them. She wants to be part of their crazy world…no matter the consequences.

Heart's Delight - Per Nilsson
Before Heart's Delight, I was a boy, he thinks.Before Heart's Delight, I was a child
When he first saw Ann-Katrin on the bus, he was mesmerized, captivated, consumed.

But that was before.
Now he sits alone in his room, a sixteen-year-old boy, waiting for her to call. Wishing for her to tell him it was real. It was as perfect as he imagined.
But the phone sits silently.
The boy continues to wait, systematically destroying all of the objects from their short-lived relationship. He rips up the bus pass from their first meeting.
The phone is quiet.
He throws the pot of lemon balm she gave him over the edge of the balcony.
No phone call.
He tosses the black Frisbee and the Swiss Army knife over too.
Still the phone stays silent.
As he plays their relationship over in his mind like a movie, he wonders:
What if his heart's delight doesn't call? Will life be worth living then?

The Ghosts of Kerfol - Deborah Noyes
In her classic ghost story “Kerfol,” Edith Wharton tells the tale of Anne de Barrigan, a young 

Frenchwoman convicted of murdering her husband, the jealous Yves de Cornault. The elderly lord was found dead on the stairs, apparently savaged by a pack of dogs, though there were no dogs  —  no live dogs  —  at Kerfol that day. In this remarkable collection of intertwining short stories, Deborah Noyes takes us back to the haunted manor to tell Anne de Barrigan’s story through the sympathetic eyes of her servant girl. Four more tales slip forward in time, peering in on a young artist, a hard-drinking party girl, a young American couple, and a deaf gardener who now tends the Kerfol estate. All of these souls are haunted by the ghosts of Kerfol  —  the dead dogs, the sensual yet uneasy relationships, and the bitter taste of revenge. 

Cut - Patricia McCormick
Fifteen-year old Callie is so withdrawn that she's not speaking to anyone 

including her therapist at the residential treatment facility where her parents and doctor send her after discovering that she cuts 
herself. Her story unfolds primarily through dramatic monologues, gradually revealing the family turmoil that led to her self-destructive behavior. Her little brother, Sam, is ill he nearly died in her care. Since Sam's illness, Callie's mother has become so worried and fragile that she rarely leaves the house. Her father has responded to the psychological and financial stress of Sam's illness by disappearing into his work, 
and when that doesn't work, into his drinking.
Callie's efforts to understand herself and her family illuminate her process of recovery honestly and with hope. Cut provides an insightful look at the psychology of cutting a form of self-abuse an estimated 2 million teenage girls inflict on themselves.

 Get Well Soon - Julie Halpern
Anna Bloom is depressed so depressed that her parents have committed her to a mental hospital with a bunch of other messed-up teens. Here she meets a roommate with a secret (and a plastic baby), a doctor who focuses way too much on her weight, and a cute, shy boy who just might like her.
But wait! Being trapped in a loony bin isn t supposed to be about making friends, losing weight, and having a crush, is it?

How I Live Now - Meg Rossoff
Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.
As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

The Espressologist - Kristina Springer (my review)
What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. 

Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: The Boy Book - E. Lockhart

Where I got it: My collection
Rating: 4 stars
Cover Rating: 3 stars (The penguin is cute. But I must say that I am disappointed that they did not publish all the books with these original cover designs, I will have to buy all new ones!)
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: December 26, 2006
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 193 p.
Sequel to The Boyfriend List

We pick up right where Ruby left off in the first novel. She is utterly friendless because of the whole Jackson debacle and she feels like a complete leper. Ruby has taken to reminiscing through the Boy Book that her and her ex-best friends wrote. When Ruby decided to do something different for the Tate outdoor experience, she may find herself with a few extra friends. Though Kim might show up and be petty, like girls have the tendency to do. Ruby has to either make up or move on and find friends that are nicer and more loyal.

This again was a really fun novel. I like that Tate has an outdoor program and the Canoe Island trip that Ruby picks to go on sounds fantastic. Reading books and watching movies and discussing them—count me in! I really don't like Ruby's friend Kim, she acts like she is so privileged when really she sort of just a bitch. Ruby seems a lot more crazy in this one, most likely due to the in-between nature of her shrink visits. I like that she got a job at the zoo, it was nice for her to have the calming nature of animals to help her, otherwise she might have really lost it. I also love the chapter titles in this one (The Care and Ownership of Boobs; Neanderthals on the Telephone: Or, How to Converse; Why Girls are Better than Boys) I recommend you pick this one up, it is not a disappointing book two.

First Line:
"The Care and Owndership of Boobs
(a subject important to our study of the male humanoid animal because the boobs, if deployed properly, are like giant boy magnets attached to your chest."

Favorite Line:
"'Your mom could wear a T-shirt: 'I'm proud of my slutty kid.''"  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Teaser Tuesday #52

This week's Teaser Tuesday is from The Agency: the Body at the Tower - Y.S. Lee
(page 52)

"As the first waft of raw spirits hit the back of her throat, she realized she should have never tried to down it all in one go. Her throat contracted. Her stomach lurched."

Teaser Tuesday is brought to us by Should be Reading.
1) Grab your current read
2) Open to a random page
3) Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
4) BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
5) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder - Julie Halpern

Where I got it: Inter-library Loan
Rating: 5 stars
Cover Rating: 4 stars (There's something bout it that makes me not love it, but I appreciate that it is relevant. Also I didn't realize it until I got the actual book but the little white things are dice. I couldn't tell from the pictures online.)
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Page Count: 245 p.

Jessie Sloan used to have two best friends. Then they decided to go punk, so that they could hang out with Jessie's brother's friends. One of her friends Bizza, decides to go after the boy Jessie has been crushing on, and Jessie does not take this kindly. Jessie is not sure where she really fits in her friends are punk her brother was/is punk and those are the only people she really knows. When she sits next to Dottie in study hall though, Jessie's perspective of coolness starts to change. Jessie is in for an adventure and might even find a place for herself.

I loved Jessie. This book makes me wish I participated more in Dungeons & Dragons, instead of disinterestedly watching it. All of the D&D kids in this book sound way better than Jessie other loser friends. Also Jessie and I are clearly meant to be friends since her go-to book is Angus Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging. I freakin' love that book. This was a great novel about a girl trying to find where she fits in. The general issue that most teens face at some point in their high school career. This book sort of reminds me of the song You Can't Handle This by Five Iron Frenzy, it's a nerdy song for a nerdy book. I of course mean nerd in the best way possible. People have to take back the name that people try to put them down with. Why should nerd be a bad thing? It shouldn't. I love that Jessie crafts her own skirts out of funky materials. I can't tell you how many handmade outfits I wore to school. Jessie was just a nice friendly character who was a genuinely interesting and inspiring girl. I really wish she was a real person, because I need a friend like that. Someone whose Ipod is filled with audio books instead of junk music. I suggest this to anyone who liked Angus, and Julie's other book Get Well Soon. This book was funny at times and rang so true all the time. It was a perfect, contemporary coming-of-age tale about letting go of labels so that you can just be yourself.

First Line:
"I so used to love the first day of school."

Favorite Line:
"I must be in the Twilight Zone because I think maybe, possibly, somehow I might be crushing on a nerd."   

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In My Mailbox #73

In My Mailbox brought to you by The Story Siren
 For Review:  
Twelve-year-old Kat Stephenson may be the despair of her social-climbing Step-Mama, but she was born to be a magical Guardian and protector of Society--if she can ever find true acceptance in the secret Order that expelled her own mother. She’s ready to turn the hidebound Order of the Guardians inside-out, whether the older members like it or not. And in a society where magic is the greatest scandal of all, Kat is determined to use all her powers to help her three older siblings--saintly Elissa, practicing-witch Angeline, and hopelessly foolish Charles--find their own true loves, even if she has to turn highwayman, battle wild magic, and confront real ghosts along the way!

Across the Universe (X2) - Beth Revis (I couldn't resist the reversible cover) (My Review)
A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) - Jennifer Chen Headley
Getting her fortune told by a Taiwanese 'belly-button grandmother' (who feels up her navel) instead of attending the spring dance is just one of the joys of being Patty Ho, a covertly snarky 'hapa' (half Asian, half white) struggling with her dual heritage. Patty's domineering mother is determined to make her a good Taiwanese girl. Gangly Patty, no 'China doll,' longs to be white like her long-gone father...readers will find a compelling narrative, and a spunky, sympathetic heroine. This book should enjoy wide appeal.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan (My Review)
“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

The Dating Game (book 1) - Natalie Standiford
Meet Madison, Holly, and Lina, the stars of this smart, sexy new series. When The Dating Game web site they create for a sophomore class project is a smash hit, they become the matchmaking masters of their schooland, they hope, their own lives.

So that's what I got this past week, what did you all get?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Guest Post: Steve Cushman author of Heart With Joy

So some of you may have seen Steve Cushman's book around the blog-o-sphere or read my recent review of it. If not make sure you check it out. So for now, here is a guest post by the author Steve Cushman.

A Little Bit Of Me In Every Character
As writers, we are taught to write about what we know, that each of our lives are made up of the things that make good fiction: conflicts (within ourselves or with others), redemption, and the everyday struggle to do our best with what we've got.  While I can't say I set out to do this intentionally, I see now that there is a little bit of me in each of the main characters from my latest novel, Heart With Joy.

Julian, the novel's main character and narrator, is a 15 year old boy who loves to cook.  I also enjoy cooking and like Julian it was through watching the Food Network that I first came to really believe I could cook.  There's something about watching someone take a set of ingredients and put them together, then 30 minutes later you have a meal. 

Old Lady Peters, Julian's elderly neighbor, loves to sit outside and watch birds.  Like cooking, watching birds is one of my favorite things to do.  I may not spend hours in my backyard watching birds like Old Lady Peters does, but I do make a point of keeping my bird feeders full and watching my winged friends for at least a few minutes each day.

Julian's mother is a struggling writer.  I am also a struggling writer, even if I have been fortunate enough to have three books published. In my opinion, all writers are struggling because we are never actually done with the work.  There is always more to do. The next story or poem or novel to write.  And her feelings about writing are similar to mine as well:  sometimes writing is great, you lift off into another world, but sometimes it's frustrating and you want to pull your hair out.  Even so, I've discovered that once writing is in your blood you can't stop doing it.  Writing, as some have said, is like breathing to me.

Julian's dad is a nurse, an ex potter.  He is someone who wrestles with the questions I have wrestled with since my son was born 8 years ago.  Should I be practicing my craft, working on writing (or creating pots in this character's case) or spending more time with my son?  It's always a balancing act to be both a parent and a writer, particularly as I also work a full-time job.  In the novel, Julian's father chooses to work, to provide for his family, putting aside his dreams and passions, hoping eventually he will be able to go back to his art, creating beautiful pots.  But this conflict is something that is always there for me.  Am I doing the right thing?  Should I be doing more of the other?

As I said, while it may not have been intentional I do so see now, nearly seven years after I started writing it, and five months after it was published, that my novel, Heart With Joy, is a novel that is about as close to me as I can make it--it is filled with the things I love and the things I struggle with every day.  Without knowing it at the time, Heart With Joy allowed me to write about many of the things that are important to me.  It's a novel I will always be proud of, so when a reader tells me they love it, it's all the more gratifying.  If they tell me they don't like it, that's okay to.  I've done my job.  I've bled on the page, giving it everything I have.

Photo credit for the image of the man writing on the typewriter go to this website.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: The Big Crunch - Pete Hautman

Where I got it: Library
Rating: 4.5 stars
Cover Rating: 5 stars (It's cute and perfect!)
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: January 1, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Page Count: 280 p.

June moves around a lot due to her parents business. Her parents help companies come up out of the red, and then they move on to the next hurting company. So June winds up in Minnesota. Wes just broke up with his girlfriend of nearly 18 months, because he just needed some time to be himself. Then Wes sees June. The connection is not really instant. Wes can only really recall her aqua colored eyes. As they glimpse at each other more and more, and eventually have a conversation though, something develops between them. Then June ends up dating Wes's best friend because she doesn't figure she's long for this town. What Wes and June don't realize though is that they have a connection, whether they like it or not and they will have to explore it as much as they can.

Can I just mention again that I love Pete Hautman. He just writes the perfect little books. They aren't super-filled with teen angst (though there is some) and they also aren't all supernatural-y. This was a great story about a girl who is trying not to hold on to the past, since she moves from place to place so often, that she never has time to really set roots down. This was a story about a boy who is trying to figure out who he is without the definition of a girlfriend, but finds himself inexorably drawn to June. I appreciated that June's father seemed to fill the whole room whenever he was in the scene. He is the type of person who does seem big and is full of isms for himself. I also enjoyed the use of the word "Next!". This reminded me of Vonnegut's "so it goes" and I liked the way Next! would quickly change the subject and the mood in the story. If you liked the book Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick you should definitely check this one out. It had the same romance without being a romantic book and teen drama, without being angst ridden. The tension and relationship between the characters was genuine and wholly realistic. Wes has uncontrollable anger toward his friend when he talks about going out with June, which though Wes doesn't realize it, is because he is jealous. This novel was just a perfect curl up in bed read. June and Wes at the beginning seem completely determined not to like each other and I love that they are drawn together anyways. Be it fate, or coincidence June and Wes are bound to each other in the way that young love can do. I thought at times June was a little awkward and harsh, but I think she was just cranky form being moved around so much. I did love her voices in her head. Sarcastic June and the others added a bit of humor to June's tormented mind. This story was told in alternating 3rd person between following June and following Wes. It kept the story fresh with one narrative overlapping the next. This is a book you should definitely read.

First Line:
"The first time Wes saw June, he thought she was kind of funny-looking."

Favorite Line:
"For example, if she joined the book club — there was always a book club — and hung out with them, her choice of guys would be limited to the dark and moody Chuck Palahniuk/Kurt Vonnegut/Life-Sucks-and-Then-You-Die brooders."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: XVI - Julia Karr

Where I got it: Library
Rating: 4 stars
Cover Rating: 4 stars (It's a little tricky to see the title, but I still love it.)
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: January 6, 2011
Publisher: Speak
Page Count: 325 p.

Sixteen is the age all the girls want to be. Sixteen years of age makes them legal, and they are open for sex. Nina does not like the idea of this at all. It makes her feel disgusted and vulnerable, knowing that guys can have their way with her just because of the XVI tattoo she will be forced to have on her wrist. This is the thing that Nina fears the most, until her mom is brutally attacked and murdered. Nina thinks it was an intentional murder, not just something random. Her mother is put on life-support long enough for Nina to say goodbye, but while they are talking her mother reveals something shocking—Nina's father is still alive.

This book dares you to put it down. It starts off a little slow, but when it takes off, you get swept up in the love interest and the running from the government under-ground sort of thing. It was interesting to read about all the rules and laws and how once again, women were treated as lesser humans. It was like a time-warp to the 18th century. The idea of getting a tattoo when you become "legal" is frightening, but it was fascinating that it would fade in about five years. Also, the idea of a GPS unit under your skin is horrifying, though I wish there was more about it in the story. I am wondering if this might be the first in the series, simply because it seems like many items were underdeveloped, like the GPS unit. I love how this book ended though, sort of in the middle of things, but completely perfect. This was an intriguing debut and I look forward to reading more by Julia Karr in the future. I loved Wei, which I think you are supposed to. I love how the government seemed omnipresent, but there were so many loopholes and dead zones. This aspect seemed a lot more realistic than a government that is entirely in control. I don't think any government can really be completely ubiquitous. If you like futuristic, realistic reads, make sure you check out this debut.

First Line:
"'Nina, look.' Sandy jabbed me in the ribs."

Favorite Line:
"I'd choked back so many tears, they'd become a lake of sadness in my belly."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #35

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week I picked Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma because I haven't read many reviews about it, but they have all made it sound very interesting.

Sixteen-year-old Maya and seventeen-year-old Lochan have never had the chance to be 'normal' teenagers. Having pulled together for years to take care of their younger siblings while their wayward, drunken mother leaves them to fend alone, they have become much more than brother and sister. And now, they have fallen in love. But this is a love that can never be allowed, a love that will have devastating consequences ...
How can something so wrong feel so right?

So I already have this on order for my library even though it doesn't come out until June 28th. I really can not wait to read it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Dangerous Neighbors - Beth Kephart

Where I got it: Inter-library Library
Rating: 4 stars
Cover Rating: 4 stars (It's certainly pretty and representative of the book. It does look like an adult novel to me though.)
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: August 24, 2010
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Page Count: 176 p.

In the 19th century, during the year of the Centennial, two sisters are bound tightly by the fact that they are twins. Katherine has made it her life to look after her frail sister Anna, who always seems aloof, and easily distracted into danger. When an ugly bout of fate rips them apart, Katherine no longer knows her place in the world. Who is she if she is not her sister's protector? Why should she go on living?

This story was very fascinating, and I loved the time period. The hustle and bustle of the new era dawning was an interesting contrast to Katherine's bleak outlook. Katherine had the only person she cared about and who cared about her abruptly torn from her life. It's always fascinating to read about people in the 19th century who are suicidal. It seems more common now, but I never really think of people from that time period like that. I mean there are the famous crazies who killed themselves(Virginia Woolf{though she technically offed herself in the 20th century}) but you never hear about the regular day to day people and how they were feeling and affected by things. The death of a twin and sister must be devastating. It was interesting that Katherine was so torn apart, but her parents were too busy with the new era to really grieve at all for their lost child. It was an interesting piece of historical fiction, and I look forward to reading Beth Kephart's other work now. This novel was very lyrically written, with the words just flowing so nicely and weaving you a scene of the excitement pulsing for the new age.

First Line of actual story:
"From up high, everything seems to spill from itself."

Favorite Line:
"Anna would say that she was a cat like Gemma, with nine lives to spend, all nine precious and delicious." 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: The Water Wars - Cameron Stracher

Where I got it: Library
Rating: 4 stars
Cover Rating: 5 stars (I really like the fanned out water by the eyes, even though it makes it seem more of a supernatural/fantasy than a dystopian novel)
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: January 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Page Count: 256 p.

Millions of people have died. Many of these people died of dehydration. All of a sudden there wasn't enough water in the world to sustain life—at least not pure, clean water. That's why when Vera sees Kai pouring precious drinking water to the ground she is appalled, not only is it illegal, but there's not much water to waste. Kai doesn't seem to think water is the big deal that everyone makes it out to be, which intrigues Vera. So, when Kai goes missing Vera convinces her brother Will to help her find him. This is more than just knocking on his door though. What they find there lead them on an adventure they never could have imagined.

I really enjoyed the premise of this book. The idea of the U.S. sectioning itself off and certain sectors withholding water and damming up rivers is interesting. The need for water is complete, and the thought that some countries would capture clouds to squeeze the moisture out of them is realistic but unbelievable. This was a scary but fascinating dystopian novel. It sort of had a middle grade feel to it at times, what with all the adventure going on. It was pretty tame except for the description of the dead bodies. They were a little gruesome, though not anything too bad. I got really into the adventure that Vera and Will were on trying to find Kai. Lots of obstacles kept cropping up, so you never really knew what was going to happen next. I read this book all in one sitting, it was a fast read and the sction kept you wanting more. It is certainly a great debut, that shouldn't be missed. I would recommend it to YA lovers and teen boys.

First Line:
"The year before he joined the Reclamation, when he was still seventeen, my brother Will set a new high score at the YouToo! booth at the gaming center." 

Favorite Line:
"His mouth was open in an expression of surprise, as if he had tried to drink the water before it killed him."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In My Mailbox #72

In My Mailbox brought to you by The Story Siren

Nineteen-year-old Will Shepherd has never met his father, even though they live on opposite ends of Manhattan. Suddenly, within twenty-four hours, Will meets his father and his two halfsiblings, Kyle and Liz, and then his father dies out of the blue. A clause in the will requires Will to drive back to New York from the funeral in Florida with self-absorbed Kyle and gorgeous, vulnerable Liz, leading to a road trip filled with tensions, escalating risks, and deep revelations.
In the tradition of Brett Easton Ellis and Hunter S. Thompson, Daniel Ehrenhaft crafts a novel of excess, a coming-of-age story with grit and edge that ultimately offers redemption to three characters in desperate need.
Sequel to Devil's Kiss

Youth in Revolt is the journals of Nick Twisp, California's most precocious diarist, whose ongoing struggles to make sense out of high school, deal with his divorced parents, and lose his virginity result in his transformation from an unassuming fourteen-year-old to a modern youth in open revolt. As his family splinters, worlds collide, and the police block all routes out of town, Nick must cope with economic deprivation, homelessness, the gulag of the public schools, a competitive type-A father, murderous canines, and an inconvenient hair trigger on his erectile response–all while vying ardently for the affections of the beauteous Sheeni Saunders, teenage goddess and ultimate intellectual goad.

A character-centered, action driven novel that follows three friends as they navigate the criminal underworld searching for the absolute moral truth they believe must exist. Midnight In A Perfect World is the first of a series exploring evolution in all its permutations as the characters struggle to find their places in the world.

So that's what I got this week. What did you all get?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review: The Jumbee - Pamela Keyes

Where I got it: Library
Rating: 5 stars
Cover Rating: 5 stars (This entire cover is gorgeous, especially the mask. Also, those eyes are striking.)
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: October 14, 2010
Publisher: Dial
Page Count: 385 p.

Esti Legard is an actres living in the shadow of her father, an even greater actor. After her father dies, Esti convinces her mother to move them to Cariba, so she can attend the Manichay School and hopefully step out from under her father's shadow. When she hears a strange voice mentoring her on her parts in the play she has joined, she isn't sure if it's real, she's going crazy, or it's a Jumbee. Many of the locals are quick to tell her that he's a Jumbee, but there is something so real about him that Esti can't believe it. When her childhood friend Rafe shows up on the island, way hotter than he used to be, but every bit as charming, Esti starts a longing attraction toward him. Though it's hard for her to be in Rafe's arms while she thinks about her mysterious Jumbee. When strange things start to happen that no one can explain, blame turns to Esti and the Jumbee that locals fear she converse with. Is her mentor simply trying to possess her, or does he simply need a friend and sees one in her.

This was an amazing story. There was so much going on and so many emotions, but Pamela Keyes did an excellent job of reigning them all in so that the story flowed smoothly. I loved the Phantom of the Opera aspect and the Shakespeare on nearly every page. It didn't feel like reading Shakespeare though, it just flowed so nicely and lyrically. There was really nothing that I didn't absolutely love about this book. I guess if I had to pick something it would be Esti's friendships, or her lack of them. She talks about having this great friend in Carmen when she first gets to the island, but then Carmen falls quickly to the wayside. Though this is acknowledge by Esti, I don't feel like they established enough of a friendship to have Esti ditch her. I did love Rafe and the mysterious voice man. Rafe was really energetic and flirty, even if he did call her babe all the time. I think that this book would appeal to everyone who enjoys theater in any capacity. I am by no means a thespian, I haven't actually ever been in a play, but I do enjoy them and I got sucked into this story right away and practically sprinted through it. I didn't actually read it that fast though, because I wanted to savor the mysteries even when at times it was completely unbearable not to know what was going on. I loved the whole feel about the island and the dialect of the natives only added to the setting even more. I could completely feel like I was on the island, even though there was snow outside my apartment. Esti's mom wasn't a very like-able character for me. I feel bad for not liking her, but I feel like she was just to irresponsible and too much of a lush. I mean, her husband did die and that sucks and I realize that, but Esti seemed totally fine and yet here her mom is drinking bottle after bottle of wine while moping around the house. It seems like she could have been a slightly more alive character to fit in with Esti and her father. It was really interesting though, that Esti's mother was such a contrast from herself. Esti was sneaking out and having tryst with different boys and in a play and...her mom was getting drunk at home. Okay, sorry for ranting about her mom. Anyways, I highly recommend you lovers of YA and mysterious backstage voices and cute boys on the beach to check this one out. Unless you absolutely hate everything about Shakespeare, then...maybe skip it.

First Line:
"'Paul is dead!'"

Favorite Line:
"Fifty years from now she knew she would remember every detail of those sea-colored eyes."   

Friday, January 14, 2011

Giveaway: The Dark Days of Supernatural

Hello folks. How would you like to win all 5 of the books from the Dark Says of Supernatural. You would! Fantastic. All you have to do to enter is fill out this form. This is a U.S. only giveaway, but for those of you international folks I will be giving away 1 copy to 1 winner of any of the five books your choice. Thanks so much to HarperTeen for providing us with these prizes. This contest will end February 21st.


    - Once in a Full Moon by Ellen Schreiber (released 12/28/2010)
         - Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (on sale 1/4/2011)
            - Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton (on sale 2/15/2011)
            - Afterlife by Claudia Gray (on sale 3/15/2011)
            - Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (on sale 2/15/2011)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Heart of Joy - Steve Cushman

Where I got it: For review from the author
Rating: 3.5 stars
Cover Rating: 2.5 stars (I like that it relates to the book, but I would never pick this book up in the store. 1. The cover is not as eye-catching and 2. It looks like an adult book.)
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: September 1, 2010
Publisher: Canterbury House Publishing
Page Count: 200 p.
Buy it: Amazon

 Julian Hale is fifteen years old. His mother has recently moved to Florida to run her parent's motel and finish her novel. His father decides he will start running in order to train for a marathon. With his mother out of the picture and his father working many hours, Julian takes over a lot of the responsibilities, mostly housework and cooking. Julian loves cooking and according to his father's taste-buds he is quite good at it. Another good thing about his mother being gone, is Julian and his father have a chance to form a closer relationship than they have ever had. One day an elderly neighbor calls for Julian for help with something in her yard. After this incident they form a sort of bond and Julian goes over often to visit, and help out with the birdfeeders and such.

This was a nice coming-of-age tale about a boy who's life is a little bit uprooted. Julian was a very nice boy, he seemed almost unrealistic, just because boys aren't often portrayed this way in Ya novels. They are usually either adventurous or mean or just very desirable. No one is ever nice anymore. I like the relationships in this novel and how different they were depending on which characters were involved and what their relation in general was. I loved learning little tidbits about birds, and I think Mrs. Peters backyard must have been beautiful. It was great that Julian was so passionate about cooking, it made him seem like a very interesting character, someone that you would want as a friend. Also, Julian's dad having been a potter was interesting too. It's odd to think of someone who is currently a nurse having been interested in something like pottery so deeply. This was an excellent book for everyone, though at times it had a slight Hallmark feel to it. It was funny would Julian would say "damn" it seemed to fit his character though as being one of the few bad things he would actually say. Julian's life was hard in a more typical way, that I think most teens have some trouble with. Not that everyone's mom moves to Florida to write a novel, but the trouble with forming relationships with your parents and having to re-examine not only those relationships, but also those of the ones you think are your friends. If you like sweet stories, make sure you check this one out.

First Line:
"The year after I turned fifteen two things happened that took me by surprise: my mother moved out and my father decided to run a marathon."

Favorite Line:
"But other times, I'd find her staring at the typewriter with something that could only be described as hate."   

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Dark Days of Supernatural

The Dark Days of Supernatural is a new series of books that Harper Collins is promoting. The series features five new titles, full of paranormal romance, supernatural thrillers and mysteries. A lot of these are on many people's TBR piles already, but in case they aren't check out all the goods below.


 - Once in a Full Moon by Ellen Schreiber (released 12/28/2010)
Synopsis:  An accessible and clean paranormal series about werewolves—and the popular girl who loves one.

Celeste hangs with the popular crowd at Legend’s Run High and is being wooed by Nash Hunter, the football quarterback, but doesn’t really feel that she belongs. She only comes in contact with the new and enigmatic student, Brandon Maddox, when she passes him in classes, the hallway, and at lunch, but she suspects there is something different about him other than that he is a Westsider and comes from the wrong side of town. 

On a dare, Celeste and her friends go to a psychic’s shop for a reading. When it is Celeste’s turn for a fortune, the psychic grabs Celeste’s hands and warns, “Beware of a kiss under the full moon.” Celeste and her friends laugh and mock the fortune teller. But on her way home from their outing, Celeste is blinded by a blizzard. Disoriented, she finds herself deep in the woods bordering town. She is overcome by snowfall and unable to see anything. Above her hovers the glow of a full moon. Just then, she sees beady eyes staring back through the falling flakes. She finds herself in the midst of a pack of hungry wolves. The wolves begin to howl. She can’t outrun them, and the shortest tree branch is out of reach. They slowly approach her. At the last moment, a stranger pulls her from the hungry pack. He grabs a branch and fights the pack of wolves until they retreat. In the scuffle the stranger is bitten. It is Brandon Maddox.

Celeste is enamored by her hero and can’t get him out of her mind. Where Nash is a hero on the field and court, Brandon is a hero in reality. Celeste steals away from her friends to find Brandon, and they meet on a hilltop near his home. A cloudy sky lingers above them, and Celeste realizes she has fallen in love with a Westsider. But in the next few moments, Celeste will face an even bigger challenge than falling for a guy from the wrong side of town. As the two lean in to kiss, the clouds pass, exposing the glow of a full moon. Brandon feels strange and pulls away. Something is about to change—him.

 - Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (on sale 1/4/2011)

Synopsis:  Clara has known she was part–angel ever since she turned fourteen two years ago. But now she is finally getting visions of what her Purpose—a rite of passage for every part–angel—is to be, and it happens to involve a gorgeous guy. Of course, there is the raging forest fire surrounding them, too. When Clara’s Purpose leads her family to Wyoming, Clara finds the boy of her visions, Christian, but complicating her mission are her growing feelings for another guy, Tucker. As the day in her visions draws closer, Clara discovers that her Purpose may play into a larger struggle between angels and Black Wings—fallen angels who spread sadness and misery wherever they go. But when the fire erupts and both Christian and Tucker are in danger, who will she choose to save?
From debut novelist Cynthia Hand comes a riveting tale full of supernatural powers, forbidden romance, and the choice between fulfilling your destiny or following your heart.

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton (on sale 2/15/2011)

Synopsis: When ordinary seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers—monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell—she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between Angels and the Fallen, and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

A mysterious boy named Will, who has been waiting sixty years for her return, reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one armed with angelfire, and capable of fighting the reapers. He is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Her soul has been reborn again and again over the centuries to fight the reapers, and he’s been there for five hundred years to protect and fight alongside her. Now that Ellie’s powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her—an assassin who has already killed her once. At the same time, Ellie is falling in love with Will, even though they know their relationship should be impossible. 

While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper–hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to destroy Ellie’s soul forever, not to mention the devastating ramifications for human souls. Now she must face an army of Bastian’s most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives—including truths that may be too frightening to remember.

Afterlife by Claudia Gray (on sale 2/15/2011)

Synopsis:  In AFTERLIFE, having become what they feared most, Bianca and Lucas face a scary new reality. They must return to Evernight Academy, Lucas as a vampire and Bianca as a wraith. But Lucas is haunted by demons, both personal and supernatural. Bianca must help him fight the evil inside him-and find the power to claim her destiny at last.  Readers have fallen in love with Bianca and Lucas, and they will be thrilled to read this exciting conclusion to their romantic adventure.
Desire of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (on sale 2/8/2011)

Synopsis:  Violet and Jay are finally dating, but adjusting to the new relationship is not as easy as Violet anticipated. Especially when she has to split Jay’s time and attention with his new best friend, Mike, and Mike’s pesky younger sister—who happens to be obsessed with Jay. Meanwhile, when Violet’s special abilities lead her to the body of a young boy, her tip to the police puts her on the radar of the FBI. Violet tries to fend off the FBI’s questions while maintaining the semblance of a normal life, but somebody’s leaving her threatening notes and an echo around Mike’s house reinforces that all is not right. Violet is forced to admit that perhaps the only people who can help her figure it out are the very people she’s desperate to avoid—the FBI.


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