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Jul. 12th, 2013


I had the opportunity to read ARCs of Not a Drop to Drink and The Bitter Kingdom.

I LOVED them both so much, I want to share the wealth.

Visit and comment on my reviews of these books on Goodreads:
Not a Drop to Drink

The Bitter Kingdom

And enter for a chance to win my copies!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Apr. 2nd, 2013


Just had to blog about this book, ALIENATED by Melissa Landers.

It's really captured my attention. The description is a fantastically fun premise - what if your new foreign exchange student was an alien? As someone who hosted foreign exchange students as a teen, and who desperately wanted to be one - this takes the idea of the "other" coming to live with you to extremes.

And if the idea is cute, the cover is fabulous. Ordinarily I don't want to see faces on covers - I much prefer when that's left to my imagination - but here it seems to work. As the author herself says, it dispels the notion that alien equals tentacles (please, God, don't let him sprout tentacles out of his mouth or something at the end!). And the color contrast is just striking. It's like that moment when the Wizard of Oz turns colorful.


Love it and 2014 seems too too far away!

Feb. 26th, 2013

The Book Report: Also Known As

Also Known As by Robin Benway

Review copy received from publisher

also known

Also Known As is the story of Maggie Silver, expert safecracker and daughter of international spies who work for a mysterious organization known as the Collective. When Maggie is sent to New York with her family for her first solo assignment, she must navigate the most intimidating of covers – ordinary high school student!

Also Known As is a fun, light caper novel told with Benway’s trademark charm. She populates the novel with the quirky characters she excels at drawing and readers love reading. Readers will enjoy the fast-paced, clever dialogue and teen readers will likely find a lot to sympathize with as Maggie treads the fine and frustrating line between childhood and adulthood. Benway uses Maggie first solo spy assignment to her advantage in exploring the tension of a child’s evolution into an adult on her and on the family that still sees her as a child, as well. Maggie ping ponged back and forth a bit in her I-want-to-be-treated-like-an-adult-but-still-go-to-high-school-and-be-a-kid predicament, which was occasionally frustrating, though it felt realistic for Maggie to vacillate between the two.

This novel is heavier on the character interactions and romance then it is on the spy hijinks (spy-jinks?). The spy plot is, perhaps, wrapped up a bit too neatly. There were also a couple of incidents from Maggie’s spy past that are referenced as significant, though I never felt like quite enough information was given for me to understand those incidents. Despite that, the charm of Maggie’s new friends and witty banter with her crush, Jesse, will delight readers.

Also Known As will be snapped up by fans of Benway’s witty voice and Ally Carter’s Uncommon Criminals and Gallagher Girls series.

Jan. 15th, 2013

My 2013 What's Hot List

It’s easy for me to say what kinds of YA books I don’t like. Some genres or subgenres that just aren’t my thing (dystopians, angel books, zombie stories). But if you ask me what YA subgenres I do like – well, that’s harder. Do I like contemporaries? Some – I like contemporary romance aimed at older YA. I’m not a big fan of the recent spate of self-published YA/new adult that focuses solely or mostly on sexual relationships. I’m not generally drawn to “issues” books, but I have liked the occasional one here or there. I haven’t read and don’t want to read any of the past year’s cancer-themed titles, though many are much-lauded. I'm sure they're great, but I'm not in the mood for any tearjerkers right now, thanks. Oh, and I’m kind of over paranormal romance.

This year, when some of my favorite bloggers posted their “what am I looking forward to in 2013” lists, I jotted down the titles I was excited about. And then I wondered: could I use the list of books I’m looking to analyze personal trends in advance? Can I tell what will be hot in 2013 for me?

Here’s how a look at how 39 of the top books from by TBR list break down by genre:


I'm not surpised to see that there are only two dystopians in there. I am surprised by how many paranormals! Guess I'm not as over it as I thought. Mysteries are making a comeback - I used to read a lot of adult mystery, thriller, & spy novel stuff. Guess that's making a comeback.

In addition, I noted the following :

- nbsp;        the vast majority of books I'm interested in reading promote romance as an element (27). Seven of those could reasonably be described flat-out as romances.

- nbsp;        At least 19 could be called crossovers with another genre (e.g., paranormal crossed with a mystery or contemporary crossed with an “issues” book).

- nbsp;        There are no books I would only describe as issues books on the list.

- nbsp;        Three of the issues crosses relate to mother issues.

- nbsp;        Ten include either a rescue or survival scenario.

- nbsp;        Only two authors are males.

- nbsp;        Thirty authors are new to me this year.

- nbsp;        Two are retellings of classics.

- nbsp;        Eight are the first in a new series. Only three are the continuation of an existing series (have I completed all the series I was reading? Or did none of the series I started last year compel me to want to read the next one?)

How about you? Have you ever tried to see trends in your reading habits?

Jan. 3rd, 2013

The Book Report: dark star

dark star by Bethany Frenette

Review copy purchased

dark star

One part Batman and one part Charmed, dark star is a highly enjoyable urban fantasy.

Ithought I was done with the urban fantasy genre – that I’d read all the creatures and couldn’t be entertained by yet another good vs. evil with supernatural creatures. I was attracted to dark star for the superhero spin and was surprised to find myself very entertained.

Audrey, the daughter of Minneapolis’s most famous (notorious?) super hero crime fighter, is a pleasant main character to follow as she discovers more about her mother’s real enemy (hint – it’s not the Joker), the danger plaguing the Twin Cities and the extended family she never knew she had.

The demon threat (that’s not a spoiler, it’s revealed in the book jacket) was very reminiscent of Charmed, with an underworld and demons wearing human faces and witchy powers and power bases similar to those of the Halliwell sisters. This similarity might cause another book to feel stale - but not dark star. It was fun to revisit the familiar and beloved concepts of Charme and, though I didn’t catch any direct Charmed references, it felt like the a homage for fans.

There were a couple of interesting twists to the plot relating to the bad guy and chosen one mythology, which I won’t comment on further to avoid spoilers, but they definitely held my attention. The one weak point, for me, was the romance. The connection between Audrey and love interest, Leon, her mother’s side kick, was a bit tepid. I would have liked to see more of a spark between them, but it just never sizzled for me.

This wasn’t Batman Returns, gritty superhero realism. When I first saw thesuper hero reference in the description, that’s what I was hoping for and I still wish someone would write that – without the supernatural elements. Despite that, I wasn’t disappointed. dark star was a fun urban fantasy and I’m definitely in for the further adventures of Audrey & co. Recommended for fans of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black type urban fantasy novels.

Oct. 22nd, 2012

The Book Report: Valkyrie Rising

Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson
Review copy purchased

This was a highly anticipated title for me – as much for the location as the mythology and the hype of a kick-ass heroine.

Valkyrie Rising is an entertaining read. The story is fun, the Norwegian mythology a nice change for those who love paranormals but are tiring of the shapeshifter/vampire/mermaid fare.

But the book just lacked a certain oomph. I wouldn’t describe it as the strongest title I’ve read recently Though I didn’t want a travel novel, I wished there had been more description of the location. The Norwegian fishing village atmosphere was present, but it was one of those stories that just begged for the setting to be a character of its own and it didn’t quite manage that.

Ellie certainly ends up being a kick-ass heroine – how could she not, she’s a Valkyrie, after all? And there’s a very nice storyline about striving to be your own master that I quite enjoyed. But some of her insecurities (particularly about her relationship with love interest Tuck) were belabored. There’s certainly a lot of snarky tension between the two, but for me, it wasn’t particularly romantic. Their relationship never quite grabbed me. I was also frustrated by the relationship with Ellie’s Valkyrie grandmother – too much secret keeping. Given the characters’ personalities in these books, good old fashioned forthight honest would have seemed to fit better. The book gets there with some characters and events, but not others and the choice felt like a device rather than justified.

Finally, sadly, this novel fell prey to a vice I have struggled with frequently in my recent reads – pacing and timing. The action all supposedly occurs within a few days, which I just hate. Why oh why can’t authors just let time pass? They don’t have to describe dead days/weeks/months – but making events occur within days feels like such a ploy to ratchet up the tension. It just doesn’t work for me.

This wasn’t a bad read, and if there was another one, I’d probably pick it up. But it was kind of a take it or leave it title for me.

Oct. 16th, 2012

The Book Report: October Spookiness

A few brief reviews of some of the spooky books I bought and have been reading in honor of October:

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
I picked this one up after seeing Lyga at the Decatur Book Festival, where he was AWESOME. I really enjoyed the book, too. It was creepy and horrifying in the way that serial killer stuff should be. I’ve seen some critiques that it’s hard to like main character, Jazz, but given his upbringing, I found his distance from the reader and the others in his life to fit. Besides, this is more like a serial killer book or a police procedural, in a way, and I didn’t expect the same character attachment I might want from a typical YA contemporary. This is a great read for those who like Criminal Minds.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil
A decent horror/mystery novel with a good twist. I was guessing close to it for most of the novel, but never quite hit it on the head – which was fun. It’s never a good sign when I know exactly what’s going to happen the whole time. I admit I didn’t love the main character, Meg, or her dysfunctional relationship with her friend, Minnie, and there were lots of times I felt both of them needed a smack upside the head. Also, some familiar tropes for horror fans – the creepy video, the first death that looks like an accident. But I was willing to overlook all that for the slasher-style entertainment of the plot. Check this out if you liked I know What You Did Last Summer and its brethren.

Unspoken by Sara Rees Brennan
This is more a gothic, paranormal mystery than horror, but it was a HUGELY entertaining read. There was definitely a Nancy Drew, girl investigator type vibe, updated in the best way – lots of snarky characters. Main character Kami is a blast – strong and independent and funny. And I loved the setting – Sorry-in-the-Vale as the sort of typical English town in which an abundance of strange things just happens to . . . happen. I’ll definitely be reading the next installment in this one! Recommended for fans of Texas Gothic.

Nerve by Jeanne Ryan
This one deserves so much more than the brief blurb I’m about to write, but I’m playing catch up here. I simply loved this book. It was an AMAZING exploration of what people are willing to do for fame and prizes – it’s like Fear Factor, but REAL. This book scared the bejeesus out of me, kept me up at night thinking and wondering. I didn’t always connect with the main character’s poor-me-my-friend-gets-all-the-attention but it certainly provided motivation for her actions in the novel. And there were definitely plausibility issues – the lawyer in me can’t help but emerge when I consider the fact that teenagers are involved. Realistically, I doubt the game played in the novel could survive in the real world – law enforcement, parents, etc. would be all over it and working on shutting it down constantly. But once I suspended my disbelief, and just went along for the ride, this was a fantastic read.

Oct. 9th, 2012

Book Report: What Happens Next

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
Review copy received via Southern Book Bloggers ARC tour
what happens

It sounds a little strange to describe a book with issues as serious as rape and eating disorders as “light” – but that’s how I feel about What Happens Next. I mean that as a compliment.

I am not the world’s biggest fan of contemporary issues books. I don’t read a lot of them. I read for escape and most of the time I don’t want the heavy emotional baggage that comes from cancer books or rape books or eating disorders or grief. Also, more often than not, I find a certain sameness about such books that makes them blend together. I know that’s not true for others and that many people find solace in such books or enjoy the tearjerker aspect. I’m glad they do; it’s just not for me.

What Happens Next is a HUGE contrast. Here is an “issues” book that I really enjoyed. I think it had a lot to do with the pacing. The big devastating incident happens early, but then there is a significant progression of time. The book occurs over the course of six or more months. I found the pace to be perfect – the narrative never dwelled on events unnecessarily and allowed for a great deal of character progression.

Main character Sid is mostly a sympathetic one. Her choices sometimes frustrated me, but more importantly, they were in character and plausible for a teenager in her shoes. I also quite liked the slow burning romance between Sid and AV Club Corey. He’s an expected, un-expected YA character - the stoner with a heartbreaking backstory – but he was a very positive influence in an otherwise dire moment in Sid’s life.

One tiny moment marred the book a little for me. It seems very small, but given the heavy subject matter – rape and Sid’s subsequent questions about her sexuality, it actually mattered a lot. When asked whether he’s had sex, one male character responds by saying, “I’m a guy.” This troubled me, this implication that it’s normal and natural and expected for guys to have had sex. What does that imply about girls? That’s it would not be natural? That by the same age a girl who’d had sex would be a slut? What does it imply about Sid and her experience? She wonders about this for only the briefest moment in the book and I wish that either it had become more of a discussion or evolution in the book OR that the line had been left out altogether.

That item aside, I really enjoyed What Happens Next and I’d encourage fans of contemporaries to read it – even if you are – like me – wary of issues books.

Oct. 5th, 2012

Book Report: Breathe

Breathe by Sarah Crosson
Review copy received via Southern Book Bloggers ARC tour

Breathe is the first book in a while that I have just not been able to finish. I’ve pretty clearly established for myself that I am just not a fan of dystopians. Of course, the statement “I don’t generally like” is made for exceptions, so I keep trying. Unfortunately, Breathe was no exception. I only made it through about 150 pages of this one before I couldn’t keep going.

So, in fairness, this is a partial review and there are plenty of positive reviews out there. Take it for what it’s worth.

In the main, the story just did not feel original. We’ve all read the bare bones structure a million times now – oppressive government with shady secrets, rebels who know the truth, kids reluctant to become rebels but with important parts to play in the rebellion. But this one is particularly – family. Seen the Lorax movie? I happened to watch it a couple weekends ago and reading Breathe felt like a less colorful version. There’s an environmental dystopia created by some “accident” that depleted the world of oxygen. And a government and wealthy class that made their fortune by producing oxygen for those who can afford it. And mandatory weekly vaccines to prevent diseases no one ever seems to contract . . . see where I’m going with this? I don’t know the plot twist since I didn’t read that far, but I’ve got a pretty sold guess.

There were also a number of world building inconsistencies that disturbed my reading experience. For example, what knowledge has survived. Characters need to have the concept of a bus and a bus stop explained to them, even though their pod has trams? But they know what subways are? What old fashioned barber shops look like? No one can survive outside a pod. Oh, except the Drifters. And the rebels. I don’t know – I just didn’t get how the world was supposed to work. I also could not connect with the characters who vacillated between wooden and whiny. Also, for the record, the Pod Minister's name is . . . Cain Knavery. No, really.

This debut wasn’t for me. I recommend it to hardcore fans of dystopia jonsing for a fix before some sequel comes out.

Oct. 1st, 2012

The Book Report: Beta

Beta by Rachel Cohn
ARC received from publisher (Hyperion); release date: 10/16/12

On the isolated island of Demesne, the wealthy and elite have forged a closed society where they live in peace and harmony, sustained by bioengineered seas and air and a workforce of human clones. Elysia is a teenage clone – a beta version. She is purchased by the wife of the island’s governor and while living in that household as a companion to the family’s children, she uncovers some disturbing and mysterious elements of Demesne society, including “defect” clones (and she may be one of them!), a potential clone rebellion, and a genetically engineered society/cult of people who are anti-clone.

Beta’s plot, with layers of social castes and ethical questions about cloning and slavery and free will and objectification, is admirably complex. There is plenty of mystery about how cloning and clones work, about Elysia’s first (the girl from whom she was cloned), about the motives and actions of other characters. And the setting of Demesne is visually intriguing – I’d like to see a moviemaker’s vision of it!

The world Cohn created is, if not entirely plausible, then at least well thought-out. It’s obvious Cohn invested time in considering how the world of Beta developed and how many of its elements operate. There are some world-building holes,* and a few elements aren’t explained terribly well. For example, I found myself puzzling over the “Awfuls,” a phase teen clones go through. I don’t actually think Beta had to be a YA novel – the fundamentals of this plot story could as easily have been told about a newly created adult clone (and might even have been stronger if it was). As such, I found the explanation provided for the Awfuls and the necessity of this element to the story to be paper thin. It felt a little too plot device-y, too “we need impending doom to create tension and make imminent action necessary.” However, this was a stronger world than others I’ve read in YA sci-fi. The novel is the first in a trilogy, so perhaps more explanation will come in future installments, though I think casual sci fi readers will be satisfied or mostly satisfied by the world as established in Beta.

Despite the strength of the world-building, readers may find it difficult to connect to Elysia. She’s a newly created clone and supposed to be soulless, a machine, an anonymous worker bee. The blankness of her personality makes plot sense, but it also makes it very hard to care about her. Although she develops more of a personality as the story progresses (and there is a plot-related reason for that, too), she remained too distant. I never connected with the other characters, either, and the main love interest was, for me, a real dud. Clone love: not hot, as it turns out.**

On the whole, lots of strength to Beta, and I think it will have great appeal for fans of Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy and the multitude of dystopians cluttering the market. It’s a cut above those, I’d say. I’d even wager that fans of Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky will find this an entertaining way to pass the time until the release of Through the Ever Night, though I enjoyed Under the Never Sky much more. Because the characters weren’t as compelling as I typically like, I’m ambivalent about Beta. I might pick up the second book if it fell into my lap, but I’m not sure I’d run right out and buy it.

*I wonder if this isn’t a product of modern editorial standards. As an aspiring writer, I know we’re told not to indulge in excessive backstory and telling. As a reader, although those may not be the strongest elements of writing, I find them sometimes necessary to the willing suspension of disbelief and immersion in an imaginary world. I think back on the era of great sci fi and fantasy writing and there’s a whole hell of a lot of explanation shoved in there in more or less sophisticated form. Think Lord of the Rings, Ender’s Game, Starship Troopers, Game of Thrones (that one has multiple appendices, for God’s sake!). Modern readers still love those. Couldn’t we stand for a bit more exposition in these stories that rely so much on an imaginary world? I’d rather a few more pages of explanation than suffer the unsatisfying holes with which I’m left after most fantasy and sci fi YA reads these days!

** Not for me, anyway. But certainly not a turn off like zombie love, either!

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