Jan 31, 2012

January Wrap-Up Post (And Thoughts About Recent Drama)

Because I am participating in 3 reading challenges this year, and because I am trying to stay organized, and because I am always trying to think of topics to blog about, I decided to start doing monthly wrap-up posts to talk about my challenge progress and anything else bookish I think you guys should know about. So. Here I go.

There was a lot of book blogger drama this first month. I'm not going to talk too much about it, there are plenty of posts for that on the internet if you don't know about it, but at this point I think pretty much everyone knows about what went down. I just want to say something about it so I, personally, can move forward. 

Since this new year began, I've really been thinking long and hard about how I want to make blogging more fun for me. Because ever since this drama started, I have been stressed out, worried, and it's really put a damper on the fun of blogging for me. I don't think it's any surprise which side I have chosen to take, and because of that I feel slightly at odds with some of my fellow bloggers. It's also why I have stayed off Twitter a lot the past few days. I just really can't take it anymore.

When I write my reviews, I feel like I have a duty to myself and my readers to be completely honest. I write negative reviews, and yes, some of them get fairly mean. But I purchased that book. Or in some cases, was given a free copy in exchange for MY HONEST review. And that's what I do. I can't help my personality or the way my writing comes off to others. And truthfully, if you don't like what I write, don't read it. It really is that simple. I will always be honest and I will always write about how a book made me feel or didn't feel. If it made me angry then you can expect an angry review. That's just me and I won't change it for anyone.

I also write DNF reviews. I rarely post them on my blog. But I do post my thoughts on Goodreads. Just because I have only read 100 pages doesn't mean I don't have an opinion on what I read. There was a reason why I stopped reading, right? And I know for a fact that some of the people that follow me and trust my opinions appreciate my thoughts on books I don't finish. It is very strange to me why people care so much about what other people do or how they write. For instance, I think only writing reviews for books you like is kind of dishonest, but I'm not going to come on your blog or review on Goodreads and harass you for doing so. It's your prerogative. I'm sure you get more ARCs from publishers because of it, and good for you. But I do feel it's kind of selling out. My 2 cents. If someone wants to write a snarky review with GIFs, that is their right. Don't harass them for it. It makes you a troll. And frankly, I think they are hilarious.

When I buy a book and spend my hard-earned money on something, I can say whatever I want in my own space. There's this thing called free speech. And I shouldn't have to worry that I might get hate mail over it. But I know at some point I will. Because it is the internet, and it's inevitable. 


Now for my challenge progress. I am participating in the 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.

In the month of January I managed to read one debut author book. Not great, I know, but I have read one more, I just didn't post the review for it yet, and therefore, I'm not counting it yet. It's The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet.


 I had very strong opinions about The Edumacation of Jay Baker and you can see my review by clicking on the link above.

I'm also participating in the 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Evie-Bookish and a ton of other bloggers. 


So far for this challenge I have completed 4/15 books. This is not the final count of the books I will be reading because it's only February and I have already added to the list numerous times. I'm not going to lie, this challenge is hard work. It is really difficult to find time to read the books on my own shelves. That's why I have cut down on review requests.

Books Completed:
~Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
~Cold Blood (Dirty Blood #2) by Heather Hildenbrand
~Base Spirits by Ruth Barrett

Finally, I am participating in the 2012 50 States Reading Challenge hosted by Book Obsessed



I have managed to complete 3 states so far: New Hampshire, Ohio, and Washington. I just finished a book set in New York, and that review will be up soon, but not yet, so I won't count it now.

Books Completed:
~The New Girl by Paige Harbison (New Hampshire)
~The Edumacation of Jay Baker by Jay Clark (Ohio)
~Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John (Washington)

Again, reviews can be seen by clicking on the links.


For anyone that wants to know, I read a total of 13 books in January. That's not really a great number and I'm not happy. But I have had a ton of work to do this month. There will be catch up time in later months. I hope.

If you have any wrap-up posts you want me to come comment on, please leave links in the comments. I would be more than happy to visit your blog. And if you have any comments on my thoughts about the book blogger drama, feel free to leave those too. 

Jan 30, 2012

Base Spirits by Ruth Barrett

Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: September 2nd, 2011
Pages: Not listed (Kindle Edition)
Genre: Horror
Source: From the author in exchange for an honest review.

Base SpiritsBase Spirits by Ruth  Barrett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:

‘Murder has took this chamber with full hands
And will ne’er out as long as the house stands.’
~A Yorkshire Tragedy, Act I, Sc. v

In 1605, Sir Walter Calverley’s murderous rampage leaves a family shattered. The killer suffers a torturous execution… but is it truly the end? A noble Yorkshire house stands forever tarnished by blood and possessed by anguished spirits.

Some crimes are so horrific, they reverberate through the centuries.

As an unhappy modern couple vacation in the guesthouse at Calverley Old Hall, playwright Clara, and her scholar husband, Scott, unwittingly awaken a dark history. Clara is trapped and forced back in time to bear witness to a family’s bloody saga. Overtaken by the malevolent echoes, Scott is pushed over the edge from possessive husband to wholly possessed…

Inspired by a true-life drama in Shakespeare’s day, this is itself a play within a play: a supernatural thriller with a historical core.

Only one player can survive.

Review:

In the interest of full disclosure, I am going to be completely honest and tell you that I have not read the play this book is based on. But then again, I don't think that most people that read this book will have read that play either. It's kind of an obscure play, and unless you are a huge, HUGE, Shakespeare fan, then I am guessing that you have not read it either. The play is called the Yorkshire Tragedy and for a long time it was thought to be written by Shakespeare, but now it's not. At least that is the information I have gleaned from the internet. Onto the review.

The writing was fantastic. I didn't have an emotional connection to the characters, but the plot itself was great. This is a horror novel and the book definitely made me feel unsettled and disturbed. Parts of it were very violent and hard for me to read. I did feel some of the characters were a little on the flat side, but I thought Phillipa was written fabulously. You really feel for her and everything she goes through.

Truthfully, I didn't know what to think when I started reading Base Spirits as horror novels are a bit of a hit or a miss for me. But this one was definitely a hit. It was gruesome and gory without being overly done. The blurb very much excited me, and that's why I requested a copy for review. It didn't let me down.

I like books rooted in some kind of a reality, and I think it's very cool that you can actually see photographs of the manor that this book was set in. It really exists in England and is still standing today. You can actually stay there. The tragedy that happened there (and in this book) is unexplainable and very, very strange. These murders actually happened and the play, The Yorkshire Tragedy was also based on these murders.

This is a perfect book for a rainy day. I wouldn't say that it scared me, but it was definitely creepy. It might scare someone though, and another reviewer was scared, which I can totally understand. You might want to leave the lights on while reading this one just in case. It really depends on how easily scared you are.

Final note: Gorgeous prose that fit the era the book was set in, and a creepy story that you will find yourself engrossed in. I very much enjoyed it and can easily recommend this to fans of horror and historical fiction.

To purchase a copy of Base Spirits, click here: Base Spirits



The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: January 24th, 2012
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Series: The Way We Fall #1
Source: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Way We FallThe Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb:



It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.


And then you're dead.


When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.


Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.


Because how will she go on if there isn't?


Megan Crewe crafts a powerful and gripping exploration of self-preservation, first love, and hope. Poignant and dizzying, this heart-wrenching story of one girl’s bravery and unbeatable spirit will leave readers fervently awaiting the next book in this standout new series.


Review:


I love dystopian novels. I love post-apocalyptic novels. But there’s no denying the market is saturated right now with these types of books. So in order to blow me away, a dystopian or post-apocalyptic story has to be fantastic. There needs to be something that sets it apart from all the other books in the genre that are like it. And I’m sorry to say that The Way We Fall didn’t really work for me in that respect. I have just read SO many books about the same thing over and over again and this one didn’t bring anything new to the table.


I did like that there was a quarantine on an island and I did like that the storyline involved a disease that made its victims behave strangely, but that’s the only thing that set it apart from the usual fare.  And it’s not like that idea was original either. It was kind of cool though that the island inhabitants had no escape. And I liked the fact that some people went nuts and started forming gangs to loot buildings and kill the people that had come down with the virus. Because no one could escape, it created a sense of urgency that made me want to keep reading. And I held my breath a few times. And it also felt realistic because something like this could actually happen. But, that’s it.


The diary style that the book was written in didn’t really work for me. It’s very hard to make that type of book work anyway, but for this type of book it didn’t work at all, because world-building is so important in dystopian novels, and there was very little world-building at all. It was VERY hard to picture the setting because there were practically no descriptive passages, which I was very disappointed about.


And then there was the character development. Or rather, lack thereof.  All the characters’ voices were the same. It was very hard to distinguish one from the other. The only way to tell was by the different names. But again, that had a lot to do with the diary style the book was written in. I also felt very detached from the characters.


The Way We Fall was a decent read, but I wouldn’t write home to mother about it. It was enjoyable, but once I was done I forgot about it and moved on. The details have already slipped my mind. And I’m really disappointed about that.

To order a copy of The Way We Fall from Amazon.com, click here: The Way We Fall.



Jan 28, 2012

In My Mailbox #18



Let's do this quick because I have to get to work. I never have enough time to blog on the topics that I want to do. I'm always busy reading and reviewing. Almost all my other free time is spent editing manuscripts, which I love, but it doesn't leave me a lot of time to participate in weekly memes and I hate that. :( Anyway, In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

This week I only have three books for you guys.

For review:

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers. Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Griffin.
Avalanche: Lessons of Love Thank you to Randy Bragdon. @MeSoRandy on Twitter.

I bought:

Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet.


And that's it! I'm excited about them all. I'm currently reading Cabinet of Earths, and I am really liking it so far. Great middle-grade and this is my 2nd book for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge.

What's in your mailbox this week? Talk to me in the comments. 


Jan 26, 2012

Cold Blood by Heather Hildenbrand

Publisher: Accendo Press
Release Date: November 15th, 2011
Pages: 366
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: From the author in exchange for an honest review
Series: Dirty Blood #2

Cold Blood (Dirty Blood #2)Cold Blood by Heather Hildenbrand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


Wood Point Academy is not at all what I expected. For one thing, it looks like a cross between military school and Buckingham Palace. Everyone stares, the floors shine so bright you can see your reflection in them from a mile away, and no one smiles. Unless they're kicking your butt in the process.


At least I've got plenty to take my mind off the fact that my psycho cousin, Miles De'Luca, keeps calling and declaring his love and promising to come for me just as soon as he's destroyed anyone standing in our way. Wes isn't going to like that idea. So between Miles, Wood Point's evil welcoming committee, and the drill sergeant hottie trainer from hell, I just keep asking myself, how did I end up here?


Review:


I loved Dirty Blood. It was a great addition to the YA genre. And werewolf books. It wasn't particularly original, but the story was great and it was suspenseful and a lot of fun to read. Cold Blood was even better. A lot of things were stronger in this book than in Dirty Blood. Some of which were:


~Stronger writing. The author has really managed to hone her craft. She is a great storyteller.


~Stronger editing. It wasn't perfect, but it was much better than in the 1st book. And consequently, I know that grammar in indie novels doesn't matter to some people, but it does me. I edit for a living. It's very difficult (impossible) for me to read books these days without a critical eye. And I apologize for that, but there is nothing I can do about it and I have to call it like I see it.


~I thought the ending was fantastic. There was a cliffhanger, but I definitely like where the story is going. It ended with quite a few loose ends being tied up, but also left you hanging with some pretty big questions left unanswered. As a result of this, I am dying to read the next one. What will happen with George? What's going on with Tara? Which guy will she choose? I like Alex, but she belongs with Wes. Will she end up leading the cause? I hope so. Is she becoming a werewolf?


~The imagery and world-building were outstanding in this novel. I love the intricacies of the world and the boarding school setting rocked. You may think the boarding school setting is getting old and tired, but I can promise you that this book will make you love it all over again.


~The pacing of this book was pretty riveting. There was never a dull moment and I didn't want to walk away from this thing for one second. That hasn't happened to me for awhile with a young adult book.


~Character development got even better. I really felt Tara's character growing up and maturing. I loved Cambria. I wish there had been more time with Grandma (I love her) but maybe I will be lucky enough to get that in the next book? I felt Alex was a little bit flat and didn't have the depth that Wes does, but maybe that's because the author intends for Tara to end up with Wes? I hope so. Each character had a unique story line and I really felt them coming alive while I was reading. Awesome.


With the exception of a few editing mistakes, this book was up to the quality that you would see coming from one of the big publishers. Great writing, outstanding storytelling, and characters to love AND hate. I can easily give it a 4 star rating, and I can't wait to read the next one. If you haven't tried this author yet, I really think you are missing out.


To order Cold Blood from Amazon.com, click here: Cold Blood (Book 2, Dirty Blood Series). The Kindle version is only 2.99, and yes, I am an Amazon affiliate. Buy from my links and I get a commission. The money I make goes towards giveaways, so it helps you too!




Jan 25, 2012

Author Interview with River in the Sea's Tina Boscha and a Giveaway

It's been awhile since I have done an author interview. I don't know why I really stopped, but I'd like to do more and make it a goal this year to get more people on here to talk about their work and their love of reading: authors, book bloggers, other editors, etc. So I'm going to put the call out. If I have read your book (and liked it), if I talk to you on twitter, if you are a book blogger that loves me ;), email me and I will get you set up for an interview ASAP. If I have not read your book, I am not interested. 





Tina Boscha is the author of River in the Sea, which I read a little while back. It was a great, great book and I was really impressed with it. My review is here, and I gave it 4 stars. Here is the summary of the book:


At fifteen, Leen De Graaf likes everything she shouldn’t: smoking cigarettes, wearing red lipstick, driving illegally, and working in the fields. It seems the only thing she shares with her fellow Dutchmen is a fear of the German soldiers stationed nearby and a frantic wish for the war to end. When a soldier’s dog runs in front of Leen’s truck, her split decision sets off a storm of events that pitches her family against the German forces when they are most desperate – and fierce. Leen tries to hold her family together, but despite her efforts, bit by bit everything falls apart, and just when Leen experiences a horrific loss, she must make a decision that could forever brand her a traitor, yet finally allow her to live as her heart desires.


Inspired by the life of the author’s mother, River in the Sea is a powerful and moving account of one girl reaching adulthood when everything she believes about family, friendship, and loyalty is questioned by war.



And now, here's Tina. And me, asking the questions.







What is your writing process like? Outlines? Music? Time of day? Where do you write? That type of thing.

I’m not sure exactly what it is about the process question, but I love to hear about what other writers do. I think it might be because I fear that my process is peculiar and it’s reassuring to hear that other writers have quirks too. So it’s fun to write about my own!

In the end, I think my process is mostly ordinary.  I definitely use outlines, although they end up pretty loose and bear the disclaimer “subject to change.”  For me, an outline means a brainstorm on paper. I’m not sure my thoughts ever feel real in any way until I write them down. I like to journal and make lists (and I have separate notebooks for each) and funnily enough, my outlines look like lists. They inevitably change during writing, but I find that the essential structure stays the same. Without thinking through the plot first, I feel very unsettled which quickly turns into paralysis.

Time of day varies for me; I like to get my chores out of the way first. This can be a method of procrastination, though.  If I don’t have to work outside the home that day, I like to write in the early afternoon.  Otherwise, I find that 7 pm works well for me, especially during the academic year (I teach college writing).  The weird thing is that I used to write on a laptop; I hated sitting at a desk and preferred a couch-and-cushion setup. This last year I switched to preferring a desk; having a new computer with a huge screen was probably the factor that made me change. One thing that doesn’t change is the impact grading has on my writing; on those days I write first or else it’ll never happen.

As far as music, I always listen to music. I have used the same playlist for years – and I mean YEARS – that I add to every now and then. I call it “Moody Music” and it has everything from Nina Simone to Pearl Jam on it. For whatever reason, it helps me concentrate. The best writing sessions are those where I don’t even remember listening to half the songs.
                                                       
Where did you get the ideas for your characters and setting?

Setting is easier for me; I tend to pick places I’m very familiar with. My first novel, River in the Sea, takes place in my parents’ homeland, Friesland (a province in the Netherlands). I’ve been there several times and in general am pretty comfortable with Frisian/Dutch culture.  My current novel takes place in the same town I live in right now, although I’ll end up changing the name and some particulars. I tend to find inspiration in places and people right around me; I really am drawn to the extraordinary in the ordinary.  That surrounds us every day.

As far as characters, my answer is both the same as what I just wrote, and completely different. I definitely draw on those familiar to me (clearly, as my protagonist in River in the Sea is based on my mother as a teenage girl). Yet I also like to work with characters who are unfamiliar, who are nothing like me or those I know. I think with characters I feel the most free to explore and experiment; plot and setting usually are rooted in some spark I got from an anecdote overheard or some piece of “real” life. But with characters, I find that you must have a mix of personalities and emotional “presets” for lack of a better word. Often you need to create a character to prompt another character to act in a certain way.

Maybe the best answer is through alchemy.

Did you go to college? What did you major in?

I am ridiculously overeducated! I went to Calvin College in Michigan and majored in Sociology. I love the discipline, and I think I do because it is another way to study people, how they act, their motivations, and how they work within a larger framework. In other words, it’s what I studied when I was too afraid to dive into Creative Writing. I didn’t take my first official creative writing course until my senior year of college. I was scared out of my mind – what if I turned out to be terrible at the very thing I have always wanted to be good at? Luckily the whole experience was very positive, and I learned a lot – mostly that I wanted to keep writing. But I still didn’t believe I should pursue it from an education perspective, and after I graduated with my bachelor’s, I then received a Master’s degree in Sociology and worked in the private sector. At the age of 27, I threw caution to the wind and moved from Wisconsin to Oregon for my MFA degree in Creative Writing. I graduated in 2002 and have been teaching composition (and other forms of writing) ever since.

At what age did you figure out you wanted to be a writer? Is there anything else you want to do besides write?

Birth. Seriously, I don’t know when this itch first began. I honestly do not remember a time I didn’t want to write. At the age of six I answered the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up by saying, “An author and an artist.”  I bought a typewriter at age nine and wrote a crazy novel with pages of unattributed dialogue and even sent it off to an editor! As far as art, I am pretty crafty and OCD in what I like to do. But writing has never faltered. That’s always been first for me.

Ideally I want what most writers want – to write and publish full time, and earn a living that way.  Yet I love teaching. I think it’d be weird for me not to teach at all.  I’d love to conduct seminars on writing and maybe self-publishing, and work with teens and young people who want to write but are unsure of how to start or of trusting themselves.

Which classics are your favorites, if any? Why?

I love, love, love Edith Wharton.  Ethan Frome, The House of Mirth… Her novels really touch on a person’s struggle to live within a strict framework but who ultimately can’t – or won’t. I also loved Tess of the D’urbervilles when I read it as sophomore in high school. But I’ll be honest – I’m not that well-read when it comes to the classics. Is the Laura Ingalls series considered a classic? Because if so, then add those books to the list.

Favorite book? Favorite band?

Ursula Hegi’s Stones From the River. I LOVE that book. I love the writing, the emotion, the protagonist. It was the book that showed me I could write the story I wanted to write.

Favorite band – oh, that is hard! I am a child of the 80s so I have a strong affinity for Prince and Journey (shut up). As for contemporary music, no one holds a candle to Elbow. Guy Garvey’s voice is magic.

Finally, talk about your book. Obviously. What was difficult about writing it? Easy? Can you talk about your next project?

My most favorite question! River in the Sea is my baby. My firstborn. It’s not my first novel, but it’s the first novel that I felt ought to be in the world, rejections be damned. This was not an easy book to write at all, for many reasons. First, it’s historical and based on true events. I had never written anything remotely like this, and I became completely mired in painting everything as accurately as possible. Which does not a good novel make. I also really struggled with how to present the setting and history in an organic way. What’s the right balance of exposition to scene? I tried the second chapter data dump, a technique that does NOT work, ever. I tried a prologue. Nope. What helped me considerably was reading sci-fi, believe it or not; good sci-fi must build a believable world while avoiding clunky explanations. 

Writing this novel was also difficult because it is based on my mother’s early years. How do you imagine your own mother as a teenager? And how do you make the character your own? I really had to divorce myself from the idea that Leen in the book is Leen in real life, and realize that Leen must be a character fully real to me, and that was the only way she was going to be real to readers.

Finally, I wrestled enormously with self-doubt and getting in my own way. It doesn’t help that despite winning some awards and fellowships (yay) I was rejected by publishers (boo). When I finally decided to take matters in my own hands and give in to that nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away, this feeling that told me the book should not be shelved, I didn’t look back.  I’m starting to reach more readers and am excited about River in the Sea’s future.

My next project finally has a title. The Sleeping Fields is a YA novel that on the surface will be familiar to many; it’s a paranormal romance of sorts. I call it a good old-fashioned ghost story, but yet, I really want to turn the ideas of a love triangle in which the young woman must choose and “love triumphs all” – even death – on their respective heads. I’m a little over halfway through the first draft and Thea, my main character, is starting to behave very, very badly. It’s pretty nerve-wracking to write (but also good fun!). I’m hoping to release it by the end of 2012. 


Yes, I do the same interview every time. And I haven't been let down with the answers yet. I love hearing about the writing process, likes and dislikes, and the next project. I ask questions I want to know the answers to. I am also really looking forward to The Sleeping Fields. If it is as great as River in the Sea was, I am sure I will love it.



Giveaway Time!!

Up for grabs I have 1 paperback copy of River in the Sea (United States entrants only), and one e-book copy(all formats, International). 

Giveaway ends a week and a half from now on January 26th. Winners will be notified by email.

Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jan 24, 2012

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Publisher: Dial
Release Date: November 11th, 2010
Pages: 338
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: I own this book.

Five Flavors of DumbFive Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb:


The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.


The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits.


The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she's deaf?


Piper can't hear Dumb's music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.


Review:


Sometimes when I write my reviews I talk about the strengths and the weaknesses in the writing, the plot, the characters, etc. I can't really do that here considering this was my first 5 star review of 2012. And even if it wasn't worthy of 5 stars, I really couldn't do that. It's not that type of book. And it doesn't deserve to be critiqued, analyzed, or raked over a bed of hot coals. This is a book with a message, and never, not once, does it get preachy.


See, Piper, the main character, is deaf. Yeah, she has a disability. But it doesn't define who she is. It's part of who she is, sure, but it's definitely not a weakness. Piper manages to make her deafness a strength. She becomes a band manager for a really terrible band, and somehow turns them into a force to be reckoned with by herself and with a little help from her brother and best friend.


I will admit that when I first started reading this book I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. It's almost always like that with me and contemporary YA though. Sometimes it feels preachy to me, and sometimes it's overdramatic. I never felt that way with Five Flavors of Dumb. This book seriously cracked me up. It was funny. And I've got quotes.


"Don't go there, Piper. Not today," warned Dad. Yes, my name is Piper. And no, I don't see the funny side. Seriously, what family with a history of hereditary deafness names their child after the player of a musical instrument?


By the time everyone was in sync, Dumb had its first original song, and although Josh was bummed when I said he should change the lyrics "Hey ho, make me happy" because they were likely to be misinterpreted, a glare from Tash convinced him I was right.


Those were a few of my favorites. Much funnier in context, sure, but I hope it gives you an idea of the humor found in this novel. And it covers a lot of serious topics, but I never once found it to be heavy or overdone. It's all about how the story makes you feel. If you connect with the characters. Can you relate to their experiences? Piper never lets her deafness get her down. She never gives up no matter how many times she gets made fun of. Even her own family sees her deafness as a weakness, but I, the reader, never did.


I thought this book was trying to say a few things. Like:


~Relationships with people are powerful bonds. So is the bond with music. Sometimes it can bring you together, and sometimes it tears you apart.


~People are not always who they seem. Stereotypes can be, and often are, shattered (and I'm not just talking about Piper here).


Almost everyone in this book was a walking stereotype from the very beginning. But some of the character transformations they went through absolutely shocked me. I was stunned. The ending of this book blew me away. It's what bumped this book up from a 4 star to a 5 star. And I can't really talk about the ending without getting spoilery. Just read this book if you haven't already. It's special, and it's important. Before I go, I'm going to leave you with one more quote from the narrative.


But you're worrying about the wrong things. Don't worry about wanting to change; start worrying when you don't feel like changing anymore. And in the meantime, enjoy every version of yourself you ever meet, because not everybody who discovers their true identity likes what they find."


Fantastic.

To buy a copy of Five Flavors of Dumb from Amazon.com, click here: Five Flavors of Dumb. As of 1/24/2012, the Kindle and paperback versions are 8.99.




Jan 20, 2012

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: February 8th, 2012
Pages: 448
Genre: Dystopian, Adult Crossover
Source: NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Blurb:


We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . . 

Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.


Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . . 

There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.


When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.


Review:


I want to start from the beginning. I kind of fell in love with this book from the start. The writing immediately blew me away. It flowed and really painted a picture. I wanted to copy down quotes from almost every page, but I couldn't because some of them were rather spoilery. But I did write down my favorite.


"This is it," she says.

  "This is what?" Partridge asks.

  She leads him around a pile of rubble to a wide metal black door. "Bradwell's place," she whispers. "I should warn you that he's fused."

  "In what way?"

  "Birds," she says.

  "Birds?"

  "In his back."


A lot of the passages were that way. Beautifully written but subtle. And that's my favorite thing about Pure. The other thing I loved about this book was the world-building. I was fascinated by the gritty, dystopian, post-apocalyptic world that the author created. Genetic coding, scary creatures that have sprung up from the aftermath of the bombs, and people that are fused to the last object or person they were holding when the bomb went off. In the case of the main character, this is a doll's head. Fused to her hand. And then there is a boy with birds fused to his back. That are still alive. There are women fused to their children. It's very creepy. It's slightly disturbing. And I found it fascinating. There is also the dome, but honestly I found this the least interesting part of the story. See, there are so many books out there that have domes in them. But whatever. The world-building was something I could continue to write about for hours.


I appreciated the characters in Pure. The characterizations were unique and well-developed, but somehow that wasn't enough for me. I can't pinpoint what went wrong, but even though I found them interesting, I didn't find myself really caring all that much. And I totally am saying that may just be me. I am sure that other readers would feel differently, but it didn't completely work for me. I can honestly say that I lacked an emotional connection to the characters. 


Moving on to the pacing. I have since found out that this will not actually be marketed as a YA novel (crossover), but even so, I still found it very slow. There was hardly any action, and not a whole hell of a lot happened. I mean to say, things happened, but it never really felt like anything was happening. Most of the book fell on one note for me. I was never emotionally invested. There were a few times where I was a bit angry, but there wasn't a lot of suspense. I never felt that adrenaline rush. Maybe that's what the author was aiming for, but it's not what I expected from this book. It was also a bit too long at 448 pages.


I have seen this book marketed as the next Hunger Games. Yeah...no. Not even close. I don't like when books are compared to begin with (sometimes it can't be helped), but this book was no Hunger Games. The Hunger Games was filled with suspense and action scenes and all sorts of drama. This was just a totally different book. The author herself mentioned the Hunger Games in correlation to her book. This is her quote, not mine:


"All novels come from the singular mind of the author – the accumulation of a life and the dark finery of the subconscious. But sometimes a novel comes along that makes this statement seem truer – Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, Cronin's The Passage, Collins' Hunger Games. PURE feels like the convergence of my most radical impulses."


I will let you take that quote in any way you wish, as did I. Comparing your book to one as successful as The Hunger Games may be a bit of an overreach. I just wanted to include it here because I felt it needed to be said that comparing one novel to another rarely, if ever, works. Own your work and be proud of what you did without comparing it to another great novel. 


So, to summarize for those that don't like to read a lengthy review:


The Good:


~Gorgeous writing

~Phenomenal world-building

~Gritty setting

~Unique characters with unique voices


The Bad:


~Lack of an emotional connection

~Slow pacing

~Too long

To pre-order Pure from Amazon.com, click here: Pure



Jan 19, 2012

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 24th, 2012
Pages: 370
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Blurb:


Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever. 


She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists. 


Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen. 


As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...


Review:


So seriously? I thought I had written a review for this book a long time ago. Usually I write reviews that I can't post yet and save them in word until I can. Errrr...somehow it slipped my mind and I never actually did that. It's been a long time since I read this book. So now I have a problem because I don't remember any details. I'm just being honest. So I am going to do the best I can, but please understand that this is not my best effort at a review.


I do remember that there was a cliffhanger ending, and it was one of the worst ones I have ever encountered (the worst ever was Wildefire by Karsten Knight). Which is fine, but I'm getting a little bit tired of books with cliffhangers and no resolution. It's fine if you want to write a series (although I'm a little tired of those too), but at least give the reader a sense of accomplishment and closure. Believe me, we will still read the next book without the cliffhanger. I'd like to quote myself from me earlier review here, since my mind is lacking details. "I cried like a big stupid baby and I am hating myself for being female right now." That was my comment on the ending. So there were a lot of emotions there. So even though it had a crappy cliffhanger ending, it made me cry. That's something I guess.


I know the beginning started out kind of slow for me. I remember loving the lyrical writing, but the characters were kind of meh. I didn't feel a whole lot for them. It did build as the story went on, but I never felt they were really that well-developed. I cared for them by the end, but I believe it had more to do with the plot and writing than the actual characters.


I did fall in love with the story by the end. This book didn't blow me away, but I did like it. And I loved Jack to death. I just didn't find there to be any redeeming qualities in Cole and I really can't figure out why there are a lot of Cole fans out there. I thought he was a terrible person. Do I see potential for his character develop as the series progresses? Yes. But I did feel like he was bad news and unhealthy to be in a relationship with. I am Team Jack all the way.


Will I read the next one? Maybe. This genre (underworld, demons)is not usually something I enjoy. That has a lot to do with my beliefs. I just can't suspend disbelief. But I was asked to review this and I love the cover so I took a chance. And I'm glad I did. It was really, REALLY, good. And I can totally understand why it is blowing some people away. It deserves the four stars I gave it. I just don't know if it's the series for me. I think I would enjoy it more if I wasn't who I was.

To pre-order Everneath from Amazon.com, click here: Everneath. I am an affiliate and will earn a small commission.



Jan 18, 2012

Giveaway: Win a Copy of The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe


Up for grabs I have two copies of The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe and published by Disney Hyperion.

Blurb:


It starts with an itch you just can't shake. 

Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. 

A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends.  Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in. 

And then you're dead.

When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.

Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest. 

Because how will she go on if there isn't?





a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jan 17, 2012

New Girl by Paige Harbison

Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Release Date: January 31st, 2012
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: NetGalley, from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

New GirlNew Girl by Paige Harbison
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Blurb:


They call me 'New Girl'...


Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.


Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.


Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.


And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.


Review:


Oh dear. That was my immediate reaction upon finishing this book. Notice I gave it two stars and not just one, which means there was something positive to be had here. Just not a whole lot. Let me go digging in my notes to find it. Ahhh...there it is. The story. It was a retelling of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I thought the idea of the story was fantastic. If only it had been written by a different author.


Let's discuss that. This is the first book I have read by this particular author. It will also be my last. I do not care for her writing style. And that's putting it nicely. It is littered with adverbs ending in -ly. There are unnecessary dialogue tags. There is a significant amount of telling. Descriptive passages are far and few between. All of this lends itself to a book that doesn't flow particularly well. The writing is, simply put, bad. There's a whole lot more I could say about that, but let's keep it short and sweet. No need to ramble.


Moving on to the characters. They were okay. There wasn't a whole lot of depth there, but I wouldn't say they were exactly flat either. It was somewhere in between. I did feel uncomfortable because of the way some of the students were treating the "new girl." So that was something positive I guess. It did make me feel something. But at the same time, I didn't get why everyone loved Becca. I didn't understand why Max continued to put up with her garbage. I would have dumped her *ss on the pavement in front of the entire school. But that's just me. So, no, I don't understand a lot of the characters' motivations.


Another thing I didn't understand? Why the author held the "new girl's" name until the end of the book. Why? What purpose did that serve? I thought it was quite stupid, to be honest. Also, how the story opens. No sane parent would believe that their teenage daughter would want the same thing she wanted when she was 13. To go to a boarding school because it sounded cool. They never had a discussion about this over the four years in between? Yeah, right, okay, whatever. Not buying this. The author could have gone in a different direction. Any other excuse would have been better. That one didn't work. In the least.


And that is it in a nutshell. The entire book was meh. Just mediocre all-around. Bad writing, decent storyline, but there was a whole lot of corny, and a pretty stinky story arc. I gave it two stars, so I didn't hate it, AND I managed to read it all, so at least it held my attention. But I honestly don't think the bad writing I had to slog through was worth it. Take from this what you will.

If you want to buy this one, you are on your own. I don't endorse it, however, and as such, Google is your friend.




Jan 16, 2012

City of Hell Chronicles: Volume 1 by Various Authors

Authors: Colin F. Barnes, Victoria Griesdoorn, Anne Michaud, Amy L. Overley, Ren Warom, Kendall Grey, and Belinda S. Frisch
Publisher: Anachron Press
Release Date: December 1st, 2011
Pages: 129
Source: I received a copy from one of the authors in exchange for an honest review.

City of Hell Chronicles: Volume 1City of Hell Chronicles: Volume 1 by Colin F. Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb:


There is no god, no angels, no redemption; only suffering. The Ant-headed Old One ‘The Great Maurr’ has risen and brought hell to earth. The land is scorched and the human race decimated, eaten or tortured. Only three cities remain, crumbled dying versions of their former selves: London, Moscow and Hong Kong.The Great Maurr’s own City of Hell dominates most of North America. Its diabolical influence has turned ordinary citizens into torturers, debased slaves, lunatics and zealots.


With an eruption at Yellowstone, the likes of which humanity has never seen before, The Old-One tore apart the land, and ascended to rule, aided by its faithful army of acolytes. From the core of the earth it crawled up on to the land, spreading disease and insanity to all corners of the globe.


The City of Hell Chronicles tells tales of survival, death and debauchery.


The first anthology features eight stories from seven international authors.


Review:


The book was one of the grossest and goriest pieces of literature that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Not usually my thing, but for some reason I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps it was the fact that it was post-apocalyptic. I'm really into that genre these days. It seems like every other book coming out is of that genre, so it's very difficult for an author to being something new to the table. I thought this novella/group of stories did just that. If you are afraid of bugs, you might want to stay away from this one. The imagery is fabulous and really does a great job of creeping the reader out. I wasn't necessarily scared, but my skin was definitely crawling where it was supposed to. I also found myself saying "ew" a lot.


Technically this is a group of short stories by a bunch of different authors. But it also isn't. Let me explain. Each chapter is from a different character's POV. Once that chapter is over, we never see that character again. But the stories are all set in the same world and they are all dealing with the same issues. Bugs attacking and taking over the planet. It may sound corny, but I promise you it isn't. You do have to suspend disbelief, but wow. This one is scary good.


The writing skills of these authors? Superb. I mean, really. I wasn't sure how I felt about the second author in the book, but after a few pages I changed my mind quickly. It was just such a departure from the writing styles that I normally enjoy. It was short, choppy, and missing a lot of connecting words. It was very bizarre, but once I got used to it, I loved it. That story may actually be my favorite one in the book. If you decide to read it, it is the one set in Hong Kong. The imagery in these stories was fantastic. I felt like I was watching a movie in my mind. I loved it so much!!


If I have one complaint it is the lack of any kind of resolution. Even an unhappy one. I knew right off the bat that this was going to be the kind of story that would not end happily and that's totally fine. I could care less about that. There was just no resolution at all. It just kind of ended. There were no more words and I was left feeling a bit lost. But there is a Volume 2. I'm pretty sure I will be reading that. These are all indie or self-published authors, and I promise you that they are the cream of the crop.


If you love horror and/or post-apocalyptic stories, this is a great (and quick) read for you.

To order a copy of City of Hell Chronicles: Volume 1 from Amazon.com, please click here: City of Hell Chronicles: Volume 1. The Kindle copy is only 2.99.



Jan 15, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Publisher: Quirk Publishing
Release Date: June 7th, 2011
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Source: Purchased in hardcover for my own collection.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Blurb:


A mysterious island.


An abandoned orphanage.


A strange collection of very curious photographs.


It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.


A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.


Review:


Going into this book, I wasn't sure how I would feel about it since the reviews are rather mixed. Some of my most trusted reviewers didn't really like it. So I was worried. I won it in a giveaway long ago, and I just recently had the time to finally get to it. And I liked it! It didn't blow me away, but I liked it! The storytelling was rich and well-written. The paper was thick, the ink was dark, and it was littered with vintage photographs that creeped me out and made me smile at the same time.


The strength of this book were the characters I think. The peculiar children to be exact. And Miss Peregrine herself. Without giving anything away, I think it is important to say how much I enjoyed each of the individual personalities the characters possessed. And it's a great book that makes me believe that. The characters jump off the page. 


And so does the setting for that matter. The island setting is truly an immersive experience. The bar, the cairn, the manor. It all really works, and to me, it really works beautifully. This is truly a story to get lost in with world-building that makes you forget the very world around you that you are sitting in. It's a rare book that I don't want to put down. Especially lately. And that happened with this one.


I'm not really sure why this one isn't raking in the good reviews. I usually have some kind of idea why, but for the life of me I cannot figure it out. This is not me picking on you or trying to start an argument. I would actually like you to comment and tell me what you didn't like. Because I would like to look at this from a different perspective and provoke thought and discussion. 

To order Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children from Amazon.com, click here: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.



Jan 14, 2012

In My Mailbox #17



I haven't done an IMM in a really long time. And I wasn't going to do one this week either, but then I went to Barnes and Noble and bought some books, so I figured I may as well get it out of the way. Here's the photo of what I bought and got for review over the last couple of weeks. There's only one review book in the picture.

For Review:

The Technologists by Matthew Pearl

Bought:

The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams
The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder
Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Switched by Amanda Hocking
 




As far as e-books goes, I've gotten a few of those for review too. But not a lot. I've been really picky about sending in requests for review books. I want to get through my OWN books. That's also why I have not sent in one ARC request to a publisher via email. I don't WANT books in the mail. Too much work and stress. But here are my e-arcs for review.

Partials by Dan Wells
Spellcaster by Cara Lynn Shultz
Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown


And they are all YA books this week except for one. Thanks to NetGalley, my husband, and a whole bunch of fantastic publishers. Also, look at this picture. Just look at it!


Have a happy day! What's in your mailbox? Ian, maybe?

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