Monday, February 28, 2011

Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart

Real Live Boyfriends: Yes, boyfriends, plural. If my life weren't complicated--I wouldn't be Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, December 2010

Summary from Goodreads:
Ruby Oliver, the neurotic, hyperverbal heroine of the The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, and The Treasure Map of Boys, is back!

Ruby Oliver is in love. Or it would be love, if Noel, her real live boyfriend, would call her back. But Noel seems to have turned into a pod-robot lobotomy patient, and Ruby can’t figure out why.

Not only is her romantic life a shambles:
Her dad is eating nothing but Cheetos,
Her mother’s got a piglet head in the refrigerator,
Hutch has gone to Paris to play baguette air guitar,
Gideon shows up shirtless,
And the pygmy goat Robespierre is no help whatsoever.

Will Ruby ever control her panic attacks?
Will she ever understand boys?
Will she ever stop making lists?
(No to that last one.)

Roo has lost most of her friends. She's lost her true love, more than once. She's lost her grandmother, her job, her reputation, and possibly her mind. But she's never lost her sense of humor. The Ruby Oliver books are the record of her survival.
I have loved 'watching' Ruby Oliver grow up. I was worried that, because I'd read the first books quite a while ago, that I would have forgotten the major details of the storyline. No worries, Ruby drags us right back into her life. She's still got drama, even with Jackson out of Tate for good. All the main players are back--Noel, Meghan, detestable Kim and Cricket, Nora, even Gideon comes back--and is it possible he...likes Ruby?

It's senior year, and Ruby is trying to juggle classes, her relationship with Noel (which has inexplicably stalled since his summer trip to NYC to visit his brother), her self-centered mother (who has moved from raw foods to cooking whole pigs), her father (whose grief over the loss of his mother might be ruining his marriage), college applications (via video clips), her friends (will she and Nora ever patch things up?), and one more year of wenchy Kim and Cricket. Top all that with weekly sessions with Dr. Z, and can anyone really blame the girl for feeling as though her life is falling apart?

And can I just say that I love the style of writing used in these books. Lists, emails, letters to zoo animals, and footnotes! Ruby Oliver has taught me that footnotes can be fun when they're not in dry, boring textbooks! I love the little extra info she provides, like this: "Roly-poly: A roly-poly is a bug, technically a woodlouse, that curls up in a hard little ball if you touch it. But what I mean is, Hutch is a social outcast." (p. 41) Little touches like that make Ruby seem so real.

Fans of the Ruby Oliver books have probably already read this one :o) If you haven't read any of them yet, definitely start with the first book, and work your way through the quartet. You'll be very glad to have met Ruby Oliver & Co.

FYI, the complete quartet is (links go to Goodreads):
Cover note: I really, really liked the hardcover editions of the first three books--the little marshmallow snowman from The Treasure Map...was my favorite. I get that the publisher wanted the books to look uniform and all, but I really felt the original covers were, well, original. The new covers are nice, they just don't really stand out, in my opinion.

Purchased book (and had E. Lockhart autograph it! Plus, I have another signed copy to give away soon!)

Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

In My Mailbox (23)

In My Mailbox is an Internet meme hosted by The Story Siren to share new books received, purchased, or borrowed.

Here's what I got this week--this past week was a fantastic one for me!

  • The Things a Brother Knows (personalized by author), from Daisy Whitney (contest on her Facebook page):

  • If You Only Knew and What Goes Around (Hotlanta novels) by Denene Millner & Mitzi Miller (won from Denise Jaden's "My Bookshelf Giveaway"), plus some bookmarks!--I have some teens who are going to love these titles!

ARCs received from the publisher:
  • From Penguin--thank you!
    • So Much Closer by Susanne Colasanti (squee!)
    • Chime by Franny Billingsley
    • The Locket by Stacey Jay
    • 2 samplers: Breathless Reads and Destination Elsewhere

  • From EgmontUSA--thank you! (EgmontUSA was one of the publishers featured in the Booklist webinar I attended last week.)
    • Hourglass by Myra McEntire
    • Family by Micol Ostow
  • From Macmillan--thank you! (Macmillan was another publisher from the webinar.)
    • The Fox Inheritance (sequel to The Adoration of Jenna Fox) by Mary E. Pearson
    • The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (which I JUST posted as my WOW this week!)

Borrowed from the library:
  • These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
Whew--I've got my work cut out for me! Don't even know what I should read first!
What did you get?
Enjoy your reading!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson

The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
Flux, January 8, 2011
Read for 2011 Debut Author Challenge

Summary from Goodreads:

Our philosophy is simple: Promote a latte-colored world! —from the Latte Rebellion Manifesto
When high school senior Asha Jamison gets called a "towel head" at a pool party, the racist insult gives Asha and her best friend Carey a great money-making idea for a post-graduation trip. They'll sell T-shirts promoting the Latte Rebellion, a club that raises awareness of mixed-race students.
Seemingly overnight, their "cause" goes viral and the T-shirts become a nationwide fad. As new chapters spring up from coast to coast, Asha realizes that her simple marketing plan has taken on a life of its own-and it's starting to ruin hers. Asha's once-stellar grades begin to slip, threatening her Ivy League dreams, and her friendship with Carey is hanging by a thread. And when the peaceful underground movement turns militant, Asha's school launches a disciplinary hearing. Facing expulsion, Asha must decide how much she's willing to risk for something she truly believes in.
I found The Latte Rebellion a surprisingly refreshing contemporary debut. It's not a romance novel, it's not a friendship novel (although friendship certainly plays a big part)'s truly a coming-of-age story. Asha creates a seemingly innocuous Rebellion and ends up learning so much about herself as a person, and what kind of person she wants to be. I definitely liked Asha as a main character: she's smart, witty, bright, a loyal friend. I didn't think she was perfect--I thought she could be a bit spineless when it came to standing up to her friends and parents--but overall I thought she was a great representation of a high school senior unsure of herself and feeling pressure to succeed.

How did I feel about the Rebellion itself? It was so interesting to see how it went from being a gimmick to sell T-shirts to this entire social awareness platform with a life of its own. I wonder--if Asha and Carey had  been more upfront with their part in the Rebellion right from the get-go, would the results have been any different? Would the trouble have happened to that extent? More importantly, would the Rebellion iteslf have taken off as it did. Yes, it's clear that there was (IS) a need for social awareness of mixed ethnicities, but sometimes the "underground" organizations gain so mch popularity precisely because they're underground.

I loved the scenes where Asha describes her ethnicity: if she joins the Asian-American club, does that mean she's insinuating that the other ethincities are less important? How can she choose just one? WHY should she choose just one? I couldn't believe the reaction she got from the high school administration. I understand why Asha and her friends wanted to maintain their anonymity, but by retaining that anonymity they gave up the chance to truly explain that the Latte Rebellion was created to raise awareness, not to become a terrorist group.

And ugh. Can I just say for the record that I detested Carey? I can certainly empathize with her--she and Asha started the Latte Rebellion to raise money, not awareness, and was completely justified in her refusal to become too involed (well, not completely, I guess--she still should have supported her best friend). But she was really just a piss-poor excuse for a friend. I can't even get into why I hated her so much, I don't want to reveal any spoilers. She just sucked. I don't even want to hear "friends grow apart" or "my scholarships!" bull, either. She made several conscious decisions NOT to put Asha first, even when she realized how important the Rebellion was to Asha. A true friendship consists of a little compromise; what Asha has with Carey is more like a one-way street.

I feel that The Latte Rebellion is a great way to bring social awareness to a subject many people probably weren't aware of, without stuffing it down your throat. If you're so inclined, you too can head over to The Latte Rebellion website and check out the manifesto for yourself!

Borrowed book from library.

Enjoy your reading!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (15)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme event created by Breaking the Spine to help showcase upcoming releases. I first learned about it through WORD for Teens.

I recently attended a webinar hosted by Booklist that showcased upcoming YA titles, so I've got titles for weeks to come!

This week I'm waiting for The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner. I believe the publishers are in the process of revamping the cover, so there's no image available yet (EDIT
: Here it is!)

Summary from Goodreads:
While Nick Gardner’s family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot’s final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot’s father. There’s just one problem: the Scoot’s father walked out years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck’s life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him.
Characters you’ll want to become friends with and a narrative voice that sparkles with wit make this a truly original coming-of-age story.
This sounds like one of those novels that makes you laugh and cry right along with the characters, I can't wait to read it! The Pull of Gavity is expected to be published on May 10, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

What are you waiting for?

Enjoy your reading!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trapped by Michael Northrop

Trapped by Michael Northrop
Scholastic Press, February 1, 2011
Read for YA Contemps Challenge AND
A-Z Reading Challenge

Summary from Goodreads:

The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive....
Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn't seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision....
I have been looking forward to reading this book ever since the Contemps first posted their reading challenge all the way back in August. Do you think it was just a coincidence that a book about a monstrous blizzard was scheduled to be released smack in the middle of winter? I think not.

Seven kids getting stuck in their high school during a blizzard seems unrealistic, but Northrop makes it work. How is it that these kids are left behind with no teacher supervision, or means to communicate to others, or parents to worry about them? It's all taken care of, and in such a plausible way that it could really happen. Yeah, sometimes all the bad things line up

But still, there have got to be worse places to be stuck during a blizzard, right? Like, how about the buses that these seven kids missed? It's possible the kids on those buses are still on those buses. Yeah, they're stuck in school, but it could be worse. They've still got electricity, heat, a roof over their heads, plumbing, food.

For now.

I'm telling you, the whole blizzard-coming-out-of-nowhere-and-dumping-umpteen-feet scenario has me so freaked out right now. It could happen, right? We have the most modern technology, but Mother Nature could care less. We were blessed with a post-Christmas blizzard here in NJ that gave us three feet of snow (some of which is stubbornly refusing to melt, by the way), and those three feet effectively shut down the state for most of a week. So how would we fare with ten, twelve, fourteen feet, or more? This novel takes place in New England, and I would hope New Englanders would be more accustomed to massive amounts of snow than us wimps in NJ, but THAT much snow, THAT fast--that would be too much for ANY state to handle.

I loved the main character, Scotty. He's just your average fifteen-year-old, worrying about his basketball game, his acne, and his chances with the girls. Another thing that appealed to me was that these seven kids weren't all friends when they got stuck. There's Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason, the resident weird kid Elijah, the bully Les, and two hottie freshman, Krista and Julie. These seven kids proved to be quite resourceful, and while they didn't always come to agreement, for the most part there was a sense of democracy among the group.

While all the kids might have at least known of each other prior to the blizzard, this catastrophe forces them into a tentative friendship for survival's sake. And it works. I did have a few "Breakfast Club" moments while reading, but I think that was mostly because of kids being stuck in school. Scotty and gang never really had a big heart-to-heart moment where they all suddenly understand one another. And trust me, no one's fist pumping to Simple Minds at the end of this book.

While I feel this book will appeal to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction, I think boys will especially enjoy it, and I'm always excited to have a book for my teen boys at the library. Definitely bundle up while you read Trapped--it will make you feel cold!!

Borrowed book from library.

Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In My Mailbox (22)

In My Mailbox is an Internet meme hosted by The Story Siren to share new books received, purchased, or borrowed.

Here's what I got this week!

  • Lessons From a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles (I've wanted to read this forever. My library doesn't own it and it's not available for my nook. Barnes and Noble sent me a coupon, and I get free expedited shipping for being a member, so I "splurged"--$6.90)
Downloaded to my nook:
  • Rival by Sarah Bennett Wealer
  • Angel by James Patterson
Received from publishers:
  • ARCs from Disney-Hyperion--thank you!:
    • Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jennifer Violi
    • Sharks & Boys by Kristen Tracy
  • Finished copy from Tor--thank you!
    • Jack: Secret Vengeance by F. Paul Wilson (#3 of Young Jack trilogy)
  • from Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab:
    • Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott (squee!)
    • Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez
  • from NetGalley:
    • The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (squee!)
    • Bumped by Megan McCafferty (double squee!)
    • Long Gone by Alafair Burke (not YA but sounds really interesting!)
  • From a contest at GalleysmithMermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan
For review, from I am a Reader, Not a Writer (from "Free to a Good Home: Books Needing Review"):
  • Googlelize Your Life by Jeff VanDrimmelen
Borrowed from the library:
  • Hate List by Jennifer Brown (to re-read before I booktalk it at juvenile detention next week--for the first of our Great Stories Club booktalks!
Lots of great stuff, no? I think I'm going to prioritize and read all the eGalleys once I've finished Hate List.

Please forgive me for not responding to comments today. My daughter and I are on a much-needed mommy-daughter road trip. If you'd like, I'll tell you all about it when we get back!

Enjoy your reading!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Help me with my A-Z Reading Challenge!

OK, I know it's only February, and I know I've got until the end of the year to complete this challenge (learn more about it here). I know that I'm doing pretty awesome on all my challenges, overall (for instance, I've already read 9 of the 26 books for this challenge).

BUT. I have a list of titles I want to read (you can see all of my challenges, and the titles I've picked, on my 2011 Reading Challenges page) and every time I refer back to it, all I can see are the empty spaces for K, N, and Q. Argh.

I'd love some help from my friends. Are you doing this challenge? What are your K, N, and Q books? If you're not doing the challenge, can you recommend some books that start with K, N, and/or Q? I could put Need by Carrie Jones on my list, but for some reason I'm not all that keen to read it--I've heard great things about the series, I'm just not that into paranormal right now. I'm tempted to stretch the rules a bit and add They Called Themselves the KKK, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, down for my K choice, but if there's something else out there that starts with K, even better.

So, in a nutshell: YA titles that start with K, N, and/or Q. Preferably not paranormal. They don't have to be new titles. Any suggestions?

Enjoy your reading!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Choker by Elizabeth Woods
Simon & Schuster, January 4, 2011
Read for 2011 Debut Author Challenge AND
A-Z Reading Challenge

Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. She eats lunch with the other girls from the track team, but they're not really her friends. Mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her, and avoiding the popular girls who call her "Choker" after a humiliating incident in the cafeteria.
Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe's on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara's life changes overnight. Zoe gives her a new look and new confidence, and next thing she knows, she's getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she has her BFF there to confide in.
But just as quickly as Cara's life came together, it starts to unravel. A girl goes missing in her town, and everyone is a suspect—including Ethan. Worse still, Zoe starts behaving strangely, and Cara begins to wonder what exactly her friend does all day when she's at school. You're supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger?
I enjoyed this story. It wasn't exactly what I thought it would be, but that's OK. I felt so badly for Cara while reading. She's a complete loner, and apparently has been ever since she moved away from Zoe in fifth grade. Classmates delight in teasing her, and her parents are not going to win any Parent of the Year Awards (and it they did, they'd probably have to miss the ceremony anyway).

Readers will see Cara as a decent girl--bright, a decent athlete and, although she seemed shy, not completely lacking in basic social skills.  In other words, she doesn't seem any better or worse than most high school girls. I couldn't really get a handle on why she was so alone, why she was only tolerated by her fellow track members, why she never really seemed to be an effort into being approachable. But again, that's OK; that lack of knowledge worked for this story. It also made readers appreciate Zoe all that much more when she reappears in Cara's life. Not only does Cara finally have someone to talk to, but Zoe's presence seems to give Cara the confidence boost she so desperately needs to succeed--not just survive--high school.

Until things start getting weird. Bad things start happening, and Cara can only explain the coincidences away for so long. And she must figure it out on her own, because she's sworn that she'd keep Zoe a secret from everyone.

It might have just been me, but I figured out the twists pretty early on in the story. Still, I couldn't figure out HOW the twists were there, so the story definitely kept me engaged until the end. Choker was a quick enough read, and I think Elizabeth Woods did a great job with her debut novel, and I would love to read more by her!

Borrowed book from library.
Enjoy your reading!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Red Moon Rising by Peter Moore

Red Moon Rising by Peter Moore
Hyperion, February 8, 2011

Summary from Goodreads:
Being only half-vamp in a high school like Carpathia Night makes you a whole loser. But Danny Gray manages to escape the worst of the specists at his school. Thanks to genetic treatments he had as an infant, most people assume Danny's other half is human. Which is a good thing.
Ever since the development of synthetic blood – SynHeme – vamps have become society’s elite, while wulves like his father work menial jobs and live in bad neighborhoods. Wulves are less than second class citizens; once a month they become inmates, forced to undergo their Change in dangerous government compounds.
For Danny, living with his vamp mother and going to a school with a nearly all-vamp student body, it’s best to pretend his wulf half doesn’t even exist. But lately Danny's been having some weird symptoms — fantastic night vision; a keener-than-usual sense of smell; and headaches, right around the full moon.
Even though it's easy to be in denial, it's hard to ignore evidence. There's only a month until the next few moon, and Danny's time is running out.
Peter Moore speaks to adolescents in a voice that will have them laughing, set in a world that will get them thinking.
I went into this book with an open mind, although I'm really, really over vampires and werewolves. Actually, I don't think I was ever really into them to begin with--this time around, anyway; I was a HUGE fan of Anne Rice and Interview With a Vampire during the LAST vampire craze.

Anyway, I thought something about this book sounded different from the other paranormal books out there, and I was right. Red Moon Rising could be considered a dystopian novel--with a little alternate history thrown in--about vampyres, werewulves, and humans. And we all know how I love my dystopian fiction! In my opinion, Peter Moore gives us a fresh new take on vamps and wulves. Admittedly, I don't read that much paranormal fiction, but none of these vamps sparkled, and the wulves are definitely not hot in human form. Instead, vampyres have become the elite species, with humans trailing behind, leaving wulves to be considered scum of the earth. They're forced to register with the government, and each month during the full moon are herded up and taken to various compounds, where they can go through their Changes without causing injury to vamp or human. So what if dozens are killed each month? Less of a headache on society, many feel.

In the middle of this strange caste system is Danny, whose dad is a wulf and mom is a vamp. He and his sister underwent the treatments designed to remove all the wulf genes; Jessica's body accepted the treatments, so there is no evidence that she was ever part wulf. Danny's body, however, rejected the treatments before they could be completed, so he's truly half and half. It's fine, though--his friends are accepting of him and most people leave him alone. And it's not like he's actually going to go through the Change, anyway--his vamp genes are stronger than his wulf ones. Until they're not, anymore.

A great story, interesting plot developments, and a vamp and wulf book that guys will want to read as much as girls. The ending was satisfying enough that Red Moon Rising could stand alone, but it could work well for a series, too.

ARC received from publisher. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Enjoy your reading!

Cut and Paste Poetry

I don't ever really blog about my actual job...I don't know, I guess I feel that most of my job isn't blog-worthy.

But yesterday I had Writers Group. It's a very small group (like, two teens), so it was way informal. We chatted about what we like to write, and read, and the teens revealed their publishing dreams. And then we did some cut and paste poetry. Fun!

If you've never done it, there's really nothing to it. You just cut random words of of magazines and create poetry with those words. I'd found an envelope full of words during one of my cleaning sprees, so we didn't even have to do any cutting (I did have magazines on hand, though, and we did cut a few words that caught our eye). The end result looks sort of like a ransom note, but a lot more fun.

I had had a really rough day, so I chose to create two poems that were completely nonsensical. And I have to say, if you're looking for a stress-buster, cut and paste poetry is it. There's just something relaxing about sifting through words, trying to find just the right one.

So here are my two poems:

Did we hide
the clear gas
from the

protect Merkel's skin
pick this mantra
the free Readers are safe
from Jobs.

Fun, right? I really want to figure out a way to work "protect Merkel's skin" into everyday conversation more. :o)

But my teens came up with some really profound poetry! I almost felt bad for how awful my poems were. But not really.

Anyway, that's what I did yesterday.

Protect Merkel's skin, and enjoy your reading!

Waiting on Wednesday (14)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme event created by Breaking the Spine to help showcase upcoming releases. I first learned about it through WORD for Teens.

This week I'm waiting for Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott.

From Goodreads:
Abby accepted that she can’t measure up to her beautiful, magnetic sister Tess a long time ago, and knows exactly what she is: Second best. Invisible.
Until the accident.
Now Tess is in a coma, and Abby’s life is on hold. It may have been hard living with Tess, but it's nothing compared to living without her.
She's got a plan to bring Tess back though, involving the gorgeous and mysterious Eli, but then Abby learns something about Tess, something that was always there, but that she’d never seen.
Abby is about to find out that truth isn't always what you think it is, and that life holds more than she ever thought it could...
I love Elizabeth Scott, and I love that she's able to write contemporary, romance, dystopian, and still be able to tell a wonderful story. I care about her characters as I'm reading, and I suspect I'll feel the same about Abby and Tess.

Between Here and Forever will be released by Simon Pulse on May 24, 2011.

What are you waiting for?
Enjoy your reading!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Guest post from Laura Kreitzer, author of Phantom Universe

Hello Literary-Folk!

My name is Laura Kreitzer, and I’m the author of the Timeless Series and the Summer Chronicles. This week I would like to alert everyone on a colossal crisis that’s gone unnoticed in the world: human trafficking. That’s why I’ve asked hundreds of blogs to be involved with spreading the word on this issue that’s become close to my heart.

As an author, and someone whose life is put in the spotlight, I keep most people at a distance. Only a handful of my friends know the whole me and the events from my past. But this week I’d like to share with you a part of myself that the outside world doesn’t see (and a part of me I don’t like to share). I was emotionally abused for five years by someone I thought loved me, my mind beaten into submission. Though the turmoil I went through doesn’t penetrate as deep as someone forced into slavery on the worldwide market for human trafficking, I can sadly relate in some ways: imprisoned, my life dictated down to what I wore, ate, where I went, whom I spoke to, where I worked, when I slept, bending to his every whim. He did not sway, even when I cried through some of the more traumatic things he had me do. I was a slave in my own home. In my desperation for freedom, I held out a gun and asked him to just end my suffering. I was desperate.

I can’t even imagine how many women (and men) in the world are in a similar situation. What’s even worse, I had it mild compared to the children that are sold for labor or sex. Surprisingly, the good ol’ U.S.A. is reported to be the host to two million slaves. Did you know this? Because I certainly did not; not until I was preparing to write my newest novel: Phantom Universe. The main character, Summer Waverly, was stolen as a child and sold as a slave to the captain of a modern-day pirate ship. From a loved child who only knew “time-out” as punishment, to being whipped into silence was something I knew nothing about. So I researched deeply into human trafficking and the psychological effects of torture of various types that one would endure in these circumstances. I felt shaken at my findings and knew I had to tell Summer’s story. (Read a sneak peek here.)

A storm began to brew in my mind; transforming, morphing, twisting, and expanding into this massive, black cloud. I had to bring this tragic atrocity to the forefront. My own emotional experiences, mixed with the research I did on human trafficking, made me feel an intense connection with Summer, and to all women who’ve been through this kind of brutality. The cloud ruptured and rained all over my computer one day. It took one month to write Phantom Universe, the first in the Summer Chronicles. I was so consumed by the story that I wrote nearly nonstop, only breaking for necessary tasks like eating, showering, and occasionally—very occasionally—sleeping.

Though the book I’ve written would be classified as Science Fiction, or as I’d like to call it, Dystopian, the emotions and psychological aspects are not Science Fiction—they're real. Reviewers have said many amazing things about Summer, this character who is so real in my mind and who I cried along with as the words poured from my soul onto my screen.
“I admired Summer's strength and ability to adapt,” says CiCi’s Theories. “I felt tied to her emotions,” Jennifer Murgia, author or Angel Star admits. And Tahlia Newland, author of Lethal Inheritance, remarks, “Summer is strong and smart in mind [. . .]”
Through her overwhelmingly horrendous past, Summer goes on more than just a physical journey in Phantom Universe, she goes on a psychological one as well; growing beyond her mute state to persevere and survive in a new world beyond the whip she’s so frightened of.

Now that the release date is here, I’m excited and terrified to share this story with everyone. I’m emotionally tied in every way to the words I’ve written, because they’re more than words. More than just a story on a page. Beyond the fictional aspects, there’s a real issue that needs to be addressed: human trafficking must be stopped. We shouldn’t sit idly by while this continues to plague us. Our world’s children—our nation’s children—are being affected. It’s time we take action!

Earlier this month Phantom Universe hit Barnes and Noble’s top 100 Best Selling list. I’ve decided to donate 10% of my sales from Phantom Universe, until the end of February, to the DNA Foundation.
“DNA hopes to help abolish modern day slavery, deter perpetrators, and free the many innocent and exploited victims. We are committed to forcing sex slavery out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Freedom is a basic human right and slavery is one of the greatest threats to that freedom. No one has the right to enslave another person.”

—From DNA Foundation’s Website
I ask that you spread the word to everyone you know. Look around on the DNA Foundation website and find a way to get involved in ending human trafficking. Take action today. Everyone has a voice—you have a voice. Will you have the courage to use it?

Thank you for stopping by, Laura, and thank you for bringing this important issue to our attention.

Enjoy your reading!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Follower Love Giveaway Winner!

Happy Valentine's Day!!

The winner of my first follower hop (as chosen by is...


Congratulations! I've sent you an email, and
Delirium will be in the mail shortly!
Thank you to all who entered, and keep following--
I'll have another giveaway soon!

Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In My Mailbox (21)

In My Mailbox is an Internet meme hosted by The Story Siren to share new books received, purchased, or borrowed.

So here's what I got this week! So much for tackling my to-read pile!

Borrowed from the library:
  • The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
  • Trapped by Michael Northrop
  • Signed Deadly bookmark from author Julie Chibbaro
  • Signed Phantom Universe bookmark from Revolution Publishing
  • From the Abuela's Window by Nancy Toomey (signed) from a contest over at Bibliophilia--Maggie's Bookshelf:
  • From Penguin Marketing for participating in the Across the Universe book launch contest on Facebook: an awesome ATU waterbottle!!
  • From Penguin Marketing for participating in the ATU secret project for launch day: An autographed copy of Across the Universe (that makes TWO autographed ATUs I now own!) and buttons for the Breathless Reads books! 

Received from publisher:
  • I Am J by Cris Beam: I am really excited about this one and hope to get to it soon!
 What did you get?

Today's the last day to enter the Follower Love Hop!
Winner will be announced tomorrow morning!

Enjoy your reading!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Unthinkable by Shirley Duke

Unthinkable by Shirley Duke
Lerner Classroom, October 2010
Read for A-Z Reading Challenge AND
Off the Shelf Challenge

Summary from Goodreads:

Omar Phillips is Bridgewater High's favorite local teen author. His Facebook fans can't wait for his next horror story. But lately Omar's imagination has turned against him. Horrifying visions of death and destruction come over him with wide-screen intensity. The only way to stop the visions is to write them down. Until they start coming true... Enter Sophie Minax, the mysterious Goth girl who's been following Omar at school. "I'm one of you," Sophie says. She tells Omar how to end the visions but the only thing worse than Sophie's cure may be what happens if he ignores it.
This was a super short novel--it only took me about an hour to get through. There was a lot going on in a really short amount of time. I thought that I didn't get to know Omar as well as I could have if the story had been longer. I know more about his little brother than I do about Omar. And apparently he's been writing stories and posting on Facebook for a while, but the visions have only started recently. This causes me to wonder how good his stories were before the visions, or if they were different in style, genre, etc. I did find the idea intriging, and I was definitely hooked and eager to find out the ending.

I was expecting something more, I think. Still, an entertaining, quick read; I think it would be a good suggestion for a reluctant reader. I hadn't realized that Unthinkable is part of the Night Fall series of books (by different authors), all of which take place in Bridgewater, so fans of this books will probably enjoy the other titles as well.

eBook courtesy of NetGalley.
Enjoy your reading!

Have you entered my Follower Love Hop yet?
You have until 02/13 to enter!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (13)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme event created by Breaking the Spine to help showcase upcoming releases. I first learned about it through WORD for Teens.

This week I'm waiting for Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler, to be released on March 8.

Summary from Goodreads:

Star basketball player Chelsea "Nitro" Keyes had a full ride to college—and everyone's admiration back home. Then she took a horrible fall during senior year. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.
That summer, Chelsea's dad hires Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player and "boot camp" trainer, to work with her at a northern Minnesota lake resort. As they grow close, Chelsea finds that Clint's haunted by his own tragedy. Will their romance end up hurting them all over again—or finally heal their heartbreak?
I loved Holly's debut novel, A Blue So Dark, and expect to love this one just as much. The description for Playing Hurt leads me to believe it will be so much more than a love story...very much looking forward to it!

I'm also looking forward to being a part of the blog tour for Playing Hurt--stay tuned!

What are you waiting for?

Have you entered my Follower Love Hop yet?
You have until Sunday 02/13
to enter to win a copy of Delirium by Lauren Oliver!

Enjoy your reading!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Follower Love Giveaway Hop!

Not only my first hop, but my first giveaway! Special thanks to I Am a Reader, Not a Writer for hosting this hop!

One lucky winner will get a brand-spankin' new, hardcover copy of Delirium by Lauren Oliver. What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than with a society that outlaws love? Some random swag will be included, too! I was lucky enough to read an eGalley of this book; you can check out my review here!

This contest runs from February 8 until 11:59pm on February 13. You must be a follower and sorry, but US residents only this time around.

Enjoy your reading, and good luck!

When you're done entering my contest, check out the other blogs below!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann
Simon Pulse, February 8, 2011

Summary from Goodreads:

The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on... until Kendall's boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it's crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear...and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? And how can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating...and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico's mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried.
In case you couldn't tell from the widget on the sidebar, or from this post here, I have been anxiously waiting for this book release, so you can imagine my squeals of joy when I was accepted into Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab and this was the first title they sent me!

I have to say, Cryer's Cross lived up to my expectations. I love a good story, and McMann provided a GREAT one here. I thinks he did a great job describing the issues Kendall deals with as a result of her OCD, and I love the idea of living in a tiny town like Cryer's Cross. I grew up in a small town, but not 212 small. While I like being able to get in my car and drive to Mickey D's if  I want (one of the luxuries Kendall doesn't have), the nostalgic part of me pines for small-town living.

And of course the story is really intriguing...I'm just always afraid of revealing too much. I got completely sucked into it and couldn't wait to find out what happened next--I love when that happens! Yes, the book is on the short side, but I suspect that's because it's one of those books you need to dedicate an evening to. Trust me, you're not going to want to put it down til it's done.

eGalley received from publisher.

Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

In My Mailbox (20)

In My Mailbox is an Internet meme hosted by The Story Siren to share new books received, purchased, or borrowed.

So here's what I got this week!

Borrowed from the library:
  • Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors
Wow, a super slow week for me! I don't mind, though, because now I've got the chance to play catch up!

What did you get?
Happy Superbowl!
Enjoy your reading!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess
MTV Books, 2007

Summary from Goodreads:
They promised Meredith nine years of safety, but only gave her three.
Her father was supposed to be locked up until Meredith turned eighteen. She thought she had time to grow up, get out, and start a new life. But Meredith is only fifteen, and today her father is coming home from prison.
Today her time has run out.
Throughout this entire book I just wanted to swoosh down into the story and scoop Meredith up, out of there, and into my world. Seriously, who does that to a child? And I'm not talking about the father--although his crimes are certainly henious enough. No, I'm talking about Meredith's mother. Who cannot. Wait. Until her husband is out of jail so they can get their lives back together. Who made arrangements for Meredith's father to rent an apartment in the same complex that she and Meredith live in. Who BLAMES MEREDITH for the father ending up in jail. Meredith's parents started dating when Dad was 18 and Mom was 12, and Mom thinks this is normal. Mom has blatantly come out and told Meredith that if she were ever forced to choose between Dad and Daughter, she would pick Dad. WTF?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not minimizing the atrocious acts of the father. For some reason, though, the mother really got to me. It's one thing to have to go through what Meredith went through, but to have to go through that alone because Mom loves Dad above all else? There's just something so horrifyingly sad about that. I mean, I love my husband and all, but given a choice between him and my daughter, I'd pick her. Always. I know he would do the same. And I don't begrudge him that. That's what happens when you have a child--your child trumps everyone else. How can Meredith's mom not feel that obligation?

It is slightly reassuring to learn that Meredith does have a support system to rely on. Her grandmother, retired-cop neighbor, and sort-of boyfriend and mother are all looking out for her. However, these people have their own reasons for hating Meredith's father, and it becomes difficult for Meredith to know if they are helping her because of her, or because of their agendas towards her father.

Fans of gritty, realistic fiction will enjoy this one. It was almost (almost!) as difficult to read as Living Dead Girl, which, you should realize by now, is the title by which I measure all dark, difficult fiction against.

Borrowed book from library.
Enjoy your reading!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (12)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme event created by Breaking the Spine to help showcase upcoming releases. I first learned about it through WORD for Teens.

This week I'm waiting for He's So Not Worth It by Kieran Scott.

Summary from Goodreads:

Ally Ryan, come on down to the Jersey Shore and forget your troubles!
Have you recently been humiliated in front of your friends and family at your former best friend's birthday party? Was your almost boyfriend partly responsible for that humiliation by withholding some vital information about where your estranged father is? Did you come home to find said estranged father sitting on your stoop?
If so, then it sounds like you could use a vacation! The Jersey Shore is the place to be. Your mother may be living with her boyfriend of only a few months, but at least the stunt Shannen pulled has put some of your friends back in your court. Even so, you're still angry and what better way to get over Jake than to blow off some steam with local guy, Cooper? People will hardly recognize your new attitude, but the old one wasn't getting you anywhere, so who cares!
Jake Graydon, an exciting opportunity is waiting for you in the service industry!
Are your grades so low your parents have grounded you for the summer? Did you the girl you really like unceremoniously leave you behind? Would you rather eat dirt than see your friends again? Then a job at the local coffee shop is just the ticket! Surprisingly, Ally's father is the new manager so you get to be reminded of her nearly every day. Maybe it's time to start flirting with your best friend's ex or even taking school a bit more seriously. Especially when you finally see Ally and she's hanging around with some loser and it's couldn't be more clear that she is over you.
Have a great summer!
I loved She's So Dead to Us and am anxiously awaiting this sequel! Kieran is one of the nicest people I've ever had the good fortune to meet, and I really enjoy her books. In addition, I have a soft spot for authors who write about and/or hail from New Jersey.

He's So Not Worth It will be published by Simon & Schuster on June 7, 2011.

What are you waiting for?
Enjoy your reading!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January 2011 in review

Thought I'd break January down, YA-wise:

  • I read 19 books, 16 of which were strictly YA (really, I couldn't get to 20?) Edit: I actually DID read 20, forgot to add Such a Pretty Girl to my list!
  • I posted 14 reviews (well, Across the Universe went up today, but I wrote it during January).
  • I read 4 of the 14 books on my 2011 Debut Author Challenge list,
  • 7 of the 26 titles on my A-Z Reading Challenge list (A, C, G, M, S, W, and X, for those playing along at home),
  • and only 1 of the 15 on my Off the Shelf Challenge List. I'm finding it most difficult to read items on this list. Yes, I have them, and yes, I want to read them, but there's so much NEW stuff coming out that these books get put, well, on the shelf. :o)
  • I've been in touch with two authors and am going to participate in two blog tours in March, which I'm quite excited for.
  • And I've also got my first contest ready to go next week--I'm participating in the Follower Love Giveaway Hop, and am excited but also nervous about my first contest.
  • I currently have 47 followers! Squee! I know 47 isn't a lot to most, but I didn't think I'd even reach 10, so I'm super excited, and love you all!!!
I think 2011 is off to a good start, book-wise. The weather, on the other hand, is another story.

Enjoy your reading!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Razor, 01-11-11
Read for 2011 Debut Author Challenge AND
A-Z Reading Challenge

Summary from Goodreads:
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.
Frex, I just don't know what to say about ATU! I finished this book days ago and have just been trying to let my thoughts percolate, so I can write a halfway decent review. I don't think that's working, though...

This has got to be one of my top-five most anticipated books of 2011, and I'm happy to say that it was worth the wait! From the moment Amy is frozen up until the last pages, I could not read this book fast enough.

I still cannot get over the awesomeness that is Beth Revis. It's unimaginable that Across the Universe is her debut novel. Her writing is so polished, her characters so developed, that it seems as though she's been writing for years. She is a pro.

So, the story. It's a little sci-fi, a little dystopia, and a whole lotta fun. The early scene where Amy and her parents are frozen was very visual. Claustrophobic me was mighty uncomfortable with the descriptions of the freezing process. Amy is rudely awakened (and almost killed) fifty years before the Godspeed is scheduled to land on the new planet. This means while her parents remain frozen, Amy will age. That means that if the ship does land on time, she will be older than her parents. Mind-blowing, I tell you.

In the 250 years she's been frozen, the Godspeed has become its own planet, if you will. Generations have come and gone, and a new monoethnic race has developed, which I guess is to be expected. What I didn't expect was that Earth's history would be completely revamped and rewritten to suit the minds of a select few. Amy makes a Hitler reference at one point in the story, and I was quite inclined to agree. Eldest resorted to horrible levels to insure that his people would survive the journey to the new planet. His reasoning is that it's what's best for the people, but I shudder to think how being a mindless drone could be best for anyone except Eldest.

Oh, but Elder! He's got such a kind heart, and wants to do what's right for all. He suspects that Eldest's way of ruling might not be best, but he's not sure, and wants to weigh his options before making any rash decisions. And Amy...she's got a good head on her shoulders, too. Although I think there are times she should just shut up or risk getting tossed into space, I completely understand her attitude and the reason she behaves the way she does. I certainly wouldn't be a happy camper if I was in her shoes.

But the Godspeed! The ship is the real star of this book. Beth Revis created a fantastic world inside this ship, and exploring it with Amy is an incredible experience. Generations have lived and died aboard this ship, and most of these people have never even see the sky they're traveling through. Most of the residents are content to live their lives, farming or researching. No one questions why drinking water suddenly alters their mood, or why they're limited to roaming only certain parts of the ship, or why mating is done only during the Season, and in such an animalistic fashion. And why would they? This is the only life they've ever known, and it's pefectly fine, for most people. Until Amy comes along and rattles loose whatever doubts Elder has ever had about the ship's leader, Eldest, and the Eldests that came before him.

In case you can't tell from my review, I loved this book and am anxiously awaiting the next in the series!

Purchased book.

Enjoy your reading!