Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Book Bloggers & Publishers Online Conference

I literally just found out about this, and am debating on whether or not I should attend. It looks pretty interesting--there will be forums, panels, information on reviewing, time management, etc. I definitely could see this being helpful, as a new blogger. Everything will be recorded, so I wouldn't *have* to be there right at that time. And it says that most, if not all, of the $45 cost of admission will be recouped in free print & eBooks.

I just don't know, though. I'll have to work, of course. A split on Wednesday, Thursday afternoon & evening, all day Friday, and then Sunday Dear Daughter and I are off on another road trip. Plus, I've recently decided that I'm attending BEA in May, and I'll have to pay for that out of pocket... 

What say you? Are any of you (virtually) attending this? Has anything like this been done before?

Enjoy your reading!

Waiting on Wednesday (20)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme event created by Breaking the Spine to help showcase upcoming releases.
This week I'm waiting for Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma.

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

How can something so wrong feel so right?
I know, incest, ew, right? But something about this leads me to believe (and hope!) that it's going to be a heart-wrenching, psychologically brilliant story. Early reviews are positive, although everyone says they're bawling at the end (and one reviewer on Goodreads states that she needed to take a Xanax afterwards). I tend to like stories like that, and the description even sounds like it might be a contender for a spot on my MAHROAT list...time will tell!

One reviewer states that there's a disclaimer at the beginning of Forbidden indictating that it's not a YA book, but Amazon has it listed as such.

Forbidden will be released by Simon Pulse on June 28, 2011. Which cover do you prefer--US (red), or UK (black)?  I can't decide!

What are you waiting for?
Enjoy your reading!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pink by Lili Wilkinson

Pink by Lili Wilkinson
HarperCollins, February 8, 2011
Read for 2011 Debut Author Challenge

Summary from Goodreads:
Ava has a secret. She is tired of her ultracool attitude, ultra-radical politics, and ultrablack clothing. She's ready to try something new—she's even ready to be someone new. Someone who fits in, someone with a gorgeous boyfriend, someone who wears pink.
Transferring to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence is the perfect chance to try on a new identity. But just in case things don't work out, Ava is hiding her new interests from her parents, and especially from her old girlfriend.
Secrets have a way of being hard to keep, though, and Ava finds that changing herself is more complicated than changing her wardrobe. Even getting involved in the school musical raises issues she never imagined. As she faces surprising choices and unforeseen consequences, Ava wonders if she will ever figure out who she really wants to be.
Humor, heart, and the joys of drama—on- and offstage—combine in Ava's delight-fully colorful journey of self-discovery.
I loved this book and I absolutely loved Ava. I love that she's absolutely comfortable with not knowing what she wants. Of course, it would be ideal if she were comfortable telling Chloe she's not comfortable, but that wouldn't make too interesting of a story, right? And I don't mean "comfortable" in the sense that it sounds like, because obvs. she's not cozy with not knowing who she really is. What I mean is that she's...willing to try new things, regardless of what her parents or Chloe think.

I also love that this is a story about a girl who's trying to decide who she wants to be and not a stoy about a girl who's not sure if she's a lesbian or not. Sure, that is a major plot point, but there's so much more to it than that. Is she an emo goth, or a popular chick, or even (gasp!) a theater freak? And is there anything wrong with being any one of those things? Or can you take a little of each and create your own personality?

Lili Wilkinson has done a suberb job of creating a likable character in Ava, and I had no problem sympathizing with her throughout the book. We all know she loves Chloe, but the problem isn't really Chloe--it's Ava. And it's not really a problem, per say; it's just that no one--Mom, Dad, Chloe--has ever given her the chance to just breathe, and figure out who the hell she is. Awesome stuff.

While Pink is Lili Wilkisons' US debut (which therefore qualifies it for the 2011 DAC), she has published other titles in her native Australia. I'm looking forward to more from her!

Borrowed book from library.

Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In My Mailbox (27)

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!

Received from publisher:
  • Overprotected by Jennifer Laurens (thanks, Grove Creek publishing!)

eGalleys received from publishers:
  • Blood Red Road by Moira Young (thanks, Simon & Schuster!)
  • Everfound (squee!) by Neal Shusterman (thank you Simon & Schuster Galley Grab!)
  • Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan (Thanks, NetGalley & Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!)
Downloaded to my nook:
  • Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
  • Rachael Ray's Look & Cook (I know, not YA, but I borrowed this from the library--figured this is a good way to "try out" the cookbook to decide if I want to buy it!)
Borrowed from the library:
  • Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (finally!)
  • Live Wire by Harlan Coben (adult fic--I love his stuff!)
  • Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
Purchased from Bookperk:
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn & Lola lipstick:
(I have no idea why I felt the need to purchase this, because I don't even wear lipstick, except that it seemed like a really good deal-$8.99. So perhaps another giveaway will be coming up soon!)

What did you get?
EDIT: I had pictures up but Blogger is giving me problems and they won't post. Sigh.
Enjoy your reading!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Am J by Cris Beam

I Am J by Cris Beam
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 1, 2011
Read for 2011 Debut Author Challenge

Summary from Goodreads:
"Hola, Jeni."
J spun. His stomach clenched hard, as though he'd been hit. It was just the neighbor lady, Mercedes. J couldn't muster a hello back, not now; he didn't care that she'd tell his mom he'd been rude. She should know better. Nobody calls me Jeni anymore.
J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was: a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a "real boy" and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible - from his family, from his friends...from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding - it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.
An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path - readers will recognize a part of themselves in J's struggle to love his true self.
This was a fantastic, powerful book. I have to admit that I haven't read (in my recollection) too many books about transgender before, so a lot of this was a new experience for me. I appreciated that J didn't spend pages and pages spazzing out about who he was; instead, J has known from a very early age that he somehow got "mixed up" when he was born, and was accidentally put into a girl's body. It wasn't until he was a little older, though, that J realized there were other people in the world like him. As he nears his 18th birthday, J decides that he's tired of hiding and starts to take control of his life and who he really is.

Of course there are obstacles along the way--it's not easy for his parents to accept that J is not who they'd like him to be, and although homosexuals are slowly gaining acceptance in society, the same can not be said about transgendered people. While I imagine that J's experience--having to move out of his home, starting a new school--is on the extreme side, I can also believe that it happens more than it should. And I'm willing to bet that there are a lot more cases of transguys ending up on the street than finding welcoming homes and family and friends waiting with open arms.

As I've said, I haven't read a lot about transsexuals prior to this book, but I was able to easily feel for J and empathize with his plight. I consider myself pretty open-minded, and it's hard for me to get my head around the challenges a transgendered person faces on a daily basis. This isn't a choice that some people make, and there isn't anything inherently wrong with someone who is transgendered. It's just who that person is, and while it may be tough to accept if we're talking about your son or daughter, ultimately acceptance will lead to a much healthier life for all involved.

(Do I sound preachy? I apologize. I'm revamping our GLBTQ teen booklist at the library, and spent most of the day perusing novels, short stories, and nonfiction, much of which deals with perceptions and beliefs that I think are utter garbage. And of course I Am J is going on this list--this book is one of the reasons I volunteered to update the list in the first place.)

I Am J is the story of J's emotional journey to discover who he really is. It is truly an important book--not only will transgender teens know that they are not alone, but also to people who may have misconceptions about transsexualism, or for people who just don't know that much about it. Knowledge is the key to understanding (preachy again? Sorry.)

ARC recieved from publisher.

Enjoy your reading!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott
Simon Pulse, May 24, 2011
Read for YA Contemps Challenge

Summary 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 just have to say that in case it's not blatantly obvious by now, I have totes respect for Elizabeth Scott as an author. I haven't read everything she's written, but I have read a lot, and hello! She's the author of Living Dead Girl, which is #1 on my MAHROAT, which I'm sure you're all sick to death of hearing about. I love that Elizabeth can write something as dark and dramatic as LDG, mix it up with a romantic title like The Unwritten Rule, and even take a dip in the dystopian waters with Grace, and she does it all expertly and with style and poise.

Between Here and Forever is a wonderful addition to Elizabeth's growing list of titles. Abby spends her life in Tess' shadow, and now that Tess is in a coma, has found that her life has come to a sudden halt. She wants Tess to wake up, of course, but not for the reasons you'd might think. Abby wants Tess to wake up so Abby can be free to live her own life, to graduate from school and get the hell out of her sister's shadow, to make her own name for herself somewhere far away from her podunk little town. But she can't do any of that until Tess wakes up.

Poor Abby! Here's a girl who has spent her entire life feeling second best, and no one has ever tried to tell her otherwise. Of course she thinks that hottie Eli will prefer Tess, even in a coma, to plain old Abby. The brilliance that is Tess has been ingrained in Abby's head so much that she won't, can't even possibly fathom that someone as hot as Eli could ever be attracted to someone as mousy as Abby.

But guess what? Abby slowly learns that Tess was not as perfect as everyone thought. While Tess lies in her hospital bed, Abby begins to assert herself. She demands information about Tess from her parents, Tess' friends and roommates, and begins to realize that there is so much more to Tess than she ever knew.

I felt so very sorry for Abby in this story, but so happy that she had found allies in Claire (Tess' former best friend), Clemente (a elderly volunteer and wealthy donor at the hospital), and Eli; as unlikely as it might seem, this group has what it takes to prove to Abby that she is much more than her sister's shadow.

A powerful story of family, friendship, and romance, Between Here and Forever will appeal to anyone who enjoys realistic fiction.

Another 2011 challenge for myself: to read everything Elizabeth Scott has written.

eGalley received from publisher.
Enjoy your reading!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (19)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme event created by Breaking the Spine to help showcase upcoming releases.

This week I'm waiting for Carmen by Walter Dean Myers.

Summary from Goodreads:
A retelling of the Bizet opera set in Spanish Harlem in which a teen with a fiery temper wants the one boy she can't have, with deadly consequences.
Doesn't really give you much, huh? And I really don't know that much about Carmen, the opera. BUT, I am a huge fan of Walter Dean Myers, and I think this modern retelling will appeal to many.

Carmen is set to be released on April 26 by EgmontUSA.

What are you waiting for?
Enjoy your reading!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Angry Young Man by Chris Lynch

Angry Young Man by Chris Lynch
Simon & Schuster, February 8, 2011

Summary from Goodreads:
In Angry Young Man, award-winning author Chris Lynch takes us into the mind of a boy whose journey of self-discovery leads to the unthinkable.
I had high hopes for this book. I am a fan of Chris Lynch (I absolutely loved Inexcusable and Hothouse), even though I've read some lukewarm reviews of his stuff. Plus, I attended a workshop of the best in YA literature back in January, and the speaker praised this title. In addition, I thought the premise was intriguing, and that this might be a dark tale of two brothers--one who does something horrendous, and the other who tries to fix it. So my expectations were high.

Sadly, I couldn't really get into this story. First of all, I found the dialogue to be very stilted. Realistically, most people don't say "I am going to the library;" it's more common to hear "I'm going to the library." And it's certainly more realistic to read dialogue that's written in the way people actually speak. Unfortunately, most of this book was written that way--both dialogue and narrative. Now, I can certainly appreciate certain types of characters refusing to use contractions, but Xan and Robert aren't those kinds of characters. I think I would have appreciated more natural language throughout the novel.

Secondly, I really, really didn't like Robert, and it's hard to enjoy a novel when you dislike the narrator. I felt that Robert was pompous and belittled his brother way too much. Throughout the novel he would constantly tell us that Xan was good at something, but he was so much better. Which yeah, might have been true about most things, but no one likes a braggart. Robert has a job, Robert goes to community college, Robert plays on a men's soccer team, Robert has a girlfriend. Ugh. However, if Chris Lynch's goal was to create a nonlikeable narrator, than I suppose this could be considered a success!

And was it just me, or did there appear to be something not right about Xan? I'm no expert, but I thought that many of his behaviors warranted some kind of psychological evaluation. Instead, he's treated as weird and lazy. And the "bad situation" that Xan finds himself in--well, not to give any spoilers away, but I thought it was going to be much worse. I mean, what happened, or could potentially happen, was awful and could lead to horrific things. I thinkNI was just expecting something altogether different. Although I did appreciate the little twist at the end, and the scenario the brothers find themselves in. Which I felt was mostly because of Robert (not that Xan wasn't a participant, but...). Looks like someone isn't as perfect as he thought he was.

Overall, this book just didn't live up to my expectations, and I hate writing a negative review. It just wasn't for me. I will be happy to continue chatting up Inexcusable and Hothouse, though!

Enjoy your reading!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Lucky Leprecahun Giveaway Hop!
Out of 181 entries, selected number 74 as the winner....

 Amy S.


I've already emailed the winner and will have her prize out to her shortly.

Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In My Mailbox (26)

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!

Won from a contest over at Forbidden Reviews: an eBook of The Second Coming by David Burton, with the name of one of the minor characters changed to mine! (He also sent the "official" eBook, too!)

Won in Andrea & Tevya's Birthday contest over at Reading Lark: The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan. Thank you!

From author for review:
  • 7 Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes by Amber Kizer
Downloaded to my nook:
  • Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult (adult fic)
ARCs snagged from freebies at a work meeting:
  • Saving June by Hannah Harrington
  • Flip by Martyn Bedford
Borrowed from the library:
  • Bliss by Lauren Myracle (recommended by Jo Knowles as a possible contender on my MAHROAT)
  • Toys by James Patterson (adult fic)
  • The Night Season by Chelsea Cain (adult fic)
What'd you get?

Today's the last day to enter my Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop!

Enjoy your reading!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Google'lize Your Life by Jeff VanDrimmelen

Google'lize Your Life by Jeff VanDrimmelen, October 2010

Summary from Goodreads:

Jeff VanDrimmelen's system is a modern day technology fusion of David Allen's "Getting Things Done" (GTD) and a little bit of good old fashioned Steven Covey. Get your own gProductiviy system up and going using Google Tasks, Gmail, and Google Calendar. Take control of your personal and professional life with Google'lize.
I have to say I was drawn to the idea of this book. I've been looking for a way to streamline myself a little more. I am currently running a calendar on Outlook for work, and a planner (yes, pencil and paper planner) that ideally combines work and personal stuff. I've been printing out my Outlook calendar each month and sticking it in my planner. I've tried Google calendar, but wasn't that thrilled with it (Jeff mentions that Google had updated it recently, so perhaps it's worth another shot). And, I am one of the four people in the universe who does not have a smartphone, so I can't sync things to my phone. (I'm seriously addicted to my planner--I can always have it with me, I can paper clip appointment cards, business cards, directions, etc. right to the page, and I don't have to worry that it didn't upload properly. Which I hear is a concern with smartphones.)

There's a lot of useful information in this book; unfortunately, I feel that for someone like me (ie, a dumbphone owner), it's not as relevant. Jeff does state at the beginning of the book that paper calendars are OK and that you can do most of this stuff with a paper calendar, but he never expands upon that throughout the book.

Yes, there were parts that I liked, and that I think would be helpful. The whole email thing--I've come across a lot of people who don't know they can create folders for mail! Jeff advises that you check your email only twice a day, which I find completely inconceivable. I'm an email junkie--while I'm at work I have both of my main email accounts open constantly (I have 2 other accounts that I use very infrequently). Checking it only twice a day would be quite difficult for me.

Jeff likes Google, and finds that it has the best components that will work together to allow you to work more efficiently. I think it does have its advantages, and if/when I'm ready to fully transition to the world of smart technology, I'll probably refer back to this book to help me do so. For now, though, I'm content with my paper to-do list and my dumbphone. Not so content with my planner, but I haven't found a (cheaper) option. For people who are looking to streamline their tasks and email in order to work more efficiently, this book would be most helpful.

Book received for review from I am a Reader, Not a Writer.

Don't forget to enter my Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop!

Enjoy your reading!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Chemical Garden #1) 
Simon & Schuster, March 22, 2011
Read for 2011 Debut Author Challenge

Summary from Goodreads:

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.
Just when I think that I've had it with dystopian fiction--that I've mired myself in enough series, that every possible scenario that can be thought of has been thought of--along comes another title that I just absolutely fall in love with. Wither is the first in a trilogy, and DeStefano does a fabulous job of creating a completely different dystopian world. All diseases have been eradicated--but at such a cost! All people born after the "first generation" have specific death dates--boys will die when they reach 25, girls die at 20. Instead of living their short lives to the fullest, seventeen-year-old Rhine and her twin Rowan are orphaned and must protect their meager possessions, and each other, from other orphans, crazed members of society, and Gatherers, who kidnap girls and force them into polygamous marriages. Worse, there are some girls who are kidnapped but later deemed unworthy, and naturally they're not returned to their homes.

It wouldn't be much of a story if nothing happened to Rhine, right? She is one of the "lucky" three who are forced into a polygamous marriage. The three sister wives--Rhine, thirteen-year-old Cecily and eighteen-year-old Jenna--soon forge a strong bond, but each girl has their own way of dealing with their husband. Cecily has come from an orphanage and thinks that life couldn't get any better. As a result, she's willing to do whatever her husband asks of her. Jenna wants nothing to do with him, and refuses to open her heart to him. And Rhine is somewhere in the middle--she hates her husband and how she came to be his wife, but knows that the life she now has is better than anything else she has known. Still, she thinks of escape constantly and reealizes that chances of escape would be better if she were first wife. So she takes a middle-of-the-road approach to Linden--befriending him and pretending to love him, but refusing to consummate their marriage.

I find it hard to believe that this is Lauren DeStefano's debut novel. Readers are sucked right into this new future. Rhine is our narrator, so of course we're meant to see things her way. However, we're given enough of a glimpse into this strange marriage that we can sympathize with both Cecily and Jenna, and we can understand why they behave as they do. Oh, Jenna! She was, I think, my favorite character in this novel (of course this was a given, as she shares a name with my daughter, but she proved herself throughout the novel--always true to herself and what she believed in.)

We also come to realize, as the sister wives do, that Linden might not be the evil mastermind we had previously thought him to be. He might, in fact, be just as much of a prisoner as his three lovely wives. Don't forget, after all, that he's got a death sentence, too.

A great debut novel. I'm so wrapped up in this world that I cannot wait for the second novel to come out. There are questions, to be sure, but I'm hopeful that all the answers will be forthcoming in books 2 & 3.
eGalley received from publisher.

Don't forget to enter my Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop--you could win your very own copy of Wither!

Enjoy your reading!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's time for another giveaway! I'm delighted to be participating in the Lucky Leprechaus Giveaway Hop hosted by Books Complete Me & I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.

One lucky follower will win a hardcover copy of Wither by Lauren DeStefano!

Here's the summary from Goodreads:
What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.

I loved this book, my review will be posted on March 21!

Please note: Wither is being released on March 22nd. I will order the book from Barnes & Noble and have it shipped right to your house!

The contest will close at 11:59pm on Sunday, March 20th.
Here are the details:
One entry per person (duplicate entries will be deleted)
Ages 13 & up
You must be a follower and a US resident.

Enjoy your reading, and good luck!

Be sure to hop over to the other blogs participating!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (18)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme event created by Breaking the Spine to help showcase upcoming releases.

This week I'm waiting for The Babysitter Murders by Janet Ruth Young.

Summary from Goodreads:
Everyone has weird thoughts sometimes. But for seventeen-year-old Dani Solomon, strange thoughts have taken over her life. She loves Alex, the little boy she babysits, more than anything. But one day, she has a vision of murdering him that's so gruesome, she can't get it out of her mind. In fact, Dani's convinced that she really will kill Alex. She confesses the thoughts to keep him safe, setting off a media frenzy that makes "Dani Death" the target of an extremist vigilante group.
Through the help of an uncoventional psychiatrist, Dani begins to heal her broken mind. But will it be too late? The people of her community want justice . . . and Dani's learning that some thoughts are better left unsaid.
I think this sounds like a fascinating psychological story--a girl who's being overcome by these horrible thoughts tries to do the right thing by revealing that she's having problems, but this decision causes her to become a social pariah. Can't wait to read it!

The Babysitter Murders will be published on July 26, 2011 by Atheneum.

What are you waiting for?
Enjoy your reading!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Penguin, April 5, 2011

Summary from Goodreads:

It's been three years since the devastating accident ... three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.
Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Julliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.
Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.
NOTE: If you haven't read If I Stay yet, you probably don't want to read this review until you have!

I loved If I Stay (you can check out my review here). I thought it was a wonderful story and all the ends were tied up enough for me that I could appreciate it as a stand-alone novel. All the questions brought up in the book were answered quite nicely. The futures of Mia and Adam were not so clear, but that's to be expected. I would have been perfectly content if Gayle Forman never wrote a follow up novel.

But she did, yay for us! So Where She Went is like a bonus novel, because, unlike other novels with sequels, we didn't know this was coming! Right there this novel's got tons of bonus points, because we readers are allowed back into Mia and Adam's world to see how their lives have changed as a result of the car accident that took Mia's family away from her.

Where She Went takes place three years after the accident in New York City, and is told from Adam's point of view. Adam and his band mates are steadily making names for themselves in the world of rock music, and Mia, we learn, had indeed gone off to Juilliard as planned. Shortly after arriving in New York, Mia broke off all contact with Adam, and Adam took this kind of hard. As a result, his relationship with the band is quite strained, and he's taken to staying in separate hotels and even flying on different flights when they tour. Which is how Adam winds up wandering around Manhattan alone one summer evening. And discover a concert hall where Mia just happens to be performing that evening. And of course Mia just happens to discover that Adam has discovered her, and a result the two spend the evening catching up and revisiting past pain.

I don't want to give away too much of the story, because you really need to read it for yourself. Gayle Forman has given us a gift with Where She Went--she's allowed us to revisit Mia and Adam as if they were old friends we've lost touch with. Their individual griefs are still so fresh and raw, and while it's a true joy to see these two characters reconnect after so much time has passed, it's also heart-breaking to realize how much pain these two are still in. It's a wonderfully realistic story, and I recommend it highly--but only AFTER you've read If I Stay! Matter of fact, I re-read If I Stay and read Where She Went in one evening, back-to-back. If you can manage it, I definitely think that's the way to read these novels.

ARC won in contest.

Enjoy your reading!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Shine by Lauren Myracle
Amulet Books,  May 1, 2011

Summary from Goodreads:
When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice. 
Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.
Confession: this is the first novel I've read by Lauren Myracle. I've been aware of her, of course, but ttyl, l8rg8tr, and Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks have never managed to make it onto my to-read lists. When I read about Shine, I suspected it would be a good book to start with, and I was right.
Shine is a powerful novel of small-town secrets and prejudices. Cat is a naively sweet 16 year old girl who, three years ago, suddenly withdraws from all of her friends. This includes her best friend Patrick, now in a coma in the hospital as the result of a vicious hate crime. Cat decides that she must put her own tragic past behind her and start speaking to people. The local police are content to shove Patrick's case under a rug, and Cat knows that she is the only one who cares enough to find out who attacked him.
Lauren Myracle has created an impressive cast of character with this novel. Besides Cat and Patrick (who we really only see in flashbacks), Cat's friends, family, and fellow townspeople round out the cast. While Patrick does not hide the fact that he's gay, and most people are polite enough to him, behind his back most people, even his so-called friends, have awful things to say about him. It was disheartening to read Shine and realize that even today, in 2011, there are small towns like this all over the world, where people feel qualified to judge others, and will excuse the most heinous acts because of their beliefs. Ugh.
And let's not forget about Cat. At first I really didn't like her. It's strange that in her entire small town, she alone was blind to everything going on (and there's a LOT going on in this town!). She seemed much younger than her 16 years. But, as I read more about her, including what happened to her three years ago, I began to understand her naivete more. Socially, she's shut herself off from all of society; of course she's not going to have any idea what's going on! And I certainly can't say that I blamed her for shutting herself off; the bad thing was bad enough, but the immediate reactions of her family were just absolutely horrendous. I don't want to give too much away, but her family's reaction amazes me.
Cat certainly has her hands full with trying to find Patrick's attacker, especially once she realizes that most of the people in her town are hiding some kind of secret. It's funny how small towns can still have big problems, and this town has them all. I enjoyed this story; sadly, as I've said, it really hammered home for me that there's still a lot of intolerance in the world.

While this may have been my first Lauren Myracle book, I know it won't be my last. Jo Knowles (author of Lessons From a Dead Girl--you know, on my MAHROAT list?) has recommended Bliss, and I plan to check that out soon!

eGalley received from publisher.

Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In My Mailbox (25)

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!

Won in a contest over at Frenzy of Noise: a Breathless Reads poster signed by all the authors, and some signed bookmarks. Thanks, Danielle!

Won in the 2009 Debutantes LK Madigan Feast of Awesome Giveaway: Flash Burnout and The Mermaid's Mirror. Sadly, Lisa passed away recently, but I'm thankful (as I'm sure all of you are) that she gifted us with these two wonderful books.

  • The Liar Society by Lisa & Laura Roecker.(Yes, I actually purchased a(nother) physical book. Daughter & I went to Barnes and Noble to get a gift card for my nephew's bday. I let her pick out a book (Dan Gutman's newest), and then I chose one for myself. My self-imposed physical-book-buying-ban isn't going that well...
Borrowed from the library:
  • Exposed by Kimberly Marcus
  • Haven by Kristi Cook (both titles are going towards my 2011 Debut Author Challenge!)
  • Scars by Cheryl Rainfield (has been on my to-read list forever!)
What'd you get?

Enjoy your reading!

Beth Revis is hosting a Breathless Reads gveaway!


Beth Revis is hosting an awesome contest! She's home from the Breathless Reads tour and has signed copies of all 5 Breathless Reads books to give away! All you have to do is spread the book love through your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or wherever!

In case you've been living under a rock, these are the Breathless Reads Books (I wanted to provide links but Goodreads isn't being nice to me right now):
  • The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller,
  • The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff,
  • Nightshade by Andrea Cremer,
  • Matched by Ally Condie, and
  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis.
Head over to Beth's blog to learn more (or you can click on the banner). Contest is open March 11-21.

Enjoy your reading!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott--my MAHROAT

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Simon Pulse, 2008

Summary from Goodreads:

Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared.
Once upon a time, my name was not Alice.
Once upon a time, I didn’t know how lucky I was.

When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends, her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over.
Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her.
This is Alice’s story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.
Oh my lord, this is my Most Awesomely Horrifying Read Of All Time (aka my MAHROAT). This story was so difficult for me to read as a mother and as a reader. The girl we know as Alice is kidnapped while on a field trip just before her tenth birthday. When we meet her, she has turned fifteen and is waiting for Ray to decide she's too old, so he will kill her and she can be free. He forces her to great lengths to try and keep her at a young age--dresses her in childish clothes, barely feeds her so she'll stay skinny, and even makes her take medication to prevent her period.

You guys, this is not a gentle read--Ray does unspeakable things to Alice, sexually, physically, and psychologically. However, Elizabeth Scott's prose is exquisite in this novel and readers will quickly come to care about Alice. As the narrator, Alice gives us short, succinct chapters that matter-of-factly describe the details of her existence. We learn only the bare minimum of who Alice was before Ray, and rightly so. She knows that there is no hope of ever being that girl again, that even if she were to be returned to her family she will never be the same girl, and she knows there's no point in spending time playing "what if?" or dreaming about the past.

We can absolutely understand why Alice is reluctant to try and escape. Ray is a man of his word, and his word is that he will do horrible things to the family Alice once knew if she were to leave him. It's very easy to say that we'd do this or say this, but Alice shows us that it's not always as easy as it seems. When Alice learns about Ray's new, improved plan (instead of simply killing her), she sees her chance for escape. Again, the readers are with Alice as she has to decide between two horrible choices, and the ending of this novel will leave you speechless.

I tend to drift towards the darker side of realistic fiction when I read, although I'm not really sure why. I tell you, it doesn't get any darker than Living Dead Girl. I first read this book two years ago, and the story has sat with me all this time. I didn't even really need to re-read it for this review, but I really, really wanted to. This story isn't for everyone, but for those who enjoy dark, gritty realistic fiction, this is the one that tops them all. Living Dead Girl is, for me, the standard by which all other dark realistic novels must live up to.

Won book.

Enjoy your reading!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Crossed Cover Reveal!

Ally Condie just revealed on her blog the cover of Crossed, book 2 in the Matched Trilogy. And, without futher ado...

I. Love. It.

I think it works beautifully with Matched, and Ally says that yes, the blue of Crossed and the green of Matched represent, among other things, the tablets.  I just know that this trilogy is going to be gorgeous when all is said and done, and the covers will complement each other very well (like Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series). The only thing I don't like? We have to wait until November 1st to read Crossed!

What do you think?
Enjoy your reading!

My Most-Awesomely-Horrfiying-Reads-Of-All-Time, aka my MAHROAT

While creating my review for Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles, I realized that I have a lot of favorite titles, for a lot of different reasons. Lessons from a Dead Girl was recently awarded a spot on what I think is my toughest list of favorites: my Most-Awesomely-Horrifying-Reads-Of-All-Time (hereafter referred to as my MAHROAT. I was going to attempt a cooler title, but I like how MAHROAT looks as an acronym, so, it stays.).

Anyway, the qualifications for a book to be included on my MAHROAT list? The book has to deal with a horrific situation in such a realistic setting that readers know it can and probably does happen all the time in real life, but for the most part we remain blissfully unaware that such things happen. Basically, it's a book that's obscenely difficult to read because of the subject matter, but one that sticks with us long after we've finished it. For my MAHROAT, these books have to be realistic fiction; the fear that this is something that could happen to me, to my daughter, to my family is most of what makes the read so terrifying to me.

For me, the bar is set pretty high--as of right now, there are only three titles on my MAHROAT list:

     1. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (my review is here)

     2. Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles (my review is here)

     3. Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess (my review is here)

Added July 25, 2011!
4. The Babysitter Murders by Janet Ruth Young (my review is here)

I think Living Dead Girl will always remain at #1 on my MAHROAT--it is the standard by which all other MAHROAT titles must live up to, and I have yet to read anything in YA realistic fiction that is as terrifying to me. (Is that a challenge, authors?) I just re-read the novel while preparing this post, and will be posting a review tomorrow.

I realize, of course, that in reading YA literature for only two years, I have only begun to scratch the surface, and hope to return to this post with updates as I stumble across new titles that will fit my MAHROAT qualifications.

Do you have your own MAHROAT, or is there a title you think I should read, perhaps a contender for my MAHROAT?

Enjoy your reading!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles

Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles
Candlewick, 2007

Summary from Goodreads:
Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery. Yes, she wished for this. She hated Leah that much. Hated her for all the times in the closet, when Leah made her do those things. They were just practicing, Leah said. But why did Leah choose her? Was she special, or just easy to control? And why didn’t Laine make it stop sooner? In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laine is left to explore the devastating lessons Leah taught her, find some meaning in them, and decide whether she can forgive Leah and, ultimately, herself.
Disclaimer: this title has been on my to-read list for almost two full years. My library doesn't own it for some reason (we only recently aquired Jumping Off Swings--literally, like maybe four months ago). It's not available as an eBook and you all know how hard it is for me to justify purchasing physical books--if it's not autographed or an automatic LOVE, I won't buy it. But I have waited to read this book for TWO YEARS. It has outlasted dozens of to-read lists. So I finally broke down and bought it not that long ago.

I knew what it was about; obviously the blurb above lets you know this isn't going to be a light, sunny read. What I didn't expect is how much I would love it! Seriously, I'm going to award Lessons from a Dead Girl a ranking on my list of Most-Awesomely-Horrifying-Reads-Of-All-Time. (#1, of course, is Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott.) Where on the list, I haven't quite decided, but it does deserve a spot. (Full post on this topic soon!)


We meet Laine just after Leah dies, and spend the book bouncing from past to present as Laine comes to terms with Leah's death. The pair become friends in fifth grade, when popular Leah takes Laine under her social wing for reasons Laine still doesn't understand. The two play together, they enjoy spending time at each other's house...and Leah forces Laine to "practice" sexual acts in this tiny alcove closet in Laine's house. And then makes fun of Laine when she is (understandably) confused about her feelings. Laine ultimately makes the decision to break away from Leah and gives up all hopes of popularity, chosing instead to become almost invisible for most of her high school life.

Leah is never far from Laine's thoughts, though, and she is constantly wondering why Leah is who she is. Here's a girl who wants for nothing; her parents are wealthy and lavish attention on her and her older sister, Brooke. Leah is beautiful--boys want to date her and girls want to be her. But something inside of Leah is broken, although Laine is the only one to realize that. So whenever the girls paths cross, Laine tries to see past Leah's evil barbs to determine what is causing her such terrible pain. Will she ever know for sure, or will she one day just stop caring?

Leah is definitely a girl with problems, problems that we only learn about as Laine does. Jo Knowles makes it easy to see how someone like Leah, with every advantage and opportunity, can still turn out to be so troubled. I alternated between feeling sympathetic towards her, and wanting to punch her in the face for how she treated Laine. Poor, sweet Laine. She's the kind of girl who's just on the edge of the circle, never really fitting in. I can't figure out why, except that she's just too shy to let her personality shine through. And Leah completely sees and abuses that. Lessons from a Dead Girl is a powerful read about how perceptions of friendship can vary from person to person.

Oh! I have to say that this is the first time I can recall seeing my name (with the spelling I use) used for a character in a book. Laine's older sister, Christi, is a secondary character, but still an important part of the story. And I'm happy to report that she's not evil or anything! Sure, she's nasty to Laine sometimes, but she'll stand up for Laine when it's needed, and to me, that's a big sister.

Purchased book.
Enjoy your reading!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Illegal Blog Tour--author interview and giveaway info!

I'm honored to have had the opportunity to interview Bettina Restrepo as part of her Illegal blog tour. Bettina's YA debut, Illegal, was released yesterday by Katherine Tegen Books. Click here to read my review.

Welcome, Bettina!

Illegal is a very compelling story about Nora and her mother, who bravely and illegally come to America in search of Nora's dad, who made his own illegal journey and hasn't been heard from in some time. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for this story and about any research you did?
I worked for a Hispanic Supermarket Chain called Fiesta, actually portrayed in the book.  I’m a 2nd generation here in the States, the first in my family born on US soil. I’m have always  been interested in the “how I got here” story.
But, during my first draft, a horrible incident happened in South Texas.  A truck driver, who had over 80 immigrants illegally packed in his truck, abandoned the trailer in the middle of a field.  It was July – and he left those people to cook inside the trailer.  It was horrific, and close to sixty people died.  The Houston Chronicle (I was living in Houston at the time) did excellent coverage – the pictures were so compelling and heart breaking.

The subject of illegal immigration is a sensitive one. What do you hope readers will take away from Illegal?
First, I want them to think about the way Americans subliminally encourage illegal immigration and how our current immigration system needs improvement.
Second, I also want readers to come away from the story understanding that most who immigrate here illegally do so out of desperation.
Third, I want the reader to be emotionally effected.  Each person’s story is unique.  What would they do if in Nora’s position? 

Do you have a favorite scene or line from Illegal?
I don’t want to sound cruel, but the scene inside the truck was the most intense for me to write.  I wrote it in 2003.  No matter how many times I revised the novel, the chapter named Highway 59 never changed. 
(That was the most moving part of the book for me; I'm very claustrophobic and that scene was extremely uncomfortable for me to read!)

What was your favorite part of writing this novel?
That I learned so much about writing.  This novel was teaching me every single day about how to listen, become patient, and how to persevere.
I can benchmark my way through the past decade.  This was the chapter my son was born, this is the scene that landed my agent, this is the scene inspired by a lonely day at work. 

This is your first novel aimed at young adult readers. What were some of the differences between writing and publishing Illegal as opposed to Moose and Magpie, your children's book?
Moose was written specifically for one publisher.  While creativity was a component, it felt more like a recipe I was trying to get correct.  I knew I had sixteen spreads (two picture book pages) to complete a moose migration.  I thought up the joke idea after reading a ton of non-fiction moose books and finding them dry and boring.
The jokes were the hardest part.  How many migration jokes can you think of?
ILLEGAL was of my heart.  I know the characters up and down.  Nora is as real to me as my own breath.  

What are you reading now (YA or not)?
I just finished Storm Chasers by Jenna Blum, and I have XVI by Julia Karr in my purse (so I can read in carpool, while out doing chores).  My next read will be The Year We Were Famous by Carole Estby Dagg (this book will debut 4-4-11).

What do you like to do in your free time?
My son is six and has a learning difference – so much of my extra time is spent shuttling between speech, occupational therapy, and his school that is 25 miles away. 
My English Springer Spaniel, Winston, demands twice daily walks – and often insists I take naps.  He is naughty and wonderful rolled up into one.

I nap the way some people train for marathons.  Daily and with intensity.
(I'm jealous--napping is one of my favorite hobbies!)

Would you like to tell us about any projects you have coming up?
I finished my 4th (!) revision on my next YA novel, Telenovela.  A telenovela is a type of Latin soap opera.  The novel is about Mercedes, a foreign exchange student who comes to Dallas for a semester.  She ends up writing a telenovela for a class project (the novel has an actual script!).  It is chock full of comedy, mistaken identity, romance, and lies that are closer to the truth than anyone might imagine.  I’ve had a lot of fun writing this book.  It is my option book for HarperCollins.

Sounds like a fun novel, will definitely be looking out for it!
Thank you so much for stopping by, Bettina!
For more information about Bettina or Illegal (including reviews and discussion guides), please visit her website:

As a thank you for her blog tour, Bettina has five signed copies of Illegal up for grabs! You just have to answer this question in the comments below:

Would you break the law to find your family across a foreign border?

Don't forget to leave your email address and what city and state or country you live in (encouraged but not required). The winner will be announced on Bettina's Facebook Fan page on April 2.

Enjoy your reading!