Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Crave by Melissa Darnell

Gosh I hate to finish this year out with a negative review, but what can ya do? I always try to be honest with you, folks. When I squeal with delight, I more than likely did actually squeal out loud. I don’t want everything I write on here to be cheerful and sunny positive things when that’s not the reality. There are just some bad books out there. I avoid writing about them when I can. Today though, I could not avoid it.

Today I’m going to write about a book that I read (or mostly read) lately - “Crave” by Melissa Darnell.

I made it further into “Crave” by Melissa Darnell. This book had a powerful, interesting opening. I really liked the male love interest, Tristan, so whenever Ms. Darnell switched to his POV, I was drawn back in. Unfortunately, around page 160 or so, I had my fill. The characters felt flat and quite frankly, I found our heroine, Savannah, obnoxious. I was a rebellious teen who didn’t get along with my parents all the time, but COME ON. To avoid spoiling it for you, I just couldn’t deal with her making stupid, petty decisions. I also cannot stand giant information dumps and the scene where Savannah finds out why she’s been ill...drove me crazy. Maybe I’m just cranky lately, but as I said, I kept reading. After awhile though, I just felt “meh” about this one and had to let it go.

Too many juicy books out there to read, too little time. I’ll to post one more review this year so we don’t end on a negative note, but just in case - HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The book I reviewed today was published by Harlequin Teen. I was provided an ARC via “Crave” has been out since October.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow & Lenny Lipton, Illustrated by Eric Puybaret

Happy holidays everyone! Did you have a nice weekend? We sure did. E was incredibly excited about Santa coming, so we had a blast. Of course, Santa, Grandma, & Auntie all gave the little guy a TON of books. Over the next few weeks, I'll be featuring a few of his favorites.

This week, it's "Puff the Magic Dragon", the famous poem by Lenny Lipton, made into a song by Peter, Paul & Mary. It is just like you remember from your childhood. To be honest, I would be happy to have a few less repeats of the chorus, but other than that, it's a charming book. Eric Puybaret's illustrations are charming and add such magic to the story. E loves this one. We've been reading it every night before bed! The hardcover edition comes with a CD in the back for your little ones to enjoy too.

"Puff the Magic Dragon" is published by Sterling Publishing and is available in hardcover & paperback.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Scored by Lauren McLaughlin

I know I know, I’m back to a dystopian this week. Not exactly in the holiday spirit, but I couldn’t help myself. This book was too engaging to put down! We are also interviewing Ms. McLaughlin soon for Authors are ROCKSTARS! so it was extra exciting to read. I love knowing I get to ask the authors questions after I’m done reading!

In “Scored”, society has gone through some rough times. The richer have become richer, the poorer poorer. You know..kinda where we’re headed now. Frighteningly familiar stuff. To help even out the playing field and allow people to rise above their initial place in society, a software company has created something called the “Score”. Every moment of the day the children of society are watched by cameras, called eyeballs that evaluate their every move and will decide what their final “score” is at the end of their high school education. In the meantime, your score can fluctuate and where you are determines your friends, your future options (from a free ride to college to being demoted to janitorial work), everything. The story follows Imani, a scored student who is drastically demoted after her friend falls in love with someone the system doesn’t deem worthy. This fall and the assignment of an essay where she has to oppose the score open up a new line of thought for Imani. What if the score isn’t fair after all? How did the score come to being and is it worth not living life for?

Ms. McLaughlin’s commentary on societal issues like standardized testing, privacy rights, etc are entertaining to read. She creates a very plausible world with a naive character who finally removes her rose colored glasses. The reader discovers the truth of their society along with Imani. It’s an interesting tale of self discovery in a world that could very well be where we are headed. I love how the Score isn’t ever truly demonized because, really, when is anything in life ever truly black & white when it comes to what is good for society. We all have different priorities, different morals... so it’s all gray, at least that’s how I see it.

ANYWAYS, I digress. It’s an interesting book full of politicial and social commentary that even those who aren’t usually dystopian fans will find entertaining. It does have some sweet romantic moments, but that is not the focus of the book. It’s a tale of discovery and learning that right & wrong are never as cut and dry as they appear.

I was provided with a copy of Scored by the publisher. It is published by Random House Books for Young Readers and was released in October of this year. You can find it on shelves everywhere. Be sure to tune in to Authors are ROCKSTARS! in 2012 to hear Ms. McLaughlin talk about “Scored”. If you have any questions for her, please feel free to leave a comment here. :) Happy holidays everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas, Ollie! by Olivier Dunrea

What can I say? My kiddo is festive! As I mentioned last week, he is obsessed with Christmas. I love it. I'm a big fan of the holidays myself and I am SO excited to have Santa come visit our house this year. E is going to go nuts. You should hear him in the car when we drive my Christmas lights. He is constantly "oo"ing and "ah"ing. He shouts out "BEE-OO-TEE-FUL" and "AH-MAAAAAZING" at random intervals. It's awesome.

Anyways, I digress. It's no surprise that E's Pick for this week is another Christmas title. This one comes from the series of books by Olivier Dunrea about five little goslings, each with their own little quirks. In this book, the goslings are all waiting for Father Christmas Goose to arrive, but Ollie, the stomper, is getting a bit impatient. It's a quick, adorable holiday read. If you need a last minute gift for a little one, I'd go try and find this one! My sister bought it for E at a department store, but I'm sure you can find it on shelves everywhere.

"Merry Christmas, Ollie!" by Olivier Dunrea is available in hardcover, board book, and Kindle formats from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Need a last minute Christmas gift? Buy a book!

I have read so many wonderful books this year (93 so far! 7 more to go to reach my 2011 goal). This list was incredibly hard to make, but I know if you’re anything like me, you love giving books as gifts. So run down to your independent bookseller or head to an online retailer ASAP. Christmas is upon us! GAH!

Here are some books that were released in 2011 that I think would make AH-MAZING gifts.
  • Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini - Everyone I’ve given this book to has absolutely loved it. The romance is so sweet and delightfully angsty. It’d be a great book for someone who isn’t a regular reader since Ms. Angelini’s writing is so enjoyable and cinematic. I bet it’d get them hooked on reading!
  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor - this book is perfect for both ladies and gents. It’s full of lush fantasy, epic action, and endearing romance. I think everyone should read this book, especially fantasy fans. This is definitely one of my top 5 favorite books of 2011.
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi - This book is for the friend or family member who loves to deeply connect to the characters they read about. Ms. Mafi’s unique writing style is incredibly engaging and so fun to read. It’s like Juliette’s arm actually reaches out of the book, grabs you and pulls you into the story.
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma - This is for the friend who likes to go “WTF?!” You know the type, the ones who watch movies like “Inception” over and over again. They love to analyze and see the hidden meanings in things. The writing in this book is hauntingly beautiful and will definitely keep them entertained.
  • The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - What about that person who likes the creepy, but not too creepy? The romance, but wants a solid, interesting plot to go with it? Well, then I think Michelle Hodkin wrote just the thing for them! From my review, “Ms. Hodkin bakes up a book that is one part mystery, one part romance, one part paranormal and one part horror to create something extraordinarily delicious.”
  • Paranormalcy or Supernaturally by Kiersten White - Have a friend who is paracurious (that’s paranormal curious)? Well, then get ‘em Paranormalcy or be super awesome and get them both of the books in Kiersten White’s series. This is a great book to introduce new paranormal readers to this fantastic sub-genre (you know it’s one of my favorites!). Kiersten White lightens up the mood with incredible charm in her writing. Evie is so darn funny and kick butt! I just love this series.
  • Silver Phoenix or Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon - For the anime or Asian culture lovin’ person on your Christmas list, I have JUST the thing. Get them Cindy Pon’s two books. You also might want to get them a gift certificate to a local Chinese restaurant. Ms. Pon’s descriptions of this Chinese inspired fantasy world’s food will have your mouth watering. These books are so fun and refreshingly unique. I adored them. They are great for non-anime lovin’ fantasy fans too!
  • Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins - For a romance that will keep your friend or family member grinning from ear to ear, get them a copy of “Lola and the Boy Next Door”. (Stephanie Perkins' other book, “Anna and the French Kiss” is also another great one!) Any romance fan of any age will fall in love with these boys. Mm mm!
  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis - This book is perfect for fans of sci fi and even those who aren’t. It’s a murder mystery set on a SPACE SHIP! How cool is that? It bounces back and forth between a male and female narrator which also makes it easy to gift to either gender. My husband and my YA-hatin’ friend both read it and loved it. And if they loved it, the lucky recipient of your copy will too.
  • Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick - For the horror loving and doomsday fans on your list - this book takes the cake. It’s so flipping creepy. I loved it and I normally am not a fan of being scared out of my wits (not that I had much to begin with!).
Phew! Obviously, there are so many books I’d love to mention. I tried to keep this as short as I could, but more and more books kept sneaking onto my list. Let me know if you give these books as a gift. I’d love to hear about how your recipient reacted to your choice! :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, Both series by Cassandra Clare

Okay my lovely readers. I know what you’re thinking or at least I think I know what you’re thinking.

1. OMG IT ISN’T A POST ABOUT A DYSTOPIAN. THANK YOU THANK YOU. (I love ‘em, but you can only take so much doom and gloom. I understand.)

2. Um, Cassandra Clare? Yeah, Michelle, we know about this one.

I know, guys. I lived a sheltered life up until the last couple years and while I had heard of Cassandra Clare, it wasn’t until Authors are ROCKSTARS! got to interview her for our inaugural podcast that I finally took the time to sit down and read these wonderful books. Feel free to smack me upside the head and call me crazy now. I promise, I won’t fight back.

…. ….

You through? Great.

Anyways, so for anyone else who has lived under a rock since 2007...let me tell you about this series. For the rest of you, you can end here since most of this will have you saying “Duh Captain Obvious.”

I have to admit... I was a little biased going into reading Cassandra Clare’s series. I thought she was just an Internet sensation who got a deal due to her celebrity. I was wrong. These books are FUN. I didn’t really latch onto the series in the first book, “City of Bones”, but by “City of Glass”, Ms. Clare had me hook-line-and-sinker. The love story is fabulous. I love the unique subculture world of the Nephilium and the Downworlders. And come on, who couldn’t love hottie Jace? Am I right?

Right now, I’m reading “Clockwork Prince”, the 2nd in her prequel series, The Infernal Devices. If you haven’t picked up this series yet, you should. I like it even more than TMI, to be honest. It’s set in Victorian times and has a bit of a steampunky dealio going on. You know I’m a sucker for that. Plus the love triangle...heartbreaking and so sweet! I know, based on reading Twitter posts, that my heart will be breaking by the end of this book. I’m so looking forward to it!

So, that’s my crazy little rave on Cassandra Clare’s work. Probably unnecessary for most of you, but for those who are looking for a fun series with all sorts of mythical creatures, awesome action scenes and steamy romance, check it out. One warning though - Ms. Clare loves to rip your heart out so keep tissues nearby. The romances in these books will kill ya (in a good way!).

Both of Cassandra Clare’s series are published by Margaret K. McElderry (Simon & Schuster). There are two books available in the Infernal Devices series (one came out last week) and four books available in the Mortal Instruments series. Be sure to go to Authors are ROCKSTARS! to listen to Cassandra Clare and Holly Black. They are too adorable together and were so much fun to chat with.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Clifford's Christmas Presents

It's been a festive couple of weeks around our house. E is obsessed with Christmas. So obsessed that we had to take DOWN our Christmas tree this weekend because we couldn't get him to leave it alone. It's a shame because it was pretty adorable. He'd walk up to the tree and say "it's beautiful!". Then he'd proceed to spin it around, pull down ornaments, and pluck off needles. LOL! Ah, the joys of toddlers, right?

ANYWAYS, E's Pick of the Week is "Clifford's Christmas Presents", a flap-filled board book (over 30 flaps!). He is insane for Clifford and when he got this in the mail last week, he squealed. As a mom, I don't really care for it. Unlike the Spot series where the flaps have a purpose in the story, these are actually referenced as flaps. It's a gimmick instead of a fun story telling device. There are also quite a few flaps on each page. It drives me a little batty, but E just loves it.

So, if you have a little one who is a Clifford fan, this is a fun little holiday book that will keep them busy for awhile. If you can't abide flap books though, you better avoid this one.

The Clifford books are published by Scholastic. This book is a large board book with flaps.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Quick reminder post!

Hi folks. I'm ridiculously busy with voice over work lately so my review schedule has slowed down a bit. Sorry! In the meantime, I wanted to remind you that my blogiversary giveaway is ready to go. Have you signed up here? Click on the tab above or click here. Whatever floats your boat.

What am I giving away? Weeeeelllll.....
The grand prize winner will win all the signed books. The runner up will win the gloves and the autographed bookmarks. I'll split the remaining swag between the two winners.

What are you waiting for? Sign up! I love giving away prizes and have been going through withdrawal the last couple months while I prepared for this epic giveaway. :D Tell your friends.

Also - in case you aren't a follower of the podcast I co-host, Authors are ROCKSTARS!, I wanted to let you know that we are running TWO giveaways over there right now. Heather Vogel Frederick, author of The Mother-Daughter Book Club series, is giving away a signed copy of her latest book! Then Allison and I are giving away a signed ARC of Marie Lu's Legend. We recently had both of these talented women on the podcast. They truly are rockstars!

So, go have at it folks! Sign up to win some great books. I'll be back tomorrow with E's Pick of the Week. ;)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Nutcracker, illustrated by Alison Jay

Okay, so E's Pick of the Week this week, is really "Mommy's Pick of the Week", but I can't help myself. I LOVE Alison Jay's illustrations and with the holiday season upon us, I had to share this book with you guys. Her rendition of the Nutcracker is absolutely breathtaking. The illustrations are so gorgeous that E sat through the entire book (which is saying a lot since it is a bit on the long side for a 2 year old!). I have always loved this holiday tale and this version is amazing. I may just have to order another copy to keep as a back up. It's so beautiful.

I'm sorry. I seriously have nothing of substance to say. The text of this traditional story is wonderful rendered and the illustrations are magical. It's a version that boys and girls will definitely enjoy this holiday season.

I purchased "The Nutcracker". It was published by Dial (Penguin) last year and is available in hard cover.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Okay, apparently I wasn’t kidding. It really is dystopian time on my blog. Three reviews in a row makes it official. Today, I review for you “Shatter Me” by Tahereh Mafi.

This book is fabulous. It is like a breath of fresh air on a cool summer’s day, except in Ms. Mafi’s dystopian world, the air isn’t so cool and I bet it smells pretty bad. Her dystopian universe is a very frightening realistic one. It’s a world in which we’ve drained the planet of its resources and it’s slowly falling apart. A regime of powerful people, called The Reestablishment”, are in charge and are hoarding the limited resources for themselves. One of these “resources” is our heroine, Juliette. She’s being held in solitary confinement when we first meet her and is on the verge of insanity. Juilette’s different. Her touch...kills. Locked up, she’s not a danger to anyone, but when offered a chance at freedom, she has to decide if she’s willing to be a weapon or if she’ll follow her heart and stand up for what is right.

I cannot express how much I loved this story. It’s this really cool mix of dystopian, romance (oh what juicy romance!), with this mysterious other element going on that’s a little science fiction and a little paranormal. I don’t know how to describe it other than FABULOUS. The way Ms. Mafi writes too.. gosh. It’s this cool stream of consciousness with run on sentences, strike outs, and sometimes jumbled thoughts. As Juliette becomes more grounded, so does the writing. Geeze, it’s just terribly hard to write about how great it is. It’s just SO COOL, can you just take my word for it? I need to warn you though - this book is INTENSE (in a good way!). You are instantly pulled into the emotional journey of this nearly insane person. I had a very hard time not reading the whole thing cover to cover immediately.

Ms. Mafi will be on Authors are ROCKSTARS! in January, so be sure to subscribe over there. You aren’t going to want to miss this interview.

I purchased my copy of “Shatter Me” at Ms. Mafi’s launch party. It was released in November of this year by HarperTeen. Get your copy today!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - What do you have coming up on your list?

I'm trying not to become a regular meme-aholic. However, this week's Top Ten Tuesday is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. I tinker around with my "to-read" shelf on waaaay more than I'd like to admit. Somedays, I order it by preference. Sometimes, it's my "to review" order. I never can decide! And on days where I go on an adding rampage, it's a whole jumbled mess!

So, today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is to post your Top Ten "to be read" for the Winter. Picking just 10 books was TOUGH, but I think I've got it. Some of these aren't out until spring/summer, so I guess, technically I'm cheating, but the ARCs will be out in the winter. That counts, right?
  1. The Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare - I'm reading "Clockwork Angel" right now. I seriously cannot believe I didn't read this book immediately when it came out. It is so fun! I love steampunky/Victorian goodness and Clare's books are always so much fun. I am lucky enough to have one of the rare ARCs headed my way courtesy of Michelle Hodkin. I won her Twitter giveaway! :D :D
  2. Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay - this book just sounds so sweet. I can't resist it. It's been awhile since I've read a contemporary love story and this one is in verse. I've always been apprehensive about reading books in verse, but I'm going to give it a shot.
  3. Tempest by Julie Cross - this book just has my name written all over it. All you have to say is "Time Travel". Come on...what Doctor Who fan isn't a lover of time travel books?
  4. Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale - Do I seriously need to explain this to you? SHANNON HALE. 'Nuff said. (BTW, if you haven't listened to her on our podcast, you should go, like, now. She's amazing.)
  5. Everneath by Brodi Ashton - I'm normally not a cover girl, but man. This cover has me intrigued. That dress and the mist? I'm already intrigued. As you may know from my reviews of Abandon and The Goddess Test, I love the Persephone myth.
  6. Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown - Mermaids + Lake Superior. COME ON PEOPLE. You are going to make me broke in 2012!! ;)
  7. The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges - This book just sounds different and fascinating. 1800s Russian aristocracy, dangerous secrets, and romance? Mmm mmm.
  8. Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer - Okay. I'm cheating. I already read it, but it does come out this winter. It's a fabulous finale to the intense wolfy triology.
  9. A Million Suns by Beth Revis - I adored Across the Universe, so I cannot wait to find out what's happening next to Amy & Elder.
  10. Incarnate by Jodi Meadows - This book sounds so emotionally powerful. I'll have to make sure it's in between some lighter books. I can already tell that it's going to be a tear jerker.
Phew! Well that's all for me. What is your "to be read" list looking like?

For those of you who are new visitors, be sure to check out big ol' anniversary giveaway page. It just started today! :)

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Go to their blog to join in on the fun.

I Spy in the Ocean by Damon Burnard, Illustrated by Julia Cairins

E is currently obsessed with sea life. He loves learning about the different creatures in the ocean, so this little board book was a fun addition to his book collection. "I Spy in the Ocean" is a simple little board book that uses a cut out hole on every other page to let kids "spy" the creature. At the end, the reader find out the letters spell "O-C-E-A-N". Some of the reviewers on Amazon were complaining about the animals being too scary or obscure ("N" is for "Nurse Shark"), but E doesn't seem to mind. He loves eels, crabs, and all sorts of sharks. Sure, having "N" stand for "Nurse Shark" or "A" for "Angelfish" is a little out there, but I don't really think it's a big deal. All and all, a quick, fun read for the little sea lover in your family!

I purchased "I Spy in the Ocean" at the Aquarium of the Pacific gift shop. It's published by Chronicle Books.

Two quick notes

Hi folks! I'll be posting E's Pick of the Week here in a little bit, but first I have two things I want to share with you.
  1. Please spread the word about the auction going on right now to benefit Terri Windling. There are SO many great things to bid on. Holly Black might kill you in her next novel, you could get a pretty handpainted scarf, some BPAL perfume, signed books and more! Vania of VLC Productions and I have joined forces to offer up a one minute book trailer to one lucky winner. So if you know an author or publisher who would love to get a rockin' trailer and do good at the same time, direct them to our auction at Magick 4 Terri.
  2. I've finally put up the sign up form for my epic anniversary giveaway. For more details and to enter, please visit the page. I am so excited to share all of these great prizes with you guys!
Alright. That's all from me at the moment. I'll be back in a little while with E's Pick of the Week!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Legend by Marie Lu

Okay apparently it is dystopian week on my blog! First the awesome “Birthmarked” series on Friday, now “Legend” by Marie Lu! Whoo! Yay Dystopians!!

Well, as I mentioned on Friday, I love a good dystopian. Mm mm. Nothing like reading about other people’s troubles to make you realize how awesome your life is right? (I think the song Schaudenfreude from “Avenue Q” has been running through my head too much!) In all seriousness though, it’s a form of fantasy that is (most of the time) grounded a bit more in reality. I love it. Marie Lu’s contribution “Legend” is a FUN one.

Ms. Lu uses two different narrators to tell this story - Day, who is living a young man living on the streets, and June, a wealthy young woman and star pupil of the regime in power. It’s set in Los Angeles, now part of the Republic. One day, these two unknowingly become intimated connected when Day, a “Robin Hood” type, becomes the prime suspect in the murder of June’s beloved brother. June strikes out to avenge her brother, all the while Day is still struggling to save a family who has been infected with a dangerous disease. Both individually are brilliant, but when they learn what the Republic will do in order to stay in power, they become a force to be reckoned with.

As I said, this book is a lot of fun. I can totally see why it got picked up almost instantaneously to become a movie. It’s going to be fantastic on the big screen. It also is pretty darn tootin’ good in book form, even the audiobook is fabulous! I actually think I enjoyed the audiobook more. It was so interesting to have such two distinct voices for the narrators. Despite being a voice actor, sometimes my head got a little fuzzy bouncing back and forth. I think Day sometimes came off a little feminine... not sure how to describe it. It just was fuzzy at times in my head. Hearing it though? Super clear! I’ve never listened to an audiobook after reading. It was interesting. Now I can’t wait to see the movie in a year or two to make the cycle complete! ;)

I received an ARC from the publisher for review. "Legend" is being released TOMORROW - November 29th. Marie will actually be on our podcast next month over at Authors are ROCKSTARS! and we’ll be giving away a signed ARC. :D

Sunday, November 27, 2011

In My Mailbox - November 27th!

Hi folks! I haven't done this in awhile, but I just had to share because I am SO excited. Seriously, I was so excited that getting my new car elicited less of a happy dance. (Yes, I happy dance. My husband tells me that my dances remind him of Tina Fey's character Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. I take that as a compliment because she is AWESOME. Hehe!)

It's been a quiet few weeks for me as I recover from everything that is going on. I haven't been reading as much as usual (only one book a week.. GASP!), but I'm getting back into the swing of things now.

Anyways... moving on to IMM and me making all of you jealous! ;)

I KNOW RIGHT!?!?! You should have seen my Liz Lemon-esque happy dance when this arrived. I have already dived in, but am trying to savor it which is SO HARD. OMG I WANT TO KNOOOOOW. I am totally a Shay gal, but man... that Ren is getting more and more appealing. Who do you guys like? :) Share your thoughts!

Also - new visitors, be sure to check out my anniversary giveaway prize announcement from earlier this week.

Until next time... ;)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Birthmarked and Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien

I devoured “Birthmarked” and “Prized” by Caragh M. O’Brien almost as fast as I did my Thanksgiving meal yesterday. Yum! I love a good dystopian and Ms. O’Brien’s story does not disappoint. It’s a very simple dystopian, but it works. The story is set in the future of Earth, hundreds of years after Lake Michigan dried up and resources around the world have become extremely limited. Society now lives in small little civilizations that are incredibly far apart and do not communicate with one another. In book one, “Birthmarked”, we meet Gaia. Gaia’s mother is a midwife and Gaia has been in training to be one too. We first meet her on her first solor birthing. Her family has faithfully served the Enclave, or so she thought. After Gaia is forced to separate the baby she just delivered from its mother and deliver it to the Enclave as is the law, she returns home to find out her parents have been arrested. Gaia doesn’t know who to trust anymore and how she’ll be able to save her family from the powerful Enclave.

That’s the basics of the story, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about a girl who has been treated by her society as damaged goods her whole life due to a scar across her face. She has to learn how to survive on her own and save her family. During all this, she’s confronted with so many obstacles including meeting a young man who drives her insane - in both a good and bad way. She has to make the decision between striking out on her own or trying to ignore what she’s learned and live a simple life in veiled ignorance. What do you think you would choose? Hrmmm....

The story evolves in book two and honestly, you could probably read book two without reading book one. The story is definitely ongoing, but once you settle in to the world, you’d figure out what’s going on. That’s all I can really say without spoiling it, but I really liked it. Gaia has to wrestle without a lot of emotional issues. There’s a bit of a love triangle going on. It’s interesting. I love how simple and clean the writing is. It’s an easy read, but not in a dumbed down kinda way. The words just flow. It’s easy to relate to the characters and understand the world they live in. It’s very cinematic. I could see it making an excellent movie. It’s solid and I say that as a huge compliment. I cannot complain about one thing.

Oh wait.. yes, I can. Book 3 doesn’t come out for awhile yet. I want to know what happens to Gaia. GAAAAAAAAH! ;o)

The “Birthmarked” series by Caragh M. O’Brien is published by Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan). I purchased “Birthmarked”, but I received an ARC of “Prized” from the publisher. (I know, I’m a very lucky lady.) Both books are available now - so go! Get a copy today.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Revealing my anniversary giveaway prizes!

Dun dun dun... it's the day you've been waiting for. I'm so excited for this giveaway that I cannot keep the prizes a secret anymore. Before I reveal the prizes, I've put together a tab with the rules/tips to increase your chances of winning. This is a one winner takes all contest and is open internationally. I do ask though that if the winner is outside the USA that they help pay shipping. You can review the tips on how to earn points and win here. I'll be posting the entry form around Christmas time. So get to work!

Now without further ado... my anniversary giveaway prize pack!
The grand prize winner will win all the signed books. The runner up will win the gloves and the autographed bookmarks. I'll split the remaining swag between the two winners.

So get commenting. You can also earn commenting points by heading over to the podcast I co-host, Authors are ROCKSTARS! and listening/commenting on the podcasts over there. They are also available on iTunes, but please comment on the site.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

I keep changing my star rating on for this one. I had a good time reading it, but in the end, it didn’t really blow me away.

Side rant: I don’t know why I even bother star rating except that I want my reviews to show up when people sort through them. I know I sort through and try to read 2 reviews from each star rating before deciding to read a book. (Yes, I’m that crazy. I know, I know!) I feel like when I rate something as “3 stars”, it is like saying it is bad by standards, but I don’t want to rate everything I read 4 or 5 stars. What do you guys do?

Anyways, moving on. This story is advertised with quotes about being romantic and full of mystery, with quotes from paranormal and fantasy queens like Cassandra Clare and Holly Black. I was expecting something more paranormal and less standard murder mystery. It does involve some strange happenings that turn out to be paranormal in the end, but it just wasn’t enough for me.

Rory Deveraux, of New Orleans, chooses to go off to boarding school in London for her senior year, rather than move to Bristol along with her parents. She figures this way she can see her parents, but experience London city life. On the day of Rory’s arrival in London, a woman is brutally murdered a la Jack the Ripper’s first victim. It also happened to be the anniversary of that murder. The area around her school is the Ripper’s old turf and Rippermania takes over as more of the murders are recreated by a mysterious murderer who evades all the CCTV cameras. On the night of one of the murders, Rory sneaks out to go over to the boys dorm with her roommate and on her way back, she sees and speaks to a man that her roommate didn’t see at all, despite the fact that he was directly in her field of vision. The next day, she awakes to find her school abuzz with fear and excitement. A woman was murdered in their courtyard and she realizes that she’s the only witness. Suddenly, strange people are entering Rory’s life. Smeets with a strange and curt policeman, after the regular line of questioning was completed. She then gets a surprise late entry new roomie who will not leave her alone. As she unravels all the mysteries around her, she finds surprise discoveries about herself and why she was the only one to see the man that night.

It was a terribly fun murder mystery though. Maureen Johnson writes in a fun and easy-to-read format that will appeal to even the more reluctant readers. This is definitely not a book to read before bed (a lesson I learned the hard way). It can be downright gruesome and really friggin’ scary. Those last few chapters... phew! My heart was palpitating and my palms were sweaty.

Maybe murder mysteries just aren’t my thing? I’ve read too few to make a judgement call for me, but if you love ‘em, you should definitely check this out. I think you’ll enjoy the ride. I am interested to see where this series goes and will definitely be reading book two.

I received an ARC from the publisher for review. "The Name of the Star" was published by Putnam Juvenile on September 29th.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's in the Witch's Kitchen? by Nick Sharratt

I know it's a little delayed, but it would be remiss of me to not mention this book. E is absolutely insanely crazy for it. Even though Halloween passed over two weeks ago, we still read this book daily. Why? It's a book totally for little boys. It mentions pee and poop which E finds absolutely HILARIOUS. He loves the other gross and scary things too, but especially the excrement pages. I know. He is such a boy. What happened to my sweet little baby? This book is simply a gimmicky, cute book full of flaps for toddlers to explore. Each page has two flaps... a good flap and a bad flap. E gets so excited when we get to each gross or scary item and I start saying "ew gross!" or "ahh!".

You need to be a very animated reader though for this one. When one of our babysitters tried to read it to him in a normal voice, he thought it was boring and wanted to move on. However, when Mom or Dad read it, it is worthy of big ol' belly chuckles.

"What's in the Witch's Kitchen?" by Nick Sharratt is published by Candlewick. E received a copy as a gift from his wonderful Grandma.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fateful by Claudia Gray

“Fateful” is a paranormal romance with werewolves, set on the Titanic.

I know what you’re thinking... “Werewolves on the Titanic?!”

Now, hold on a minute. Say it aloud a few times. Werewolves on the Titanic. Werewolves ON the Titanic. WEREWOLVES on the TITANIC.

Yup. It just SANK (wah wah wah) in a bit, didn’t it? Claudia Gray’s “Fateful” is pure brilliance. What a clever idea! It’s a beautiful mesh of historical and paranormal, making a lot of fun for fans of either genre. For people like me who love both? It is a gift!

Tess is a servant to a once wealthy noble family who is making the voyage to New York hoping to marry the daughter, whom Tess waits on, into money before the family name isn’t enough anymore. Tess is determined to free herself from her mistress’ odious mother and brother upon arriving in New York City. She’s saved up and as soon as her feet hit the ground, she’s giving her notice and starting a new life. Prior to even boarding the ship though, Tess meets a mysterious young man named Alec. He saves her from a rabid wolf and then dismisses her quickly with a threat. She runs into him again aboard the ship and finds herself attracted to him despite his aura of danger. She is quickly drawn into a world full of dangerous men who can turn into wolves and who want something possessed by the family she works for. The werewolf they sent will stop at nothing to get it. He is actually looking forward to toying with and then killing her along the way. Despite all this danger, Tess and Alec fall in love and with this strength, they go into battle - willing to face whatever the evening brings, be it murderous werewolves or their ship hitting an iceberg.

Claudia Gray is a fantastic writer. She weaves together historical and paranormal elements with amazing agility and grace in “Fateful”. It’s such a perfect fusion of both that fans of either genre will be pleased with the result. I know I was! The werewolves aren’t cheesy and are truly frightening. Tess is definitely one tough cookie, but it’s not out of character for her or just due to the love she’s found in Alec. The life of a servant in this time period was incredibly tough and it made Tess into who she was. I could go on and on trying to appeal to all the potential worries that I see people having, but then this review would be BORING! Just trust me, okay? “Fateful” by Claudia Gray is definitely worth reading.

You can choose to win a copy of "Fateful" over at Authors are ROCKSTARS! right now. We're doing a giveaway where you choose from "Supernaturally", "Eve", "Cold Kiss", or "Fateful". The remaining three will be given away here for my end of the year crazy giveaway. Remember me talking about that? If not, click here for the details so you can be qualified to win!

“Fateful” by Claudia Gray is published by HarperTeen and came out in September. I purchased a copy to giveaway over on Authors are ROCKSTARS!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This may seem weird, but then again, when don’t I seem weird? Maggie Steifvater’s “The Scorpio Races” reminded me off an old movie set in Europe...something like “The Quiet Man”, but more serious. It’s kind of slow moving and it’s very subtle, but I enjoyed it. I found myself content throughout reading it and Maggie’s descriptions of the setting are gorgeous.

Sean Kendrick has nothing of his own. Puck Connoly has been content with her life, but after startling news, she finds she may lose everything she holds dear. Puck rides to save her family from ruin and Sean rides because he has to...because he’d lose the only creature on earth that means something to him if he doesn’t. However, riding in the Scorpio Races is a dangerous thing. You don’t ride normal horses. You ride water horses or capall uisce. They are carnivorous, aggressive beasts that will be happy to eat you or lure you into the ocean and drown you if given the opportunity. Sean lost his father in the races when he was just a boy. Puck also lost her parents to the dangerous horses that lurk in the waters around her island. And yet, here they are - racing for freedom and finding in their struggle a bond that will give them the strength they need to make it through.

As I mentioned in my review of “Forever”, I love the way Maggie writes, I’ve just never been a big fan of her plots or pacing. I think in “The Scorpio Races”, we see Maggie taking things to another level. In this book, she has to create her own lore, instead of modifying lore that is readily available (werewolves and faeries). I have some plot/pacing issues, but I was satisfied from beginning to end. I wouldn’t recommend it to readers who like action-packed fantastical romance. You won’t find that here. Instead, this is a slice of life portrayal about a small island where there are strange horses that come out of the water to eat animals and people. Okay, yes, there is a shroud of mystery and danger, but it’s still very much a part of the regular lives of the island’s residents.

Think of it as a historical (the style of life they lead on the island is very old fashioned and simple) with paranormal elements. If you look at it that way, you may be in for a unique treat.

"The Scorpio Races" is published by Scholastic. I received an ARC from the publisher for review. It was released in October.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Sorry for the lack of updates. My father passed away. Thank you guys for all the support via Twitter over the past week. It's been a hard one, but I'm home now.

Thank you again. I'll get back to my regular review schedule soon.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon

Their love was meant to be.

When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRÍs.

But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction.

Let me preface this review by saying I think Ms. Fallon has a lot of potential. I wanted to love this book. I have always been fascinated by Irish lore. This book though didn’t do it for me. It just felt unpolished and far too much like “Twilight”. I know a lot of people fall back on “Twilight”. It’s like a YA reviewing cheap shot, but seriously - this book IS like “Twilight”, just with a twist. Misty of The Book Rat posted a review on her blog that included a chart that breaks down the similarities.

Yeaaaaah. See? I’m not being lame. It’s TRUE. So if you like Twilight and don’t mind instant love, convenient coincidences, and the possibility of freakish monster babies, check this out. If not? Well, skip it... duh. ;)

“The Carrier of the Mark” was published by HarperTeen in early October. I received an ARC for review.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm a T.Rex! by Dennis Shealy, Illustrated by Brian Biggs

As you know from my post last week, my dad has been in the hospital. On Sunday when they called us, the prognosis was very very bad. Miraculously, he's still here and doing very well. His life will never be the same. He'll need dialysis and his time is still limited, but he has time. After what we were told by doctors that day, that's more than we could have ever asked for.

Anyways, my point to this is to a) update you all and thank you so much for your prayers/healing energy/warm thoughts and to b) tell you about this awesome Little Golden Book, "I'm a T. Rex!" by Dennis Shealy, illustrated by Brian Biggs. The Barnes & Noble was a sanity saver for my husband Jacob who was on full time Dad duty while I spent my days in the ICU with my father. Thank you thank you B&N for having a kid's play area. It was raining almost the entire time we were there and E was going stir crazy in the ICU waiting room. We picked up a few new goodies, including this darling book about E's favorite dinosaur, the T.Rex. It doesn't jazz up a T.Rex and make him all sweet like some kid books do. E loves the part towards the beginning where the T.Rex talks about all the different noises he makes (snarls, growls, and roars - oh my!).

This book is a must have for any toddler and preschooler who loves dinosaurs. It's fun, catchy and the illustrations are adorable.

"I'm a T.Rex!" by Dennis Shealy is available as a Little Golden Book. Go purchase it at your local bookstore today!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies

“A Beautiful Dark” is a stereotypical, albeit well-written, paranormal romance. I don’t mean that as an insult though. I *like* the stereotypical paranormal romance formula. It works for me and I take comfort in its familiar feeling. It’s my old cozy shirt for reading - I know it has some holes in it, but I’m okay with that. This book was definitely a wonderful addition to that genre. Plus.. it was an angel oriented paranormal book that I liked. These are so few and far between.

The story revolves around Skye, who meets two mysterious handsome gentlemen on the night of her seventeenth birthday where they bust into her birthday party fighting. The next day, she discovers they are new students at her school and it seems they’ve taken a keen interest in her. They say they’re cousins, but something is just not right. They’re polar opposites, having only their good looks (although very different features) in common. She soon learns that they’ve come for her and that the life she knew isn’t as normal as she thought. She discovers two sides within herself, both in regards to the boys she can’t help but be attracted to and a war she now has become a key player in. What side and with that, what boy, will she chose? The world hangs in balance, waiting to find out.

Like my little dramatic summary? Why thank you! In all seriousness though, it’s well-written, good ol’ paranormal fun. Love Triangles with Hotties + Interesting Mythology + Action/World Deciding Decisions = crazy fun in my book. If that isn’t your cup of tea, skip this one. I personally cannot wait to find out what happens next. The cliffhanger is a doozie!

A Beautiful Dark by Jocelyn Davies was published by HarperTeen in September. I received a digital copy to review via

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

No updates

I am sorry, but I will not be updating this week. My father is in the ICU so I'm spending my time at the hospital. It is a grave situation. Pray, send positive energy, whatever you can.

Thank you,

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolomore

I was telling my dear friend and podcast co-host Allison that I was in desperate need of some light, romantic fun after reading so many intense and dark books lately. She suggested that I read “Between the Sea & Sky” earlier than I had planned and I am SO glad she did! It was just what the doctor ordered. Cute, sweet, and full of magical fun!

Esmerine is a beautiful mermaid, who at the start of the book, is being inducted as a siren.
Sirens, in Dolamore’s mermaid society, are protectors of the mer people and a great honor. On the night of her induction ceremony, Dosia mentions that she has interacted with some human men and asks Esmerine to go meet them. Esmerine refuses and the next day, Dosia disappears. Fearing that her sister was kidnapped and forced to remain on land forever as a merwife, Esmerine goes on land in search of her, reconnecting with her childhood friend, Alandare, who is part of a winged species of people. They journey together to find her sister and by doing so, find something even more precious in each other.

This book is such a nice, light read! I love the world Ms. Dolamore has created with her mermaids. It adds an interesting element to the friendship of Alandare and Esmerine. Not only is one winged and one finned, but they also have to deal with prejudices at home. Alandare’s species, the Fandarsee, are a very intellectual people who look down on humans and mer people as less intelligent, silly creatures. The mer people tell tales of the dangers of the surface world and fear that which is different. They do not understand Esmerine’s love of reading and writing, which she learned for Alandare as a child. They see her as being different and she’s been ridiculed for it throughout her teenage years. I also really enjoyed that the three tiers of this world (sea, land, and sky) all connected and interacted. It added a really interested complexity to this simple romantic fairy tale.

This book is full of fun, light adventure and tender romance. It’s a whimsical story that I think any fairy tale or mermaid fan will enjoy.

Between the Sea and Sky is published by Bloomsbury and is scheduled to be released on October 25th. My friend Allison was gracious enough to loan me her ARC since I was too impatient to wait for it to arrive via the Good Choice Reading blog tour. We will be interviewing Ms. Dolamore soon for Authors are ROCKSTARS! Be sure to visit the website or subscribe via iTunes so you won’t miss it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Authors are ROCKSTARS! featuring SHANNON HALE

I try not to cross promote in here too much because I know you're probably sick of hearing me yammer on and on about how much I love doing the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast with Allison. However, I cannot contain myself today. We got to interview SHANNON HALE guys. YES SHANNON FLIPPIN' HALE, Newberry Honor Winning author and all around FABULOUS human being. If you're been following here for awhile, you may remember my review of The Goose Girl and me mentioning that she is one of my favorite authors. So, yeah, I'm pretty psyched. You should go listen! Show Shannon some love and leave a comment! You can also subscribe via iTunes. Let us know what you think. We'd love to hear from you!

Alright, now back to your regularly scheduled review programming... ;o)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't know Harold when I was a child. I don't know how my mother missed this one since we both adored the color purple and had avid imaginations. Craziness! I'm happy to report though that E is in love with Harold's adventure tale. His Great Grandma gave him this book - how cute is that?

It's one of the longer books that E will sit through. He loves telling us what will happen to Harold next. It's also great for night time since it ends on the note of going to bed! Whoo!

If you are unfamiliar with this book, like I was, it's a must-read classic for any little one. Go on an adventure with Harold and his magical crayon today! :)

"Harold and the Purple Crayon" is published by HarperCollins and is available in paperback and hardcover.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shifting by Bethany Wiggins

Shifting by Bethany Wiggins

The hardest reviews to write are the ones where you enjoyed a book, but not quite enough to rave about it or wax on poetically about its beauty (coughDaughterofSmokeandBonecough). Shifting is one of those books. I enjoyed it. It was a quick, fun read, but nothing out of this world. It just felt like something was missing...some “oomph”.

Maggie Mae has led a tough life. She’s been bounced from foster home to foster home since her family was killed by animals when she was young. Some homes were great and some...not so great. In the last two years though, it’s been even harder. On the night of a full moon, she discovered a secret about herself, that she’s a shape shifter. She’s unable to control it and so, every full moon, she ends up naked and found by police. Her current foster parents just can’t take it anymore and at the start of the book, Maggie is being moved to a new home out in the countryside of New Mexico. Despite all her efforts to fit in, she just can’t. She is terrorized by the local girls due to her friendship with the school hottie and a creepy man is hunting her. He may just be a member of a group out of Navajo legend, people who traded their souls for the power to turn into the animals whose skins they wear.

It’s hard to put a finger on it, but I think the “oomph” that was missing comes from the fact that we don’t get a lot of the history of our love interest or the mythology until the very end. Then it all comes at you rapid fire throughout the climax. I can understand the author wanted to build up a sense of mystery and also perhaps make the book more about the character, Maggie Mae, than the actual paranormal elements. I did really enjoy how flawed and real Maggie Mae was. I enjoyed her back story and her strength to stand up for herself. However, it just felt a bit underwhelming to suddenly have the mystery unraveled and to not get an opportunity to dive deeper into the mythology of shape shifters and Skinwalkers. I would almost have preferred to cut the paranormal elements all together and had the bad guy just been someone shady from her past.

Despite the lack of “oomph”, I did enjoy this book. It was a light read with paranormal elements that are different from the usual fare of faeries, angels, and vampires - oh my! If you’re a paranormal romance fan, you should definitely still check it out. I’m hoping there is more in store for Maggie Mae and her love. I want to know what happens to them after that ending!

Oh and on a totally random note - I hate the official cover. Where the heck did the snake come from (other than it looking cool)? Um, there are no snakes. Lots of furry animals, some feathered, no reptiles to my knowledge. Maybe I missed something? My edition has Maggie with a cheetah, definitely more plot appropriate and still pretty.

Shifting by Bethany Wiggins is published by Walker & Co (Bloomsbury) who sent me an ARC to review. It was published in September of this year.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

As I sit here, attempting to put my feelings into words, I keep hearing a little scene from Wayne’s World (yes, I know):

I do not feel worthy to try and use my measly words to describe the beauty of Laini Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”. Nothing I could say could even begin to make you realize how wonderful and magical this book is. Laini Taylor is a master seductress - her words will draw you in with their beauty and then they will never you go. Weeks later, you’ll still thirsty for her words.

Karou is an art student in Prague. She fills her sketchbooks with magical creatures and tells her friends stories about them. Little do they know... these demonic creatures are actually real and are the only family that Karou’s ever known. She is able to take care of herself, attends great art school and has a wonderful best friend, but something feels like it is missing. It’s like part of who she is has been taken away. When she meets Akiva, a fire winged angel, something in her snaps. She instantly feels connected to him, despite the fact that at their first meeting, he tried to kill her. He feels it too and as they are faced with this strange and intimate connection, they find something extraordinary that may save a world that Akiva knows and one that Karou is soon to remember.

See? I cannot do it justice. I told you. Enough with my blabbering. Go read this book. NOW. I know you’ll love it. When Ms. Taylor’s magical world finally releases you, come back here and tell me what you think.

I received an ARC from the publisher, Little Brown, for review. This book is on sale now! Ms. Taylor will also be joining us on Authors are ROCKSTARS! later this month.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

1-2-3: A Child's First Counting Book by Alison Jay

E's Pick of the Week today is a book by one of my favorite illustrators, Alison Jay! I was first introduced to Ms. Jay's work by the covers of the Bayern series by Shannon Hale. She has a whimsical style that really suits the fairy tales she is referencing in this book. It is a very simple book, just counting up to 10 and back down. Each number is showcased with a fairy tale reference. For example, three little pigs or nine golden eggs. The illustrations are gorgeous and I love that it also works on counting down. Now I want to get one of Ms. Jay's prints for E's room! :D

1-2-3: A Child's First Counting Book by Alison Jay is published by Dutton Juvenile (Penguin) and is available in board book & hardcover. I purchased my copy at Vroman's in Pasadena.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

“Cold Kiss” by Amy Garvey is a fantastic character piece about a young woman learning to let go of her first love and becoming a stronger person while learning from her mistakes. Wren is a special girl. The women in her family can do things others can’t, so when her boyfriend Danny dies, she does everything in her power to bring him back to her. What she brings back though isn’t the Danny she knew and now she’s caught up in a world of secrets and lies. She’s been keeping Danny a secret for months now and suddenly, in one day, the new kid Gabriel has unravelled her web and knows what she’s done. His family can also do things others can’t and Gabriel befriends Wren to try and save her from the consequences of her impulse decision to save Danny. Things get messy though and in the end, Wren is the only one who can fix the wrong she made that night she brought Danny back.

If you’re looking for action and gore, then look somewhere else. This story is all about Wren and her relationships with her family, and her friends, Gabriel and Danny. If you like heart wrenching tales of love and loss, written in an incredible, beautiful and real voice, then look no further. Amy Garvey’s “Cold Kiss” is just for you. As someone who has gone through the grieving process recently (I lost my mother almost exactly two years ago to sudden and unexpected cancer), it was easy for me to connect to Wren, to understand why she did what she did and to hurt with her when she realized that life was never going to be the same again. Ms. Garvey’s writing is beautiful and will bring you to tears. Sure, there is a zombie and Wren is magical, but this isn’t a paranormal romance or zombie action story. It’s a story about loss and growing up.

“Cold Kiss” is published by HarperTeen. I received a digital ARC via to review. It was published on September 20th so go get a copy today! Amy will also be joining us on a special edition of Authors are ROCKSTARS! along with Kiersten White, Anna Carey and Claudia Gray so stay tuned.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Giveaway - countdown to 1 year!

Hi folks. I know I know, it's the first of the month which means GIVEAWAY time here at Never Gonna Grow Up! Reviews, but this month is different. We're just two months away from my 1 year anniversary as a blogger and I have something pretty big planned. So, no giveaways for October and November. Instead, I'm going to give you some early tips on how to increase your chances of winning my AWESOME anniversary prizes.

Alright, first tip - COMMENT! If you comment, you'll get extra points. Please don't be lame and just post "this was awesome!" Try to actually read the reviews and comment on the book. I'd love your feedback on how I'm doing as a reviewer and what books really interest you so I can improve in 2012.

Second tip - Become a follower. While I'm not that hung up on my follower number, it still is a nice warm fuzzy to see friendly faces following my reviews. I love my followers. *huggles*

Third tip - Tell a friend. Have them comment on a review and say that they came over here because of you and then of course, something relevant to the review would be nice too.

That's it! I want to reward my followers and those who are active participants here on my blog. I love getting into book discussions and learning what your likes/dislike are. I want to get to know you and when I get to know you, I'll want to give you presents. I like buying presents, ya dig?

Now, for what you really care about... the PRIZES. I have been gathering prizes all year long and am still working on gathering more as I attend signings throughout the rest of this year. I want them to be seeeeeecret so you'll just have to wait to find out.

There are a few more book events over the next couple months and will be picking up so many fabulous signed books and swag. So stay tuned folks. This is a giveaway you do NOT want to miss. Become an active participant here at Never Gonna Grow Up! Reviews and you will be rewarded. ;)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Knuffle Bunny, a Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems

E's Pick of the Week is another one from Mo Willems, "Knuffle Bunny". As you can see, E loves his knuffle (pronounced kah-nuffle) bunny, but he loves the book even more than the stuffed cutey! We have been reading this book and its sequel "Knuffle Bunny Too" around five times a day for the past few days. He'll even sit on the potty without squirming if we read them. They're THAT good. Parents who have potty trained know what I'm talking about.

The story is about a little girl named Trixie who goes to the laundromat with her daddy and ends up leaving her best friend behind. Trixie doesn't talk so she's unable to tell her dad what is wrong. When they get home, her mom instantly notices that knuffle bunny is missing and they rush off to go find it. It's adorable and the art, as with all of Mo Willems' work, is phenomenal. It combines his rather simplistic drawing style with black & white photography. It's brilliant.

The Knuffle Bunny books are published by Hyperion and available in hardcover. I purchased mine at Vroman's when I was there for an Authors are ROCKSTARS! interview.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

It’s not often that I sit down to type down my initial review notes and find myself overwhelmed by the adjective choices. This book is ah-mazing. There, I said it. Let me first copy and paste my notes so I can share the adjective fun! (Who doesn’t like a good adjective?)
  • Creepy
  • Romantic
  • Thrilling
  • Sweet
  • Sexy
  • Scary
  • Mysterious
  • Adventurous
  • Endearing

Yeah, it’s all that and so much more. “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer” is definitely in my top 10, maybe even my top couple books for this year. It started off a little rough, but once I really connected with Mara, there was no going back. I was hooked until the very end. I read this 450 page novel in less than 24 hours and man, I am DYING for book two.

Mara wakes up from a coma and finds out that her best friend, her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s sister are all dead after a terrible accident. Something isn’t quite right though. Somehow, she is completely free of major injury and now she’s being haunted by PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) hallucinations. Or are they? On top of it all, her family moves to help her deal with her loss and now her dad is defending a creepy murderer. Plus the infamously sex-crazed hot guy at school won’t take a hint and leave her alone.

I know it sounds like it could end up being the same ol’ cliche - girl falls in love with bad boy, he turns good, she deals with her demons. It isn’t though. Ms. Hodkin finds a way to take something that totally could have ended up being “the usual” and turns it into some magical. There is a mysterious paranormal element running through the whole book. She asks a lot of questions and really keeps you guessing the answers throughout the whole books. Is Mara really crazy? What is the deal with Mr. Hottie? Are the rumors about him to be believed? How in the world did she escape that accident unscathed? And what the heck is with all these weird things happening? Seriously, as I said, SO many questions. The book is creepy, but not in the way that will keep you up at night. It just keeps you guessing and in today’s world of accessible information, that’s a little creepy. :) Ms. Hodkin bakes up a book that is one part mystery, one part romance, one part paranormal and one part horror to create something extraordinarily delicious. You do not want to miss this one, folks. It may take you a little bit to get into, but once that connection with Mara snaps into place, you won’t want to let go.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is scheduled to be released tomorrow, September 27th, from Simon & Schuster. I received an ARC from the publisher to review.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

I always feel like I need to preface my reviews of contemporary YA with “I’m not usually a contemporary fan”... but let’s face it, while I do tend to gravitate towards paranormal/fantasy/historical/science fiction, if it is well written, I’m going to read it and love it. I will try not to continue using “I don’t usually read this” as a way of saying “OMG THIS IS GOOD”. I’ll just stick saying “OMG THIS IS GOOD!”

So, let me start out with, OMG THIS IS GOOD. Haha. Seriously though, “Shut Out” was a ton of fun. I read the entire thing on my plane trip from Long Beach to Seattle for KidLitCon. I laughed out loud quite a few times. I think the guy sitting next to me was jealous that I was so entertained and he was stuck watching morning programming on TV. For those of you who didn’t watch the book trailer (shame on you. It has ah-mazing voice over if I do say so myself. Hehehe!), this story is about a girl who is tired of fighting for her quarterback boyfriend’s attention. He’s obsessed with the rivalry between the football and soccer teams, as are all the players. When one of the soccer players gets hurt due to a prank gone awry, the girlfriends band together and form a pact to not “put out” until the rivalry ends. Along the way, our heroine, Lissa, and the young women learn a lot about themselves. She knew that putting teenage lust in check would be difficult, but the sexual tension between Lissa and soccer player, Cash? Well, she never saw that one coming!

This book is just plain FUN. If you’re looking for a sexy, sassy book, then check out “Shut Out” by Kody Keplinger. You won’t be disappointed.

And yes, I am totally going to post the trailer here ONE MORE TIME since it’s cute and I voiced it. Deal with it. ;)

“Shut Out” by Kody Keplinger was published in September of this year by Poppy (Little Brown). I received a finished hardcover from the publisher for review.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

KidLitCon Wrap Up

OK, I'm going to try and make this super quick, but I just want to say that KidLitCon was ah-mazing. Allison and I had such a great time presenting on podcasting, meeting authors and fellow bloggers, and just seeing Seattle. Let's bring out the good ol' bullet points for some highlights.
  • I MET KAREN CUSHMAN! My mother-in-law (who was my elementary school librarian/media specialist) gave me her books when I was in 5th or 6th grade and I fell in love. I have had my copy of "Catherine, Called Birdy" forever. It's totally been beat up, but I just haven't had the heart to part with it because I love it so much. I now happily own a new copy, autographed to me by the amazing author (and a copy of "The Midwife's Apprentice, another childhood favorite of mine). She was so sweet and dealt so well with me fangirling like crazy. I also got my mother-in-law a signed copy of "The Midwife's Apprentice" too! I showed it to her over Skype on Sunday and she was so excited.
  • I met Scott Westerfeld. Here's proof!

    His key note was fabulous - entertaining and so informative. I cannot wait to dive into his Leviathan series.
  • I seriously met so many inspiring authors. I came home energized about my own book ideas and cannot wait to get back to it. (Stasia, Holly, Amber, Deb, Karen, Scott... gosh. I could fill half this blog entry with the names of all the inspiring people I met!)
  • And with inspiring authors, I also meet inspiring bloggers. There were a lot of thought provoking panels on topics such as using the SCWBI's resources to Diversity in kid lit!
  • Presenting on Podcasting definitely also makes my highlight list. Despite the fact that I was losing my voice, the crowd was great and we ended up creating an awesome podcast from the active learning portion of our presentation. It'll be up on Authors are ROCKSTARS! later today or tomorrow morning.
If you are interested in the world of childrens and teen literature, then KidLitCon should definitely be on your list of "to do" conferences. Next year, it'll be in NYC! FUUUN! I know I cannot wait to do it all again soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

All Aboard the Dinotrain by Deb Lund, Illustrated by Howard Fine

This past weekend I was actually lucky enough to meet the author of E's Pick of the Week. However, I should state that even though she is a LOVELY person, I didn't pick her book because of that. It's actually been making my son's top contendor list for weeks now! E just loves "All Aboard the Dinotrain" by Deb Lund, illustrated by Howard Fine. What can I say? The kid is a DINONUT! Can I brag for a moment? (Of course I can! It's MY blog. Mwhaha!) The kid is 2 years old and already knows "tyranneousaurus rex/t-rex", "pteranedon", "stegg-OH-saurus" and “cera-TOPS”. Insane right? He just loves his dinosaurs. He also really likes trains so when I saw this at my local indie kid book store, A Whale of a Tale, I just had to get it.

Deb obviously had a blast writing it too, playing with words to make them "dino" while having a very fun rhythmic pattern going on. For example, "The dinostoker shovels coal. The flames are under his control." Adorkable, right? To top it off, the book has GORGEOUS illustrations by Howard Fine that your little ones will just love. I want to have a print of these for my son’s room! They’re classy looking, beautiful paintings. I love ‘em and so does E.

“All Aboard the Dinotrain” and her other dinosaur book “Dinosailors” are available in hardcover, paperback and board book form. They are published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Audiobook Review - Juliet Immortal by Stacy Jay, Narrated by Justine Eyre

This book surprised me. I have to admit - I was really apprehensive going into it. The story is a very unique spin off of Romeo & Juliet. In this version, Juliet and Romeo were two real teens who fell in love back in medieval Italy. Their story ended tragically, but not from starcrossed love. Romeo sold Juliet out in exchange for immortality to a society of paranormal beings that feed on negativity. Juliet ends up working against Romeo throughout the centuries for another group of paranormal beings who try to protect soul mates from the evil “mercenaries”.

Pretty wild, right? It is a bit out there, but it’s really well told. The voice of Juliet is full of angst over her lost life and her struggles with her current plane of existence. She now fights for the good guys, coming out of the “mists” to borrow and inhabit a body of someone within the vicinity of the soul mates she’s bound to protect. In turn, while she’s occupying that body, she tries to improve the life of the temporarily evicted soul. The story begins when Juliet inhabits a new body, a troubled young woman named Ariel. This cycle though is different than her others. Things are not all they appear to be and for the first time in 700 years, Juliet begins to have feelings for another human being. Can Juliet save the soulmates she’s been sent to protect and save herself in the process?

Wow, that was really hard to write! The book is complex, full of angsty twists. It’s a really different read that I think would appeal to paranormal fans and people who prefer more contemporary stories since most of the book takes place in a sort of normal high school setting. (Okay, how normal can it be when Romeo & Juliet are occupying bodies that don’t belong to them?) The narrator for this audiobook is a great actress, but her voice sounds really old. Like, I thought she could be Juliet’s grandmother. The actress isn’t old (I googled her) and voices a lot of YA audiobooks. Meh, to each their own, but her voice didn’t work for me. I almost had to turn the book off and switch to reading this book instead of listening. Ms. Eyre just has this vocal fry/texture going on that gives her voice so much depth and age. It was hard to buy that she was a 14 year old girl trapped in the body of a slightly older teen. I’m picky though about my audiobook narrators since I am one myself, so keep that in mind.

“Juliet Immortal” is a very different take on paranormal romance. It’s very angsty. It also has some very gruesome descriptions and violence, so I wouldn’t recommend it for younger teen readers. If you’re looking for something completely new though, this is definitely a book you should try. It was an enjoyable, unique read.

"Juliet Immortal" was published in August of this year by Delacorte. The audiobook was produced by Listening Library. I purchased it through

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

In a world where war cycles between a nation practicing dark magic and the nations faithful to God, a gift from God is bestowed upon one child on their naming day each century. A beautiful stone is embedded in their body on their naming day by a bright light (God). Elisa, a princess, is the chosen one. Despite this special privilege, she doesn’t feel special. She’s overweight, treated disdainfully by her older sister, and on her sixteenth birthday, her family marries her off to a strange king from a neighboring country. This handsome king needs her, the chosen one, but all he gets is Elisa, a religious “sausage” of a princess. It isn’t until she is thrown into the middle of a war that Elisa finds her inner strength and the ability not only to help her husband and herself, but the entire world. That is, if she can figure out how to harness the gift God has given her and survive. Most chosen ones don’t make it to old age.

I have conflicted feelings about “The Girl of Fire and Thorns” by Rae Carson. Mostly good, but still, conflicted. This book relies a bit too much on “show” rather than “tell”. A lot of the character development stems from our heroine telling us things about the other characters. That being said, it wasn’t overrun by this problem and I happily read the entire thing in a 48 hour period. Elisa is an interesting character. It was really refreshing to have a heroine who isn’t thin and fair. However, her constant self-deprecation, while plot appropriate, did get a little overwhelming. I want to address two common complaints I’ve heard about this book.

1. Religion - Yes. It’s “religious” (though nothing real world - it’s all fantasy). When your lead character has a lifeline to God in her gut, her “Big Guy” is kind of going to be on her mind. It’s a fantasy, people. Relax.

2. Elisa getting skinny then becoming strong - Bologna! She was strong before, she just couldn’t recognize it in herself until she was forced to spend time reflecting. This time (trying to avoid spoilers here) also happened to inadvertently lose weight. It wasn’t like she had a magic “lose gut and kick butt” spell put on her. It was plot appropriate.

If you’re looking for a good, clean fantasy, with interesting magic and cultures, then this book is for you. There is some romance too, but it’s not what the book is all about. The book is about a young woman blossoming into a force to be reckoned with. I know I cannot wait to see what happens to Elisa next.

Oh and one more thing, THANK YOU Ms. Carson for writing a series book with a very satisfying ending. Always appreciated! Now go, pre-order you copy!

I received a digital ARC from the publisher, Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins) via “The Girl of Fire and Thorns” is scheduled to be published on September 20th.
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