Thursday, January 27, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver


Yeah, I’m kind of stumped on how to word this review. I’m usually a woman of many words, but I’m left with few. It’s a good book. Not amazing, but good. I really enjoyed Ms. Oliver’s writing style and found her prose pleasant to read. Hrmm…

Let’s start with the story. It’s a dystopian romance. DONE! No, really. That’s ALL there is to it. Ms. Oliver’s dystopian world revolves around romance, or rather, love. Love is a disease and the United States has found a cure and eradicated the epidemic. Once you’re eighteen, you’ll receive the cure and voila! You will now lead a life chosen for you by your government and will be happy doing so. Ms. Oliver poses this question - “Is a life without love really worth living?”

I think this series has a lot of potential and I will definitely be reading the second book. I just felt like this first book had a lot of explanation (especially at the beginning) and it dragged down the pacing quite a bit. I’ve been devouring books lately and this one took me days to finish because until the action really kicked up a notch in the last third of the book, I just wasn’t emotionally invested.

Let’s talk specifics.
  • Our heroine, Lena, is mind-washed to the point of being obnoxious throughout a large portion of the novel. Eventually I just wanted to smack her over the head with a rolled up newspaper. However, I think that it was necessary to have Lena be this way. Ms. Oliver needed to make sure we all knew that people accepted this world. Since Lena accepted it, it made it easier for the reader to swallow at the beginning. I think Lena has potential to become a character I love. I just didn’t love her in this book. She is just starting to grow into the strong female heroine that I prefer just as the book ends.
  • The premise is a bit hard to stomach. I want to know more about the United States and what drove it to this horrible, loveless abyss. I want to know the history of the cure and I want to know about the leaders that came into power and created this country full of lifeless drones. However, I do not want to discover this all from a long narration at the top of a book. Luckily, I love dystopian novels, but I have to admit, had I lacked patience, I may not have made it through the start of this story.
  • Ms. Oliver’s writing is solid. Lena’s voice is clear and Ms. Oliver does a great job at writing the relationships between the characters. I adored the relationship between Lena and her best friend. It was honest and warm. The love between Hana and Lena is more real than the actual romance of the novel.
  • The romance was enjoyable, but a little stilted. Heck, it’s hard to fall in love when you believe it’s a disease. I’d like to have gotten to know Alex a little more directly instead of hearing about his life secondhand through Lena’s memories of the stories he told her. Still a lovely romance though, especially considering the world they live in and how completely stubborn Lena is in her belief of the lies she’s been fed.
So all in all, not a bad book! If you like dystopian romance, pick it up. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment. I have a feeling deep down that Ms. Oliver is going to win me over in the sequel.

Wow and I said I wasn't going to talk a lot. So much for that!

Thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC. "Delirium" is scheduled to be published on February 1, 2011.

Monday, January 24, 2011

E's Pick of the Week - Duck at the Door by Jackie Urbanovic

E’s Pick of the Week - Duck at the Door by Jackie Urbanovic

Okay, so you probably have a lot of questions for me right now. Like, huh? Who is E and I thought this was a YA book blog? Well, I've decided to start a new feature. While my main focus will continue to be on young adult books, the title of this blog is "Never Gonna Grow Up!" so I think that covers all age groups, don't you? I've decided that once a week, I'm going to write a little blurb about my son's favorite title for the week. He's the "E" in all of this. So, let's get started!

For our first “E's Pick of the Week”, we have Jackie Urbanovic's "Duck at the Door". This book is recommended for children 4-8 years of age, but my son who is 18 months old loves it. He is absolutely crazy about ducks and the story is short enough that he is able to sit through multiple readings of this book without getting squirmy (because we can’t just read books one at a time!). He actually received a stuffed animal version of this book's duck, Max, from my mom shortly before she passed away, so this book holds a special position in my heart.

The story revolves around a silly duck and his misadventures with a family of animals and one woman after he decides not to fly south for the winter. It's a quick, fun read with great illustrations. The illustrations are stronger than the writing, but it is still enjoyable. E loves to discuss the many different animals that live in the house and what noises they make.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has a child who is fascinated by birds and water fowl like my little guy. It was released to paperback today by HarperCollins. You can now find it in hardcover or paperback at your favorite book store.

....And that's it for E's pick of the week! Stay tuned for your regularly scheduled programming.

One of my reviews found a new home! :)

My review of "Lost Voices" by Sarah Porter is now online over Neat!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

“Kat, Incorrigible” by Stephanie Burgis is a charming, middle grade romp in a lively rendition of Regency England. This isn’t Mr. Darcy’s England though. Well-mannered young ladies may also know a thing or two about magic. I don’t usually read middle grade fiction, but when I saw that this was set in my favorite period of history, I just couldn’t help myself!

Ms. Burgis’ story revolves around 12-year-old Kat Stephenson, a rambunctious and sassy young lady with a penchant for aggravating her “Stepmama” and doing what she feels is right. Kat soon finds herself deep in the midst of a battle for her life and the lives of her sisters when her Stepmama decides to try and marry off her eldest sister to a man with a somewhat suspect marital history. With a dash of magic and mystery, Kat makes incredible discovery along the way.

I found this story to be very charming. I think it will absolutely delight the age group it’s targeting, but is also a fun read for older readers (even, gasp, adults like myself!). I don’t feel the need to break it all down in bullet points. It’s simply an enjoyable, magical story about a strong-willed young woman and her adventure. The ending tied up quite nicely for those who don’t enjoy cliffhangers, but left you caring enough about Kat to want to know what kind of trouble she finds for herself in the next book.

The publisher, Simon & Schuster, provided me with an ARC. “Kat, Incorrigible” is scheduled to be released in April of this year in the USA and is already available “across the pond”.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Should I be nicer?

Okay guys, I have something I want to talk about today. If it's okay with you, I'm going to write an actual blog post instead of a book review. Is that okay? Okay good. I was going to do it anyways. :P

I know I touched on this during my review of "Across the Universe", but fellow book bloggers and especially reviewers, am I missing something? Is it just a faux pas to post a bad review or do you fear publisher retribution (no more ARCs)? If so, I'm sorry about the faux pas, but I just feel like I should be honest on here. I don't want to recommend a book just because I want the publisher to continue giving me advance copies. I value you and your time more than that, and heck, with a little guy at home, I value MY time more than that. I don't want to waste my time reading bad books and trying to write nice things about them simply because I'm afraid that a publisher may not like it. Does this make me a bad book blogger?

Don't get me wrong, I do not want this to become "Michelle's House of Catty Reviews". I will try to never post anything too negative in here and will only review if I'm able to finish the book. I promise to be honest. If you don't like honesty, here's the door. I just had to put down a book after 150 pages and say "Enough's enough." I hate to do that. That's only happen to me on a handful of books in my years as an avid reader. Since I didn't finish it, I decided that I would not post a review here because that's not fair to the author and other readers. I cannot fathom though how well loved this book is on Did I read a different book than everyone else? I felt that way about "Angelfire" too. Maybe I'm just too harsh or maybe angel books just aren't my cup of tea? I don't know, but whatever it is, it definitely seems like I'm in the minority. Phew. I just had to get that off my chest!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Okay. I’ve been reading a lot of book reviews lately (since you know, I like other people reading mine so I feel like I should share the love) and it seems to me that people just love to write good reviews. I see so many glowing reviews of books I didn’t like at all and I wonder if maybe I read a different book? I don’t know. I just don’t want to become that type of reviewer where everything is “OMG INCREDIBLE” or done in my best “Comic Book Guy” voice... “Best…Book…EVER.” I want to be honest and tell you what I really think. I hope that you, the reader, will appreciate that.

That being said, let’s get on with the review of today’s book. “Across the Universe” by Beth Revis is a dystopian science fiction novel about two teens who have had their world turned completely turned topsy-turvy. Amy was cryogenically frozen and was mysteriously unplugged decades early. Elder finds out that the world he thought he knew was just an illusion. Together, they discover the truth about the world around them and each other.

The author calls it “a sci fi for teens who don't like sci fi” on her Twitter account profile. What do I call it? Pretty darn awesome, that’s what. However, I have a confession to make. I am a science fiction nerd. I know I know. Not a big surprise considering I am pretty geeky in general, but yeah. I love science fiction. I went as Deanna Troi for Halloween in 5th grade. I’ve always wanted to live on a space ship someday like the Enterprise. So when I read the description for Ms. Revis’ book, I knew I just had to read it. I was lucky enough to pick up an ARC copy at ALA. Thank you Penguin!

Well, now it’s time to talk about the good and the bad. Go go action bullet points!
  • “Across the Universe” is an example that top-notch writing can come from a debut author! The prose flows smoothly back and forth between the two characters perspectives. Amy and Elder both have their own identifiable voice, but the transition is never too jarring for the reader. For science fiction, she keeps it light enough that even a non-science fiction reader can enjoy it. It never gets overly technical or bogged down with explanations.
  • Showing instead of telling - this was something I was harping on last review. Ms. Revis does an amazing job at this. She has some great resources on her website for aspiring writers, including a WHOLE section on this subject matter. It really makes the book come alive and allows the reader to fully connect to the characters since you are experiencing things along with them.
  • The Characters:
    • Amy is definitely a teenage girl who has teenage wants and dreams, but she also is able to face this incredibly awful situation she’s been put in without losing herself. She is strong, but yet still vulnerable. She’s just so real and that’s not easy to do when you put someone into cryogenic sleep then wake her up on a spaceship full of problems.
    • Elder is such an intriguing character. He is naïve, yet strong. Born to be a leader of the people of Godspeed, he knows that when push comes to shove, he’s got to step up to the plate. He’s the character that grows the most throughout this novel. He starts as this innocent boy and becomes a true leader by the end.
    • The Secondary Characters – Harley, Doc, you name it. They were all great and I felt like we got to know each of them a little bit without losing focus on our two leads.
  • The Ending – I didn’t even know this was the first in a trilogy until I went to Ms. Revis’ website! She left me wanting more, but still left me with a satisfied feeling at the end. THANK YOU.
Honestly, I don’t really have too much to say that is negative. I think Ms. Revis did a great job writing a great young adult novel that will appeal to the teenagers and adult readers alike. The sci-fi is simple enough for those that don’t usually care for it and engaging enough for those that love it. It’s not the most creative or ingenious book I’ve ever read, but it is solid, well written, and has characters you really care about. I would gladly read this book again, even after unlocking all the secrets with Elder and Amy.

I will definitely be adding Ms. Revis to my favorite author list and watching for her next novels to be released!

Thanks to Penguin Group/Razorbill Books at the ALA Midwinter Meeting for the ARC of “Across the Universe”. It’s already available at bookstores and online. Get your copy today!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

I’m afraid to say this, but I really did not enjoy “Angelfire”.. *runs and hides from adoring fangirls* It seems to me that I am one of the few who didn’t based on the reviews on Why though? I’m not claiming expertise, but I’ve read a lot of young adult fiction and the storytelling here is mediocre at best.

This story all goes back to the original story…the battle of good versus evil. Ellie finds out on her seventeenth birthday that she’s not just a regular, spoiled teenager from a suburb of Detroit. She’s basically Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but replace vampires with demons and you’ve got it. She’s been reincarnated on earth time and time again to help the angels and God battle against Lucifer’s demons for the souls of innocent humans as Lucifer preps for the big ol’ war he’s been planning since his fall. While all of this is going on, she is faced with trying to hold onto her humanity, falling in love with her guardian, and trying to unlock the secrets of her past. Sounds pretty awesome right?

It should be, but unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to its potential. Since the bullet point format seemed to work well for me last time, let’s try it again!
  • The writing, especially the dialogue, is clumsy and juvenile. Just like our heroine, the author seems unsure of herself as she tries to find her way through writing her first novel.
  • Adding to the point above, one of the biggest pitfalls though of “Angelfire” was all the explaining in lieu of showing. This is where the pacing really got dragged through the mud. There were points where I just wanted to skip the deus ex machina style explanations and move onto the next big fight.
  • Our heroine, Ellie, is likable enough, but I never really felt a connection to her, which made the book harder to read. I can read through clunky writing for a well-written, fully developed character, but I didn’t feel like Ms. Moulton found her footing with Ellie. Ellie was just a tool to explain the plot instead of being a part of it.
Despite these faults, “Angelfire” did have some redeeming characteristics.
  • Well written, super exciting action sequences - Ms. Moulton really excels in the action scenes. She does a great job at drawing you into the action and making the excitement come alive for you. I wanted to live in these action sequences.
  • Will - though we’ve only just begun getting to know him, I couldn’t help but love his unwavering admiration and devotion to Ellie. Plus sparkling green eyes? Yummy!
Oh "Angelfire", I wanted to love you. Unfortunately, I just don’t think you were ready for the big time... or for me, anyways. I’m sure there will be others out there who will love and adore you, but I can’t. I’m sorry!

Thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC. "Angelfire" is scheduled to be published on February 15, 2011.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

I’ve been sitting here for a little while now trying to pull my thoughts together regarding Saundra Mitchell’s “The Vespertine”. I just have some very mixed feelings (mostly good though) and I’m trying to put it all together. Well, okay, that and I am totally distracted by Facebook/Twitter and was futzing around on there for awhile too.

Let’s try something a little new – a review in list format! I know, not terribly creative, but eh. I’m still finding my footing here in regards to long form reviews (come on, my name on is “shortandsweet” for a REASON. That’s how I was reviewing over there). Give a newbie a break, okay?

Things I liked:
  • Time Period – Despite being a big fan of historical literature, I tend to gravitate towards 1820s and earlier. I haven’t read much in the Victorian time period and it was a refreshing new world to explore.
  • Romance – You could feel the electricity crackling between our dashing, not-so-gentle leading man and Amelia. Ms. Mitchell did a fantastic job at explaining the naughtiness behind some of their actions that readers might not understand if they aren’t familiar with the time period.
  • With that, her explanations had a pretty nice balance in the behavior department. She explained without bogging down the plot with long-winded essays about why things were the way they were. On occasion I got a little lost in the customs of the time period and had to stop to hash over what I had just read. I don’t think that was the fault of Ms. Mitchell though. I think it was a combination of the formatting of the ARC (one of the disadvantages to reading ARCs) and my sleepiness when reading last night.
  • Paranormal/mystical aspect – Nice change of pace from vampires, angels, and zombies – OH MY!
  • Fast moving plot – despite taking place in a time period where things moved very slowly for women, she kept the pacing moving right along which I appreciated. It could have easily gotten pokey and Ms. Mitchell did a great job preventing that from happening.
Things I didn’t like:
  • At times, I got lost with the secondary and outlying characters. There were a lot of names involved and assumed familiarities that had me lost for a moment. Could be my fault, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
  • I would have liked the climax and afterwards to have been a little slower. It felt really rushed and didn’t give me enough time to experience what Amelia was going through. I wanted to feel emotionally moved, started to, and then BOOM the book was over.
  • The title – okay. I get it, but the book in general could have used an explanation as to what the word “vespers” meant to Amelia. Maybe I lead a sheltered life, but I thought vespers referred to a prayer service in Catholicism, not just the time of day when the sun sets?
I really enjoyed “The Vespertine”, despite my moments of confusion, which again, could be completely my fault and not the fault of the author’s. Sometimes, I get so involved in a book that I start speed reading and when you combine that with sleepiness, things can get a wee bit jumbled. I would recommend this to anyone who likes historical YA fiction. It does have paranormal/mystical elements, but it’s light on the paranormal, heavy on the historical. If you have a problem with historical fiction, then you should probably skip this one. You really have to accept the time period and its customs to fully enjoy Ms. Mitchell’s lovely story.

"The Vespertine" is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They provided me with an advance reader's copy. It is scheduled to be released in March of this year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Laird

“The Betrayal of Maggie Blair” by Elizabeth Laird is set in 17th century Scotland. This is a time of great conflict and difficulty. Poverty was rampant, women were easily accused and burned for being witches, and a religious feud was escalating toward civil war. These were the times that sixteen-year-old Maggie Blair had to live in. Maggie faces adversity time and time again, with trouble always at her heels. Throughout the book she grows to become a strong, yet naïve, young woman who knows what she wants from her life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would definitely not recommend it to the younger teen crowd who drools for vampires and steamy romance. Despite the fact that heroine is sixteen years old and quite innocent, I see this appealing to an older audience. The obstacles that Maggie struggles with and the history of the time period make this a bit too heavy for the younger reader. Religion plays a large role in the plot line of “The Betrayal of Maggie Blair”. It can get a tad overwhelming at times, but if you surrender yourself to being a part of this time period, you can get through it.

This story reminds me a lot of “Pillars of the Earth”. It’s obviously set centuries later and is aimed at a younger audience, but there are some general similarities. Bad things happening to good people, prejudice ruling over reason, finding the good in people no matter what the situation, and being true to yourself are just a few of the similar themes. As with “Pillars of the Earth”, there were times that I could barely stand to read on because I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing something bad happen again. I would find myself saying aloud “When will poor Maggie Blair get a break?” The supporting cast definitely helped to further develop Maggie’s character, but don’t be fooled by my mentioning them. This book is ALL Maggie. The only consistent secondary character is her grandmother’s friend, the rogue Tam. He shows Maggie that good people can come in all forms.

I think this and the denseness of the religious/historical aspect made it a slower read and again, makes me think it would be better for mature YA readers and those adults who enjoy historical fiction. Be warned. This isn’t a historical romance. It’s a tale of self-discovery and strength through great adversity. So, in the end, I’m glad I read it. Though a bit dense and harder to get through than other YA novels, I think the reader is rewarded with a satisfying ending with a heroine that is strong and REAL, a refreshing change of pace in the world of YA fiction inundated with fantastical elements and unrealistic love triangles.

"The Betrayal of Maggie Blair" is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They provided me with an advanced reader's copy. It is scheduled to be released in April of this year.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rebellion – novella #2 in the Day of Sacrifice series by Stacey Wallace Benefiel

"Rebellion" is the second novella in a series by indie paranormal YA author, Stacey Wallace Benefiel. The world in this novella series is full of magic and paranormal archetypes – angels, vampires, witches – OH MY! Of course, they're all pretty hot too, especially the angels. In this world, it is required of the families to sacrifice their oldest child to the Gods to receive favor from them. The oldest children in this world never lead a normal life, as we learned in the first part of this series. Some of the parents feel guilt and try to be the best parents they can as long as they have their child while others are filled with greed, looking forward to their child's sacrificial death and the wealth & favor they will receive from the Gods.

In "Rebellion", we pick up just after the first book with a character we were briefly introduced to last time. Cara is the mother of a sacrifice who was best friend to our heroine from part one and ward to her Guardian angel lover. I loved getting to know Cara better. She is a deep and powerful character in this segment of the series. She had a tough time last book and it was great to see her overcome her grief and difficulties to take a stand against the Gods and the infrastructure of their world. It was also nice to see her finally see some happiness as well.

Novellas are a difficult medium in literature. Long enough to have complex plots, but short enough that you need to keep things moving or well, you won't be writing a novella anymore! The problem with this novella that in order to keep a pretty complex world and characters alive, we lose a lot of the actual plot development. Upon starting this novella, you are abruptly thrust back into the world introduced last time around. Now, again, I understand that this is a novella however even a one or two paragraph recap to help smooth over the transition would have been nice. I've read quite a few books since I read the first novella so my first reaction was “Whaaaa!?!?!?!” It made me a bit dizzy and that feeling was hard to overcome as the plot keep going along its merry way without a lot of explanation. I remember there being a prophecy, but I couldn't remember exactly what it was or how these characters related to it. Luckily, due to reading this on my e-reader (LOVE you, Amazon Kindle!), I was able to go brush up. However, I do not feel that should have been necessary in order to have the audience fully enjoy this book. There should have been some sort of transition between the two novellas. I felt like the first novella ended a bit abruptly and was rushed at times to fit the format. Maybe these would be a better novel with a little more time and development? Just a thought. The one downfall I've found in Ms. Benefiel's writing overall is some choppiness and lack of needed exposition. I think that is partially due to being an independent author. She doesn't have the time and money backing up her writing that mainstream authors have.

Overall, an enjoyable, quick read for those interested in the paranormal (with focus on angels). Stacey Wallace Benefiel's writing has a lot of potential and I think that with more time, she could develop into being an awesome young adult writer. Look for these novellas and her other novels on, Barnes & Noble, etc. The e-published ones are very affordable and worth every penny.

I was provided with a copy of "Rebellion" directly by the author with an expectation that I would review the novella. I did not promise a good review, just an honest one that would be posted online to my blog, and

Fun at ALA Midwinter

I just wanted to post a note on here to say "Thanks!" to the publishers, authors, and librarians I met at ALA's Midwinter meeting yesterday. I had a wonderful time getting to know you all and am excited to read & review the ARCs! I am swimming in them now so expect this blog to be busybusybusy for the remainder of 2011. ;)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Please update your URLs!

We've moved. :) You can still find the reviews on Blogspot, but our new home is So excited!

Starting to get packed for ALA this weekend. Will you be there? Let me know. I'll be hitting the Exhibit Hall on Friday and Saturday. :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Okay, let's face some obvious facts about this two-part series real quick... Carolyn MacCullough wrote it for me. Strong female character, kind of downtrodden then all sorts of powerful and strong. Then she throws in a paranormal twist and a little romance? Yeah, that's got Michelle written ALL over it.

Okay, maybe it wasn't exactly written for me. I'm not completely delusional. That being said, obviously, I enjoyed both "Once a Witch" and the advanced reader's copy of "Always a Witch". It has a very interesting combination of paranormal elements - witches with super hero-esque "Talents" and time traveling. How cool is that, right? The story follows Tamsin Greene, a strong-willed young woman who is the ugly duckling in her family. Oh and her family? A bunch of incredible witches, each blessed with an extraordinary special power they call a "Talent". However, this wasn't the way things were supposed to be. When she was born, her grandmother with a prophetic "Talent" predicted that she would be the most powerful in the family and a beacon of hope. So how is that Tamsin turned out so normal? Or is she? You'll just have to read the series to find out!

I absolutely adored the lead character of Tamsin Greene. Despite the hardships she has faced being the family's resident Ugly Duckling, she has ended up growing into this beautiful and strong young woman. It is her strong will and morals that end up providing her with more protection and grace by the end than any "Talent" her genetics could have provided. As you may have already come to realize reading my blog, I absolutely adore YA fiction with strong female leads. Tamsin has become one of my new favorites.

Even though I enjoyed this series thoroughly, my rating for this is a mere 3 stars (which means "I like it" but don't go as far as "really liking it" for those unfamiliar with the rating system). I found the writing a bit choppy at times and I would have liked to see the male lead, Gabriel, a bit more fleshed out. He just suddenly comes back and is in love with his childhood best friend without getting to know her first? I also would have liked to seen our villain developed a bit more. He was a bit flat and stereotypical.

Overall though, I still enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good young adult paranormal story. Enjoy and happy reading!

"Always a Witch" is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They provided me with an advanced reader's copy. It is scheduled to be released in August of this year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope that everyone had a great weekend to start off 2011.

I'm currently reading "Always a Witch" by Carolyn MacCullough. Look for a review sometime in the next few days of this action packed paranormal series. In the mean time though, please go and follow me on Twitter! Never Gonna Grow Up! Reviews is now tweeting. ;)

This weekend, I'll be heading to San Diego for the ALA Midwinter Conference. I'm going to be hittin' the exhibition hall then toolin' around checking out San Diego. I've only been there once before on a quick trip to Comic Con to go to the first "Twilight" movie panel. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the city this time and taking my toddler to the zoo! If you're going to be at Midwinter, let me know and we can try to meet up.

Well, that's all for now! Back to reading. ;)
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