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!
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