Monday, August 29, 2011

Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Want to read a fantasy set in a world similar to ancient China, with delicious descriptions of food, awesome action, and heart wrenching romance? Then check out Cindy Pon’s “Silver Phoenix” and “Fury of the Phoenix”.

To steal from so I don’t reveal too much by my raving, here is the summary for “Silver Phoenix”.

No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger's subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.

But now, something is after her. Something terrifying—a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn't only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined.

Bravery, intelligence, the will to fight and fight hard . . . she will need all of these things. Just as she will need the new and mysterious power growing within her. She will also need help.

It is Chen Yong who finds her partly submerged and barely breathing at the edge of a deep lake. There is something of unspeakable evil trying to drag her under. On a quest of his own, Chen Yong offers that help . . . and perhaps more.

I devoured these books! They are so refreshingly different from other fantasies out there. I especially loved the second book, “Fury of the Phoenix”. Ms. Pon really found her flow in Fury. The book moves back and forth between past and present so gracefully. It is also much more romantic than the first, so of course I loved that too. I’m going to kick it old school and do a bullet point list to make sure I don’t miss all the aspects I enjoyed in Cindy Pon’s series.
  • Setting - Ancient China-esque fantasy world - exotic and beautiful. It was so refreshing to have a true fantasy world be so different. So many fantasy worlds are boring and basically medieval/renaissance Europe, but with different names. This was really refreshing!
  • Ai Ling - our heroine. I really connected to her. She’s smart, vivacious and independent, despite the confines her society places on women. She feels things deeply which makes her so easy to connect with. I felt her pain, her fear, along with her. I love it when an author writes so well that I actually get frightened too!
  • Hotties - What YA fantasy is complete without hotties? Um, the sparring scene where they take their shirts off? My imagination thanks you, Cindy.
  • Food - Recently, we interviewed Cindy for the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast and asked her about her use of food in her books. She believes food is essential to world building and I really agree. I really felt like a part of the world as I got hungrier and hungrier while reading her delicious food descriptions. YUM!
Well that’s enough raving from me. Obviously, I recommend these books highly, especially to people who are interested in Asian culture or shows like Avatar the Last Airbender. You’ll love this series. It’s good ol’ fantasy with a twist and some fantabulous writing.

I purchased these books at Vroman's Bookstore at the "YA in Bloom" event. You can hear Cindy discuss her books "Silver Phoenix" and "Fury of the Phoenix" as well as her career on the August Special Edition of Authors are ROCKSTARS!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A very quick IMM vlog - 8-28-11

Excuse my lack of makeup... E has been sick all weekend, so I'm exhausted. Poor kiddo. I kept blocking his face with the book.

In My Mailbox was created by The Story Siren. I'm just happy to participate! Also, I vlog regularly over at Michelle Writes!? Check it out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

I really enjoyed this book. Action packed science fiction with a touch of sexual/romantic tension? Um, yeah, that’s a “must read” for me. “The Power of Six” does not disappoint. It pulled me in immediately and kept me reading as fast as I possibly could. Just to give you a series summary, here is the official description of the first book, “I Am Number Four”.

Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books—but we are real.
Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. we have lived among you without you knowing. But they know.
They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They killed them all.
I am Number Four. I am next.

This book is from the perspectives of Number Four, John Smith, who we got to know in the first book and Number Seven, Marina, who is currently cooped up in a convent/orphanage in Spain. The change in voice is indicated by a subtle change in font, which I thought was a really nice touch. Marina is sassy and strong, but hasn’t lived her life on the run like John and Six. Once she and her cepan (or guardian) found this convent, her cepan embraced the life as a nun and forgot about their mission. Marina has had to deal with most of her legacies on her own. She has some cool ones too, but I don’t want to spoil ya. Number Four, Six and Sam’s plot line is super fun and I absolutely love Six. She is totally kick butt, but has some real emotional depth. I’m really looking to forward to seeing even more of her in the next installment.

For those of you who haven’t read the first book, I wouldn’t recommend jumping right in unless you read it or watch the movie. (I know I know, some people say the movie isn’t that great, but I loved it.) The movie will give you enough background to move forward if you just can’t wait. I know I couldn’t if I were you! This book is fabulous and it is just came out this week. Go, buy yourself a copy. Any fan of action, adventure or aliens will absolutely love this book. It’s the classic battle of good versus evil. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!

I was provided with an ARC of “The Power of Six” by the publisher, HarperCollins. It was released this week (August 23rd).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Baby Animals (Green Start book)

Recently, I picked up a bunch of the Green Start books at Vroman's Bookstore. E quickly fell in love with all of them and this week, his favorite is "Baby Animals". It's a "find the animal" book that teaches kids about endangered species. The book is printed eco-friendly inks on 98% post consumer recycled content. The illustrations are adorable. It's a fun light read to enjoy any time of day. E loves all of these books and I'm sure your little one will too!

The Green Start board book series is published by Innovative Kids and is available online or at a bookstore near you!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fury by Elizabeth Miles

I’m going to keep this review rather short. I really could not get into this book. It’s a story of characters doing bad things with three beautiful furies dishing out severe consequences. I didn’t like any of the characters and actually felt more attached to the furies who were punishing these kids. The leads are the people in high school who do whatever they want to do and do not worry about the consequences. Some of the missteps are kissing her best friend’s boyfriend and abandoning a friend because you became popular and she became a dork (who then commits suicide). I’m supposed to feel sorry for these people and care that they’re being tortured? I don’t think so.

Plus I just had issues with the furies CARING about these sorts of trivial problems when there are so many other terrible things happening in the world. I know I know. It’s a book. I’m supposed to let go and just embrace the story for what it is, but I couldn’t. Elizabeth Miles is a good writer, but the plot - so not for me. Sorry folks. If you can let your guard down though and dive into it, you may find a really unique story here waiting for you. I could definitely see this appealing to teen readers who feel these problems ARE major, but as an adult who reads YA, I just couldn’t relate.

Fury is scheduled to be released on August 30th by Simon Pulse. I was provided with an ARC by the publisher for review.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

In My Mailbox - August 20th

Books this week:
- Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
- Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
- The Shattering by Karen Healey
- How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall
- Hourglass by Myra McEntire (review, podcast interview)
- The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
- Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey (didn't get this, but did a little mini review in the vlog)

In My Mailbox was created by The Story Siren. I'm just happy to participate! Also, I vlog regularly over at Michelle Writes!? Check it out.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins


Okay. That’s an understatement. Let me start again. I literally hugged this ARC with tears in my eyes when I finished.


What? You want more info than that? Okay, fine. Lola is a crazy awesome teenage girl who is a budding fashion designer. Her life is pretty great. She lives in a nice neighborhood in San Francisco with two loving fathers (even if they are really strict) and has a rockin’ hottie for a boyfriend. Everything is going pretty great until figure skating star Calliope Bell and her twin brother Cricket move back in to the house next door. Cricket crushed Lola’s heart two years ago. She thought she had gotten over it, but all those feelings come rushing back, along with Cricket’s tender smiles and warm heart as they get reacquainted. Can they simply be just friends or were they destined for something more?

If you are unfamiliar with Stephanie Perkins, then shame on you. Do yourself a favor and go get her book Anna and the French Kiss right now (my review, podcast interview). I seriously cannot rave enough about her writing. It’s charming, intelligent, and oh so romantic. I don’t usually like contemporary fiction, but I adore her writing. You really connect with the characters and fall in love with the cute boys they love. It just can’t be helped! Ms. Perkins is the master of writing about cute boys. Cricket is my favorite one so far. (Sorry Etienne fans, but I love Cricket’s sweet and slightly nerdy personality!)

If you’re looking for a witty, well written romance, then this one should definitely be on your “must read” list. Warning: Your heart may turn into a puddle of warm goo and you may find you want to re-read this book over and over again. In fact, you might just want to save yourself some trouble and pre-order 2 or 3 copies right away. :D

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins is published by Dutton (Penguin). I received an ARC from the publisher for review. It is scheduled to be released on September 29th of this year.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Peter Rabbit Sleepy Time

E is still crazy for bunnies this week, so he has been obsessed with this cute book in the eco-friendly Peter Rabbit Naturally Better series I had reviewed awhile back. This week’s title is Peter Rabbit Sleepy Time. It’s a cute little board book with a lot of flaps, a feature E always loves. What I really like about this flap book though is that it is even more interactive. Instead of just flipping up the flaps to read what is underneath, there are two flaps on the page. The second flap is a blanket of some sort that you use to cover up the character on the page. It’s so cute! E just loves tucking in all the creatures. Plus as I mentioned, it’s an eco-friendly book using sustainable and environmentally friendly materials which I love. The soy-based inks create a perfect pallet for Beatrix Potter’s Peter and friends.

Peter Rabbit Sleepy Time is part of the Peter Rabbit Naturally Better series and is published by Warne (Penguin). They are available online and in your local bookstore’s board book section!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

This is going to be the shortest review I have ever written. Why? Well, because this book is indescribably beautiful, haunting and surreal. I don’t want to have my weak words cloud your judgement. This is not a book I’d usually read, but the cover was so beautiful and my sisters are two of the most important people in the world to me... so I decided to give it a read. I’m glad I did. I will be honest with you. It was tough for me to read at times. You won’t burn through this in one sitting like the cotton candy or addictive style YA reads. The prose is absolutely gorgeous and the plot.. well it’s a bit of a mindf@*%. Honestly still trying to wrap my head around what was reality, what was in Chloe’s imagination, etc. I seriously cannot describe it. It’s magical, mysterious, frightening, and ethereal. That’s all I can really say. If you like books that make you question what is real and what isn’t or if you have a sister that you love more than anything, this book is a must read.

Imaginary Girls is published by Dutton (Penguin). It came out in June of this year. I bought my own copy because I wanted to get the talented author to autograph it during our August special edition interview of Authors are ROCKSTARS! Go get your own copy and listen to the interview. :D

Sunday, August 14, 2011

In My Mailbox - August 14th, 2011

Every time I think about this meme, I want to sing the Blues Clues mail song. (Proof that I am the mother of a toddler!). My mail box was really quiet this week! So sad. :( I did get two fun books about writing though. I've finally taken the plunge and started working on my first YA novel. It's an idea I've had for a long time, but have been too scared to attempt. Speaking with all these fabulous authors though and doing the YA Rebels audition, I was just so inspired. I couldn't resist the call anymore.

Ahh! I'm writing! I'm actually at an indie coffee shop right now. I feel like such a stereotype. Haha! I found out the wine bar has wifi though. I think I may switch my babysitter's hours to afternoon so I can go there to write. Doesn't that sound like a LOT more fun?

See you around next week for another IMM. In the mean time, do not forget to sign up to win a July release. The deadline to enter is TODAY! We're also giving away three autographed books over at Authors are ROCKSTARS! Kiersten White, Stephanie Perkins and Andrea Cremer were kind enough to sign a book for our listeners when we interviewed them last month. Oh and I forgot to mention - we're now on iTunes! Go to our website for more details. You can now get the podcast directly on your iPod. Wahoo!

EDIT: I created a new blog to talk about my writing adventures. Click here and follow me! :)

In My Mailbox was created by The Story Siren. I'm just happy to participate!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vanish by Sophie Jordan

Okay, so let me just start out saying I really like this series. It is such a neat twist on the usual paranormal stuff out there. If you haven’t read it already, go check out my review of “Firelight”.

To steal from my own review and avoid spoilers, here’s my summary:
“This is a tale of love, a love that is powerful and consuming. Will and Jacinda are a modern day Romeo & Juliet. Jacinda is a draki, a race descended from dragons and hunted for their skills and healing properties. She grew up in a sheltered society where she was treasured for her innate draki gift, she’s a fire breather and the first draki with this gift in a very long time. After being forced by her mother to leave the only home and society she’s ever known, she’s thrust into the human world and forced to try to be something she’s not, a normal human girl. This is where she runs into Will, though not their first meeting. Will is from a family of hunters, human beings that do what their name implies, hunt. They capture drakis and use them (or their body parts!) for their own personal gain. Will, though, isn’t like his family. He has a warm heart and he shares a deep connection with Jacinda. For Jacinda, he’s the only thing keeping her from losing who she really is. The question is … is love enough to break every rule, to go against everything they’ve ever known?”

“Vanish” continues RIGHT where “Firelight” left off. It’s almost as if Ms. Jordan just sawed the books in two at that point. So you might want to pick up “Firelight” and re-read it before jumping back in. Otherwise, it’ll be a bit of a bumpy start. “Vanish” focuses more on the draki culture and the love triangle that had started to form in “Firelight” between Jacinda, Will and Cassian, the young draki she was supposed to mate. After returning home, Jacinda and her family have to face the consequences of their actions out in the human world. Jacinda knows it’d be better for everyone if she’d just let her love for Will go, but can she?

This is a solid sequel. While not very much happens action-wise, we learn a lot more about the life Jacinda knew before her mother uprooted her. We also get to know sister and Cassian better and oh boy is Cassian dreamy. *sigh* The action finally kicks it up a notch at the end and we’re left with a doozy of a cliffhanger. GAH!?!? Why isn’t book 3 out yet?! Anyways, a lot of the mysteries posed in book 1 go unanswered in book 2, so if you’re looking for answers, you’ll just have to keep waiting patiently. Or you know, in my case, not so patiently. Poor Jacinda has some major decisions to face and a long road ahead of her. I’m so excited to see how it all plays out.

“Vanish” by Sophie Jordan is published by HarperTeen who sent me an ARC to review. The first book the series, “Firelight” is already on the shelves. “Vanish” will be released on September 6th.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, Illustrated by Anita Jeram

E's Pick of this Week was a tough one. He is obsessed with three books at the moment, all revolving around bunnies. The kid is rabbit crazy. It makes me so happy to see him love rabbits. I grew up on a rabbit farm in Wisconsin. When we go for walks, he is constantly on the hunt for bunnies and squeals out "HOP HOP" or "BUNNY!" with delight whenever we see one. So, it was only to be expected that when I picked up "Guess How Much I Love You" at Vroman's Bookstore that he'd love it. Since this book is about a daddy and a little boy bunny, E's Dad is the one to usual read it. He just loves it. The whole story is a dad and his son going back and forth one upping each other with how much they love the other. It's adorable, sweet, and so fun. E loves to start doing his own "I love you THIS much" along with the book. It also is nice and repetitive, making it a great book for a night time routine (which is when we do a lot of our reading).

"Guess How Much I Love You" is available in board book, hardcover, and paperback. We own the board book! It is published by Candlewick.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young

Suzanne Young’s “A Need So Beautiful” is a classic tale of good vs. evil and duty vs. personal desires. The plot is a bit formulaic, but it’s a formula that works and is well used by Ms. Young. Her writing is engrossing and it brings you in and doesn’t let you go. I read “A Need So Beautiful” in less than 24 hours... I just couldn’t stop. I cared so much for the characters and needed to find out what happened to them in the end.

Charlotte tries as hard as she can to lead an ordinary life, but fate has other ideas. She keeps getting these impulses to help strangers. She’ll be minding her own business, spending time with her sexy motorcycle ridin’ boyfriend and wham! She’s hit with an overwhelming urge to help someone specific who needs her help. They could be across town or in the building nearby. The need guides her to wherever she is needed. She has kept this urge a secret from her loved ones (her best friend just thinks she’s psychic), but it’s starting to consume her life and now her body. She finds out that she is part of a bigger plan and that her existence on earth is limited. However, when an eerie woman offers her an opportunity to stay with the boy and family she loves, will she choose to stay with the people she loves even if she may turn into a monster? Will she embrace her destiny and be the light the world needs?

This book is paranormal light. Despite being about angels and good vs. evil, it really has a contemporary feel to it. In fact, Suzanne Young talked about that a little bit in our Authors are ROCKSTARS! interview. She wrote it first as a contemporary, then laced in the paranormal elements. I think it would be a great book to recommend to people who aren’t really into paranormal romance, but are interested in trying it out. Ms. Young does a great job avoiding any major religious affiliation with the angels, so for those that are religiously squeamish, do not avoid this book based on that fear. The relationship between Harlin and Charlotte is so sweet as is her friendship with Sarah. You really connect with Charlotte and feel her pain at helping out so many strangers while not being able to aid those dearest to her.

This is truly the first published angel book I have read that I’ve enjoyed. Have a tissue box ready though folks. Ms. Young really makes you care for these characters and with the decision Charlotte has to make, a happy ending is just not in the cards for Charlotte.

“A Need So Beautiful” was published by Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins) in June of this year. I purchased this book. Be sure to go listen to the podcast with Suzanne Young, Cindy Pon, Nova Ren Suma and Holly Goldberg Sloan over at

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In My Mailbox - August 7th

It was a quiet, but exciting week! The following books hit my mailbox:
(fun photo created in Instagram)

- Fury by Elizabeth Miles (Thank you Simon & Schuster!)
- Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (Eeee! Thanks Penguin!)
- Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healy (Thanks Little Brown!)
- Clarity by Kim Harrington - autographed - purchased in Night of the Giving Dead auction

I also got the chance to meet Nova Ren Suma, Holly Goldberg Sloan, Suzanne Young, and Cindy Pon (well, see Cindy again!). Just posted a special edition podcast with these amazing women over at Authors are ROCKSTARS! It is a fabulous interview. They are all so inspiring! Please click the link and give it a listen. We'd love to hear from you. We're also giving away three signed books right now from Kiersten White, Stephanie Perkins, and Andrea Cremer. Pretty exciting stuff, right?

Well that's it for this week. Happy reading folks!

In My Mailbox was created by The Story Siren. I'm just happy to participate!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Yeah, I'm a big geek. My YA Rebels audition!

I decided to audition for YA Rebels. I thought I'd share my video with you. Warning: I am a silly dork.

Show me some love on youtube, folks. Please?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

Violet lives with her abusive, eccentric mother, who is currently making a living performing fraudulent seances for the wealthy. Lying isn’t pleasant, but it beats living a life of hard labor. Fooling people into seeing ghosts has made Violet a bit cynical when it comes to the “spiritualist” movement so popular in Victorian England. However, when her mom gets asked to a country estate to use her “gifts”, Violet is surprised to find that while her mother’s gifts are fake, she might actually be a medium herself. A ghost appears to her and she finds herself wrapped up in a murder mystery that may just end up making her meet her own end.

I wanted to love this book. The cover is gorgeous. I love historical young adult fiction. I enjoy a good mystery and it’s been awhile since I’ve read one. Alyxandra Harvey’s “Haunting Violet” should have been the perfect storm. Ms. Harvey’s writing style is very interesting, but it made it a bit difficult to fully immerse myself in the story. It’s all through Violet’s eyes, so it is first person, but in the past tense. It was neat, but a bit difficult to read. The Victorian elements were beautiful though. I loved her descriptions of the countryside and the gowns. I want to go there with Violet! I also really enjoyed Elizabeth, Violet’s best friend. She was bright, bubbly and determined. Every time they interacted, she stole the show. She just had so much light and personality. I’d love to read a story just about her! The remainder of the characters were rather dull in comparison. Some of that is to be expected in a historical piece with a large cast, but I didn’t even like our heroine. There just wasn’t much to her other than she could see ghosts and she was extraordinarily beautiful. Her interactions with her love interests were rather dull as well. This book is truly all about the mystery, so if you’re looking for historical romance, this isn’t for you. The mystery elements are well done though and Ms. Harvey keeps you guessing up until the very exciting ending.

Unfortunately, the unique writing style, flat characters, and slow moving plot kept it from creeping any higher than a 3 star book for me. However, if you’re a fan of mysteries and historical fiction, it’s still worth checking out. There aren’t many books like it out there and while I had trouble connecting to the story, many readers seem to really enjoy it. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are!

“Haunting Violet” by Alyxandra Harvey was published in June of 2011 by Bloomsbury. I received a finished copy from the publisher for review.

Authors are ROCKSTARS! Shameless Plug

Have you guys gone to yet? If not, you should. It's a fantastic podcast all about YA literature with some rockin' music tossed in the mix. Allison of Reading Everywhere and I host it. We've had the opportunity to meet and interview authors such as Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Josephine Angelini, Kiersten White, Andrea Cremer, Stephanie Perkins... I could go on and on! The list keeps growing too. We have some REALLY exciting podcasts lined up for the rest of the year.

When we originally launched, you had to listen directly on the website. We're now downloadable so you can put it on your iPod. :) We'll also soon be on iTunes so it'll be even easier to take the podcast with you on-the-go.

Please head on over to Authors are ROCKSTARS! and give us a listen. When we hit 100 followers, we're going to do an EPIC giveaway of signed ARCs/books from Stephanie Perkins, Andrea Cremer and Kiersten White. Also, let us know what you think! We love hearing from our listeners.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault. Illustrated by Lois Ehlert

This book is a classic. E recently received a copy of the 20th Anniversary edition for his 2nd birthday. He is crazy for the alphabet, so a fun book that plays with the alphabet and has a great rhythm is a winner for E. It’s so bold and fun. He just loves reading along. I read the “chicka chicka” and he’s got the “boom boom”.

So, get a copy if you don’t have one already and meet all the letters going up the coconut tree. :)

“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” is published by Beach Lane Books. The anniversary version came out last year in hardcover.

Monday, August 1, 2011

August Giveaway!

Gosh, I love doing this monthly giveaway. If you're anything like me, you love getting books in the mail. I know I always let out a little "squee!" when I find a book in my mailbox. :) I'm happy to be able to share that with my readers. This month, you have some AMAZING books to choose from. I'm a bit jealous. ;)

Here's the low down for those of you who are new to Never Gonna Grow Up! Reviews.
  • At the start of each month, I'll put up a Google entry form for you to fill out. You can earn 6 entry points - 1 for just signing up, 1 for tweeting or putting it up on Facebook, 2 points for being a follower of my blog, and 2 for commenting on one of the July release reviews. It's that easy!
  • For tweeting, the phrase to tweet is "I'm tweeting to win a book of my choice over at! (@nggu_reviews) I hope I win ___. " and put whatever book you'd like to win. :)
  • The winner gets to choose what book they'd like me to send! The only restriction is that it has to have been released the previous month. Soo.. for this month, you can choose any of the books I reviewed that were released in July. Here's the list!
Deadline to enter is August 14th. I'll announce the winner on the 15th! :)

EDIT: The winner of this giveaway is Shyia M (@mylifeismymuse). I'll send you an email soon to get your book choice!

Thanks to for helping me out by providing my random #. :)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...