Thursday, June 20, 2013

Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop

midsummer 2013

It's finally summer and time for some lazy days and lots of reading.  This hop is hosted by Kathy at  and it's the perfect way for you to get your hands on some great summer reads.  For my part I've decided to give away a box of 6 ARCS! All of these are YA and I'll probably throw in some swag too.  Because of shipping costs this giveaway is US only (sorry international readers, there will be an int giveaway soon).  Make sure you check out the other blogs on this hop for lots more chances to win. As always please be 18 or have a parent's permission to enter.  Here's what you can win:

This is W.A.R. by Lisa and Laura Roecker
PODs by Michelle Pickett
Piece of My Heart by Lynn Madalenna Menna
Unremembered by Jessica Brody
The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble
Invisibility by David Levithan and Andrea Cremer

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mini-Review: Piece of My Heart by Lynn Madelenna Menna

Piece of My HeartAuthor: Lynn Madelenna Menna
Genre:  Contemporary
Pages: 239
Published: June 18th, 2013
Publisher: Merit Press
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Source:  I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"Still in high school, Marisol Reyes gets the chance of a lifetime to be a real singer, and she leaps at it. After all, this is the dream she held on to, all the days and nights she spent growing up on means streets of East Harlem. Marisol never gave in--no matter what her boyfriend or her best friend had to say. Who cares if only one in a hundred pretty, talented girls make it? She will be the one. In her rush to fame, Marisol tramples on the heart of her loyal best friend, and Julian, the boy she loves. But will it be worth it?
One night at a private gig in the Hamptons, the little Latino girl with the big voice from East Harlem gets a severe reality check. A famous rapper who claims to be interested in her talents turns out to be interested in something else, threatening not only Marisol's dreams but her body and soul. Will the realities of the gritty New York music scene put out the stars in Marisol's eyes forever?"~Goodreads

I was really disappointed with this book.  I was hoping for something gritty and exciting but instead the story was pretty flat and the characters left a lot to be desired.  Menna had such a great opportunity with Marisol.  Here's a girl with big dreams and lots of talent, it would have been fun to watch her meteoric rise to stardom or at the very least her development as a person.  Unfortunately, Mari was a pretty one-dimensional character.  She is painfully naive, totally oblivious to anyone else's feelings and to top it all off whenever someone has a problem with her she assumes it's because they're jealous.  Lovely.  I couldn't warm up to her character at all.  Even at the end of the book when everything is wrapping up and Mari realizes how many people have been using her she continues to fall into the arms of the first loser who comes along.  I may sound like I'm being harsh but I was just so disappointed in this book.  The only character that was at all likable was Tati.  She at least seemed like she had some conviction was an interesting character.  Unfortunately her story never really fully developed and she suffered from some of the same downfalls as Mari.  I wish I could have loved this book, I wanted to love this book.  In the end there just wasn't enough to pull me into the story and the characters were infuriating.  I just can't recommend this one.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Video Review: The Watch That Ends The Night by Allan Wolf

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the TitanicAuthor: Allan Wolf
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Verse
Pages: 480
Published: October 11th, 2011
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Rating: 4/5 Stars

"Arrogance and innocence, hubris and hope--twenty-four haunting voices of the Titanic tragedy, as well as the iceberg itself, are evoked in a stunning tour de force.
Millionaire John Jacob Astor hopes to bring home his pregnant teen bride with a minimum of media scandal. A beautiful Lebanese refugee, on her way to family in Florida, discovers the first stirrings of love. And an ancient iceberg glides south, anticipating its fateful encounter. The voices in this remarkable re-creation of the Titanic disaster span classes and stations, from Margaret ("the unsinkable Molly") Brown to the captain who went down with his ship; from the lookout and wireless men to a young boy in search of dragons and a gambler in search of marks. Slipping in telegraphs, undertaker’s reports, and other records, poet Allan Wolf offers a breathtaking, intimate glimpse at the lives behind the tragedy, told with clear-eyed compassion and astounding emotional power."~Goodreads

With a slow build that leads to an impressive impact, this book is definitely at the top of my list when it comes to Titanic stories.  I've loved reading about Titanic and her passengers since I was a little kid.  The tragedy has always captivated me.  That being said, I'm a pretty hard reader to please when it comes to books about the subject.  I find that many authors have cheapened their tales by focusing on love stories or just regurgitating stories that we've all heard a million times before.  Allan Wolf doesn't do this.  He focuses on the passengers in a way that really makes the reader feel like they know and understand each individual.  He weaves a story of humanity and all the triumphs and failures that come with it.  The story is told by over twenty different narrators including the iceberg, itself.  All of these stories come together as a beautifully told narrative in verse about the ill-fated ship.  It is a quick and engrossing read that will thrill you and break your heart all at the same time.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Stacking The Shelves (21)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by the amazing Tynga @Tynga's Reviews

I got three books for review in the last couple of weeks.  Thanks so much to Quirk, SoHo Teen and Merit Press!  Can't wait to read all of them! What did you guys get this week?  Let me know down in the comments.

This is W.A.R. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Vigilante Nights

As always click the picture for the goodreads link!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Review: PODs by Michelle Pickett

PODsAuthor: Michelle Pickett
Genre:  Science Fiction, Dystopian
Pages: 312
Published: June 4th, 2013
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Source:  I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"Seventeen-year-old Eva is a chosen one. Chosen to live, while others meet a swift and painful death from an incurable virus so lethal, a person is dead within days of symptoms emerging. In the POD system, a series of underground habitats built by the government, she waits with the other chosen for the deadly virus to claim those above. Separated from family and friends, it's in the PODs she meets David. And while true love might not conquer all, it's a balm for the broken soul. 
After a year, scientists believe the population has died, and without living hosts, so has the virus. That's the theory, anyway. But when the PODs are opened, survivors find the surface holds a vicious secret. The virus mutated, infecting those left top-side and creating... monsters. 
Eva and David hide from the infected in the abandoned PODs. Together they try to build a life--a new beginning. But the infected follow and are relentless in their attacks. Leaving Eva and David to fight for survival, and pray for a cure."~Goodreads

Ever since I saw Shaun of the Dead for the first time I've been preparing for the zombie apocalypse.  Only mentally, of course, unless you count the piles of old shoes currently residing in my trunk as weapons.  But I digress.  I love, love, love zombies!  And it isn't the gore that intrigues me, it's the survival.  I remember reading The Boxcar Children when I was little and fantasizing about how cool it would be to live in the woods and use rocks as a refrigerator.  That's right, when I was a child I thought life would be great as a homeless orphan.  Apparently I haven't changed much.  On more than one occasion I have found myself stressed beyond belief with everyday nonsense and thinking, "If the zombie apocalypse is coming why not today?".  Now obviously I haven't thought this one out completely, there are things that I'm sure would be terrible.  So I'm completely fine reading books about zombies for the time being.  PODs isn't entirely a zombie book, in fact most of it is just your run-of-the-mill post-apocalyptic survival story which is fine by me since that's one of the best parts of the zombie genre.  It centers around a girl named Eva who is chosen to ride out the end of the world in a government POD with a bunch of other kids.  They wait it out in the POD, forming friendships and not knowing what might happen when they go back to real world.  It's a pretty interesting concept that's executed well.

  • Not all doom and gloom:  Even though I love horror, zombies and the like I can appreciate it when the entire book isn't just depressing as hell.  Don't get me wrong this story is all kinds of sad and unnerving but there are also some lighthearted moments and little glimpses of hope which are always important in a story like this one.
  • But the doom and gloom are great: The parts that are supposed to be scary or depressing are done really well.  I think one of the best things about this book is the authors ability to show the layers of good and bad.  A good example of this is at the very beginning where Eva is shopping with her mom for her end of the world wardrobe.  She's about to lose everything she loves and she still comments that she'd like a cute new sweatshirt.  I don't think this is shallowness as much as an example of how surreal it would be to be a teenager facing a life alone in a post-apocalyptic America.  It's very strange, but it works.
  • The Real World: PODs: Maybe it's the 90's kid in me but I really liked the strange roommate aspect of the first part of the book.  I think the characters meshed well together and there were some really cool moments.  I think it was a great way for the author to set up the second half of the book as well.  Here we have a group of teenagers that have lost their entire families.  They are pushed into a completely isolated POD for a year with no other human contact and then forced to face the harsh reality of the world above.  

  • Lots of loose ends:  The one thing that really hurt the story for me was the second half.  The story changes quite a bit and there were a lot of opportunities for the story to develop.  Unfortunately it seems like there were tons of things left hanging.  Many of the characters were completely dropped after everyone left the POD and there were huge plot points (like what happened to Eva's parents) that were left hanging.  I'm pretty sure this is going to be a series so I can understand not wanting to reveal too much but I felt like there wasn't much resolution and it the story felt unfinished.  In truth this is one of those books that I think would have been better as a stand-alone.

I wish that the last half of the book would have been a little more like the first half.  It just seemed to lack some of that substance that made the first part so interesting.  That being said, I would still recommend this book to anyone that love zombies and apocalyptic stories.  It's a quick, fun read with some really good action as well as some heart.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mini-Review: Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

Wentworth HallAuthor: Abby Grahame
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Pages: 276
Published: May 1st, 2012
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Rating: 1/5 Stars

" Eighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has turned into an entirely different person. The once spirited teen is now passive and reserved. A change Lord and Lady Darlington can’t help but be grateful for.
     It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been…even as their carefully constructed fa├žade rapidly comes undone.
     Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one…the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever.
     When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long."~Goodreads
Wow, was this disappointing.  After this book came out last year I heard some not-so-great things, but the premise sounded good and I love historical fiction so I figured I'd give it a shot.  Unfortunately I was underwhelmed.  The first two thirds of the story were alright.  I wasn't too enthusiastic about the story line since it was pretty much entirely predictable but I was still on board and fairly entertained.  The plot was clipping along at a nice pace and I wasn't bored so that was a good thing.  There were some signs early on that things were not going in a promising direction.  For one thing, the editing was just not very good.  The tense kept changing, sometimes in the same sentence.

"'Do you mean these?' Richina asked and shimmied with arms outstretched, her many diamonds, bracelets, necklaces, and brooches creating such a commotion that a large chunk of plaster falls from the ceiling." ~pg 63-64
I could have chalked this up to an oversight but it kept happening and it really messed with the flow of the story.  Another huge problem, at least for a history geek like me, was that the author didn't seem to do her research when it came to English titles.  The family's last name is Darlington.  They are titled nobility and therefore should be called by their proper titles.  So if Arthur Darlington is Earl of Fluffbottom (I don't believe his position is ever laid out, so I'm just brainstorming here) then he would be Lord Fluffbottom, not Lord Darlington.  However the parents are constantly referred to as Lord and Lady Darlington.  It may not be a big deal to some people but it really bothered me.  Along the same lines the staff kept calling the daughters Maggie and Lila instead of Lady Margaret and Lady Lila.  But I'm nitpicking.

Let's just move on to the end of the book.  Oh the problems I had with this!  Throughout this entire book there are a million different things going on and while I was able to correctly predict the outcome of each situation at it's first mention I would have like to see them fully played out.  Instead it seems that the author got half way through the book and instead of finishing it just slapped another 50 pages on so it would be over.  In one chapter we have Lord Fluffbottom (whom I refuse to refer to as Lord Darlington) storming off to confront his daughter about the big plot twist and then...boom, books over. We never really revisit the whole reason for Lord Fluffbottom's temper tantrum.  Instead the author lazily explains away everything getting wrapped up and then we find ourselves in the epilogue where everything has either worked out or is still up in the air. I wanted to chuck my book at the wall.

Really Simon and Schuster?  You published this?

This was, overall, just a lazy book.  It seems to be trying to jump on Downton Abbey's coattails but with none of the charm or storytelling, and certainly none of the patience.  I was willing to hang in there and wait for the pay-off, apparently the author wasn't.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Even More Miss Peregrine for Your Nightmare Needs!

Hey guys, I just wanted to let you all know about a couple of really awesome things that have come to my attention in the last several weeks.  Both have to do with one of my favorite books of all time, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children!  For those of you who aren't familiar with this creepy, weird and altogether crazy-amazing book, it is a novel based around real antique photographs collected by the author.  The photos are so strange he had to write a book about them.  Miss Peregrine's came was first published in 2011 to wide acclaim.  It is the story of a young man who finds out that his late grandfather's stories about a mysterious house full of odd children with supernatural abilities might not just be stories.  You can read my review here.  And even though I've linked it before, I'll link the book trailer again for you, because you can't watch it too many times.  It's still, hands down, the best book trailer I've ever seen.

So now for the news! A few weeks ago, Quirk Books contacted me and asked if I'd like to get my hands on a copy of the brand new paperback edition. (Huge thanks to Eric at Quirk btw!) Even if you already have this book in hardback you may want to pick up the paperback as well.  It's got an interview with Ransom Riggs, even more pictures and a first look at the upcoming sequel Hollow City!  That's right, the sequel now has a name and a release date: January 14th, 2014.  I can't freaking wait!  This book is more than a story it's a perfect example of found art and I encourage each and every one of you to pick it up.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Review: Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2) by Katie McGarry

Dare You To (Pushing the Limits, #2)
Author: Katie McGarry
Genre:  Contemporary
Pages: 462
Published: May 28th, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Source:  I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....
Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.
But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all..."~Goodreads

Katie McGarry has once again proven that I don't, in fact, dislike contemporaries.  Actually, when Katie is the author I tend to love them.  After waiting almost a year to get my hands on the companion to Pushing The Limits (one of my best books of 2012)  I was finally able to sink my teeth into Dare You To, the story of Noah's best friend Beth and her journey as she discovers what it means to be loved.  Once again, the author broke my heart only to piece it back together again.  

I suppose now it's time to dry my eyes and get to the review, but I have to warn you this is pretty much going to be a gush-fest.  That being said I'm not even going to do my usual bulleted format because, guess what, I CAN'T THINK OF ANY DISLIKES.  I just loved pretty much everything.  I realize this doesn't make for the most interesting review in the world but with writing like this, I don't have much to work with.  For some reason Katie McGarry is able to get into the psyche of every type of character and express what they're going through perfectly.  Maybe she's a witch, maybe she has an army of brain slugs and she spend her weekends roaming skate parks and malls so she can suck the thoughts out of angsty teens.  I don't really care how she does it.  Just as long as she keeps it up.  Also, if it's the brain slug thing, maybe don't tell anyone.

I didn't think it was possible that I would like this book better than PTL, actually I liked it even more.  Beth was so raw and damaged, it took her a long time to really let her vulnerability show and that made her so much more loveable when she did. It was easy to see why she and Ryan fell for each other regardless of their totally different situations.  Just like Echo and Noah, Beth and Ryan complete each other perfectly.  I can't imagine them not being together forever.  For me the perfection of their relationship can be summed up in three words THE POND SCENE.  Read the book, and get back to me.  This scene is one of the few times in my life where I have literally gasped with joy LOUDLY at a book.  It makes me so happy I can hardly contain myself.  It is one of those scenes that just sticks with you forever and makes you feel so many varying emotions that you just have to put the book down and take a second.

Before you take a look at the cover and decide this is just some gooey romance, think again.  Don't worry, there's plenty of romance for those of you who love it, but this book is much, much more than that.  At it's heart, this is a story of overcoming obstacles, whether those obstacles are a tragic family history, pressure to be someone you're not or learning to do what's best for you in your life.  It is a story about a girl finding the family she desperately needs and a boy who doesn't have it as good as it seems.  It is a hopeful, tragic, and downright powerful story.  Everyone should read this book.  And you don't have to read Pushing The Limits first (although you should definitely read it).  McGarry wrote these as stand-alones so you can read them separately.  Characters from PTL are prevalent in this book as well, especially Isaiah, Beth's closest friend.  In fact the only thing that concerned me about this book was that poor Isaiah is constantly left out in the cold.  But wait, remember how I said I had no problems with this book, that's because the third one, Crash Into You , is coming out at the end of this year and it will be Isaiah's book!  That's right, everyone's favorite tattooed ruffian is getting his own book.  And now I can die happy.

Oh um, 5 stars...