Sunday, February 28, 2010

Anxiously Awaiting...

I can't wait to finally finish the series with Lord Sunday by Garth Nix!!

Monthly Roundup - February 2010

Here's what I read in February 2010:

Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater
Eragon's Guide to Alagaesia - Christopher Paolini
When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
Sea Glass - Maria V. Snyder
The Last Dragon - Silvana De Mari
Firespell - Chloe Neill
Melody's Dream - Kate Barrington
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily - Lauren Willig
The Virgin Queen's Daughter - Ella March Chase
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Ultimate Guide - Rick Riordan
The Viper's Nest - Peter Lerangis
Darklight - Lesley Livingston
The Magykal Papers - Angie Sage
Pandora Gets Heart - Carolyn Hennesey
Mistwood - Leah Cypess
Flirt - Laurell K. Hamilton
Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick
Fantasy in Death - J.D. Robb
Carter Finally Gets It - Brett Crawford
The Dragon Games - P.W. Catanese

Total: 20 books

February 2010 Favorites:

Mistwood - One of the best fantasies I've read in the last six months. Full of adventure, intrigue, character growth, mystery, and a hint of romance.
Carter Finally Gets It - Laugh out loud funny...full of heart and raunchy teen boy humor.
When You Reach Me - An excellent mystery. Wonderful characters. Heartwarming.
The Virgin Queen's Daughter - Fantastically plausible, gut-wrenching alternate Tudor history.
The Dragon Games - A great continuation to the "Books of Umber" series. Love the adventure, mystery and creativity of the author!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hush, Hush

Hush, Hush
by Becca Fitzpatrick
For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along.
With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgement.
But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.
For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.
I'm not sure if I was just not in the right mood when I read this book or if I've just read too many star-crossed love fantasies lately, but I didn't love this book as much as I thought I would. Based on the reviews I was stoked to read this book. Overall, it was good, but it was slow starting for me. There were parts I really loved and about halfway through it really picked up. However, I really disliked Nora's best friend Vee. I was convinced that she was actually evil and helping to try to kill Nora, which turned out not to be the case...she was just a crappy friend! I didn't really get into the immediate "attraction" between Patch and Nora at first, because it felt really creepy, stalkerish to me until she really started to learn more about him. (reminiscent of Edward in the "Twilight" movie as opposed to the book) Once I hit the meat of the story I started to get into it and I really liked the way it ended. I just wish that it had been able to hook me right from the start.
PS-I do love the cover of this book! The red is subtle, yet stand out. It's a stark image that I think may have contributed a lot to why I picked up the book in the first place.

The Virgin Queen's Daughter

TheVirgin Queen's Daughter
by Ella March Chase

As captivating now as it was more than four centuries ago, the reign of Elizabeth I - with its scandal, intrigue, and resilience - has sparked the imagination of generations. In her sweeping historical debut, Ella March Chase explores a thrilling possibility: that the Tudor bloodline did not end with the Virgin Queen.

Tucked away in the country estate of her beloved father, Lord Calverly, young Nell de Lacy feeds her hungry mind with philosophy, language, and studies of science. Her mother, once a devoted lady-in-waiting to Henry VII's last wife, Katherine Parr, would rather her daughter stop dabbling in the grand affairs of men and instead prepare for her eventual duties as a wife. She knows all too well what menace lurks in royal courts.

But Nell's heart yearns for something more, and a chance meeting with Princess Elizabeth, then a prisoner of the Tower of London, pushes her closer toward finding it. Now, years later, Nell's chance arrives when she is summoned to serve as a lady-in-waiting to the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth. Nell is entranced by the splendor and pageantry of royal life, unaware of the danger and deception that swirls around the monarch and her courtiers.

But a lingering rumor about nine unaccounted for months in the Virgin Queen's past reignites when the flame-haired Nell - a mirror image of Her Majesty both physically and intellectually - arrives at court. Quickly she catches the eye not only of the cunning Elizabeth, but of those who would see the Queen fail. With strong evidence to connect Elizabeth to her newest maid of honor and the politics of England in turmoil, the truth could send Nell and those she loves to the Tower to join the wretched fates of those who've gone before her.

I had heard about this book on someone's blog...I can't remember whose, exactly...and was intrigued. I love alternate history books. This one was brilliantly done, as well! Chase blends historical rumor, fact, and her imagination in such a way that I was almost convinced that Nell de Lacey truly existed.

The details about court life, the descriptions of court dress, the activities presented to readers, all contributed to a rich and wonderful dive into the reign of Elizabeth I. All of the main characters were wonderfully developed and interacted in a truly believable way.

I laughed, I cried, I yelled at Nell to see that yes, Gabriel did love her. I was sucked into this book completely. Highly recommended for historical fiction fans.

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's a Starlet...It's a Plain, wait, It's Gabriella...or is it?

Wow. Okay, just had to get this out there...did anyone else watch the new Disneychannel Original Movie, "Starstruck?"

It was very cute. I love most of their movies...but I noticed that the lead female role, played by Danielle Campbell, bore a striking resemblance to Vanessa Hudgens, aka Gabriella from all the High School Musical movies.

All I could think was we've gone from the Barbie blond mold to the Gabriella brunette mold! They are both beautiful girls, and Disney made sure to play up their intelligence and innocence, but hmmm...I can't help but think maybe all the Disney starlets are starting to look similar...

Selena Gomez
Demi Lovato
Vanessa Hudgens
Danielle Campbell

Am I just crazy?

Saturday, February 20, 2010


by Leah Cypess

Reviewed from ARC sent by SLJ. Publication date: April 27, 2010 (Greenwillow)

The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood. But when she is needed she always comes.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty—because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can't help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court . . . until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart . . . and everything she thought she knew.

I loved this book! It's been quite a while since I closed a book and sighed... I was actually sad that there were no more pages. This book was everything I loved about Graceling by Kristin Cashore, plus had the court intrigue and political plots of Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia series.

Isabel (the shifter) is a character that I routed for wholeheartedly. She was strong, independent, yet vulnerable and easy to like. Her lack of understanding in human emotion only drew me further into the emotional depths of this story.

I can't even really verbalize yet how much I loved this story. It felt as if I had been blown right over, but by a gentle summer breeze. I really hope to read more from Leah Cypess in the future!

*added 2/22/2010
Here's the Book Trailer from YouTube:

Sunday, February 14, 2010


by Lesley Livingston
Faerie can't lie...or can they?
Much has changed since autumn, when Kelley Winslow learned she was a Faerie Princess, fell in love with changeling guard Sonny Flannery, and saved the mortal realm from the ravages of the Wild Hunt. Now Kelley is stuck in New York City, rehearsing Romeo and Juliet and missing Sonny more with every stage kiss, while Sonny has been forced back to the Otherworld and into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the remaining Hunters and Queen Mabh herself.
When a terrifying encounter sends Kelley tumbling into the Otherworld, her reunion with Sonny is joyful but destined to be cut short. An ancient, hidden magick is stirring, and a dangerous new enemy is willing to to risk everything to claim that power. Caught in a web of Faerie deception and shifting alliances, Kelley and Sonny must tread carefully, for each next step could topple a kingdom...or tear them apart.
I loved Wondrous Strange and Livingston impressed me again with Darklight. This genre is so popular right now that I become nervous picking up new titles. The first book contained all the ideals of a modern faery tale, both the light and the dark sides of immortal life. As Kelley and Sonny's story picks up after the disolving of the Wild Hunt, Kelley must come to grips with her new life as a Faerie Princess.
What I love about this series is that Kelley and Sonny's love is idealized, yet it rings true. Unlike Bella and Edward or more recently, Grace and Sam, though the love that Kelley and Sonny share is wild, passionate, and overwhelming, it is also dangerous, consuming, and flawed. I can't say too much more without giving spoilers, but let me say that the decision Kelley makes at the end of Darklight is very heartwrenching, yet hopeful, and totally left me breathless for the concluding third book.
When it comes to setting, Livingston does a fantastic job blending modern New York City with the Fae Realm's Otherworld. The surroundings are lush and my imagination had no trouble conjuring the various locations. Central Park is so forefront in the story, that it almost becomes its own character.
In fact, all of the characters in this series are excellent. Every time I thought I had a character pegged, they would display a new facet of themselves. Both mortals and Fae are incredibly complex and intriuging. I cannot wait to learn more about their lives.
As this is the second book in the trilogy, I can't discuss the plot too much without giving away where the series is leading. Let me just say that there were some BIG revelations in this book and I definitely need to read the next one!
PS - LOVE the cover! The coloring is amazing and very ethereal.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday Tween Talk - February 11, 2010

This past Wednesday, my co-worker and I hosted "I Heart Chocolate Day" as our first Tween Time of the new year. It was a hit!

We broke the tweens into different groups first to do "Hot Chocolate Taste Testing" and "Pretzel Rod Dipping."

For the hot chocolate, I made a 60 cup vat o'hot chocolate which we poured into half cups for taste testing. They were able to add mini-marshmallows, peanut butter chips, or mints to create new flavors.

For the pretzel rod dipping, the tweens were given three rods each and they were able to dip in large bowls of melted bittersweet chocolate or melted white chocolate. Then we had about 6 different types of sprinkles they could use to decorate.

Once they'd done those two activities, we brought the whole group together for chocolate games. We had relay races and "hot chocolate potato."

For hot chocolate potato, they all sat in a circle, we played music, and they had to pass the chocolate "potatoes" around. Whoever ended with a chocolate was out (BUT they got to eat their chocolate) and the last person standing won a King-Sized candy bar.

Our first relay race, we divided the tweens into three teams and they each formed a team line. The first person in line would run up to the table, unwrap their mini-chocolate, then cut it into at least three pieces with a plastic knife and fork, then eat it without using their hands. When they were done, the next team mate would run up, etc. until everyone on the team had gone.

For the second one, we used two teams and each tween had to run up and unwrap and eat their mini-chocolate, BUT had to be wearing an oven glove on one hand while they did it.

All the games were fun and the tweens loved eating their mini-chocolates as part of the game.

The very last thing we did was announce the winners of our candy jar guessing game. We had set up two jars full of M&Ms and York Peppermint Patties (to make guessing just a little harder!) and allowed the tweens to guess a candy count for each jar. Whoever came the closest got to take the jar, candy and all, home.

All in all, a very successful, though tiring program!

Next up, "Camp Out Movie!"

Anxiously Awaiting....

They finally posted the title and cover for book three in the Hunger Games series!!!! Looks fantastic. Hits stores on Aug. 24th!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Anxiously Awaiting...

Two books I am anxiously awaiting...

This World We Live In
by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The Last Survivors, Book 3

It's been a year since a meteor collided with the moon, catastropically altering the earth's climate. For Miranda Evans life as she knew it no longer exists. Her friends and neighbors are dead, the landscape is frozen, and food is increasingly scarce.

The struggle to survive intensifies when Miranda's father and stepmother arrive with a baby and three strangers in tow. One of the newcomers is Alex Morales, and as Miranda's complicated feelings for him turn to love, his plans for the future thwart their relationship. Then a devestating tornado hits the town of Howell, and Miranda makes a decision that will change their lives forever.

A Conspiracy of Kings
by Megan Whalen Turner

Sophos is the very reluctant heir to the King of Sounis. He would prefer to be a scholar, to read poetry, study philosophy, count the ridges on grasshopper wings, or the growth rings on the stumps of olive trees. But what he wants doesn't really matter until the day all his responsibilities are forcibly taken away and he has a chance to decide his fate for himself.


by Chloe Neill

Dark Elite, book 1

New Girl. New School. Old Evil.

Lily's parents have sent her to a fancy boarding school in Chicago filled with the ultra-rich. If that wasn't bad enough, she's hearing and seeing bizarre things on St. Sophie's creepy campus. Her roommate, Scout, keeps her sane, but keeps disappearing at night. When one day Lily finds Scout running from real-life monsters, she learns the hard way that Scout is involved in a splinter group of rebel teens.

They protect Chicago from demons, vamps, and dark magic users. It's too bad Lily doesn't have powers of her own to help. At least, none that she's discovered yet...

First off, let me mention that I love this cover! It's very mysterious and the use of subtle flame-like coloring just adds to the air of dark drama. Great choice by the design team.

I am so glad that this is the first book in a new YA series by Chloe Neill. I am totally hooked on her Chicagoland Vampires series, but that's really a YA/Adult crossover series. This is definitely pure YA.

It's fun to read. There are a lot of elements I really of which is the "Buffy"-like feel. One of the characters mentions "Gossip Girl" in a scene and it's totally true, this series is pretty much "Gossip Girl" meets "Buffy"... and it works!

The setting at the creepy boarding school in Chicago is intriguing, complete with underground tunnels, gothic turrets, gargoyles, and a three foot tall scale model of the entire city built into the floor of a hidden room. Very cool.

This first book also contains a lot of interesting characters. Though readers are drawn immediately to some as the "good guys," many of the characters are excellent blends of good qualities and distinct flaws. Few characters are purely "good." The fact that they seem to have distinct issues makes each more intriguing and I can't wait to read the next one and see how things play out for some of the secondary characters.

The use of dark magic combined with morality issues makes for a compelling premise. Each teen with powers must decide wether to give up their powers at some point or to start sucking the energy from others to keep using it later. The different types of powers were fun to read about too, and I loved when Lily discovers her latent powers. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next book when it comes out.

Friday, February 5, 2010

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead

2010 Newbery Medal Award Winner

Four mysterious letters change Miranda's world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda's mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she's too late.

This was a wonderful book! At first, I was hesitant to read it because I was not fond of the cover. After reading it though, I now appreciate the cover choice. Each element pictured (key, mailbox, shoe, book with note sticking out, etc.) plays an intrigal part in the story and readers can pick out where they fit into the story.

The setting is the late seventies, which also made me hesitate, but it turned out to be very relatable. The $20,000 Pyramid show plays a large role and Stead does an excellent job expaining it so readers can move beyond the foreignness of this game show to focus on the characters and their interactions.

The mystery develops in a beautiful way. Readers start to suspect things, but can only makes real connections as Miranda does. The truth is foreshadowed, but not revealed until the very end and I was pleased that I was unable to fully figure things out ahead of time.

The friendship and family relationships are fluid, realistic, and heartwarming. Miranda comes to understand the people around her much better as the story progresses and readers fully believe what is happening between the characters.

Highly recommended and fully deserving of its award.


by Maggie Stiefvater

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human...until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed in this book. It has gotten a lot of great buzz! Unfortunately, I LOVE Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (the book, NOT the movie). This book just couldn't quite measure up to that werewolf romance for me.

I did enjoy the exploration of cold/season change as a cause for shifting. That was a very new idea. I liked the idea that menangitis could potentially "heal" a werewolf, but somehow in the actual writing of this idea, it felt trite and unrealistic.

The chapters were short and the writing was easy to understand so I can imagine a lot of teens will respond well to this book. The romance is also all consuming, which we all know is a huge draw for teens. I did like how even though the romance was overwhelming, eventually, Grace and Sam both acknowledge that they must also interact with the others around them and explain their relationship (in varying degrees).

Overall, though, I just did not love this book as much as I had thought I would. It was good, but it was not great.