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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy, Happy Holidays...and I'll See You in a Few Months

First off, I just wanted to wish you all: 


I hope that each of you have a very Merry Christmas, or whichever holiday you celebrate, and get to spend as much time as you'd like with your loved ones. 


Secondly, I need to announce that I will be taking a break from blogging. 
I've been feeling a little lethargic (as you might have noticed from the lack of recent posts) and I am going to take the months of January and February off so that I can decide if I just need a break or if maybe it's time to retire all together... 

So, anyway, have a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year and I'll see you in March!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Into the Fire

Into the Fire
Birth of the Phoenix, book one
by Ashelyn Drake

Seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman’s life is a perfectly normal one until Logan Schmidt moves to Ashlan Falls. Cara is inexplicably drawn to him, but she’s not exactly complaining. Logan’s like no boy she’s ever met, and he brings out a side of Cara that she isn’t used to. As the two get closer, everything is nearly perfect, and Cara looks forward to the future.

But Cara isn’t a normal girl. She’s a member of a small group of people descended from the mythical phoenix bird, and her time is running out. Rebirth is nearing, which means she’ll forget her life up to this point—she’ll forget Logan and everything they mean to one another.. But that may be the least of Cara’s problems.

A phoenix hunter is on the loose, and he’s determined to put an end to the lives of people like Cara and her family, once and for all.
  (Description from Goodreads.com)

This book sucked me in from page one.  It has a great opening scene that really sets you right into the heart of the story. I was fascinated by the concept of Cara and her family being Phoenixes and the way the lore hits their family... my heart ached for Cara and Jeremy!   

While I'm not usually a fan of insta-love at all, in this case, with the way that Cara's genetics affected things I got it.  The way that both she and Logan felt it but also wanted to resist it really made sense.  Drake did a great job with that. The deeper they got it, and the higher the stakes got, the more I found myself rooting for Cara's happiness, no matter where it came from.  

And when we find out who the hunter is...well, I knew something was up with this character, but I have to admit to still being shocked at the big reveal! Well done. I love not being able to guess the bad guy.

AND with where this book leaves us... HELLO CLIFFHANGER!!!... I cannot wait to read the next one.  

Full Disclosure: Review copy received from publisher

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Author Interview - Georgia Clark!

So, on Monday I reviewed Georgia Clark's new YA dystopia, Parched (check out my review here). Today, I'm lucky enough to welcome Georgia to the blog to answer a few questions! 

Photo from Georgia Clark's Goodreads page 












1. How long did it take you, from first spark of idea to final proofs to write your newest book, Parched?

I started working on Parched the year I moved to New York from Sydney: 2009, towards the end. I handed in the final manuscript to my publishers at the end of 2013. But I was working on it on and off, and the first draft barely resembles the final one. It took a long time, because I was basically teaching myself how to write a full-blown dystopian sci-fi as I went.

2. What kind of research did you do to write a book about a teen living in a domed city because the outside environment was considered unlivable?

I did a lot of research! I listened to podcasts about artificial intelligence, interviewed scientists and other experts, talked to smart friends, subscribed to Popular Science magazine, read similar YA titles etc etc. most of my research centered around AI and robotics, which I didn't know much about when I started working, but am somewhat of an expert in now. I've even given talks on it, here in Brooklyn!

3. If you could write a book under a pseudonym that no one would ever connect to you, are there any genres you would love to secretly explore?

The only topics I’d feel the need to secretly explore would be topics that would be risky for me. The very real danger that feminist journalists are getting into over #GamerGate is frightening, but so important they’re speaking up. So something like that. Everything else I’d slap my name on and yell it from the rooftops!

4. If you could cross one thing off your bucket list tomorrow, what would it be?

Assuming money was no object? I’d love to go scuba-diving in the Greek Isles. This would feed my fondness for sun, the ocean, and olive oil. I also really need to try the Salted Caramel ice cream at Blue Marble in Park Slope. I’ve heard it’s amazing.

Quick picks list:

Favorite vacation destination – The Amalfi Coast, Italy. My friends and I stayed in a 4-story, 400-year-old villa there for a week last summer. Thank you Air BnB! Truly spectacular part of the world.

Favorite childhood book – I inhaled Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone series. Classic YA fantasy. Also loved Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree series: fantastic, highly imaginative early chapter series.

Favorite writing snack food - Financier’s chocolate macaroons. Little slice of heaven, right there. I always spend ten minutes critically assessing every delicious-looking pastry in their display cabinet, then get the same thing every time.

Favorite clothing item - I have a great pair of beautiful tan leather boots I bought in Bologna, Italy, many years ago that are still going strong. And, like every Brookline, I have a khaki-green cotton parka that I basically live in.

Thank you so much, Georgia, for stopping by to visit today! 

Author Bio
I'm a young adult novelist with a weakness for hot nerds and cheese platters, not necessarily in that order. I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and spend a lot of time hanging out with improvisers and searching for the perfect pair of skinny jeans. I love Katniss, Katsa, Karou, Clary, Grace, Puck, Lena—you get the picture.

Places to Contact Georgia:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Brunette Ambition

Brunette Ambition 
by Lea Michele

Lea Michele is one of the hardest working performers in show business. Whether she’s starring as Rachel Berry on Glee, rocking a glamorous look on the red carpet, recording her solo album, or acting as the spokesperson for L’Oreal, Lea is the ultimate multi-tasker. She knows better than anyone that it is difficult to be your best self and keep things in perspective when your to-do list is overflowing and you are faced with challenges, so she’s developed a foolproof system for remaining healthy and centered. In Brunette Ambition, she reveals the lessons and advice that have worked for her--from beauty and fashion secrets to fitness tips, and career insights. Supplemented with never-before-seen photos and revealing anecdotes, it’s the book Lea wishes she’d had in her teens and early twenties: A practical and inspirational guide to harnessing tenacity and passion and living the fullest life, no matter what obstacles life puts in your way. (Description from Goodreads.com)

I like to flip through a lot of non-fiction "lifestyle" books.  I dabble in books on diet, fashion, and decor but I don't often truly read them from start to finish. When my friend Jen over at yabooknerd reviewed this one I was immediately curious and requested it through interlibrary loan. I was hesitant to let my hopes build up too much because I often find celebrity books to be either knowingly pretentious or to just be written as if we all had enough money and time to live as they do and thus, unknowingly unrealistic. 

I was pleasantly surprised that though, there were a few moments like that here, they were few and far between.  For the most part Lea Michele seems down to earth and the tips she gave and stories she shared seemed well chosen for a large audience.  I liked that she threw in tips on every part of a healthy and happy lifestyle - from loving yourself to choosing and cherishing good friends, to staying  healthy and stress-free, to looking and feeling great! It was not only a fun book to flip through, but one that I actually sat down and READ.  I even took it back to work and photocopied some of the exercise and recipe pages.  

A much better read than I'd anticipated. 

Full Disclosure: Borrowed through Interlibrary Loan

Monday, October 27, 2014

Parched

Parched 
by Georgia Clark

Sixteen-year-old Tess lived in Eden, a seemingly idyllic, domed city where access to information and water is regulated by the governing Trust. After a rogue robot killed her scientist mother, Tess fled with a terrible secret to the desperate, arid Badlands, where she’s recruited by Kudzu, explained to her as a “nonviolent collective working to undermine the Trust and free the Badlands.” Learning Kudzu plans to destroy Aevum, the Trust’s latest advanced robot, Tess reluctantly returns to Eden, where she finds the luxurious life morally unconscionable and secretly trains with Kudzu. Living with her uncle, who’s involved with Aevum, Tess is strangely attracted to his sympathetic assistant, Hunter. During a Kudzu raid on the Trust’s lab, Tess discovers that Aevum will be used to eradicate all inhabitants of the Badlands—and that Hunter’s not what he seems to be. (Description from Goodreads.com

Okay, the very fist thing I am going to say is don't judge this book by it's poorly chosen cover! I don't know who designed it but it is somewhat off-putting. It's very unfortunate, too, because I was hooked on this book from page one! 

Clark is gifted with the ability to set the atmosphere and settings for this book right from the start. I never doubted the desperation of the people starving in the Badlands. I could feel the searing heat and my lips got dry just reading the first section of the book.  Then, when Tess returns to the domed city of Eden, Clark makes the shift to opulent technological excess so smoothly and believably that I felt as if I was in Eden.  The technologies were also clearly based from our own making it very easy to imagine and understand how things were supposed to work in Eden.  

I really enjoyed Tess as the main character.  She had spunk like many other dystphoic heroines, but also was well-rounded in the sense that she seemed truly concerned about others in her society (because she had personal experience living the lives that they did...unlike some other heroines just thrown into their new leadership roles) and the new friends that she made in Eden.  She felt guilty if she put others in danger, she aimed to clean up her own mistakes, and she thought about how her actions would affect the future of her world.  She was determined and brave and also funny.  I rooted for her right from the start.  

This book also had a great sense of immediate danger, though it takes place over the passage of weeks.  Clark threw Tess and her compatriots into some very hairy situations and there were believable consequences.  I was happy to find in the end, though, that things worked out for at least a few of them the way that I'd hoped.  

A book that I flew through, unable to put down, and one that deserves more attention than it may get if not talked up by those who have read it! So...go read it! 

ALSO - STAY TUNED...I have an interview with the author, Georgia Clark, here on Wednesday! 

Full disclosure: Review copy received from Publisher 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Anxiously Awaiting (and a Cover Craving)...The Heir by Kiera Cass!

The Heir
by Kiera Cass
The Selection, book four

Release Date: May 5, 2015

Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won Prince Maxon’s heart. Now the time has come for Princess Eadlyn to hold a Selection of her own. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her Selection to be anything like her parents’ fairy-tale love story. But as the competition begins, she may discover that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she always thought. (Description from EW announcement article)

I am SO EXCITED that Kiera Cass and her publisher decided to turn The Selection trilogy into a longer series. The Heir will also be followed by a fifth book, which I assume will also feature Princess Eadlyn, but there's no real information about it out yet.  For now, I'm just stoked to read the start of her story...May cannot come fast enough! 

ANd...don't you just love the covers for this series? I am a total sucker for a gorgeous gown on the front cover and I love the way they use the mirrored reflections... 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ooh...Morganville: the Series is Finally Coming Out!

Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampire series was turned into a web TV series through a Kickstarter fund.  They finally released the trailer for the series today, and boy does it look good!



I think their casting of Claire looks spot-on and that's what I was the most worried about. I'm excited for it to start next week...will you be watching?

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar
by Kady Cross
Steampunk Chronicles, book two

In New York City, 1897, life has never been more thrilling-or dangerous Finley Jayne and her "straynge band of mysfits" have journeyed from London to America to rescue their friend Jasper from the clutches of a devious criminal demanding a trade-the dangerous device Jasper stole from him... for the life of the girl Jasper loves. 

One false move from Jasper, and the strange clockwork collar around Mei's neck tightens and tightens. From the rough streets of lower Manhattan to elegant Fifth Avenue, the motley crew of teens follows Jasper's elusive trail. And they're about to discover how far they'll go for friendship. 

More than ever, Finley must rely on powerful English duke Griffin King to balance her dark magic with her good side. Yet Griffin is at war with himself over his secret attraction to Finley... and will risk his life and reputation to save her. 

Now, to help those she's come to care for so deeply, Finley must infiltrate the criminal gang. Only problem is, she might like the dark side a little too much... (Description from Goodreads.com)

God, I need to catch up with this series! There's four books now and I'm JUST reading book two *facepalm*.  Not only do I love Kady Cross' (also known as Kate Locke, whose books I DEVOUR) writing, but these are such fun steampunk adventures.  

I really enjoyed not only getting to follow some more of Finlay's adventures, but also getting to learn more about some of the secondary characters, especially Jasper.  Learning more about his origins added a whole new layer to the series and I'd love to see even more of that in the other books...we'll have to see when I catch up! LOL.  There were new nuances to the romantic relationships in this follow-up, as well, which left me grinning and slightly swoony at times.  I can't wait to see Finlay and Griffin finally figure their relationship out!! 

I liked the jump over to America in this one.  I thought it let things sort of start fresh for a few people.  The addition of some key New York inhabitants had me grinning, and I longed to be there at that time (in this steampunk world, of course! I want to ride a dirrigible!!). A great read that has me scrambling to find time to read the next one... 

Full Disclosure: Borrowed from My Library 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Quickie Novella Review: Goddess in Time

Goddess in Time
by Tera Lynn Childs
Oh. My. Gods Novella 

As a descendant of Greek gods, Nicole has attended the Academy alongside other students with magical powers on a Greek island. Life is pretty perfect—except for the fact that she was sentenced to stay there because of a childhood prank that also resulted in her parents' banishment. When Nicole discovers a book that teaches the forbidden magic of time travel, she knows she must take a chance to right her wrong. With the help of her friends Troy and Phoebe, Nicole sets off on a quest that will take her from the heights of Mt. Olympus to the ocean depths of Poseidon's home and to the bowels of Hades. Can she mend her mistakes? And is changing the past, what she really wants? The past and future combine in thrilling, unpredictable ways—especially when Greek gods are involved! (Description from Goodreads.com)

I was so happy when I finally got to read Nicole's story! Not knowing who her Greek God ancestor was had been driving me crazy with speculation. I loved who it turned out to be, too. Very clever TLC, very clever. It was neat to read a whole story from Nicole's perspective, too. It really fleshed her out into more of a fully-faceted character and made me feel more for her.  I truly loved diving back into this world and my only complaint was that this novella was too short! I hope there's more coming soon!! 

Full Disclosure: Purchased for my Nook 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park
by Rainbow Rowell

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
(Description from Goodreads.com)

I'm not sure if it's because I read FANGIRL first, or if I just connected more to the main character in that novel, or if it's because I just didn't "live" through the 80s, having been too young to really feel most of the culture of that time, but I didn't have the same overwhelmingly overawed reaction to this book that a lot of people did.  

I enjoyed it.  Rowell is a great writer. I really like how well she can craft a fully fledged character that feels as if I could meet him or her on the street.  I like that each one of her books is different...they take place in different settings and times, and yet, they have a similar feel to them. I know that Rowell wrote them.  

While I didn't love the setting of this book, I found it very believable. This book really felt like it was set in and embraced the 80s.  As I mentioned, I was just a peanut in the 80s so I don't have the same nostalgic connection to it that some older readers might, but I can remember the early 90s pretty well and some things felt eerily similar.  

I think what I liked the most about this book, though, was Park.  Eleanor was a fun and interesting character, but I LOVED Park...and I loved the way that Rowell described him. Here you really felt not only that Eleanor liked Park for his personality, but also that she really and truly wanted him.  Her descriptions of Park's skin as melted honey were truly evocative.  It wasn't just the way that Eleanor viewed him, though, either...Park was a fascinating character in his own right - flawed as any teenage boy would be, but also strong and brave and true.  The book almost broke my heart on Park's behalf, but thankfully Rowell left things in a way that left me satisfied at the end. 

As I said, not my favorite Rowell title, but well worth reading anyway. 

Full Disclosure: Audiobook borrowed from my Library

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After

Isla and the Happily Ever After 
by Stephanie Perkins
Anna and the French Kiss, book three

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart. (Description from Goodreads.com)

Though my favorite book in this trilogy is still Lola and the Boy Next Door (go Cricket!!), I sincerely recommend this series, any book in the series, ALL the books in the series, to anyone looking for a romantic and joyous read.  

Each book has it's very serious moments, because no real relationship is all sunshine and roses, but you can have confidence that things will work out beautifully in the end.  There's realism and the type of romance we all hope and dream of here. In fact, while  this book focuses primarily on Isla and Josh's romance, the cameos that Anna, Etienne, Lola, and Cricket make are fabulous...and the final reason for their trip to France will leave readers of the entire series beaming! I shed a few happy tears myself. 

What I love best about Perkins' books is that ability to give me as the reader both a light, yet serious read.  The knowledge that there will certainly be sigh-worthy moments, but also ones that will reflect my own life, my own journey to figuring out not only who I was/am as a person, but what I wanted in life.  The questions that I had to answer to find (and keep) the love of my life.  You can feel the full and complex nature of Perkins' characters, relate to them, and cheer them on as they make their major life choices.  

Wonderfully done.  I wish there were more coming, but I will definitely read whatever Stephanie Perkins does next. 

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my Library 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Accidental Highwayman

The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides
by Ben Tripp

In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.

Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….
(Description from Goodreads.com)

The press for this book has firmly compared it to The Princess Bride by William Goldman and I cannot help but agree.  This book has the same fun, adventurous, and romantic spirit as The Princess Bride.  The main character, Kit, is both bumbling and sincere, thrust into a situation that puts him in great peril, but he steps up and becomes the hero that we all wish we could be...a true gentleman rogue. 

With swashbuckling runs from soldiers, amazingly magical escapes from malevolent fairies, and fun friendships with unique characters developed along the way, The Accidental Highwayman was a quick, fun read.  I loved not only Kit and the perilous position that he finds himself in, but the characters, and yes, love interest, that he meets along his journey.  I'm really looking forward to seeing where he's led next, because, of course, the book leaves poor Kit staring right into the maw of his next dangerous adventure... 

As a small aside, the author, Ben Tripp, is the son of the illustrator for the Amelia Bedelia series. The illustrations that he adds to The Accidental Highwayman are perfectly matched to the text.  

Full disclosure: Review copy received from Publisher

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Gold Star Interview: Barbara Dee!

Hello All! 

As you all know, when I LURVE a book, I give it a Gold Star Review here. Well, to liven up the blog a little, I'm going to (try to) interview the author of each book that receives a coveted Gold Star! I hope you'll enjoy these quick, little interviews. :D

Today I'm excited to have Barbara Dee here to talk about my latest GOLD STAR review book, THE (ALMOST) PERFECT GUIDE TO IMPERFECT BOYS! You can find my Gold Star Review from yesterday here.

Photograph by Randy Matusow
Welcome Barbara! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I have just a couple quick, fun questions for you:

1. How long did it take you, from first spark of idea to final proofs to write your newest book, The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys?

This book has a funny history, actually. I wrote the first fifty pages of IMPERFECT BOYS in a couple of months, liked what I had, but was stuck. Then a friend who used to be an editor urged me to try writing a series. Since I had writers' block anyway, I thought I'd give it a shot. I worked for several months, but developing a plot that would span a number of books was harder than I'd imagined, and I could tell my writing was forced. Unfunny. Uninspired.

Finally I met my agent for lunch. She asked me what I was working on, and when I told her about the series, she just nibbled her salad. "Working on anything else?" she asked politely. I told her about those first fifty pages of IMPERFECT BOYS, and her eyes lit up. "That's your book," she said. But I was stuck, I protested. We agreed I'd scribble some ideas, and then brainstorm together. And maybe because I felt I was just "scribbling," I sat down and wrote the rest of the draft in about 5 weeks.

Two lessons from this experience. One: If you're stuck, let your manuscript breathe. Turn to another project, and then circle back to it when you're ready. Taking a break is NOT an admission of defeat.

Two: It's good to stretch, but don't feel pressure to write something that doesn't feel right, or that isn't fun for you. Maybe I'll try writing series fiction some day, but right now, it's not for me. And that's okay.

2. I really like the way that you were able to take a concept like the difference between boys and girls at the middle school age and seemingly encapsulate it within a scientific theory. It's both charming and makes the girls seem smart...and a little precocious. How did you come up with that idea?

It came to me one day when I was attending my daughter's eighth grade chorus concert. The girls sounded great, but the boys--well, let's just say they were a mixed bag of sopranos, tenors, basses and croaks. And I thought: how tough for these boys to be onstage, under a glaring spotlight, at such an awkward stage of development! They seemed like tadpoles developing frog legs right in front of your eyes! How could any girl "like" these half-tadpole/half-frog creatures? I started thinking about how I felt when I was in eighth grade, how I looked down on my silly, immature male classmates-- until I realized I hadn't figured them out as well as I'd thought. And that's what started me on the road to IMPERFECT BOYS.

3. If you could write a book under a pseudonym that no one would ever connect to you, are there any genres you would love to secretly explore?

I'd love to write a really juicy, gossipy novel about my small town. But yes, I'd need that pseudonym, or I'd have to move!

4. If you could cross one thing off your bucket list tomorrow, what would it be?

To learn how to play the piano.

5. Quick picks list:
Favorite vacation destination
- Italy
Favorite childhood book - Harriet the Spy
Favorite writing snack food - Cookies and fruit. It's fall now, so apples!
Favorite clothing item - A pair of cashmere socks I splurged on a few years ago. They're pretty worn now, but still warm and comfy. If you want to treat yourself, I highly recommend cashmere socks--great for walking your dog in cold weather!

Thank you so much, Barbara, for letting me interview you. It was a pleasure! 

For more information about Barbara and her books, check out her website at http://barbaradeebooks.com/. You can find info about her newest book, THE (ALMOST) PERFECT GUIDE TO IMPERFECT BOYS at Goodreads.com

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Gold Star Review: The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys

The (Almost) Perfect Guide to 
Imperfect Boys 
by Barbara Dee

According to Finley and her BFF, Maya, middle school boys can be put into three separate categories: tadpoles, croakers, and frogs. Per their official Life Cycle of Amphibian Boys, while tadpoles are totally not developed yet (read: boys who still love fart jokes and can't have a normal conversation with girls without making fun of them), a frog is the top of the boy food chain--evolved and mature. Sadly, not many boys have reached that elusive frog status at Staunton Middle School.

Finley thought she had everyone pegged, until Zachary Mattison enters the picture. After suddenly leaving the year before, Zachary's surprise reappearance at SMS forces Finley to see him in a new light. And when the official life cycle list falls into the wrong hands, it causes a battle between the boys and girls that turns into an all-out war--one that Finley isn't sure anyone can really win...
(Description from Goodreads.com

I love Barbara Dee's middle grade books.  I have fun reading them and as a Librarian I love to recommend them.  Let me tell you why: 

As a reader, I think that Barbara Dee has an uncanny knack for capturing middle school behavior in a fun and engaging way.  The characters are so relatable to both the middle schoolers that I meet now and to how I recall my middle school years.  The focus on friendship and smarts make me smile and there's the hint of romance but not in an overwhelming way.  Her books are all just FUN to read. And, in this one in particular, there's an awesome School Librarian - so, ummm...yeah. LOVE. 

As a Librarian, I find so many themes that I can use to help recommend her books to other readers. In this book, Finley and Maya are struggling to understand the way that the boys in their lives are maturing and how that affects their relationships with them.  They use science to help them explain the things they observe.  Though the main plot of the book revolves around their "Life Cycle," what I really loved was Finley's relationships with the other people in her life.  This is a book that I can confidently hand to readers looking for a friendship book, or a book with stellar parental examples. The way that her mother interacts with not only Finley, but also her friends... so great. 

Dee also builds up each of the girls into smart, talented characters who are NOT boy-crazy, just experiencing the normal blossoming interest in dating. These girls truly care about their academic success and their individual hobbies.  I loved the way Finley starts to really think about her photography as true art and not just snapping photos of friends.  The boys admire the girls in Dee's books for being who they are, not just because they're cute and I wish we had more and more books that we could hand to readers at this age that puts that point forward as the way things should be... 

To this fun and engaging middle grade read I grant a GOLD STAR. 












Don't forget to check back tomorrow when I have a fun interview with the author, Barbara Dee!

Full disclosure: Review copy received from Publisher

Monday, September 29, 2014

Novella Review: In the Storm

In the Storm 
by Karen Metcalf

Abandoned by the world around her, Carly believes she is fated to a life of torment at the hands of her stepfather and is desperate for an escape. When she can bear the abuse no longer and gives in to a thunderous rage, she suddenly finds herself in an unfamiliar, yet beautiful, storm world. This limbo between dimensions appears to be her private sanctuary, but it may just be her purgatory.

No one escapes fate without sacrifice, but is the price more than Carly is willing to pay? (Description from Goodreads.com)

This novella captures an intriguing premise.  Carly, trying to escape the horror of her abusive life, takes refuge in another world...only to find that even that haven may not be the wondrous place she'd hoped. Her one salvation may be the mysterious boy who seems to care more for her happiness than anything else in any of the existing worlds. 

Though this novella tackles a tough topic - physical abuse - Metcalf does a good job of creating scenes that are not too graphically violent, yet still keep readers on the edge.  Language can get a little rough, but that's to be expected when dealing with a horrific situation like the one that Carly can't seem to escape.  Metcalf's greatest strength, though, is the way that she weaves hope through the story and finally gives Carly a little peek into what may be a better future ahead.  

A quick, evocative read. Some readers may not like the subject matter, but in general things are handled well and with its short length the emotional toll to readers shouldn't be too overwhelming. 

Full disclosure: Review copy received from Author

Friday, September 26, 2014

Anxiously Awaiting... The Vanishing Throne!

So, not too long ago I posted my slightly gushy Gold Star review of Elizabeth May's The Falconer. Well, today Elizabeth posted the title and cover (UK) of the sequel THE VANISHING THRONE.

I am BEYOND excited for this one... I'm just sad we still have to wait so long for it!!

The Vanishing Throne 
by Elizabeth May
The Falconer, book two

Publication date: Sept 17, 2015 

My name is Lady Aileana Kameron.

First the fae murdered my mother. Then they destroyed my world.

Now I’m fighting for more than revenge.

Aileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her friends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility. But when she gets her chance, she seizes it . . . to rejoin a world devastated by war.

The future is bleak. Hunted by the fae, running for her life, Aileana has only a few options left. Trying to become part of a society scarred by – and hiding from – the Wild Hunt; trusting that a fragile alliance with the fae will save her; or walking the most dangerous path at all: coming in to her own powers as the last of the Falconers . . .
(Description from Elizabeth May's website)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gold Star Review: The Expeditioners and the Secret of King Triton's Lair

The Expeditioners and the Secret of King Triton's Lair
by S. S. Taylor
illustrated by Katherine Roy
The Expeditioners, book two

Kit, Zander, and M. K. West are settling into their new lives as students at the Academy for the Exploratory Sciences when Kit finds another mysterious map left for him by their father, the brilliant, famous — and presumed dead — explorer Alexander West. Why did Alexander leave the maps behind, and why are government agents so determined to seize them? What is really going on in a mysterious and unknown stretch of the Caribbean, famous for its violent storms and shipwrecks? And what is the huge contraption M. K. is building in her workshop? As two world powers come to the brink of war, Kit must find a deadly hidden island and unlock its secrets, hoping he has the courage to follow the trail of maps, wherever it may lead. (Description from goodreads.com

When I was able to interview author Sarah (S.S.) Taylor a few weeks ago, I believe I reminded you all exactly how stoked I was to get a signed ARC of this book at BEA this year! I really truly love this middle grade steampunk adventure series.  I am excited to report that book two absolutely lived up to my expectations and I'm now going to be waiting even more anxiously for the next book in the series. 

While book one introduced the West siblings and their friend Sukey, here in book two we discover that perhaps all their fates are not as entwined as they'd originally thought.  As they are learning their own strengths and weaknesses, they are also trying desperately to live up to each others' expectations, and those of the adults structuring the world around them.  They are still hunting for the truth about their father's disappearance and are finding strife with one another along the way.  

I found the new tension among the siblings to be both heartbreaking and utterly realistic.  They are in a world that seems to be stacked against them, danger at every turn, and now with their country on the brink of war, the Wests must stick together, and struggle to trust one another again.  They've gained new friends and new enemies, and they've discovered new and exciting places.  Their lives keep changing at a breakneck pace and I can't help but be pulled right into their story. 

With lots of fun new gadgets, intriguing new species and undiscovered lands, a great new mystery with a VERY enticing destiny planned for Kit, especially, I thought this was a marvelous addition to the series.  I cannot wait to see the Wests' adventure continue! 

A shiny gold star for a wonderful book!












Full disclosure: Signed ARC received at BEA 2014, Finished copy received from Publisher

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Author Interview - Heather Hildenbrand!

Do you remember when I posted my review of Imitation at the beginning of September?  The really cool book about clones being used for replacement parts, or as body doubles, or in Ven's case, as...bait.... well today I have the author, Heather Hildenbrand as my special guest on the blog!

Mini Biography:
Heather Hildenbrand is the bestselling author of the Dirty Blood series and the epic sci-fi adventure Imitation. She was born and raised in a small town in northern Virginia where she was home-schooled through high school. She’s only slightly socially awkward as a result. Since 2011, she’s published more than eight YA & NA novels.

Heather splits her time between coastal Virginia and the island of Guam and loves having a mobile career and outrageous lifestyle of living in two places. Her most frequent hobbies are riding motorcycles and avoiding killer slugs. [Taken from Alloy Entertainment]
Heather graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her writing and Imitation for me today.  So, here we go:
1. How long did it take you, from first spark of idea to final proofs to write your newest book, Imitation?

Well, originally, it took about 3 months and then in March 2013, I self-published it. The version you’re reading now is a slightly tweaked/changed story from the original. The changes I made this time around (when I signed it with my publisher) took about 3 months again.

2. I know that Imitation deals with clones and organ donation. What type of research did you do for this book?

I googled cloning and checked out books from the library. I didn’t go too far in detail with the science of it because, frankly, it boggles my mind and I don’t understand things like split chromosomes and such. But I think it’s VERY interesting that the technology for something like this already exists. But our laws prevent it currently. Hmm. What if …

3. If you could write a book under a pseudonym that no one would ever connect to you, are there any genres you would love to secretly explore?

Oh I don’t know about that. I wrote a New Adult last year with some sexy scenes that go all the way and it was so hard for me! All I could think about was Your mother will read this! So I think I’m good for now. 

4. If you could cross one thing off your bucket list tomorrow, what would it be?

Riding an elephant!!! It’s definitely on the list for 2015!

5. Quick Picks List:
Favorite vacation destination- out of places I’ve been, Dominican Republic. Out of places I want to go, Thailand.
Favorite childhood book- A Hole is to Dig. Or Harold and the Purple Crayon.
Favorite writing snack food- Peanut M&Ms.
Favorite clothing item- Boots! (and jeans)

As I mentioned before, I love thinking about all the nuances and ramifications that arise from cloning.  The ethical issues, the potential good... and bad that can be done.  I find it fascinating! Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to answer my questions, Heather. I really appreciate it.  

For all of you, if you'd like more info on Heather you can check out her blogFacebook, or Twitter.  For more info on Imitation, you can check out Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Author Interview - S. S. Taylor!!

So, last year I gushed over the first book in a fabulous middle grade steampunk adventure series, The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon. I was SUPER excited to get a signed preview copy of the next book at the 2014 Book Expo in New York.  I was even MORE excited to meet author, S. S. Taylor, and illustrator, Katherine Roy.











They were both super sweet and I couldn't express to them how excited I was for the second book! Today, I get to share with you an interview that I did with Sarah [S. S.] to see if I can't get you almost as excited about the upcoming second book, The Expeditioners and the Secret of King Triton's Lair, which comes out September 23rd!

1. How long did it take you, from first spark of idea to final proofs to write your newest book, The Expeditioners and the Secret of King Triton's Lair?

It’s hard to say with the second book in a series because on some level, I was thinking about this book the whole time I was writing The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon. But I suppose that it was about a year and a bit from the time I started working on it in earnest to those final page proofs. I did a lot of revision on this book. Structure and character development seemed especially important in a second series book and I really wanted to get it right.


2. I love the steampunk aspect of this adventure series, did you purposely set out to create that vibe in the books or did it just naturally evolve that way?

I knew I wanted to set this series in a world where archaic technologies were the norm and I could play with some of the visual trappings of Steampunk, but I didn’t necessarily set out to write a book within the genre. As I worked on it and learned more about the world I was creating, it sort of evolved into something that looked more Steampunky every day. I’ve really had fun with that part of it.

3. If you could write a book under a pseudonym that no one would ever connect to you, are there any genres you would love to secretly explore?

I don’t know that I would even need to use a pseudonym, but I’m kind of obsessed with spy fiction. I’d love to write a spy novel. The third Expeditioners novel actually has a little bit of espionage going on, so I’m getting to do as part of the series and I don’t even have to hide my identity!

4. If you could cross one thing off your bucket list tomorrow, what would it be?

I couldn’t cross it off in one day, but one of my personal bucket list items is hiking the Appalachian Trail.

5. Quick picks list:
Favorite vacation destination – I went to graduate school and lived in Ireland for a couple of years in my twenties and boy do I love that country. I never get tired of visiting there and discovering new things about Irish history and culture.
Favorite childhood book – I loved The Secret Garden. I went back to it over and over again.
Favorite writing snack food – Chocolate. Dark. That is all.
Favorite clothing item – I have a tweed walking cape that I adore, though I’m trying to figure out how to pull it off on a daily basis. It still gets me some strange looks at school pick-up or the supermarket, but when I wear it I feel adventurous and dramatic.

Thank you SO much, Sarah, for stopping by the blog and answering my questions.  

Sarah Stewart Taylor has been fascinated by maps ever since the age of 10, when she discovered an error on a map of her neighborhood and wondered if it was really a mistake. She has a strong interest in books of all kinds, expeditions, old libraries, mysterious situations, long-hidden secrets, missing explorers, and traveling to known and unknown places. She lives in Vermont.

This was absolutely one of the top five books that I HAD to get at BEA this year. I cannot wait to share my review with you in a couple of weeks.  Stay tuned and in the meantime, check out book one!!!!! 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fangirl

Fangirl
by Rainbow Rowell

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan... But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? 
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind? (Description from Goodreads.com

As a fangirl, myself...though I don't write fanfiction...I really loved and connected to Cath.  Not only did I love her geeking out and feeling compelled to be an active part of the fandom, but I also really connected to her as I remembered what it was like to start college.  Thank goodness I met my friends, now my best friends, in the dorms in the first few months, and just like Raegan pulled Cath out of her room and made her interact, my friends encouraged me to do the same.  Without them, my college experience could have been totally different. Quiet, full of nothing but homework, boring... 

This is actually the first Rainbow Rowell book that I've read and I really enjoyed it.  It was sweet and well done in its own right and then had all these nods to fandoms that added an extra layer of fun.  My only complaints were that A - We don't actually get to read "Carry On, Simon" now and B - That even though the fictitious author makes a slight nod to Cath's fanfiction in basically refuting it, there wasn't a more direct sort of acknowledgment of all her hard work.  I know it's not realistic, but honestly I would have loved if Gemma had actually acknowledged Cath in some fashion... 

Now, I REALLY need to read Eleanor and Park, which I've heard is EVEN better! 

Full disclosure: Audio Book borrowed from my Library, eBook purchased for my Nook

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Gold Star Review: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet
by Bernie Su and Kate Rodrick

Based on the Emmy Award–winning YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Twenty‑four‑year‑old grad student Lizzie Bennet is saddled with student loan debt and still living at home along with her two sisters—beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. When she records her reflections on life for her thesis project and posts them on YouTube, she has no idea The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will soon take on a life of their own, turning the Bennet sisters into internet celebrities seemingly overnight.

When rich and handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck‑up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets—and for Lizzie’s viewers. But not everything happens on‑screen. Lucky for us, Lizzie has a secret diary.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet takes readers deep inside Lizzie’s world and well beyond the confines of her camera—from the wedding where she first meets William Darcy to the local hangout of Carter’s bar, and much more. Lizzie’s private musings are filled with revealing details about the Bennet household, including her growing suspicions about her parents’ unstable financial situation, her sister’s budding relationship with Bing Lee, the perils of her unexpected fame, and her uncertainty over her future—and whom she wants to share it with.
(Description from Goodreads.com


I cannot tell you how perfectly I think that Bernie Su and his team reimagined Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Oh, wait...LOL...when I was desperately binging, I mean catching up on, the Emmy Award winning web series I wrote this gushy post. Then when I heard that they were writing a companion book, I immediately added it to my "I WILL READ THIS IMMEDIATELY WHEN IT COMES OUT" list...which I almost did.  I was bound and determined that I would read this one just for fun and I was not at all disappointed! 

In fact, I was delighted beyond my initial expectations.  Su and Rorick cleverly added even more layers to the story they initially presented to viewers online.  They fleshed out the story through Lizzie's diary and there were moments there that referenced the things we got to see on video, but they built a new story that could just be taken in through this format alone.  In other words, they created perfection AGAIN! *love, love, love, love*  

I felt as if I was revisiting old friends and experiencing their story in a whole new way.  I went back and rewatched some of the videos to see the story with these added bits to flesh things out even more between videos.  

When I saw a very teasing bit in the interview at the end stating that there might be the chance of even more of Lizzie and Darcy's story, my eyes filled with tears...I couldn't help it. I'm so excited.  Whether it's a book or more videos or something in a completely different format once again...I will be there when it debuts. I will happily, greedily gobble it up. No matter what! 

GOLD STAR - BAM!
 




 

 




Full disclosure:Borrowed from my Library (though I'll be buying this one with my next gift card, for sure!)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Island of Excess Love

The Island of Excess Love
by Francesca Lia Block
Love in the Time of Global Warming
book two

Pen has lost her parents. She’s lost her eye. But she has fought Kronen; she has won back her fragile friends and her beloved brother. Now Pen, Hex, Ash, Ez, and Venice are living in the pink house by the sea, getting by on hard work, companionship, and dreams. Until the day a foreboding ship appears in the harbor across from their home. As soon as the ship arrives, they all start having strange visions of destruction and violence. Trance-like, they head for the ship and their new battles begin. (Description from Goodreads.com

I have to admit that I have not read book one in this trilogy, Love in the Time of Global Warming. It's been on my list of things to read, but I just somehow have not made the time. I've actually never read anything by Francesca Lia Bloc., though I've heard she writes beautifully.  The one other book of hers that I tried to pick up a few years ago didn't really hit me the right way then, but I really enjoyed this one. 

I think because I'm already predisposed to like this series.  I love post-apocalyptic worlds and I love re-imaginings of classical works.  This book which is based from Virgil's The Aeneid, follows the heroine, Pen, who has finally been reunited with her friends and family in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Having had a few months of peace, the last thing Pen wants is to leave her comfortable and familiar surroundings.  When safety is no longer guaranteed, though, the group must flee, and unfortunately, they end up having to go on a ship that is cursed, leaving them all under the effects of a wicked spell. 

Relationships start to break down as reality and fantasy become indistinguishable. Danger and impending death seem to loom around every corner.  So, when they wash up on the Island of Love and meet its generous and benevolent King, Pen, her brother, and most of their friends happily accept his hospitality.  Pen's lover, Hex, though sees how the King covets Pen and tries to dissuade them, eventually becoming the epicenter of a fissure in their group brought on by an epic betrayal.  

Though I had not read the first book which tells the story of how these characters came together, it still broke my heart as things starting pulling them apart.  Block writes so evocatively...her word choices are haunting and beautiful... I'm not sure another author would have been able to write this book so well.  I'm anxious now to go back and read the first book and I'll definitely be looking to read the final chapter of Pen's story. 

Full disclosure: Audio book received to review for AudioFile 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Imitation

Imitation
by Heather Hildenbrand
Clone Chronicles, book one  

Everyone is exactly like me. There is no one like me.

Ven wrestles with these contradicting truths every day. A clone of wealthy eighteen-year-old Raven Rogen, Ven knows everything about the girl she was created to serve: the clothes she wears, the boys she loves, the friends she loves to hate. Yet she’s never met the Authentic Raven face-to-face.

Imitations like Ven only get to leave the lab when they’re needed—to replace a dead Authentic, donate an organ, or complete a specific mission. And Raven has never needed Ven . . . until now.

When there is an attack on Raven’s life, Ven is thrust into the real world, posing as Raven to draw out the people who tried to harm her. But as Ven dives deeper into Raven’s world, she begins to question everything she was ever told. She exists for Raven, but is she prepared to sacrifice herself for a girl she’s never met?
(Description from Goodreads.com

Gosh, do I love science fiction books about clones...yes, yes, I do! All you need to do to get me to read a book is to dangle the fact that it's about teenage clones in front of me and I'll pick it up in a heartbeat.  There is just something so shiver-inducing about the fact that we're so close to these scenarios in real life - it creeps me out in a way that pure horror stories really can't.

I love contemplating the ethics of cloning.  The idea behind it is usually altruistic and worthwhile - organ replacement, etc.  When you factor in, though, that you are creating a human being, one who will be walking, talking, thinking, and feeling..that's when things get truly interesting.  Could you kill someone - a thinking, feeling someone - to save the life of someone else that you loved?  What if they had been created solely for that purpose?  Is it right?

Poor Ven.  She was created to be whatever Raven Rogen needed.  An organ donor, a temporary body double - but is asking her to be bait for attempted kidnappers/assassins too much?  Heck yeah! I loved the way that Hildenbrand set this novel up so that you slowly discovered things about it as Ven went into the "real world."  There were lots of surprises, even amid the tropes you knew to expect because the story wouldn't work without them.  Having to speculate about who might or might not be an Imitation and who might or might not want to grab Raven or Ven and why... I was on the edge of my seat for a good portion of this book!  

In fact, as I was trying to contain my drool over the fabulous and quite swoony bodyguard, Linc, I just found myself becoming more and more intrigued with the larger story in Ven's world.  What exactly is the true purpose of Titus Rogen's creating the Imitations? Will Ven ever truly be able to escape? Who can she truly trust?

I cannot wait to see where things head in the next book... So, if you're as intrigued as I am...keep an eye on the blog because pretty soon I'll be hosting an interview with author Heather Hildenbrand right here! 

Full disclosure: eARC received from Netgalley, eBook purchased for my Kindle App 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Sassy and Sexy Romance Party is Tonight!

So tonight (from 4 - 8 pm Pacific Time) two great authors are celebrating the release of their newest books with a SASSY AND SEXY ROMANCE PARTY on Facebook! Sounds like so much fun...great books to discuss, great people to chat with, and of course...prizes. *grins*










Just look at this lineup!

Join romance authors Tera Lynn Childs and Crystal Perkins and a whole crew of author friends for fun and games to celebrate the releases or Trying Texas (City Chicks #3) and Creating A Love (Griffin Brothers #3). Hang out and discuss sassy heroines and sexy heroes with Diane Alberts/Jen McLaughlin, Sawyer Bennett, Marissa Clarke, Karina Cooper, Shana Galen, Codi Gary, Chris Marie Green, Sophie Jordan, Emily McKay, Alison Packard, and Tracy Wolff.

Tentative schedule as follows:
4:00 Welcome with Crystal and Tera
4:20 Diane Alberts/Jen McLaughlin
4:40 Sawyer Bennett
5:00 Marissa Clarke
5:20 Karina Cooper
5:40 Shana Galen
6:00 Codi Gary
6:20 Chris Marie Green
6:40 Sophie Jordan
7:00 Emily McKay
7:20 Alison Packard
7:40 Tracy Wolff
8:00 Farewell with Crystal and Tera

They're also giving away a full set of Tera's amazing City Chicks series and Crystal's Griffin Brothers' books!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

So....you should check out the party tonight at https://www.facebook.com/events/487586761385175/, but even if you can't, I really recommend you check out Tera and Crystal through social media...and, of course, read the books! LOL

Places to find Tera and Trying Texas:
Her website
On Twitter 
On Facebook
Trying Texas on GoodReads

Places to find Crystal and Creating a Love:
Her website
On Twitter
On Facebook
Creating a Love on GoodReads
Creating a Love on Amazon