Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Wrap Up


Once again, the month just flew past. February is gone as of today (Happy Leap Day!) and now it's on to March and everything that it brings along with it. Spring is almost here!

Without further ado, here is what my reading looked like this month.
(* = counted last month)


Books reviewed in February:
Illumine by Alivia Anders - Review (3/5) *
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley - Review (5/5) *
Draykon by Charlotte E. English - Review (4/5)
Phantom Universe (Summer Chronicles #1) by Laura Kreitzer - Review (3/5)
Forsaken Harbor (Summer Chronicles #2) by Laura Kreizter - Review (4/5)
Slipping Reality by Emily Beaver - Review (3/5)
The Nightmare Garden by Caitlin Kitteredge - Review (4/5)
Trafficked by Kim Purcell - Review (4/5)
Life Eternal by Yvonne Woon - Review (4/5)
Undertow by Callie Kingston - Review (4/5)
Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tsavelas - Review (4/5)
The Value of Rain by Brandon Shire - Review (4/5)
Partials by Dan Wells - Review (3/5)
**(Children's Book Review) Up Cat by Hazel Hutchins - Review  (4/5)

Total books reviewed in February: 14


Books read in February but not reviewed:
Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwaser


Total books read in 2012: 28
Goal Progress: 28 books read of 150 (19%)


I'm actually a little ahead of myself, which is great! Especially since February was a shorter month. I'm right on track for my reading goal!

Favorite book of February? Graffiti Moon without a doubt. Definitely give it a shot!

How did your reading month go? Shout out in the comments!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Children's Book Review: Up Cat



Title: Up Cat
Author: Hazel Hutchins
Illustrator: Fanny
Publisher: Annick Press
Pages: Board Book; 26
Source: NetGalley
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Recommended to:
Parents looking for read that promotes new vocabulary and easy repetition of those new words.

Difficulty Level: 
Easy, with a few more advanced words thrown in (i.e., snarled).

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
You’d be surprised at what a cat gets up to all day!
A cat can get tangled up in all kinds of fun and mischief between wake-up time and nap time. Follow along with the playful text as Cat laps up milk, messes up the house, gets up to no good, stands up to a visiting dog, and finally curls up for a nap in the sun.

The expressive, energetic illustrations against simple backgrounds mirror the spare but rhythmic text that teaches about “up” actions while leading the reader through a day in the life of a cat.

Hazel Hutchins presents an adorable look into the day of a cat in Up Cat. This mischievous little cat performs all sorts of actions that center around the word "UP". Since this was a vocabulary word that my kindergartners were focusing on, I thought that this would be a great addition to their week. They were enamored by the bright colors, the sweet illustrations, and the easy to read words on every page. In kid terms, this was a favorite!

From a teacher aspect, I loved the addition of some tougher words into the book. Teaching words like "snarled" is much easier when there are bright and fun illustrations that accompany them. If I had one wish, it would be that this book was a few pages longer. Still, as an easy reader, this book is fantastic! The repetition makes it easy for students to learn to read it on their own very quickly.

Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, February 27, 2012

This or That? with Julie from Pieces of Us



Visiting the blog today is Margie Gelbwaser, author of Pieces of Us. She is here to promote her new book and to share with her readers a look into the character Julie. If you haven't already read Pieces of Us, I can tell you that the characters are very complex. It's nice to get to see a little bit more into the mind of Julie!

Two families. Four teens.
A summer full of secrets.

Every summer, hidden away in a lakeside community in upstate New York, four teens leave behind their old identities…and escape from their everyday lives.

Yet back in Philadelphia during the school year, Alex cannot suppress his anger at his father (who killed himself), his mother (whom he blames for it), and the girls who give it up too easily. His younger brother, Kyle, is angry too—at his abusive brother, and at their mother who doesn’t seem to care. Meanwhile, in suburban New Jersey, Katie plays the role of Miss Perfect while trying to forget the nightmare that changed her life. But Julie, her younger sister, sees Katie only as everything she’s not. And their mother will never let Julie forget it.

Up at the lake, they can be anything, anyone. Free. But then Katie’s secret gets out, forcing each of them to face reality—before it tears them to pieces.

Here's a short and sweet This or That interview with Julie from Pieces of Us.



Cake or Pie? Cake, pie, candy, all please! Just don't let Mama see or she'll have a fit.

Shoes or Sandals? Sneakers

Running or Walking? Walking—as long as it's not speed walking

Musing or Pondering? Cogitate. That's a good word and was on last week's vocab list.

Handwritten Letters or Emails? Letters. You can always rip up a letter. E-mails find a way to come back.

Chocolate or Fruit Candy? Fruit candy? Is that like fruit is nature's candy? Have you been talking to my mom?

Manicure or Pedicure? Neither. I'm not Katie.

Nonfiction or Fiction? Take your pick. The more complex the better.


Writing Julie:
Sibling relationships are complicated, which is why I have never included siblings in my novels before. But with PIECES OF US, when I thought about Katie, Julie was always there. I also always knew there was some contention between them. I saw Katie as their mother's favorite. In an early draft, even Julie and Katie's father didn't stand up for Julie, but as the drafts evolved, so did this. What I didn't foresee was Julie's transformation into an ugly person. I knew there were issues, but I didn't know the role she would play in Katie's downfall or how her own needs would overshadow others'. To be honest, she is actually my least favorite character in the book because I feel she is the only one who knows what she's doing is wrong and does it anyway. Alex is terrible, yes, but he thinks differently. Julie has a conscience and chooses to ignore it.


Margie Gelbwasser is the author of INCONVENIENT, published by Flux in November 2010. INCONVENIENT, named a 2011 Notable Book for Teens by the Sydney Taylor Awards Committee, tells the story of Alyssa Bondar. Alyssa must cope with an alcoholic mother, tuned-out dad, first boyfriend, and end of a long friendship. Margie's next novel, PIECES OF US, is told in 4 POV (one of them second) and deals with cyber-bullying, abuse, and how each teen's secrets affect the other 3. It will be published by Flux March 8, 2012.



 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review: Partials

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Partials
Author: Dan Wells
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: Hardcover; 472
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Source: NetGalley
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Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Language; Violence
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HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who are looking for dystopian novel that is a little bit different.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with partials--engineered organic beings identical to humans--has decimated the world’s population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out.

When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.

Imagine if you will the skyline of Manhattan as it crumbles in disrepair. Whole buildings overgrown with creeping vines. Wild animals running through the streets. The chilling sound of your footsteps echoing through the emptiness around you. This is the reality that Kira and her fellow survivors live every day. If you are thinking that Partials sounds like a haunting story, you'd be right on track with me. When I first picked up this book I was so excited to dive into the dystopian world that Dan Wells had built. I wanted to get lost in the vast ruins of the New York area. So I settled in, and started to read.

Kira's character was really the saving grace of this book for me. In fact, the majority of her fellow compatriots were. Kira is strong, opinionated, and one of the most selfless characters that I've ever met. Kira and her friends don't just sit by and let the government feed them lies, they stand up and do something about it. They of course still make mistakes, which shows the human side of them. These beautifully rendered characters are what brought the story to life for me. In this same vein, I loved the distinct lack of romance in this story. While there are still definitely connections between the characters, they don't overshadow the one goal that is key in this story. Survival.

My love affair with Partials didn't actually start until the second half of the book though. I'll be honest, I understood the aim of Dan Wells in the first half of the book. He uses it to build up the desolation of the city, to describe the way that RM works, and to map out the way that the government functions. It's all necessary. Still, it just didn't flow for me. After pages of reading about Kira's findings and scientific jargon related to RM, I was ready to put this book down. Now that I've finished, I'm honestly glad I didn't. Once all of the groundwork is laid, Kira and her rebellion take center stage and things pick up speed quickly. If the pacing had been a little different, I know I would have enjoyed this book much more.

At the end of the day, I also still had a lot of unanswered questions about the world in Partials. A few things had loose ends, and the ending felt to me like it came completely out of left field. It is intended to make things more interesting I'm sure, but I'm still not sure how it actually all fits together. On the bright side, this is the first in the series so I'm sure there is more explanation to be had. That's what I'm looking forward to. Though this started out slow, I would definitely still recommend Partials as a good first in the series. I'm excited to see what comes next.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: The Value of Rain

Media Type: Ebook
Title: The Value of Rain
Author: Brandon Shire
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: Paperback; 214
Release Date: November 30, 2011
Source: Author
----------------------------------------
Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Sexual Situations, Harsh Language
----------------------------------------
HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who are comfortable with sexual situations and graphic language.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Charles is 14, and after being discovered with his first love he is forced into a mental hospital to cure his sexuality. For the next ten years he endures mental and physical torture as part of that treatment and when he is finally free, he begins a relentless quest for vengeance against the woman who abetted his commitment into that hospital, his mother Charlotte.

The Value of Rain chronicles Charles’ journey from hate to the unexpected beginning of redemption, and reveals the destructive nature of families, secrets and revenge.

Charles Benedict is one of the most beautifully flawed characters I've had the pleasure of meeting in a long time. I'm not ashamed to say that he really is what makes this story. Torn from the arms of his first love, and viciously thrust into an asylum for "people like him", Charles' story is a tough one. Brandon Shire paints a picture of a boy who feels unloved, unaccepted, but most of all vengeful. His only motivation throughout the entire story is to get back at the one woman who caused him all the pain, Charlotte, his mother. Being in Charles' head isn't easy. It isn't pretty. However it is engrossing.

What I really enjoyed about this book was how gorgeously it deals with the ideas of family life and accepting yourself. Yes, Charles is gay. Yes, this book does have sexual scenes between two men. Which, if I may add, are really tastefully done. However this story is about so much more than just being a gay adolescent. Charles comes from a deeply broken family that is buried in secrets. His reality is one that is hard to face, but is truth for a lot of people out there. I was moved by how raw and honest Charles' character was in this book. Offered many a hand to hold on his road to freedom from his past, he still keeps pushing forward doggedly until the end. He proves that sometimes motivation is everything, even if it might not be the healthiest kind of motivation.

It's tough to aptly express all the emotions that are warring within me after finishing The Value of Rain. At the forefront is a deep love for Charles and his story. No matter how broken he was, or how frustrated I was with his inability to give in to love or make choices that were good for himself, I still adored him. Beneath that is a slight annoyance at how completely destroyed his family was. I am still questioning if it was really all necessary. Just my opinion I know, but Charles isn't the only member of his family who has issues. They all do. Every single one. The family that is depicted in this story is so broken, so dysfunctional, that I almost couldn't bear to read about them.

I'm going to fully admit that, after reading the first page of this book, I almost didn't continue. The raw anger and harsh language that pepper the first chapter almost turned me off. I'm glad I didn't act on instinct though, because The Value of Rain ended up being something that I needed to read. Charles' story is one that broke my heart and then put the pieces back together in a whole new configuration. This isn't a book that is an easy read. It isn't a happy story. What it is though is a deep look into the life of a character who is so used to pain that he isn't sure he is ready to accept happiness yet. It's a tough read, but one I am glad I finished.





FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Character Interview: Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tsavelas

Today on the blog is a little visit from Chrysoula Tsavelas, the author of Matchbox Girls. I reviewed this book yesterday and liked it's uniqueness. Here is your chance to see a little further into it!

You can also fill out this form to enter to win a digital copy here on the blog (ends 3/1), and make sure to check out the information at the bottom of the guest post to see how to win a prize pack!

Without further ado, I give Chrysoula the floor.


Today's interviewer at Character Backstage is Corbin Adair. In-story, he plays the role of “mystery man.” He’s interviewing Marley Claviger, the star of the show. 

Corbin: Hi, Marley.

Marley: Hello.

[pause]

Marley: I think you’re supposed to ask me some questions?

Corbin: Sorry, I was just thinking about—nevermind. So, you’re good friends with Zachariah Thorne. How long have you known him?

Marley: I’m not sure I’d say good friends. I mean, I don’t know him very well. We’ve been chatting for maybe a year? I didn’t really mark it on a calendar.

Corbin: Not a meaningful event, then. Good.

Marley: What does that mean?

Corbin: Nothing. I just don’t trust him.

Marley: Backstage rumor says you used to trust him quite a bit. What happened?

Corbin: I realized how stupid that was, but not before a lot of people got hurt.

Marley: Your kaiju-hunter friends from Senyaza. Come on, tell me how it happened.

Corbin: We can talk about that some other time. I still have to write a report for Senyaza.

Marley: How did you end up working for Senyaza?

Corbin: Uh, family connections. Most of… my kind… works for Senyaza, in some fashion or another.

Marley: But not Zachariah.

Corbin: No. Not Zachariah. And that should have been a tip-off.

Marley: I feel like I should be making organized crime jokes here, but I don’t know any. You and your family connections.

Corbin: Hey, how did you get to be the one asking questions?

Marley: Somebody had to do it.

Corbin: Yes. Me. Here’s one for you. How do you feel about the supernatural?

Marley: It doesn’t bother me in fiction.

Corbin: How about outside of fiction?

Marley: That’s a lot harder to answer, on account of it being supernatural. And thus not real.

Corbin: Yeah, uh…we should come back to that later. Do you like Thai food? That’s real.

Marley: What? Yes, of course. Who doesn’t like pad thai?

Corbin: Hmm. What are you doing Saturday night?

Marley: Are you—

Corbin: Quick, we’re almost out of time.

Marley: Fine. I have no plans for Saturday night.

Corbin: Excellent.

Marley: Corbin, are you asking me on a date?

Corbin: Oops, out of time!

He’s right. We are. Thanks, Corbin and Marley!

Tune in for the next stop on the blog tour on February 27 at the Candlemark & Gleam blog, www.candlemarkandgleam.com! And don’t forget to join the discussion here and then stop by the Candlemark & Gleam blog to get your entry in our Matchbox Girls giveaway!

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Marley Claviger is just trying to get her life together. Stumbling into an ancient conflict between celestial forces is going to make that a whole lot harder...

When Marley wakes up to a phone call from a pair of terrified children, she doesn’t expect to be pulled into a secret war. She rescues them from an empty house and promises to find their missing uncle. She even manages to feed them dinner. But she barely feels competent to manage her own life, let alone care for small children with strange, ominous powers...

And when a mysterious angelic figure shows up and tries to claim the girls, it all falls apart...

Plagued by visions of disaster, Marley has no idea what she's gotten herself into, but she knows one thing: magical or not, the kids need her.  
Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas will be published in paperback and digital form by Candlemark & Gleam on February 21, 2012. You can pick up a copy through the Candlemark & Gleam website (www.candlemarkandgleam.com), where all paperbacks come with a free digital edition, or through your favourite indie or mainstream book source.

Follow the author online at www.dreamfarmer.net or on Twitter @chrysouladreams



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: Matchbox Girls

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Matchbox Girls
Author: Chrysoula Tzavelas
Publisher: Candlemark & Gleam
Pages: Paperback; 326
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Source: Publisher
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Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Language
----------------------------------------
HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers looking for a paranormal that is unique.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Marley Claviger is just trying to get her life together. Stumbling into an ancient conflict between celestial forces is going to make that a whole lot harder...

When Marley wakes up to a phone call from a pair of terrified children, she doesn’t expect to be pulled into a secret war. She rescues them from an empty house and promises to find their missing uncle. She even manages to feed them dinner. But she barely feels competent to manage her own life, let alone care for small children with strange, ominous powers...

And when a mysterious angelic figure shows up and tries to claim the girls, it all falls apart...

Plagued by visions of disaster, Marley has no idea what she's gotten herself into, but she knows one thing: magical or not, the kids need her.

Matchbox Girls threw me a loop, I tell you what! Not in a bad way at all. It starts off a bit like a book from the Series of Unfortunate Events. Two precocious young girls (who are eons ahead of other people their age in terms of intelligence) wake Marley out of a dead sleep to come and save them. Their Uncle has vanished, and they were instructed to call her if that ever happened. Doesn't bode well does it? Well rest assured that if that was your assumption you are right! What ensues is a story filled with dark corners, deep secrets, and all manner of angelic and demonic creatures. It's pretty fascinating!

Let's start with what I loved about this book. The characters. Marley is so sweet and broken. She feels like madness is constantly pressing in around her, and yet when the girls need her she finds the strength to press on. I adored her character. She was so mothering. The girls themselves are adorable, albeit slightly creepy at times. They are so smart. I was engrossed by them alone the majority of the story, trying to uncover their secrets. Add in all the other characters who flit in and out of the story, and you have a well rounded group. Tsavelas allows the reader plenty of time to get to know this group, and it is easy to fall in love with them.

What I didn't enjoy so much is the over abundance of information that is often thrown out at the reader in certain parts of this book. There are a lot of different creatures that correlate with the angelic hierarchy in this book. While I respected the want to share them all with us, and help us form connections between them, it was all very confusing. There were pages that I had to read, and then re-read, just to make sure I was really understanding what I was meant to. After a while, especially towards the end, I found myself just skimming to get the parts that were really important and pushed the plot forward.

At the end of the day, Matchbox Girls was a book that I enjoyed. I can't say that I would have picked it up on my own, but I'm glad that I gave it a chance. This is a different look at the paradigm between good and evil, and it is given a deliciously mysterious twist. Despite some flaws, I think it is a unique book! I'd say that if you are looking for a new read, something a little different, give this a shot.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Take home a copy of Undertow by Callie Kingston!


In case you missed it, today I reviewed Undertow by Callie Kingston. This is a book that wasn't quite what I expected, but what it turned out to be was great! This was a book that I really enjoyed.

Marissa can’t wait to leave behind her mom and the traumatic life they shared. With Drake, she has it all figured out--until she discovers his betrayal. She flees to a desolate beach on the wild Oregon coast hoping to escape her pain where, overcome with exhaustion, she dozes off beside a log. When the first icy waves strike her, it is too late: a rogue wave drags her out to sea. Somehow, she survives. Perhaps that gorgeous merman she dreams of each night rescued her?

Determined to discover the truth, her obsession deepens until she again risks her life in the unyielding sea. Will the creature Marissa seeks save her? Will she be lost forever in the eddies of her mind, or will Jim, her new boyfriend, keep her from falling into the abyss?

Now I'm proud to announce that one lucky winner will be able to have a copy of Undertow for their very own! Up for grabs is one Kindle copy of the book.

Open Internationally.

To enter, FILL OUT THIS FORM.

Giveaway ends February 29, 2011. 

Note: Comments on the review count not only for extra entries in this contest, but also qualify you for the grand prize drawing at the end of the tour!

For more chances to win, visit the other blogs involved in this tour by clicking any of the links below:






Book Review: Undertow

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Undertow
Author: Callie Kingston
Publisher: Carolwood Press
Pages: Paperback; 230
Release Date: February 17, 2012
Source: Author
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Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Language
-------------------------------------
HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who are comfortable with characters who face difficult situations.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon
Marissa can’t wait to leave behind her mom and the traumatic life they shared. With Drake, she has it all figured out--until she discovers his betrayal. She flees to a desolate beach on the wild Oregon coast hoping to escape her pain where, overcome with exhaustion, she dozes off beside a log. When the first icy waves strike her, it is too late: a rogue wave drags her out to sea.

Somehow, she survives. Perhaps that gorgeous merman she dreams of each night rescued her? Determined to discover the truth, her obsession deepens until she again risks her life in the unyielding sea. Will the creature Marissa seeks save her? Will she be lost forever in the eddies of her mind, or will Jim, her new boyfriend, keep her from falling into the abyss?

In Undertow, Callie Kingston paints the reader a portrait of a troubled young woman who is quietly descending into the abyss. I honestly didn't realize from the synopsis that Marissa was suffering from a psychotic break. When the story begins it seems like the merman is real, and a love story will ensue. However, very soon after, the reader sees how manic Marissa really is. It's almost like two stories cobbled together into one. I admit that because I didn't know Marissa's past at first, I really didn't like her for quite a while. I think I would have felt differently if I had known earlier on.

Still, the break that Marissa suffers is done well. It blends so seamlessly into the overall story that, if like me you didn't realize it was there, it's tough to see at first. In a matter of chapters Marissa goes from a person who has a normal, somewhat happy life, to one who can't seem to tell fantasy from reality. She draws further and further away from other people. She doesn't seem to care what she looks like or how she acts. It's scary, but I think believable. The other thing that I enjoyed was how Kingston leaves the ending kind of open for interpretation. I won't spoil, but it fascinated me.

I feel the need to also mention how well the other characters in this story are done. Marissa's mom is shown as a woman who is constantly drinking and misplaces her anger on her daughter. Marissa's father is a man who doesn't know how to communicate with his daughter, and is holding on to things from the past that he just can't let go. Even Marissa's friend Kelly has dark secrets of her own. With all these people surrounding her it's not hard to see how she got to this point. The one saving grace is Jim, whom I loved! He is definitely just what Marissa needed.

I went into Undertow thinking that I was going to be reading a story about a young girl and a merman. Instead, what I discovered between the pages was an intriguing story about a girl's psychotic breakdown and the slow, difficult healing process afterwards. Although it wasn't quite was I was expecting, I'll fully admit that this was a story that kept me reading. I'm happy to say that it was well worth my time.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ten things you didn't know about Amanda Grace



Today Amanda Grace (or Mandy Hubbard depending on who you ask *wink*) is here to share some little know items about herself! Getting to know an author better is one of my favorite things.

She is on tour in honor of her newest book, In Too Deep. Click the book cover to add it to your Goodreads list.

I never meant for anyone to get hurt. All I wanted to do that night was make a play for Carter Davis. His heartless rejection was mortifying, but people got the wrong idea when they saw me leaving his bedroom, crying. That’s how rumors of rape started.

Now girls at school are pouring out their sympathy to me. Guys too. But not everyone’s on my side. The school has become a war zone and the threats are getting scary. What began as poetic justice has morphed into something bigger-forcing me to make a terrible choice.

So without further ado, I'll let her take it away!


Ten things you don’t know about me (and probably don’t need to):
  1. I was married in the church where my parents married. 
  2. My first kiss came when I was atop a horse. 
  3. I have broken my foot, thumb, and collar bone. In my August book, DANGEROUS BOY, the main character breaks her collar bone. 
  4. I was not a writer until I was 20. 
  5. My middle name is Grace. That’s where the pen-name, Amanda Grace comes from. I am not, however, graceful. 
  6. I live down the street from Stadium High School, the castle-like high school in TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU. It’s just as gorgeous in person. 
  7. I always thought I liked roller coasters, until I went t a big theme park last summer, instead of an itty bitty county fair. Turns out they really freak me out. 
  8. I do, however, LOVE to swim. 
  9. I wrote Prada & Prejudice because I ADORE regency romances, and I want to go to that time period and dance with an earl. So I just wrote a book in which the character actually did that. 
  10. I took welding class in high school. I was the only girl in the class of 25.

Mandy Hubbard, also-known-as Amanda Grace, is the author of Prada & Prejudice, You Wish, But I Love Him, and several other YA novels. She is also a literary agent for D4EO Literary, where she represents authors of middle grade and teen fiction. Her leading clients include Jessica Martinez (Virtuosity, Simon Pulse) Lanie Bross, (Fates, Delacorte) and Imogen Howson (Linked, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). She is currently living happily ever after with her husband and young daughter in Tacoma, Washington.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Feb 20)


Much love to Book Journey for hosting!
Click the button to join on in.

I'm sticking right to what I've been planning to read. In all honesty, only setting myself 2 or 3 books per week to read has massively lowered my stress over this blog. After all, this is my passion! I don't want it to turn into a job instead :). Here's what this bibliophile's week looks like!


This Week's Reviews:
Slipping Reality by Emily Beaver (3/5) - An original concept that was executed fairly well!

The Nightmare Garden (Iron Codex #2) by Caitlin Kitteredge (4/5) - Pretty fabulous second book! Same amazing world building, so that is really what drew me in.

Trafficked by Kim Purcell (4/5) - A gritty and realistic look at human trafficking and modern day slaves. You can also win a copy on my blog this week.

Life Eternal (Dead Beautiful #2) by Yvonne Woon (4/5) - Great second book! Slow start, but picked up pace and help my attention!


Oh my gosh guys! I actually reviewed all the books I read this week! *happy dances*


Currently Reading:
I'm liking this now, but it started so slow that I almost put it down. There are a lot of monotonous parts in this story. Now things are happening and I'm liking it much better!
Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with partials--engineered organic beings identical to humans--has decimated the world’s population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out.

When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.


Also Reading:
I'm reading this for a tour and it sounds amazing! It sounds...ominous.
Marley Claviger is just trying to get her life together. Stumbling into an ancient conflict between celestial forces is going to make that a whole lot harder...

When Marley wakes up to a phone call from a pair of terrified children, she doesn’t expect to be pulled into a secret war. She rescues them from an empty house and promises to find their missing uncle. She even manages to feed them dinner. But she barely feels competent to manage her own life, let alone care for small children with strange, ominous powers...

And when a mysterious angelic figure shows up and tries to claim the girls, it all falls apart...

Plagued by visions of disaster, Marley has no idea what she's gotten herself into, but she knows one thing: magical or not, the kids need her.

Callie Kingston asked me to be on her tour and I happily obliged! The fact that there are mermaids makes me smile!
Marissa can’t wait to leave behind her mom and the traumatic life they shared. With Drake, she has it all figured out--until she discovers his betrayal. She flees to a desolate beach on the wild Oregon coast hoping to escape her pain where, overcome with exhaustion, she dozes off beside a log. When the first icy waves strike her, it is too late: a rogue wave drags her out to sea.

Somehow, she survives. Perhaps that gorgeous merman she dreams of each night rescued her? Determined to discover the truth, her obsession deepens until she again risks her life in the unyielding sea. Will the creature Marissa seeks save her? Will she be lost forever in the eddies of her mind, or will Jim, her new boyfriend, keep her from falling into the abyss?


That's it for me! What are you reading this week? 


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book Review: Life Eternal

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Life Eternal
   *Series: Dead Beautiful (Book 2)
Author: Yvonne Wood
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: Hardcover; 392
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Source: NetGalley
-------------------------------------
Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Nothing of note.
-------------------------------------
HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who read and loved Dead Beautiful.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Renée Winters has changed. When she looks in the mirror, a beautiful girl with an older, sadder face stares back. Her condition has doctors mystified, but Renée can never reveal the truth: she died last May, and was brought back to life by the kiss of her Undead soul mate, Dante Berlin.

Now, her separation from Dante becomes almost unbearable. His second life is close to an end, and each passing day means one less that she will spend with the boy who shares her soul.

Just when Renée has almost given up hope, she learns of the Nine Sisters--brilliant scholars who, according to legend, found a way to cheat death. She can't shake the feeling that they are somehow connected to her dreams, strange visions that hint at a discovery so powerful, and so dangerous, that some will stop at nothing to protect it.

Renée thought she knew the truth about life and death. But there is a secret woven through history that holds the only hope for Dante and Renée. Unless they find answers soon, their time together is doomed to be cut short.

After reading Dead Beautiful last year I was so excited to see where Yvonne Woon would take us next! The ending was a massive cliffhanger. So when I had the chance to review a copy of Life Eternal, the second in the Dead Beautiful series, I hopped on it as soon as I could.

One thing I loved about this particular book was how easily it picks up where the last one left off. We reconnect with Renée and see that life has become more difficult for her since Dante went on the run. She feels older, and less of a person. I liked seeing the changes in her since we parted ways. Unfortunately because of these changes, Renée is also extremely depressed for about the first third of the book. I didn't hate her for it. I understood it. Still, it made it tough for me to really get into the story. I wanted to shake her and tell her that life goes on, and things would work out if she just tried. What can I say? I'm an optimist.

Essentially, the first third of the book is slow. But don't loose hope! Once Renée begins to come out of her slump things get really interesting. In this installment we are treated to a brand new school in France, new characters to help Renée along, and even a new mystery to solve. The Nine Sisters are a group of scholars that some believe figured out the key to eternal life. For Renée, that means a chance to finally be with Dante. What ensues is a manic romp through France and the areas beyond. Running through dark underground tunnels, visiting graveyards, following clues, Renée does it all in the quest for true love.

I very much enjoyed the way that Yvonne Woon allows the reader to slowly uncover the mystery along with Renée. There is no way that you'll figure things out before she does. A trail of breadcrumbs is laid out beautifully, giving you little bits and pieces of what lies ahead. I honestly loved the addition of Noah to this book. Giving Renée something else to focus on, someone else to focus on, worked well with the story line. When you barely see the person who is the object of your adoration, how do you know if they are truly doing what they say they are? That is the question that fuels this book.

Although Life Eternal started out a little slow, and Renée might have bugged me a bit, I honestly did ultimately enjoy this book in the end! The ending was maddening, coming to a peak with a cliffhanger that just about made me sob. Let's be honest though, it hooked me. I'm in for the long haul! Book number three, here I come.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Win a copy of Trafficked by Kim Purcell!



Earlier today I reviewed Trafficked by Kim Purcell. This is a tough read, but one that is definitely worth your time. It deals with a character named Hannah who becomes a modern day slave. 

Hannah believes she's being brought from Moldova to Los Angeles to become a nanny for a Russian family. But her American dream quickly spirals into a nightmare. The Platonovs force Hannah to work sixteen-hour days, won't let her leave the house, and seem to have a lot of secrets - from Hannah and from each other. Stranded in a foreign land with false documents, no money, and nobody who can help her, Hannah must find a way to save herself from her new status as a modern-day slave or risk losing the one thing she has left: her life.


Thanks to the company who was kind enough to send me a copy of this book, I can offer up some to you as well! That means it's...


Up for grabs are 3 copies of Trafficked sent straight to you! Yes, that means three winners will get a chance to read this amazing book. 

You must have a U.S. mailing address.

Giveaway ends February 26, 2012.

To enter, FILL OUT THIS FORM.






Book Review: Trafficked

Media Type: Print Book
Title: Trafficked
Author: Kim Purcell
Publisher: Viking Children's Books
Pages: Hardcover; 352
Release Date: February 16, 2012
Source: Publicity Company
---------------------------------------
Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Sexual situations; Violence
---------------------------------------
HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who aren't afraid of a realistic and gritty read.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Hannah believes she's being brought from Moldova to Los Angeles to become a nanny for a Russian family. But her American dream quickly spirals into a nightmare. The Platonovs force Hannah to work sixteen-hour days, won't let her leave the house, and seem to have a lot of secrets - from Hannah and from each other. Stranded in a foreign land with false documents, no money, and nobody who can help her, Hannah must find a way to save herself from her new status as a modern-day slave or risk losing the one thing she has left: her life.

In Trafficked, Purcell leads the reader on a no holds barred look into sixteen-year-old Hannah's life. Instead of the comfortable and easy job she was promised, her reality is sixteen hour work days and back breaking housework. Lillian, the mother of the home, turns out to be uncompromising, selfish and verbally (sometimes even physically) abusive. Sergey, the father of the home, is secretive and Hannah is leery about what his intentions with her really are. Trapped in the house, without pay, not allowed to speak English or interact with any other people, Hannah is an island. Who can she turn to for help?

I'm going to admit that there are some very uncomfortable scenes in this book. As I said, Purcell really does show the harsh reality of Hannah's predicament. This is a story that will gut you and might even make you psychically ill at times. The sexual and violent nature of parts of this book, while completely necessary, definitely makes it a difficult read. Hannah's life isn't the easy one she hoped for. She is constantly struggling to just keep her mind and her body intact. The small victories she has in the story, a little sarcastic comment here, a long awaited bus trip there, are a reminder of how isolated and mistreated she really is. Hannah is broken, and this book isn't afraid to show that.

What really impressed me were the layers in Trafficked. Although Hannah is the main focus, there are other characters who are simultaneously fighting their own battles. Maggie and Michael, the two children, are suffering from neglect. Their mother is constantly studying, and it's almost as though her children are an afterthought. A nuisance. They actually end up being the one thing Hannah cares for, despite her situation. Then there is Colin, the boy next door, who is fighting his own battle with his weight, his future and his divorced parents. I thought he was so important because his struggle is put into perspective when compared with Hannah's. My hope is that this will open some teen eyes and help them see that their family lives might not be as bad as they think they are.

Trafficked deals with issues that are well worth knowing about, and it does it in a gritty and realistic way. I'll fully admit that I powered through this book, mostly because I just had to know what happened to Hannah next. Call it rubber-necking if you will. Hannah definitely suffers some atrocities. Still, the way that Purcell expertly weaves so much truth into Hannah's fictional life is amazing. By the time I finished reading I was equal parts angry and saddened. If you are a reader who is okay with a gritty and realistic read, Trafficked is one that is well worth your time.





FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Friday, February 17, 2012

5 Favorite Book Picks with Emily Beaver, author of Slipping Reality


Special thanks to Emily Beaver and JKSCommunicatons for this original content!


Emily Beaver's Top 5 Book Picks


5 – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I read this book for one of my analytical papers in AP Literature, and I just couldn’t put it down. Technically this is a non-fiction book, but I felt like it was fiction with how rich the characters and descriptions were. I’m already a fan of his most famous novel, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but this book was written so simply and so effortlessly you can’t help but feel aligned with the characters. While much of it is focused on the murderers of the Clutter family (a historic moment in Holcomb history), the amount of research and time Capote spent with them getting to know these men is remarkable in how they open up in their seemingly motive-less crime. It certainly won’t make you fall in love with a cold-blooded killer, but it’s one heck of a perspective! I highly recommend it to people who are fascinated with how the minds work of true, once-living people and those who love a good mystery.





4 – Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
I loved this book in a ton of unexpected ways. For one thing, I almost cried reading how brilliant the writing was – which led me to rewrite Slipping Reality. Again. But for another, I loved the idea of telling Jordan’s story from multiple perspectives – the way she colored each character was so distinct I never for one moment had to think about who’s perspective I was reading. I received a copy of this book while Hillary’s agency was reviewing my manuscript, and while I was not accepted I gained great admiration for what they did and how Hillary wrote. Her simplicity in the story of an unlikely friendship between a white man and a black man who served in the same war was poetic, and how this friendship affected their families was unreal. I loved how Jordan could say the shortest, simplest sentence, and I would sit back and think, “My God, she’s right.” Mudbound is definitely a must-read for those who love history as much as I do, but more so, love the people involved.



3 – The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
This book only makes my Top 5 list because of the significant experience I had reading this story. I started it one night in February 2010, and read all the way up to Susie Salmon’s gruesome death before deciding to take a break and go on Facebook. My blood almost drained from my entire system when I saw the statuses proclaiming that Chelsea King, a classmate at my high school, had gone missing. Extremely afraid of The Lovely Bones at that point, I stayed away from it as my community banded together in a heartbreakingly inspiring search for Chelsea. She had gone out on a run after school and never come home. Days later, her body was found in a shallow grave. Like Susie Salmon, she had been kidnapped and murdered.

The kind of devastation this set upon me and my community was unforgettable. A beautiful, promising, sweet and bright girl enjoying her second semester of senior year, taken from us so young by someone so evil, is unspeakable. I didn’t know Chelsea personally, but I knew a lot of people who did and were close friends with her. I felt shaken to my bones, and outraged at the blanket of terror that now rested in my town – it appeared we weren’t safe to be on our own anymore.

It was a few days later of a completely silent school and sitting with people I didn’t know, crying with them, that I spotted The Lovely Bones again. I decided to pick it up and read a little more, to see if the book would somehow give me cause to feel better.

 And remarkably, it did – getting to read Susie narrating her loved ones’ life from above, while sometimes tragic, gave me a lot of hope. While it may have not physically done anything to prevent Chelsea’s unthinkable end, it gave me a sense of justification that she was okay, and by extension, so was my brother.

I don’t know if I can ever read it again, but I do know that beyond my personal side story to my journey with this book, the writing is beautiful, and well worth a good sit down and read.



2 – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
While I’m not quite keen on following in all of the footsteps of Sylvia Plath, I absolutely adore her writing. Her semi-biographical Bell Jar reminded me a lot of Slipping Reality, especially because at one point I remember reading the book, looking up and realizing, “Wait a minute… this chick is crazy.” The magic of Plath’s writing is how she pulls you in to her story, and because of how artfully she executed Esther Greenwood’s downward spiral, I didn’t even realize the insanity was taking over her, much as how Esther didn’t realize it herself. A haunting, unforgettable book.









1 – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Hands down, this book is my favorite of them all. I read abridged versions of it from five years old, and read the full version for the first time at ten. I’ve never had a sister, but Little Women made me feel like I had one in the March family. My first childhood crush was on Theodore Laurence, the rambunctious but kind boy-next-door, and my first real heroine was Jo March, who, like me, aspired to write and act and be something extraordinary. This book resonates with me because it doesn’t seek out telling any story but the one of family. In days where I’d have temper tantrums or Matthew would be too ill to speak, I’d dissolve into the March family and feel at home again. It’s a very light, very easy read for a book so old, but it never fails to cheer me up when I need it.







Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book Review: The Nightmare Garden

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Nightmare Garden
  * Series: Iron Codex (Book 2)
Author: Caitlin Kittredge
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: Hardcover; 432
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Source: NetGalley
---------------------------------------------
Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild Violence/Language
---------------------------------------------
HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who devoured the first book and were eagerly awaiting the next!

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
Everything Aoife thought she knew about the world was a lie. There is no Necrovirus. And Aoife isn't going to succumb to madness because of a latent strain—she will lose her faculties because she is allergic to iron. Aoife isn't human. She is a changeling—half human and half from the land of Thorn. And time is running out for her.

When Aoife destroyed the Lovecraft engine she released the monsters from the Thorn Lands into the Iron Lands and now she must find a way to seal the gates and reverse the destruction she's ravaged on the world that's about to poison her.

The Nightmare Garden is the second book in the Iron Codex series. I've been eagerly awaiting it ever since I read the first book last year. In this series we follow Aoife and her ragtag group of companions on a quest for answers and ultimately redemption. All Aoife wants is to fix the things that she has broken. To find a way to be normal again. Unfortunately for her that doesn't seem to be in the cards. Everything that comes her way is dark, and adventurous.

One thing I completely loved about this second book is how much more of Kittredge's world we get to see. In The Iron Thorn Aoife shows us Lovecraft and a glimpse at some of the surrounding area. In this book we are treated an in depth view of The Mists. A drab, cold and in between place that is hauntingly beautiful. On top of that, Aoife treks across all manner of new and interesting areas. From a high flying city in the sky, to a quiet shanty town, it was a delight to watch Kittredge effortlessly craft more of the world I wanted to be lost in.

Making it even easier to get lost in this book, is the fact that all the familiar characters are back. Aoife and her brother interact a lot more here, and I loved the way that they were so different. Dean is back and sweet as ever. I was so excited to find out more about him this time around! My one gripe was Cal. Poor, sweet Cal. In the first story he was such a standby for Aoife, such a best friend. In this one he doesn't really make much of an impact and is kind of just there to be counted among the group. It bugged me that he changed so drastically and Aoife just seemed to push him to the side.

The other thing that nagged at me was the pacing in the book. I understood that it was a slow buildup to what was coming at the end, but it felt bogged down at times. Although I deeply love these characters, the first few chapters were a slight chore for me to get through. I am happy to say though that, once things were off and running, I was in for the long haul! Despite the length of this book, it seemed to fly by once I was fully immersed. If you are a reader who is easily daunted by slow first chapters please keep reading! The Nightmare Garden picks up pace and you'll be breathless by the end.

Speaking of the end, cliffhangers. I am thourougly hooked and baited, waiting for the next installment. Although this isn't my favorite in the series, I'll be honest and say it is still fantastic! The Nightmare Garden sets up some questions that I really want to see answered in the last book. If you enjoyed getting lost in Lovecraft the first time, I can guarantee you'll find even more to love this second time around.


Other books reviewed in the series:
The Iron Thorn (The Iron Codex #1)



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review: Slipping Reality

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Slipping Reality
Author: Emily Beaver
Publisher: Authorhouse
Pages: Paperback; 272
Release Date: July 11, 2011
Source: JKSCommunications
----------------------------------
Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Nothing of note
-----------------------------------
HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a good story about dealing with grief and loss.

Add it on: Goodreads / Shelfari / Amazon / B&N
In a time of hardship and heartbreak, sometimes, reality just isn't enough. Slipping Reality is the story of fourteen-year-old Katelyn Emerson, who, when faced with the glaring reality of her brother's illness, rebels against the truth by slipping away into the depths of her own imagination. There, she finds the kind of support and comfort she feels she deserves. There, she does not have to feel so alone. And yet, as Katelyn's grasp on reality begins to unravel, so too does the story of a girl who grew up too fast and fell apart too soon. Emily Beaver's debut novel is a coming of age story that deals with the trials of young grief, insight, and growth where it's least expected.

I'm going to ramble a bit in this review, mainly because I'm so torn on how exactly to share with you my feelings about this book. Reading Slipping Reality really makes you think about how to fairly judge a book written by a young author. Should I take her 14 year old age at the time into account? Is that fair? So I'm going to try to be as succinct and fair as possible in explaining my rating for this book.

First off I have to say that I loved the concept of Slipping Reality. In it we meet Katelyn, whose brother is on his third round of battling cancer. Although she tells people that she's handling it, and looks on the outside like she is, inside her mind is a whirlwind of feelings. Katelyn is a character who is trying so hard to hold it all together that you don't notice the cracks in the exterior until much later. What finally happens is that her mind helps her deal by allowing her to escape inside her own head. Katelyn's "daydreams" become her reality.

What lost me a little bit was the writing style in this book. At first, diving into Katelyn's world was pretty easy. The beginning was really well written and introspective. However the further that I got into the book, the more I saw the teenage side of the writer. There are a lot of pop-culture references in here. There are also a lot of references to mundane day to day activities. I don't have a problem with a little bit of these two things. They actually make reading really fun. In this case though, it was bordered on distracting.

My other issue was that I never really connected with Katelyn on a deeper level. The love she has for her brother definitely comes through in the story. You can see how much she is hurting inside as she struggles to deal with his illness. However that's really all we get on the emotional level. I knew other more superficial things about Katelyn, like her love of reading and drawing. It was just that I never really felt attached to her character. Even when her daydreams started impeding her real life, I was just a spectator.

In a nutshell, Slipping Reality reeled me in with its original concept but lost me soon after. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the book. I honestly did. It was just tough to get immersed in. For writing this at such a young age, and doing it so well, I applaud Emily Beaver. If this is just a glimpse at her talent then I'm keeping her on my radar! Who knows what is yet to come.







FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

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