Friday, 30 March 2012

Mini-Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder
Marissa Meyer
Feiwel and Friends

[January 10, 2012]

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
I'm going to be totally honest with you: I don't know why I loved this book. I wish I did but...nope.

I LOVED Cinder. She was just such a fantastic character. She was strong and brave and resourceful and just total girl crush, guys. Total. Girl. Crush. And Kai? Oh Kai. I wanted more of him. I wanted ALL OF THE KAI.

I also have to give Marissa Meyer a lot of credit for such an original idea. No, Cinderella retellings aren't hard to find, but a retelling like this? Fairy tales and sci-fi? More, please. Much, much more. I really don't even like the Cinderella story ("Girl lost her shoe? Well, I don't remember ANYTHING ABOUT HER, but I lovez her so let me go find a girl who can fit into this shoe because obviously ONLY ONE GIRL'S FOOT CAN FIT IN THESE. THAT'S HOW SHOES WORK."), but Marissa Meyer made it happen. 

As it's almost one in the morning and I read this book over 2 months ago, that's the best review I can give you. Sorry guys! But really, pick this one up. It's unique and awesome and full of kick assery.

And if you STILL don't believe me, I have a sample of the audiobook to share with you guys!

 

 
--Julie

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting

The Last Echo
by Kimberly Derting


Release Date (UK): 29th of March 2012

Summary: Violet has always kept her strange ability to sense dead bodies a secret from everyone except her family and best-friend-turned-boyfriend Jay. But now she's using her gift to help track down murderers, working in a group that includes the mysterious and dangerously attractive Rafe. When Violet discovers the body of a college girl murdered by "the girlfriend collector", she is determine to solve the case. But now the serial killer is on the lookout for a new "relationship" and Violet seems to have caught his eye...

So I loved the first two books in this series, but this one beat them both and is my favourite of the three, it was awesome.

This series is just a brilliant mix of loveable, realistic characters, cute romance, mystery and a cool supernatural twist that manages to feel still grounded in reality instead of being the kind of supernatural that feels like an entirely different world to ours.

I think what I liked most about The Last Echo is that I was more invested in the mystery aspect of the plot - in the first book, we were still getting to know the characters and the world and the romance was still developing and the second book was sort of the same and even if the romance wasn't the focus, I was more focussed on that part, but this one? While I still adore the cute romance, because it felt natural and all set I never felt like I had that "will they or won't they end up together?" feeling that so many books have... and that was nice, because I'm usually so caught up in the romance of a story that the rest is overshadowed and that didn't happen here.

The supernatural aspect of the book is great, it's really original and I love the way Violets power isn't used to make her into this... supergirl. She's just like a normal girl and this power she has, it's like a gift and a curse and it's useful in some ways but it has its limits (and this is one of those rare YA books where it feels like the parents are actually present and, well, parent) - and even though it's really weird, reading about it was believable and had me almost believing that people like her, with her power could actually exist.

I can't really talk about the plot/mystery thing without giving spoilers, but I liked that part in this one best out of all three books and the additional characters were great and finding out more about the new characters that were introduced in book two (Rafe and Krystal are awesome).

Since I've mentioned Rafe - I love the relationship he has with Violet and this is one of those rare books where I was actually rooting for two guys to get the girl and I really wouldn't have minded either way which one did but at the same time, it never felt love triangle-ish, which was great.

Anyway, I'm sort of half asleep and ill right now, so I apologize if this review has been rambling - but I really recommend this book/this series, they're awesome and it's rare for me to find a series where the sequels can totally top the rest of the series put together but this book did that for me. I'd give it 5 stars out of 5 probably.

Later.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Books I've Read But Won't Be Reviewing (2)

It's time for another round of books I'm not reviewing! Remember, this is different from a DNF. This is a book that I don't know how to review or don't feel qualified to review or whatever.

And Then He Kissed Her
Laura Lee Guhrke
Avon Books
[February 27, 2007]

Supremely sensible Emmaline Dove wishes to share her etiquette expertise with London's readers, and as secretary to Viscount Marlowe, Emma knows she's in the perfect position to make her dream come true. Marlowe might be a rake with a preference for can-can dancers and an aversion to matrimony, but he is also the city's leading publisher, and Emma is convinced he's her best chance to see her work in print...until she discovers the lying scoundrel has been rejecting her manuscripts without ever reading a single page!

As a publisher, Harry finds reading etiquette books akin to slow, painful torture. Besides, he can't believe his proper secretary has the passion to write anything worth reading. Then she has the nerve to call him a liar, and even resigns without notice, leaving his business in an uproar and his honor in question. Harry decides it's time to teach Miss Dove a few things that aren't proper. But when he kisses her, he discovers that his former secretary has more passion and fire than he'd ever imagined, for one luscious taste of her lips only leaves him hungry for more.

This was another historical romance (duh) that sucked me in. I intended to read a review book and instead I read this almost entirely in one night. I read until 3:30 in the morning. Then the next day, I looked to see if this was part of a "series" (it is, the Girl-Bachelor series). The second books is being tracked by me for a price drop, but I might give in and grab it at it's current price anyway.

A Rogue By Any Other Name 
Sarah MacLean
Avon
[February 28, 2012]


What a scoundrel wants, a scoundrel gets . . .

A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to such unexplored pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London’s underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them . . . even her heart.

As with every Sarah MacLean book, this was lovely. I really, really enjoyed it and I loved Penelope. Definitely looking forward to the other books in this series!

Embracing Ashberry
Serenity Everton
[September 23, 2005]


The Marquess of Ashberry had never planned to marry or have children, but there is something about Ella Whitney he can't quite ignore. Her skittishness, her inclination to overlook his existence and her vulnerability has him re-thinking his future.

Ella Whitney is skittish, and for very good reasons. But she can't avoid Ashberry's company all the time with her brother marrying his sister. Instead she has to face her fears, stand up to her family, and remember her dreams.

This was different from my usual historical romance read, but still very enjoyable, if predictable. Not the best, but I didn't pay for it, so I don't mind.

The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Inc.
[October 31, 2008]

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

I actually already read and reviewed The Hunger Games, but I reread in preparation of the movie. It's just as amazing the second time around. I still love it and I loved the movie too.

Spell Bound
Rachel Hawkins
Disney Hyperion CH
[March 13, 2012]

Hailed as “impossible to put down,” the Hex Hall series has both critics and teens cheering. With a winning combination of romance, action, magic and humor, this third volume will leave readers enchanted.

Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

This is the final book in the Hex Hall series, which I love. As this is a sequel and it's not a review book, it's not getting a review, but I can feature it anyway. YAY! Honestly, I love this series and I love Sophie. She's one of my favorite heroines. She's snarky and uses sarcasm and humor to get her through tough situations, and this book is no different. Rachel Hawkins also totally rocks the writing of attractive boys and kissing. A wonderful ending to a fabulous series. If you haven't read the first/second book, a.) I feel kind of bad because you might've just gotten spoilers from that summary and b.) GO READ THEM NOWZ. My reviews of Hex Hall and Demonglass.

And, unless my math fails me, that brings us to five. Any thoughts on these books?

--Julie 

Fateful by Claudia Gray


Fateful
by Claudia Gray


Release date (UK): 29th of March 2012

Summary: The RMS Titanic is the most luxurious ship ever built, but for eighteen-year-old Tess Davies it’s a prison. Travelling as a maid for the family she has served for years, Tess is trapped in their employ amid painful memories and family secrets.

When she meets Alec, a handsome upper class passenger, Tess falls helplessly in love. But Alec has secrets of his own… and soon Tess is entangled in a dangerous game. A sinister brotherhood that will do anything to induct Alec into their mystical order has followed him onboard. And Tess is now their most powerful pawn.

Tess and Alec fight the dark forces threatening to tear them apart, never realising that they will have to face an even greater peril before the journey is over…
I really loved this book. I kind of wanted to read it purely because it mentioned Titanic...and mixed Titanic with werewolves - definitely sounded like a mix for awesome (or disaster, but awesome won).

It's set in a time that simultaneously fascinates me and makes me want to punch someone - I dunno what it is about that time period, if it's the novelty of it because it's so different to how we live now or if it's the pretty dresses or the way things like love and friendship were so different because they had more things standing in their way than now...but I love reading books set in this era. And I hate them too because the way women are treated and the class distinctions makes me all - rage-y.

But yeah, I loved the setting and it still had all the things that infuriate me about that time to keep it historically accurate - the classes, the judgemental people, the sexist attitude... but that made me like the book more because, while it angers me, it meant that the main character was way more bad ass because she wasn't just standing up for herself and the people she cared about, she was standing up against society and the messed up attitudes people had back then towards women, especially lower class women.

Tess was awesome. She was saved, but she did a lot of saving too. She wasn't just a damsel in distress and I totally got swept up in her story, I was rooting for her to get what she wants out of life and at the same time, I felt almost as trapped as she did just by seeing her life through her eyes - she's had it drummed into her head that she's not as good as the first class *ladies* and that she can't be with the person she wants to be with because of what society would think (among other things)... a female character being strong and independent is awesome, but it's even more awesome given the circumstances of her time.

The romance was adorable, I'm not sure if there was anything special about it but I loved it because I loved Tess and Alec - his character was awesome too. Most of the characters were - I loved the side characters, even the ones I loved to hate like Lady Regina and Mikhail.

The Titanic aspect was one of the main things making me want to read the book and it didn't play nearly as big a part as I thought it was going to - it felt like the Titanic was just the setting and that the plot didn't really focus on the sinking. I forgot they were on the Titanic most of the time but while I read it wanting and expecting a Titanic book with a twist, I wasn't disappointed with that not being as big a part as I was hoping it would be.

The werewolf thing... I don't have much to say about that. It definitely kept things interesting and was a really original twist on a story pretty much everyone has heard of. There's still some questions I have about the supernatural aspect of the story but I was happy with the amount of information we were given, it was just enough.

I like that it didn't feel disrespectful and didn't really use any real people as part of the plot. There were names mentioned and one character who has actual dialogue but they weren't pawns manipulated for a fictional story, they were just like little cameos to remind you where the story is set.

And I'll shut up now, but the book was awesome. I'd rate it 4 out of 5 stars. :)

Later.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

In My Mailbox 111

Julie:

Woah, physical books!

I had a vlog filmed...and youtube ate it. So, sorry guys. Maybe next week?

For Review:
Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Ebooks for Review:
While He Was Away by Karen Schreck
Summer of No Regrets by Katherine Grace Bond
Until I Die by Amy Plum

Books Bought:
Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Guhrke

Kindle Freebies:
A Curious Heart by Diane Davis White (now $4.50 unless you have Prime)
A Proper Mistress by Shannon Donnelly
Grounding Quinn by Stephanie Campbell (now $.99 unless you have Prime)
For Services Rendered by Patricia Kay
Vengeance Thwarted by Prue Phillipson
A Gentleman's Daughter by Reina M. Williams
Georgiana Darcy's Diary by Anna Elliott

I will note that the prices of Freebies might've changed again, but that was it as of Friday night.

Any thoughts on these books?

--Julie

Lanna:


For Review:

Burn Mark by  Laura Powell

Bought:

The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler - Heard great things about this one, and it's by the dude who wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events, so...
Legend by Marie Lu
Rani and Sukh by Bali Rai
The Consequences of Love by Sulaiman Addonia

Those last two = basically feeding my craving for love stories set in the middle east. Anyway, what'd you guys get this week?

Later.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Historic Saturday (4): Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould

Cross My Heart
Sasha Gould
Random House Children's Books
[March 13, 2012]

Venice, 1585.
When 16-year-old Laura della Scala learns that her older sister, Beatrice, has drowned, she is given no time to grieve. Instead, Laura's father removes her from the convent where he forcibly sent her years earlier and orders her to marry Beatrice's fiancĂ©, a repulsive old merchant named Vincenzo. Panicked, Laura betrays a powerful man to earn her way into the Segreta, a shadowy society of women who deal in only one currency—secrets. The Segreta seems like the answer to Laura's prayers. The day after she joins their ranks, Vincenzo is publicly humiliated and conveniently exiled. Soon, however, Laura begins to suspect that her sister's death was not a tragic accident but a cold-blooded murder—one that might involve the Segreta and the women she has come to trust.
To be honest, I wasn't crazy about Cross My Heart.

It wasn't bad, not in the slightest. This book and I just didn't click. Despite being relatively short, Cross My Heart seemed to drag on for me. While I knew it was a murder mystery, secret society type book, I was looking for more romance than I got.

Laura's a pretty forgettable main character. 10 days after finishing, I really can't tell you much about her. I know she was in a convent but she didn't really fit in and I can tell you she frequently lost patience with her day, the Segreta, her love interest...all of them. She was just a vehicle to tell the story.

The writing was good, but it never really caught my attention. I was never drawn into Cross My Heart, despite all the little plots weaving into the one story. None of the story lines really intrigued me the way I needed.

I'm sure some people will love this book and the setting and everything about it, but this book wasn't for me for a variety of reasons, none of which I can really place on the book. I strongly recommend giving Cross My Heart a try or, at the very least, going to pet the cover in person because it's gorgeous.

--Julie

Friday, 23 March 2012

Discussion: Reading in Public

While playing on the internet recently, I saw somebody ask a fellow YA blogger if they were ever self-conscious about what they read. She said no. 

This reminded me of a few days ago when I was walking through the cafeteria during study hall. I had a book in my hand and other people could see the title and cover and for a minute I considered putting it away. But I told myself that the cover and title for this wasn't a big deal. It wasn't Anna and the French Kiss or The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.
So, I realized something. Sometimes, I'm ashamed to be a reader. 

Not because it's a lesser book or because it's not "good enough." But come on. I go to high school. Does walking around with Perfect Chemistry seem like a fun idea? The cover and title just scream "LOOK AT ME. I'M A GIRL. I READ GIRLY ROMANCE BOOKS. YAY KISSY LOVEY TIMES."

I can't speak for every girl out there, but I had to fight like hell to prove I wasn't some blonde ditz. I had to work to have my opinion respected by the smart kids, by teachers, by my peers. I didn't earn my reputation for being the "smart one" or the "dictionary" by talking about how much I love love triangles and pretty books and the color pink. In fact, I recently wore a pink shirt to school and one of my friends remarked I looked "girly" and he didn't know how he felt about that. He knows I'm smart but me and girly just don't mix.

Maybe it's stupid. I know these are good books. I KNOW they're quality reads. I love their covers and their titles but...it's not something I really like talking about in front of my friends who don't read. My friend started asking me about The Probability of Miracles the other day and I think I avoided saying the title out loud throughout the conversation. I kind of whispered that it was, "like Anna and the French Kiss" and then said a little louder, "mixed with The Fault in Our Stars." I was ashamed to even say TITLES of these books. 

It's not just YA books, either. Historical romance novels? Never leave my house. Hell, I won't even buy them in bookstores. Nope, they get purchased online, then secreted off to my room. When I go to read them around the house, I try to avoid letting my parents see them. I read them in one or two sittings then tuck them away. I have three that sit on my favorites shelf where they can be easily seen, but I debated for a while putting them in the shelves I have in my closet or in my book drawer instead.

I'm not saying I'm afraid to be a reader or ashamed of what I do. Of course not. I don't boast about my blog or about being a reader, but I'll bring it up. I even told a woman who could be my college professor in the next couple years that my blog made me want to work in publishing. But what kind of books am I okay with having in public? The Hunger Games, The Demon King, John Green's books, Graceling, Divergent, The Night Circus.

   Do we notice a pattern in these books? They're gender neutral, in some cases, even leaning towards "boy-ish." These are books that become bestsellers. These are books that get to become movies and get major reviews. These are books that are well known. These are books that get major pushes from their publishers.

So then that brings the question, are publishers doing this type of thing on purpose? Giving them "girly" covers and titles and little backing so it seems like they really only get buzz because of blogging and ARCs that generate excitement? Then giving books that they do a lot for and build a lot of buzz on their own for gender neutral covers and titles? Is the title and cover of a book enough to determine how well a book is going to do? It's not a question I'm qualified to answer and it probably needs it's own post and quite a bit of research even if I tried. But it's an interesting pattern I noticed when putting this all together.

Basically, sometimes I'm embarrassed. I leave dustjackets at home. I hold up the spine rather than say then title out loud. I don't like to explain the summaries of the books because they don't sound like something...I guess worth reading to most people. The girly titles and covers and summaries aren't the type of thing my peers would generally associate with me and I like to keep it that way. Otherwise, I get embarrassed. Sometimes I'll even change which book I'm reading for the day so I don't have to bring it to school.

Maybe to some it means I'm not a real reader or I don't really love YA which would be a lie. It just means that I don't want to be judged based on the look and sound of the books I read. People can be ruthless and quick to judge and don't care how much depth is really in these books that seem like they're about love and kissing and boys, especially in high school.

I'm also not saying I want to change these covers and titles either. Because I love them. They appeal to the very girly-girl inside of me who wants to be a princess and was Belle for Halloween one year and worshiped Britney Spears at age 5. The me who loves pink and sparkles and getting dressed up, even if it is a lot of work and somewhat painful. And the not-so-simple plot lines appeal to me as a reader who likes to be pushed to think a little bit while still getting my fun and fluff and the romance that I don't have in real life.

Mostly, I'm wondering if I'm alone in this. Are there others who get embarrassed to be seen reading certain books out in public? For adults, is reading YA ever something you try to hide? Do you guys get where I'm coming from at all or do you totally disagree with me? 

--Julie

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Arcadia Awakens Blog Tour

Arcadia Awakens
by Kai Meyer


Summary: To New Yorker Rosa Alcantara, the exotic world of Sicily, with its network of Mafia families and its reputation for murder and intrigue, is just that—exotic, and wholly unknown. But when tragedy strikes, she must travel there, to her family’s ancestral home, where her sister and aunt have built their lives and where centuries of family secrets await her. Once there, Rosa wastes no time falling head over heels for Alessandro Carnevare, the son of a Sicilian Mafia family, whose handsome looks and savage grace both intrigue and unsettle her. But their families are sworn enemies, and her aunt and sister believe Alessandro is only using Rosa to infiltrate the Alcantara clan. And when Rosa encounters a tiger one night—a tiger with very familiar eyes—she can no longer deny that neither the Carnevares nor the Alcantaras are what they seem.

Ancient myths brought to life in the Sicilian countryside, dangerous beasts roaming the hills, and a long history of familial bloodlust prove to Rosa that she can’t trust anyone—not even her own family. Torn between loyalty to her aunt and love for her family’s mortal enemy, Rosa must make the hardest decision of her life: stay in Sicily with her new love . . . or run as far and as fast as she can.

I read and reviewed the book earlier this month and really liked it. The book was first published in German and has now been translated to English and published in the US and UK too (you can find out more about Kai and his books on his website).

Anyway, Kai has written up a guest post for us as part of the blog tour on why he wanted to be a fantasy writer:


Kai Meyer Guest Post:

I became a reader in the late Seventies, at a time when Star Wars came out, the animated Lord of the Rings, and there was actually quite a lot of fantasy programming on television (although at the time, at least in Germany, nobody called it fantasy). I have never really made a difference between reading a novel or a comic book, watching a movie or listening to an audio drama. Even as a child I never understood the distinction between storytelling in one or the other media. So when my father took me to watch Star Wars in 1977 – I was eight – the most natural thing to do was walk over to the book store and look for novels just like that. Or comic books. Or vinyl records of sci-fi audio dramas (we had quite a lot of those during the Seventies).

All this stuff made me want to become a storyteller myself. And it´s the reason why – many years later - I was very eager to have adaptations of my stories as graphic novels and multi-cast audio dramas. I had my stories tranferred into all kinds of media and art – there are, for examples, bands over here composing music inspired by my books, which I love – and I´m not sure this would have happend if I had decided to write socially relevant docu-dramas. I just love fantastical imagery and it´s exactly the visual opulence I´m striving for that translates wonderfully to comics, movies and even audio adaptations.

You can check out the other blog stops on the tour over in the sidebar. :)

Later.

p.s. The cover at the start of the post is the UK edition, this is the US cover:

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Purity by Jackson Pearce

Purity
Jackson Pearce
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
[April 24, 2012]

A novel about love, loss, and sex -- but not necessarily in that order.

Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby's father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives -- in other words, no "bad behavior," no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.

Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision -- to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.

Basically, I really loved Purity.

Jackson Pearce captured grieving so, so well. The grief and the struggle with God and religion is just spot on. It was intense and strong and it's really rare to see it captured so perfectly. I think that was the best part of the book for me. It was honest and real and it doesn't just apply to people who lost a parent, it applies to anyone who's ever lost someone or anyone who struggles with religion. I started this struggle over 10 years ago and it's not one that's easy to let go of and find an answer.

I also loved Shelby as a character. She was trying to hard to make everyone happy. Her mom, her dad, herself. It's another thing that makes her, and Purity as a whole, easy to relate to. Many, many people want to please everyone and that's just not possible all the time, so you pick the best path for you.

As always, Jackson Pearce's writing is wonderful. Despite being short, I don't feel like I missed anything from Purity. It didn't drag or slow down and it was plenty descriptive.

Really, this wasn't what I was expecting. It was so much more. Shelby feels like a real teen and Purity felt like it could be someone's life. Was it perfect? No, but it was pretty freaking close for me.This isn't going to be a book for everyone, but as someone who's Shelby's age and is dealing with a lot of the things she's dealing with, it was amazing.

--Julie

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Books Without Buzz: Older Contemporary YA

Recently, I've developed a strong love of contemporary books. I crave them. They're light and fun and full of romance and just perfect for my current mood. The problem is, they really don't get a lot of attention. Sure, some people will rave when it first comes out, but they usually don't get much buzz from publishers so then bloggers don't really know about them.

Then I started thinking about how many underrated books there are that get overlooked. I decided I'd do a couple of these for different categories I could think of and this time it's contemporary YA that's "older", which I'm saying is anything pre-2010. In the book world, that's pretty old. We also started seriously blogging in 2010, so I know I missed a lot of books published before then and I'm sure I'm not alone.

I still haven't reviewed some of these, but I will be in the next month or so.

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation
Simone Elkeles
[October 1, 2006]

Moshav? What’s a moshav? Is it “shopping mall” in Hebrew? I mean, from what Jessica was telling me, Israeli stores have the latest fashions from Europe. That black dress Jessica has is really awesome. I know I’d be selling out if I go with the Sperm Donor to a mall, but I keep thinking about all the great stuff I could bring back home. 
Unfortunately for 16-year-old Amy Nelson, “moshav” is not Hebrew for “shopping mall.” Not even close. Think goats, not Gucci. 
Going to Israel with her estranged Israeli father is the last thing Amy wants to do this summer. She’s got a serious grudge against her dad, a.k.a. “Sperm Donor,” for showing up so rarely in her life. Now he’s dragging her to a war zone to meet a family she’s never known, where she’ll probably be drafted into the army. At the very least, she’ll be stuck in a house with no AC and only one bathroom for seven people all summer—no best friend, no boyfriend, no shopping, no cell phone… 
Goodbye pride—hello Israel.

While Simone's Perfect Chemistry and Leaving Paradise books get quite a bit of attention, this series doesn't. This was the first book she published (as far as I can find) and I loved it SO much more than her other books I've read. It was fun and full of romance, but also had a very serious thread to it. It's not nearly as superficial as the summary makes it seem and I just adored this one. I've been desperate to get my hands on the sequels since.

In Your Room
Jordanna Fraiberg
Razorbill
[October 16, 2008]
Molly and Charlie have fallen head over heels in love, although they've never met. Molly is a fashion-conscious city girl in L.A., and Charlie is an earthy, mountain-biking dude from Boulder, Colorado. Each of them has big plans with their respective friends for the summer until they discover that their parents decide to swap houses! Luckily there's no amount of homesickness that a bit of snooping can't cure. Charlie and Molly begin crawling under beds and poking around in closets to find out a little more about each other. Can Charlie and Molly's long-distance romance survive jealousy, misunderstandings and the thousand miles between them?

This book was so cute, guys. I had never heard of it until I went to The Story Siren's blog one day and she featured it on some...I think it was a Top Ten Tuesday post. I threw it into my B&N cart for the next time I had gift cards and then I read it very shortly after. It was super well written and sweet and it just...made my heart happy.

The Best Little Girl in the World
Steven Levenkron
[Sometime in the 1900s]

At first, no one knows that something is fatally wrong with fifteen-year-old Kessa -- not her parents, teachers, friends, or family doctor. No one knows Kessa avoids eating whenever she can and forces herself to vomit when she does eat . . . that she has gone from an "A" student to failing. No one knows until Kessa's weight drops from 98 pounds to 88, 81, 78 . . . and it may be too late. 

That was the best I could do summary/information wise. I read this book one summer for school and I loved it. It was real and intense and scary as all hell. It pretty much put me off ever wanting an eating disorder and I was only like...12. So, books for the win. 

All-American Girl
Meg Cabot
HarperTeen
[September 1, 2002]

Samantha Madison is an average, cool Washington, D.C., teen: She loves Gwen Stefani (who doesn't?), can draw like nobody's business, and enjoys being opposite to her sister's annoying ultra-social personality. But when she ditches art class one day, she doesn't expect to be jumping on the back of a wannabe presidential assassin. Soon the young hero is receiving worldwide acclaim for her bravery, having dinner with her family at the White House, and is even being named teen ambassador to the UN. As if this weren't enough, she and David, the president's son, strike up a friendship that everyone wants the dirt on, which starts to give her romantic "frisson" feelings. Unfortunately, Sam thinks her sister's boyfriend, Jack, is the true love of her life, and she makes a few wrong turns that could screw up what she's developing with David. Will she ever stop following what she knows and start following what she sees?
This was another cute, fun read. It was probably one of Meg Cabot's first YA books. I read this and the sequel a while back and they were adorable and fun and romantic and I just...really loved them. Sam is a fantastic character and this is just...it's Meg Cabot. Isn't that enough reason?

Pulling Princes
Tyne O'Connell
Bloomsbury USA
[October 13, 2004]

When Calypso returns from Los Angeles to her English boarding school for the summer term, she is determined to fit in with the popular crowd. Her plan is to pretend her mother's gay assistant back home is her boyfriend. And to her surprise, the trick works...at least at first. She makes a whole batch of new friends, and even finds herself winning the unwritten contest to woo the prince at the boys' school next door. 

But one girl, Honey, undermines all her efforts. When Calypso and Prince Freddy end up in the tabloids and everything seems set to go down the drain, it's Calypso's parents and sense of humor that save her from utter humiliation. 

A fast-paced, laugh-out-loud-funny look at fitting in while still standing out...
This series was recently released as the bind-ups, A Royal Match and A Royal Mess, so it might be more popular than I realize. But it was so cute and fun and kind of silly. Calypso was awesome and she develops so much over the course of the series. And each time I finished one book, I immediately craved the next one!

Crazy Beautiful
Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
[September 7, 2009]


In an explosion of his own making, Lucius blew his arms off. Now he has hooks. He chose hooks because they were cheaper. He chose hooks because he wouldn’t outgrow them so quickly. He chose hooks so that everyone would know he was different, so he would scare even himself.

Then he meets Aurora. The hooks don’t scare her. They don’t keep her away. In fact, they don’t make any difference at all to her.

But to Lucius, they mean everything. They remind him of the beast he is inside. Perhaps Aurora is his Beauty, destined to set his soul free from its suffering.

Or maybe she’s just a girl who needs love just like he does.
This was an incredible Beauty and the Beast retelling. It had...I guess it had more depth than a lot of other B&tB retellings. It really packed a punch in a pretty small package.

Love is the Higher Law
David Levithan
Random House
[August 25, 2009]

First there is a Before, and then there is an After. . . .

The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.

Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.

David Levithan has written a novel of loss and grief, but also one of hope and redemption as his characters slowly learn to move forward in their lives, despite being changed forever.
I kind of get why this one isn't more popular. It's raw and gritty and painful and the pain of 9/11 is still pretty fresh for for some people. I know for me, the pain gets worse every year. But it's truly an incredible book and it explores the After so well and so honestly. It's such an important book and I think it helps me in ways. Claire is actually the age my sister was and her brother is the age I was when it happened and now I'm Claire's age and her brother's my brother's age. The book finds a way to make a lot of connections to real life people who remember it.

Enthusiasm
Polly Shulman
G.P. Putnam's Sons
[February 16, 2006]

"There is little more likely to exasperate a person of sense than finding herself tied by affection and habit to an Enthusiast". Julie knows from bitter experience: her best friend, Ashleigh, is an Enthusiast. Ashleigh's current fancy is also Julie's own passion, Pride and Prejudice, and the heroine's quest for True Love. And so Julie finds herself swept along with Ashleigh, dressed in vintage frocks and sneaking into a dance at the local all-boys' prep school. There they discover several likely candidates for True Love, including the handsome and sensitive Parr. And Julie begins to wonder if maybe this obsession of Ashleigh's isn't so bad after all. . . .
On a much lighter note, this is a Pride and Prejudice retelling that I loved. Julie reminded me a lot of myself, and not just because we share a name and the book is set near where I live. It was fun and wonderful and just...yes. So much yes. 

So, there you go. If you guys like this kind of post, I've got plenty of other ideas including more recent contemporary, fantasy, and steampunk. Feel free to suggest other genres too. 

Anyway, what older YA contemp books do you think are underrated? Do you agree with any of my choices?

--Julie

Monday, 19 March 2012

Dead Rules by Randy Russell


Dead Rules
by Randy Russell


Release date (UK): 29th of March 2012

Summary: When Jana Webster dies in a tragic accident, she finds herself transferred to 'Dead School' in the afterlife, where students fall into distinct cliques. Risers (good kids who died innocently), Sliders (bad kids, who have one foot tied to earth) and Virgins (there are fewer than Jana would expect).

Jana's boyfriend and love of her life - Michael - is still in the land of the living. Michael is Romeo to Jana's Juliet and as the story goes... even death can't keep them apart. Tired of waiting for him to kill himself over his grief of losing her, Jana decides she needs to do it for him.

To kill Michael she'll need the help of a dangerous and sexy Slider - Mars Dreamcoate. But Mars has a goal of his own: he wants to save a life to atone for having taken one in a drunk-driving accident. And to complicate matters, he was trying to save Jana when she died and saw what was really going on when her 'accident' happened. Jana decides to do whatever it takes to get Michael back, and nothing - not even Mars' warm touch or the devastating secret he holds about her death - will stop her.
I really, really liked this book, it was so cute and fun and wonderfully weird with quirky characters that made me laugh.

I liked the main character, Jana, a lot - she frustrated me quite a bit, because of the way she is with things to do with her boyfriend but that's only because it's blantantly obvious to the reader pretty much from the first few chapters that the person Jana thinks he is and the relationship she thinks they had don't quite match up to the reality of them and so waiting for her to figure that out does kind of make me want to reach into the book and shake some sense into her... but for the most part, I really liked her, she was funny and interesting and willing to fight for what she wants.

Mars and Wyatt were awesome, they were my favourite characters but the other characters at Dead School were great too with all of their little quirks. Considering the fact that the majority of the characters were teenagers who died tragically, it surprised me how funny and not even remotely depressing the characters were.

I loved the world, it was really original and the dynamics of dead school was really interesting (loved the whole virgins/grays/sliders/risers thing and the way the dead people were catagorized).

The book feels pretty short and there's quite a few things left unanswered but for some reason that didn't bother me at all (it normally would) - it felt like we were given just enough of everything (just enough back stories of the characters, just enough funny, just enough cuteness, just enough romance - it was the right balance of everything and that makes a nice change from books that usually leave me feeling like I wanted more).

The only negative that comes to mind is the predictability of some of the story - it's obvious from the start who the bad guys are, who the good guys will be, Mars' motives for doing the things he does, what Jana will plan to do and roughly how things will work out, how the romance is going to play out (although, that was a really subtle part of the book, it didn't feel like reading a romance)... there wasn't too much in the book that surprised me or didn't turn out the way I guessed it would from the first few chapters. But - it wasn't something that bothered me, I enjoyed reading the book anyway and was never bored while reading.

And I think that's all I have to say. The book was a fun, quick read and I really recommend it if you want something lighter and a little different from the usual paranormal books. I'd rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

Later.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

In My Mailbox 110

Once again, not much of the physical books, so no vlog. Also it totally didn't occur to me to do one until now.

For Review:

Gifted by Lanna:
Fever by Lauren DeStefano
Poison Heart by S. B. Hayes

Freebies on Kindle:
Untamable Rogue by Annette Blair (now $2.99 unless you have Prime, then it's still free)
Fair Border Bride by Jen Black (now $3.00 unless you have Prime)
Embracing Ashberry by Serenity Everton (now $.99 unless you have Prime)
Almost Perfect by Denise Domning
Three Wishes by Stephanie Bond
Charity Begins at Home by Alicia Rasley
His Good Opinion: A Mr. Darcy Novel by Nancy Kelley (now $3.99 unless you have Prime)
The Mistress of Trevelyan by Jennifer St. Giles
The Clarendon Rose by Kathryn Anthony (now $2.99 unless you have Prime)
The Silent Love by Diane Davis White
To Take Her Pride by Anne Brear
The Warrior's Maiden by Denise Domning
Titanic Affair by Amanda Grange (now $4.99 unless you have Prime)
Seducing the Knight by Gerri Russell
Passion in the Blood by Anna Markland
To Love a Scoundrel by Sharon Ihle
Silver Flames by Rainy Kirkland (now $2.99 unless you have Prime)
Behind Jane Austen's Door by Jennifer Forest
The Crown and the Kingdom by Jeannette Angell
The Fortune Hunter by S.K. McClafferty

I'm just...(*slinks off into corner)

Also, these prices are as of 3ish am, so it's possible it'll change by time this post is up and you've read it. So, there you go.

--Julie 

Lanna:

I just got one book this week, a copy of The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting (for review), can't wait to read it, I loved the first two books. :)

Later.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Discussion: Published Fanfics

This is a pretty long post, if you don't feel like reading it all, the first few paragraphs will give you the general idea of what is being discussed and you could skip down to the discussion questions at the bottom.

So I wanted to discuss this but wasn't sure if I should...but I really want to know other peoples thoughts on it, so I'm going to.

Fanfiction kind of has a rep for being badly written, riddled with cliches and Mary Sues and author inserts and all that stuff...but in amongst all the bad stuff, there's a lot of raw talent and some genuienly good writers who create brilliant stories and write them well.

Some of those good fanfics become really popular. Some of those really popular fanfics are then removed, edited so the character names are changed then published as original fiction. And I can't decide whether I think that's okay or not and I'd like to know you're thoughts on this.

One of the former-Twilight fanfics, Fifty Shades of Gray, was apparently self published with the name changes then picked up by one of the big publishers (maybe?) and has had movie interest and all that (even making the NYT best seller list).

Most of the other fic-turned-novels I've seen have started out as Twilight fanfics (actually, I've not stumbled across any that didn't start out as Twilight-related fanfiction) and they're usually very AU (alternate universe) and often AH (all human characters) - there's no denying that the writers have talent and that the stories are usually really original, especially in comparison to most of the fanfics floating around out there. But at the same time, the roots of the stories that inspired them are still there.

Some are definitely so AU that they pass as entirely original with name changes, but even some of the most original ones still have things in them that would not have been written had they not been fanfics first. For example: Poughkeepsie.

I read that when it was a fanfic and it was awesome, really brilliant, moving, great characters, great writing - but in the plot it had Edward be a piano playing homeless dude who was afraid to go out in the sun in case his skin sparkled (reasoning is different from Twilight, of course, but it's still obviously a reference to Twilight), Carlisle is still the doctor father figure, Rosalie has still become this broken girl because of something in her past that has left her unable to have the thing she wants most: a family, the pairings are the same. 

Those things weren't created by the author entirely, they were things from Twilight and switched up a little to make the Twilight references and character types fit the new story...and that's fine, but is it wrong to just switch up the names then sell it (usually not even acknowledging the fanfic roots of the story)?

There was an author who pulled her story, claimed she was editing it to get it published but she posted a section on fanfic to go with her announcement that she was publishing it - she made a mistake though, all of the fanfic character names were still there only they'd changed to things like "BellaHannah" and stuff like that, revealing that the only editing the writer had done was hit find + replace to change the names (and hadn't even done that quite right), she didn't remove the Twilight references or anything.

It's legal...at least I think it is, so long as they remove any obvious copyrighted stuff. But something about it doesn't sit well with me. 

That's what bothers me, I think - I do think these writers are talented enough to be published and deserve to cash in on that talent, but the way they're going about it...just seems kind of like a moral gray area. They usually self publish or do it through a site like Omnific Publishing (whose writers are all former fanfic writers and most of the books were former Twifics) or The Writers Coffee Shop - would a traditional publisher even accept a former fanfic and publish it? I don't know, so far 50 Shades of Gray is the only one I know of. 

Another of the fanfics-turned-novels was actually a former Robert Pattinson fic, as far as I know - where the love interest in the story was Robert Pattinson and I think the girl was either an original character or an author insert and sexytime happens...or something, possibly...something about THAT then getting some name changes to become original fiction just seems kind of - well, I have no words (I keep imagining Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart finding this book, reading it and being all, "Oh my god, this is about Rob. This is someones fantasies about Rob. Ewww.").

The thing about fanfiction is, fanfic has been kind of a gray area in the past - most people claim it's fair use as far as copyright goes but some authors are not okay with it and say it's illegal although because of how much of a gray area it is, it's unlikely an author would really take things further if they were against it (beyond sending a C&D letter to the fanfic site or whatever). 

One of the big things in the pro-fanfic argument is that these people who write it are doing it for fun, out of love of the original stories, and they do not profit from it. But taking fanfic and changing names and selling it...well, that's profiting from it, isn't it?

There are examples of published fanfics out there that are legit - they don't claim to be anything other than fanfic, they don't pass themselves off as original and they're done with permission of the copyright holders (like published books of TV shows - I own some of those for Dark Angel, Dawsons Creek and Supernatural).

I've written fanfiction in the past (a lot of which has now been pulled and hidden deep in some cringe-worthy file on my laptop) and yeah, it feels good when you finish it and feels like an accomplishment...but I'd never want to take it and try and pretend it was entirely orginal. Instead, I started from scratch with stories that were brand new and I kind of wish these other fanfic authors had done that too - they definitely have the talent for it, they have more than one story in them. 

Maybe it's because for me personally, I know that the way my fanfic ideas start and my original ideas start are different. Fanfics (for me, at least), start as, "Well, what if this happened instead of what happened in the book?" or "What if this character fell in love with this character?" or "What if all the supernatural characters were human and then this happened...?" - all of those are sparked by the book or show or movie they're a fanfic of and it's just changing things that are already there or taking what is already there and making it happen in a different way, but original fiction is different.

For me it's original from the start, it's more: "Well, what if there was a character who...?" or "What if there was a world like this...?" and I start from scratch with the characters and their world and relationships to each other. And that's different to me, I couldn't just change the names in fanfics and pretend it wasn't inspired by something else.

Last time I checked, Omnific Publishing doesn't even acknowledge on their site that their books are former fanfics, not sure if TWCS does either (haven't checked).

And the readers - are people really buying and liking these stories because they're genuinely good? Or is it because they still view the characters as the characters from the fanfic they read? Or because they already loved the fanfic? (From comments I've read about Fifty Shades of Gray, the majority I've seen mentioning the movie interest are saying Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart should play the characters - the characters that were fanfic characters of a story they already starred in, so clearly a lot of the fans of FSoG haven't cut all the ties between that book and it's TwiFic roots.)

That's one of the reasons I've been reluctant to buy any of the published versions of the fanfics - I don't know if I would judge them as books in their own right, or if I'll still be viewing them as the fanfics I read and loved over the years (because the ones that I haven't read the fanfics for? Genuinely no interest in reading the books after reading the summaries).

That's another one of the issues I have... it almost seems like some of these writers are using popular books like Twilight to launch their own stories. They post fanfiction, then once they gain a following, they pull the stories from the fanfic sites and publish it as original fiction after changing the names - if they had just published it as original fiction from the start, finding readers wouldn't have been quite so easy.

Seriously, I've written bloody awful fanfiction in the past and ended up on the favourite author/author alert list of like a thousand people and got thousands of reviews and all that, but my original fiction that is genuinely better writing... I'm lucky if those stories get 5 reviews outside of a writing community I'm a member of, and that's because with fanfiction, a large part of the reason people read and like the story is because they're projecting characters they already love onto it.

Basically, these writers are either taking something they viewed as fanfiction and intended to be fanfiction then deciding to pass it off as purely original, or they're taking their original fiction and passing it off as fanfiction to gain an audience... neither of which sits well with me.

I think maybe I'd feel be less reluctant to read these books if they had undergone serious editing and rewrites before being published instead of name changes.

Before I get to the discussion questions, I just want to be clear: I'm not judging the people that do this (except for maybe the "publishers" because I've read a lot of shady stuff about them, including stuff about their contracts being unfair) and I understand why they would do it and I think these authors have real talent and do deserve to be published...I'm just on the fence about whether or not I think it's right to publish fanfics as original fiction.

So what are your thoughts?

Discussion questions:
1. Do you think it's right for fanfics to be published as original fiction? Why?
2. Would you ever buy any of these books that used to be fanfics?
3. What do you think of the possibility of them being optioned as movies?
4. Do you think it's worse when the fanfics are based on real people (like the Rob Pattinson one)?
5. What are your thoughts on publishers like Omnific Publishing, who only seem to search out successful fanfics and then publish them?
6. How would you feel about these books being reviewed on the blog? And do you have any other thoughts on this whole topic?
Feel free to disagree with any of the stuff I've said in this post, I'm unsure of my thoughts on the situation which is why I wanted to discuss it so I'd like to hear from people who are pro-fanfics-turned-novels too.

Later.

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