Saturday, 30 June 2012

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone
Leigh Bardugo
Henry Holt and Co.
[June 5, 2012]

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, all she’s ever been able to rely on is her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they’ve been sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.

When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. She is torn from everything she knows and whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes that she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the Sun Summoner. Only her power can destroy the Fold.

Overwhelmed by luxury, envied as the Darkling’s favorite, Alina struggles to keep her wits about her without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her mastery of her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha—and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone was nothing like what I expected. While I was expecting fantasy and a very old-Russian feel, I got so much more magic and adventure and not as much Russian.

I'm gonna be honest, I didn't LOVE this book the way many others did. I loved the book at first, but several months later I look back and realize it was just an okay book for me. It hasn't stuck in my head.

Alina was a pretty strong character. But there was nothing really remarkable there for me. And the Darkling was always skeevy and wrong to me, even though I wanted to like him so much. It was just too perfect, you know?

I really liked the world they were in. It was well crafted and complex and very interesting and different. It was fascinating and beautifully described. Definitely original and wonderful and I'd love to dive in there again.

I also really enjoyed the ending. Those last couple scenes really stand out to me as fantastic and action-y and insane and just...perfect. It made me eager to pick up book 2 and see where their lives go and how the events of book 1 follow them. And I really want to see more of Alina's world.

While this wasn't a major sticking book and I don't have a lot of passion (or memory) for it, I enjoyed Shadow and Bone and hope to read the sequel next year.

(EDIT 12/12: Thinking about it even more, I enjoyed it quite a bit more than it sounds like here. Especially the ending. And the characters were mostly really well crafted. I'm kind of ridiculously excited for the next book.)

--Julie

Friday, 29 June 2012

Taken by Storm by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Note: this is book three in the Raised by Wolves series. Review is spoiler free but the summary obviously spoils the previous books if you haven't read them (why haven't you read them? Go!).

Taken by Storm
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Summary: Bryn knows first-hand that being the alpha of a werewolf pack means making hard decisions, and that being human makes things a thousand times worse. She's prepared to give up her humanity, but the wolf who promised to Change her is waiting - though for what, Bryn doesn't know. 

Still human, she must take her place in the werewolf Senate, the precarious democracy that rules the North American packs. Standing side by side with werewolves who were ancient long before she was ever born is enough of a challenge, but Bryn soon learns that the Senate has been called to deal with a problem: the kind of problem that involves human bodies, a Rabid werewolf, and memories that Bryn, Chase, and the rest of their pack would rather forget. With bodies stacking up and political pressure closing in from all sides, Bryn and her pack are going to have to turn to old enemies and even older friends for help - especially when it starts to look like this time, the monster might be one of their own.
 So... this book. Hmm. Well... Yes. Exactly. Um. Spoons. Bicycle.




Take Two: I love this series. This book is probably my least favourite of the three--and I'll explain the reasons why in a second--but it was still really good and turned me into a quivering ball of emotion.

Now, the first half of the book was a bit slow. The plot didn't hook me in the way the others did, the characters I had loved before were just leaving me annoyed or underwhelmed or indifferent really - but then there was a moment almost halfway into the book where it all just clicked into place and I didn't want to stop turning pages and I felt emotionally invested in the story the way I had been with the first two and from that point, it was just really awesome and enjoyable to read.

The thing I love about Jennifer's books is that she isn't afraid to make her characters not likeable. She isn't afraid to make them make tough decisions or do things that will make the reader hate them or mad at them or frustrated with them - she takes risks to make her characters flawed and real and fleshed out and I love them so much for that.

And the plot...it's entertaining and it manages to pull twists that would seem cheesy or annoying in a lot of other books, I don't find it difficult to suspend disbelief the way she writes things and I love that too.

The ending of this book kind of... put me through a big giant emotional shredder. Things happened that I didn't want to happen, thingss that seemed so avoidable if just one thing was done differently, but then - by the end, even if some things happened that made me cry (yes, I cried like a baby - it's been a while since I've properly cried at a book and I'd forgotten how weirdly satisfying it is, when the author makes you care so much that she can make you hurt), I probably wouldn't change the ending. It ended in a different way than I would've expected it to or wanted it to but it left me wanting more but not needing more, if that makes sense.

And I think that's enough for one review. I'd probably rate it 4 out of 5 stars if I factor into it my reaction towards the first half (or lack of reaction) but closer to 5 if I'm rating it on overall impact and how much I adore this series as a whole.

One more thing: before I wrote this review, I couldn't think of what to write and so I messed around on photoshop for a while making crappy fan art for the book instead - yay procrastination (Bryn = Katie Findlay, because she's just who I pictured while reading this one and she's fab - click for full size):


Later.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Reasons You Should Pre-Order Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Remember over a year ago when I did this for Hourglass? Well, guess what.

It's time again.

C.J. was someone I followed...a while before her book deal. She was friends with Myra McEntire, her agent is Holly Root, what more did I need to know? 

Then her book deal was announced and it was like this awesome mix of fantasy and dystopian! Strong heroine! Romance! Action! At that point, it was called The Courier's Daughter and as I'm now realizing, I have a weakness for anything with "daughter" in the title. Hell if I can explain that. I talked to C.J. more. I learned more about her book. We formed a friendship. She made sure I got a copy of Defiance (for a reason I'll explain below) and I devoured it. Shortly after, I became her assistant.

To say the least, I have a pretty special relationship with Defiance and I want to do everything possible to help Defiance and C.J. Now that we're two months away from release, let me tell YOU why you need some Defiance in your life.

  1. I'm in the acknowledgements. I mean, if you're reading this, chances are you like me. So don't you want the world to know that my name should be in/on more books? THIS IS YOUR CHANCE.
  2. Dual perspective! See the story from the perspectives of both characters! Both people are equally important and their stories are both important and guys trust me on this, it's necessary and wonderful and loverly.
  3. All of the emotions ever. For the characters and for you. C.J. has this epic power to write well about grief and rage and it was just perfect and my heart was always breaking. ALL THE BREAKING ALL THE TIME.
  4. But see, then she fixed it. Because the romance? Oy. Steady build up, ahoy! Perfectly time to balance when your heart gets put through a paper shredder. All of the tension and all of the loving and just...ajeonslkjsg
  5. The writing is so gorgeous. So emotional. Everything's so well described and then there would be certain times where it just flowed so beautifully I wanted to give up ever being a writer.
  6. Rachel is Bad Ass with a Heart. She has all the feels. Guilt, sorrow, rage, she feels it. And she can wield a sword. And a knife. And a bow and arrow. Basically, you don't want to be on the other end of that rage.
  7. Logan? Logan is our dream, ladies. We're always talking about how while the bad boys are nice and all, why not a real guy? Logan is a tech head, uber smart. Very romantic and sweet. He's a Good Guy. But...he started out his life as a "bad boy." He's just as Bad Ass as Rachel. Then add on the super intelligence and being sweet-but-not-overprotective. Here's a napkin for your drool.
  8. So much action! Guys, it rarely stops. Which is why I think guys can also really appreciate this book. Science and weapons and fighting, oh my!
  9. Evil Villain is Evil. Sure lots of Bad Guys are bad, but this dude is merciless. Cold blooded, soulless man, seriously. One of the most Villainist Villains ever.
  10. I love the world C.J. built. It's dystopian, but it kind of reads like a fantasy novel, which I found awesome. 
  11. Obviously there are other characters besides Rachel, Logan and our Villainist Villain. They're all so well built and your heart reaches out to all of them. So well crafted and just...urgh. Wonderful.
  12. That ending. THAT ENDING. DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT'S GONNA BE TO WAIT A YEAR AND A HALF FOR BOOK 2? I mean...it's excellently written but the wait for book 2 will be totally manageable. Yes, indeed.
  13. This book? Totally passes the re-read test.
Convinced yet? Go check out Defiance on goodreads, where you can also find links to buy it in various locations. If you're still not convinced, come back and read my review in two months, deal? Deal.

--Julie

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Discussion: Opinions on Books Changing Over Time

Feel free to just jump down to the discussion questions, they're kind of the TL;DR version of the post anyway. 

So I'm beginning to realise that, in hindsight, a lot of books aren't as awesome as they seemed at the time I read and reviewed them. I think this is how I can really tell whether or not a book is truly a favourite: if it stands the test of time.

There are books that I love, and I love them when I first read them, I love them days and weeks after I've finished them and still continue to love them months and years later - the YAYOMGILOVETHATBOOK! feeling stays with me and I still feel it when I think about the book now or see it mentioned. But then... there's a lot of books that had that initial good reaction and it faded with time.

There's books that I really enjoyed and then weeks/months/a year later, I've found myself having basically forgotten all about the book or having kind of...meh-feelings towards it.

I'm not sure if this is because the books just aren't as good as they intially seemed or not. Maybe those books are just the kind of books that I can enjoy in the moment without overthinking it but once I've had some time to think about them, I see flaws that I overlooked or the good things don't seem as likeable as they did at first.

Or maybe it's that my mood plays a bigger impact on my enjoyment of a book than I realised. I'm a mood reader and sometimes I crave a certain genre or something and any book that can satisfy that craving will get a more positive reaction from me than it would have had I been in any other mood. And then, when my mood changes, my feelings on the book change too - it served its purpose, but didn't stick with me beyond that.

I normally review a book pretty soon after I finish reading it. I like reviewing when the feelings I got while reading it were still fresh in my mind. I'm not sure which would be the more reliable review: that initial reaction--the immediate feelings from reading the book--or a review written after I've had some distance from the book, some time to think about it and let my emotions settle and my mood change.

When I write a review of a book, I mean the things I say... at the time. But then, there's a few books that I've reviewed really positively that, if I'm honest, I would review differently if I were re-reviewing them now. 4-5 star books could be bumped down to 3 stars. 3-4 star books closer to 2.5. (There's also some rare cases where I view a book more positively after having some time to think about it than I did while actually reading it.)

This post is a bit rambling, sorry. Basically, I just wanted to know:

1. Do you find your opinions of books change after a while?

2. Which reviews do you prefer: ones written on instinct, going purely off of the feelings a person had while reading the book or... ones that have had more time to stew, emotions have had time to settle? Or do both have their merits?

3. And, out of curiosity, what are some books that are still as awesome to you now as they were when you first read them? 

I'll answer 3 to end this post on a more positive note:

Any book by Melina Marchetta or John Green. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Nevermore by Kelly Creagh, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Like Water for Chocolate by Laurra Esquivel, Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Stolen by Lucy Christopher, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson... and I'll stop there, because it is a long list. I recommend all of these books (if you're not new to the blog, you probably know that already though since I recommend them pretty frequently).

Later.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins

Temptation
Karen Ann Hopkins
Harlequin
[June 26, 2012]

Your heart misleads you.  That's what my friends and family say.  But I love Noah. And he loves me.  We met and fell in love in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview, while we rode our horses together through the grassy fields and in those moments in each other's arms. It should be ROSE & NOAH forever, easy. But it won't be. Because he's Amish. And I'm not.




Temptation was a pretty big let down. Amish culture fascinates me and I was hoping for something awesome and...didn't get it. The writing was just okay and Rose and Noah have some major insta-love issues and they could really use a reality check.

Rose and Noah both irritated me. Both are selfish and convinced that the other will do what they need to do to enter their world. Noah's sure Rose will drop being an "English" and be an obedient, Amish wife. Rose is sure that Noah will respect her need to go to college and be wild and independent and start learning how to use technology.

Beyond this, they didn't really have a personality. They both had these interesting back stories and a lot could've been done with them. A little bit happened with Rose's family, but her old life? Her dancing? Her desire to be a vet? Casually mentioned and then never again. I can't really remember Noah doing anything except thinking about or talking to Rose. 

This is the problem with insta-love, my friends. It doesn't give the characters time to develop personalities, wants, desires, other conflicts. There was nothing to either of our characters, or any of the side characters, because it was all about their impossible love story. And this wasn't even an impossible love story, this was a love story with two fundamentally different characters. I honestly don't see how this can work.

The writing was kind of...ordinary. It wasn't the high quality I'm used to from a novel published by a pretty big publisher like Harlequin. Nothing special.

Some of their interactions were sweet. Sometimes they could be funny. And I kept getting so close to liking Noah, especially at the end. There was a lot of promise in this book and it wasn't a total let down...but it was close.

The worst part for me? I, again, didn't know this was part of a series. So the ending gave me minimal closure and then there was a preview for book 2 that made me curious about it. Even though Temptation irked me in a lot of ways and really let me down, there's still a chance I'll be picking up the sequel. Be warned of what you're getting in to.

--Julie

Monday, 25 June 2012

TBR for the Week (1)

This summer is my last summer before going off to college. I'm not going to fool myself, I'll be busy! So my goal is to read 10 books a week this summer so the blog doesn't suffer and my TBR shrinks. 

So, this week I'm going to try to read:
1.) Defiance by C.J. Redwine
2.) Alif the Unseen by Willow Wilson
3.) Super Secret Thing
4.) The Forsaken by Lissa M. Stase
5.) Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols
6.) Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot
7.) Thumped by Megan McCafferty
8.) Great-Aunt Sophia's Lessons for Bombshells by Lisa Cach
9.) Thunder and Roses by Mary Jo Putney
10.) Freebie

It SEEMS crazy but...I've got nothing else to do these week except work on blog stuff, read, and work. And derp around on the internet. Don't worry, I'll have time to do all of it.

So, what are you reading this week? Any thoughts on my reads? Any suggestions for my Freebie or for next week? My YA options are here and my adult options are here.

--Julie

Behind the Books (2)

It's back! Time for us(me?) to talk about some personal stuff so you guys know what's going on in life even if you don't follow me or Lanna on twitter.

1.) On Thursday, I had my prom.

I went with a bunch of friends and their dates and it wasn't anything like people tell you your prom will be. I mean...I guess it was fun to an extent, but our DJ sucked so it was hard to really get into dancing and the food sucked because we had no choices.

After prom, my friends and I went to a nearby diner and had a blast. We ate really good bad-for-you food and had a very attractive waiter named Ken and it was awesome. We then came back to my house and some swam in the pool, but mostly we sat around and chatted.

2.) Then on Friday...I graduated from high school.

You can't see it here, but I'm also wearing 4 medals and a necklace. I kind of felt like a rapper.


600 caps flying in the air...hopefully tassel-less.

It was over 90 degrees and super humid (thunderstorms started 15 or 20 minutes after this picture was taken, to give you an idea). There was no A.C. and some people were there for hours to beat the crowd. The ceremony itself was almost exactly an hour long, yet a number of people passed out before it ended.

3.) Then yesterday, I had my graduation party. Just some family and family friends since the few friends I invited couldn't make it for various reasons. But it was fun and a gorgeous day and I got a crapload of money so...not complaining.

4.) Fun Fact: Last month I started working as C.J. Redwine's (author of the upcoming Defiance) assistant/intern. So, I've been handling some publicity stuff and various blog tours and what not. I love doing it and I'll be very happy when I can get back to work today/tomorrow after a rather hectic few days. So if you ever wonder why I talk about Defiance a lot or RT a lot of C.J.'s posts on twitter or what I'm talking about when I bring up work...this is what I mean.

5.) If you haven't been watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, you should be. It's kind of the best thing ever. I'd embed a video so you could try it here, but views with embedded videos don't really seem to count, so I'd rather just link you and make sure you can watch them all and what not.

6.) I'm not providing links here either since this is on iTunes, but one of my favorite musical groups is Room for Two. The problem is, until fairly recently they only had one song. Well, earlier this year, they released a second song and next month, they're releasing an entire CD. I strongly encourage you guys to go listen to the songs they have and see if you like them.

Annnnnnnd that's it for me. Until next time!

--Julie

Friday, 22 June 2012

The Hostage Bargain by Annika Martin

Please note, this is not a YA book. There is sex in the book and talk of sex in this review, so if that bothers you then feel free to click away (although, while you're clicking away, I suggest clicking to this discussion of violence vs. sex in YA books that I read yesterday, seeing as we're on the subject of sex anyway...and if you do read this review, I still think you should go read the discussion).

by Annika Martin

Summary: When small town girl Melinda Prescott is taken hostage by three hot bank robbers, she quickly discovers that a life of bank heists, luxury hotels, and kinky menages is way more exciting than working on the family farm. She should be scared of her dominating, fierce captors…but there’s something wicked inside her that’s craving to obey their every dark desire.

Melinda eagerly throws in with her three smoldering fugitives…and soon realizes that these are no ordinary bank robbers—and that bad guys aren’t always who they seem. But will her delicious captors overcome their own demons enough to let her in? And can they fight a conspiracy that’s larger than all of them?
This is not the kind of book I would normally read, but I was in the mood for some totally mindless entertainment, a book that didn't make me think too much or feel too much and then I saw this one recommended on a book rec post in a livejournal community I'm a member of and, seeing as I have this weird love of hostage/kidnapping type stories, I decided to read this one (plus, it was only like £1.90).

The book was pretty good and definitely served its purpose (uh, I mean my purpose in wanting mindless entertainment, not the general purpose that this genre is for - erotic novels just don't do anything for me in that way *shrugs*), I'd probably rate it about 3.5 stars out of 5, possibly 4. But, to be clear, I'm rating it purely on enjoyability, not as a book in general and how it measures up against other books.

The writing is... decent, not amazing but I've read worse (although there were a few typing errors missed in editing) and some of the dialogue--particularly during sex scenes--had me laughing out loud. The plot is lacking in believability but if I wanted believability then I wouldn't have read an erotic romance novel about a girl getting into a relationship with three bank robbers who kidnapped her, so for what it was, the plot was good. It kept me hooked from start to finish (which is a compliment because it was an e-book and generally, I hate reading e-books so the fact I spent hours reading this e-cover to cover says a lot).

The characters were probably my favourite part. The guys were cute, I loved the relationship they had with each other - this totally adorable, although verging on unhealthy, bromance and then I liked Melinda too, she was a decent protagonist so throwing her into the mix was interesting and I could totally get why she'd rather stay with them and live life on the edge instead of going back to her boring normal life in a small suffocating town.

Seeing as it's an erotic novel, I suppose I should mention the sex scenes for anyone who is into reading these books for that (or who is put off by that):

The sex scenes were basically what you'd expect from a book like this. Cliche and over the top, but that's fine because they're supposed to be. There were some scenes that crossed some lines that personally kind of gross me out, but that's just - personal preference, some people are into that so that's fair enough, I just do not see the appeal. There were also two of the sex scenes that totally reminded me of two movies (the butter scene from Last Tango in Paris and the car scene in Jailbreakers starring Shannon Doherty - maybe the author was inspired by those or maybe it was just a coincidence).

Sex scenes in books like this make me laugh - in my head, I imagine them being read in a dramatic voice and the dirty talk and all that... it's just funny to me and that makes these kinds of books entertaining, just probably not in the ways that were intended when they were written. Again though, that's just a personal preference thing.

To sum up: the book was entertaining, it entertained me enough that I probably will read the sequels when they're out (although it works as a standalone). If you don't mind these kinds of romance novels and just want something light and fun and fast paced, then I recommend this one (but, I'm no expert - I can probably count on one hand the number of erotic romance novels I've read in my life so I don't have many books to measure it up against).

Later.

p.s. I hate the cover...how in the world do some books end up with such bad covers?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Author Policy

Disclaimer: This post is, largely, for fun. They're my honest views, but I'm also being a bit silly by posting this at all. These aren't based on any specific incident, but just general observations and responses to concerns I've seen, so don't worry about having done something to offend me. These are also MY views, not Lanna's (unless she adds her own later).

Every blogger's different. The things we expect from publishers and the things publishers should expect from us differ, so almost everyone has a review policy. The things we expect from authors and the things authors should expect from us also differ. I've also seen how unsure some authors are about dealing with bloggers. So, I decided to put together an author policy.

These are strictly my opinions, my stances, and my policies, so don't use what I say for every blogger

What You Can Expect From Me:

  • I review, in some form, every book I finish. Sometimes they just get a mention on the posts for books I'm not reviewing with a sentence or two about them. If I don't finish the book, I don't write a review (though that may change). And books that I don't read right away still get mentioned in Book Hauls. If I have your book, it will get some kind of mention on this blog. Promise.
  • My reviews are honest. Lately I've been a bit nicer, but a lot of that's just because I felt very blah towards a book and can't identify what was wrong with it or it's been so long since I read it, I don't remember what was wrong with it. But all my gushing is honest. If I don't like something, I genuinely didn't like it. You can trust what my reviews and any other mention of your book is saying.
  • I will never include your twitter in a review that's less than fantastic. If I point out anything other than a very small irritation, I won't direct you to my review. I'm still going to tweet the link, but it's pretty likely you won't see it. And if I didn't include your name, you may not want to see it so don't worry about it.
  • I won't rate your book on goodreads unless I think it's worth 5-stars or I loved it too much to care if it's actually a 5-star book (which sounds weird, I'm sure, but my brain works this way). Anything less than 5 just gets too complicated for me to decide and I'd rather not do it. 

What's Okay For You to Do:

I love authors. I seriously do. You're largely a talented, kind, and wonderful group to work with. That said:
  • I love interacting. RTs, @s, emails, comments, linking to my blog, whatever it is. I'm often kind of hesitant to reach out first if I've never talked to you and I'm not fangirling your books. I don't want to make you guys feel awkward or make the wrong first impression. So, it's okay to make the first move.
  • I love getting some kind of response to my gushing, full of love reviews. A comment, an email, a tweet, and RT, linking, etc. However, if it's less than absolutely positive, I'd rather you not acknowledge it. I know you guys have tough skins and you won't hate me forever because I wasn't crazy about this character or that story line. But I still feel bad. I'm one of those people who feels guilty about the stupidest things and things that I shouldn't feel bad about. General rule: if I don't include your twitter in a review, that's a sign I don't want you to acknowledge it.
  • It's okay for you to ask me for an interview/guest post/cover reveal/whatever. I don't like reaching out because I don't like asking you to take the time out of your day to do something for me and I'm not really sure that those are the best ways to promote you and your book. But if you want to work with me to do something like that on the blog, let me know because I'm not going to ask you.
  • If you want me to review your book, that's fine too. Send me an email. But I still need you to follow my review policy. And as I'm a student (and will be for several more years), don't ask me to buy your book to review it. Either have some way for me to get a copy or don't ask me to review it. 
  • It's also okay just to email me and introduce yourself and make sure your book's on my radar. You don't need to offer something or have something else to talk to me about. Introductions are fine. I don't mind having email buddies.
  • If you think I spoiled some major point in your book without fair warning, you can tell me. I try to be super careful about spoilers, but I'm human. I make mistakes. I'm okay with it.
  • I'm also okay with you emailing me if I said something negative in a review and it's because I didn't understand or if you just want to clarify something. As long as you're not attacking me or telling me I'm wrong, it's not a huge deal. I'll feel bad for a bit that you read it, because that's what I do, but it's important for me to be informed.
What's Not Okay:
  • It's never okay for ANYONE to send me a goodreads event invite. I hate them. LOATHE them. Sending me one kind of makes me not want to read your book out of spite. And this is one point where I can tell you most bloggers I know also hate event invites. Just. Don't. Do it.
  • Despite what you may believe, my inbox is not a busy place 99% of the time. I'm not a super popular person/blogger/whatever. If I didn't respond to your email about a guest post, interview, or review request, it wasn't an accident. Please don't keep emailing me asking if I've thought over what you asked or if I changed my mind. I'm not changing my mind. I wasn't interested and don't want to say that or you didn't follow my review policy. It's also not an invitation for you to email me about your OTHER books. If I was interested in your other books, I would've responded and told you so.
  • It's not okay for you to add me to your newsletter mailing. If I was interested, I would sign up. But my email's here on the blog for people who want to work with me as a blogger or talk/ask about books. And for my friends who don't want to ask me for my email.
  • Calling me anything other than Julie isn't okay. If I know you pretty well and you have a nickname for me, that's one thing. But my name is not Blogger, Reviewer, Hello, Person, Bloggers[heart]Books, Lanna etc. My name is Julie. This isn't hidden information. We even made sure to match an email with a name. I don't call you Author, so I think it's fair you call me Julie. 
So, this is a basic list. I may update it if other things come to mind, but after several hours, this is what I got.

Bloggers/readers: Anything you'd add or change?
Authors: How do you feel about this? Honesty is totally okay.

--Julie

Something Like Normal Releases Today!

Today, the fabulous Something Like Normal by Trish Doller releases! I LOVED this book and you can read my review here.

If you trust me enough without the review, you can
Add Something Like Normal to Your Goodreads or Your YABooksCentral account
Buy it at Barnes and Noble, The Book Depository, or Your Local Indie.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

Keep Holding On
Susane Colasanti
Viking Juvenile
[May 31, 2012]

A romantic and empowering book about bullying

Noelle's life is all about survival. Even her best friend doesn't know how much she gets bullied, or the ways her mom neglects her. Noelle's kept so much about her life a secret for so long that when her longtime crush Julian Porter starts paying attention to her, she's terrified. Surely it's safer to stay hidden than to risk the pain of a broken heart. But when the antagonism of her classmates takes a dramatic turn, Noelle realizes it's time to stand up for herself--and for the love that keeps her holding on.

After first reading this book, I sat down and wrote a bit about judging and bullying and all kinds of deep meaningful stuff to include in the review. Sitting down again today, I didn't think it was necessary for me to go into that. You're all intelligent people, I don't feel the need to restate the obvious. 

So, why am I sharing that? Because I do want to make the point that this isn't just a book. Keep Holding On made me think and feel. It's That Kind of book that inspires the deep thoughts and the contemplation of society and how teenagers - and people in general - treat each other.

Noelle was this awesome narrator because she was so real. She was insecure and afraid and angry and honest. So, so honest. I never pitied her, but I wanted to help her. Hug her. Do something for her because she was just this wonderful person who got a crappy hand in life and it wasn't fair. Occasionally, her choices made me want to shake her (alright, it was one choice, mostly), but for the most part, she was smart and clever, even if nobody else realized it.

There is a bit of a love triangle going on, except it's not really a love triangle. One guy is Obviously Wrong and the other is Obviously Right, even if it takes Noelle some time before she understands that. The Obviously Wrong guy made me stabby, giving me the creeps from the beginning. Mr. Obviously Right made me happy and I wanted to hug him too.

This isn't my usual kind of book. I mean, of course I like my romances, but the heavier aspects? The bullying, the major family issues...not my usual cup of tea. But the way Susane wrote it, I was engaged. I was interested. I was in love with the characters from the start and I just wanted everyone to be happy and have puppies and cake.

I wasn't head over heels for this book. Like I said, it's not my usual read. But I was very impressed and have every intention of reading more of Susane Colasanti's books in the future. And I highly recommend this one for anyone who likes romances with a lot more substance.

--Julie

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Book Haul 122

Book haul time, everybody! Isn't it exciting?



Egalleys:
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill
Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel
Every Day by David Levithan

Purchased:
Belles by Jen Calonita (signed)
Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg
Gilt by Katherine Longshore
Thumped by Megan McCafferty
Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

So, really excited for like all of these. Even the ones I've read because now they can be pretty and on my shelf forEVER.

What'd you get this week?

--Julie

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

The Outsiders
by S. E. Hinton

Summary: According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for "social") has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. 

Ponyboy is a greaser, and he's always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers--until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy's skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser. 

This classic, written by S. E. Hinton when she was 16 years old, is as profound today as it was when it was first published in 1967.

So, this book... it's not really my usual kind of book. But I loved it. The annoying thing is, I'm not exactly sure why I loved it.


I guess I'll try to figure it out while writing this review.

The writing was good, I really liked it, but it didn't wow me in the way some writing does, it didn't stand out even though there were a couple of pages I marked for quotes (it did surprise me though that it was written by a 16 year old - in hindsight, that does explain some of the kind of...innocent and authentic youthful charm the book had. It also explains why self-proclaimed tough guys aged 14-20 called each other honey or baby a few times in the book...).

“It seemed funny that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.” 

The plot kept me interested all the way through, but it wasn't particularly original to me - it kind of felt West Side Story-ish in a different setting, without the romance (and the romance is the part of West Side Story that I liked best, so it surprised me that this book hooked me without that).

The message/moral of the story was good, it just didn't get to me much because other stories have already revolved around those same issues and this didn't bring anything more to the table than they did in that aspect. The execution of the story felt original to me though, while the groups of young people at war with each other in a gang-like way didn't feel new, the book just felt so different from any other book I've read and I liked that a lot (but then, I've been reading mostly modern YA for ages so this one did have that novelty feel to it).

I guess that leaves me with this: the characters. That's why I loved the book. I really, really adored these characters. The way they were flawed and heartbreaking and funny and the way they cared about each other and became a family even though they weren't all related by blood - they were family in the sense that they may not always like each other, but they'd be there for each other no matter what and I wanted to be in the book to know them, to make them smile and to try to fix them.

I wanted to hug Ponyboy and Johnny and hang out with Dally and Sodapop (normally weird names would irritate the hell out of me but I loved them in this) and I wanted to tell Pony to stop being so blind and see that Darry's just the way he is because he cares and... and... they were just all awesome.

I dunno, I just really loved the characters, enough that I loved the book because of them and would rate it 4 or 4.5 stars out of 5.

I read a few chapters of the book, watched half an hour of the movie, paused the movie to finished the book then went back and watched the rest of the movie (and then proceeded to read the IMDb trivia for the movie and search tumblr for any Outsiders things to reblog, because that's what I do when I love things). As far as book to movie adaptions go, I really liked The Outsiders a lot and the cast was awesome. And I didn't intend to mention the movie in this review, but I really recommend them both.

Stay gold. ;)

Friday, 15 June 2012

Books Without Buzz (2): Everyone Loves Them, But Nobody Knows Them

Are you confused by the theme for this post? Well, let me explain.

Recently, I've noticed a lot of people have been getting their hands on certain sequels and saying they're so excited about it because they loved the first book. Having read and loved the first book myself, I was confused. I didn't remember hearing much about this book. Yet so many people have apparently read and loved it. So how have I heard no buzz? Because it's been out for a while? Because the books themselves are "quiet" books? And why are these books still not really popular out of the YA twitter community if we all love them so much?

I decided that I would highlight these books. For anyone who doesn't know about them or for anyone who (like me) didn't realize these books were so loved.

Legend
Marie Lu
Putnam Juvenile
[November 29, 2011]

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

I remember when Legend was first announced, it was a Big Deal. Large advance, movie rights sold at the same time. It was promising to be the next Hunger Games. But then there was nothing. Sure, a review or two. People seemed luke warm to the book.

I was intrigued by the summary and picked it up on a whim one day at the store. I read it shortly after and I loved it. The adventure and the forbidden romance and the awesome characters. It was really an incredible read and I was shocked to see so little love for it. 

Fast forward to last week. People are showing off their BEA hauls and every haul I look at seems to have an ARC of the sequel, Prodigy. Many are saying it's one of their most anticipated reads from their hauls because they loved Legend. What? WHAT? Where is this COMING from?

Moral of the Story: You should read this book and suffer with me because BEA (and probably ALA) goers have the sequel and we don't. *sigh*

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Rae Carson
Greenwillow
[September 20, 2011]

 Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.


I know a handful of people have always loved this book and I know it's won an award or two, but I didn't think it was a huge deal. All I knew is that I really wanted to read it because it sounded awesome. And it was. I loved it so much that it even made my top books of 2011.

Crown of Embers (the sequel) ARCs starting going out and all of a sudden, everyone's SO EXCITED because they all LOVE The Girl of Fire and Thorns? Again...when did this happen? Do I live in a bubble? WHEN DID YOU ALL START LOVING THIS BOOK?

Moral of the Story: Go frigging pick up this book.

The Scorpio Races
Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Inc.
[October 18, 2011]

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Everyone knows about the Shiver series. It's kind of a YA staple. But The Scorpio Races doesn't get nearly as much attention. It's very different from Shiver and it's not as commercial. But it comes up and everyone and their mother has loved it. Personally, this book wasn't my cup of tea. But I'm one of maybe two people in the world who didn't love this book.

Moral of the Story: Stiefvater fans are quiet, but loyal. 

All of Maria V. Snyder's books. All of them.

These books don't come up in casual conversation, but if you ask about them, everyone loves them especially the Study series.

I've only read Poison Study and I did really like it. Assassins, poison, adventure, romance. This book is right up my alley. I want to read the sequels. However, I don't have them, so I don't think I'm ever going to. Despite enjoying the first book, the other books rarely register on my book radar. I never think to get them, and when I do, I'm just not feeling it. And because I haven't read this one, I don't want to start her semi-related series. But it seems like everyone else can tell you all about how much they love the story and the characters.

Moral of the Story: Sometimes even bloggers lose track of what they're reading.

Jellicoe Road
Melina Marchetta
HarperTeen
[August 26, 2008]

"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.

Lanna talks up this book to everyone, but otherwise? I don't see this one around much. But if you ask about it, people love it. It was weird, but I really enjoyed it too.

Moral of the Story: Always trust the Aussie authors.

One other book I'll mention is the Shade trilogy by Jeri Smith-Ready. I really liked the first book and so did Lanna. I haven't read the rest of the series and I'm not sure if Lanna has either. The series has a very loyal fan club, but it still never seems to get popular.

Other people mentioned:


All of Dia Reeves' books


What do you guys think?

--Julie

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson

Flirting in Italian
Lauren Henderson
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
[June 12, 2012]

Four girls. One magical, and possibly dangerous Italian summer. Family mysteries, ancient castles, long hot nights of dancing under the stars . . . and, of course, plenty of gorgeous Italian boys!


This was cute and I really liked it. But it wasn't what I thought it would be.

You look at a title like Flirting in Italian and expect a crap load of romance and fun, right? Wrong, all wrong. There were family mysteries and a lot more serious things going on. Some strong rivalries, some very well done self esteem issues, lots of danger and mystery. It kinda threw me off, but I was still interested.

On the other hand, I didn't know this was the first book in the series. I thought it was a stand-a-lone until I got to the last page and...it was the last page. So the loose ends and the semi-cliffhanger ending bothered me. I wasn't looking for a series, I was looking for a book I could read and be done with. In that aspect, it was a disappointment.

The characters themselves weren't really memorable to me. I know one of them had a lot of self esteem issues and I liked how that was handled. It wasn't always glaringly obvious, but she had her moments. And the book wasn't from her perspective, so you saw it from a different angle. The main character then had her own insecurities when comparing herself to other girls and that was kind of a different type. I liked the comparison of the two and appreciated that Lauren doesn't try to make it all the same. The other two girls seemed confident and perfect, but we learn that they're not what they seem and I think that was another awesome touch. This was one of those rare cases where I liked the book not so much because I liked the characters, but because they were done well.

The story was still interesting, even if it wasn't the fluffy romance I was hoping for. It wasn't super hard to figure out most of the little mysteries, but it was still a fun ride. And as I said, it was well written. It was the little things that kept me engaged and intrigued. Lauren knows how to tell a story pretty well.

Overall, this isn't what it appears to be, but it's definitely one to pick up if you want a quick read with adventure and foreign countries and realistic characters.

--Julie

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Timepiece by Myra McEntire

Have you read Hourglass? No? THEN NO YOU CAN'T READ THIS REVIEW. But you CAN read this and this. Oh and this.
 
Timepiece
Myra McEntire
EgmontUSA
[June 12, 2012]

A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking...

Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?

Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough...

The follow-up to Hourglass, Timepiece blends the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, and suspense genres into a nonstop thrill ride where every second counts.
Disclaimer: I just finished my last day of high school, so I'm kind of a mess, but I can't not review this today. It's freaking Timepiece. So, I'm doing my best.

For those of you not aware, the first book is Hourglass and it's narrated by Emerson (one of my favorite heroines ever). Book two is narrated by Kaleb. Kaleb's more of a mess than I am right now. He's full of emotions he can't really control (literally), his dad was dead but now he's not, his mom's in a coma, and he's a playboy that cooks. And I adore him.

I'm not going to lie, Michael still has my heart. But Kaleb? He made a valiant effort to steal it and was really close (maybe he didn't succeed because he kind of reminds me of my older brother. Hadn't noticed that before...). I love him in a different way. I love his kindness, his gentle soul. I love that even though he tries to be a tough dude, we're getting his side of the story and know it's not really him. I love that he is broken but he refuses to let that keep him down. I love his protective nature, his tenderness, and caring. I love who he becomes over the course of the novel.

I also want to cuddle Lily. She was just fierce and loyal and wonderful. She could be sweet, she could be vulnerable, she could be defensive and snarky. I think this is my favorite thing about Myra's books. Lily, Kaleb, Emerson, Michael...all her characters are just so real. They all have issues and love and self doubts and they're human. They're so, so human. Which is a large part of the reason I'm so attached to them.

Myra McEntire is a freaking fantastic writer, guys. She's witty and she knows how to balance the fun and the serious. Her dialogue is so clever and she always has the sarcasm put in perfectly. She can make you smile when the characters are having huge issues but they can't even handle it and need to joke. I guess the best way to put it is that Myra is the female John Green. Except instead of contemporary, she writes about time travel. Which may make her even cooler because...it's time travel. And have you read her kissing scenes? Myra's kissing scenes can be hotter than a sex scene in a romance novel.

Like the first book, there's never a dull moment in Timepiece. I've already reread this and I was still constantly trying to find excuses to read. I have to know what happens next, how do they fix this? There's always action and romance and friendships and family relationships and epic kissing scenes and science and it's just...wonderful. Myra's one of the most masterful story tellers ever. Ever.

Now, I'm not going to talk about the ending except to say that Myra is mean and I need book 3. We're going to leave it there, mmk?

The Short Version: Timepiece is pretty much the best sequel/companion ever. I could read Myra's books and almost nothing else (I mean...I'd miss some of my other favorites!) for the rest of my life, and if you aren't walking out the door to get this or clicking to your preferred book-buying website, THEN YOU ARE CRAZY PANTS WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?

--Julie

Monday, 11 June 2012

Unravelling by Elizabeth Norris

[note: this is the UK edition, the US one has a different cover - personally, I prefer the UK one and it's more fitting]

Unravelling 
by Elizabeth Norris

Summary:  Leaving the beach, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit head on by a pickup truck.

And killed.

Then Ben Michaels, resident stoner, is leaning over her. And even though it isn’t possible, she knows Ben somehow brought her back to life…

Meanwhile, Janelle’s father, a special agent for the FBI, starts working on a case that seems strangely connected to Ben. Digging in his files, Janelle finds a mysterious device – one that seems to be counting down to something that will happen in 23 days and 10 hours time.

That something? It might just be the end of the world. And if Janelle wants to stop it, she’s going to need to uncover Ben’s secrets – and keep from falling in love with him in the process…
This book kind of took me by surprise, it was really good. I went into it not really knowing what to expect but I wouldn't have guessed it would be the story that it turned out to be (for one thing, I would've thought it was more of a paranormal kind of story but it's actually more sci-fi and I really liked that a lot).

I was pretty much hooked from the start. I liked the writing and the characters a lot. Janelle was a great narrator and I really liked that there was a lot going on with her, her personality and her past and her relationships - her whole life really - felt really fleshed out and made her feel more real. The minor characters were great too, I loved her brother and her dad and Struz and, of course, Ben and Elijah.

The plot was really good. With YA, it's easy to go into a book like this expecting it to be a story revolving around a romance but this didn't feel that way, there were lots of side plots and the romance was one of them and the story was so much bigger than two teens falling in love. It was the mystery that kept me hooked and interested, not the romance.

Although, since I mentioned the R word, I did like the romance. I was rooting for the characters because their relationship was sweet. I really liked them together and I like that it didn't feel insta-love-ish and that, even though their relationship happens over a relatively short amount of time, it didn't feel unconvincing, the circumstances in the book made it believable that they could feel the things they do on that time frame.

I can't properly talk about the end of the book because of spoilers, but I just wanted to mention that I really liked how it ended. It wasn't predictable and I appreciate that, even if some things happen that I didn't want to happen (and that's a sign that a book is good to me: if it can end in a way that I don't want but still have me liking the book and thinking there's nothing I'd really change).

The book wasn't perfect, there were things about it that did have elements that seemed kind of silly (but then, that's less about it being silly within the context of the story and more about it being hard to suspend disbelief because you imagine how silly it would sound to hear someone in real life say these things) but mostly, it was really good.

Basically, I really enjoyed the book. I think I would've liked it even more had I read it when I was in a different mood (the mood I was in, the scenes that should've really got to me or made me cry just didn't get under my skin and I felt really distanced from them) but I'd still rate it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I looked it up on goodreads and apparently there's a sequel - I really, really want the sequel now but one of the great things about this book is that, while I want a sequel, it weirdly works as a stand alone too (surprising given how it ends).

Later.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Back to Home Back to Top Bloggers Heart Books. Theme ligneous by pure-essence.net. Bloggerized by Chica Blogger.