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August Books

I had a great month this time, especially because I was on a road trip for the first two weeks, which gave me plenty of time for reading.

1. BETWEEN TWO ENDS by David Ward.
2. THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern.
5. RED GLOVES by Holly Black.
6. PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White.
7. OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt.
8. THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE by Maureen Johnson.
9. GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams.
11. DON'T BREATHE A WORD by Holly Cupala.
12. YOU WISH by Mandy Hubbard.
14. ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE by Gabrielle Zevin.
15. MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather.
16. LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE by Catherine Ryan Hyde.
17. COLD KISS by Amy Garvey.
18. LEGACY by Cayla Kluver.
19. THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB by Elizabeth Eulberg.
20. BLACK, WHITE, OTHER by Joan Lester.
21. DEADLY COOL by Gemma Halliday.
22. THE HOUSE OF DEAD MAIDS by Clare Dunkel.

Best Pleasant Surprises: OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt, ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE by Gabrielle Zevin

Biggest Let-Downs: THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB by Elizabeth Eulberg, GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams

Most Fun: YOU WISH by Mandy Hubbard

Darkest: LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Overall Favorite: THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern, by far

Have you read any of these? How was your month in books?

Tantalizing Future Ya Releases (1)

I decided to borrow a feature from Eleni at La Femme Readers (great blog, check it out!) where you showcase upcoming YA releases. I'm not sure how regular this will be - just every so often, I suppose. So, without further ado, here are some exciting books in no particular order!

Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer - Feb 2012.
The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten - Dec 2011.

Trafficked by Kim Purcell - Feb 2012.
Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer R. Hubbard - Jan 2012.

The Story of Us by Deb Caletti - Apr 2012.
Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser - Mar 2012.

Buried by Linda Joy Singleton - Mar 2012.
The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg - Jan 2012.

In Too Deep by Amanda Grace - Feb 2012.
Irises by Francisco X. Stork - Jan 2012.

Which of these do you want to read?

Please Ignore Vera Dietz: Review

Title: Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Author: A. S. King
Release Date: October 2010
Published By: Knopf
Pages: 336
Goodreads Rating: 4.10 stars

Review: When Charlie was alive, Vera was in love with him and protected his secrets, even as he betrayed her and destroyed everything. Now he's dead, and she hates him. He's died in shadowy circumstances, and she's the only one who knows that he was innocent - only she can clear his name. But will she? More importantly, does she even want to?

There are some books that have a voice so strong that the entire book could be about paint drying and you wouldn't be able to put it down. PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ is one of those books. Vera presents herself from the very start as an engaging, quirky character with a unique voice that could pull in any reader. She was hilarious and made me laugh; she was wrenching and made me cry.

In short, Vera - and the rest of the book - was powerful. I said that the plot could be boring and I would still love this book, but that doesn't mean the plot wasn't good, because it was beautiful in the grittiest of ways. It's the kind of story where you try to pace yourself because you love it so much that you can't bear for it to end and the increasingly smaller and smaller number of pages left is depressing.

PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ is gorgeous and lovely and funny and sad and wrenching and beautiful and quirky and really just awesome. I'm not sure what else I have to say to make you read this, if you haven't already, but you should. It got the 2011 Printz medal, and that's for a reason. This book is definitely going on my Best of 2011 post at the end of the year.

In My Mailbox (30)

Well, it's been quite a while since I've posted an IMM! I've gotten some exciting books for review recently.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I haven't heard too much about this one, but the summary sounds quite interesting. This cover isn't my favorite, but I've seen another version of it floating around the blogsophere, and that one's pretty neat.

The Shattering by Karen Healey. I was so psyched to get this! I did a Waiting on Wednesday post on it a while back, and I can't wait to drill through my to-read pile so I can get to this one.

These two books came together, and along with them was an adorable beach towel, with a penguin! It's kind of funny because the towel is so cute, but these two books seem rather dark.

Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday. I'm really digging this cover, especially with what they did to the title. The girl's eyes are creepily awesome, too.

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey. I requested Deadly Cool, and got this book along with the package, which was exciting! Already read and reviewed yesterday :) This one also has a neat cover, especially when you're holding the hard copy.

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. I know it's bad to judge by the cover, but that's why I requested this one. I love how calm it is, with the gentle colors and simple lettering.

Wuftoom by Mary Thompson. Sorry for the grainy picture - it was nigh on impossible to locate a picture of the cover! I haven't heard of this one before, but the summary is quite interesting, so I couldn't resist.

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison. I was so excited to get a chance to review this one! The cover is gorgeous, and the summary very, very enticing.

You Are My Only by Beth Kephart. What a creep-tastic cover! I've seen this one floating around the blogosphere for a while, so it was great to be able to get a chance to read it.

What's in your mailbox?

Cold Kiss: Review

Title: Cold Kiss
Author: Amy Garvey
Release Date: September 2011
Published By: HarperTeen
Pages: 336
Goodreads Rating: 3.77 stars

Review: Wren was so wild with grief when her boyfriend, Danny, dies that she uses her inherited powers to bring him back, but the boy who she now struggles to hide is only a shell of who he used to be. When Gabriel moves to town, he can sense that she has powers like him, and Wren finds herself falling in love with him. She can't turn her back on her boyfriend and what she did to him, and Gabriel is making her realize that she must fix the situation, even if it means breaking her own heart.

Let me just say that this is what paranormal lit should be like, not the over-done, cliché stories of vampires and werewolves battling it out in contrived love triangles. COLD KISS is written in lovely prose and tells a gripping story of how everything can go wrong because of one selfish choice, and while Danny is technically a zombie and Wren is technically a witch, this book is really about love and letting go and making the most difficult of choices.

Another thing that I really appreciated in this book was that the focus was far from being entirely on romance. Wren had struggles within her family, with her dad, who left them, and her mom, who's not always upfront about things. That said, I still didn't particularly like the romance with Gabriel. It developed rather quickly and somewhat out of the blue, which always irritates me in books.

Still, COLD KISS stands out in the paranormal genre to the point where I was hesitant to even describe this as a paranormal romance. Wren is a likeable, unique character with a strong, snarky personality and one bad choice in her past. The romance with Gabriel felt forced and I would have preferred it if they could have just been friends. Overall, though, I would recommend this beautiful novel to everyone, especially those who don't typically like paranormals.

I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher. This is no way affected my review.

Follow Friday (20)

This week's question is...

In books like Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) series the paranormal creature in question "comes out of the closet" and makes itself known to the world. Which mythical creature do you wish would come out of the closet, for real?

Hmm... well, I don't have a particular preference for paranormal creatures in general and would rather keep such frightening ones as vampires, werewolves, and the like in books where they can't come out and kill us all. However, I suppose I would have to go with unicorns - and not the killer ones from "Rampant", but the sparkly kind that farts rainbows.

If you're stopping by, welcome! Please drop your link in the comments so I can return the favor. :)

13 Little Blue Envelopes: Review

Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
Release Date: October 2006
Published By: HarperTeen
Pages: 336
Goodreads Rating: 3.69 stars

Review: Ginny's quirky, larger-than-life aunt leaves her thirteen little blue envelopes, each containing instructions for a wild trip across the Atlantic, beginning in England. Ginny knows that these instructions will make her step out of her comfortable boundaries and fall into situations and meet people she never would have before. But what she doesn't know is that this trip will teach her how to live, love, and accept loss, and forever change her.

THIRTEEN LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES is the first novel by Maureen Johnson I've ever read, and after reading it, I can confidently say that it won't be the last. There were definitely flaws in this novel, but Johnson's voice was really there in all its fresh, witty glory. She showcased her ability to tell a compelling story that had me laughing at the funny moments and solemnly reading the serious parts, which made this more than fluffy chick lit.

Now, as for the flaws I mentioned, there were some believability issues. The biggest of these were Ginny's parents, who seemed to have no problem allowing their daughter to go gallivanting about Europe without extra money, a phone, anything. My parents barely let me go on school-supervised one-night trips with extra money and a phone, and so I can't imagine anyone allowing their child to do what Ginny did.

There were many, many other instances in this book that required the suspension of disbelief, and to go into them all would probably take forever. While this annoyed me a little bit, it didn't seriously detract from my reading experience. THIRTEEN LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES was exactly what it was supposed to be: a fun, light book with some extra healing and love thrown in that made it a great rainy-day read. I will be looking forward to an opportunity to pick up the sequel!

Waiting on Wednesday (13)

This week, I'm waiting on...

The Boy on Cinnamon Street by Phoebe Stone. 7th grader Louise should be the captain of her school's gymnastics team - but she isn't. She's fun and cute and should have lots of friends - but she doesn't. And there's a dreamy boy who has a crush on her - but somehow they never connect. Louise has everything going for her - so what is it that's holding her back?

Phoebe Stone tells the winning story of the spring when 7th grader Louise Terrace wakes up, finds the courage to confront the painful family secret she's hiding from - and finally get the boy.

This cover is absolutely adorable, and I love that synopsis hints that this is a deeper story than it might initially seem. I'm intrigued by this painful family secret that holds her back from enjoying her life, and can't wait until February so I can get my hands on this!

What are you waiting on?

Happily Ever After

We're all familiar with the fairy tales that end with those "Happily Ever After"s - at least, the Disney versions do. Most books follow this basic format of a conflict being introduced and ending with the plot threads tied neatly together with an improvement in the protagonist's situation.

Sometimes, though, authors break the mold and write am ambiguous or even sad ending - and I don't mean a cliffhanger preceding a sequel or something like that. I've recently read a lot of reviews condemning or praising books for not having a happy ending, so I've been thinking a lot about this as of late.

I think non-happy endings can work very well when used correctly and are often extremely powerful, usually as long as there's some plot resolution one way or another. However, it has to be with the right book. In my opinion, most books work best when they follow the general formula with a happy-ever-after.

So what do you think? Do you love ambiguous/sad endings, or do you prefer all your reads to end happily?

Twisted: Review

Title: Twisted
Author: Sara Shepard
Release Date: July 2011
Published By: HarperTeen
Pages: 320
Goodreads Rating: 4.15 stars

Review: The Pretty Little Liars series continues as the four girls' secrets pile up. Aria's suspicious of the exchange student staying with her boyfriend, Emily will do anything for a swimming scholarship, Spencer's getting along a bit too well with her soon-to-be stepbrother, and Hanna could ruin her dad's career as a senator. And their worst secret of all is what they did last spring break. They all desperately try to hide their dirty laundry, but A always has a way to air it.

I've always been a big fan of Pretty Little Liars, but I have to say that I was a bit disappointed when I learned there was going to be a ninth book. In my opinion, this is one of those series that runs a huge risk of dragging on too long, and I felt like the plot was getting rather unbelievable in the later books as it was. Although I enjoyed TWISTED, I did feel that this was the case here because the series has a whole is simply just going on too long and the plot's getting too stretched.

That said, this book is still packed full of the familiar elements from the previous PLL books. There are twists and turns in almost every chapter, and my attention was held tightly from beginning to end. However, this just didn't have the same addicting quality that the first eight books had, and the last page didn't give me the same cliffhanger punch I was used to from the earlier ones.

I want to emphasize that I still very much liked TWISTED and read through it rapidly. I just feel that the series is going on too long and the plots are becomingly increasingly contrived. The guilty-pleasure-feel is gone, making me wish that Sara Shepard just stuck to the original eight books. Still, this novel held my interest and I will be picking up the tenth book when it comes out.

I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher. This is no way affected my review.

Original vs. Sequel

Recently, quite a few sequels have had their covers revealed in the blogosphere - some great and some, well, not so much. This post highlights four original books and their sequels.

First up is Wither and Fever by Lauren DeStefano.

I'm a big fan of Wither's cover. The model is beautiful, and her dress gives such a soft, airy feel to the cover that's perfectly complemented by the darker background and elegant title placement. Subtle details are pointed out by the circles and lines, like the interesting birdcage and her left hand. This is one of my favorite covers of 2011.

But then Fever? Not so much my favorite. The slinky gold dress is cool, but the model looks emo and the colors in general are garish. The green of the title, as well as the circles and lines, clashes with the gold/pink theme, and the extra elements (like the rocking hourse) aren't as intriguing as in the first cover.

Overall: Wither wins, by a long shot. The only positive thing I'd say is that having read the first book, I really want to pick up the second to find out what the heck happened to the protagonist given the dress and her surroundings.

Next is Delirium and Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver.

Although I generally like simple covers, Delirium is a little too simple for me. It's a neat idea to have the face behind the words and the flying birds are great symbolism, but this just isn't something that would really capture my attention.

Pandemonium is a pretty big improvement. What appear to be plants surrounding the model's face are intriguing, and I'm loving the warm, fiery tones, as well as the glowing title. (Plus, I'm a sucker for lower-case titles. I don't know why.) The only complaint I'd make is that it's a half-face model, which isn't really my taste.

Overall: Pandemonium wins, despite the half-face. Delirium's cover has an interesting concept, but it's just not for me.

Now we have Clarity and Perception by Kim Harrington.

Clarity was another one of my favorite covers of 2011. I just adore the simple background and light green-blue hues, and what they did to the model (especially her hair) was very neat. It's pleasing to look at, and the girl's expression does a lot to draw you in.

Unfortunately, I don't perceive Perception (sorry, I couldn't resist) to be the same. It resembles one of those old paperback thrillers, with the girl's face and the title. The rainbow colors in the background are cool though, as is the repeated (but darker) imagery of birds from the first book.

Overall: Clarity, all the way. It's sleek and modern, and Perception... is not.

Finally, we have Across the Universe and A Million Suns by Beth Revis.

Across the Universe's cover is unapologetically science-fiction, and I'm digging the awesome purple, red, and pink nebulae-things at the bottom. The top half isn't quite my favorite, because I always see a sideways hourglass instead of two people kissing, and their forms look kind of alien-like anyway.

Following the sci-fi theme of the first book, A Million Suns is just as cool, except with mainly blues and greens. I'm not a fan of that random big glare on the left, but I much prefer the people here to the ones on the previous cover. They look normal, and the hand-holding is sweet.

Overall: It's pretty close, but A Million Suns wins for not having alien-like sideways hourglasses.

What do you think of these covers? What are your favorites of each pairing?

Follow Friday (19)

This week's question is: If you could write yourself into a book, what book would it be and what role would you play in that book?

Ooh, this is a tricky one. I love reading dystopian novels and the like, but I definitely wouldn't want to live in one because I'm perfectly content to live a life that doesn't involve the possibility of death in every chapter. Still, I'd want something that has an amazing universe, so I'm going to have to go with Harry Potter - but only the first book, before things get too scary. I'd like to try those jelly beans and butterbeer once and for all. :)

If you're new to my blog, welcome! Please leave your link in the comments so I can return the favor.

Bright Young Things: Review

Title: Bright Young Things
Author: Anna Godberson
Release Date: October 2010
Published By: HarperCollins
Pages: 389
Goodreads Rating: 3.77 stars

Review: In 1929, Letty and Cordelia escaped their small town for New York City, for their own separate goals. But Letty soon finds that the city is full of girls like her who will do anything to be a star, and she's not sure if she would do the same. When Cordelia finds her father, he turns out to be as famous for his parties as his murky schemes, and she's instantly launched into a life of glamor. There, she meets Astrid, a flapper who seems to have it all - including her own dark secrets. The three girls struggle to "make it", but the dangers it brings threatens them all .

BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS explores a period in time rarely touched upon by other historical fiction novels and introduces a fascinating world of thrills and glamor with the flappers and socialites of the Roaring Twenties. The setting in this book, depicted vividly by Godberson is as intriguing as the plot-line and worth picking up for that alone. However, the first portion of the novel is devoted largely to development of the setting and characters, which somewhat drags the pacing and may not capture attention as well as it could.

By the middle and end, though, the plot picks up significantly and Godberson showcases her abilities to weave a tantalizing tale that is nearly impossible to set down and in which a reader can easily become absorbed. But although the story becomes engrossing, some actions of the characters feel unrealistic. Letty and Cordelia have a major fight over a small issue and refuse to reconcile for much of the book, which seemed rather overblown. Additionally, Cordelia's father accepted her swiftly and seemingly without pause into the family in a manner that was all too easy and seamless.

These issues, along with the initial slow pacing, may throw some off and detract from the reading experience. Despite this, the rich, original setting of the late 1920s and gripping nature of the latter half of the novel make for an un-put-down-able read, and the ending will leave readers wanting to pick up the following books in the series right away. BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS is a novel that will appeal to both fans and haters of historical fiction.