Saturday, December 07, 2013

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez was actually the second book I finished reading in 2013, but now that it's nearly the end of the year I'm feeling all guilty about the books I didn't review––especially the ones, like this, that I enjoyed and wanted to share––so expect between 0 and 20 more reviews to follow. No promises!

What appealed to me about Virtuosity despite its mainly predictable premise of a girl falling for the wrong guy (in this case, her competition) was the fact that its set in the world of competitive violin. I love stories that introduce to me a world I wouldn't otherwise encounter, especially contemporary stories, and in this case it's one in which Carmen wants to win basically the most competitive violin competition in the world, the Guarneri competition. Only problem is that she's not great at handling the competition, and as a result takes prescription anxiety medications. Then she meets her competition, Jeremy, and begins to fall for him.

At least in retrospect, since I'm writing this review almost a year late, the story was basically
what I expected, but what I liked a lot was Martinez's writing. It was easy to read, flowed clearly, and really brought scenes and emotion to life. Carmen was complicated and interesting character, as was Jeremy, and it was hard to decide which of them I wanted to win more. Although I didn't necessarily like her, I did find Carmen's voice quite entertaining most of the time. The romance between Jeremy and Carmen could have used a bit more development, but I suppose I feel a lot just because some books are a little more fast-paced to keep the reader's attention. I definitely had a lot more sympathy for Jeremy as a character than I did for Carmen.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the look into classical music that Virtuosity provided, and as I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of Martinez's second book, The Space Between Us I definitely plan to pick that one up as well since I enjoyed her writing here. Hopefully it won't take me 11 months to review that one.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald

Following up Burning Blue on the list of "books I read and always meant to review but didn't", The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald is one that I read and loved at the beginning of 2013. McDonald's books are generally a bit cutesy, or at least come across that way especially because of the covers, which I realize aren't her fault. But because of that, I wasn't sure if I'd like them or not. However, the instant I picked up The Anti-Prom, her hilarious and authentic voice caught my attention (and kept it).

The Anti-Prom is told from three points of view– popular Bliss, rebel Jolene, and studious Meg. But these girls are more than just their cliques, and are brought together by prom disasters that Bliss and Jolene want to take action about and Meg, well she just happens to have a car to help them do that. 

This book is basically like a road trip adventure except it all takes place over one night. The premise is quite similar to Burn For Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian which I really enjoyed, but this one is much funnier, although it does have its moment of sincerity, but they are balanced by a lot of entertaining adventures. It is really fun watching these different girls come together and see what kind of mess they were going to get into and how they were going to get out of it. 

Overall, I was really charmed by this book and found McDonald's writing easy and entertaining to read. I highly recommend The Anti-Prom if you're looking for something lighthearted and would definitely pick up other McDonald novels in the future, cheesy covers or not!

Release Date: April 10th, 2012  Pages: 288  Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher Publisher: Candlewick Press  Buy It: Book Depository

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin

It's kinda ridiculous for me to review this now, almost a year after I finished it, but here's the thing: it's the only book I read in 2012 that I didn't review. And that's been nagging at me ever since. So here are my very-late thoughts on Burning Blue by Paul Griffin.

Anyway I picked this one up because the concept caught my attention and I'm a sucker for a good mystery that sucks me in. Pun fully intended. This is the story of a girl who has everything, until she predictably loses it all. In this case it's because she's splashed with acid, destroying half of her perfect face. One of the guys at school, a computer hacker, decides to look into who did it to her. But what he doesn't realize is finding out the truth may be the most dangerous thing of all.

This was an intense read. I read Burning Blue on a single day, because I just had to find out what happened. I thought Griffin did an excellent job weaving the mystery and clues together, and I like the unique spin of the computer hacker element. Even a year later I can remember how quickly I turned the pages. Griffin took a concept that has been done before–beautiful popular girl loses everything– but made it fresh and authentic. It was also a bit chilling and creepy at times, especially near the end. 

Overall, a really enjoyable read and although I haven't yet, Burning Blue definitely made me want to pick up other novels by Paul Griffin. And when I do, I'll try to review them a little more promptly than this one!

Release Date: October 25th, 2012  Pages: 288  Source: Borrowed 
Publisher: Dial  Buy It: Book Depository

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Mouse House Tales by Susan Pearson (Illustrated by Amanda Shepherd)

Mouse House Tales by Susan Pearson is illustrated by Amanda Shepherd and tells two stories. In the first one, Mouse needs to build and furnish her home, and gets help from all of her animal friends. In the second she's moved in, but there's a mystery visitor making noises at night who she wants to catch. 

I really liked the classic look of the illustrations in Mouse House Tales, it definitely reminded me of picture books from when I was a kid, especially in combination with the storyline about animals working together. There was also a little tweak that I found adorable– there's a goat who won't stop offering everyone cheese. I loved this cute character and I thought he was pretty funny.

I also enjoyed the second story although it had a less-obvious conclusion, it was still pretty fun and cute and I'm always happy when lots of different animals come together. The book rhymes, and there was the ever popular seven and eleven one that seems to show up all the time even when it's unnecessary. But overall I didn't mind cause it helps the book flow and makes it a bit musical to read aloud.

Ultimately a charming story with charming illustrations, I enjoyed Mouse House Tales and I could definitely see this as the first in a series about Mouse's adventures. Wherever she goes, I hope that there is cheese!

Release Date: September 10th, 2013  Pages: 72  Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Blue Apple Books  Buy It: Book Depository

Monday, November 04, 2013

It's A Firefly Night by Dianne Ochiltree (Illustrated by Betsy Snyder)

It's a Firefly Night is written by Dianne Ochiltree and illustrated by Betsy Snyder. It depicts a young girl catching fireflies with her dad, only to let them free into the sky and watch them glow in the sky. So, first off, I'm immediately won over by any book with glitter on the cover, and I know that my five-year-old-self would be too–– but it's the contents both text and illustration-wise that ultimately stole my heart.

This is the kind of book that tells a simple story, but does it perfectly. The text is told in short rhyming stanzas of four lines, which occur once on every two page-spread. The only complaint I have about this book at all is that some of the rhymes aren't perfect. That said, the feeling it generated was so magical, I'm willing to forgive it. On the pages, the text is white, which contrasts nicely with the dark nighttime colours of the book, it's also large enough to be easy to read without overwhelming the drawings.

The story of It's a Firefly Night is easy to follow, with a sweet message about letting the fireflies go. There's also some facts at the back of the book about fireflies, which I thought was a fun addition and would make it more interesting to older readers. Finally, there's a tiny bit of counting in the book as the main character counts the fireflies, which I think is a nice component to have. 

Complimenting the lovely text by Dianne Ochiltree are gorgeous illustrations by Betsy Snyder. I adore these illustrations. They perfectly capture the magical feeling of the evening, and have some cute hidden details like a caterpillar hiding out on a leaf that would be fun for kids to notice. The way that the fireflies in the book glow is just so gorgeous, and I love the cute little dog that keeps the girl company.

Overall, It's a Firefly Night was a huge hit for me, both writing and illustration wise. I definitely hope these two collaborate again!

Release Date: May 14th, 2013  Pages: 32 Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Blue Apple Books  Buy It: Book Depository

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Monster Needs One More! by Natalie Marshall

Monster Needs One More! appears to be the second monster book by Natalie Marshall, following up Monster, Be Good! This time the monsters are back, and I would say they are even cuter. They are all looking for one more of something, one more cookie, one more teddy bear.

That said, like the last book, I adored the illustrations and I think they would greatly appeal to young children, but had an issue with the text. These are all monsters saying they NEED one more. They are grouchy or not-so-happy monsters, and it is only getting more (often things like candy or cookies) that cheers them up, and it's not because they are hungry, it's just because they need one more. It's a message I'm not entirely convinced by. That said, Monster Needs One More! ends with the monster needing one more kiss goodnight, which is absolutely adorable.

Although the counting aspect of Monster Needs One More! is good for helping kids learn, the book also rhymes and I think that causes it to be confusing at times, because there is always a sentence that rhymes with the number before it finishes doing the math. For example, "Another beach ball! Like the water? Can you dive? I had four. Now I have five." I think it would be easier for kids to follow if the math immediately followed the monster asking for more. 

Ultimately, Monster Needs One More! had some flaws in the writing that make me hesitant to recommend it, as adorable as the illustrations are. I definitely hope for more monsters from Natalie Marshall in the future, they are so cute!

Release Date: August 27th, 2013  Pages: 24 Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Blue Apple Books  Buy It: Book Depository

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Monster, Be Good! by Natalie Marshall

I definitely picked up Monster, Be Good! because of the illustrations by Natalie Marshall, and they did not disappoint. This is a book with bright, clear, large illustrations of adorable monsters. I think it would definitely keep the attention of a young child. It also has very little text on each page which means there aren't tiny, distracting words that are difficult to read.

The point of Monsters, Be Good! is to remind children that they are in charge of the monsters, and "if a monster is selfish, say, "TAKE TURNS!" ". It's a message that makes sense, reminding them they have nothing to be scared of, but I wasn't a huge fan of the way it was portrayed. I get that the monsters are doing something wrong and should be corrected, but I thought it came across too bossy and that lost some of the fun of the book. With such colourful drawings, I really expected expected the book to come across a little less angry.

Overall, I really liked the message not to be scared of monsters, and I thought the colourful drawings helped with that but for me, Monsters, Be Good! is definitely a book where the illustrations far outshine the text.

Release Date: February 26th, 2013  Pages: 28 Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Blue Apple Books  Buy It: Book Depository

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Backstage Cat by Harriet Ziefert (illustrated by Jenni Desmond)

It's been years (maybe decades?) since I read picture books, but there's so gorgeous and sweet and maybe it's a bit of nostalgia but I've been picking up a few lately. I also love sharing them with my friends who have or are having babies! One such book is Backstage Cat by Harriet Ziefert (illustrated by Jenni Desmond).

Admittedly, the cat aspect of Backstage Cat is what caught my attention because I thought it might be cute to pick up for a friend who has several cats and a baby on the way! I was right. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and the text is sweet, straightforward and entertaining: what a perfect combination!

Backstage Cat is the story of a cat in a theatre who gets into all kinds of trouble. It's really cute and gives a nice idea of some of the things that go into making a play and some of the jobs that people have. I love the watercolour illustrations as well, it really brings a movement to the pages and I think the text is well-placed.

The one part of Backstage Cat that threw me off was the part where the main performer (and owner of the cat) sings a long song. Personally, I thought it was too long and sorta lost my attention and lost some of the charm of the rest of the book. I would have preferred something snappier and maybe more obvious as a song. 

However, overall, I really enjoyed Backstage Cat and I think Ziefert did a cute job with the story as I always love ones that involve animals, especially animals that get into trouble. The illustrations by Desmond that go with it are also exceptionally lovely.

Release Date: March 12th, 2013  Pages: 40 Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Blue Apple Books  Buy It: Book Depository

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

I was honestly never very into vampires in the first place although I don't mind the occasional paranormal, vampires had just already been so overdone by the time I started reading YA that I was tired of them before I even read any vampire books. Sorry. But I still pick up the occasional vampire novel that catches my eye, and one of those was The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. 

I have wanted to read a Holly Black novel for ages, and that just never happened but with the release of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown I decided it was finally time––plus it was a standalone novel and those just generally appeal to me, especially in YA where they are far less common. Oh, and that gorgeous cover, I know we're not supposed to admit it, but just look at its beauty! 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is the story Tana, a teenage girl living in a world where vampires are locked behind walled cities, or Coldtowns, and sometimes humans get stuck there as well. After a party gone horribly wrong, and unsure if she's infected or not, Tana heads behind the wall hoping to save herself and return home to her family. 

The premise of Coldtown really caught my attention, and it was immediately fulfilled when I began reading the novel. Unfortunately, as the story continued it just didn't have the same spark and tension as the first 100 pages or so (and at over 400 pages long, that's a pretty big problem). I did enjoy Black's writing, and there's a lot of nice twists in the book, but it is definitely heavy on the story and lighter on the character depth. 

Tana goes through a lot, and I really wanted to connect with her struggle, but it– as well as the romance– just didn't have the impact on me that I expected. Part of that might be due to the third person narrative, but even then, I expected more of an emotional investment in the story, rather than just one to the plotline.

Even though I never really connected with Tana, I still enjoyed following her journey, so I don't regret reading (or finishing) The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. It's a fun twist on vampires and it's got a complicated storyline that I didn't expect. I would definitely be willing to pick up more books by Holly Black in future and if you enjoy thrill-filled vampire stories, I do recommend The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.

Release Date: September 3rd, 2013  Pages: 419  Source: Borrowed 
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers  Buy It: Book Depository

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fire With Fire by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

I really enjoyed the first collaborative novel between Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, Burn for Burn, so I was definitely excited to pick up the second book in their trilogy, Fire With Fire and see what my favourite revenge-seekers Lillia, Kat and Mary were up to.

Originally when I was reading about this trilogy it was described as having a paranormal edge to it, but that didn't appear at all until the very end of Burn for Burn. Likewise, while it is definitely more apparent in Fire With Fire it's not until the very end that we really find out where all the clues have been leading, with a cliffhanger that has me already begging for book 3, Ashes to Ashes, which sadly must wait until 2014.

As a general rule, I prefer contemporary to paranormal, so I don't really mind that these books come across more contemporary, especially because they are so well-written and I enjoy the characters so much. That's really what makes the Burn for Burn trilogy, the character voices– all three of which are very distinct– and the writing. The revenge storyline is entertaining but not terribly original (although I do love the twist at the end of Fire With Fire and can't wait to see where it goes) but the writing is so strong it carries these books into "really really enjoy" territory for me.

Fire With Fire begins almost immediately after Burn for Burn as the girls learn whether or not they got away with their homecoming hijinks and if their revenge changed anything at all. I was especially drawn to Kat's voice and story in this book, although a lot of the mystery revolves around what's going on with Mary. The book itself is really long at over 500 pages, which is maybe too long, but with good enough, easy to read writing, I don't mind.

In Fire With Fire it's once again, it's impossible to tell where Han's writing begins and Vivian's writing ends, as the collaboration is smooth and easy flow and realistic details make me want to pick up both of their books. After reading Burn for Burn I did grab Han's Summer Trilogy but I still need to read a solo book by Vivian. I guess that's something to keep me occupied until Ashes to Ashes, the final book in this awesome trilogy, is released.

Release Date: August 13th, 2013  Pages: 528  Format: Egalley
Source: Edelweiss  Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Buy It: Book Depository

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy

I'm a huge unabashed fan of Simon Van Booy, so of course I had to request to be on the book tour for his latest book, a historical fiction novel called The Illusion of Separateness. The novel tells several stories, interwoven by time and space. Each story seems separate, but it is only the illusion of separateness which is finally revealed at the end of the novel.

I did find the novel a bit difficult to follow at times, and I think it would really have benefited from being read in one sitting (and at just over 200 pages, that's not an unmanageable feat) although I wasn't able to. What makes The Illusion of Separateness so easy to read though is the beautiful writing of Simon Van Booy, whose prose takes you into the world of a German solider who has had a bullet shot into his head, or a lonely British film director– each character in a different setting, in a different world, but ultimately connected.

It doesn't take Van Booy many words to say what is needed, and that's why I first fell in love with his writing through his incredible short stories. His words are brief, but passionate. Every once in awhile while reading it would catch me, a line I just had to write down, flawless and raw.
Love is also a violence, and cannot be undone.
This is a novel of beautiful characters and beautiful words. The Illusion of Separateness is complex and delicate, and at times I felt a bit muddled but what I constantly felt throughout was a connection to the text and to the people that inhabited it. I will definitely continue to pick up any future books from Simon Van Booy, and highly recommend that you do as well! 

Release Date: June 11, 2013  Pages: 224 Format: ARC
Source TLC Book Tours Publisher: Harper Buy It: Book Depository

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Truth About You and Me by Amanda Grace

The Truth About You and Me is the latest novel from Amanda Grace, a pseudonym for the prolific Mandy Hubbard, whose novel, Ripple I had previously read and enjoyed although I wasn't completely obsessed. I had been sent Ripple for review, but from my own perspective, her Amanda Grace titles, which are darker and edgier than the Hubbard titles, are the ones I found much more appealing so I was excited to finally pick one up.  

The Truth About You and Me tells the story of sixteen year Madelyn Hawkins, who is so smart she's attending college through a gifted program at her high school. One her first day there she meets Bennet, and she's instantly attracted to him. Even better, he seems to reciprocate. The only problem is, Bennet is her college professor, and he's under the impression that Madelyn is eighteen... and she hasn't told him the truth.

The novel is told like a letter from Madelyn to Bennet, so the reader gets insight into their private world. I really enjoyed the unusual format, as Madelyn looks back on how things started and how they went so terribly, terribly wrong. It's an incredibly bittersweet and emotionally complex novel. I really spent the entire book conflicted over who I wanted to root for, there isn't an obvious "good" or "bad" guy, which makes it really authentic as real life is rarely clear-cut either. It is horrible that Madelyn didn't tell Bennet the truth, but as a reader, I was caught up in her infatuation and desire to be someone different, so I could almost understand where she was coming from, as horrible as it was. It's definitely a book that leaves a lot to discuss.

The only complaint I had about the novel would be a spoiler, so I'll simply say that there was one turn of events that felt too convenient and contrived in both its timing and execution. Otherwise, it was a short, easy to read and enamoring novel that kept my attention from beginning to end. The day that I started reading it I had to skip to the end before I fell asleep just to know how things turned out, and that rarely ever happens for me when the novel isn't a traditional mystery. I just got swept away in Grace's prose and Madelyn's story. Although I am still interested in reading more Hubbard books, they seem like great, light, fun reads, it is Grace titles I am most likely to seek out in the near future. There are two more, But I Love Him and In Too Deep and they are now high on my "to read" list. If it's not already on your reading list, you should definitely consider picking up The Truth About You and Me when it's released in September.

Release Date: September 8th 2013  Pages: 264  Format: E-galley
Source: NetGalley  Publisher: Flux  Buy It: Book Depository

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing Amelia has all my favorite ingredients for a great novel--mystery, intrigue, multiple viewpoints, switching times and dates, varied source materials--all mixed together in one truly compelling read!

The plot itself is relatively simple, focusing on a Kate Baron's quest to understand her teenage daughter Amelia's sudden suicide. But as the story moves along, nothing is as it seems, and soon Kate begins to suspect Amelia's death was not a suicide at all, but part of something larger and far more sinister. The story is told largely from Kate's third-person perspective as she searches for clues in Amelia's school papers, text messages, and Facebook posts. Amelia's first-person narrative appears now and then as well, slowly illuminating the weeks up to her death. Interspersed throughout are excerpts from the high school gossip blog giving a larger context to the events in Amelia's life and the high school environment in general. This hodgepodge collage of sources and formats really worked for me as a reader. Visually pleasing and well-formatted, it mirrors the way modern technology can complicate our communication and conceptions of narrative.

I wish Amelia had more page-time in this novel, because she was by far the most interesting character to me. McCreight does an excellent job of making the reader care about her, even though it is evident after the first fifteen pages or so that her death is unavoidable. Amelia's best friend Sylvia and the other high school characters are all complex and realistic, and the dialogue is one of McCreight's greatest strengths. She can make me interested in Kate's legal jargon and then a few pages later laugh out loud over the high school slang. I firmly believe this book would appeal equally to my mom as it would to my teenage sister, and that makes it stand out as a strong and compelling work.

Recommended to: legal/investigative drama fans (think Jodi Picoult, Janet Evanovich), people who love collage and experimental styles of storytelling, any woman who has ever loved a girl like their own daughter.

Release Date: April 2, 2013  Pages: 382 Format: ARC
Source TLC Book Tours Publisher: Harper Buy It: Book Depository

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Author Interview with Scott Tracey

How would you describe Moonset in ten words or less?

Sinisterly motivated adults manipulating oppressed teenagers hunted by dark powers.

What was the inspiration behind Moonset?

I wrote a line of dialogue, where Justin talked about his parents. It summed up their rise and downfall and really made me curious about the world they inhabited. The line never made it into the book, but it's the seed the whole idea sprang from.

"When they were sixteen, my parents were Romeo & Juliet. In their twenties they were Bonnie & Clyde. Later, they were Rasputin and Elizabeth Bathory....and I don't know what I'm supposed to do with that."

Where do you do most of your writing? What are your reading and writing habits like?

I tend to write somewhere for a few weeks, and then I move spots. I usually start at the desk in my room, but eventually I'll move either into the living room at the coffee table, the kitchen table, or sometimes downstairs in our library/rec room. I always have to have music playing, although it flips between actual playlists and movie scores.

As for reading, I try to read a little every day. Every so often I'll take an afternoon off and blow through the rest of whatever I'm reading at the moment. I'm trying to do that more and more, so that I'm reading at least as much as I'm writing.

How is the Moonset series different from your first series, Witch Eyes? How is it similar?

Moonset focuses more on a big picture of magic. There's a secret government to the magical world, spells are restricted, everyone is spread out so that magic will always survive. To me, magic in Witch Eyes is a little like bending in Avatar: the Last Airbender (at least visually). The collection and manipulation of energy. In Moonset, words are spoken and spells snap into place.

How are they similar? Well, both feature adults of nebulous allegiances, creatures and threats of a demonic origin, as well as lots of darkness and sarcasm. Sarcasm is definitely my favorite.

Was writing Moonset easier or more difficult than the Witch Eyes stories? In what ways?

Moonset was actually a really hard book for me to write. I wrote it during a rough period of my life, and every time I've gone back to work on it, it's stirred up all those old memories. It's like when you get food poisoning after eating a certain type of food - every time you're confronted with that food in the future, you associate it with the one time you got food poisoning.

That said, I like and am proud of the book, I just remember that it was definitely a struggle there for a bit. ;)

What are some of the books, releasing in 2013 (besides Moonset and Phantom Eyes!), that are you most excited about? Do you have any you've fallen in love with so far this year?

Nova Ren Suma's 17 AND GONE (which will be out by the time this gets posted, I'm so excited)!

First book I've loved, for sure, has been Victoria Schwab's THE ARCHIVED. Flawless storytelling. And also Alex Kahler's THE IMMORTAL CIRCUS.

What do you do when you're not writing?

Lately, it feels like I'm always writing! That's the best and worst part of having two books coming out in the same year. :)

What are you writing now?

I have a couple of things I'm working on. One is an urban fantasy that does NOT feature witches, and the other is more of a horror/thriller YA. I love the idea of serial killers, so I've been itching to play around with that.

Thanks so much to Scott for stopping by In The Next Room!

Other information about Scott and his books: 

Moonset, a coven of such promise . . . Until they turned to the darkness. 

After the terrorist witch coven known as Moonset was destroyed fifteen years ago—during a secret war against the witch Congress—five children were left behind, saddled with a legacy of darkness. Sixteen-year-old Justin Daggett, son of a powerful Moonset warlock, has been raised alongside the other orphans by the witch Congress, who fear the children will one day continue the destruction their parents started.

A deadly assault by a wraith, claiming to work for Moonset’s most dangerous disciple, Cullen Bridger, forces the five teens to be evacuated to Carrow Mill. But when dark magic wreaks havoc in their new hometown, Justin and his siblings are immediately suspected. Justin sets out to discover if someone is trying to frame the Moonset orphans . . . or if Bridger has finally come out of hiding to reclaim the legacy of Moonset. He learns there are secrets in Carrow Mill connected to Moonset’s origins, and keeping the orphans safe isn’t the only reason the Congress relocated them .. .


Scott Tracey is a YA author who lived on a Greyhound for a month, wrote his illustrated autobiography at the age of six, and barely survived Catholic school (and definitely not for the reasons you might think).

He is the author of WITCH EYES, chosen as one of Amazon’s Best LGBT Books of 2011, as well as an ALA Popular Paperback in the Forbidden Romance category. The final book in the WITCH EYES trilogy, PHANTOM EYES, will be released in the fall of 2013.

He is also the author of MOONSET, a new series which will be released April 8, 2013, as well as a contributor to the SHADOWHUNTERS & DOWNWORLDERS anthology, edited by Cassandra Clare.

His career highlights include: accidentally tripping a panic alarm which led to nearly being shot by the police; attacked in a drive-thru window by a woman wielding a baked potato, and once moving cross country for a job only to quit on the second day.

His gifts can be used for good or evil, but rather than picking a side, he strives for BOTH (in alternating capacity) for his own amusement.


Other stops on this blog tour (visit Rockstar Tours for the full list):

Apr. 1st - I Am A Reader, Not A Writer - Interview
Apr. 2nd - TSK, TSK, What to read? - Guest Post
Apr. 2nd - Paranormal Book Club - Review
Apr. 3rd - YA Reads - Review
Apr. 4th - A Book and a Latte - Interview
Apr. 5th - Fade Into Fantasy - Guest Post
Apr. 6th - In the Next Room - Interview
Apr. 7th - DforDarla's Definite Reads - Review

And an opportunity to win a copy of Moonset! Five winners, open to the US only:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Mini Reviews: Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton and The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

I don't read a ton of it, but every once in awhile there's nothing like a good mystery novel to get keep my attention, and Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton was exactly that. The story begins with a school on fire, and Grace, a mother, knows that her daughter Jenny is inside. She races in and finds her in time, but that is only the beginning of their trouble, as the arsonist is still on the loose and whoever it is still wants to destroy her family. There is an unexpected slightly supernatural element to the book, but even if I didn't totally buy it, it worked in context.

Like the successful mystery novel it is, Afterwards was full of twists and turns that kept me guessing. It's a pretty long book at 400 pages, and I admit I might have (digitally) flipped towards the end to get some details just so I could go to sleep without finishing it. It was intense and exciting and wonderful. Ultimately, I picked this book up looking for a good mystery novel, and I went away completely satisfied. Afterwards is an unexpected, sometimes strange and unusual novel, but it was a great read for me and left me eager to read Lupton's much-loved debut novel, Sister, in the future.

Obviously Afterwards left me in a mystery-craving mood because the next book I finished was The Cutting Season by Attica Locke. The novel centers around a historic plantation house in Louisiana, Belle Vie, and Caren, the woman who has managed it for the last four years but has long had ties to the place. When a dead body turns up, Caren is drawn into the investigation, uncovering many secrets along the way.

The Cutting Season initially caught my attention as a mystery, but as soon as I started reading I realized it was more than that. If anything, it falls into the category of 'literary mystery' because of Locke's detailed writing and eloquent prose, but with an unexplained murder underpinning the entire novel. Unlike Lupton's novel, there is definitely nothing supernatural about it, but that doesn't it stop it from having some pretty creepy moments.

My major issue with the novel was that it was too slow-paced at times, in particular because I was looking for a mystery, and that meant that as beautiful as Locke's writing is, it often had difficulty keeping my attention. I didn't have an incredibly strong connection to Caren either, which made me less invested in the outcome and also probably contributed the fact that the book took me an entire month to read– in comparison to the two days that Afterwards took. That said, for readers looking for a complicated and original story, an incredibly setting, and beautifully written prose, The Cutting Season is still worth checking out.

Release Date: April 24th 2012 / September 18th 2012   Pages: 400 / 384   
Format: E-galley /ARC   Source: NetGalley / Publisher 

Monday, April 01, 2013

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

Note: This review contains no spoilers of We'll Always Have Summer, but may contain spoilers of the first book in the series, The Summer I Turned Pretty, a review of which can be found here and the second book in the series, It's Not Summer Without You, a review of which can be found here.
I really love Jenny Han's writing, but I'm not sure I always love her stories. Such is the case with the third and final book in the Summer Trilogy, We'll Always Have Summer.

This book starts off with Belly agreeing to marry Jeremiah. Never mind the decision feels rushed to everyone, including Belly's family and the reader– I mean, she's still in college and she's only been with him for a couple years. But stubborn as always, Belly doesn't care. I'd blame Jeremiah, but he's so in love with her it's not like you can expect him to act any different. But what it means is that from the very beginning, I'm already not a fan of Belly, something I struggled with throughout this trilogy, as much as I loved the boys unfortunately the girl they were both fighting over could be pretty irritating.

I did start to understand Conrad better in We'll Always Have Summer in this novel, something I struggled with in the previous book, It's Not Summer Without You. Maybe Conrad was also made more appealing by the fact that Jeremiah has basically turned into a frat boy, a transformation I found disappointing though I guess it was realistic.

Of course the moment Belly agreed to marry Jeremiah I wanted Conrad to sweep in and steal her away, but the way things unfolded did seem believable. I guess overall I was happy with the ending, and Han manages to tie up everything pretty nicely for the reader, but it just felt a little like something was missing. Maybe I would have been happier if this series had ended with The Summer I Turned Pretty because for me as a reader, none of the subsequent books lived up it. That said, it was refreshing to see Belly finally grow up a bit by the end.

Ultimately, these books haven't changed how I feel about Han as a writer. Her writing is beautiful and her characters are complicated, and I will definitely be continuing with her recent co-written series, which began with the first book I read by her, Burn For Burn. She's a writer I'll continue to watch out for, even if We'll Always Have Summer isn't a book I'll be returning to again.

Release Date: April 26th 2011  Pages: 291  Source: Borrowed  Publisher: Simon and Schuster 
Also By This Author:  The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer #1); It's Not Summer Without You (Summer #2);  Burn for Burn (Burn for Burn #1)  Buy It: Book Depository

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Sarah Jio’s third novel, Blackberry Winter, provides the same delightful mix of mystery, romance, and history, as her first two, along with unique twists and its own emotional storyline.

Like The Violets of March and The Bungalow, Blackberry Winter fluctuates between two time periods where an unsolved mystery from the earlier time period comes to light decades later and a female protagonist works to find the truth, including an unexpected connection to her own life. 

Blackberry Winter is set in Seattle, both in 1933 and 2010, and unlike her earlier books, Jio’s main focus is not on romance but instead on motherhood– though the romance is definitely still important.

In 1933, during a May 1st storm, the three-year-old son of single mother Vera vanishes; the only trace he leaves behind is his teddy bear– face down in the snow. In 2010, another unexpected May 1st snowstorm happens and Claire, a reporter covering it, discovers the story of the unsolved abduction and works to learn what really happened.

Just as The Bungalow found some unexpected characters from Jio’s debut appear, a few more show up for an important appearance in Blackberry Winter. Although each novel is absolutely a standalone, it’s nice to get to revisit favourite characters again, even if they aren’t always doing quite as well as you hoped.

The novel itself is probably Jio’s strongest so far, as her storytelling has an emotion to it that is heartbreaking regardless of if it is Vera or Claire narrating. There are some striking images, such as the teddy bear, and the theme of motherhood is especially powerful.

Jio’s transition from one time period to another is incredibly smooth and I never got confused about which story I was reading. Her writing is easy to read, but has some lovely details immerse the reader in the setting and time period. The snowy scenery makes it a perfect read winter read.

Like Jio’s first two books, Blackberry Winter certainly has some convenient coincidences in it, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of it, and even when I could mostly tell how things were going to turn it, there was a surprise or two in store.

After three novels there are certain things that can be expected of Jio, in particular a page-turning mystery that is also engaging on an emotional level, such as Blackberry Winter provides. I will certainly be picking up her fourth book, The Last Camellia, which is released on May 28th.

Release Date: November 27th 2012  Pages: 290  Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Penguin Buy It: Book Depository

Friday, March 29, 2013

Orchards by Holly Thompson

Orchards is a powerful novel in verse by Holly Thompson, about the repercussions of bullying and the meaning of home. In this novel, Kana Golberg is sent away to live with her mother's family in Japan after a classmate commits suicide. During her summer in Japan, Kana works on the orange farm and is forced to reflect on the role she may have played, and what she could have done to stop the bullying. It's a simple story, but its strength is really in the setting. Thompson brings the Japanese farm to life, and deftly takes on the cultural issues felt by Kana who is half Japanese and half Jewish-American. There definitely aren't enough novels with biracial protagonists, and I thought this one did an excellent job with mentioning some of the unique issues without making it Kana's defining feature.

I thought it was really interesting how even though the novel was in verse, it was still divided up into chapters. The verse writing is excellent, and the page and line breaks are thoughtful and well-placed. It really added to some of the fragmentation of Kana's thoughts at times, and made it quick, easy, and lovely to read. The story is complimented by some illustrations, though I found them unnecessary. Thompson's words illustrated everything I needed to see.

Ultimately, I don't know why I waited so long to pick up Orchards, but as soon as I did I couldn't put it down. I devoured half the book that night before bed, and read the rest before work the next day– I just couldn't leave until I finished it. The writing was smooth and lyrical, and it was easy to form an emotional connection with Kana, even though– or maybe because– she wasn't perfect. I will definitely be recommending Orchards and I'm very excited to pick up Thompson's followup, The Language Inside when it is released in May.

Release Date: February 22nd 2011  Pages: 336  Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Random House  Buy It: Book Depository

Thursday, March 28, 2013

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Friday, March 08, 2013

Tigers Be Still by Kim Rosenstock

A lesser-known fact about me: I'm a Theatre minor! I am really passionate about the theatrical world, where I've been involved since I was 13. Acting, stage managing, costuming, make-up, construction, run crew--been there, done it all! So I was really excited to get the opportunity to discuss a play I read and enjoyed here on In the Next Room. Hopefully, this will be the first play of many I'll review for the site!

Tigers Be Still by Kim Rosenstock is still a fairly new play, first staged by Roundabout Theatre Company to many positive reviews. Since then, Rosenstock has gone on to cement her position as a writer, most notably for the hit show "The New Girl" starring Zooey Deschanel. And believe me, if you enjoy "The New Girl," you'll love this play.

Rosenstock's dark humor and sensitivity to nuances in character is showcased as she tells the story of Sherry, a recent graduate with a failing job search. After being so disheartened that she moves home and retreats to her childhood bed, Sherry gets her first position as an art therapist, a job that galvanizes her into renewed hope and optimism. Throughout the play, she tries to bring this attitude to her resistant first patient, her depressed and overweight mother, and her grieving sister, who was abandoned by her fiance and struggling to come to terms with the break-up. As if that wasn't enough for one person to deal with, a tiger has escaped from the local zoo!

What really stood out to me in this comedy were the relationships between characters. They were humorous and stretched the bounds of reality, but in a good way--I would love to see this staged! Not only that, but there are real moments of unexpected poignancy that stuck with me after the play ended. Tigers Be Still may not be a theatrical masterpiece, but it was an enjoyable read with strong high points. I'd suggest checking it out, especially if it is playing on a stage near you.

I leave you with this, my favorite quote from the entirety of the script:

Recommended to: people who follow "The New Girl," anyone who enjoys a darker brand of comedy, recent grads desperate for jobs, people who want to ease into the practice of reading plays

Book Type: NYP Price: $20.00 ISBN/Code: 978-0-8222-2540-9

Friday, March 01, 2013

Dancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati

Dancing in the Dark is the debut novel of Robyn Bavati, which originally published in Australia but is just making it to North America in 2013. It's the story of Ditty Cohen, a 12-year-old girl who secretly falls in love with ballet, despite being forbidden to even sign up for it by her Haredi (extremely Orthodox Jewish) parents. The beginning of the story takes place five and a half years later, when Ditty's religious and dance worlds collide, before going back to the start again and following the years that lead that point. 

From the moment I saw its haunting cover and read the summary, I was incredibly excited to pick up Dancing in the Dark, because the concept sounded amazing and I have also been wanting to read more books with Jewish characters. However, as soon as I started the book I realized it might not be a great match, as it began with an unnecessary and overly dramatic prologue, ending with "memories flash before my eyes..." – the ellipse is a direct quote from the ARC.

As it continued the story definitely caught my interest. However, because Ditty started at age 12, she read quite young, even when she got older, which meant the end result was more middle grade than young adult to me. Still, she was complex and interesting, especially when it came to her faith. Unfortunately, sometimes other characters' reactions felt simplistic and lacked the nuance I wanted. In one example, despite there being other Jewish kids at Ditty's ballet school, when somebody asks Ditty what she's getting for Christmas and she says nothing because she's Jewish, they laugh and say everyone gets Christmas presents. Ditty might not have Internet or access to TV, but these other kids certainly do, so it felt like a kinda silly reaction, even though the kids are only 12.

Another reason Dancing in the Dark came across quite young was because some conversations seem like they are there just to tell a message or explain why people have certain beliefs rather than being completely organic. Some examples include an argument between Ditty's father and uncle, or when her father discusses with her sister's husband his favourite Talmud passage for the week, and it just happens to be on conflicting values– I realize if it wasn't something relevant it wouldn't be a part of the novel, but I just didn't want it to be quite so obvious.

That said, there were some really interesting discussions about faith, such as between Ditty's cousin Linda and herself.  Maybe I enjoyed those portions more because Ditty was an active participant, rather than a bystander. Like Intentions by Deborah Heiligman which I read last year, Dancing in the Dark, it was clearly written for readers who know nothing about Judaism. As a Jewish individual, that was probably a huge factor in what made it a bit dull or frustrating to read at times.

Additionally, the conflicts tended to resolve really easily. Like when Ditty needs someone else to walk home her younger siblings, suddenly her eight and a half year old sister is old enough to do it– even though Ditty had been the one walking her home, and even though eight seems awfully young for that to me. There are other examples but they are spoilers so I won't mention them.

Finally, time passes really quickly, the novel starts at age twelve and by 160 pages in it's two and a half years later. There are just brief moments to show time passing, and at times I felt like I was missing bits. I also felt like it was hard to really see Ditty getting older, because there wasn't much in between to show her becoming more mature. The quick pace makes it really easy to read, because there's always lots of action, but it means that there isn't a lot of time to connect with characters.

So that was a lot of thoughts. I really focused on the aspects that disappointed me, because I wanted so badly to love Dancing in the Dark and it just didn't quite succeed for me. That said, I do think it would be great for younger readers, like maybe old MG or young YA level, and perhaps it was the cover the swayed me into thinking it would be more mature than it was. I definitely think there needs to be more young adult featuring Jewish characters, and I hadn't read a YA featuring Haredi characters before. I did enjoy Ditty, she was believable and I found her journey exciting and interesting to follow. Overall, Dancing in the Dark is definitely worth picking up if you're looking for some insight into very Orthodox Judaism, and it's a quick-paced, exciting read with an authentic main character, even though it wasn't quite right for me.

Release Date: February 3rd 2013  Pages: 321  Format: E-galley
Source: NetGalley  Publisher: Flux  Buy It: Book Depository

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman is an unexpected debut novel that blurs the line between young adult and literary fiction with the story of Rory Hendrix, who lives in a Reno trailer park with her mother and is “third generation in a line of apparent imbeciles, feeble-minded bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” 

Rory happens to have a copy of the Girl Scout Handbook she's borrowed from the library and she pours over it for advice. Unfortunately, the Girl Scout connection was probably my least favourite part of the novel, it often felt forced or unnecessary to me, like Hassman thought the book needed a gimmick. With writing this strong, it certainly didn’t.

Because easily my favourite thing about Girlchild was the words. Beautiful, deep, powerful words that left an impact long after I finished reading them. Instead of chapters, the novel is divided up so that every page or so is it's own little story– which sometimes made it a bit confusing when one bit was ending and a new one was beginning as I listened to it on audiobook, but usually just meant that a scene was over before I knew it, like a quick punch to the gut before it was time for something else. Interestingly, the audiobook is actually narrated by Tupelo Hassman, and she is one of the rare authors that can actually do a fantastic job reading it, so that I definitely enjoyed listening.

Hassman's incredible writing allows her to really create a believable setting, letting the reader into this trailer park world, where kids growing up never thinking they'll amount to anything. It was both devastating and illuminating to read about. The majority of the novel wasn't things I could relate to, but somehow with Hassman's words, they felt real. That said, it wasn't pity that I felt for Rory. Instead it was laughter and pain and joy, it was something incredibly human and real.

Coming away from Girlchild I am left with two messages: one, that it's horrible that kids really do have to grow up in conditions like Rory Hendrix, and I hope we can do as much as possible to fix that, and two, that Hassman is a brilliant writer and I will absolutely be picking up whatever she writes next.

Release Date: February 14th 2012  Pages: 275  Format: Audiobook/Hardcover 
Source: Edelweiss/Publisher  Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux  Buy It: Book Depository

This is a review by Zoë. You can find her here on Goodreads or on Twitter @strandedhero

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mini Reviews: Birthmarked and Unearthly Tie-In Short Stories

Two of my favourite recent trilogies; Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien and Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, both had connected online-only content released right around the time the third and final novels were. I was really excited to read both, and thought I'd give my opinion on whether or not they are worthwhile.
First is "Ruled", a short story by Caragh M. O'Brien that takes place between Prized and Promised in her Birthmarked Trilogy. Like O'Brien's other short story, "Tortured"– reviewed here– which takes place between Birthmarked and Prized, it's also told from Leon's point of view.

It's a sweet story, that shows Leon visiting Gaia, wanting to give her a bracelet but instead ending up participating in a birth. It really helps to show Leon's outsider status, how he doesn't really belong. It also really shows how Leon feels about Gaia's distance. Reading the other books from Gaia's perspective, it's a lot easier to see where she's coming from when she has a hard time committing to Leon, whereas reading from his perspective is heart-breaking.

I did have a problem with vocabulary though, because at  one point, Leon calls Peter a "tool" and I definitely don't remember that vocabulary from the other Birthmarked books, though it's possible it was used, but in this context at least it took me out of the world O'Brien had created. It might have especially been a problem because with a short story there is so little time to bring that world alive again, every word counts.

Even though "Ruled" didn't blow me away like the full novels in the Birthmarked Trilogy have, it was definitely an enjoyable quick little read with some further insight into the characters, and after finishing Promised it was nice to return to the series, even for a moment.

"Radiant" is actually a novella-length story by Cynthia Hand that takes place between books 2 and 3 in the Unearthly Trilogy. Interestingly, unlike the full novels that are told strictly from Clara's perspective, "Radiant" alternates between Clara and Angela's viewpoints.

As always, I adored Hand's writing and I definitely think picking up "Radiant" is worthwhile. Unlike most ebook tie-ins, like "Ruled", that might provide a bit more character insight, "Radiant" actually provides more story insight. I haven't read the final Unearthly novel, Boundless, yet so I'm not sure how much will be revealed in it, but there is definitely new material and things I didn't know about the story just from reading Unearthly and Hallowed. "Radiant" also ends on a pretty intense note.

It was also really interesting to experience the Italian setting of "Radiant" as it takes place during the summer after Clara's final year of high school, following her mom's death and breakup with Tucker. So of course there wasn't any Tucker, just a few thoughts of him, and that was definitely something I missed. Angela's boy does play an important role though, and there is quite a bit of intrigue there that definitely left me worried about where things are going next. Ultimately, even though "Radiant" might not technically be necessary, I think it was a hundred percent worthwhile to read before picking up Boundless and I'm so glad I did.

Overall, two well-written tie-stories that I would definitely recommend picking up. "Ruled" is more of a quick bit of insight into Leon's thoughts, as well as seeing Gaia participate in a birth which was also pretty cool. In contrast, the much longer "Radiant" has time to develop new aspects of the story, which means I think picking it up is not only necessary, but a thrilling and enjoyable experience. I'm sad to see both the Unearthly and Birthmarked trilogies come to an end, but glad to have this extra time with them thanks to O'Brien and Hand's online stories. These are definitely two series I'll be recommending for years to come.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Acacia by David Anthony Durham

Acacia: The War with the Mein, the first book in the Acacia Trilogy by David Anthony Durham, opens with an assassin setting off on a quest to the capital in order to free his people from a harsh conqueror. He travels from the harsh winter of his homeland to the brighter climate of the central part of the Akkadian Empire. This introduction provides a sweeping glance of the sprawling world Durham has created, while introducing the Mein, the race that will form such a key part of the novel.

Acacia is a successful first book in a trilogy. In addition to introducing the Akkadian empire as well as the many other people who inhabit the world, the reader also learns of, the magic system. It is one that remains quite low-key but which still leads to an awe-inspiring scene later in the book. An array of characters are also introduced; all of them interesting, most of them flawed, and a few of them heroic. In this, Durham can certainly be compared to the current king of character driven fantasy, George R.R Martin. From reading Acacia, I would say that he could give Martin a run for his money.

Leodan’s children, the main characters of the book, lives form the spine of the story. Each one of them is different, but each one ended up being a character I came to love. Their father, Leodan, one of my favourite characters, is king of this vast empire, a man who loves his children, but who is involved in a dark and loathsome deal with the devil. Hannish Mein, a character I think everyone can love to hate, is the ruler of the Mein and capable of both great love and great cruelty. His quest to fulfill the desires of his undead ancestors forms a major part of Acacia. It’s not just the characters that are well-written, but the world itself is richly developed. Durham’s earlier historical novels obviously prepared him for the world building he has done in this story, and the history of the Akkadian Empire resonates throughout.

The story itself is told in three parts – the lead-up to Leodan’s assassination and the scattering of his children; the lives of his four children in the years following that assassination; and the gathering of those children with all of the consequences that holds for the empire their father lost. Throughout, Durham plays with the reader’s expectations, leading you down what seems a very familiar road, only to throw a bag over your head, spin you round five times, and then pull the rug out of from under your feet. The surprises might leave you reeling, but they make for an intriguing, exciting novel.

Ultimately, Acacia tells an intriguing story, as well as setting up a fantastic world for further exploration in subsequent books. Durham certainly sets a high bar for the follow-up, The Other Lands. I can’t wait to dive back in.

Release Date: June 27th 2007  Pages: 763  Format: Paperback 
Source: Purchased  Publisher: Random House Buy It: Book Depository

This is a review by Joel. You can find him here on Goodreads or on Twitter @RavenusReader 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Introducing: Joel, Associate Book Reviewer

Today I'm lucky enough to welcome another associate reviewer to In The Next Room. Joel reads a lot and will be able to add some sci-fi and fantasy reviews to the blog, something I don't usually get around to myself! Here's a nice little introduction from Joel, and you can look forward to seeing his reviews around in the future :)

Hello to all! My name is Joel, I’m almost thirty, a husband, father, trainer, reader and, now thanks to Zoe, reviewer! Being a voracious reader, who averages between 150 to 200 books in a year, I have often thought about getting into the book review blogging scene. So I’m really excited for this opportunity to share with you all some of my thoughts on the books I have read.

My reading tastes tend to the science fiction/fantasy side of the spectrum, but I also enjoy historical (fiction and non), thrillers, more literary offerings, memoirs, indie published works and pretty much anything as long as it is well written and tells a good story. Reading has always been a huge part of my life – I was the family member who would sit in a corner during family reunions with my nose stuck in a book and who used to get bookshop gift certificates as presents! I’m sure most can relate!
Following in Meghan’s footsteps, I thought I’d share my top five books from 2012:

1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

2. Winter of the World by Ken Follett

3. Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon

4. Shadow of Freedom by David Weber

5. The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

You can find me here on Goodreads, my blog, or here at my Twitter account, @RavenusReader

Sunday, February 17, 2013

It's Monday, what are you reading? (33)

Hosted by Book Journey
I didn't think I was going to have a post because up until earlier tonight (Sunday), I hadn't finished any books, but then I finished two. And none were on my list last week. Whoops. 

Last week I finished reading:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I got caught up in Gone Girl which I started for a readalong and didn't get hooked on right away, but then about 160 pages in I did get hooked and then I couldn't stop over the entire weekend and I devoured it. Intense, dark, and well written. Not happy about the ending but the more I think about it, I guess it was kinda perfect. Maybe.

Hana by Lauren Oliver
A short story that takes place at the same time as Delirium but this time told by Lena's best friend Hana. I wish I remembered the first book better, I should really do a reread before book 3 comes out next month but I don't think I'll have time. At least this refreshed a little bit, and even though it isn't necessary to read it, I do think the shock at the end adds something you don't get from Delirium, though possibly it will be discussed further in Requiem. I hope so, because I need answers!

What I plan to read this week:
Boundless by Cynthia Hand
I really will! Contrary to what the past few weeks of these posts would indicate, I'm actually really looking forward to this. I'm also a little nervous... it's book 3 and that means the end and I really hope things turn out the way, I mean with the boy, I hope they will!

Annabel by Lauren Oliver
Also going to read this short story in preparation for Requiem. It's told from the perspective of Lena's mother, and again, should be interesting and also remind me of some of the many things I have probably forgotten. It takes place before Delirium.

What are you reading this Monday? 

This is a post by Zoë. You can find her here on Goodreads or on Twitter @strandedhero

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel

Is it fair to review this book? Probably not, but I just want to share it's awesomeness with my readers. Granted, there aren't many words in Underwater Dogs, just an introduction at the beginning to explain how the project came about, along with some information about each dog featured, but since when do books need words? Certainly not if they have adorable photos like these instead.

So yes, Seth Casteel's coffee table book, Underwater Dogs, was on my birthday wish list. And yes, I am very happy my mom bought it for me. Because sometimes you just need a book to make you smile, and that's exactly what this one does. It also makes me want to buy an underwater camera and start taking pictures because I really don't know what my family's dogs look like underwater. But now I'm curious.

As a side note, it is most definitely cheating to count this as one of my "books read in 2012" but I'm going to anyway. I promise not to count "rereads" though– because I will definitely continue to come back to Underwater Dogs. Who could say no to those faces? 

Release Date: October 23rd 2012 Pages: 114  Format: Hardcover 
Source: Gift  Publisher: Little, Brown and Company Buy It: Book Depository

This is a review by Zoë. You can find her here on Goodreads or on Twitter @strandedhero

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Collateral by Ellen Hopkins

In Collateral, Ellen Hopkins' second adult novel, Ashley, a young woman who doesn't believe in war, falls in love with Cole, a man who is fighting in it. Having been together for five years and four deployments, Ashley pursues her MFA while Cole is away. She never imagined her life this way, but her love for Cole leaves her no other option. The only problem is, Cole may no longer be the person she fell in love with.

The novel goes back and forth in time, from when Ashley and Cole were just falling in love, to their present situation five years later. I really liked the magic of when they were first together, and I feel like Hopkins captured that initial infatuation perfectly. I didn't find the tense-switching confusing, but I was desperate to know exactly how things went so wrong and that definitely kept me reading.

Like Hopkins' young adult books, many of which I have read and loved– including the Crank Trilogy and IdenticalCollateral is written in verse. The verse is complimented by poetry written by Cole, which added an interesting dimension to the story by giving insight into what he was thinking and feeling. As always, I thought Hopkins' verse flowed smoothly and was really easy and enjoyable to read.

However, while I did think Collateral was incredibly well-written, but I don't think I enjoyed it quite as much as I've loved Hopkins' young adult books. This has very little to do with the fact that she's writing older characters here, and more to do with some of the storyline that just rubbed me the wrong way. In general, Hopkins' writes the kind of books that make the reader think, and although she still mostly does that in Collateral it sometimes became too preachy for me to really enjoy it. At some points, it felt more like a message than a story. Ashley spends a lot of time talking about how the war Cole is fighting in is wrong, and the overall tone of the book is pretty negative. It also sometimes felt like Hopkins was simplifying things too much for the sake of the story, including Cole's story.

That said, I feel like many of my reasons for not falling completely in love with Collateral have to do with this book in particular, so it hasn't changed my adoration of Hopkins, nor the likelihood that I would pick up another novel by her again in the future– including adult titles.

Release Date: November 6th 2012  Pages: 496  Format: E-galley  Source: NetGalley/Publisher
Also by this Author (YA): Crank (Crank #1); Glass (Crank #2); Fallout (Crank #3); Identical; Burned (Burned #1)  Publisher: Simon and Schuster  Buy It: Book Depository

This is a review by Zoë. You can find her here on Goodreads or on Twitter @strandedhero