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