Waiting on Wednesday #14: Mind Games

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!
This week, I'm waiting on:
Mind Games by Kiersten White.

Expected Publication: February 19, 2013.
Publisher: HarperTeen

Goodreads Summary:
Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future. 

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

Why I'm Excited: You read that blurb, right? So do I really need to say anything more? It sounds so exciting, I can't not be pumped about this one!

What are you waiting on this week?


Review: Altered by A.D. Croucher

Altered by A.D. Croucher.
Paperback, 220 pages.
Publication Date: August 16, 2012.
Published by: Createspace.
Source: Received copy from A.D. Croucher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Goodreads Summary:
Reese has a plan: keep his grades up, work hard on the basketball court, apply to his favorite Ivy League college, and don't get arrested.

There's just one problem. 

Reese knows things no one should know. He always thought he just had good instincts, but he's noticed that it's been getting worse. Lately it seems like something else.

Something more than instinct.

And he's not the only one that has noticed.

They've been waiting.


And now it's time.

With his life in danger, Reese needs a new plan: escape.

My Review:

My first thought when I started reading this novel was "Yay! Male POV!" I have read so many books lately with a female main character, told in her POV, that this was a fantastic change. It was also great that the male, Reese, is an awesome, real character. He's a smart guy and he's very loyal to his best friend, Freddie, but he has made mistakes. Him trying to do right by Freddie is where the action starts, and it really doesn't slow down much from there. Even where there doesn't seem to be too much happening in the scene, there is always some underlying tension or reason to worry. This was, therefore, an exciting novel, and fairly fast paced. My only issue with some of the action is that there were times when the scene jumped around a little too much. Thankfully, though, I was always able to find my place and get back on track. All in all, the plot was great, and I loved that the story felt very different from so much else I have read lately. It covers genetics, testing labs, human (and not-so-human) experiments, and does it in a very exciting and mysterious way.

I thought the novel was very well written, overall. There were so many things that contributed to why I enjoyed it. First off, I loved how descriptive it was. Reese gets his nose broken at one point and I cringed and almost felt it because it seemed so real and so painful. I also really liked how Reese was written. Even with all the insanity of the plot and everything he goes through, there is still indications that he is really just a hormonal teenage boy. I also enjoyed the relationship between Reese and Erika, his fellow captive, and how easy things felt between them. It added a little bit of a lighter tone to all the dark and twisted things that were dealt with in the plot.

This was an intriguing novel from the start, and its ending definitely made me want to know what happens next! I have some hopes for the next one, including that I want to see more of Freddie and Elle, his girlfriend, because they were the ones Reese started the novel with and I missed them throughout the rest of it. I'm also excited to learn more about some of the crazy science that was happening in this one. This is a novel that science fiction fans would greatly enjoy, but is also good for those new to the genre because it has some wonderful characters to help you along.
4 stars.


The Archived: Feature + Giveaway Contest!

I hope you have all heard of The Archived by Victoria Schwab, which just came out on Tuesday! For those of you who haven't, here's a little about it:

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

336 pages.
Published by Hyperion.

Goodreads Blurb:
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

Does that not sound like a fantastic book? I think it does. So I was extremely honoured to be chosen by Victoria as a Keeper of the Archive. Thanks to her, I have tons of goodies to share with you all!

 The tote bag photo will not rotate. I apologize. Just... turn your head :P

To distribute these fun SIGNED bookmarks (yes, all of them are signed) and the one grand prize SIGNED tote bag, I'm going to have a little INTERNATIONAL contest.

You can earn entries in one of two ways:

1. Take YOUR OWN ORIGINAL pictures of fancy keys or doors, or both. I don't mean like your teeny little house key in your front door, I mean something different and special looking. Each photo of a unique item will count as one entry. I'd prefer if you were in the picture, seeing as I want to know they're your photos, but I understand some people want to keep their face private. In that case, please include some kind of identifying mark in the photo (like a piece of paper with your Twitter handle or GFC name on it, or something of the like) so I can tell you didn't just go on Google.

2. For those of you who live in a country where The Archived has been published, go out and take pictures of The Archived "in the wild". Find it on the shelves of your local bookstore or library and snap a picture. As many places as you can find it. Each photo of a different location counts as one entry.

The grand prize winner will be drawn at random from all entries. This one person will receive 5 signed bookmarks and 1 signed tote bag.
On top of this, there will be 5 additional winners, also drawn at random, who will each receive 2 signed bookmarks.

Some rules and guidelines and whatnot:
~ You can submit photos by posting them on either Pinterest or Twitter and leaving the link to the photo in the Rafflecopter below. I have it set up so you can submit up to 3 photo links each day. If you took more than 3 in one day, just please come back the next day and submit 3 more, etc. Saves the Rafflecopter from having a bazillion entry options.
~ By submitting a photo to the contest, you are giving me permission to use that photo on my blog (but ONLY on my blog. I won't use it elsewhere or try to sell it or anything) in a wrap up post showing off some of the entries, including the winner's.
~ I will contact winners by email. Each winner has 48 hours to respond to my email or they forfeit their prize and I will choose another.
~ I will be shipping the prizes myself. I am not responsible for lost or damaged items.
~ I have the right to disqualify entries, especially those I believe are not original photos.

I look forward to seeing all of your fantastic photos! I've included two of my own (not very good ones, and awfully small, I'll admit) as examples below of the kind of keys I'd like to see from you. But honestly, any interesting or eye-catching key or door you come across, snap a picture! Or, of course, The Archived in the wild! Go crazy and good luck! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I would also really love if you'd share the giveaway button to help spread the word about the contest!



ARC Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.

Published July 2, 2012.
Published by Random House BYR.
Source: ARCycling (thanks, Jennifer!).

Goodreads Summary:
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.

My Review:

This was a beautiful novel. There was a lot to it that enchanted me. The world that Rachel Hartman created was intricate and mysterious, and came alive in front of me. The focus of this novel is very much on world building and character development, which means that the plot can be quite slow-moving and uneventful at times. While this could cause the occasional lag for me, it made me focus on the true beauties of the story: both characters and setting.

The world building is a fantastic part of the novel. There was so much to learn about both the kingdom of Goredd and the world as a whole, with some amazing history about the areas and the peoples (and dragons, of course). It was very interesting to hear about the treaties and workings of the past and how it sets the scene for the present day in the novel. In particular I loved reading the songs that were interspersed throughout the story, especially given Seraphina's gift for music. They helped contribute to the heart of the kingdom, as well as giving a life to its history and its people. Goredd came alive to me as a lovely kingdom with a charm that I have missed from settings lately. There are so many intricacies to life there, yet they all work together to showcase a diverse group of people living in an increasingly tense time. Unfortunately, tension brings out the troublemakers of which Goredd certainly has its fair share. In a time of true peace and prosperity, however, it sounds like it would be an incredible place to live.

Above all, though, the characters truly take centre stage in this work. Seraphina, first of all, is the one we as readers get to know the best, as she is the title character and narrator. I truly grew to love her. She struggles with so much inner conflict over many issues, including how much of herself she must hide and how often she must lie. All this struggling and hiding puts her on edge and saddens her, but never makes her give up. She remains, at her core, a resilient, strong young woman, which I loved about her. I also loved that she wasn't totally unique in what she was (read the book, you'll get what I mean. Don't want to spoil it!). A character who is completely unlike anyone else in their world can often come off as unrealistic, yet since she discovers that she is not alone, not only does she grow as a character but I also felt that I believed her and her world more.

There were many other characters that helped to build the story into the beautiful work that it is. Some of the ones I really enjoyed included Seraphina's teacher, Orma; and the prince and princess of Goredd, Lucian and Gisselda. I especially enjoyed these three characters because they were overall likeable and had some wonderful characteristics, but they also had their flaws. For example, Orma bothered me on occasion because, due to his nature, there is so much about his world that he cannot see, which also really got to Seraphina. Gisselda I was also annoyed by sometimes because she has a real lack of knowledge thanks to her improper teaching and upbringing. Since this wasn't her fault, though, I was able to forgive the annoyance she caused me. This was so important to me, because if you don't like the characters, it's hard to enjoy the story. I also really enjoyed reading about Seraphina's relationships with both Lucian and Gisselda, especially because one was very different from the other. They were both so well developed in their individual facets that they were very fun to follow.

All in all, although this was a slow moving novel in terms of plot, the charm of the setting and the heart and struggles of the characters helped me build a real connection to the story. I truly enjoyed it, especially as it picked up at the end.
4 stars.


Waiting on Wednesday #13: Out of the Easy

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!
This week, I'm waiting on:

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys.

Expected Publication: February 13, 2013.
Publisher: Philomel Books

Goodreads Summary:
It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

Why I'm Excited: It reminds me of some other books I've read - for different reasons, all positive. It also has a historical element, which I love, but it's more recent history which will be a nice change for me.

What are you waiting on this week?


Top Fifteen Anticipated 2013 Debuts + Giveaway

I decided to try a Top Ten Tuesday, of sorts, to show off my most anticipated YA debuts of 2013. I was inspired by last week's Top Ten Tuesday theme (from The Broke and the Bookish), so I decided to make my own list, albeit a bit late. (I think I'm going to try to do a few of them - on time - in the coming months, see how I do). I know it's already late January and that I've already read one of the ones on my list, but I wanted to share anyway. And, to be honest, it's more than 10. It's a top 15. I couldn't stop!
Here goes:

1. Taken by Erin Bowman.
To be released in April
by HarperTeen

2. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters.
To be released in April (April's going to be good!)
by Amulet Books.

3. Dualed by Elsie Chapman.
To be released in February
by Random House BYR.

4. The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd.
To be released in January
by Balzer + Bray.
5. Poison by Bridget Zinn.
To be released in March
by Disney Hyperion.

6. City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster.
To be released in February
by HarperTeen.

7. Pantomime by Laura Lam.
To be released in February
by Strange Chemistry.
I've read it and I thought it was great! Review coming at the beginning of Feb.

8. Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson.
To be released in March
by Random House Children's Books.

9. Canary by Rachele Alpine.
To be released in August
by Medallion Press.

10. The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher.
To be released in May
by Gallery Books.
(She's been published in an anthology, but this is her first published novel, so I'm counting it).

11. Red by Alison Cherry.
To be released in October
by Delacorte Press.

12. Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan.
To be released in May
by Simon & Schuster BYR.

13. Pivot Point by Kasie West.
To be released in February
by HarperTeen.

14. The End Games by T. Michael Martin.
To be released in May
by HarperCollins.

15. ACID by Emma Pass.
To be released in April
by Corgi Children's Books/Random House Children's Publishing.

So those are my top ten(ish) debuts for 2013! What debuts are you excited for? Feel free to leave me a link to your top ten debuts post, if you've made one!

As a thank you to my amazing followers and a celebration of these exciting debuts, I'm giving away one debut to a lucky winner!

Some Rules (aka the not so fun but important part):
~ Winner can choose any one of my top 15 picks provided it is under $15 CAD at The Book Depository at the time of purchase. If the book isn't available for me to order at the time, I'll ask the winner to choose a different one from the list.
~ This giveaway is open Internationally, provided The Book Depository ships free to your country (check here).
~ Must be 13 or older to enter.
~ Giveaway will run until February 22nd.
~ Most books will not have been published by the end of the giveaway, so they will be pre-ordered for you.
~ Winner will be chosen randomly and contacted via email. The winner has 48 hours to respond to my email, otherwise they forfeit their prize and I will choose another winner, who must abide by the same rules.
~ I am not responsible for lost or damaged packages from TBD.
~ No cheating! In this case, I have the right to disqualify entries as I see fit.
~ By entering the giveaway, you are agreeing to these rules.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

Published November 15, 2011.
Published by HarperCollins.
Source: Won from Drey at Drey's Library. Thank you!

Goodreads Summary:
Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war– and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.
Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior. 

My Review:
I don't think I'm going to be able to get through this review without some fangirling and some gushing. I'm sorry. I try to mostly be fairly professional in most of my reviews, but this one might have to be an exception. There are too many feelings.

Where to start, where to start...
I suppose I'll start with the writing, seeing as that's what caught my attention first. I absolutely LOVE Tahereh's writing style! It's very stream-of-consciousness, with thoughts crossed out, as if Juliette is writing it all down in her notebook. It was so different and so effective in expressing what Juliette's brain is like. On top of the stream-of-consciousness style, Tahereh is just an incredible author. I mean, in the second chapter she wrote a paragraph about raindrops (*raindrops!*) that blew me away. Never has a description of something that mundane caught me that way. Completely impressed.

Juliette is such an incredible character. She is so real. She has been hurt so many times in her life and has lived in constant fear and shame of what she can do. A character like this can be hard to write because she would not think the same way as a normal human being. Tahereh never slips up with her. It is so easy to believe everything Juliette thinks. I mean, even when she describes Adam's gorgeous blue eyes, she compares the colour of them to a bruise, not to anything cheesy or pretty that a typical young girl likely would. I get so immersed in her character, and I love her. I love her determination and her strength. How she never loses her humanity, even when she doesn't believe she has any left. She is so much more and so much stronger than she thinks she is, possibly because she doesn't think she has much to lose.

I also have crazy strong feelings for the two male leads, Adam and Warner. Adam might be the sweetest guy ever, even if a bit unrealistic (but hey, a girl can dream, right?). I loved him, I loved his love and protective quality for the people who mean the most to him, and I loved his determination. And where Adam is protective, Warner is obsessive. He is... infuriating. Infuriating! So controlling and power-crazed, and full of himself. His head is so swollen because he's been allowed to take control and it makes me crazy! The strong emotions going both ways really helped me get totally involved in the story. Because I loved and hated the characters, I cared with so much passion. I made ridiculous faces and almost yelled and smiled the biggest smile.

This was a fantastic, intense, crazy novel and I must read the sequel, NOW!
I cannot justify anything less than 5 stars!


Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Everneath by Brodi Ashton.
Hardcover, 370 pages.
Published January 24, 2012.
Published by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray.
Source: Library.

Goodreads Summary:
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she's returned--to her old life, her family, her boyfriend--before she's banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance--and the one person she loves more than anything. But there's just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's queen.

"Everneath" is a captivating story of love, loss, and immortality from debut author Brodi Ashton.

My Review:

This is another book about which I'm not really sure what to say. I enjoyed it, but not immensely. It wasn't as exciting to me as I'd heard it was, and it didn't draw me in as much as it has many others. That said, I didn't dislike it either.

I really liked the premise of this one. I'm a huge fan (read: nerd) of mythology, especially Greek, and I absolutely loved that this was both a modern re-imagination and a source of information about myths. I really wish there had been more of the Greek and Egyptian mythology involved in the story because I loved seeing how it all tied into the plot and the idea of the Everneath.

I thought the plot moved very slowly. Nikki's return to the surface is very quick and then the six months of her return seem to drag on through the rest of the book. There is not a lot of action in the story. It involves a significant amount of Nikki thinking or sitting quietly, and Cole trying to talk her into returning to the Everneath with him. There were a few more fast-paced scenes, but I always felt like they were over too soon.

Another aspect I did enjoy, though, was the back and forth between the present time and the time before Nikki's descent into the Everneath. I liked that not everything was bluntly explained right from the beginning. I had to read more of the present to get more information about the past. This I really appreciated and helped to keep me going in reading the novel because I was very interesting in how Nikki got so hurt that she went to the Everneath in the first place. I think this was a smart move on Brodi Ashton's part.

When it comes to the characters, I had mixed feelings. I liked Jack, Nikki's old boyfriend, a lot, and I only liked him more as the story went on and he was continually shown to be a big sweetheart. Cole pulled me in at times, but overall he felt too much like the bad guy trying to get in the way of love for me to really like his character. As for Nikki, well... I don't know. I never really connected with her, although I did get interested in the same mysteries as she did. She felt very passive. I never really saw a strong motivation from her to make the most of the six months she had before her forced return to the Everneath. She was a bit of a disappointment.

Overall, this book was not what I was expecting after seeing many rave reviews. It wasn't a bad book - there were definitely things I appreciated and enjoyed - it just didn't excite me. There were things I felt were lacking that I wish had been there. I will probably read the sequel at some point, but I am certainly in no rush.
3 Stars.


Waiting on Wednesday #12: Pivot Point

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!
This week, I'm waiting on:

Pivot Point by Kasie West.

Expected Publication: February 12, 2013.
Publisher: HarperTeen.

Goodreads Summary:
Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

Why I'm Excited: I've read a book before with this type of split storyline where the character's life can go one way or another and she gets to experience both and I thought it was great. It's definitely an interesting way to tell the story, so I'm looking forward to reading another done the same way! And with less than a month until its release, I'm only getting more excited!

What are you waiting on this week?


Review: Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt.
Paperback, 240 pages.
To be published January 15, 2013.
Published by St. Martin's Press.
Source: From the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, St. Martin's Press!

Goodreads Summary:
Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna's new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can't know.

Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer. Real, shocking, uplifting, and stunningly lyrical,  Uses for Boys  is a story of breaking down and growing up.

My Review:
This is a novel of emotion. If you do not want to feel things, don't pick up this one. But if you're looking for longing, pain, and sadness, this is the perfect novel.

Anna is alone. Her mother is always absent, chasing the next "Mr. Right" who never is truly right, at least not for long. Anna was happy with just her mother but as her mother pulls away more and more, Anna is left to fend for herself. She is lonely, so she turns to the people who give her attention: boys.

Anna is a tough character to read about. She's broken and alone. She has so few good, happy memories in her life that she keeps going back to the only ones she does have. A memory of her and her mother cuddled in bed is like her happy place and is a memory that keeps coming up during Anna's sad, slow, aching descent into a life of separating herself from her feelings. As hard as it was to read about her, her story never felt hopeless. There was always a quality of something coming next, something for her to work towards, which I really appreciated. As a reader, I never want to give up hope on a character. I never had to with Anna. She always held on. I think, if I had to describe the feeling of this book in one sentence, I'd call it "heartbreaking, but never hopeless". I loved that about it. A lack of hope ends with a lack of feeling. This book always had me feeling something. It was wonderful for that.

I felt the plot moved a little slowly at times, and although there were times I wished there was more happening or that it would move forward more quickly, I do see how the pace was fitting for the kind of story it was telling. I really wish we had had more time with Sam, the boy who changes Anna's perspective and shows her what she is truly missing out on. I wish I could have gotten to know him more. I do think the ending of the story was very well put, though. I won't spoil it, but it was quite satisfying, after everything that happens.

The writing was very well done and certainly contributed to the emotion. It was often written in simple sentences, as if it were Anna's thoughts on the page. It's written so that everything is laid out plain and bare. People hide things from Anna, but she, as the narrator, doesn't hide things from the reader. Her hurt is evident through her words. There is so much to this book but Erica brings it down to the core of the issue with the simplistic but poetic language. There's a sad longing in Anna and in the book itself that's always there but never fully acknowledged. It just lingers, sometimes more prominently, sometimes pushed to the background.

I think part of why I thought this was a great book was that it reminded me, in some ways, of Ellen Hopkins' work (she also did the blurb on the cover, which I thought was fitting), which I absolutely love. I also found that Anna reminded me of someone I knew, which I think helped me feel her pain a little stronger than I might have otherwise, if there was no connection there. I'm glad I connected, because this is one of those books that to truly enjoy it, you have to connect with the narrator. It's all about her trying to find her place in a life that she doesn't think really wants her, so if you don't care about her, you won't care about the book. I cared. I cared, so I hurt for her. Erica and Anna played with my feelings and I loved them for doing that.
4 stars.


Blog Tour Review: Rise of the Fire Tamer by Kailin Gow

Rise of the Fire Tamer by Kailin Gow.
Ebook, 234 pages.
Published June 14, 2010.
Published by The Edge.
Source: Received from the author for the tour.

Goodreads Summary:
After winning a contest for a popular game called Wordwick Games, five teens - Gemma, Sparks, Rio, Kat, and Jack, are invited to stay at Wordwick Games inventor Henry Word's mysterious castle and play the newest level of Workwick Games. Little do they know, the castle is the doorway to a wondrous world call Anachronia where words can be used as weapons, power, and commodity.There is unrest in Anachronia, and if the five teens can follow the rules of Wordwick Games and prove to be the best player, one of them will be crowned Ruler of Anachronia.

My Review:
With a summary like that, I couldn't not sign up for this blog tour! I think every book lover understands that words really do hold power, so when this book promised words used as actual weapons I was instantly intrigued. It definitely sounded promising and for the most part, I felt it lived up to that.

The plot started out slowly, although I did like the prologue and its intro to all the characters. Once the teens finally entered Anachronia though, I felt drawn in to the story and thought the pacing was well done. The story was quite original and I really did end up enjoying how the words had very literal uses and powers in the game world. I also really appreciated the way it was written. Because it was so word-based, the language was intelligent. It occasionally felt like a little much for a group of teens, but at the same time, they were chosen because of their excellence at the game, so it does make sense.

For the most part I enjoyed the characters. I was worried at first that I wasn't going to remember them all, but Kailin's characterization and use of well-known stereotypes helped me keep them all straight. It was interesting because some characters, especially the boys, really fell into the stereotypes. Jack is the shy, quiet, smart guy; Sparks the confident jock who likes the cheerleader; and Rio is the bad boy. Even Kat was fairly stereotypical in that she is the girl who goes goth as a rebellion against her parents and is the one to walk away from the group. For this reason, I liked Gem most of all the characters. She is the one who really broke stereotype because she is a pretty cheerleader but is actually kind, very clever, and great with words (which is clearly a bonus when words are like magic spells!). Since she is my favourite, I enjoyed the way the narration was set up, with most from Gem's perspective and a small wrap-up from each other character at the end of the chapters.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read with some exciting twists to the story and a very intriguing ending. I will definitely have to take the time to read the next two books in the series to see what happens to the teens and to Anachronia!

3.5 stars!

Special thanks to Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer for organizing this tour!


Waiting on Wednesday #11: City of a Thousand Dolls

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!
This week, I'm waiting on:
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster.

Expected Publication: February 5, 2013.
Publisher: HarperTeen

Goodreads Summary:
An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

Why I'm Excited: This one just sounds so different that I can't help but be intrigued! It'll definitely be a change from what I have been reading, which will be great!

What are you waiting on this week?


Book Blast: Rise of the Fire Tamer

Keep an eye out for my review of the book, coming on the 11th!

Rise of the Fire Tamer by Kailin Gow
After winning a contest for a popular game called Wordwick Games, five teens Gemma, Sparks, Rio, Kat, and Jack, are invited to stay at Wordwick Games inventor Henry Word's mysterious castle and play the newest level of Workwick Games. Little do they know, the castle is the doorway to a wondrous world call Anachronia where words can be used as weapons, power, and commodity. There is unrest in Anachronia, and if the five teens can follow the rules of Wordwick Games and prove to be the best player, one of them will be crowned Ruler of Anachronia.


Book Trailer

Author Kailin Gow

Kailin Gow is the award-winning, international bestselling author of over 80 distinct books.

Kailin Gow is also the President of a media company, a media personality, and has been writing full-time since she was first published. Holding a Masters in communications management and leadership positions in Fortune 500 corporations, she puts her leadership abilities, her experience, and desire to help others into her fiction books. As a result, she has written the forthcoming, Finding the Heroine in You book which is also a national tour. She is a mother and spends whatever spare time she has volunteering at the Red Cross, Battered Women's Shelters, and other organizations.

Currently her Frost Series is in development for a major international MMO Game, and she has over 14,000 and growing Frosters on her facebook fan page.


Blog Tour now through January 25th
Tour Schedule

Book Blast Giveaway
$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 1/27/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Review: Advantage Erin by Kris Kreisman

Advantage Erin by Kris Kreisman.

ebook, 140 pages.
Publication Date: August 22, 2012.
Source: Received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Summary:
Erin's mom is driving her crazy. Especially about tennis. Erin is good and enjoys the game. But it's not her fault she's not the megastar her mom claims to have been when she was Erin's age. If only there was some way to get Mom to understand...
Spring break arrives, which means a visit to Grandma and Mom's old hometown. Grandma is eccentric, but she's also cool and understands Erin's frustrations. And she can help. By taking Erin on a visit to Mom's old high school. Not Mom's school today. But Mom's school as it was in 1970.
Erin experiences the trip of her lifetime. Back in time, where she struggles to fit in with a bunch of kids who never heard of the Internet or laptops or cell phones. Where she meets some very cool kids. And one not so cool kid named Catherine. Now known as Mom. 
Talk turns to tennis, and inevitably the challenge is made and accepted. And they play the tennis match of the century. Erin had repeatedly heard how Mom was undefeated. Now was her time to do something about it. They battle hard until, in unexpected fashion, it's over. But when she returns to the present Erin learns the truth about her Mom. And Mom learns some lessons as well. 
Enjoy Erin's thrill ride, her fun, her excitement, her anxiety. And discover how her trip to the past changed her present.

My Review:

This book definitely has an interesting premise: a teen girl who just can't get along with her mom is sent back in time to battle her mom's high school self the only way she knows how - tennis.

I thought the dynamic between Erin and her mother was very well written. Erin provided a great narrative voice; completely believable as a high school student. She's a little whiny, which can get frustrating, but to be fair, she wants what a teen girl wants: a social life. And she feels her mom is keeping that from her with her endless talk of responsibilities and tennis. It is very clear where Erin gets these traits though, because her mom is stubborn and definitely has some attitude (almost too much, at times) as well. I could see the link between them very clearly, despite Erin's constant denial of it.

The side characters played a great role in the story as well. Sonny, a social outcast at school simply because he was 'stuck in the past' in a way, was a very likeable guy who seemed to really like Erin, possibly because she was the only one who was nice to him. He brought a smile to my face and I definitely felt for him. For the most part he seemed to embrace who he was, which I really liked. I have to say that I was very disappointed with the way his storyline eventually plays out. I really wish it had gone a different way.
The only characters I wasn't a fan of were Erin's best friend, Caitlyn, who was very selfish (which worked for their friendship but not for me), and Aaron, who brings a surprise near the end of the story that I was really disappointed by.
Erin's grandma, on the other hand, was a very fun character who brought some relief to some of the tension between Erin and her mom. She brings wisdom and some mystery to Erin's experiences. She's also the one who sends Erin on the time-travelling trip that changes her entire perspective. It was fairly realistic and quite enjoyable to read, although I do think the other characters really cut Erin a little slack in her complete confusion at the time period she finds herself in.

While there were some disappointments for me, overall this was a nice, well told story about giving people a chance, which was reflected both through the relationship between Erin and her mom and through the character of Sonny; something I really enjoyed. It helped to show that there is more to someone than what you see at first, or even what you see for years; you just have to find it.
3 stars.


Classic Reads Blog Hop

Welcome to my stop on the Classic Reads Blog Hop, sponsored by Rachel Thompson, Christine Nolfi , Terri Giuliano Long, and Molly Greene.

During this hop, bloggers post about what we think makes a book a classic.

For me, a "classic" can have more than one meaning. I remember reading somewhere a humourous definition of a classic: a book that everyone praises but nobody reads. I don't think this is necessarily true.

Often I find that books I read in school were called classics and while I agree with some, I do not agree with others. I think books can be classics to some but not to others. To give an example, I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee in high school and I do believe that one is a classic. While it is not entirely timeless because times have indeed changed since then, I think the characters and their struggles and lessons are something that all generations can benefit and learn from. To contrast, I also read Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden in high school and while I didn't dislike the book, I don't consider it a classic because I think it lack the same widespread appeal and lesson-teaching aspect that TKAM has.

I don't believe that a book has to be old to be a classic. While recent books might not yet be considered classics, I think that if they have the potential to appeal to wide audiences and to truly teach them something, they very well could become classics. You never know; one day we may see the widely praised and well-loved Divergent by Veronica Roth  or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins one day praised as classics because they each have something important to say and don't restrict themselves to one age group.

I think the idea of a classic can be different to different people. This is simply my perspective. If you visit the other blogs on this hop, I'm sure you'll find many other perspectives of what makes a classic.
Keep hopping: http://terriglong.com/blog/2013/01/classic-reads-a-case-for-plurality-newclassicreads/

If you'd like to help spread the word about the Classic Reads Blog Hop, our lovely sponsors have provided the chance to win giftcards to Amazon or B&N!
Good luck!
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While you're here, take a look at our sponsor's books:

Broken Pieces - Rachel Thompson
Link: http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Pieces-ebook/dp/B00AR0T74S
Synopsis: Welcome to bestselling author Rachel Thompson's newest work! Vastly different in tone from her previous essay collections A Walk In The Snark and The Mancode: Exposed, BROKEN PIECES is a collection of pieces inspired by life: love, loss, abuse, trust, grief, and ultimately, love again.

In Leah's Wake - Terri Giuliano Long
Link: http://www.amazon.com/In-Leahs-Wake-ebook/dp/B0044XV7PG
Synopsis: A Story of Love, Loss, Connection, and Grace
At the heart of the seemingly perfect Tyler family stands sixteen-year-old Leah. Her proud parents are happily married, successful professionals. Her adoring younger sister is wise and responsible beyond her years. And Leah herself is a talented athlete with a bright collegiate future. But living out her father’s lost dreams, and living up to her sister’s worshipful expectations, is no easy task for a teenager. And when temptation enters her life in the form of drugs, desire, and a dangerously exciting boy, Leah’s world turns on a dime from idyllic to chaotic to nearly tragic.

As Leah’s conflicted emotions take their toll on those she loves—turning them against each other and pushing them to destructive extremes—In Leah’s Wake powerfully explores one of fiction’s most enduring themes: the struggle of teenagers coming of age, and coming to terms with the overwhelming feelings that rule them and the demanding world that challenges them. Terri Giuliano Long’s skillfully styled and insightfully informed debut novel captures the intensely personal tragedies, victories, and revelations each new generation faces during those tumultuous transitional years.

Recipient of multiple awards and honors, In Leah’s Wake is a compelling and satisfying reading experience with important truths to share—by a new author with the voice of a natural storyteller and an unfailingly keen understanding of the human condition…at every age.

Mark of the Loon - Molly Greene
Link: http://www.amazon.com/Mark-of-the-Loon-ebook/dp/B00838H1OY
Synopsis: What happens when a workaholic serial remodeler falls in love with an old stone cottage built by an ornithologist and his eccentric Irish wife? If you’re Madison Boone, you kick your budding romance with handsome Psych Professor Coleman Welles to the curb and lose yourself in a new project.

Madison renovates distressed homes in addition to her busy real estate sales career. When she hears about a quaint house on a private tract of land overlooking Lake Sonoma, she climbs in the window for a private tour and falls in love with the place. Good fortune enables her to purchase the Blackburne’s property, but far more than a new home and lush gardens await discovery during this renovation.

As Madison works on the remodel, she’s drawn into an old love story with dangerous consequences. She unearths buried secrets and discovers herself in the process. Good thing she has three wise, hilarious friends to advise her along the way! Mark of the Loon is the skillful combination of history, mystery, and romance in a novel that explores deep friendship, choices, and how individuals cope with loss.

Second Chance Grill - Christine Nolfi
Link: http://www.amazon.com/Second-Chance-Liberty-Series-ebook/dp/B009Y4ZSFK
Synopsis: Dr. Mary Chance needs a sabbatical from medicine to grieve the loss of her closest friend. But when she inherits a struggling restaurant in Liberty, Ohio she isn’t prepared for Blossom Perini. Mary can’t resist falling for the precocious preteen—or the girl’s father. The bond they forge will transform all their lives and set in motion an outpouring of love that spreads across America.

Welcome back to Liberty, where the women surrounding the town’s only restaurant are as charming as they are eccentric.

Second Chance Grill is the prequel to Treasure Me, 2012 Next Generation Indie Awards Finalist, which The Midwest Book Review calls “A riveting read for those who enjoy adventure fiction, highly recommended.”