Pull Yourself Together, Girl!

I'll admit it: I have been a terrible blogger lately.

I have review books that have come out that I have read but not reviewed. I'm so sorry, pubs and authors.

I've slacked on my Sophomore Spotlight feature, missing some AWESOME authors in the past month that I meant to contact ages ago.

I've been trying to be a better commenter. At least I'm making SOME progress there... give me something?

SO. The point of this post is that yes, I feel guilty. I think we all have moments as bloggers when we forget one thing or are late on another and that we then feel bad about. Problem is, that is my whole life lately. With classes starting back up, I've made myself a commitment to get my literal butt in gear exercising more, so I'm also going to try to get back on track with my schedule. I'm posting this as a little accountability for myself, and so you guys have an idea of what you can expect to see soon (provided I do get my blogger butt in gear. If I don't, you can yell at me).

So here's what's going on:

I'm trying to organize three big blog events. One each in October, December, and April. I have to organize book lists for reviews, email tons of people, and sort posts. 

I have to catch up on my backlog of unwritten reviews. I currently have 12. 

I must get myself organized when it comes to my BEA books vs. books sent by pubs. Prioritize, schedule, and stick to it. 

I'm hoping that by the end of September I'll not only have figured some of this nonsense out, but that I'll be ahead and scheduling for the future.

I'd love it if you'd help hold me to it, guys! If you catch me messing around on Twitter, yell at me! Tell me to go write a review or something (or pay attention in class, maybe... no promises there). This is my hobby and I love it, so I don't want it to be stressful, but being behind is making it so. Please bear with me while I get things in order and I promise my events will bring some fantastic fun to the blog to make up for it!


Authors Are Rockstars: Elizabeth Miles

I am so happy today to be part of the Authors Are Rockstars tour and to be hosting the wonderful Elizabeth Miles! Two days in a row that she's on my blog... clearly I consider her a rockstar!

Why do I consider Elizabeth Miles a rockstar?
Well, for starters, she is a wonderful person - funny, kind, and so much fun to interact with. She sent me lots of Twitter love when I missed her in Toronto and has been wonderful to chat with online ever since. Not to mention how much fun she was for the PLL Eternity blog tour! But of course, being an author rockstar, she also has an exciting trilogy that is coming to an end next month: The Fury Series. This series has your regular high school drama, sure, but Elizabeth takes it to a whole other level by bringing in the Furies. Yes, those Furies. From mythology. Talk about crazy. These books are dramatic, exciting, and gave me a ship to root for to the end (I'm watching you, Elizabeth... it better work out)! If you're looking for crazy and addictive books about what happens when you add a little otherworldly evil to your typical high school teens' lives, you should definitely check out Fury, Envy, and Eternity!

Now for the interview:

Welcome, Elizabeth! I'm so excited to have you as my rockstar for the Authors Are Rockstars tour! I have to start off by asking who your favourite rockstars are, be they author rockstars or musician rockstars.

E: My favorite musician rockstars are Tegan and Sara, Bon Iver, and Beyonce. My favorite author rockstars are Stephen King, Lauren Oliver, and Judy Blume. And I would be remiss not to mention the fabulous community of YA book bloggers, who are all rockstars in their own right!

You clearly have fabulous taste! And a big thank you on behalf of YA bloggers. :)
How does it feel for the Fury trilogy to be coming to an end in September?

E: It feels satisfying and scary. Satisfying in that I am proud of the third and final book, and I think fans of the series will enjoy it. Scary in that this has been my world for the past three years and it’s going to be odd to put closure on the whole experience.

What can readers expect from the trilogy's final installment, Eternity? Can you share a favourite quote?

E: Readers can expect more intensity, thrills, and darkness as Em struggles with the evil inside her and JD pieces together what’s been happening all around him.

I think this quote, from the prologue, gives a good sense of the novel: “Crow gasped, the vision leaving him in a final flood of heat. As he stood shakily, brushing the gravel off of his hands, one crystal thought emerged from the smoke and chaos in his head: I must protect her.”

Oh boy. I don't know what to think of that yet... don't you hurt me, Elizabeth!
Are there any pieces or hints of you in any of your characters?

E: Sure. Certainly Em and I share certain characteristics -- we are only children, we love to read and write, and we sometimes try overly hard to please and protect the people we love. I don’t think I’m as capricious or selfish as Em can be sometimes. As for the rest of the characters in the Fury series, all of them have been influenced by my friends and family. I’m constantly noting people’s weird quirks and personality traits and then trying to incorporate them into my stories to make the characters feel more realistic.

What would you say was your biggest learning experience over the course of writing and publishing the trilogy? How have you grown as a writer?

E: I think I’ve grown leaps and bounds as a writer. Fury was my first foray into fiction, and when I reread it, I can tell. I think my voice has really developed and deepened over the past three years; I’ve learned to stay in each moment and find ways to engage the reader on every page. (I hope.)

Being able to see your growth over the series must be so satisfying! You've certainly managed to keep me engaged, so point for you, Elizabeth!
Can you talk about your experience with Paper Lantern Lit a bit and what it was like working with their team?

E: Working with Paper Lantern Lit is and was a joy. The PLL editors are thoughtful, energetic, and respectful, and they’ve taught me a lot about the craft of fiction-writing. I feel that I’ve come away from this partnership with a full toolbox to use for my next book(s). Between the “spark” of their ideas and everything I fed into the fire, I think we made a great and uber-flammable team. :)

Do you think you'll write something else mythology-inspired in the future?

E: I wouldn’t be surprised, but it won’t be my first project. Right now, I’m interested in writing something a little more grounded in reality.

Do you have any upcoming projects we can get excited about?

E: Nothing that I can talk about just yet...but stay tuned!

Ooh, exciting! I'll definitely be looking out for news! 
And a rapid-fire round...
Last book you read: Paris Was the Place by Susan Conley.
Last cover you lusted after: Andrea Cremer’s The Inventor’s Secret and No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale.
Top bookish couple you "ship": Lyra and Will from the His Dark Materials series.
One thing on your bucket list: Go to Russia.
One genre you want to write one day: Historical. 
Favourite snack while writing: Is pizza considered a snack? I also love tortilla chips dipped in hummus.
A song that you associate with the Fury trilogy: “What Goes Around Comes Around” by Justin Timberlake.
Next book on your to-read pile: Code Name Verity.

Thank you, Elizabeth! I'm so glad we got matched up for the tour!

E: Me too! YOU are a total rockstar!

Aww! *blush*

A huge thank you goes out to Elizabeth, and also to the tour hosts, Rachel, Jaime, and Mindy, for choosing me for the tour! There are lots of other awesome posts, so check out the rest of the tour by clicking on the tour logo at the top of the post.


Eternity Blog Tour: Forgiveness or Fury with Elizabeth Miles

Today I'm very excited to be working with the Paper Lantern Lit team and Elizabeth Miles on the blog tour for the final book in her trilogy, Eternity.

To start off, here's a bit about the book:
Eternity by Elizabeth Miles.

To be published September 3rd by Simon Pulse

Secrets and revenge make for desperate measures and fateful choices in this gripping conclusion to the Fury trilogy.
The weather is mild in Ascension…but beneath the surface, everything is burning up. The nightmare Emily Winters has been living through for months shows no sign of ending, as the Furies stay on the peripheral, slowly driving her crazy. Em feels...different. She’s angry, and never cold, and too strong. It’s only a matter of time before she turns into the thing she hates the most. Em needs to take her fate into her own hands, but without Drea’s help, or anyone to turn to, Em is quickly running out of options. Crow’s involvement with Em has grown more complicated. His visions are taking shape—and it doesn’t look good for Em. But Crow has a plan, and he will do anything to save her. Anything. JD misses the Em he used to know...and love. She doesn’t seem like herself; it’s like she’s hiding something. When JD begins to learn the truth, he is as scared as he is determined to help her. And Em’s survival may be dependent on his actions.
The Furies love to play games, but this time they’re deadly serious…and they hate to lose.

I'm definitely excited to find out how this trilogy ends! What happens to the furies? Does my ship work out or go down in flames? Does anything tragic happen? I'm looking forward to finding out!

But now, without further ado, Elizabeth Miles! Welcome!


Thank you for hosting me as part of the FORGIVENESS or FURY Blog Tour! I’m thrilled about the release of my third novel, ETERNITY, the final chapter of the FURY SERIES. At each tour stop, I’ll be offering advice to teens on how to handle difficult situations (some of which come from the Fury trilogy itself), and I’ll recommend either forgiveness…or fury. I’ll also suggest a few of my favorite YA titles that tackle these difficult scenarios.

Today’s question is: Someone cheated off my test – should I choose Forgiveness or Fury?
My Advice: It's easy to see how this type of transgression might bring on the desire for revenge -- after all, why should someone else get a good grade when you did all the studying? I wouldn't call in the Furies on this one, though. Do a better job of covering your paper next time (or move to a different seat), and the cheater's subsequent bad grade will be payback enough.

Great YA read about a similar situation: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok.
Ever since I read Girl in Translation, I haven’t been able to get Kimberly Chang’s story out of my mind. This incredible novel focuses on Kimberly’s adjustment to America and the unique school environment here. Struggling to balance her daily life as a student with her secret double identity as an immigrant factory worker, Kimberly is often accused of cheating and can’t overcome the language barrier to defend herself.

Thank you, Elizabeth! I agree, calling in the Furies over someone cheating on your test might be a bit much. They've proven how intense they can be! And Girl in Translation definitely sounds like a great read!

 Elizabeth Miles grew up in Chappaqua, New York, not far from New York City. She graduated cum laude from Boston University in 2004, worked for several years at the Boston Phoenix, and now writes for the Portland Phoenix, an alternative weekly newspaper. She has won several awards from the New England Press Association and was nominated for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Award. Elizabeth serves on the board of trustees of Portland Players, a community theater and second home. She loves pizza; she can often be found running around on stage while scantily clad; and a cold winter night in Maine is one of the creepiest and most beautiful things she can think of. Eternity is her third novel.

Follow the rest of the blog tour and read more of Elizabeth's Forgiveness or Fury advice here:
8/26: www.boekiesbookreviews.com
8/27: www.readmybreathaway.blogspot.ca
8/28: www.StarryEyedRevue.blogspot.com
8/29: www.chickloveslit.com
8/30: www.ReadingLark.blogspot.com
9/2: PLL’s blog!

Have you read Fury and Envy? Or Girl in Translation? What did you think? Are you excited for Eternity?


My Life in YA Book Titles

The wonderful Jamie over at The Perpetual Page Turner has done another fabulous post that she's encouraging other bloggers to try out, so here goes... my life in YA book titles! Maybe I'm not quite far enough removed from high school to do this really effectively (as I'm only about to enter 2nd year of university), but oh well.

How would you describe your 16 year old self? Something Like Normal. (I always felt like a normal, average person... and I was, but I often felt like I just wasn't noticed.)
When you looked in the mirror, what did you see? The Extra. (I didn't think I stood out in any way. I kept changing things about myself but never really committed or noticed a different. For a while I felt like an extra in my own movie.)
Your 16 year old self's outlook on life/motto: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. (Maybe not my motto, exactly, but I certainly spent a lot of time trying to find the perks and make myself feel like they made up for what I always felt I was missing out on).
How you think people would describe your personality: The Almost Girl. (People in general didn't really know me all that well because of a combination of them not caring and me giving up, so for a lot of people I was just "there". I think they'd say nice but shy; someone who fades into the background.)
Describe an insecurity in high school: 17 & Gone. (Because I was so shy, I didn't really talk to a lot of people and I felt like one day I'd just disappear because it already felt like people didn't see me. I felt very unnoticed all throughout high school and by senior year -17 years old- I'd pretty much retreated into the library permanently because most people didn't bother with me anyway.)
Describe your worst trait as a teen: Envy. (I was jealous of the "popular" kids. It just seemed like they were having all the fun, and while I wasn't a loner or anything, I just wished I had a big group to hang out with at lunch or parties to go to every weekend and whatnot. And then of course I was jealous of their clothes and such because I thought that helped them get an "in." Oh, high school.)
Describe the contents of your diary/journal: Confessions of a Hater. (I didn't really keep a journal, but my friends and I were terrible about complaining to each other about people who annoyed us. I totally wasn't a mean person, though! Just a whiner in private conversations. I promise. Honestly, I'm sure anyone you ask will say I was nice.)
Your biggest fear: Marked. (This is probably going to sound pretty shallow, but I was really worried my wallflower status would change, but the wrong way and instead of becoming accepted, I would be actively picked on.)
You excelled at: Thousand Words. (I got really good grades in senior year, especially in English, Writer's Craft, and Photography - a picture's worth a thousand words... get it?.)
You were always concerned about: Pushing the Limits. (I was terrified of getting in trouble. I absolutely HATED it and was a big stickler for rules. I cut French class a couple times because that class was awful and I always felt sick and nervous about it.)
You thought your life was: The Art of Wishing. (I felt like I had perfected wishing for things that would never happen. A lot of what I wanted never went anywhere and I really felt unfulfilled for a long time.)

Love Life:
How would you sum up your high school love life? If You Could Be Mine. (I did a lot of dreaming and wishing and wondering instead of actually pursuing boys. Like I said before, SHY.)
Describe your most serious boyfriend from high school: The Sweetest Spell. (I was so smitten with him it was kind of like I was under a spell. He was and is so sweet and so nice and just what I wanted to find in a boyfriend. I definitely got lucky snagging him.)
Describe your first kiss: Cracked Up To Be. (As in, not all it's cracked up to be. It wasn't bad by any means, but it wasn't all that great.)
Your philosophy on dating/love: Leap of Faith. (I had very low self-esteem so whenever someone told me a guy was interested in me, I had to teach myself trust that it wasn't a dumb prank or joke or something - doesn't that only happen in books and on tv anyway?)
Describe your worst break-up: Famous Last Words. (I totally grew out of him -and over him- but he was a really nice guy, so in an extremely awkward and uncomfortable -and I think pretty painful for him... I'm sorry!- break-up, I used the typical "I still want to be friends" because I really did. Though, of course, guess who I've said maybe 5 words to since? Yeah.)

Your relationship with your mom as a teen: Otherbound. (Seemed like we were always going in different directions and didn't really get each other, even though for the most part we got along.)
Your relationship with your dad as a teen: Some Quiet Place. (We got along well, we just didn't talk too much about anything all that important too often.)
Your relationship with a sibling: Defiance. (I'm five years older than my brother and was often taking care of him, but he was a typical brat of a little brother and defied me just to make me angry.)
What you thought about your parents' rules/parenting style: This Strange and Familiar Place. (A lot of their style was what I had always grown up with, so I was used to it, but they seemed to get more strict and a little irrational at times when I was in high school, which was frustrating.)

Describe you and your best friend at 16: Beta. (A lot of the time I kind of felt like a sidekick and the second person noticed of the two of us. Still happens, really.)
Your social status: The Rules for Disappearing. (Over the course of high school I slowly pulled further and further back into my shell as time went by and I realized I wasn't getting anywhere with the people around me. By senior year, a few people actually asked my best friend if I still went to the school... I was in the library.)
Describe your group of friends: Ladies in Waiting. (The group I had in grades 11 and 12 were all so anxious to get out of high school. We had fun together, but we just wanted to move on with our lives and get away from all the drama and whatnot.)

Your perception of high school upon entering: Beautiful Days. (Honestly, when I started high school, everyone was saying it'd be the best time of my life. I was expecting to grow out of the awkward middle school phase and have a fabulous time. The first bit I managed, the second... meh.)
Your relationship with academics: Geek Girl. (Okay, no, I was not a geek. But high school is one of those things where you can pass without doing much, but to do really well, you have to put work in. I did work hard to do well and I got really good grades, especially senior year, because I was determined to get a scholarship. A lot of people seemed to think I was a little nerdy because I did so well, but guess who's coming out of university with no debt. So worth it.)
Your weekends were: Golden. (I loved weekends. I could be as social or anti-social as I wanted, I could sit and read or watch tv or do whatever I wanted and it was wonderful. This is still how I'd describe them now.)
If your high school life was a movie, it would be called: Along for the Ride. (I just kind of floated through high school. I had interests and did things, like theatre and a few clubs, but I was never all that involved in much.)
A class you wish high school had offered: Pride and Prejudice. (There are A LOT of people I went to high school with who would have benefited from a class that taught how to keep those two things in check.)
Your senior year was: Over You. (My mentality that entire year was "please get me out of here." I was bored and over all the high school nonsense.)
Describe prom: The Secret Garden. (I didn't go to my senior prom, just my boyfriend's when I was a junior. Since everyone who didn't know me liked him, I was accepted by default. Prom almost felt like a secret little oasis for one night away from most of the crap of high school. But it wouldn't have been that had it been with my own graduating class, so I skipped that one.)
When high school ended it was: The Golden Day. (I was completely over high school by the end of grade 11, so I was so happy to be out of there.)

The Future:
How you felt about the prospect of college: Reboot. (I couldn't wait for a chance at something new and hopefully to break out of my shell more so I wouldn't be the same shy, quiet girl.)
How you thought your life would be at 20 (I'm not quite yet, but it's a better round number age): All That Glows. (I figured life would be much better after high school. I was expecting to be happier, more social, and doing more. Actually working towards something. And you know what, I'm doing pretty well on that.)

Your Life Now:
Describe your love life now: I Will Always Love You. (I'm still with my last high school boyfriend now, going on 3 years, and I still love him to pieces. For better or worse and no matter what happens in the future, he will always be my first love and to be honest, I'm glad it's him.)
Describe the state of your friendship with your high school BFF: I'm going to do four for this one because I kind of had multiple close friends at different times in high school (I know, I know):
1. The Distance Between Us. (Actually, come to think of it, this applies to two of my high school best friends, which really sucks looking back. We totally grew apart and I still wish we hadn't, but now both of them have moved away so it'd be hard to reconnect.)
2. Frozen. (It feels like we're still in the same spot in our friendship as when we were in high school.)
3. Six Months Later (We don't see each other too often because we go to university in different cities, but we always make an effort to see each other when she comes home because we were close.)
4. Don't You Forget About Me. (She left the city for university but we constantly send messages back and forth because we're determined not to lose touch. We were also the queens of snark when we were together, so I can't let her go!)
Your relationship with your parents now: Another Little Piece. (It's not perfect with either of them, but overall it's good. Sometimes things go bad for a bit and a piece falls off, but other times things are especially great and we're building and even better relationship. Overall, I've never had a bad relationship with either parent.)
Your thoughts on your high school reunion: Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality. (I still don't know if I'm going to bother going, but if I do, I want to go back as someone who is successful in what I dream of doing and *mumbles* throw it in their faces that they missed out when they ignored me.)
Biggest lesson you learned in high school: Embrace. (Embrace what it is you like to do and go for it. Embrace what you like about yourself and feel good about it. Embrace the situation you're in and either enjoy it if you're happy, or change it if you're not. Just sitting around wishing won't get you anywhere).
One thing you WISH you had learned: Speak. (I wish I had learned how to come out of my shell more, get over being shy, and be more social. I still struggle with that. I hoped I wouldn't by now.)
Advice you wish you could have given your teen self: The Walls Around Us. (High school is so self-contained. Everything seems to happen in school. Once I left I saw that as soon as you're out of that, you're going to have so many more experiences and meet new people and it'll be better. Maybe try to branch out sooner and you'll have a better time.)
Something you could learn from your 16 year old self: Unwind. (I had my stressed-out moments as a 16 year old, but I definitely knew how to unwind and relax, which is something current me is struggling with.)

I'm going to add one more here:
Biggest regret from high school: The Other Life. (I held back in so many ways because I was afraid of people not liking me, but one thing I've regretted a lot is not trying out for the field hockey team. I was really good at it when we first played in gym in grade 9, if I do say so myself, but it was varsity and all the girls on the team were the "popular" ones. I was convinced I wouldn't fit in, so I didn't even try. Never. I had four years to do it, and I didn't, and I totally regret it. I feel like a few things could have been different if I had.)

There you go, a bit more about me in high school. I like to think that even though it wasn't THAT long ago, I've grown since then.

Did you fill this out as well? Share with me, I want to get to know all of you a little better, too!


The State of the Book World: Upcoming Trends

I don't pretend to be all up on everything that's happening in the book world whatsoever, but I do think that since I started blogging seriously, I've been paying a lot more attention to where the industry seems like it's going. I want to know what kind of books I can expect to see, and which are going to get the big push from marketing departments. This post will really just be me musing about where I think the book world is and is headed.

For a while there, post-Hunger Games blow up, it seemed like dystopia (and books mislabeled as dystopia) were the big thing in YA, but now that it seems people are largely sick of that (not me, I admit), what's next?

Not that we won't see more dystopian/post-apocalyptic/etc coming, of which I think the excellently-written ones will still be able to find a foothold, but I personally think sci-fi, especially space-focused sci-fi, is going to be the next thing storming the YA market.

We're already starting to see space books generate talk, in different ways. Take these two upcoming sci-fi releases, for example:


The 100 by Kass Morgan and These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

I've been seeing some reactions to both of these books come out lately, but while early word on These Broken Stars has been extremely positive, The 100 has seen a lot of mixed to low reviews. I don't think this is uncommon at all. There will always be books, in any genre, that simply aren't as enjoyable for their audience as others. But the publisher is definitely pushing The 100. It is being marketed largely on the fact that there is a sci-fi tv show being made based on it. These Broken Stars is unmistakably trying to show off its sci-fi side, clear from the cover and the blurb. Sci-fi certainly hasn't been non-existent lately, especially with a lot of the books classified as dystopian actually showing a lot of sci-fi elements. I think, though, that now we're going to see more sci-fi books marketed as the sci-fi that they are, and I think we'll be exploring the unknown depths of space a fair bit.

Now, the two books I already mentioned both come out in late 2013, The 100 in September and These Broken Stars in December. That wouldn't be much of a trend if it just comprised of a couple books this fall. But I do see more space sci-fi coming in 2014, and ones that aren't hiding their sci-fi status. For example:

Salvage by Alexandra Duncan, Avalon by Mindee Arnett, Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci, Cress by Marissa Meyer.
Heck, even Alienated by Melissa Landers seems like it has space as a factor.

And those are just the ones with covers so far. Based just on their blurbs, here are some more I can see marketed as space sci-fi in 2014:

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
Extraction by Stephanie Diaz
Earth & Sky by Megan Crewe
Tracked by Jenny Martin
Collide by Melissa West, the third book in her The Taking series.
And an as of now untitled sequel to These Broken Stars.

Every one of the books I've listed above seem to incorporate space in some way, based on their blurbs. And those are just the ones I've found on Goodreads... out of only the ones we the public know about now, in August. I'm positive there are more 2014 sci-fi books just waiting to get their own GR page.

Of course, I don't claim to know anything about this stuff, this is just where I see it going. I'm also not saying sci-fi will produce the only big books; of course not. There are some retellings coming that sound interesting, what seems to be a good crop of fantasy, and of course plenty of contemporary, which I don't think will ever go away. (Sidenote: I'm seeing a distinct lack of historical fiction for 2014 as of right now. This displeases me. If you find any that sound good, please share! It's my favourite genre). I'm just going with a trend I'm noticing that I think could be big. If I'm way off come spring, feel free to laugh at me.

What do you think about my theory? Do you have more books to add to my list of upcoming sci-fi that could be the new talked-about "thing" in YA? Is there another trend that's standing out to you as "the next big thing?"


Sophomore Spotlight: Gwenda Bond

Today I'm excited to welcome Gwenda Bond to the blog for Sophomore Spotlight to chat about her sophomore novel, The Woken Gods.

To be Published September 3, 2013
by Strange Chemistry.

Goodreads Blurb:
The more things change…

Five years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke all around the world.

The more things stay the same…

This morning, Kyra Locke is late for school because of an argument with her father.

Seventeen-year-old Kyra lives in a transformed Washington, D.C., dominated by the embassies of divine pantheons and watched over by the mysterious Society of the Sun that governs mankind’s relations with the gods. But when rebellious Kyra encounters two trickster gods on her way home, one offering a threat and the other a warning, it turns out her life isn't what it seems. She escapes with the aid of Osborne "Oz" Spencer, a young Society field operative, only to discover that her scholar father has disappeared with a dangerous Egyptian relic. The Society needs the item back, and they aren’t interested in her protests that she knows nothing about it or her father's secrets.

Now Kyra must depend on her wits and the suspect help of scary Sumerian gods, her estranged oracle mother, and, of course, Oz--whose first allegiance is to the Society. She has no choice if she’s going to recover the missing relic and save her father. And if she doesn't? Well, that may just mean the end of the world as she knows it. From the author of Blackwood comes a fresh, thrilling urban fantasy that will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare, and Rick Riordan.

I'm a huge mythology geek so this book really just screams "Jessica"! Anyway, onto the interview!

First of all, thank you, Gwenda, for joining me for Sophomore Spotlight! To start us off, please describe your sophomore novel in 5 words or less. 
G: Ancient gods in modern Washington, D.C. (I’m counting Washington, D.C. as one word!) 

Okay, I suppose that's fair game. But guys, if those "five" words don't grab you, I don't know what will. 
How did the journey for The Woken Gods differ from that for your debut, Blackwood? 
G: I suppose the biggest difference was that this was my first time working on a project that was sold based on a synopsis. I’d been playing around with a version of this idea for some time, but I basically threw out most of what I’d done and started over. And then…I did that again after I wrote the first draft. But that time stuck. 

What kind of research was involved in writing this story? 
G: A great deal, though hopefully most of it informed how I told the story and isn’t in evidence weighing it down. I assembled a slew of mythology and ancient religion reference books, and read up on apocalyptic traditions and lesser known myths. A friend’s husband gave me several Ancient Aliens episodes that focused on D.C., which was not really research but fun nonetheless. And I did a great deal of reading about the Library of Congress and the Jefferson Building, along with some other D.C. sites, and, of course, on the ground research (the most fun of all). 

Wow, that does sound like a lot! When it comes to mythology research though, I find myths are just like stories in themselves so that (along with the ground research .. awesome!) was probably the fun part, eh? 
What is the best part of already having a book out in the world?
G: I would have to say hearing from readers who enjoyed it. I pinch myself every time. 

Did you change anything about your writing process for this novel after having written your debut?
G: My writing process is fairly unpredictable to begin with—I tend to write at roughly the same times and in the same amounts, but how much revision a given book needs and how long it takes me to crack open the story varies wildly. And I think every book presents its own challenges and forces some changes from the way you wrote the last one. Blackwood didn’t undergo the same kind of radical changes I made over the course of writing The Woken Gods. Also, there’s a whole new kind of pressure in writing a book that’s already sold, because you know you have to deliver that book and that at least some people will definitely read it. So, I really had to write myself onto the edge of a cliff and jump off, but hopefully the end result is worth it. 

Can you share a favourite quote from The Woken Gods?
G: Ooh, hard. How about this one? 

“Be careful, girl,” the woman says, her hands dipping back into the water, the fire dying. The thin coating of liquid on her skin that allows the trick is visible with the flame extinguished. She picks up the money. “Secrets are like wolves. They have sharp teeth.” 

Ooooh I like it! Very mysterious, very intriguing.
The zombie apocalypse is coming and you have to choose one character from your new novel to help you survive it. Who would you choose and why? 
G: This particular novel is filled with good options, actually, assuming any of the gods would agree to be helpful. So, Anzu if I pick a god, because he’s fearsome and can fly, or Oz, if it has to be one of the human members of the cast. 

I definitely do think having gods on your side would serve you quite well during the apocalypse
If you could enter the world of any book, which would you choose and why? 
G: Wow, I just don’t know. Most of my favorites have some serious downsides. Maybe some kind of bohemian utopia, if such a book exists? Or possibly the Graceling world (but only if I got to have a grace!). 

In keeping with our theme here, are there any other sophomore releases you've either recently read and loved or are looking forward to? 
G: Kim Curran’s Control, her sequel to Shift, is fabulous. And I absolutely adored Leigh Bardugo’s Siege and Storm. 

Ah, both excellent choices! I'm excited to get to those, especially Siege and Storm after all the high praise I've heard.
Can you share anything about your next project?
G: I’m happy to. My next novel is Girl on a Wire, and it’ll be out from Skyscape sometime next year. It’s about a girl from a legendary circus family who performs as a daredevil high-wire walker. When she becomes the target of mysterious sabotage, she has to team up with her archrival to find the culprit. I’m super-excited about it.

Circus, daredevil, sabotage, and teaming up with her archrival? Could you ask for anything mroe from a book, really? I'm excited! 
Thank you, Gwenda for taking part in Sophomore Spotlight!

Strange Chemistry has been kind enough to offer up a copy of The Woken Gods for an international giveaway!

Some Rules (aka the not so fun but important part):
~ This giveaway is open internationally (void where prohibited).
~ No P.O. boxes.
~ Must be 13 or older to enter.
~ 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.
~ Gwenda, Strange Chemistry and I are not responsible for lost or damaged packages.
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.

Good luck!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway


Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan.

Page Count: 256.
Published: August 20, 2013.
Published by: Algonquin Young Readers (US), Harper (Canada).
Source: BEA Signing.

Goodreads Blurb:
In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

My Review:

This book was not what I was expecting it to be. What I went into prepared for a story about fighting and sacrificing for the sake of love and the freedom to be one's true self was instead a narrative about a young Iranian girl trying to sort out her relationship with both who she thinks she loves and who she thinks she is. It brings her into an exploration of the underlying LGBTQ culture in Iran, but does not have her truly fighting for an acceptance that I had thought would be the focal goal of the storyline. This is not to say that I didn't enjoy the book or that I thought it was bad, not at all. It just was not what I expected.

If You Could Be Mine introduces Sahar and Nasrin, two very different young women who are clearly very close. Their friendship has become what they both (Sahar especially) seem to see as love and Sahar is determined to find a way for them to be together forever, despite Iran's strict anti-homosexual policies. In what appears to be a strange contradiction, Iran allows and even supports gender-reassignment surgery if someone feels they have been born in the wrong body. This surgery is what Sahar sees as her only real option to be with Nasrin, and much of the story focuses on Sahar's approach to the possibility of this very serious surgery and explores how far she is willing to go for who she believes is her true love.

There is a clear disconnect, though, between the girls. Sahar makes it clear over the course of the novel that she has decided to do whatever it takes for their future together, whereas Nasrin takes risks only for herself (and for her fashion choices, most often). There is a clear sense that Nasrin is not as invested in the relationship as Sahar. This feeling seems to only become stronger as an easier path for her life presents itself to Nasrin. While the characters were fairly complex and quite interesting overall, this dynamic made both of them somewhat unlikable. Nasrin is selfish and unwilling to see or acknowledge the sacrifices Sahar is making for her, while Sahar is frustratingly blind to Nasrin's reluctance to truly attempt to be a "forever couple," not to mention very dependent on Nasrin's attention. Clearly she is experiencing a lot of confusion, fear, and desperation, but I didn't feel that excused her blind rush into life-changing decisions. I will admit that I didn't truly enjoy either character, though I absolutely connected with some of Sahar's ambition, devotion, and insecurities. The one thing I did appreciate about Sahar's frustrating beginnings is that it gave her a lot of room to grow throughout the story, and her growth did impress me.

While neither of the main characters really struck a chord with me, I did appreciate one of the other characters. The man Nasrin becomes engaged to (which is what spurs Sahar into action to find a fast way to stop the wedding), Reza, is a genuinely nice man. It is clear that he cares about Nasrin and wants to be a good husband for her, and it is undeniable, as much as Sahar hates it. Even she can see that letting Nasrin marry Reza is the best, safest route for Nasrin because she will be taken care of and married to a man. Reza adds another layer of complexity to the situation and to Sahar and Nasrin's relationship because once he enters the picture, it is not as if Sahar is saving Nasrin from a terrible future; it is possible she is actually fighting only to end up with that if anything should go wrong.

Farizan's voice in this piece is really quite refreshing. While there are certainly many rough, difficult moments that are unsettling for me, as someone raised in an overall tolerant environment (Canada), she handles them with care while maintaining honesty and emotion. It is clear that Farizan is not judging with the statements she is making, instead maintaining an openness about the subject matter even when secrecy was key in the plot. My only wish for the plot was that there had been more examination of the situation faced by women in Iran. There were some moments that revealed a lot about Iranian culture but I felt that with such a unique setting in YA literature, I went in hoping for more of those moments and more background on them. I think it was a well-told story overall, but it missed the "oomph" factor that would have made it all the more powerful and unforgettable. Still, a strong and compelling debut that makes me very curious about the author's next work.

While I was held back by characters I didn't love, there was a strong story in If You Could Be Mine. It is a great read for anyone looking for the books that go beyond what seem to be the boundaries of YA. It gives an excellent look inside a culture very different from in the west while also exploring human relationships, LGBTQ issues in another circumstance, and the lengths some will go to for love.
3 stars.


Review: The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist

The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist.

Page Count: 240
Published: February 21, 2013.
Published by: Dutton Juvenile.
Source: Won from The Midnight Garden. Thank you!

Goodreads Blurb:
Four nearly identical girls on a desert island. An unexpected new arrival. A gently warped near future where nothing is quite as it seems.

Veronika. Caroline. Isobel. Eleanor. One blond, one brunette, one redhead, one with hair black as tar. Four otherwise identical girls who spend their days in sync, tasked to learn. But when May, a very different kind of girl—the lone survivor of a recent shipwreck—suddenly and mysteriously arrives on the island, an unsettling mirror is about to be held up to the life the girls have never before questioned.

Sly and unsettling, Gordon Dahlquist’s timeless and evocative storytelling blurs the lines between contemporary and sci-fi with a story that is sure to linger in readers’ minds long after the final page has been turned.

My Review:

Every so often a book comes along that you struggle to get through. Unfortunately, this was one of thise for me for a few different reasons. I was tempted along the way to just DNF it, but only chose to stick with it because there was a lot hidden from readers that I wanted to see revealed and explained. Needless to say I was not impressed when much of it stayed hidden and I felt like I stuck with the book for no reason.

This book really went wrong in two areas for me. First of all, I found it dull. The four identical girls were so similar (identical is right) in every way that I barely remembered their names upon closing the book (good thing they're in the blurb). Because of the nature of the girls, there isn't much to separate them from one another. They have no real personality or character traits besides a small sense of curiosity that is easily pushed aside in favour of following their schedule and rules. Even worse, they didn't really DO anything. The majority of the novel was spent with them going about their routine, day after day. Even when May, the mysterious arrival promised in the blurb, shows up, they simply try their best to integrate her into their routine and are baffled when she struggles. It was very dull and I didn't really understand the point of the story.

This leads me to my second issue with the novel: it made me feel dumb. I felt like because I found it so boring and uninspiring, I was probably missing something important that was making some philosophical point about life or people or something. It really felt like there was supposed to be a point or a message to the monotonous story, but I just wasn't seeing it. I like to think I am not a dumb person, and it's not very often that books make me feel that way, so this one just really rubbed me the wrong way in that sense.

Honestly, this was just not the book for me. I struggled with the repetitive and slow plot and the almost indistinguishable characters, and was left frustrated by an ending that gives you nothing.
1 star.


A To Z Bookish Survey

The wonderful Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner decided that we all need to have some fun and posted a bookish survey that she encouraged other bloggers to fill out. I definitely agree that we all could use some fun, so I decided to take part and maybe you can learn a bit more about me through this! I know I'm a little late to the game on posting it, but I was already behind so I needed to catch up before I could work on this.

Author you've read the most books from: 

Well, technically it's Mary Pope Osborne because I was obsessed with the Magic Tree House books as a kid and I added them to my Goodreads in case I ever decided to go back and read the rest of the series from where I left off. But if we exclude children's books, it's Robert Muchamore (British teen spy novels... they are awesome).

Best sequel ever:

There are so many I could touch on, but I'm going to cheat a tiny bit and go with one that while technically is the second book in the series, is more of a companion novel than a direct sequel:

Tarnish by Katherine Longshore. I really enjoyed Gilt, but Tarnish totally blew it out of the water and I was in love.

Currently reading:

As of writing this post, Bubble World by Carol Snow.

Drink of choice while reading:

I know this is totally boring, but water. Every once in a while I'll take a nice alcoholic beverage, but water is my go-to.

E-reader or physical book?

I am and think I will always be a physical book girl. I've always been surrounded by physical books and I have stacks of my own, and I don't think I could ever let that go. I love seeing them out in front of me, I love the feeling of the pages, and I love not getting headaches like I do reading ebooks (which, since I don't have an e-reader, is inconvenient and eye-tiring).

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school:

Hmm. If Luca from Fiona Paul's books was modernized, I probably would have adored his kind, supportive, loyal ways. Same with Sam from Jodi Meadow's Incarnate, I think. Smart and musically talented... sounds like my real high school (and still current) bf!

Glad you gave this book a chance:

I'm glad I tried Cinder by Marissa Meyer because I loved it just like everyone said I would. Plus sci-fi wasn't really on my radar too much before this one but now I'm all over it.

Hidden gem book:

Canary by Rachele Alpine definitely comes to mind. It was a very powerful and a very important book and I'm disappointed that not a lot of people seem to be taking notice of it. My review (aka a big post on why you should read it) is here.

Important moment in your reading life:

I think I have to go with Jamie on this one and say discovering Goodreads. Before Goodreads, I was a reader (always have been), but Goodreads really made me get my butt into gear because I had access to information on more books than ever and I was able to set goals for myself to meet and actually keep track. It changed the experience for me and was what ultimately led me to discovering book bloggers, so it was huge.

Just finished:

Again, as of writing the post, The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky.

Kinds of books you won't read:

I really prefer YA and some upper MG, but I'll sample everything at least once. The only stuff I don't even want to try out is legal/crime dramas and horror stuff. No horror for me.

Longest book you've read:

That would be Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, clocking in at 870 pages. Not as impressive as some of the other bloggers, but I'm not someone who loved adult books (or has braved tons of classics) before I started blogging like many others are.

Major book hangover because of:

Ooh. Well, I could count on having to take a break after reading each Harry Potter book for the first time because I loved them so much. 

Number of bookcases you own:

I own two that are overflowing, plus I've taken over a couple shelves on my mom's bookcase and have many, many piles lying around. It has been determined that I need another shelf (or two) for myself ASAP.

One book you have read multiple times:

Okay, so there's this one book that I first read in third grade for school and I absolutely fell in love with it. Which might seem ridiculous because it was about all the adults dying and how one girl takes it upon herself to save her and her brother and ends up saving a whole neighbourhood of kids. It's The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson and I adored it. I couldn't tell you how many times I've reread it.

Preferred place to read:

I love reading on my couch, but only when there is nobody else sitting around being distracting. If I can't get peace there, I move to my bedroom and get cozy reading in bed.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you've read:

"Kiss Me, Hardy." 

If you've read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, this is self-explanatory and I apologize for the pain I've just brought up. If you haven't read it, rectify that immediately. 

Reading regret:

Hmm. This isn't "reading" exactly, but I regret taking so darn long to find and start book blogging. I've always, ALWAYS read books and I've always wished for people who read like I did to share and talk with. I've found that here, but it took me until I was 18 to do it and I wish it hadn't.

Series you started and need to finish (all books are out in series):

I really need to finish the Unearthly series. I really enjoyed the first one and I have the other two sitting in my room, but it's just about finding the time for them!

Three of your all-time favourite books:

Only three? Sheesh Jamie! I genuinely don't think I can do that. Okay, these are just the ones that came to mind first.

Code Name Verity

The Book Thief

The Archived

*sneaks The Scorpio Races and The Chaos Walking series in there as well*

Unapologetic fangirl for:

Is it cheating to say Elizabeth Wein again? Because I gladly will. If it is cheating, I'll say Fiona Paul aka Paula Stokes. I love these ladies.

Very excited for this release more than all the others:

Oh my gosh, ONE? I can't possibly pick one! I'm so excited for Starling by Fiona Paul, Cress by Marissa Meyer, and Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd. There, I stuck with just 3 that are all series continuations.

Worst bookish habit:

I don't know that I really have any bad bookish habits... Maybe just not keeping up with series as they come out because by the time I get to the next book it has been ages past its release date and I'm usually lost.

X marks the spot: start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White.

Your latest book purchase:

I think it was The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher.

Zzz-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):

That could be many, but recently was Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. I read the whole book in essentially one sitting, stopping only to eat a late-night snack.

Major props to Jamie for putting this together and I'm so glad she encouraged us to fill it out too, because it was fun! 

Do we have anything in common? Make sure if you fill it out, you share yours with me too!


Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

Page Count: 208.
Published: August 27, 2013.
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Source: BEA Signing.

Goodreads Blurb:
New York Times  bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS. 

While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other. 

This follow-up to the bestselling Every Day showcases David's trademark sharp-witted, warm-hearted tales of teenage love, and serves as a perfect thematic bookend to David's YA debut and breakthrough, Boy Meets Boy, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2013.

My Review:

If anyone doubts David Levithan's ability to tell a raw and beautiful story about the LGBT community, they must reserve judgement until after reading this novel. I think he portrays not only different voices within the community very strongly but also just different kinds of relationships, with struggles that affect all kinds of couples, gay or straight.

This was definitely a powerful novel, which I think was made all the more powerful by Levithan's choice of narrator. Right from the beginning there is this poignant narration from "us" that speaks volumes. Instead of using the multiple different boys whose stories he is telling as narrators (as that, I think, would get too jumbled and confusing), he presents a Greek Chorus type narration. The narrative voice is an omniscient "we" meant to represent all the gay men who have died of AIDS. This "we" tells the story as if looking down on the boys but also relaying what is going on in their minds, all the while telling of their own struggles and joys; what they miss and what we the living should appreciate while we still can. It was different than anything I have ever read before and that made it extremely powerful. There was an undeniable feeling of pain and loss in the narration, but there was also wisdom, and most importantly an overpowering sense of hope.

The multiple different ongoing storylines were related in such a way that I not only grew to see and feel the struggles of each boy, but I also grew to love them. There were so many different stages of relationship represented and they all were presented as completely normal, as they should be. Levithan did a wonderful job of showing that gay relationships are truly the same as straight relationships, especially in the way the two partners feel about and relate to one another. This novel has everything you would expect from a novel about straight relationships: love, laughter, longing, pointless fights, confusion about feelings, and those small moments that make everything worth it. It takes all these moments and adds to them the struggle for acceptance and the repercussions of being gay in a world where people refuse to allow these boys to be who they are. The pain and the embarrassment that feel so out of place in what should be a romantic story for some of these boys only serves to highlight the truth of the situation and the deep need for an accepting world.

The only area in which I really felt this story was lacking was in Cooper's story. I wanted more depth from him as it felt like his story was solely focused on his either trying to cover up or wallowing in his sad state. While I thought it was effective at showing just how hard living in secret and going unaccepted is, I felt like his story was the least developed. Other than that, though, I thought each storyline was strong and so vitally necessary to the narrative and to normalizing gay relationships while also trying to help everyone who hasn't experienced some of these struggles to understand.

Two Boys Kissing is a powerful and honest novel that I think everyone should read, ally to the community or not. Maybe especially if you're not an ally, because there is a painful truth to this story that will hopefully lead to further understanding. This is such an important novel, especially at this time in history. Well done, David Levithan.
4.5 stars.


Waiting on Wednesday #35: The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond

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:
The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond.

Expected Publication: September 3, 2013
by: Strange Chemistry

Goodreads Blurb:
The more things change…

Ten years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke all around the world.

The more things stay the same…

This morning, seventeen-year-old Kyra Locke was late for school.

But that’s not out of the ordinary in a transformed Washington, D.C., dominated by the embassies of divine pantheons and watched over by the mysterious Society of the Sun that governs mankind’s relations with the gods. What is unusual is Kyra’s encounter with two trickster gods on her way home, one offering a threat, and the other a warning.

Kyra escapes with the aid of young operatives from the Society, who inform her that her scholarly father has disappeared from its headquarters at the Library of Congress and taken a dangerous Egyptian relic with him. The Society needs the item back, and they aren’t interested in Kyra’s protests that she knows nothing about it.

Now Kyra must depend on her wits and the help of everyone from a paranoid ex-boyfriend to scary Sumerian gods to operatives whose allegiance is first and always to the Society. She has no choice if she’s going to clear her father’s name and recover the missing relic before the impending summer solstice.

What’s at stake? Just the end of the world as Kyra knows it.

From the author of Blackwood comes a fresh, thrilling urban fantasy that will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare, and Rick Riordan…

Why I'm excited:
I asked for more mythology other than Greek, and Strange Chemistry is delivering! I'm so excited to read Egyptian mythology YA because I was obsessed with it when I was younger. Can't wait to see how it's represented here!

What are you waiting on this week?