Waiting on Wednesday #44: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

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:
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige.

Expected Publication: April 1, 2014.
by: HarperTeen.

Goodreads Blurb:
I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

Why I'm excited:
UM. Does this not sounds amazing!? I'm so curious to see the tables turned on the characters we know and love from The Wizard of Oz! I feel like this one is going to be too cool. Dark, but cool.

What are you waiting on this week?

Make sure you head over to The White Unicorn today for a guest post and giveaway from Chloe Jacobs!


Guest Post: Claire Legrand on Writing Darkness and Middle Grade

I'm so excited to welcome Claire Legrand to the blog today to chat about her books, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and The Year of Shadows. I was very curious about how she mixes the dark elements in her books with writing for a middle grade audience, so she's here to let us know how she works it!

Welcome, Claire!

Last year, after my grandmother finished reading my first book, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, she called me, concerned and bewildered.

“Claire Bear,” she said, “where does all this darkness come from?”

“I don’t know, Grandma,” I answered. “It’s just how my brain works. Half of me is fluffy puppies, and that’s the me you know. But the other half of me is . . . demon puppies. And their tragic pasts. And also the evil spells they cast to seek revenge upon their creators. And the disastrous consequences of said evil spells. And this is the part of me that writes books.”

I don’t think that made her feel any better.

But I answered her honestly. I love writing dark, twisted, strange stories—stories that frighten and stories that tackle Big Questions. Stories that explore the darker side of life. I don’t know why my brain conjures up these kinds of stories, but it does, and the fact that I like writing these stories for children in particular creates an interesting challenge:

How much darkness is too much darkness?

Writers of children’s literature have a certain responsibility to our audience of young readers, and it isn’t to coddle or protect them from the world’s evils. Our responsibility is to help our readers explore the world’s evils through storytelling. The books we write offer up a safe way for kids to ask questions, consider other perspectives, and better understand their own fears about the world in which they live.

In my second book, The Year of Shadows, I explore challenging issues that unfortunately many children must confront—parental abandonment and neglect, poverty, depression, death. These topics present a different kind of darkness from the more conventional horror elements in Cavendish. This is a more realistic darkness. These are recognizable dangers.

It was important to me to address such topics, even though doing so made me uncomfortable—especially because it made me uncomfortable—because if we shy away from talking about the dark side of life, thinking we can protect children by doing so, we’re actually doing them a great disservice. By avoiding exploration and discussion of pain, grief, suffering, sadness, anger, loneliness, we deprive our children of the tools they need to cope with such emotions when they experience them in real life.

Because they will experience them, as much as we might not want them to.

That being said, I was always mindful of my audience when writing. I have a responsibility to be honest with my readers, but I also have a responsibility to explore these tough subjects in a way that is appropriate and respectful.

Scary things happen in The Year of Shadows—both supernatural and not.

Protagonist Olivia and her friend Henry allow themselves to be possessed by ghosts, a grueling process that leaves them emotionally, mentally, and physically drained.

Olivia’s mother abandoned her family, and Olivia’s father is so caught up in grief and professional frustration that he ignores his daughter.

The ghosts Olivia befriends are not the only ghosts present in this story. Shades—ghosts who have lost all traces of humanity and therefore all hope of ever moving on and finding peace—terrorize Olivia, her friends, and her family, impeding her plans to help her ghostly friends and save her conductor father’s concert hall.

Olivia’s family has been financially crippled by the economic recession; money is an omnipresent villainous force eating away at Olivia’s peace of mind.

And there is the lurking threat of Limbo—home of the shades and the nothingspace between the World of the Living and the World of the Dead.

I’m not sure which is more frightening of the above—the ghosts and their ilk, or the lack of money, the lack of family, the lack of stability.

For Olivia, it’s the latter. She’s frightened by the shades, but she feels more comfortable facing them than she does the uncertainty in the rest of her life. Shades are conquerable—she hopes—but the rest of her life? She has forgotten how to hope that will get better.

Luckily, Olivia has people in her life who do remember what it is to hope, and who do their best to help her.

And that—that feeling of hope, of possibility, of safety—is the element I made sure to weave through The Year of Shadows. Olivia may not see it at first, but through re-learning how to trust, how to rely, how to love, she rediscovers what it is to hope. To feel safe. To feel wanted. She realizes that hope has been present all around her—in the musicians of her father’s orchestra, who want to help her family; in the magic of music, which in her anger she has rejected; in the friendship of her classmate Henry, who refuses to give up on Olivia even when she’s given up on herself.

If that is present—that reminder of goodness in the world; that glimmer of hope, however small—then I feel comfortable exploring darker subjects with my young readers. Maintaining that thread of hope through even the most unsettling story is like holding their hands while passing through a storm. The passage will be frightening, but I won’t let go of them, not until we’re safely through on the other side.

Thank you very much, Claire! That's such a well-written post with some really great points. I love seeing this come through in The Year of Shadows, as well! I totally agree that we can't hide everything from kids because they're going to have to deal with some of this eventually, and literature is one of the best ways we can do this. Thanks again, Claire!

Make sure you check out Claire's books,
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls and The Year of Shadows. I'm currently loving TYoS and both books have received some wonderful praise!

About Claire:

Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn't stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now a writer, Ms. Legrand can often be found typing with purpose at her keyboard, losing herself in the stacks at her local library, or embarking upon spontaneous adventures to lands unknown. Her first novel is THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, a New York Public Library Best Book for Children in 2012. Her second novel, THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, a ghost story for middle grade readers, is available now. Her third novel, WINTERSPELL, will follow in fall 2014. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade fiction due out in July 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins. Claire lives in New Jersey with a dragon and two cats. Visit her at claire-legrand.com and at enterthecabinet.com.

Have you guys read any of Claire's books? What do you think about the points she made?

Make sure to check out The White Unicorn today for a review of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea!


Post Swap: Christianna's Horror Movies

Today as part of our Dark Side event, Christianna and I are taking over one another's blogs. So catch me over at her blog while she gives mine a dose of true scary! Welcome, Christianna!

I'm excited to be over here in the Read My Breath Away part of the woods!  I hope Jess and I have gotten you into the Halloween spirit?  I know it's been fun for us so far.

It's a truth that sometimes you don't have time to read a creepy book, but you usually have time to pop in a movie.  I know that as a writer I get some of my biggest inspiration from script writers.  I respect what these guys do and I applaud them as writers and storytellers.

So guess what?  I've compiled a list of movies that are guaranteed to make your blood turn cold, make you jump in your seat and possibly cry into your pillow at night.  Sorry, I'm not sorry.  I for one love to be scared!  For those of you who don't wanna be scared but still wanna watch a creep fest, you should hop over to my blog The White Unicorn.  Jess is over there sharing some tamer movie suggestions for the weekend.  But if you like scary, sit down and get your pen and paper to take these down.

For The Historical Fan:
Have you heard of a guy called Jack the Ripper?  That's what this flick is about.  It's gory and creepy and it's also twisted.  Johnny Depp is a detective and Heather Graham is Mary Kelly.  I've been on the Jack the Ripper tour in London and it's cool to see some of the same places.  Plus, it's Jack the Ripper!

For The Space Traveler:
This movie is in my top 3 favorite flicks ever!  Danny Boyle is one of my favorite directors and this is the movie no one seems to know about.  It'll give you chills and has some of the greatest acting I've ever seen.  It's a star studded cast too.  Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans and more.

For The Zombie Lover:
Wait, another Danny Boyle film?  Yep, he's on here twice!  Part survival story, part commentary on who's more monstrous, brain dead zombies or humans with power this one has a lot to say.  It'll freak you out and make you think!  Plus, Cillian Murphy also makes an appearance again too.

 For The One Who Loves Laughs With Their Screams:
Nothing is as it seems when you go into this one.  Joss Whedon, anyone?  He had a huge role in creating this movie and it shows.  He's also one of my top three screen writers.  This one will have you laughing one second (it is a satire after all) and hiding behind your hands the next.  It's as gory as it is laughable!  Plus, it's got plenty of your Whedon crew favorites!

For The Person Who Likes To Sing Along:
The music is good.  The actors are great.  The blood flows threw the streets.  Almost every word is sung, so if you're not into that, stay away from Tim Burton operetta.  But if you can dig it, this one has the Halloween spirit in spades!

For The Graphic Novel Set:
This one is pretty disturbing.  Okay, really disturbing, but it's also really intriguing.  It's four stories interwoven over one fateful Halloween night.  Things aren't pretty and they're not what you expecting. 

For The Person Who Likes Indie Flicks And Spiritualism:
You've got a star studded cast including Cillian Murphy, Robert De Niro, Sigourney Weaver and Elizabeth Olsen.  It's amazing more people don't know about this one.  It's a group of people trying to prove that psychics aren't real and things get really intense quickly.  That being said it's a slow film that begs you to look for the clues yourself before showing you what is really going on!

For The Person Who Loves Retellings:
No matter how many times I see this one, it gives me the creeps and I love it!  The cast is brilliant, the film style is top notch and once again Tim Burton has his hand in this pie.  It's a wonderful freak show!

For The Foreign Film Lover:
"Ils"  (Them in English)
This French film scared the living daylights out of me.  There is no gore, it just messes with your brain and when all is revealed it makes you sick to your stomach.  In a way it's the perfect horror movie.  Plus, even with sub titles it's a really easy movie to watch.

For The Person Who Likes Conspiracy Theories:
I get chills just thinking about this one.  It's another one that messes with your mind.  Things seems so happy, but in actuality it's all a huge mess.  Plus, it's just a beautiful film!

There you have it!  I hope that some of your have found a flick that makes you wanna run out and watch it this weekend.  Pop that popcorn and watch away.  Just don't forget to lock the doors first!  Mahahahahahahahaha!


Interview with Madeleine Roux, author of Asylum

Today I'm so excited to welcome Madeleine Roux to the blog! Madeleine is the author of Asylum, which came out in August. I thought it would be a perfect fit for our Dark Side event!

First, a bit about Asylum:
Asylum by Madeleine Roux.

Page Count: 310.
Published: August 20, 2013.
Published by: HarperTeen.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it's a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it's no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux's teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

Now onto the interview! Welcome, Madeleine!

Hi Madeleine! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions!
No problem, it's always fun to chat about the book!
How did you work on striking the right balance so Asylum is creepy and haunting but not over the top?
I'm not one for hugely over the top when it comes to scary books. My first two novels were about surviving the zombie apocalypse, and while there were some gory moments and scares, I prefer to create an atmosphere and let the reader just sort of exist there inside it. If you include the right details then you can bet the reader will sketch in their own fears and phobias in a way that you as a writer can't anticipate. I tried to do the same thing with Asylum, where the atmosphere and the creeping dread work on you just as much as the big scares. 
Do you have a favourite quote that really helps to set the tone of the book?
There's an Akira Kurosawa quote that appears in the book, it goes, “In a mad world, only the mad are sane.” There are moments in the book where you have to wonder if you can trust Dan as a narrator - is he really seeing this, or is he maybe too far down the rabbit hole to accurately interpret the events? That doubt is a thread through the entire novel, and one of the crucial elements I wanted to play with throughout.
Oh, I like that a lot. Unreliable narrators can sometimes be the most interesting ones because the reader has to question so much more.
What kind of research did you do for Asylum? Any actual old asylum visits?
I didn't get around to any actual asylums, but I've done a fair bit of travel and gotten to see some very old locations here in the US and abroad. Most of my childhood was spent in an old Victorian farm house, and I'm intimately familiar with the feeling of sleeping in a place that you suspect might be 'lightly' haunted. There is a wealth of imagery that we have from actual asylums, from when they were operating and now from many that are run-down. Those images were a huge source of inspiration. I also had the, uh, interesting task of researching out of date treatments that are, frankly, pretty barbaric to the modern mind. You can keep yourself up nights reading about this stuff. It's fascinating and morbid and repellent, but it helped put me in the right frame of mind. One of my favorite bits of research involved looking at actual old patient card records. Something about those cards with all the patient facts personalized the experience. It was just one detail but it stuck with me.
I think when you're surrounded by that much darkness in the material, having the human connection right there is probably a great way to keep from letting it consume you. 
Is there a creepy or unsettling real-life story you've come across that either inspired you or has stuck with you?
This isn't specific to asylums, but I saw a ghost once in my bedroom. I THINK I did. You never know with these things, right? But I've always kept that memory with me, and existing between skepticism and a belief in the supernatural is familiar territory, territory I got to revisit while writing Asylum.
Ooh, that is creepy. Going a little deeper into that, have you had any especially creepy experiences of your own?
Like I said, I think I saw a ghost appear in my bedroom as a child. It was creepy because it was a ghost, but the apparition itself wasn't menacing. He just looked at my dolls and then disappeared. At the time I was afraid but now I look back at that night with a certain fondness, like maybe I was lucky to see something so strange and rare. I also had the fortune, or maybe misfortune, of having two vividly imaginative older brothers. I was having a sleepover one night and they hid a speaker under my bed, ran a wire to their room and whispered spooky things into a microphone while we tried to sleep. We figured out the game quickly, but there was definitely a moment there where we were freaked out! They still bring that one up at holidays, obviously.
Ah, that's what brothers are good at. Darn boys! 
What kind of role do you find the photos play in the book and why did you want to include them?
I think because those photos exist it's important to see them. That sounds incredibly obvious, I know, but I mean that some of the treatments and events discussed in the book really happened and not that long ago. It's important to remember how recently these things happened. Medicine advances in leaps and bounds, but we have to look back. We have to remember how dangerous it is to marginalize people living with mental illness. With the photos there you can't look away. You have to confront the flashes of reality shining through the fiction.
What are some of your favourite dark or creepy YA books?
This is for very young audiences, but I have a love/hate relationship with Coraline. I love everything about that book, but I have a weird phobia about eyes and the buttons in the eye socket part is something straight out of my nightmares. I think you can classify The Hunger Games as dark, and I chewed through that book in a day or two. Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I've seen an early copy of Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis and it is dark, gripping and just phenomenal!

Not a Drop to Drink was definitely dark and gripping. I thought it was phenomenal! Anyway, thank you so much, Madeleine! I love getting a look into the author's mind, but especially when it comes to dark, creepy books because I know it's something I would never have the courage to research for, let alone write! 

Make sure you head over to The White Unicorn for Christianna's review of Holly Black's creepy MG, Doll Bones.


Waiting on Wednesday #43: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

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:
Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine.

Expected Publication: August 5, 2014.
by: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Goodreads Blurb:
There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.

Why I'm excited:
Woah. Gruesome but totally intriguing. I believe Sarah said on Twitter that the sheet the model is peering out through is the barrier between the cafeteria and the killing floor in the slaughterhouse. That's ridiculous. I'm so morbidly curious.

What are you waiting on this week?

Also, head over to The White Unicorn for Christianna's stop on the Unhinged blog tour!


Blog Tour Guest Post: Pretty Dark Nothing by Heather L. Reid + Giveaway

I'm very excited today to be part of the blog tour for Heather Reid's Pretty Dark Nothing! Big thanks to Heather and to Jen from Book and a Latte Publicity for the opportunity!

First, here's a bit about the book:
Pretty Dark Nothing by Heather L. Reid.

It’s time to choose: Love or lies, faith or fear, darkness or destiny.
Seventeen-year-old Quinn hasn’t slept a full night in twenty-three days. She’s terrified of the demons that stalk her dreams, pull her into a deep dark nothingness and whisper hauntingly of her death. Exhausted, Quinn dozes off in the school hallway, and Aaron, an amnesiac with a psychic ability, accidentally enters her nightmare. If Quinn can learn to trust her heart, and Aaron can discover the secret locked away in his fragile memory, their combined power could banish the darkness back to the underworld for good. That is, unless the demons kill them first.

Pretty Dark Nothing: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Now welcome the author, Heather, for a guest post! This post fits in very well with the "Dark Side" event I have running right now, so I'm excited to share what Heather has to say about exploring the dark side of lit.

Exploring the Dark Side

“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.” ― Mark Twain

I don’t remember when they started—the dreams of faceless entities, of black figures standing by my bed whispering in the deep shadows of my childhood room. Sometimes I would wake from their dark grasp and find my six-year-old self standing at the end of my parent’s bed, or in the kitchen, or walking down the hallway. Other times I would suffer from sleep paralysis, trapped between dream and reality, a scream trapped in my throat.

Some nights, fear gripped me so tight I thought my lungs were being crushed under the weight of it. Books kept me company, kept me awake, kept me from falling into the arms of the monsters waiting for me on the other side of sleep as I huddled under the covers with a flashlight, stuffed animals standing guard around my bed.

A bible stayed tucked beneath my pillow, a cross around my neck, anything to ward off the evil stalking my dreams. The darkness both terrified and fascinated me and as I grew, I found myself drawn to all the shadowy terror my dreams were made of.

Childhood stories were replaced with novels by Christopher Pike, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Lois Duncan, and V.C.Andrews. My mother would often catch me reading non-fiction about the occult, hauntings, demons, tarot, spirit boards, anything mystical, but she never made me feel ashamed of my obsession. Perhaps she sensed I was seeking a way to make sense of it all, to rationalize the irrational. For how can you recognize the light if you don’t understand the darkness?

The more I shined a light on my darkness, the quicker the nightmares faded. I still don’t understand what caused them or what they meant, but one day they no longer held power over me. The fear may be gone, but the shadows of those nightmares have never truly left me. I guess it’s not surprising that those experiences, so vividly etched upon my imagination and tightly twined around my soul, would find their way into my own writing. With the sun watching my back and the darkness in front of me, I delved into the world of the tainted, broken, haunted — first with short stories and dark poetry and then into the novel that would become my debut, Pretty Dark Nothing.

In Pretty Dark Nothing, I wanted to write about a girl facing her own darkness. What would happen if her nightmares manifested in her reality and she was the only one who could see them? How would fear, the self-awareness that what she was seeing might be real, but shouldn’t be, affect her everyday life, her relationships, her ability to trust herself, to trust others, and to make decisions.

I chose demons as metaphors for the darkness that lives inside all of us, the personification of that still small voice inside that perpetuates negative thought and twists the truth. They feed on the darkness living inside humans and exploit and magnify the insecurities and self-doubt they find and use it to gain power and create chaos.

While I’ve never seen a live demon, I hope my night terrors have been put to good use, to create a story rich in creepy atmosphere and emotional brokenness. I admit that at times it’s been terrifying to conjure up old nightmares and pick at the scars of fear left on my psyche, to bleed some of my own darkness onto the page, but watching Quinn fight demons helped me remember to always be wary of my own.

About the Author:

Heather L. Reid is both American and British and has called six different cities in three different countries, home. Her strong sense of wanderlust and craving for a new adventure mean you might find her wandering the moors of her beloved Scotland, exploring haunted castles, or hiking through a magical forest in search of fairies and sprites. When she’s not venturing into the unknown in her real life, she loves getting lost in the worlds of video games or curling up by the fire with good story. For now, this native Texan is back in the Lone Star State, settling down with her Scottish husband and dreaming up new novels to write.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads


Grand Prize winner will receive a signed copy of PRETTY DARK NOTHING, a Pretty Dark Nothing necklace, nail polish, and bookmarks (US only). One winner will receive PRETTY DARK NOTHING shipped through Book Depository (International).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TOUR SCHEDULE - Keep up with the rest of Heather's tour!

In keeping with our "Dark Side" event, be sure to stop by The White Unicorn for a review of The Dark Between!


Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin.

Masque of the Red Death #1.
Page Count: 319.
Published: April 24, 2012.
Published by: Greenwillow Books.
Source: Purchased.

Goodreads Blurb:
Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population, and those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club, and Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find not just something to live for, but something to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

My Review:

I have mixed feelings on Griffin's Poe-inspired Masque of the Red Death. While there were some elements I really enjoyed, there were others that just fell a little flat for me.

This is a rather dark story and I loved that the atmosphere really reflected and enhanced that. Griffin sets the stage quite well with a crumbling, plague-ridden city. It is gloomy, it is full of pain, and it is very clearly somewhere you would never want to find yourself. She has created an interesting world, though there were times I did want to know more about how it came to be the way it is. I felt there wasn't enough history to the world for my taste, which I wanted because it is so different from ours. The alternate history idea is appealing to me but it needs to be expanded on more. I think the harsh, bleak setting was wonderfully displayed in its details and its atmosphere but not always in the overarching look and understanding of the whole place.

I was definitely intrigued by the storyline and I thought it was interesting, but I was held back from loving it because of the slow pacing of the majority of the story. It felt like there was not a lot happening for a while, which took away from the actual plot for me. When things did happen, though, I was impressed by the twists and reveals that happened. They were unexpected and brought in the excitement that I had been missing for much of the time. I think it was a well plotted book and the storyline itself was enjoyable, but the pacing could have used some work. It just wasn't "unputdownable."

As for the characters, I was interested in them but never fully invested. I liked some more than others, like Will more than Elliott, for example, but Will was the only one I really felt like I understood well. I liked how his family ties played such a large role in his actions and he felt like a very genuine character. Elliott, on the other hand, was very shady and his character remains quite unclear for much of the novel, which I didn't love. I understand that it made him mysterious, but I wanted to understand him better. I also don't think the fact that this was a love triangle was all that necessary for the plot. In my opinion, Will was the only and obvious romantic choice, while I would have been okay with Elliott serving his purpose without romantic motivation. I do appreciate that they were both humans with ulterior motives as opposed to love-struck puppies, which muddled things a bit in the right way and did increase conflict, but I still didn't personally see Elliott as a real contender. And as for Araby's friend April... well, she was gone for so long that I felt like I didn't know all that much about her, either.

The main character, Araby, was fairly complex and has a lot of personal history that has made her who she was. I definitely appreciate that history showing through because it made her a more believable character. She was very dark herself, and was self-deprecating because of how worthless she felt. Her escape from these feelings was where the club (and the drugs that come with it) fit in, which was a dark but understandable way for her to deal with her emotions. She definitely had some moments where she was a compelling character and her guilt and pain are so sad to read. However, she also had her moments where I was frustrated because she felt weak and unwilling to try for herself. I wanted to see more drive from her, and I have hope that after that ending and with her growth from this novel that's something that will be more prominent in the next book. She's certainly a character I felt for sometimes, just not one I always connected with.

Overall, I enjoyed it well enough because of the dark atmosphere and the interesting storyline, but there were small aspects of multiple areas that I didn't enjoy as much that held me back from really loving this story. Not a bad read, though, and I'll certainly give the sequel a try.
3 stars.

Make sure you hop over to The White Unicorn for Christianna's thoughts on Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth!


The Dark Side Blog Event

Halloween is coming.

That means it's time for some spooky reads.

For the next two weeks, Christianna at The White Unicorn Fiction and I are going to be celebrating all things dark, creepy and spooky in YA with a fun blog event.

We'll have reviews, interviews/blog tour stops, and other cool things, so stop by both blogs as this goes on and enjoy the dark side!


Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Page Count: 448.
Published: October 22, 2013.
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR).
Source: Requested for review from the publisher. Thank you, Macmillan, for the ARC!

Goodreads Synopsis:
From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In Freakboy's razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

My Review:

My initial approach to this novel went something like: "Written in verse... interested. Blurbed by Ellen Hopkins... very interested. About transgender and gender fluidity... count me in." Now, I have two personal requirements for novels about this kind of sensitive and important topic: it must be respectful and I must not feel like the author is passing judgement in any way. Thankfully, it is clear that Clark is fully aware of the sensitive nature of the topic and deals with it in a wonderful manner. This honestly contributed greatly to my enjoyment of her novel.  

Freakboy tells the story of three young people, Brendan, Vanessa, and Angel. They are each in a different place in life and dealing with some very tough problems. Brendan feels like sometimes he would rather be a girl than a boy and not only is this a concept he does not understand, it is also one he thinks he's wrong for feeling. Vanessa is trying to understand why her boyfriend (Brendan) is pulling away and becoming more distant, and what that means for her and for their relationship. Angel is a happy transgender girl who has escaped a rough, disapproving past and found a place where she can be herself and help others, but that doesn't mean all her issues are resolved.

The characters each have their own ways of dealing with their problems and I felt like they were developed as individuals very well. There were times when I wanted Brendan's and Vanessa's voices to be a little bit more distinguished from one another, but overall the three-way narrative worked because it was easy to follow each as an individual. The story also had some slow moments, but this book is about the characters, not largely plot-driven, so it's understandable. They were characters that I grew very sympathetic to as their struggles developed and, though I liked Angel's narrative the best, they were all enjoyable to read and each had elements I was able to connect to.

When it comes to the transgender and gender fluidity aspect of the book, I thought Clark was smart and honest but also very respectful in her portrayal and discussion. As someone who doesn't have any personal experience with this, I appreciated getting the varied perspectives: Angel, comfortable and quite established with her sexuality; Brendan, only just really starting to actively question his; and Vanessa, someone else experiencing it from the outside only, but with someone she loves as a romantic partner. This really helped to tell more than one story and type of experience in the one novel. Most importantly, as I mentioned above, I thought these experiences felt genuine and respectful. Because these are so often difficult experiences for those living them, to pass judgement in something that I believe is meant as a tool to help would be very hard to swallow, so thank you to Clark for handling it the way she did and for telling these stories.

As for the writing, I think having been exposed to so much Ellen Hopkins and being so appreciative of her handling of verse brought me in with expectations that were slightly too high, but I think Clark has a great grasp on verse writing and there were multiple passages that I thought were very effective primarily for the way they were presented. I see a lot of potential in Clark's already enjoyable writing style and I will certainly be reading her next work.

Overall, Freakboy is a great read that really looks at the confusion that comes with someone questioning their sexual identity and how that affects themselves and their relationships with others. I really enjoyed the varied narratives Clark presented and I think she gives great insight into a struggle that a lot of people wouldn't otherwise have a grasp on understanding.
4 stars.


Reader/Blogger Wishlist is Coming

Image courtesy of Shae.

Have you ever wanted to talk about the kind of book you're dying to see published? Is there a kind of story you really want to read but it just hasn't come up yet? Reader/Blogger Wishlist might be for you!

A few times a year, agents and editors get together on Twitter for #MSWL, or "Manuscript Wishlist". (The hashtag seems to be in constant casual use, but it's a few times a year that a large number of agents all use it on the same day). They take this time to share with the world the kinds of manuscripts they really want to have pitched to them and submitted to their inboxes. Their tweets range from the general, like "I'm looking for an exciting YA or MG high fantasy" to the very specific, but they all give authors looking to query an idea of which agent or editor may be a good fit for their manuscript.

This summer, Shae (of Shae Has Left the Room) was watching this #MSWL unfold and decided that us readers and bloggers should have a space to chat about the kinds of books we want to see, since we are, after all, the consumers of these books. And thus #RBWL was born.

Next week, on Monday, October 21st, Shae, with the assistance of Gillian (Writer of Wrongs), Molli (Once Upon a Prologue) and I, will be hosting another installment of Reader/Blogger Wishlist and we want you in on it! Using the hashtag #RBWL, tweet anytime after noon EST on Monday about what kinds of books you want to see published. Your tweets can be very general, very specific, or anywhere in between. We'll be sharing what we want to see and we want to know what you want to see. More retellings? More cowboys? More outer space? Let us know! Last time we had some authors take notice and some even let us know that they were writing something similar to something we mentioned we wanted! We're hoping that with even more people participating this time around, we'll have even more ideas floating around and maybe more industry insiders taking notice.

We're really excited about having another opportunity to talk about what kinds of books we're dying to read. We'd love to see you on Twitter on Monday chatting about what books you want!


Waiting on Wednesday #42: Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

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:
Death Sworn by Leah Cypess.

Expected Publication: March 4, 2014
by: Greenwillow.

Goodreads Blurb:
When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

Why I'm excited:
Fantasy about assassins and lost magic and ughhhhh it sounds so fantastic! I love a good fantasy, so I definitely need to get my hands on this one!

What are you waiting on this week?


Review: Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell

Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell.

Page Count: 320 pages.
Published: October 1, 2013.
Published by: Abrams.
Source: Requested for review from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Abrams/Amulet!

Rebecca Blue is a rebel with an attitude whose life is changed by a chance encounter with a soon-to-be dead girl. Rebel (as she’s known) decides to complete the dead girl’s bucket list to prove that choice, not chance, controls her fate. In doing so, she unexpectedly opens her mind and heart to a world she once dismissed—a world of friendships, family, and faith. With a shaken sense of self, she must reevaluate her loner philosophy—particularly when she falls for Nate, the golden boy do-gooder who never looks out for himself. Perfect for fans of Jay Asher’s blockbuster hit Thirteen Reasons Why, Coriell’s second novel features her sharp, engaging voice along with realistic drama and unforgettable characters.

My Review:

Goodbye, Rebel Blue has a premise that's definitely unique but easy enough to lay out: "Social outcast girl finds recently dead girl's bucket list and feels compelled to complete the tasks that the dead girl never got the chance to. Change ensues." Coriell takes this idea and then uses an array of interesting characters and situations to make this so much more than just a typical "loner-girl no more" story. It has real heart and attitude and is thought-provoking, really encouraging us to look deeper at ourselves and what we truly want out of life.

There were a lot of absolutely wonderful characters in this book, but Rebel in particular I really enjoyed. She's certainly abrasive and a straight-shooting, tell it like it is kind of girl, but in a way you have to admire her for that. As well as for her spunk, of course. I loved that she called people out when she felt mistreated and really stood up for herself. She presents the world with the girl she feels she is; anybody who doesn't like that can move on, and she thinks she's happy that way. I think, though, that a lot of people will connect to the Rebel that's hidden below her tough exterior. The Rebel that feels unwanted because she just doesn't seem to fit into the world she's been stuffed into since her mother's death. The Rebel that has a lot of trouble making connections with other people because she feels so different from everyone else. She describes herself as a barefoot girl in a world that wears shoes and I think that's a great reflection of her uniqueness, while also helping her uncover why she struggles so much with fitting in.

Rebel's relationships with people change a lot over the course of the novel, including hers with love interest Nate, to whom she wouldn't have given the time of day before the bucket list enters her life. That relationship is a great one and I loved watching it unfold, especially with the way the two of them challenge one another. It's such a real and overall positive relationship that you can't help but root for them as a couple. I also loved the other relationships that develop, though. Rebel makes friends with Nate's adorable younger siblings, and his sister has one of the biggest personalities I've seen in a while. They're such an excellent addition to the story and the way they help contribute to Rebel's growth is perfect for who they are. I truly loved how real the characters felt throughout, even through all the transitions and changes they experience.

She also grows when it comes to her family ties. Rebel never knew her father and lost her mother years ago, so she has been living with her aunt, uncle, and teenage cousin, Penelope. She has never felt accepted as part of their family and so has never truly developed a relationship with any of them. The way this family changes as the bucket list makes Rebel (and in turn, the rest of the family), re-evaluate life is certainly interesting to see. The fact that family, both Rebel's and Nate's, is such an important part of this story is so refreshing for YA these days and gives this novel and its characters an extra level of depth.

Overall, I thought this was a wonderful story of personal development and relationships with an enjoyable and relatable cast of characters that all do a little growing. It was honest, realistic, and so easy to love. A truly fantastic novel.
4.5 stars.


Cover Reveal: Born of Deception by Teri Brown

I am absolutely thrilled to be part of the cover reveal for Teri Brown's Born of Deception. I thought the first book in the series, Born of Illusion, was wonderful (my review) so I am definitely looking forward to finding out what happens next!

First, a bit about the book:

To be published in 2014 by Blazer & Bray.
Budding illusionist Anna Van Housen is on top of the world: after scoring a spot on a prestigious European vaudeville tour, she has moved to London to chase her dream and to join an underground society for people like her with psychic abilities. Along with her handsome beau, Cole Archer, Anna is prepared to take the city by storm.

But when Anna arrives in London, she finds the group in turmoil. Sensitives are disappearing and, without a suspect, the group’s members are turning on one another. Could the kidnapper be someone within the society itself—or has the nefarious Dr. Boyle followed them to London?

As Cole and Anna begin to unravel the case and secrets about the society are revealed, they find themselves at odds, their plans for romance in London having vanished. Her life in danger and her relationship fizzling, can Anna find a way to track down the killer before he makes her his next victim—or will she have to pay the ultimate price for her powers?

Set in Jazz-Age London, this alluring sequel to Born of Illusion comes alive with sparkling romance, deadly intrigue, and daring magic.

And now, what you've all come here for, the gorgeous cover!





How beautiful is this cover? And it will look absolutely fabulous with the Born of Illusion cover!

Here are your links and a bit about the author:

Book Links: 
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Born-Deception-Teri-Brown/dp/0062187570/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381259494&sr=8-1&keywords=born+of+deception

Teri Brown

I’m not sure who to tell you about here because I’m actually two people rolled into one. As a responsible mother of teens, I show one persona to the world. That person is driven, conservative and level headed. But the other part of me just never grew up. She is rebellious, impulsive and curious.
It’s hard being both these people. They’re often at odds.
The mother part of me knows I should put a cap on how many animals we take in. The teen part of me wants to save them all. We have five cats and two dogs. Who do you think is winning?
Even now. The mother part wants to make a meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and a tossed salad. The teen part wants to order a pizza, work on my website and check my Facebook.
Luckily, though my two halves don’t always agree, both of us live happily in Portland, Oregon, with a husband and too many animals. And we both love to write and write and write..
Twitter: https://twitter.com/teribrownwrites
Website: http://www.teribrownbooks.com/

Enter to win an ARC! (US ONLY, Must be 13+ to enter).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks, Book Nerd Tours, for hosting!