2014 Debut Authors Bash: Anne Blankman

I'm thrilled today to be part of the 2014 Debut Authors Bash organized by YA Reads! I'm very lucky to be hosting one of the most awesome debut authors of this year, Anne Blankman. I've already raved plenty about her debut, Prisoner of Night and Fog, I know. But trust me when I say that you're going to want to stick around for this post. Anne is here with a dream cast for what could be an awesome (hypothetical, as of now) movie version of her book!

First, in case you haven't heard yet (have you been living under a rock?), some info about the book:
Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman.

Prisoner of Night and Fog #1.
Published: April 22, 2014
by: Blazer + Bray.

Goodreads Synopsis:
In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews. As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

Now for Anne's dream cast. I think she made some fantastic choices, especially her pick for Hitler himself. I think that could be a stellar performance. Also, her choice for Daniel is quite the hottie. Nicely done, Anne. As if I needed more convincing to like him!

Chloe Grace Moretz at Gretchen Müller, a seventeen-year-old student who's part of Adolf Hitler's inner circle. For most of her life, she's adored her honorary "Uncle Dolf," but she's about to learn a horrifying secret that will change her life forever...

Luke Grimes as Daniel Cohen, a mysterious, Jewish reporter who has recently uncovered shocking information about Gretchen's father's death. Gretchen isn't sure if she can trust one of Uncle Dolf's sworn enemies--but she also can't deny the growing attraction between them.

Bradley James as Reinhard Müller, Gretchen's sadistic older brother who's been disappearing a lot lately on Nazi Party business and just may be hiding a dangerous secret of his own.

Abigail Breslin as Eva Braun, Gretchen's best friend and a teenage camera apprentice in Hitler's favorite photographer's shop.

Ginnifer Goodwin as Geli Raubal, Hitler's beloved half niece who shares his luxurious Munich apartment.

Geoffrey Rush as Ernst Hanfstaengl, Gretchen's boss at Nazi Party headquarters.

And Kevin Spacey as Adolf Hitler, the most famous politician in Munich. The Nazi Party has just begun surging ahead in the polls, and Hitler is currently campaigning for the presidency. Ever since she was a little girl, Gretchen has adored him but now, as his star is on the rise, she must choose if she wishes to continue following him--or investigate her father's death, no matter where the answers will lead her.


Waiting on Wednesday #83: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

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:
Fairest by Marissa Meyer.
The Lunar Chronicles Prequel.

Expected Publication: January 27, 2015.
by: Feiwel & Friends.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now. 

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

Why I'm excited:
Does this one even need an explanation? I adore this series so much and to get an inside look at Levana, who we have only seen as undeniable evil so far, will be AMAZING. I need this book now.

What are you waiting on this week?


Blog Tour Review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Rooms by Lauren Oliver.

Published: September 23, 2014.
Published by: Ecco.
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher for the blog tour. Thanks, HarperCollins and Tara!

Goodreads Synopsis:
The New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy makes her brilliant adult debut with this mesmerizing story in the tradition of The Lovely Bones, Her Fearful Symmetry, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways.

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.

But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.

The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.

Elegantly constructed and brilliantly paced, Rooms is an enticing and imaginative ghost story and a searing family drama that is as haunting as it is resonant.

Rooms, Oliver's first adult novel, is quite an interesting departure from her young adult work and shows that as she writes her range is developing excellently. This is not a traditional scary ghost story by any means. It is more of a slow, contemplative family drama in which the ghosts are practically part of the family. Their opinions and their pasts intertwine in the narrative with what each member of the late Richard Walker's family experiences as they deal with his death by going through his -- and their -- old home one room at a time.

Rooms is told from multiple points of view -- some human, some ghost, and often with the humans feeling more... detached, almost, than the ghosts. This is likely due to the decision to have the ghosts narrate in first person and the chapters narrated from the points of view of Walker's family written in third. It provides an interesting contrast as the ghosts, Alice and Sandra, come to feel even more alive and present than Walker's family does, even as they recount their distant pasts. This was an interesting creative decision on Oliver's part and I found their voices the strongest because of it.

However, while the ghosts struggle with being unable to move on from the house (and the tough memories that requires them to dig up), it is the human characters that have the toughest and most present struggles as the book progresses. Richard Walker's ex-wife, Caroline, and their children, Minna and Trenton, each deal with a deep-rooted personal issue as they attempt to clean out the house. Caroline is an undeniable alcoholic who can't face the day without a few drinks under her belt. Minna searches for sex from practically every man who walks through the door, despite having her toddler, Amy, with her at the house. Trenton can't seem to stop thinking that he'd be better off and more loved -- or at least more noticed -- in death than in life. Unravelling each of these issues and learning the reasons behind them is a slow and not always clear process but one that is intriguing nonetheless.

Literary leaning adult novels tend to have a sort of abstract purpose, at least from my experience with them. There's not a clear direction or end goal like there is in a lot of genre fiction or YA -- it's very much about the living of life in a general sense as opposed to the journey towards something specific. In Rooms, though the story is, in a way, a journey towards a specific end event, Oliver has still nailed this vague sense of abstract purpose for that journey and made it appealing to read. It feels like this story is just about all the various voices, both human and ghost, that reside in this house, but diving into their stories is where the heart of the book resides. Oliver even works threads from each character into one large, interconnected work by the finale and reveals that the true purpose for the house and its inhabitants in the end was shared with the reader all along.

Rooms is certainly an ambitious novel but one which I believe lives up to its promise. While it was slow reading, it was deliberately so to allow for all of the unfolding to have an impact on the reader and for the threads to connect subtly enough that they're not truly noticed until the whole picture is laid out -- not spelled out, not made too obvious, just presented as the natural conclusion. An intelligent and, as the synopsis claims, rather haunting piece, Rooms proves that Oliver should be a writer to watch for in adult fiction, too.

About Lauren Oliver:

Lauren Oliver is the author of the New York Times bestselling YA novels Before I Fall, Panic, and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem. Her books have been translated into thirty languages. She is also the author of two novels for middle-grade readers, The Spindlers and Liesl & Po, which was a 2012 E. B. White Read-Aloud Award nominee. Lauren's first adult novel, Rooms, will be published in September 2014. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU's MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the co-founder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit. You can visit her online at www.laurenoliverbooks.com


Waiting on Wednesday #82: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

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:
Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes.

Expected Publication: February 2015.
by: HarperTeen.

Goodreads Synopsis:
It all starts with one little lie…

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell lies to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts a business providing forged permission slips and cover stories for the students of Vista Palisades High. Liars, Inc. they call it. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

Why I'm excited:
If you know me at all, you know that I adore Paula Stokes and her books. So it should really come as no surprise that I CAN'T WAIT ANY LONGER for this book! I'm so excited to dig in! It's going to be mysterious and exciting and so, so good. I'm sure of it.

What are you waiting on this week?


Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley.

Published: September 9, 2014.
Published by: Harper Teen.
Source: Requested an ARC from the publisher for review consideration. Thanks, Harper Canada!

Goodreads Synopsis:
Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty...no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out. At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

So. Rites of Passage. Considering that the last memorable experience I had with teens in military school was the Disney channel movie Cadet Kelly with Hilary Duff, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this one. I just knew I wanted it to be good and that I wanted Sam McKenna to kick some misogynist butt. Luckily for me, RoP was just what I'd hoped for and more.

The military is a family tradition for the McKennas. So are dares. So when Sam gets a dare from her older brother, Amos -- the last one he gave her before he committed suicide -- she's determined to complete it, no matter the cost. This is how she ends up going into military school. But it takes so much more than just that dare to keep her there through all the hazing and intense hate that she faces as one of the first girls at the Denmark Military Academy (DMA). Sam proves time and time again over the course of the book how ridiculously strong and determined she is. Not just physically strong -- though she can definitely kick lots of her fellow cadets' butts -- but possessing an incredible amount of inner strength. Sam faces abuse that would drive everyone I know right out the front doors but she always manages to pull herself together and stand strong. Sometimes it takes a good cry or a few painful moments to get her there but that only serves to make her feel more real to me as a reader. I wish I had a friend like Sam to keep me going when things get rough because she is pretty incredible.

Speaking of incredible, let's talk about Drill, shall we? Drill (or Dean, but he is most commonly referred to by his rank of Drill Sergeant) is a hot, caring, and definitely not misogynistic military man who caught Sam's (and my) attention. Technically he's 17 but I actually kept forgetting that because he acts and comes across (especially with his strong military presence) as older... closer to 22 or 23 in my mind (whereas Sam, for context for you, felt closer to mid-to-late teens like she was supposed to... she's 16, I believe). He outranks her which makes any sort of canoodling of theirs strictly against DMA rules, but they are both very conflicted over this rule because they definitely (and understandably) have the hots for one another. The forbidden romance played out really well even though sometimes I thought they were being a little too lax on keeping things secret, especially considering how many people were out to get Sam. Occasionally, the fact that they weren't getting caught felt a little too good to be true, but overall I loved the tension of the "we can't but oh we so want to" (PG-rated) heat between them.

It's not just the central characters (and their romance) that made this such a fantastic story. The actual plot and action played a large role as well. I loved getting a glimpse inside the military academy, and watching the new recruits go through team building exercises and training was really interesting for me. The rituals of military school are foreign to me but clearly not foreign to Hensley, who showed them off very well. They even made me want to get up and exercise and feel fit and get stronger... well, after just one more chapter, that is. Tied into that is the whole idea of the secret society working to rid the DMA of its first female recruits. Seeing this develop and unravel both for Sam and for readers from a few nasty cadets into the work of an entire secret society was engrossing and I loved the way Hensley tied it all in with the background, rituals and routine of military school.

Overall, Rites of Passage kind of feels to me like the surprise book of the year so far. I didn't hear a lot about it before I dove in but it turned out to be a standout contemporary novel with action, tension, and great characters. I didn't really get into the side characters here (because I figured my review was already long enough and I have done enough rambling) but there are some excellent players who only serve to strengthen Sam's story, whether they're on her side or not. Her fellow recruits and everyone she meets at the DMA, good and bad, as well as her own family bring an array of conflict and comfort to Sam which only made the story richer. A great debut... I'm excited to see what Hensley writes next!


Waiting on Wednesday #81: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

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:
Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay.

Expected Publication: December 9, 2014.
by: Delacorte Press.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Game of Thrones meets the Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

Why I'm excited:
A fantasy continuing the Sleeping Beauty tale with a girl disguised as a boy and a cursed prince and an ogre queen? Wow. You can definitely count me in. Sounds like a pretty fantastic tale to me!

What are you waiting on this week?


Top Ten Underrated YA Books

Technically this week's TTT is technically top underrated authors/books in "X" genre, but I decided to just do it for YA in general because heck, it's my blog and I do what I want to.

So, because I can't really pick favourites when they're set out like this, here are my picks in alphabetical order:

The Archived books by Victoria Schwab. Beautiful, haunting, exciting, and swoooony (oh how I love Wes). More people need to read these books. Seriously.

The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni. A book that completely took me by surprise with its characters and its different take on love triangles and instalove and a great historical setting.

Canary by Rachele Alpine. An important and moving (and frustrating but for the right reasons) book that made me cry and really needs to be read by so many young adults.

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. This one is definitely a critical hit (yay for the Morris Debut Award!) but more regular readers and bloggers need to pick this one up!

Famous Last Words by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski. While not perfect, this is a really fun read and I love that it had a big focus on her interesting job.

The Maids of Honor books by Jennifer McGowan. This historical series is AMAZING. Focusing on five different girls taken in as a secret group of sneaky spies for Queen Elizabeth I, this series has everything you could possibly need and it's only two books in!

Nil by Lynne Matson. I found so much to adore in this one. The loveable Charley and Thad (who have a great sex talk that more teens should know they can have). The sunny Hawaii-inspired island that becomes like a character in its own right. It's just such a great read.

The Secrets of the Eternal Rose series by Fiona Paul. Another amazing historical series. This one only gets better as it goes on. It also has one of the only love triangles I can totally get behind (Team Falco! Team Luca! Team Cass! Team... threesome? Just kidding), both in its execution and in its finale. Plus how can you say no to Renaissance Venice? You get to see its dark side, too... tempting, isn't it?

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. I don't know of a ton of magical realism YA novels but why this one didn't get a ton of attention when it came out baffles me. It was strange and beautiful, just like Ava Lavender's sorrows, and I ended up loving it.

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. Another one that is absolutely haunting, this one because even the main character isn't quite sure what's happening. It was such an interesting look into a very intricate and troubled mind.


Waiting on Wednesday #80: Captive by Aimee Carter

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:
Captive by Aimee Carter.
The Blackcoat Rebellion #2.

Expected Publication: November 25, 2014.
by: HarlequinTeen.

Goodreads Synopsis:
For the past two months, Kitty Doe's life has been a lie. Forced to impersonate the Prime Minister's niece, her frustration grows as her trust in her fake fiancé cracks, her real boyfriend is forbidden and the Blackcoats keep her in the dark more than ever. 

But in the midst of discovering that her role in the Hart family may not be as coincidental as she thought, she's accused of treason and is forced to face her greatest fear: Elsewhere. A prison where no one can escape. 

As one shocking revelation leads to the next, Kitty learns the hard way that she can trust no one, not even the people she thought were on her side. With her back against the wall, Kitty wants to believe she'll do whatever it takes to support the rebellion she believes in—but is she prepared to pay the ultimate price?

Why I'm excited:
I ended up really enjoying Pawn, the first in the series. It was a more impressive dystopian novel than I was expecting, to be honest, and I'm very interested in seeing where it goes next!

What are you waiting on this week?


Back In the Game... and With a New Look!

It's officially September (how?!), which means it's time for me to step up my game on the blogging front once again. This summer was pretty crazy for me but I'm looking forward to getting back in the swing of things. 

What makes me even more excited about really coming back to blogging, though, is my brand new blog design! Take a look around! Pretty, right? I love the more streamlined look that still keeps the essence of what I had before. And the purple. I love the purple. 

My design was done by the wonderful Hazel of Stay Bookish. Hazel was amazing to work with. She was patient with all my questions and requests (and with the ordeal of me trying to pick a font for my header!) and eager to make my vision for my blog a reality. She also came up with some fabulous little details that I never would have thought of on my own but which I absolutely love. Like the design behind the date stamps and the social media icons? Gorgeous. I'm so, so pleased with what she put together and I'm incredibly glad that I picked her to give my little slice of internet a facelift. Thank you, Hazel! 

So between my fantastic new design, reviews for some amazing books coming up soon, and a fun feature to plan for, I'm hoping jumping back into blogging with both feet will be fun for me and for you!