Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blog Tour: Guest Post by Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade

Please join me in welcoming Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade. Today, she's here to tell us about some Young Adult books that are must-reads!

Reading Recs, or Spreading the Love

One of the best parts of being an author is meeting other authors. I’ve been able to meet my writing heroes and heroines over the past several months and it has been amazing. I read as much as I can, so my recommendations here are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great books. The following titles are a few of my recent favorites:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.

Two brilliant authors who are two wonderful people write a book about two awesome boys, both named Will Grayson. I got to hang out with John and David at ALA and I’m still going through withdrawal – I wish I could see them every day! This story about self-discovery, friendship, and loyalty made me laugh out loud and cry. It’s beautifully written and full of surprises. John Green and David Levithan each write books on their own too – and they are all amazing, pick any one of them up and you’re in for a treat.

The Demon’s Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan

The first book has a fabulous twist. The second book features a kick-ass heroine. All of it takes place in England, one of my favorite countries and is full of an original mythology that is fascinating and compelling. I love the characters Sarah has created and I’m dying for the third book in this trilogy to hit shelves!

Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

Lisa is my critique partner so I’ve been lucky to read this book and its sequel, Original Sin, early. You can pick it up September 14! Lisa has offered an original spin on the battle between Heaven and Hell with a no-nonsense, sassy heroine and two phenomenally sexy boys trying to win her heart (and soul). Lisa’s books are delicious and addictive!

Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

I love The Wolves of Mercy Falls series, which Maggie is best known for, but her books focusing on faerie lore are my favorites by this gifted author. Not a series, but companion novels Lament and Ballad are achingly beautiful. The joys and sorrows of Maggie’s characters haunt you well after you’ve finished the books. If you haven’t checked out these books (published by Flux) you should.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Speaking of faerie lore, Brenna’s debut hits shelves in September. This book hit me hard, but in a good way. It’s a frightening and slightly disturbing interpretation of ugliness and beauty, good and evil. The protagonist is Mackie – a very unique young man – he’s a changeling, a faerie child left in place of a human child who’s been stolen. Unlike other faeries, Mackie is trying hard to be part of his human family and their world, despite the fact that it’s slowly killing him. I loved this story which is in turns sweet and horrifying.

Thanks for joining us Andrea!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blog Tour: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Publication Date/Version: October 2010/Hardcover
Publisher: Philomel
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Publisher

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything--including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

A bit animal-like, a whole lot sexy, and plenty of action. Nightshade is a whirlwind debut that tops the charts as one-of-those paranormal books. Ranking with Raised by Wolves and Spell Hunters, this one hits all kinds of new levels.

Calla is a strong, no nonsense kind of girl. The kind you actually want to read about. She's certainly no pushover, and you get that immediately from the story. She's tough and fights for what she wants. We're drawn in instantly to her major problem - saving a human boy, violating pack rules. Soon after, she begins to question everything she's known about the pack and just how truthful they really are.

Meet her two rival boys, Ren and Shay. Ren is the soon-to-be alpha male of the pack Calla and Ren are destined to create. He's the hot boy with a heart just for Calla. He's not without his flaws, but he is willing to stop it all for Calla. Then comes along Shay, the boy Calla saves from certain death. He's not afraid of the pack, though he should be. He fights for Calla and crosses more than a few boundaries doing so. I preferred the relationship between Ren and Calla as it was hot and exciting. I didn't feel the chemistry between her and Shay, but apparently she did. Either way, it didn't detract much from the plot.

Fast-paced and full of action, the insanity never stops in Nightshade. The pack is intense and demanding, while Calla's secrets draw her away from her duties and friends. There's nonstop intrigue and you can't help but flip the pages. This hefty book only took me a couple days to read. I highly recommend Cremer's debut, and I cannot wait for the next installment, Wolfsbane!

Overall: Hot chemistry, dynamic pack, full of intrigue.

My Advice: Buy a copy.

Cover: Loving it. The colors are great, and I especially enjoy the flowers that look as though there's been a bit of bloodshed.

*This book was read as a part of the 100+ Reading Challenge and the 2010 Debut Author Challenge

Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Publication Date/Version: March 2010/Hardcover
Publisher: Dial
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Publisher

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two.

Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

Similar to Cath Crowley's A Little Wanting Song, The Sky is Everywhere delivers on romance and prose. These two books fall into their own special category of writing. It's beyond emotional, beyond evocative, beyond anything else. It's near perfection in a book. Writing as good as this hits true emotions and makes you nod along saying Yes! That's exactly what it feels like. Jandy Nelson is a writer who is able to put into words what everyone feels but can't describe.

Bailey faces the classic dilemma of having two boys both vying for her heart. One is her sister's old boyfriend, who shares her pain but also causes enormous amounts of grief. The other is a new boy who lights up her world, bringing sunshine and music to the dark corners of her mind. Does she want to remember her sorrow, or forget it completely? The decision is complicated, and we're taken along through each of Bailey's thoughts. The beginning of each chapter starts with a poem or a few words written on trash scattered throughout the town - all of which are touching and simple. The Sky is Everywhere is one of those book where I wish I had a notebook handy to write down each gorgeous phrase I came across.

Though the characters were a-okay after such a long fight - one of my pet peeves - I really can't detract much from the story because of a few plot points. The words and weight of this book are ultimately redeeming. This is a book you can't judge based on character arc or dramatic tension. Instead, it's one of those books you judge on the quality of life, the emotions it portrays, and the simple elegance of its words. It's touching, inspiring, and gosh darn near perfect.

Overall: I really shouldn't have to explain at this point. I already said gosh darn near perfect.

My Advice: Buy it.

Cover: I didn't initially love it, but it's growing on me. I prefer the UK cover, as that one's gorgeous.

*This was read as a part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge and the 100+ Reading Challenge

Sunday, September 5, 2010

School: Why I Love, and Despise, You

Fall is creeping up on us and, unfortunately, for a large majority of the population, that means one thing: school. Whether you love it, dread it, or just like to see your friends, it's always there. And now, the reasons for my love-hate relationship, which I'm sure many of you will agree with.

1. Seeing my friends! That first day back, or, for me, the first football game (which happened before the first day,) is the best feeling, especially as a now upperclassman. I'm a junior! Seeing all of your old friends is great, and it's even better to say hi to people you don't talk to much. Everyone's just happy to see each other.

2. Being an upperclassman! It's about darn time. Now I get automatic rights for all of the good things in school life: front row at all of the games, ability to walk under the minuscule cover when it rains, parting of the hallways. I'm stoked.

3. Talking to new people! Whether it's transfers or incoming freshman, it's nice to make someone's day by simply acknowledging them. And it's great when someone I don't really know strikes up a conversation with me.

4. New classes! Yep, I said it. I have tons of fun going to all of my new classes, meeting teachers, and starting in on those Lit books!

5. School spirit! Dressing up for games, getting decked out in team colors, yelling 'til you're hoarse...that's the life of a teenager.

1. Summer homework! I take a couple AP classes which inevitably means summer homework. I'm 40 hours in and counting. Bring it on. Oh, and if my history teacher assigns one more mind-numbingly boring book, I don't know what I'm going to do.

2. The dreaded school picture! Now this can really be a plus or a minus, but planning is terrible, as is the anticipation to see how your picture turned out. Way too stressful.

3. No free time! Between sports, homework, and general school activities, when I am supposed to live? Or eat or shower for that matter? For me, it's wake up at 5:30 and go to bed by 10:00, if I'm lucky. Thank goodness for my friends who always get coffee - I couldn't survive without mooching off of them!

4. Homework! I've got 7 subjects, and that means a lot of homework. 3-4 hours average, 7 if it's bad. I will not miss those days.

5. Stress and the inevitable forgetful moments! Yes, for some reason, you always manage to forget the test in your hardest class or to do homework in that one class. It happens, and it sucks.

School, with its highs and lows, isn't everyone's favorite but I think we can all agree that it's one of the most memorable of exciting times of our lives!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

In My Mailbox or The Fed Ex Guy is Sneaky

IMM is a weekly meme that explores the contents of one's mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi at The Story Siren. I'm doing it a bit differently now. I will be taking pictures, including an interesting title as I'm tired of numbers and why I received it (a la Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.)

Crave by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz (Accepted Review Copy)

Echoes by Melinda Metz (Accepted Review Copy)

Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love edited by Trisha Telep (Accepted Review Copy) - Fed Ex dropped this one off, and because I never open my door for them (hehe) he left it on my porch. I walked out, looked around, and didn't see it so I came back inside. I thought maybe it was a package I had to sign for, but I decided to look again. He had wedged it in a corner behind our potted plant, under its leaves. Very sneaky... I do like that about Fed Ex though. They always put our packages out of a passerby's viewpoint.

The Death by Bikini Mysteries (Books 1-3) by Linda Gerber (Paperback Swap) - What a surprise! I thought I was receiving a copy of the first book, but I ended up getting all three in one book.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles (Bought) - Thanks to a gift card from my awesome Grandma!

The Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau (Random Buzzers Program)

Do you like the way I'm doing IMM now? Or do you like the old way?

I had a good week! How was yours?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I'm participating in the Banned Books Reading Challenge!

The lovely Steph of Steph Su Reads has issued a Banned Books Reading Challenge, and I plan on taking part! You can read more about it and sign up here. This is my main post, in which I will be outlining my goals and linking to reviews.

Often times I find myself recommending book to certain age groups based on their content, but who am I to judge? I look forward to break boundaries and defying those who think they can control me. Bring on those oh so bad banned books.

My goal is to read at least 2 banned or challenged books. I'm starting out small, but maybe I'll read more. I would like to check out:

Crank by Ellen Hopkins
The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review: Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney

Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney
Publication Date/Version: September 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Publisher

Big Macs and pop tunes mask the emptiness as Madeline watches her mom drink away their welfare checks. Until the day Tad, a quirky McDonald's counter boy, asks Madeline out for a date, and she gets her first taste of normal. But with a life that's anything but, how long can normal really last?

Hanging with Jeremy, avoiding Mam, sticking Do Not Disturb Post-its on her heart, Desiree's mission is simple: party hard, graduate (well, maybe), get out of town. But after Desiree accepts half a meatball grinder, a cold drink, and a ride from her mother's boyfriend on rainy afternoon, nothing is ever simple again.

Too many AP classes. Workaholic mom. Dad in prison. Still, Ariel's sultry new boyfriend, Shane, manages to make even the worst days delicious. But when a trip to visit the sick grandmother she's never met reveals her family's dark past, Ariel struggles to find the courage to make the right choice for her own future.

Blue Plate Special is one of those stories that really gets to you. It starts as just another teenagers with problems book, but Michelle weaves together intrigue, wit, and awkwardness into a classic coming of age story that defies preset standards.

Madeline, Desiree, and Ariel. All young girls with their whole lives ahead of them, stuck in problem situations. All are connected, but none know it just quite yet. As time flashes from one point of view to the next, each young woman offers a glimpse into hard times and just what it means to be a fighter. Their situations are heart-wrenching at worst, manageable at best, but their connections are undeniable.

Kwasney has created a compelling storyline that can stand completely on its own. It flows between characters with ease, each offering up a different attitude and time period. Michelle manages to show how love and hurt transcends all boundaries, as well as just how connected we all really are. The plot kept me moving at a steady pace as I simply had to find out what happened to each girl, to see whether they had enough fight to get out of their situation.

The great storyline left me so blinded that in the final chapters, when everything was coming together and connections were revealed, I was in shock. How had I missed all of the key moments and clues? It should have been so obvious, but it wasn't. Those last few chapters delivered gut-wrenching punch after punch, leaving you to piece it all together and contemplate what you've just realized. A second read-through is required for me; I hope to find the connections that I missed the first time.

Overall: Innovative. A must read. One of my favorites of 2010.

My Advice: Buy a copy, that simple.

Cover: The simple design and over scheme are inviting. The broken pieces of one whole represent the book's major theme. Well done.

*This was read as a part of the 100+ Reading Challenge
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