Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Beta by Rachel Cohn (ARC)

Beta (Annex #1) by Rachel Cohn
Disney Hyperion, 304 Pages
US Release Date: October 16, 2012

Format: ARC
Source: Won from author - thank you so much, Rachel!

Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist. 

Elysia's purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island's workers--soulless clones like Elysia--are immune to.
At first, Elysia's life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne's human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island's flawless exterior, there is an under-current of discontent among Demesne's worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care--so why are overpowering sensations cloud-ing Elysia's mind? 

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn't the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happi-ness is ripped away with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she's always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive. 

The first in a dazzlingly original science fiction series from best-selling author Rachel Cohn, "Beta "is a haunting, unforgettable story of courage and love in a cor-rupted world.
-----------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
Places that used to be nothingness are somethingness now.
Rachel Cohn is one of my favourite YA authors. Ever. She is an instant read for me, without question. I don't even have to know the synopsis or anything about the book - if her name is attached, I want it. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist is the YA book that got me into young adult literature, Dash & Lily make me warm and fuzzy just thinking about them, and her Gingerbread/Shrimp/Cupcake novels are the only contemporary books I've ever really supported as a series. So when I heard of Beta? I. Am. On. It.


Maybe I just have too high expectations for a Rachel Cohn book (because let's face it, I worship the literary ground she writes upon), but Beta left me so disappointed. I wanted to like it - I really did. And I still love the concept of it. But so far? Not feeling it.

Oddly, it's hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I didn't like the book, other than I just wasn't interested. It took me over halfway through the book to really care what was going on; and even then, it was just a little boring. I had no investment in any of the characters, and I never connected with anyone in the novel. There are scenes that are meant to be exciting and dangerous, but it always felt a bit dull to me. Without trying to make a pun on the fact it's a book about clones, there seemed to be a distinct lack of life to this novel.

I actually think my issue is the same one reason I have a hard time reading about anything time travel: loopholes. Things just don't seem to match up in time travel books to me; there's always something that doesn't make sense or I don't think is plausible. For a lot of Beta, I felt the same way. Elysia being a "feeling clone" was just a little too handy sometimes; and other times, I felt she was too clone-like in her thoughts. I know there has to be a transition from just clone to feeling clone, but I wasn't satisfied with it. Not yet, anyway. It did pick up towards the end, when she fully embraced that there may be something defective about herself and what that meant to her and her lifestyle.

The love interests themselves weren't very interesting, but the parts they each played in the big "twist" that happened - that was something I really liked. I like that their function is more than just a distraction or love - they have a real purpose, a real part to the grand plot, and I can't wait to find out more about each one. I am also very taken with the idea that Teen Betas are created from real people, that they are basically "recycled" from a real person that has passed. I can't quite say too much on the topic without giving away a substantial section of the plotline, but it's a great element and has a lot of potential. While so far I don't see a lot of that being put to use in the story, I do have a lot of hope it'll come to play in the coming books. And based on the ending of definitely will.

I'm also trying to sort out how I feel about Ataraxia, the drug used in Beta. It's basically the hybrid version of X and Steroids - and while I get the function of it in the novel, for some reason it sits weird with me. I don't know if I'm just suspecting it will have a larger part to the plot, or if something just feels off about it, but there's something about it that's tickling my brain. I don't have issues with drug uses in novels as long as it makes sense - and it definitely does in this, especially on an island engineered to be perfect - so I don't think I'm just being a prude or uptight and am thinking 'oh no, drug uses with teens!' or anything like that. Maybe I just missed something while reading, but I feel like I need to read more about it. I could be way off, I'm not sure - but it feels like I'm not.

Even though the majority of this novel didn't hold my attention, there is something I really liked: the uprising. The bigger happenings. Just what it means that Elysia is a feeling clone, a Defect. There's a bigger world going on past the limits of Demesne, more to this series than just following some teen who realizes she's feeling shit and having emotions -- and I LOVE what it feels like it could be. Beta wasn't that high on my list, but I am definitely interested in reading the second book because I want to know what's going to happen with this bigger picture and retaliation. I'll probably go into Book 2 with a little more reservation than I did with Beta, but I know I'll still be there.

2.5 Stars / 5

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop (US only): Signed ARC of Ten by Gretchen McNeil!

Welcome to the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop!

For this hop, one lucky winner will get:

One (1) gently read signed ARC of Ten by Gretchen McNeil!
I reviewed it here - trust me, it's a great book and perfect for creepy Halloween settings!

*I will be seeing Gretchen twice in November (assuming her schedule does not change), so the winner will have the option of getting it personalized - but please understand that means the book will not be sent until after November 10!

US only, ends October 31!
Enter through the rafflecopter below, and all my usual giveaway policy rules apply.
Make sure to check out the rest of the linky list, there are some great prizes!
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
PS. Make sure you come back on November 1, because that's when my Holiday giveaway begins!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

National Novel Writing Month; or, NaNoWriMo Madness

Does anyone else do NaNoWriMo? For those who are super confused about what that jumble of letters are, it stands for National Novel Writing Month - an annual challenge to write 50k words in a single month! November is the month of choice, and it is a damn doozy getting it done. I've done it every year since 2009, and "won" (surpassed 50k) twice - the one year I failed was when I'd just started working full time and there was not a hope in hell I'd get there. I hate not having a perfect NaNo record, but it was definitely the best for my sanity at the time.

Anyhow. So, I will be participating this year again! And I'm actually really excited, because in all the years past I've been quite a pants-er about the process - pretty much November 1, I fish around my brain for the best idea in my head at the time, put my fingers to the keyboard, and go. And while I've managed to crank out 70k and 93k words for each of those successes, ultimately the stories have led nowhere and are subsequently shelved.

But! This year, I've actually got a plan! It was one of those ideas that hit me early in the year, and I was kinda like...hmmm. That actually sounds...good! But I don't know. But it's an idea that's stayed, that I just can't quite let go, and I find myself actually working out the details in my head and gathering storylines and characters for it. I'm taking it as a sign that it's an idea needed to be written, and NaNo seems like the perfect time to do just that.

Anyone else taking part in the madness? Has anyone done it before? Stories to tell about it? I've done a few meetups in San Diego, and once I accidentally stumbled into a meet up when I overheard people chatting about it at my local Coffee Bean where I usually write. This is the first year I'm going into it with a real story idea that could turn into something, and I'm pretty nervous!

I also bring this up because...what does this mean for the blog? If anyone did the math, getting to 50k words in a month means roughly 1667 words a day. For me, a naturally wordy person (as you can see by this post...and probably every review I've ever written...), it's not too hard - but those days that are tough? They're tough. It feels impossible some days when you're stuck. And throw in the holidays, and that for me personally I have a massive family reunion happening one of the weekends in November, and a huge YA event one of the days, and I'm still doing full time work...well. It's going to be a month of madness, and it becomes a question of what the hell do I do with this blog?!

Truthfully, I don't know what will happen. I'm working now to get things scheduled, especially since that'll lead up to December and I'm SUCH a holidays/Christmas freak that I want to do some fun things then. I'm doing my best to get quality content to go up and not have this fall to the wayside, but I wanted to give a small warning that things may be...quieter than normal. I have no problem devoting every free moment of my time to this blog 11 months of the year, but I am a writer still. And I'm going to allow myself 30 days to put writing before reading. I hope you understand.

T-minus 14 days until NaNo madness begins!
(Also, if you are doing NaNo, let's be a support system! I'm always happy to lend a supportive tweet or to check progress :) Accountability is half the battle!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine
meant to highlight an upcoming release we're excited for!

Just One Day (Just One Day #1) by Gayle Forman
Dutton Juvenile, 320 Pages
Expected US Release Date: January 8, 2013

A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!
---------------------Goodreads summary

When I went to the YA or Bust Tour earlier this year (recap here!), Gayle was telling us a lot about her new duet novels, Just One Day and Just One Year. I already love Gayle - her books are absolutely breathtaking magic, and she herself is so hilarious and witty and intelligent. I want to hang out with her all the time. And then the premise of these novels? I can't. I just need. All of it. Now.

It is up on Edelweiss, but I've only ever requested once on there before and was denied (I don't even remember what book it was...), so my hopes are not high for this one. Regardless, I will read this the SECOND it is available to me.

What book are you eagerly awaiting?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Balzar + Bray, 402 pages
US Release Date: June 12, 2012
Challenges: Local Library Challenge

It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen's "Persuasion", "For Darkness Shows the Stars" is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.
---------------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
Elliot dragged her eyes up to the woman's face, half terrified Felicia would see the tears clinging to her lashes.
"You should know that you're exactly the person you think you are."
Elliot turned away as the tears escaped. That's what she was afraid of.

So first off, MAJOR COVER LOVE. I can't even tell you how gorgeous it is in real life - and I have a bookmark (thanks Natasha!) that uses a foil that gleams for the title...oh man. I can't...I just can't. Stunning.


I can actually move all that praise for the cover to the book itself: you guys, I am IN. LOVE. with this book. So in love. I would marry it, if I could. I haven’t read Persuasion, but reading this book is completely like reading an Austen novel. It’s filled with that heartwrenching suspense and careful, doomed hope. That feeling that you’re on the brink of every emotion ever, and it’s all cresting to the surface and you just don’t know what to do with it all.

I’m hesitant to call this a Dystopian novel, even though I know it is in it’s technical sense. But the world itself is so…background. The description, all the events that happened that created this Reduction they speak of, it’s all so smooth and flawless that it just seems as though it is. I believed in it wholeheartedly almost from the very beginning. It’s also one of those scenarios where it feels like it could be real – I don’t actually think it will, but I get it. I understand how humanity could try to “play God” and mess with the way things are supposed to be to the point where it wipes out people. It’s sensible and real, in the most fictional way.

Something that’s a bit weird is that I didn’t really focus much on the characters – which, if you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know character are pretty much EVERYTHING to me. I can love a book, but if a character rubs me the wrong way, it’s pretty much doomed from that point. So it says something, in my opinion, that I was so swept up in the story I didn’t even focus on characters.

That’s not to say they’re bad, of course. They’re not. They’re wonderful. Elliott has such a gentle strength to her, I was immediately drawn into her story of loss and compassion. Her family is a piece of shit, but her friends are such fantastic people for her that I immediately restructured them into her family. Benedict was awesome (as is his name), because you really are unsure who he is throughout the entire thing. He’s immediately scummy, but there’s still something captivating about him, and I was wondering the entire time I was reading.

And Kai. Oh, Kai. Who I loved in letters, and was so furious with in scenes. Who strung me along, who played with my heart and toyed with my emotions, who I wanted to grab and shake and make out with at the same time (though that’s probably a bit uncomfortable…). He is such an Austen-like man, whose glances can make you come undone and one eyebrow raise will make your heart pitter patter. It’s incredible that it can be done through the pages of a book, but oh…can it ever. If I could, I would probably spend miles of blog pages talking about Kai, because I want to say so much about him and his attitude and his transformation into Captain Malakai Wentworth (HOT name, amirite?!)…but I shall not. Just know that I want him, in the way that almost any woman wants Mr. Darcy.

So, important things: the story. It’s not the most exciting story, nor is it action packed or one to make you flip pages lightning fast trying to find out what’s going to happen by the end of the chapter. But there’s something fantastically riveting about this book, one where you get wrapped up in all the details and little nuances of scenes. It moves at the perfect pace, slowly revealing itself until you look up and only then realize how entranced you are in what’s going on.

There’s a little something for everyone in here: romance, family, friendship, a little science fiction and fantasy. For Darkness Shows the Stars is one of those books that I loved so much that I stopped reading it for a day because I couldn’t stand the thought of it being over. Because I wanted to stretch out my time with Elliott and Kai, I wanted to make more paper gliders and listen to Donovan sing his mournful songs. The world is fascinating, seeing all the rules put in place after the Reduction and  figuring out what Elliott – and Kai and the rest of the Posts – are up to and the ramifications of each. Normally I don’t like series novels, but I absolutely wish this one was a part of one because I want to find out more of the story!

I have to mention the structure of the story as well, how we get to read the letters passed between Kai and Elliott from their childhood growing up to the point of their broken friendship/relationship. It’s smart, because we get the explanations of the world from a child’s point of view, which is arguably one of the most pure, curious views; because that makes it feel just a little more like an Austen novel to me; because it’s the perfect way to introduce us to different events and stories from the past as we read. It’s also fun, because we get to see them grow together and flirt in such adorable ways only 6 year olds, then 8 year olds, then 12 year olds, then teenagers can through letters. And it’s brilliantly beautiful, because you feel like you really know the pair and you’re that much more attached to them. It’s perfect.

For Darkness Shows the Stars is a book I was excited to read going in, and ended loving even more than I ever imagined in so many ways I never thought possible. It’s such a quiet, unassuming book, but the payoff…it’s fantastic, and I gladly place this on my favourites shelf.

And because I think I’m pretty hilarious, I thought I’d write the timeline of my reading. I post-it note during reading just to mark passages I love or thoughts, and I definitely had more in this one than usual. I share with you the pages and my thoughts, because this was seriously the roller coaster of my reading experience:

A Timeline Review
Page 56: This already breaks my heart.
Page 79: Ouch.
Page 86: So much anger still…and yet we all know how closely tied love and hate are.
Page 143: I truly want to cry.
Page 146: So reminiscent of Austen, absolutely amazing & wonderful.
Page 177: How can I love Kai so quickly after being so angry at him?
Page 190: Heartbreaking. I know this feeling.
Page 192: This paragraph is beautiful writing.
Page 232: My heart can barely bear this scene.
Page 248: What is Benedict up to? He seems fine, but I’m still suspicious. Something fishy.
Page 267: I would hate it if someone said this to me.
Page 329: This entire thing is a perfect example of things both wrong and right. Two truths, two lies.
Page 329: I am in love with this line.
Page 385: No. This can’t be.

5 Stars
(And even in darkness, I'd give it a billion more.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Shanon Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Entwined by Heather Dixon
Greenwillow Books, 472 Pages
US Release Date: March 29, 2011

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.

The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.

But there is a cost.

The Keeper likes to "keep" things.

Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.
-----------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
"You always manage it," said Bramble, curling her toes on the slick stone. "Turning things about."
"That's what sisters do," said Azalea. "We watch out for each other. Don't we?"
I'll admit it: if I could get away with reading nothing but fairy tales, I probably would. However, I can't say most modern fairy tales appeal to me: everything is so clear cut! The princess is beautiful, the prince handsome, the villain is horrendous looking and very obvious. Blah! Who needs a book written like a children's puzzle: color coded and numerically ordered?

That's why I was so thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Entwined by Heather Dixon. It's a harkening back to proper Grimm-esque fairy tales. They were originally written as a warning to children. It's easy to say "Stay out of the forest at night, children!" SOOO much better: "Stay out of the forest at night children or the Erlking will snatch you up and eat you." See? Much more effective.

This story happens to follow one of the most underappreciated fairy tales: The Twelve Dancing Princesses. We finally get a motive for their sneaking out: it's not simple adolescent rebellion; their dancing is an insistent way of honoring their mother and refusing to give in to despair. The twelve princesses, named alphabetically after various flora and fauna are a wonder to get to know. Dixon is brilliant with a cast of so many characters all being relevant and present. Azalea takes the lead but her sister Bramble steals the show with vivacity and the tenacious strength of a pitbull. All twelve sisters are distinct, but it is their combined gifts that make it possible to combat the Keeper.

Oh let's talk about the villain. I so appreciate it when the villain is pretty and mysterious. The Keeper is everything a girl could want in a bad guy: luminous skin, pretty hair, a lovely dancer...and a penchant for telling the eeriest side story in the book. Seriously, I can't talk about it. It's not too hard to figure out what his motives really are but watching them play out in sequence was original and oh
so clever.

This book had everything I wanted: strong, vibrant characters, a magical element that was somehow very believable, a dastardly villain and a cover so beautiful you just want to frame it. Since I read it
initially, I've re-read it twice---and maybe that's the best part.

5 Stars / 5

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Weekly Wrap-Up (14)

Thanks to the magic of scheduling posts, nobody knew that I've been without internet all week! As I type this, I'm at a Starbucks near my house. Our router at home went kaput, so I've been without and unable to return any comments :( I hope to have a new one installed this weekend though!

In case you missed it...
Quirky and I love it. 4 Stars.


I can barely stand the wait.

A fabulous look at friendship with a unique presentation. 4.5 Stars

Coming up this week...
Shanon reviews Entwined by Heather Dixon
I review For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (spoiler: LOVE) and Beta by Rachel Cohn!
(apparently it's beautiful cover week!)
Also, a Waiting on Wednesday pick that I know you all share. I just know.

Onto the book haul!
In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren
Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews
The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
When I was at the Keeper of the Lost Cities launch, I was in line with my friend Andrea Ortega and she spotted this on the shelf and said it was one of her favourites. I had to check it out! It sounds like a fab novel just based on the synopsis, at least - and I trust Andrea :)

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
One of my favourites, and it's a holiday book! Finally own it :) I'll be giving away a copy next month, too!

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
Timeless by Alexandra Monir
Eve by Anna Carey
There's a reason why I bought all these this week, but my lips are sealed as to why ;) Hopefully you'll find out next week!

Small, but a seriously great haul this week.

What books came into your possession?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Between You & Me by Marisa Calin (ARC)

Between You & Me by Marisa Calin
Bloomsbury Children, 242 Pages
US Release Date: August 7, 2012
Format: ARC
Source: Jen from Novel Thoughts, via ARCycling (thank you!)

Phyre knows there is something life-changing about her new drama teacher, Mia, from the moment they meet. As Phyre rehearses for the school play, she comes to realize that the unrequited feelings she has for Mia go deeper than she’s ever experienced. Especially with a teacher. Or a woman. All the while, Phyre’s best friend—addressed throughout the story in the second person, as "you"—stands by, ready to help Phyre make sense of her feelings. But just as Mia doesn’t understand what Phyre feels, Phyre can’t fathom the depth of her best friend’s feelings . . . until it’s almost too late for a happy ending. Characters come to life through the innovative screenplay format of this dazzling debut, and unanswered questions—is "you" male or female?—will have readers talking.
--------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
HARMONY: I've had a hundred crushes. There's a lot to be attracted to in this world. There's nothing wrong with that.
I'm kind of in love with the concept of this book, you guys. That it's written in a screenplay format, and that the best friend is simply referred to as "YOU"'s unique and intriguing and, frankly, quite brilliant.

This is kind of a weird thing to say I feel, but one of the things I liked best about this book is how...normal it all is. Phyre is a drama student, and a lot of the time those characters are stereotyped into an extreme: either sitting in the corner, super off-beat and wearing a black beret, or just outlandish and over the top and a bit annoying. But Phyre...she's unique, and loud, and out there, but she's also just a normal teenage girl. She embarrasses herself, she has doubts, she volunteers in class sometimes and sits back sometimes. It's refreshing to have an average teenage girl as a main character when it could have gone so many ways.

The story itself is a bit normal: girl begins to have feelings for an enigmatic, new person in her life, and now she struggles to figure it all out. It's a bit elevated by the fact that the new, enigmatic person is a girl - which Phyre has never desired before. But still, the trajectory and the feelings remain the same as it would for a boy/girl situation, and I can't say I was surprised by any parts of the story. What you think will happen, probably will and does.

Not that that's a bad thing though! I loved it. I loved getting to experience Phyre's mixed emotions and doubt, seeing her friendship with "YOU" and sorting it all to make sense. Every reader who picks this up will recognize the feelings and indecision in it; we've all gone through it, and Marisa Calin captures it perfectly.

The best part of this novel though is that even though it seems to focus a lot on the fact Phyre finds herself falling for her female teacher, it really is about Phyre and "YOU". Amongst all the angst, it's about the friendship between Phyre and her best friend, and what happens between them. How they struggle sometimes, how they make up, how the best friend is really there for her whenever she needs him/her. The title is perfection, because ultimately, that is the story, and it is best that way. It's a nice, gentle reminder that even though the love interest can take up all the time, right there behind, steady and true, is the best friend.

4.5 Stars / 5

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Golden by Jessi Kirby

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

meant to highlight an upcoming release we're excited for!

Golden by Jessi Kirby
Simon & Schuster, 256 pages
Expected US Release Date: May 14, 2013

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost may be a distant relative of Robert Frost, but she has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a mystery in her lap—one that might be the key to uncovering the truth behind a town tragedy, she decides to take a chance.
-----------------Goodreads summary

I love Jessi Kirby. Not only is she super sweet in person (I've met her at the Summer Lovin' Book Tour and hung out at an event during ALA), but her writing is fabulous. When I read In Honor (review here!), I was so swept up in the tale and lost in her beautiful writing - and Golden looks like it'll be just like that, if not better. The premise is so intriguing, and how gorgeous is the cover?! May needs to get here fast!

What book are you eagerly awaiting?
Leave your link in the comments and I'll hop by!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Top Ten Books I Was Dying To Read...And Still Haven't

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the fab ladies at The Broke and the Bookish!

This week was a rewind, so I chose...
Top Ten Books I Just HAD To Buy...
And They're Still On My Shelf.
I also had to limit it to books acquired this year, because if this were to go back into my archives...well. It's just sad how many books I've got that I've not read yet and was so sure they'd be my immediate favourites!

Bossypants by Tina Fey
I wanted this book SO badly it was the only one I put on my Christmas wishlist to ensure I would get it. And I did! I just haven't read it yet.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Hunted up and down for this bad boy, but it was sold out and waiting for the Printz stickers to be put on. The moment it was printed again, I went out to the store and got it.

Take A Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg
Illuminate by Aimee Agresti
Both are ones I wanted SO badly, I ordered them online - which I never, ever do. I'm still dying to read Take A Bow, but for some reason I keep putting it off.

The List by Siobhan Vivian
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
I bought these both before they were officially available - I saw the boxes come in at BN and wheedled my way with the employees to sell them to me early.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
Snapped 'em up because i'd heard such wonderful things, plus I was meeting them that night for the Fierce Reads tour. I was so so excited to read after hearing Leigh and Emmy talk about their books, too!

Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Two of the Three I was absolutely DYING for at ALA - squealing and jumping actually occurred when I was able to get ARCs. And yet...still unread. Sigh.

I have a lot of work to do, obviously. Oh books, why must you all be so wonderful?!

What book did you DIE for and still haven't read?
Leave your links (to any TTT!) and I'll hop by!

Review: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini (ARC)

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini
Balzar + Bray, 400 Pages
US Release Date: September 25, 2012
Format: ARC
Source: Gift from author - thank you SO much!
(read about it here)

Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine “Perry” Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin, so when his parents ship him off to summer camp Perry is sure he’s in for the worst summer of his life.

Everything changes, however, when Perry gets to camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals. Perry’s new otherworldly friends need his help to save their princess and prevent mass violence. As they embark on their quest together, Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero.

Bestselling author Ned Vizzini delivers a compulsively readable and wildly original story about the winding and often hilarious path to manhood.
----------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
"That's the number one thing I hear about humans. You have all these choices, so you're confused all the time, and you think so much that you're never happy."
I think the best word for The Other Normals would be quirky. The concept is a bit quirky, the main character Perry is a bit quirky, the World of The Other Normals is a bit quirky, pretty much any way you approach this's odd, and weird, and completely unlike anything I've encountered. And I love that.

Even though it's a fairly hefty book at 400 pages, I flew through it in no time flat: there's something so smooth about the storyline and you go so seamlessly between the worlds, you barely notice (aside from the giant printed words!). Ned Vizzini's writing has always been captivating to me; the descriptions, personifications, every word has a purpose and they work together so well. It's hard to describe, but whenever I'm reading anything of just feels familiar, even if they're words I've never heard before. I feel like I'm coming back to an old friend.

This will sound stupid, but something I didn't take into account when reading this is that it was going to be about an RPG game - which is something I have no interest in. I've never understood games like Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, etc. and even though it's callous of me to say, I don't really want to understand them. I've just never understood the appeal, and while of course everyone is free to like what they will, it's not for me. So when I started reading The Other Normals and realized that oh...I'm going to be reading about a game (called Creatures & Caverns in the book) was kind of tough to hold my attention, simply because games like that make my eyes glaze over. So more aware than I was going in!

The other difficulty was with two of the characters. The first was Perry, the main boy. I just didn't like him much. He was awkward and weird, and not really in an endearing way - more in a cover my eyes and ears way, where I get secondhand embarrassment and want to duck my head and hide behind my hair. He made me cringe with some of his actions and thoughts, and while I'm sure those are actually very real things to a teenage boy, it just made me uncomfortable. Perry is self-involved and a bit rude, and there were definite moments I had to just take a deep breathe and remind myself that 1) he's a teenage boy, and 2) he's a character in a book. The second character I had a small issue with was Sam - he was so two-faced with Perry, which bothered me a bit; but mostly, he felt underdeveloped. I couldn't quite figure out why he did some of the things he did, and there were so many more possibilities with him! He could have been a fantastic asset to Perry in the real world, but he just...wasn't.

However! I kind of fell in love with the World of The Other Normals, and especially with the two that Perry falls in with: Mortin Enaw and Ada Ember. They were such a fun bunch, and I loved their outlook on life. I was also fascinated with the existence of The World of The Other Normals, and how it did in relation to the real world - such a weird, fun concept, and I like the idea of there being transition points between the two. It was creative and original, and I enjoyed how the actions in one would effect what happens in the other world. The Other World was so much fun to discover, and even though the world itself wasn't built too much, I enjoyed all the characters that appeared in there. It was fun to read about each one and see what crazy person/hybrid would pop up next.

The story itself was a great adventure, too - I feel like I examine elements of books so often that I forget to look at the book as a whole. Which would be a shame for The Other Normals, because the storyline is the best part! The entire plot is an awesome mix of fantasy geekdom and weapon-wielding adventure and travel with some hilarious shenanigans, odd friendships in even odder places, and an exciting ending that involved a fairly epic showdown in a summer camp mess hall thrown in.

Underlying all the fun are some great lessons and bigger pictures, too. One of my favourite elements of a Vizzini novel is the subtle wisdom that permeates it; you're learning without even realizing, because they're embedded so well in the content. And thankfully, The Other Normals delivers with that, too. Watching Perry kind of grow up, we get to see a boy finally understand what it means to live your life as opposed to wanting to live a different one. And I really enjoyed watching Perry figure out girls (or at least attempt to!) and the dynamics of relationships and friendships; it's meaningful at the same time as being funny.

While I'm not sure if The Other Normals will be for everyone, I hope that everyone at least tries - it's surprising in the weirdest, most creative way.

4 Stars / 5

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Weekly Wrap-Up (13)

This week's blog happenings:
Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. Totally worth all the heartache. 4.5 Stars
Monthly Reads: October 2012. I'm being ambitious, but they all look so good!

Coming up next week:
Reviews for The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini and Between You & Me by Marisa Calin, and a FAB Waiting on Wednesday pick!

In case you missed it...
I was over at the amazing Katelyn's blog for a fun This Or That session! Click over to see how I seamlessly blend Zombieland, Buffy, and genre binging into one post :) (Thanks Katelyn!)

My giveaway to celebrate Shanon being a contributor here ends Sunday! Have you entered yet? It's INTERNATIONAL! The winner can choose one of these books:

Onto the book haul!
Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews, The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren!
 I wasn't going to do one, but I realized I forgot a few in last week's epic post!

Purity by Jackson Pearce
Been dying to read this and it finally came into circulation - yay!

Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins
I've been hearing a lot of great things about this author, and when I saw this sitting right next to my table at the library...

Burn For Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
I went to their tour kickoff, so I bought it there! And lucky for you all, I got my ARC signed and an extra poster to give away...but that'll be later ;)

Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Because I went to her book launch event up in Redondo Beach! She's hilarious and adorable. I also got my ARC signed by her, which I'll be giving away at the end of October!

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger (pictured here)
I took the picture of the books before the event (recap here!), but I bought it for her Launch!

Crewel ARC by Gennifer Albin (signed!)
Through her Twitter contest! I actually already have a personalized ARC from her, so this'll be given away at some point, too :)

What books came into your possession this past week?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!