Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: How to Love by Katie Cotugno (ARC)

How To Love by Katie Cotugno
Balzar + Bray (a HarperTeen imprint), 389 pages
US Release Date: October 1, 2013
Format/Source: ARC, via Around the World Tours - thank you!
Challenge: SARC 2013, Contemporary Challenge

Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists…until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.
------------------------------goodreads summary
Notable Quote
…both of us watching Sawyer just like we used to, back when watching Sawyer never felt like something that hurt.
How To Love was one of my most anticipated reads this year, because the moment I heard about it I swear was the moment I started hearing how brilliant it was. And when you read the synopsis, you know it’s one of those books that could break you and make you love harder.

I think what made this book such a fantastic one was the writing. And not that it’s lyrical or beautiful – it is, though I’ve read a few authors who can wrap words a bit better. But there’s a certain realness to all of Katie’s writing. The details she includes are touching and tender in really subtle ways that you don’t even realize are wrapping the story right around your heart. There’s a singular line on one of the pages a little over halfway in that just struck me breathless (“So many fathers and daughters.”) because of its profound simplicity. Five words, five shatteringly simple words – but in their context, there’s a weight and a meaning and a clarity in them to just speak to your soul.

The other thing that rocketed this to the top of my favourites list is the exploration of all kinds of love. Not just the gooey, heart-swelling kind, or the complex, heart-being-squeezed-to-death way. That’s there, but so is the messy kind, the complicated kind, the love that you’re not certain is really love, and the love that you know is love even though it in no way resembles it. There’s friendship love, family love, respect love, tough love, shrouded love…it’s all here, in so may facets, and it’s all wonderful.

The general plot of this book is enough to impact anyone’s heart too, even if it didn’t have the little parts that shatter you. When you first read about it, and then start finding out how everything came to be…it’s gripping and dramatic and a roller coaster of everything you love to hate and hate to love. You can’t help falling for Sawyer even though you know from the beginning he left her; and you can’t help loving Aaron even though you know Renna’s love for Sawyer can’t possibly have gone away.

The family is what broke my heart. I love the element of family in YA books, and this is no exception to those who do it fantastically. There’s such a variation in relationships, from strained ones to supportive ones, from far to close, from the ones you know mean well versus the ones who don’t deserve anything. I could feel Soledad’s watchful eye and her supportive pat on the shoulder just as much as the coldness and judgment of Reena’s father.

I’m not certain I anticipated how sad this book would be, how many tragedies of all kinds of sizes there would be. There are the obvious ones that we can guess, and then some surprise huge ones that are enough to make you gasp…and then there are smaller ones, the innocuous ones that you breeze by and then stop a few seconds later as you try to process what exactly it means, how it will affect everything else.

I feel like I’m painting this book like it’s a sob-fest downer, but I don’t mean to. I actually never did cry. I felt every single emotion I think I could possibly have the capacity for, sure, but no tears. And that includes all the happy ones too – the ones of a budding romance you’re so certain is right, the loyalty of friends and that push into a direction you know is right.

How To Love is a book worthy of it’s title, of all the meanings and nuances love can mean. The highs, lows, and dips in between are all here, and I don’t think there’s a better story to take us along for the ride.
5 stars
and so many more, with so much love

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Weekly Wrap-Up (30): The Holidays Are Nigh

How is it already a week into OCTOBER?! Where did September go? Did anyone report that an entire month was stolen?! Oh wait, government has shut down, so...
(Not to make light of that. Trust me, in this military/government household, it's taking its toll.)
Happy October, all! I'm trying to plan my Halloween costume, because I'm the one coordinating and running the Halloween meeting and costume contest at my work -- I'm kiiiiinda figuring if I'm running the costume contest I have to wear one? Ugh. I never dress up. I've got a few ideas, but so far I'm not too happy with any of them. And I'm running out of time since I always, always make mine every year. Any suggestions? Help? What will you be dressing up as this year?

In case you missed it...
Coming up...
A review of How To Love by Katie Cotugno, and a series review of Just One Day & Just One Year by Gayle Forman! I'm going to tackle Jamie @ The Perpetual Page-Turner's A-Z Book Survey, and that fancy giveaway button on my sidebar? It's been there for months, and I'm FINALLY going to get that up!
Onto the books!
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

Around the World ARC Tours
Just One Year (Just One Day #2) by Gayle Forman
No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
Roomies by Sarah Zarr & Tara Altebrando

Tarnish by Katherine Longshore
Sidekicked by John David Anderson

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
And damn you, Amazon Book Bargains...
Forget You by Jennifer Echols
Die For Me by Amy Plum
Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
Miracle by Elizabeth Scott
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
What books came into your possession recently?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Author Interview + TITLE REVEAL: Dan Krokos (False Memory Series)

Guys, I'm so SO excited to have this on my blog today. I had the pleasure of going to an event with Dan Krokos last year, and he was so awesome I'm pretty certain I fell just a little in love. He's got a great wit and was so genuine and fun -- so when I was asked to interview him, I couldn't believe the good luck! I quite like him, and the False Memory series is a fantastic, thrilling read. It's completely unique from anything I've read, and I can't wait for the third and final book. Speaking of that third and final book...GUESS WHO'S GOT THE TITLE FOR IT?! A reveal, guys! Read on below for it...
False Sight (False Memory #2) by Dan Krokos
Disney-Hyperion, 336 pages
US Release Date: August 13, 2013

All Miranda wants is a normal life. She's determined to move past the horrible truth of her origin as a clone so she can enjoy time with her boyfriend, Peter, and the rest of her friends at school. But Miranda quickly learns that there's no such thing as normal - not for a girl who was raised to be a weapon. When one of her teammates turns rogue, it begins a war that puts the world in jeopardy. Now Miranda must follow her instincts - not her heart - in order to save everything she's fought so hard to keep. with the image of a terrible future seared into her mind, what will she have to sacrifice to protect the people she loves?
---------------------Synopsis provided by publicist
Purchase here!
1. What’s it like writing in a female character’s voice? What made you go that route?
It was very difficult at the start, before I really knew Miranda. I don’t think I’ll do it again for a long time, at least not in first person. I went that route because at the time I’d been writing a lot of masculine adult crime fiction, lots of action and grit and all that. And I was getting rejections from publishers saying, “This is good, but it won’t appeal to enough female readers.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant, since I know a lot of women read and love gritty crime fiction, but it started to make me think. What if this was all I could do? Did I really want to write the same kind of book the rest of my life?

So I decided to really step outside my comfort zone. Adult thrillers were comfy. But writing for the perspective of a teen girl? Decidedly uncomfortable. Luckily I had lots of great female readers to help along the way.

2. So much of this story seems to involve science, from the ability of the Roses to their existence. Have you always been a science nerd?
Always. Ever since my dad got me into SF as a kid. I think the advancements we’ve made are too incredible for words, and then I think about how much we still don’t know. It’s amazing. I try to base as much stuff as I can in reality, to make it feel grounded, but I definitely toe the line into fantasy sometimes. I’m a huge fantasy nerd too, so I just can’t help it.

3. What are some of the challenges you face writing a sequel/continuing series?
Continuity. Making sure stuff makes sense from beginning to end. It really sucks to have a cool idea for book 3, but then not have access to book 2 to make the necessary changes. I think it would be cool to write a series and have all the books done before they come out.

Another big challenge is upping the stakes in each book. If you have the world at risk in one book, what do you do for the next? Put it at risk again? That would get boring, fast, and it wouldn’t be all that tense.

4. Do you feel your writing changed between books?
Absolutely. I think False Sight has much better prose overall. I was a new baby author writing False Memory in 2010, and I’ve definitely grown since then. I also got more comfortable with Miranda’s voice, so it was nice to be able to slip back into that.

5. What did you learn from Book 1 that influenced how you wrote and/or approached book 2?
Apparently nothing. I wrote a draft of book 2, and then threw it out completely and started from scratch. It took a lot longer overall to finish the second book. Goes to show you that, even with an outline, things can go wrong. But the hard work was worth it, I think.

6. I know it’s futile, but it can’t hurt to ask: anything you can tell us about Book 3? The title? The first word of the book? Anything?!
Sure! The first sentence will probably be, “True Earth came back to finish us off on December 21st.” It’s Rhys talking, though he isn’t a viewpoint character, at least not after page 2.

Almost the entire book takes place in Manhattan during a snowstorm. The kind where it’s so cold it actually hurts to go outside. I wanted to keep it to one location after the mania in book 2.

And I don’t think I’ve revealed this anywhere, but the title is FALSE FUTURE.

7. Are you nervous about ending your series? What are your feelings about the end being near?
I’m really excited about it, about there being a conclusion. I have two series right now, and the worst part about them is that they’re not done. They’re not complete. So to finish something will be really cool. I’m nervous about it for sure (I’m actually working on the final edits right this minute), but I think it ends in a satisfying place. That’s all I want: for people who’ve been around the last two years to feel like it was worth the read.

8. I was at an event with you last year, and the girls in line were fighting about which boy they claimed. So I have to ask: are you Team Noah or Team Peter?
Team Peter, absolutely. He’s the guy I want to be. Noah is closer to the guy I am, or was. Actually, I’m Team Rhys. I like him a lot, and no one seems to want to kiss him.  [Ashley's note: I'm Team Rhys, actually!]

That’s nice that people still like Noah. After everything he’s done, I’m surprised anyone can forgive him.

Flash Answer Section 
Music or Quiet? Music.
Series or stand-alones? Series.
Pen or pencil? Pen.
Outer space or underground? Outer space.
Lose your sense of smell, or lose your sight? Smell.
Weapon of choice? Straight sword.
Scientists develop a pill that will enhance ONE of your five senses for 24 hours – but you can only ever do it once. Do you do it? And if you do, which sense do you choose and when? Sure, why not? I’d probably go with sight. Everything else might be awful. If you could hear that much better, you’d probably get a headache. And I live in NYC, so I already wish my sense of smell was dulled.

As I always end…
Last 3 items purchase?

A windproof ninja mask to wear in winter. Clear protective glasses for riding a motorcycle at night. And new computer speakers.

Last 3 websites visited?
Twitter, tumblr, and

Last 3 books read?
The Stand, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, and Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill.
About the Author
After pumping gas for nine years to put himself through college, Dan Krokos, now twenty-seven, dropped out to write full-time. He is currently hard at work on three separate projects: the final stop for Miranda North in the False Memory series, the next adventure for thirteen-year-old Mason Stark in The Planet Thieves series, and his first adult thriller.

How PERFECT is that title for the third book?! I'm dying for False Future! Thank you so much Dan for being a great interview and letting me host you! (And thank you Anne!)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Review: Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund (ARC)

Across A Star-Swept Sea (For Darkness Shows the Stars #2) by Diana Peterfreund
Balzar + Bray (an imprint of Harper Teen), 464 pages
Expected US Release Date: October 15, 2013
Format/Source: ARC, via Around the World Tours
- thank you!

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.

Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.

In this thrilling adventure inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diana Peterfreund creates an exquisitely rendered world where nothing is as it seems and two teens with very different pasts fight for a future only they dare to imagine.
----------------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
We made many errors. I told you, I no longer believe in the way the revolution is playing out. But that doesn't make the goals that brought us to this point any less valid. Sometimes bad things happen when you try to do something good.
If you didn't know, I love love LOVED For Darkness Shows the Stars (read my awesome review here - I think I'm pretty hilarious). It was one of my favourite reads of 2012, and EVER. There's such beauty and grace to Diana Peterfreund's writing, and I was not disappointed with Across A Star-Swept Sea, either.

Now, again, I haven't read The Scarlet Pimpernel before so I can't say if it pulls inspiration well or anything - but I definitely want to read it after this. Diana Peterfreund solidified herself as an author I will read anything from. Again, it's not like it's the most action-packed, page-turning thriller; but the details are really something else, and it just makes for a story bursting with elements you fall in love with.

I don't know about you, but this is possibly the coolest futuristic, science fiction-y historical romance I've ever read. Sounds pretty contradictory, right? It totally is, but it had all those elements rolled into one! The drama and intrigue and gossip of a Queen's Court, with the great inventions created in this Post-Reduction dystopian environment, rolled into a revolutionary tale. If that isn't the best pitch for a book ever, I don't know what is.

The characters were fantastic in this book too - I liked how everyone wasn't quite what they seemed. Persis was pretty fascinating, though sometimes I felt the dichotomy between her and the Wild Poppy were a little too...much. I know she had to create this fake persona, and I completely understand why and how it worked -- but sometimes I felt like it was too extreme. Still, it made for a lot of fun little plot points and you really start to root for either of them and the shared cause. And of course, we all love a faked romance! Especially one where...I mean, c'mon. You know. You just know how it will end, and it's slowly, torturously, awesomely fun to get dragged along and get so caught up in the "OMG IT MEANT MORE I SWEAR" and the "DON'T YOU SEEEEEEE?!"

I have to say that I still love For Darkness Shows the Stars more - but that's expected, as I had expectations going into the second novel and knowing what I already loved. Which does bring me to: KAIIIIIIII <33333.

Ok. That's really it. Across A Star-Swept Sea was a fantastic read, one that immerses you into this great little revolutionary tale as we try to figure out what is ethically right and sound at the same time as rooting for the characters to all prevail and triumph -- which is brilliant, since a lot of them are opposing. The enemies are great, the protagonists even better, and getting to continue on with Kai and Elliot was just a cherry on top.

5 Stars