dare you toTitle: Dare You To

Series: Pushing the Limits #2

Author: Katie McGarry

Published May 28th 2013 by Harlequin Teen

Source: Received for review via NetGalley

Buy it from: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound | Books & Books

Goodreads summary:

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all…

Review:

I enjoyed Katie McGarry’s first book, Pushing the Limits, but I definitely had issues with it that prevented me from loving it. And the same is true of Dare You To.

Thankfully free of pet names (as in PtL), the biggest issue that I had with Dare You To was definitely me-centric: I had a hard time connecting with Beth because she’s so different from me. She’s a hard person in the beginning, tough as nails, smokes, curses, does drugs, and tries to take care of her alcoholic mother at the risk of her own safety– becoming angry at those who dare to interfere.

As the book goes on, that issues don’t disappear, but she starts to let people in and she becomes easier to know. Some of her tough girl act is just that: an act. It’s a hard outer shell to protect her vulnerability inside. She’s desperately afraid of trusting people and them letting her down, so logically, she is determined to be there for the people she considers family like her mother

She rekindles an old friendship with her former best friend, who’s a wonderful girl and friend, and Ryan determinedly pursues her. I liked Ryan. I liked him a lot to be honest. If I were to hand a favorite character award to someone, it would be him. I liked how obsessed he was with making sure that girls are respected. His whole “I must win ALL THE THINGS” shtick got a little old, but hey, we all have our flaws. And the swoony moments between him and Beth, while a little on the cheesy side– were swoony.

Oh except for the kissing. Not that the kissing wasn’t swoony. It was. But there was no cheese in those moments. Only heat.

The main (functioning) parental figure in this book is Beth’s uncle, Scott. And he– ugh. I am so divided on Scott. ON THE ONE HAND, he’s trying really hard to be a good father figure in Beth’s life, but ON THE OTHER HAND, he is so sure that he knows best on everything. He takes away her old clothes (at first) and prohibits contact with anyone from her old life. Like, okay, I understand keeping a close eye on her, but this is ridic. There was a moment where he calls Beth “Elizabeth” and she asks him to please for the love of God (I’m paraphrasing) call her “Beth” because that’s what she goes by. His response? “I prefer Elizabeth.” Well, Christ, no wonder Beth wants to run away! I kind of want to punch you, dude.

So yeah, overall? An enjoyable book, but I just didn’t love anyone in it. Except perhaps for Beth and Ryan’s best girl friend, who doesn’t have too huge of a role.

Need a second opinion?

“Katie McGarry seems to know exactly what I want and when I want it” -Realm of Fiction

“I officially LOVE Beth. Katie brings this character to life.” -Belle of the Literati

“A Nicholas Sparks book with angsty teenagers.” -A.A. Omer’s The Fangirl Who Reads

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Here is a thing that happens to me sometimes: a creative funk.

I know I’m not alone in it; it happens to a lot of us. But sometimes it feels that way. I go through periods of time where I click along with the YA world. Writing flows easily. I dive into a new book every 1-2 days. Reviews and posts are a breeze to write and I’m so active on Twitter that you all probably get a little sick of me.

But then… what I call the funk strikes. I open a new draft and stare at the cursor. I try to write a review for a book I’m over the moon about and can’t summon anything more than lukewarm sentiment. My TBR pile grows even more unwieldy because I feel incapable of making a dent. E-mails go unanswered. I have no desire to read or write a DAMN thing. And I’m quieter on Twitter. Because I just feel sort of apathetic and like I don’t have much to say.

I’m drowning in it all and it feels a little like this:

Right now my method of coping is to go home after work and veg out watching Veronica Mars reruns. Even drafting this post is a struggle, but a while back, I resolved to share personally on the blog every now and then, so this seemed appropriate.

But the thing is… I would like to be over this. On good days, I love the whole YA world. I love writing and want to make a career of it. PierceFest, a project that I’m really excited about, is going on right now and it’s MY MONTH.

So help me out? How do you guys get over funks like this?

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    Out of a Funk

Good morning all! Welcome to August and the month in which I take over Tortall– I mean, take over PierceFest to showcase the Protector of the Small Quartet.

So let’s kick things off, y’all! We’ll start at the very beginning, which, to hear Julie Andrews tell it, is a very good place to start.

first testTitle: First Test

Series: Protector of the Small #1

Author: Tamora Pierce

Publish date: June 7th 1999 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Source: Borrowed from library

Buy it from: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound | Books & Books

Goodreads summary:

In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan (known as Kel) is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood. But Kel is not a girl to underestimate…

Recap:

Okay, so as we start the book things look all hunky-dory. Our favorite ginger lady knight is PUMPED because someone else– another girl– wants to join the ranks. Sure, it was made a decree that they could back when she was a baby knight, but no one’s taken advantage yet! Lunacy. Alanna’s all adorably excited about having someone to mentor, until training master Lord Wyldon poo-poos on her parade and fights the decree. The king and Wyldon come to an agreement: Keladry of Mindelan will be permitted to train, but unlike other pages, must undergo a probationary year. And Alanna will not be permitted contact with her.

Naturally, Alanna takes this well and storms out.

Kel is understandably disappointed when she gets the news, but my girl rallies. Her decision to go through training comes when she FIGHTS OFF A FREAKING SPIDREN TO SAVE A KITTEN.

So, yeah, it’s off to the palace we go where Kel is introduced to her room and the rules of her training. And I want to punch Lord Wyldon for his patronization, but you know… dem’s da breaks. Kel heads off to her room to find things have been turned upside down, it’s been ransacked, and oh yes… SOMEONE PEED OUTSIDE HER DOOR.

Boys are gross.

And Kel’s almost stuck with the (scum of the earth) obvious instigator of the hazing, Joren of Stone Mountain as her sponsor page until Nealan of Queenscove steps in and takes her under his wing instead.

…We like Neal, guys. He’s hilarious and smart and… we like him.

So yeah, the year goes on. Kel does the normal training, bears up under the hazing like lead-weighted lances. When she finds herself having difficulty with the physical training, she devotes her little free time to fixing it, by running up a ridic hill after training and seeking out advice from a female Shang warrior– who wisely imparts the torture advice of push-ups to strengthen her arms.

She and her friends take to patrolling the halls to stop Joren and his cronies from the hazing that they, without fail, take too far. Typically senior pages ask younger pages to do things like fetch a book for them. Simple tasks. But Joren and his crew tend to smack the book out of their hands repeatedly. Do their best to make them cry. Kel started off fighting them alone, ending up with bruises galore. But by the end of the book, as her friends help her, the serious hazing has almost stopped.

Okay, one thing I have to hand to Lord Wyldon: when he finds out about Kel’s crazy-bad fear of heights, he’s actually pretty cool about it. Doesn’t lord it over her, but does incorporate it into her training when they go to the page training camp so that she can learn to manage it. Another thing that happens at training camp? Oh, yeah. Kel faces down a Spidren again, but this time she’s with other pages and the men of the King’s Own. And again, she emerges victorious.

It won’t surprise you (but it sure surprised Kel), that, at the book’s end, she’s permitted to stay as a page– no longer a probationary one.

Kel being awesome quote of the book:

“You’ll see. I’m as good as any boy. I’m better.”

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losingitTitle: Losing It

Series: Losing It #1

Author: Cora Carmack

Published October 15th 2012

Source: Purchased

Buy it from: Amazon| Book Depository | IndieBound | Books & Books

Goodreads summary:

Virginity.

Bliss Edwards is about to graduate from college and still has hers. Sick of being the only virgin among her friends, she decides the best way to deal with the problem is to lose it as quickly and simply as possible– a one-night stand. But her plan turns out to be anything but simple when she freaks out and leaves a gorgeous guy alone and naked in her bed with an excuse that no one with half-a-brain would ever believe. And as if that weren’t embarrassing enough, when she arrives for her first class of her last college semester, she recognizes her new theatre professor. She’d left him naked in her bed about 8 hours earlier.

Review:

You may have gathered from the cover and summary that this is not a YA book. No, I EXPLORED a little with Losing It by Cora Carmack as it’s a New Adult title.

For the most part, I really enjoyed it too. The main character Bliss’s voice is relateable and funny and I totally would have been friends with her in college. The sexy times are sexy and the Bliss’s friends and fellow students felt authentic to their age group.

My gripes with the book are small. Some of the dialogue is a little cheesy, and Garrick’s Britishism where he constantly calls Bliss “love” got a little old. In places, I felt like the conflict wasn’t as heightened as it could have been, or stretched a thin conflict into more than it needed to be.

But what I was looking for in Losing It was something different from my usual read, that’s what I got, and I enjoyed my ride.

Need a second opinion?

“The ending? Perfection, in my opinion.” – Forever 17 Books

 

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HELLO, friends!

Today, I have a killer giveaway for you– especially those of you who have been wanting to explore the realms of New Adult fiction. Allison Rushby, author of the historical New Adult novel The Heiresses, has generously offered a giveaway of one copy of The Heiresses to one lucky winner– anywhere around the world!

heiresses

 Not only that, but the winner will also receive… the cutest freakin’ flapper scarf ever:

the heiresses scarf
Simply enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below to try your luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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caged gravesTitle: The Caged Graves

Standalone

Author: Dianne K. Salerni

Publish date: May 14th 2013 by Clarion Books

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Buy it from: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound | Books & Books

Goodreads summary:

17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

Inspired by a pair of real caged graves in present-day Catawissa, this historical YA novel weaves mystery, romance, and action into a suspenseful drama with human greed and passion at its core.

Review:

So. Guys. I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t heard more of you talking about The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni.

I’ve said time and time again that I love Historical Fiction. But often I’m wary of it at the same time. It so rarely feels authentic. It often feels like the author sacrifices either research or character development for the other, and I’m left unsatisfied.

Not so in The Caged Graves– it felt authentic through and through.

Another thing that doesn’t USUALLY work for me, but did here is a smidge of a love triangle element. And it’s not all that surprising. Verity wibbles between the fiance she’s meeting for the first time and the young doctor’s apprentice that she feels an attraction too. It felt real– she was getting to know both men at the same time and trying to figure out her feelings for both. There wasn’t always a clear victor. To the point where I actually skipped to the end to see if she picked my favorite guy– and I NEVER skip to the end.

And the MYSTERY. It was fascinating and eerie. There’s this great deal of uncertainty about the circumstances of Verity’s mother’s death. Was it natural? Or SUPERNATURAL? The Caged Graves walks that line perfectly, eerie enough that things can’t just be explained away.

And Verity herself? If I’d been alive in 1867 (and, erm… fictional),  I suspect we would have gotten along grandly. She’s a developed character and is both realistic to the time period she lives in and a strong female character (in a non-ass-kicking sense).

Need a second opinion?

“I found myself so absorbed in the story that I finished it in a few hours.” -First Novels Club

“Maybe readers that read historical fiction more than me may enjoy this one.” -Great Imaginations

“It seems like a ghost story, so it reads like that, all suspenseful, but then it gets mysterious and beautiful.” -The Grown-Up YA

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NeverFadeTitle: Never Fade

Series: The Darkest Minds #2

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Publish date: October 15th 2013 by Disney-Hyperion

Source: ARC from BEA

Buy it from: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound | Books & Books

Goodreads summary:

Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

Review:

I cannot.

I– Okay. Okay. Deep breaths, friends.

I finished Never Fade weeks ago. And it’s been hard trying to properly document the feelings that I have for it. I could probably leave you with keyboard smash here (asdlksufchhcfawgfug) and you’d have a pretty good idea of what the book did to me.

It’s particularly hard because Never Fade takes so many twists and turns. I would never want to spoil anyone because I want you to FEEL ALL THE FEELS the way that I did, and if I TELL you what’s coming, I don’t think it will be REAL for you the way that it was for me.

And friends, it was real to me. Alexandra Bracken is spectacularly talented and, time and time again, it was like she reached into my chest to check the tuning on my heartstrings. I texted many texts full of caps lock to my friend Steph, and inadvertently coined the phrase “emotiobs.”

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 9.13.55 AM
Another text included the plea: “Help me, I’m dying.”

The characters that we meet in Never Fade, both old and new, never feel less than 110% authentic. And they’re AMAZING. It’s so great to see characters that seem like they’re truly growing or changing. Obviously this goes for our main character, Ruby, but it’s true of many of the other characters as well.

AND THE WORLD. We have to talk about it again, because lordy be it is the ~darkest. In The Darkest Minds (aka book 1), we saw it from one side… which was as dark as hell. But now, in Never Fade, we see another angle of Alexandra Bracken’s world and it’s twisty and messed up and it was TRULY fascinating to have the world expanded in this book.

Bottom line here, folks: if you haven’t already read The Darkest Minds, you should get on that so you get GET PUMPED for Never Fade with me. It deserves eleventy bajillion stars.

Need a second opinion?

None of my Goodreads friends have their OFFICIAL reviews up yet, but they had this to say:

Lindsey from A Storm of Words: 5 stars. “Let’s not discuss this right now because I’ll probably start screaming at you.”

Stephanie from Poetry to Prose: 5 stars. “Rest assured that this is an amazing sequel to The Darkest Minds and that Alexandra Bracken will make you cry. Again.”

Christine from Poland Bananas Books: 5 stars. “Couldn’t put it down! Suspenseful action packed and full of wonderfully lovable characters.”

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Giveaway of Random

Categories: Blog Posts, Bookworm

So, the original plan for this giveaway was that I was going to recap the Fierce Reads event at Books and Books for you all, after which I’d give away some of my ARCs of the Fierce Reads since I have other copies.

But my recording failed and my memory is dim. So, instead I will tell you simply that it was awesome and there was much laughter and giggling over awesome books.

photo(1)
But I still want to spread some Fierce Reads love. So please, take the ARCs that I have– and swag! A gift! From me to you.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Links that you may need:

Shadow and Bone review | Siege and Storm review

Unremembered review

Of Poseidon review | Of Triton review

Crewel review

Authors of the Fierce Reads tour interview

*Note: You can only win ONE prize pack; if you have any preferences for which ones you do or don’t want to win, I’d suggest you leave them in the comments. Winners chosen at random. You MUST comment on either this post or any of the linked posts above.

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Mortal Fire Elizabeth Knox Book Review

Categories: Blog Posts, Bookworm

mortal fireTitle: Mortal Fire

Standalone

Author: Elizabeth Knox

Publish date: June 11th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Buy it from: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound | Books & Books

Goodreads summary:

Sixteen-year-old Canny Mochrie’s vacation takes a turn when she stumbles upon a mysterious and enchanting valley, occupied almost entirely by children who can perform a special type of magic that tells things how to be stronger and better than they already are. As Canny studies the magic more carefully, she realizes that she not only understands it–she can perform the magic, too, so well that it feels like it has always been a part of her. With the help of an alluring seventeen-year-old boy who is held hostage by a spell that is now more powerful than the people who first placed it, Canny figures out the secrets of this valley and of her own past.

Review:

Dang, Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox was damned refreshing.

I adore magic in the books I read and there’s certainly nothing wrong with spells, psychics, or magical worlds– heck they’re some of my favorite things to find in fiction. But it’s also nice to come across a book that has magic that is altogether different from anything I’ve seen before. And that’s what I got in Mortal Fire.

And that wasn’t the only thing different and refreshing about Mortal Fire. For one thing, we have a main character who’s got a little diversity for a change. She hails from the South Pacific and her mother is the daughter of an island chief. Canny, or “Akanesi” is a math genius and typically very solemn.

The 3rd person narration is a little distant and ordinarily my assumption would be that might make it difficult to connect with, but the prose of Mortal Fire was gorgeously written. I relished every word.

Need a second opinion?

“It is wonderfully mesmerising and unquestionably original.” -Realm of Fiction

Mortal Fire is dreamlike and imaginative, and hard to explain – but I really, really liked it.” -Alexa Loves Books

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The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die April Henry Book Review

Categories: Blog Posts, Bookworm

thegirlwhowassupposedtodieTitle: The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

Standalone

Author: April Henry

Publish date: June 11th 2013 by Henry Holt and Co

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Buy it from: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound | Books & Books

Goodreads summary:

“Take her out back and finish her off.”

She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know where she is, or why. All she knows when she comes to in a ransacked cabin is that there are two men arguing over whether or not to kill her.

And that she must run.

In her riveting style, April Henry crafts a nail-biting thriller involving murder, identity theft, and biological warfare. Follow Cady and Ty (her accidental savior turned companion), as they race against the clock to stay alive.

Review:

It seems that, with a couple noticeable exceptions, I’m hard to convince with contemporary YA Thrillers, and unfortunately, The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry did not succeed in convincing me. We started off with a pleasingly fast-paced scene, and the stakes were immediately high– The main character comes to from unconsciousness without a memory and overhears men planning to kill her.

For me– and perhaps this is due to the lack of memory she’s experiencing– I felt an incredible disconnect from the main character in The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die. I understood that she had bigger things to focus on, but I didn’t even get a sense of her personality.

There were a couple of things that had me frowny-facing on the diversity and/or judgment sector. The main character makes assumptions on a couple of things that irritated me– assumptions that, unless I missed something, didn’t have any real basis when she makes them.

FINALLY, the main character’s parents bothered me in the end. I had a hard time believing that, based on the way they’re portrayed, that they’d basically send their daughter off into danger, BUT there you have it.

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die is a short read and I feel like many things, such as the disconnect, could have been fixed by expanding on things a bit. It would have hooked me more if I felt more of the emotions of the main character, but the focus seemed to be mostly on plot and little on character.

Need a second opinion?

“Though I felt like the resolution came a little too hard, too fast, I do think that Henry has managed to write a book that is going to delight readers in search of a quick, easy action story.” -Alexa Loves Books

“You have to be in the right mood when reading, but isn’t that the way it is with any book really?” -Great Imaginations

“April Henry was able to capture me from the first page and only released me on the last page.” -Maji Bookshelf

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