Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Exploring My TBR

So, it's March Break, and I've had a hard time posting recently. I've been reading a ton though, and exploring a few really awesome book blogs. I've realized how awesome 2012 is. Seriously, there are so many interesting books coming out with the most gorgeous covers. But, after reviewing (lol) my Goodreads TBR list, I've realized why I shouldn't get too far ahead of myself. I mean, there are so many books from 2011 and 2010, and 20-whatever I still haven't read. Why not be excited for them all?

That's where this feature comes in. I'll basically post 5 books on my TBR, and why they're there. I'll also link to Goodreads so you can add them to your TBR too. I don't know if this will be a regular feature, or a one-timer. It depends on how much fun I have writing the post, and you guys have reading the post. (Btw, I realized this is kind of like The Story Siren's Books To Pine For... but some of these titles are already released, and I'm writing my own synopsis.)

Here we go.

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor
1. Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher
It's about some girl getting abducted at an air port and brought to a desert where her captor expects her to fall in love with him. What the hell? So this book is kind of a "letter" she's writing to him. It sounds really creepy in a way, and also very emotional. The book is unique, and ever since I saw it, I knew it would be my kind of read. The cover helps, of course. My friend read it and she says she thinks I'll like it.  I can't wait till I get it and finally see for myself.

2. Steel by Carrie Vaughn
SteelI'm totally shallow, so when I saw this cover I knew it would be a book I'd find interesting and put it on my TBR just because of that. For the first time today I actually read the synopsis, and it's about this girl who does fencing in a bunch of tournaments. One day she finds a real, sharpened sword and she's sent back in time onto a pirate ship by dark magic. Wow. I haven't really read enough about pirates, so that's an interesting aspect of the book. I think it will have lots of action and I'm expecting the MC to be very strong. As long as it fulfills those two hopes, I know I'll enjoy Steel.

The Iron Witch (The Iron Witch, #1)
3. The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
I have heard a little about this book before and I always made plans to read it. Except I never actually did read it yet, which is why it's still on my TBR. It's about fey! And alchemy! Those are two plusses, since I do like to read about those subjects. The story is about Donna, the MC trying to save her friend from the fey, who have destroyed her life. They drove her mom insane, and killed her father. This story sounds like it will be dark, and I really want to read it since it's exactly my style.

4. Switched by Amanda Hocking.
Switched (Trylle Trilogy, #1)First off, the cover is stunning. I absolutely love it. Anyway, there's a lot of hype about Amanda Hocking I heard for a while, and I'm pretty sure I even read a bunch of reviews about Switched. It's about a girl named Wendy discovering she's not human, and what that means for her. There's more to it, but that was my lame-ass one sentence synopsis. Anyway, in the real synopsis there is some mention of a romance, which is always fun, and I always make a point to read changeling stories, like I do with fey stories. They're interesting and full of possibility. I also know that the mythology in Switched is uncommon, and I like diversity.

Jessica Rules the Dark Side (Jessica, #2)
5. Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
A long time I ago I read an absolutely amazing book about some girl dating a vampire. This book had me laughing out loud, smiling, and there were warm and fuzzy feelings. This book has a sequel, and this is it. I really want to read more about Jessica and Lucius, who are such a cute couple. This sequel is about Jessica's life as a vampire princess trying to clear her husband's name from murder. Uh-oh. I expect blood, vampires, and a strong heroine. Plus, I have a thing for reading about princesses. This book is a must read, and the next time I see it I *promise* myself I will read it.

That's it for now. I swear I didn't plan for 4 of these books to be from 2010... they were just the first books that showed up on my Goodreads TBR. So did you find any new titles that interest you? Any book recs to add to my TBR (in general)? Did you read any of these  books and what did you think? Leave it all in the comments!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Bad Girls Don't Die

Bad Girls Don't Die (Bad Girls Don't Die, #1)

Author: Katie Alender
Pages: 346
Publisher: Hyperion
Source: Library
Synopsis: When Alexis’s little sister Kasey becomes obsessed with an antique doll, Alexis thinks nothing of it. Kasey is a weird kid. Period. Alexis is considered weird, too, by the kids in her high school, by her parents, even by her own Goth friends. Things get weirder, though, when the old house they live in starts changing. Doors open and close by themselves; water boils on the unlit stove; and an unplugged air conditioner turns the house cold enough to see their breath in. Kasey is changing, too. Her blue eyes go green and she speaks in old-fashioned language, then forgets chunks of time. Most disturbing of all is the dangerous new chip on Kasey’s shoulder. The formerly gentle, doll-loving child is gone, and the new Kasey is angry. Alexis is the only one who can stop her sister — but what if that green-eyed girl isn’t even Kasey anymore?

Buy the Book (The Book Depository/Amazon)

It's been a while since I shivered so much from a story. Bad Girls Don't Die is an awesome example of a creepy ghost story. I had such a good time reading it! I was freaking out a bit and I had goosebumps. It got scarier and scarier the nearer we got to the end. Loved it!

Alexis, our MC, was totally awesome. I respected her and admired her early on in the story. She was the kind of girl who'd always speak her mind and do what's right. She didn't believe in high school's pretentious cliques and though she didn't have many friends, she was fine with that because at least she was herself. Alexis loved and cared for her family even though she had a hard time showing it. I related to her strength and independence but vulnerability.

Enter Carter who wasn't as in to the story as I previously thought so at the beginning of the book. Carter looked like the perfect package. He had secrets though. He also had an inner vulnerability that I wasn't expecting. His character was so sweet and for once, I actually understand why he and Alexis had a little romance (and I fully encouraged it)!

Next awesome character is Megan. Megan seemed like your typical cheer captain but she wasn't. Her family was nothing like you'd expect. She had a very painful background and she wasn't as perfect as you'd expect. I love that about the cast here. All of them have issues that hurt. They all are strong in different ways though. While I can't say the story is without stereotypical characters, I can say they were written in a way that I didn't mind. I talked about the characters a lot in this review because I really liked them.

Now to the plot... The beginning isn't visibly creepy but there are important events. The further in you delve, the more secrets and the higher the stakes. There are ghosts here and possession but it's written in an original and spooky way. I did guess some of the twists but that's because I watch Supernatural all the time so I've seen my share of ghost stories. That doesn't make them any less enjoyable though. Bad Girls Don't Die is also incredibly readable. I was at 200 pages in what felt like an hour of reading.

So overall, if you want a frightening read, this book is for you. It also has surprisingly strong characters too and is in no way the story I thought it would be. I can't wait for more! 4.5 stars,

**** & 1/2 *

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Author: Meredith Zeitlin
Pages: 288
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Source: Review E-ARC (Thank you so much!)
Synopsis: Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. 

 Things start out great - her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it. 

 Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…

Buy the Book (The Book Depository/Amazon)

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is the funniest book I've read in more than a year! Seriously, at some point I choked because I was laughing so hard. My friends would tell you that almost never happens. I don't know what it was about this book that was just so funny.

I think it was Kelsey. I love her. She's dramatic, and unsure, and gosh she makes a ton of mistakes. She grows though. She doesn't take herself too seriously and she's really a nice girl. She's kind of the life of the party. Stuff (usually some crazy, hilarious stuff) happens around her. I adored reading in her perspective. She's a freshman in high school so there's a lot of times she just felt really new or unsure about something and you could tell. I guess I liked the fact that overall she was strong, but she did have vulnerabilities.

What I also liked was how I could relate to the story. I'm a sophomore, and so I could understand a lot of the stuff Kelsey was going through (though my school is much smaller, has way less activities, and is much easier). I really enjoyed the memories that resurfaced last year, since my freshman year was a blast. Like when Kelsey talked about acting all mature because you're not kids anymore, I could remember having that same convo with my friends. The story wasn't 100% real, but it was entertaining and relatable. There were so many scenes and scenarios I completely understood like dealing with your parents, friends, and putting yourself out there. That's definitely one of the strengths. There's a lot in this book and (yes, I'm resorting to clichés) it has something for everyone.

The pacing of the book is excellent. Every single page is funny and I read some parts out loud because I adored the voice in the writing. Kelsey's life is never boring. Something is always happening, be it boy troubles, friend troubles, or even annoying little sister troubles. This made me finish the book really fast. The story is about Kelsey's freshman year so it covers a lot, but that doesn't mean there are endless pages of useless scenes. There are main events and the story kind of focuses on them.

Overall, I am so happy to have gotten this book to review. I wasn't sure it would be my style, but I loved it. It was so entertaining and I'm definitely going to recommend my school library buys a copy, and share this book to my friends. 4 awesome stars,


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: The Earthquake Machine

The Earthquake Machine

Author: Mary Pauline Lowry
Pages: 326
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Source: E-review Copy (Thanks!!)
Synopsis: The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda's world but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda's life is her family's Mexican yardman, Jes s. But when the INS deports Jes?'s back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation. Determined to find her friend Jes s, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Boquillas, Mexico. There a peyote-addled bartender convinces her she won't be safe traveling alone into the country's interior. So with the bartender's help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jes s. Thus begins a wild adventure that explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming-of-age and Young Adult novels.

Buy the Book (The Earthquake Machine/ The Book Depository)

The Earthquake Machine is a one of a kind read. It tackles many hard issues and it's much more raw than the type of book I usually read. I still enjoyed it though. It's the story of a girl finding her place in the world and there's a real journey that changes Rhonda.

What really surprised me was how mature the book was. It wasn't exactly dark, but there was a lot of stuff that you don't usually find in YA. Everything was handled appropriately. I don't think anything was overdone just to shock the reader. Rhonda's journey was really interesting.

Rhonda was a dynamic character. She really grew up and got stronger after the death of her mother. In the beginning of The Earthquake Machine, she was quiet and compliant. She didn't live the easiest life but she was still very naive in a way. I could believe her character since I know people like her at my school. People that are quiet and unsure of themselves.

Maybe the events that happened weren't the most realistic (this is fiction after all) but the way Rhonda responded to them felt real. I didn't always agree with her decisions but I was raised in a completely different environment. While Rhonda believed that women had no futures, from an early age I wanted to be much more than a housewife. I also cheered for Rhonda when she wanted more and I adored her bravery. The best part of the book was probably how Rhonda was well written. You could easily connect and understand her character.

I live in Canada where we learn French so I completely missed out on understanding the Spanish in the book, especially when Rhonda visits Mexico, but there were enough definitions that I understood everything written. Mexico's culture was a huge part of The Earthquake Machine and I loved it. I don't really know much about Mexico and a lot of what I heard wasn't very positive so I enjoyed learning a bit more about Mexican culture. The freedom, the sense of community and revelry they have is incredible.

One issue I had with the book was that it felt really long at some parts and it had to be read carefully  (I was reading it on my Kobo though which I'm not used to doing). The writing was great but the book just takes you in so many directions that it feels like the story is really long. So much happens and I guess I'm not used to all that in one book instead of books written in a series model. I wasn't bored per say, but I wasn't always into the book as much as I could be.

The Earthquake Machine is a surprising read that deals with harsh issues in a clear, unpretentious way. Rhonda's journey is inspiring and thought provoking. There is excellent characterization paired with a great plot that results in a very special read. 3.5 stars, since I thought it was really good,

*** & 1/2 *

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Book Trailer: The Mail Still Runs

A while back I reviewed this shocking, crazy book called Far From the War about a girl caught up in a modern civil war in the US. The sequel, The Mail Still Runs is coming out soon in summer and I thought I'd share it with you all.

Isn't that creepy? I really want to read the book though. What do you think?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cover Reveal: Pretty Amy

Today I have an awesome new cover to reveal to you all! It's for Pretty Amy by Lisa Burnstein, which will be released on May 15th.

Amy is fine living in the shadows of beautiful Lila and uber-cool Cassie, because at least she's somewhat beautiful and uber-cool by association. But when their dates stand them up for prom, and the girls take matters into their own hands, earning them a night in jail outfitted in satin, stilettos, and Spanx. Amy discovers even a prom spent in handcuffs might be better than the humiliating, rehabilitation techniques, now filling up her summer. Worse, with Lila and Cassie parentally banned, Amy feels like she has nothing; like she is nothing.

Navigating unlikely alliances with her new coworker, two very different boys, and possibly even her parents, Amy struggles to decide if it's worth being a best friend when it makes you a public enemy. Bringing readers along on an often hilarious and heartwarming journey, Amy finds that maybe getting a life only happens once you think your life is over.

I LOVE this cover. It's stunning and eye catching. It definitely makes me want to read the book. Then I read the synopsis and realized this is a must read for me. What do you think?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Review: Allegiance

Allegiance (Legacy, #2)

Author: Cayla Kluver
Pages: 490
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Source: Netgalley (Thank you!)
Sequel to: Legacy
Synopsis: An eighteen-year-old queen in love with the enemy as their countries pass the point of no return...

 Bound to a man she cannot love, Queen Alera of Hytanica must forget Narian, the young man who holds her heart. For Narian is destined to conquer Hytanica at the behest of his master, the powerful magic-user known as the Overlord. Alera doesn't truly believe Narian will fight against Hytanica-until Cokyrian troops attack with Narian commanding the charge.

 Faced with the greatest betrayal a heart can know, Alera must set aside personal feelings and lead her kingdom through its darkest time. And when all hope, will and courage seem lost, she must find strength and remember that even the blackest night must have a dawn....

Buy the Book (Amazon/ The Book Depository)

Since getting an ereader for Christmas I've vowed to try e-books and Netgalley. The first book I was approved to read and have read is Allegiance by Cayla Kluver, the sequel to Legacy, which I absolutely adored.

Cayla's series is my guilty pleasure. Once I start a book I can't stop reading it. The magic, the world, the danger... It's all so enticing for me. I'm not a huge fantasy fan but Alera's world is one of my favorites to visit.

At almost 500 pages the book feels very complete. There is a certain story being told and it ends at the end of the book. You can tell however, that the overall storyline is not over. I never found that the story dragged. While every page wasn't filled with main events, I loved reading about every aspect of Hytanica and Alera's bickers with Steldor or her struggles with learning how to be Queen. Little by little the plot picked up until the satisfying end.

I like Cayla's writing style a lot. I felt like it's detailed without being boring and the writing is fun for me to read since it reflects Alera's upbringing. The words aren't always those of casual and everyday use so I found that fun. It's great voice.

The story itself has a bit of everything and it works. There's romance for the romance fans, war for the action fans, mystery for the mystery fans, and etc. There are definite themes I get from the writing (sexism is one of them) and I'm curious to see how Cayla will wrap it up.

Now on to my favorite part of the story: the characters. One of my English teachers once said that to love a book, you must love the characters. This has been true for every series I've ever adored.

This series has some of the most well developed characters I've ever read. Every character has a different side to them and they all felt so real. I need that in a story to get credibility, but this was something else. It feels like Cayla has this brilliant ability to see characters as people and so she writes all the layers of them.

Alera, for example, is our protagonist. She's different from the other girls in Hytanica. She's a bit more independent, a bit more stubborn. But she's NOT a warrior queen. She's not as independent or as resourceful as she could be. She lets people protect her. Though her character desires true equality of genders, she never really does much about it. This would be infuriating except for the fact that it's more real for Alera to desire something like that but not know what it means in a society where men are dominant, than to be some crazy warrior queen. She's taking steps and maturing. She makes rash decisions, but there are also moments where she shows true strength. I'm not sure if I've explained this well but the complexity is one of my favorite things about this book. Every character has it.

All the good stuff being considered, there is one thing I don't like and that is entirely up to my personal preferences. There is a love triangle and I don't think it feels clichéd here since it's needed for the plot. My issue is that I'm supporting the guy that's going to lose. Well, I assume by reading Allegiance he will lose. There's still hope, right? Anyway, that makes me sad because I really like this character, and his growth. He's definitely not perfect but I can see him being a good match for Alera if he got the chance. This isn't really a complaint against the book, it's more something I wish would happen. At the same time it does factor into how much I enjoyed Allegiance. I'm not going to hate the series now or never read the sequel, it's just my one little nitpicky complaint.

All in all, I like this series a lot. Allegiance caters to all my tastes and it's a real page turner. I liked it even better than Legacy and I'm going to be sad to read the end of this series. It's very hard to review Allegiance since there's so much in it, but I'll end off with just encouraging readers to give the series a try. 4.5 stars,

**** & 1/2 *

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