December 31, 2011

2011 - the year of FAB YA reads

2011 has been a great year for YA. Scratch that, it's been absolutely fabulous. As I reflect over the last year, I also like to reflect over the books that kept me company as I finished Grad school, survived a stressful school year, and enjoyed my first full summer with my little man.

My original plan to was make a top 10 list, but as I went through the books that I have read and how many I enjoyed, I decided to go with a top 20 instead. Please note that the books I list will be books I read in 2011, regardless of their original publishing year. These books are not listed in any particular order.

  • Silence (B. Fitzpatrick)
  • Ditched (R. Mellom)
  • Entwined (H. Dixon)
  • Awaken (K. Kacvinsky)
  • A Monster Calls (P. Ness)
  • Shatter Me (T. Mafi)
  • The Other Countess (E. Edwards)
  • Anna and the French Kiss (S. Perkins)
  • The Mockingbirds (D. Whitney)
  • Delirium (L. Oliver)
  • Prom & Prejudice (E. Eulberg)
  • Sean Griswold's Head (L. Leavitt)
  • Divergent (V. Ross)
  • Demonglass (R. Hawkins)
  • Jane (A. Lidner)
  • Shine (L. Myracle)
  • Hourglass (M. McEntire)
  • Beauty Queens (L. Bray)
  • The Near Witch (V. Schwab)
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (R. Riggs)

That's my 2011 list , and I am eagerly awaiting a lot more great YA reads in 2012.

So what do you think? Have you read any of the above? Do you have any suggestions for books I should add to my "mound" of reads?

Happy New Year all...and most importantly, Happy Reading!

December 29, 2011

Follow the path to growing up in Breadcrumbs

This book has created a lot of Internet buzz, so I had to add it to my must-reads during the break. At the conclusion of reading it, I was on the fence with how I felt about it. There were elements I enjoyed and elements I did not. I decided to sleep on it before writing a review to give myself time to process it as a whole piece. In the end, I enjoyed the novel, and I believe young readers will devour the pages.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it - Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else.

And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it's never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack's heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it's up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she's read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn't the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.

My Thoughts:

This modern fairy tale was a delight to read. It is a story about friendship and staying true to one’s self. It is a story with everything a good fairy tale should have: a journey, magic, and a witch. Readers are thrust into a world where losing one’s self is too easy – but only if one is willing to give in to the magic of the woods.

The star of this novel is not the main character, Hazel Anderson, but the journey into the woods. This is an interesting device, one that many young readers will enjoy. The minor characters within the novel enhance Hazel’s journey, providing mystery, intriguing, danger, and delight. Not knowing who to trust, choosing to trust no one, delivers a powerful reminder that sometimes life delivers obstacles where one must find the road to overcoming them on his/her own.

The execution of the plot is clever. Each chapter is a puzzle piece, and it is up to readers to figure out how the pieces fit together to create a whole picture. While this is a gamble, for me as a reader it paid off. There were tidbits that I would read and think, “How does that fit?” By novel’s end, the pieces fit together.

While the Goodreads summary says that this is a story of the “struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind,” I have to disagree. To me the novel is a story about not letting go, fighting for things worth fighting for (in this case, friendship), and looking forward while all you really want to do is move backward. This is the strength with the novel – this is what will keep young readers engaged. Growing up is difficult, especially in today’s world, and wanting to hold on to the past is a natural element of it. But it is also important to understand that moving forward is more important because it is what allows us to survive what we have already lost – in this novel’s instance, innocence. This element is developed in the characters of Hazel and Jack. It is what ties them together.

As I read the novel I kept thinking of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, which this story contains elements of throughout. I was surprised that Hazel did not have a “guide” to help her through the woods, but after allowing the book to settle with me I feel that this was a clever move by the author. She allows Hazel to truly grow up while on this journey to self-discovery. It is a hidden truth of growing up. While there are people in our lives that act as “guides”, ultimately the journey itself must be completed by us.

There were elements of the novel that I did not enjoy. I did have a hard time attaching myself to Hazel’s character. It felt like forever before she finally went into the woods to rescue her best friend, and I truly did not feel invested in the book until page 183. That is a long time for readers to wait – but I could be the exception.

Another element I did not enjoy was the ending. There were so many questions I had by novel’s end that I felt were unanswered – questions that I as a reader needed answers to. This is being a bit nit picky, but had the novel had one final chapter I would have felt satisfied. That one chapter needed to answer three questions for me, questions I will not list on here so I do not spoil the novel for those who have yet to dive into it. I will be curious to see if any of you feel the same.

December 28, 2011

Unnatural Law - a new voice in urban YA

Title and author: Unnatural Law by Natasha Larry
Date: October 26, 2011
Publisher: Penumbra Publishing
Source: Publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Jaycie Lerner’s psychokinetic power surge is over, and her astounding powers are under control for the time being – sort of. As she struggles to maintain her humanity in the face of the awesome terror and responsibility of her abilities, she also yearns for the chance at a normal life – and a relationship with Matt Carter, the best friend she had to leave behind. But Matt’s got a few tricks up his sleeve, and he’s not about to give up on his feelings for Jaycie.

As Jaycie and her family grapple with the day-to-day routine of trying to keep their world together, Jaycie’s mother figure, Allison Young, endures a personal crisis of her own. The superhuman blonde possesses the physical equivalent of Jaycie’s awesome psychic power. So evolved, at ninety-two she still looks twenty. But what good is extended life when everyone else around her is so fragile? With no one to share her unusual life, she’s a uniquely lonely woman yearning for the romantic love she sees all around her. But in a dream she gets her wish – and it quickly turns to a nightmare for everyone else in her life. The memory of a rose is all she can hold onto in the storm of obsession that nearly sweeps her away.

Things quickly turn deadly for the vampires, but the Dey-Vah Guard fairies refuse to acknowledge there’s an imbalance in the nature they protect. As the danger gets ever closer to Jaycie and her family, the race is on to find answers before a secret plot can destroy them all.

My thoughts:

An intriguing idea with a setting in Northern Alabama, which was a nice change, Larry offers readers a superhero set of characters that will leave many feeling satisfied.

Character development was not as strong as I would like to see in a sequel. I feel many of them were stagnant, but if readers enjoyed the first book it will not matter to most of them in the second, as long as Larry provides true development in the third.

The pacing of this novel was spot on. The author thrusts readers right into the story with zero lag time within the pages. While the plot was developed satisfactorily in the novel, as a reader I feel that the story should have been told through the eyes of one of the characters, preferably Jaycie. This is not a series that should be told with a third person voice. As readers we need to feel the characters, and in a novel such as this that first person point of view would have made a huge difference in the story’s delivery and development.

The strength in this novel lies with its multicultural cast, which is refreshing addition to YA literature, and I feel the novel will appeal to readers who enjoy YA urban fantasy.

December 26, 2011

Don't Expect Magic IS Magical

I enjoy magical reads, so when I saw this at B&N I knew I had to have it. It was on my "I have to read this during the winter break" list. I enjoyed this book so much that I read the entire thing on Christmas day.

Summary (from the book jacket):

Delaney Collins doesn't believe in fairy tales. And why should she? Her mom is dead, her best friend is across the country, and she's stuck in California with "Dr. Hank," her famous life-coach father - a man she barely knows. Happily ever after? Yeah, right.
Then Dr. Hank tells her an outrageous secret: he's a fairy godmother - an f.g. - and he can prove it. And by the way? The f.g. gene is hereditary. Meaning there's a good chance that New Jersey tough girl Delaney is someone's fairy godmother.

Even though she's not the pink and sparkly type, Delaney soon finds herself with a client: Flynn Becker, a boy at her new school who's hopelessly in love with a girl who doesn't know he exists. Flynn's wish is Delaney's command. 

With her customized black boots and chopstick wand, Delaney does everything in her power to make Flynn's wish come true. But what happens when a fairy godmother needs a wish of her own?

My Thoughts:

Delaney Collins has just lost her mom, and now she is headed to California to live with her absentee dad, Dr. Hank. He has a unique job as a famous life-coach author - but that's not all. He is also a fairy godmother. Yes, you read that correctly, and his job takes him where his client is - and where his daughter is not. But Delaney does not let that get her down. Staying with her dad is only temporary as she plots to find a way back to her “true” home in New Jersey. Will Delaney settle in her new life and find comfort as the daughter of a fairy godmother, or will she throw it all away with her bad girl ways?

McCullough delivers a solid novel with her debut, but this is a character-driven novel. For this reason I am going to address my favorite three characters first.

Delaney is a tough character to love at first because it is the one thing she seems to not want. This is a character full of pain – not just for the loss of her mom but for the loss of her way of life. Readers will experience her ups and downs, her moments of triumphs and moments of, well…not triumphs. But in the end, readers will root for her as she travels her road to self-discovery.

Dr. Hank brings a nice contrast to his daughter. His job as a life-coach writer adds another element of hilarity as he tries to help his daughter grieve the person she loved the most. Mix in the fact that he is a fairy godmother – not godfather – and the irony is just too much not to enjoy. He wants to be a good father to Delaney; he just does not know how to balance his client and his daughter. Being a godmother is the only thing he knows, but readers will be pleased with him as a character.

And then there is Flynn, an adorable, lovable yearbook geek who Delaney is convinced needs her help. He just wants to be allowed to be himself, but Delaney has other plans for him, plans that involve the most popular, the most beautiful cheerleader in the whole school. What Flynn wants is not what Delaney thinks, but readers will know – readers always know – and readers will be delighted with his character.

The plot of this novel is an intriguing one, and while it did not keep me turning the pages (the characters did) I did enjoy its concept. This is one of those feel-good reads that leaves readers feeling good about the world. But the plot summary above says all I want to say about the plot. I don't want to spoil a single thing for readers.

I love magical books (not metaphorically but literally) and I loved this book. I am wishing for a sequel, and I hope my fairy godmother is paying attention.

December 25, 2011

Snow in Summer: A Modern Snow White

Another B&N find, I picked this up in the children's section. The cover of this book intrigued me first. I love fairy tales, especially modern retellings, so I had high hopes for this one.

Summary (from the book jacket): 

With her black hair, red lips, and lily-white skin, Summer is as beautiful as her father's garden. And her life in the mountains of West Virginia seems like a fairy tale; her parents sing and dance with her, Cousin Nancy dotes on her, and she is about to get a new baby brother. But when the baby dies soon after he's born, taking Summer's mama with him, Summer's fairy-tale life turns grim. Things get even worse when her father marries a woman who brings poisons and magical mirrors into Summer's world. Stepmama puts up a pretty face, but Summer suspects she's up to no good - and is afraid she's powerless to stop her.

Master storyteller Jane Yolen crafts a brand-new Snow White tale filled with magic and intrigue, set during the early twentieth century in Appalachia, that will be hard to forget.

My Thoughts: 

Readers are thrust into Appalachia with Snow in Summer, Summer for short. She is dealing with the loss of her mother, and in a way her father as well. His love for Summer is not as strong as that for his now deceased wife, and Summer is left to her own devices.

While keeping the house going, she is kept company by Cousin Nancy until Stepmama arrives. Papa has quickly fallen under her spell, but there is something about Stepmama that does not seem to ring true. But Summer is young and unwise, so she falls quickly into the grasps of this character.

Summer is a well-defined character, and she makes the book worth reading. Her spirit keeps the reader feeling comforted that all will be well in the end, until Stepmama comes onto the page. The menacing feeling she evokes in the heart of readers make her a solid villain, a villain that we count down to the demise of while rooting for Cousin Nancy and the “return” of Papa.

While the character of Summer is delightful, Stepmama is a pest, Papa is oblivious and Cousin Nancy stays away. If this was not frustrating enough, Yolen does not have a defined voice in the novel. Readers will go back and forth between Summer, Stepmama, and Cousin Nancy, weakening the effect of the storytelling. This novel needed a third person voice, which would have strengthened the overall effect of the plot and its characters.

If you enjoy fairy tales retold, add this to your reading list. While it did not knock my socks off, I still enjoyed it as a whole.

December 24, 2011

WinterTown Warms My Heart

This is one of my B&N finds. The cover drew me in first - there's something about the cover that I found calming. Then I read the book jacket and knew I wanted to add this to my pile of reads.

Summary (from book jacket):

Every winter, straitlaced, Ivy League-bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, his childhood best friend who moved away after her parents' divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she's changed. The former "girl next door" now has choppy black hair, a nose stud, and a scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth exterior, Old Lucy still exists, and he's determined to find her...even if it means pissing her off.

Can opposites attract? Or does growing up mean having to grow apart?

Told from two perspectives, this funny and honest novel by Stephen Emond is a unique combination of text, comic strips, and art. It's an indie movie in a book, perfect for the inner outcast and lovelorn nerd in all of us.

My Thoughts:

"They're just locations, you know," Evan said. "New York and New England or Georgia or wherever, they're all just places. The fighting and not fitting in and all that, that's in your head, it's your history. It's going to be wherever you go." 

Let me begin by saying that I enjoyed the feel of this novel. The use of text, comic strips, and art work really worked for me as a reader.

As characters, Evan and Lucy create an atmosphere full of turmoil, much like their lives. The two provide nice foils for one another while at the same time revealing to the reader what they do not realize yet - they have loved one another a very, very long time. The foundation of that love is birthed from years of friendship, and it is a deep love that goes beyond the surface of most stories. These two have experienced ups and downs, high and lows, and they always end up in the same spot: with one another.    

The art work represented throughout the pages was a nice enhancement.  This story was not just about Evan and Lucy on the page; this story was also about Evan and Lucy as artists. Through their art, they compliment one another, much like the art compliments the novel. It was an interesting strategy for Emond to take - one that pays off. This would not be the same story without the art. 

While this novel is about Evan and Lucy, there is one character who seems to steal the pages - Evan's grandma. She was such a delightful character, and she offers the voice of reason needed in this novel. As a matter of fact, she will illicit feelings of jealousy from those teens who wish their grandmas were as awesome.

With two strong main characters, strong minor characters, and an ending that will leave readers satisfied, WinterTown is going to make a strong showing with readers. 

I recommend this book to all lovers of YA, especially those who enjoy graphic novels. While I would not call this a graphic novel, I do believe it appeals to the same type of reader. This is not a "boy" book or a "girl" book - it is just a good, solid read.

December 18, 2011

Apryl Baker comes to Book 'Em!

Book 'Em welcomes Apryl Baker and is proud to host her and her debut novel, The Promise, on the blog.

If you follow my blog then you know I enjoy a good, solid witch tale. Baker definitely delivers in this novel. So, without further adieu, welcome Apryl Baker!
1. Can you tell us what The Promise is about in a single sentence? 

Armed with kick-ass shoes, can CJ stop a maniacal coven leader, save the town, and still gets Mr. Melt In Your Mouth Gorgeous while surviving the darkness coming for her?

2. Can you tell us a bit more about The Promise and how it came about? 

I call The Promise my Post-It Note idea. I was driving home from work and listening to Theory of a Dead Man’s “Not Meant to Be.” I passed this little community called New Salem and the image of a girl sitting beside a gravestone popped into my head. I couldn’t shake it so when I got home, I jotted it down on a yellow sticky and stuck it on the wall beside my computer. Over the next few days, I kept jotting down ideas and before I knew it I had a complete outline of a book on a wall of yellow, purple, and pink.

It's essentially a story of friendship and the ties that bind us together. Here is a little blurb that will give you an idea of the story: 

Cassie Jayne Bishop grew up the only non-believer in the town Coven. When a stranger comes to the sleepy town of New Salem, NC, everything she thought was true unraveled around her. Ethan made her question everything, even her sister’s death. Clues start to pile up and Cassie is determined to find out if the Coven was the real reason her sister died. What she uncovers terrifies her. Her fate lies in the very heart of the secret the Coven protects. It’s the reason she was born. Now, betrayed on every side, can she find a way to survive or will she be the catalyst that starts it all? 

3. The Promise centers around the world of witchcraft, not Wicca. Can you explain the difference for us, at least as it pertains to your book? 

Wicca is a religion involving deities. In the world of The Coven series, witches practice witchcraft, not Wicca. They use the Elements for their spell crafting and not prayers to gods and goddesses. They also fundamentally believe that true magic is neither white nor black, but a culmination of the two. We get to see both black magic and white magic at work in The Promise. 

4. Was it fun writing the scenes between Cassie and Ethan? 

LOL, yes. I laughed, I cried, and I blushed. I blushed a lot. They were very near and dear to my heart. My favorite scene between them is when they are lying on her front porch kissing and her Dad walks up and finds them. One of the seventeen year olds who did a test read for me told me when she read that, she dropped the book and felt her own face flame What girl wouldn't die of embarrassment to be caught making out by their daddy? 

5. If your book was being made into a movie who would you envision in the leading roles?

  • Cassie: Emma Roberts
  • Ethan: Jake Abel
  • Kay: Phoebe Tonkin
  • Jeff: Matt Lanter 

6. A lot of authors have playlists for their books. Do you have one? If so, would you mind sharing a few of the songs? 

Here are a few of my favorites and many, many ideas were born out of these songs. Music inspires a person as much as anything else and helps you to figure out sticky parts that give you trouble.

  • Theory of a Dead Man: “Not Meant to Be”
  • Dashboard Confessional: “Dusk and Summer”
  • Fall Out Boy: “I Don’t Care”
  • Thriving Ivy: “Angels on the Moon”
  • Buckcherry: “Sorry”
  • Dashboard Confessional: “Stolen”
7. Can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? 

It was slightly You work so hard on your book. Then you polish it up and send it off on its merry little way only to have the dreaded REJECTION letter sent back to you. It was tough getting all those no's, but with each one, I went back to the book and worked on it. I remember the day I got the email offering to publish it. I jumped up and down and I swear the neighbors heard me screaming. It was great. The road here was hard and riddled with rejection, but so worth it in the end if I can make one person laugh or cry when they read my little sticky note idea. 

8. What is your all time favorite book? 

That's so hard. I love so many different ones. I would have to say my favorite is an old classic, Pride and Prejudice. Though, Kim Harrison's The Hollows series comes in a close second. 

9. What advice would you give aspiring authors? 

No matter how hard it is or how often you find yourself wanting to give up, don’t. When you get told no, go back and just keep working on it. Many agents and publishers will give you good advice on what they didn’t like about it. Find the things that are consistent and rework them. Just keep plugging away and eventually you will find a home for your book. There are great books out there and soon yours could be one of them.

Also find yourself a great writing group. The people there will help you to grow and hone your skills to an art truly worthy of the written word. The best advice I was ever given was to check out The folks I met there are the main reason I am published today. They are brutally honest, but they will support you and give you the help and encouragement you need to finish your work and make it the best it can be. I owe them a lot. 

10. Where can readers find you? 

I'm always in need of followers on twitter and my blog. All are welcome to come listen to my ramblings and ask questions.

Follow Baker on Twitter @AprylBaker

You can also find Baker on Facebook and her Blog

Check out the book trailer above

On a final note I will say this - Baker's novel is worthy of your time if you too enjoy a bewitching read. She delivers a solid story with this novel, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I truly enjoyed it. You may read my review here.

The Promise is on sale NOW! 

Book 'Em wishes Baker all the best for a bright writing future.

Thank you to Apryl Baker and to Sara Monroe for providing a copy of the novel as well as questions and answers for the tour.

Bewitchingly Refreshing

Title and author: The Promise by Apryl Baker
Date: September 16, 2011
Publisher: Black Matrix Publishing LLC
ISBN: 9780615535562
Source: Publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Cassie Jayne Bishop grew up in the sleepy town of New Salem, NC, the only non-believer in the tradition and power of the town Coven. When a stranger comes to New Salem, everything she thought was normal about her life unravels around her. Ethan makes her question everything, even her sister's death in a car crash years ago. As Cassie discovers the full truth about her heritage, and the clues start to pile up, she becomes determined to find out if the Coven was actually involved in her sister's death. What she uncovers terrifies her.

Her fate lies at the very heart of the secret the Coven protects. It's the reason she was born. Now, betrayed on every side, can she find a way to survive or will she be the catalyst that triggers a centuries-old act of vengeance.

My thoughts:

First, let me say that I consider myself a connoisseur of witchy reads. I love a good witchy tale, and I love mysteries. Baker delivers both in her debut novel. The Promise is a nice mixture of Witches of Eastwick meets Nancy Drew meets The Craft.

The plot of the novel is nicely developed. At first I was afraid that it would lag in places, but once Baker thrusts the reader into Cassie’s spell, the pages will not stop turning. The reader will take the ride with Cassie as she falls in love, and as she learns the truth behind her sister’s death. Baker balances the romantic element of the plot nicely with the mystery surrounding Cassie, the founding of New Salem, and the curse that threatens to wreck it all.

Character development in the novel is spot on. It is evident that this will be a series heavy on solving witchy mysteries, but at the same time this series will be about family, friendship, self-discovery, and love. While Baker does not fully develop her characters in this novel, it is not a necessity for its purpose. Cassie’s character is the most defined because she is the center of the novel; however, readers are introduced to other characters such as Kay, Jeff, and Ethan. They serve minor, yet important, roles that are not fully defined just yet. This development is going to be a slow build, but readers will not feel cheated. They will be satisfied with just enough development to move the story along.

The marriage of everything witchy in this novel was quite interesting. Instead of sticking with the stereotypical ideals of witches, Baker takes it a step further. These witches are not practitioners of Wicca – they are witches. She defines the difference for readers in the novel, and I found this refreshing. As a matter of fact, this novel reminded me a bit of Shirley Damsgaard’s Ophelia and Abby Mysteries.

I am looking forward to seeing where Baker takes her characters and their involvement with the Coven. I am especially interested in seeing how the citizens of New Salem rebuild their lives and their Coven – especially with something dark on the horizon.

December 11, 2011

The Virus Is Coming!

Title and author: The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
Date: January 24, 2012
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423146162
Source: NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.

And then you're dead.

When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.

Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.

Because how will she go on if there isn't?

Megan Crewe crafts a powerful and gripping exploration of self-preservation, first love, and hope. Poignant and dizzying, this heart-wrenching story of one girl’s bravery and unbeatable spirit will leave readers fervently awaiting the next book in this standout new series. 

My thoughts:

Crewe takes readers on a rollercoaster ride that feels so real that the reader might need to hold on to his/her stomach as it takes a sudden leap into the air and holds for roughly two hundred pages. The strength in this novel comes from the plot – this is not a character-driven novel. It is a virus-driven novel. It will be the virus that keeps readers glued to their seats, flipping page after page waiting to see if they themselves suffer from similar symptoms. (Not that I did this at all while reading.)

Readers are given the story from Kaleyn’s point-of-view, a high school junior whose father could be the key to saving everyone on the island. Through the pages, readers will discover just how much this virus is costing not only the islanders but also Kaleyn herself. Sacrifices must be made – but who will be willing to make them?

Crewe weaves a tale of how quickly a society can breakdown in times of distress, especially in the case of illness. She brings out the best in characters as well as the worst. The worst will leave an impression on the readers long after the pages are through, making readers question, “What would happen in our own society and how could we survive such a tragedy?”

Crewe spends those first hundred pages preparing readers for what is to come. This is not a story that can be hastily started – it needs to build, just as the virus builds and destroys the island. In this, the author is masterful. In this, the author might be in danger of losing her target audience. 

In my twelve years in the classroom with high school juniors, one thing is certain about their reading: grab them fast or you will lose them. Since the author needs to build the suspense in readers, I feel that this is more of an adult read than a teen read.

I am not saying teens will not enjoy this novel – I think they will absolutely love it - but because the plot needs time to build, teens might be hesitant to wait. But then again, I could be wrong. These teens might devour every single page without blinking a single time.

Either way, I enjoyed Crewe's novel and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA dystopia. 

In My Mailbox (17)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  This is a great way for bloggers to network and share what books they are reviewing, borrowing, and/or buying.

The next two weeks is going to find me with a small mailbox because the number one gift I receive for Christmas is either books or gift cards to B&N; therefore, I try not to buy as many books so the hubby will have something to put under the tree for me.

This week's mailbox includes two reads I'm excited to dive into during the holiday break - only 9 more days of school, but who's counting.

Purchased from B&N:

WinterTown by Stephen Emond: This has been in a lot of mailboxes recently, and I've read a lot of positive reviews.

Legend by Marie Lu: I love a great dystopian tale, and from reviews, this seems like it will NOT disappoint!

That's what is my in mailbox for this week - what's in yours? Have you read either of these two, or do you have suggestions for other reads?

Happy Reading! 

December 4, 2011

Have YOU seen my love of reading?

I have been a part of the blogging world for a little over a year now, and I have to say that I love it. Here's why:
  • I share what I'm reading/hearing/reviewing with a wider audience
  • I see what others are reading/hearing/reviewing
  • I discover new reads that I might otherwise have overlooked
  • I find ideas to share with my students 
Recently I have found my blog taking on a voice of silence because I've just not had time to read or just not felt like reading. This is a problem for me because I usually spend any downtime I have reading. So I decided to reflect on what I think has happened.

Recently I have been contacted by authors and publishers to review books. What a great opportunity, right? I do want to be a librarian, which means I need to learn to work with authors and publishers, so I look over books and their requests and decide whether or not I will take on that responsibility. 

Here's the thing - when I purchase a book to read and write a review, I am doing it because I want to share with others what I thought about that book (and why they should read it too, even if I didn't particularly enjoy it). When I am asked by an author/publisher to read and review a book, I feel immense pressure. I don't know why - I can't explain it. I don't feel pressure to give a positive review, that's not what I do. I read and then share my thoughts/feelings on a novel. 

I guess the difference is when I buy a book or ask NetGalley to allow me to "borrow" a book, I know I can take the time to savor every single page. I know that I am reading that book for myself and for my students. I always try to tie whatever we are studying into contemporary YA.

It has gotten to the point where I find myself procrastinating when it comes to reading, and I do not like it. For this reason, I am thinking of suspending all review requests so that I can reinvigorate my inner-reader. 

This all could be because I am still a relative "newbie" at blogging as well as receiving requests. I want to be able to balance it so that I read what I love while still keeping a positive relationship with authors and publishers.

So fellow bloggers, my question to you is this: does this happen to you? Do you feel an over-whelming since of responsibility when you agree to review someone's book, and how do you deal with it?

I am mostly looking for advice - some of which I know will be, "Of course that makes sense, why didn't I think of that?" But it's always easier when you're on the outside looking in. And to be honest, there is no guidebook on how to be an effective blogger. 

Happy reading to all!

In My Mailbox (16)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  This is a great way for bloggers to network and share what books they are reviewing, borrowing, and/or buying.

It's been a while since I've done an IMM post, but I have been busy doing everything but reading and book shopping. I know, I know...what else is there? But I've had to step away to take care of business, but I am back and ready to share with you a few of my recent finds.

Purchased from B&N and Amazon: 

I am quite excited about the following novels. I've read great things about them, and I'm looking forward to tackling them during my Christmas break. 

Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact by A.J. Hartley
Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen
Don't Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough  
Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan

ARC Swap with Sarah at YA Love Blog: 

I love the idea of swapping books with fellow bloggers. This was my first time, and I will definitely work with Sarah again.

Glow  by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Received for Review:

I've decided to step out of my comfort zone a bit and review books I would not usually read. One of the authors, Larry, is from the same city I live, so I thought I would give a local author a chance. Stay tuned to see how it turns out...

The New Phenomenon by Chris Raabe
Darwin's Children (1 and 2) by Natasha Larry

That's what is in my mailbox, what's in yours? Have you read any of the above novels or have suggestions for me?

Happy Reading!

November 24, 2011

Okay readers - it's the final round in the Goodreads Choice Awards. Go and cast your vote! 

The list of categories include:
  • Favorite book of 2011
  • Fiction
  • Mystery & Thriller
  • Historical Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Paranormal Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Horror
  • Romance
  • Humor
  • Nonfiction
  • History & Biography
  • Memoir & Autobiography
  • Food & Cooking
  • Travel & Outdoors
  • YA Fiction
  • YA Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • Middle Grades & Children's
  • Picture Books
  • Graphic Novels & Comics
  • Poetry
  •  Goodreads Author
See, there is a category for everything you read! So go and let your voice be heard. 

November 23, 2011

There's more than Silence between Patch & Nora

I am a huge fan of Becca Fitzpatrick and her characters Patch and Nora. When I started the YA teacher book club at my school, Hush, Hush was the first book I wanted to introduce to my colleagues. I anxiously await each of her novels. There is something about her writing style that really speaks to me as a reader.

I'm even on a mission to make sure Fitzpatrick visits the Decatur Book Festival next year because I am dying to hear her speak and have her sign my book. Check out the picture to the left. I'm planning to do a post on this, so keep your eyes open for more.

In the mean time, let's discuss her latest novel, Silence. 

Summary (from the book jacket):

Nora Grey can't remember the past five months of her life. After the initial shock of waking up in a cemetery and being told that she has been missing for weeks--with no one knowing where she was or who she was with--she tries to get her life back on track. Go to school, hang out with her best friend, Vee, and dodge her mom's creepy new boyfriend. 

But there is this voice in the back of her head, an idea that she can almost reach out and touch. Visions of angel wings and unearthly creatures that have nothing to do with the life she knows. 

And this unshakable feeling that a part of her is missing. 

Then Nora crosses paths with a sexy stranger, whom she feels a mesmerizing connection to. He seems to hold all the answers...and her heart. Every minute she spends with him grows more and more intense until she realizes she could be falling in love. Again.

My thoughts:

In the latest installment,  Nora must come to grips with her past, present, and future with only the help of those around her. She cannot remember the last five months of her life, which means she is missing a big piece of herself...Patch. But destiny is what it is, and the two will not be kept apart for long. Fitzpatrick masterfully intersects these two in the only way that would satisfy fans of the series - Patch saving Nora.

From the moment Nora awakens in a graveyard until the novel's conclusion, I was engrossed. The writing in this novel provides an intriguing, well-paced plot that left me feeling satisfied. Readers will be pleasantly surprised with where we are taken in this novel. While I predicted where she would take me, I was still satisfied with the "reveal." 

There is war on the horizon between Nephilim and the fallen angels, and the leader of The Black Hand needs Nora. There are two questions that will be answered in this installment: who is The Black Hand, and why does he need Nora?

As a reader, the toughest part of this novel was  experiencing the lies and misinformation Nora's mom and best friend give her; while they are trying to protect her, they seem to not realize that the one they are keeping her from, Patch, might be the only one who can save her from The Black Hand, and from herself.

The chemistry between Patch and Nora is still there, and this is a result of Fitzpatrick's gift of storytelling. Even though these two are not "together" in this novel, when the two of them are on the page together, there is heat. Yes, you read that correctly - heat. And that heat cannot be ignored by either one of them, as much as they want to.  

If you are a lover of paranormal romance and you have not yet experienced Becca Fitzpatrick's series, you must make sure to add it to your mound of reads. It is worth every single page.

Patch and Nora FOREVER!

November 12, 2011


Hello fellow readers! My last post was right before Halloween, so you might be wondering where I've been (or not).

See that arm...that COULD be mine!
Well, I have been drowning. That's right - drowning in papers. And not even in books but in papers of my students. I've also been working on my teacher of the year paperwork, which is due this Tuesday and still is not done yet.

Oh yes, instead of getting a parade as TOY, I get to write several essays about why I am awesome, why my teaching is awesome, why others should think I am awesome. I think I prefer the parade, but alas 'tis not meant to be. How ever did I survive teaching AND Grad school? 

I have been reading Silence by Beccca Fitzpatrick, but by the time I finish working on paperwork and scoring essays, my brain is so exhausted that I reward myself with just a single chapter (it's all I can take at this point). So, I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving break next week when I can at least enjoy a few of the great books I've put my hands on recently.

So in the midst of keeping up with my grading and essay writing, I've also been plotting. I am on a mission to bring Becca Fitzpatrick to the Decatur Book Festival next year. And if she cannot make DBF, maybe the Southern Book Festival. Either way, I'm on a mission to hear her speak next year! 

What have all of you been reading? What steals your time away from books? I would love to hear from all of you.

Happy reading!

Cathy effectively demonstrates what my living room currently looks like...and the beads of sweat? 
Yep, that's me!

October 30, 2011

A few of my favorite witchy reads...

It is almost Halloween - the night where ghosts, goblins, and witches come out to celebrate their night. I thought I would share a few of my favorite witchy teen reads, after all, there is nothing I enjoy reading more than witchy tales. 

I have grouped my reads by category of why I recommend that you add them to your reading mound. Enjoy!

Before Harry Potter, there was...
Beatrice Bailey and The Chrestomanci series are both worth your time.

Looking for a fun witchy read?
These three series are so much fun. They would make great TV. If you've never seen The Worst Witch, Netflix it today!

If you enjoy historical fiction...
All four of these capture the historical frenzy around accusations of witchcraft

Of course, the Mecca of witchy reads...
What would a witch reading list be without the master of witchy storytelling?

 Original Witchy Reads...
These three tales are quite original in the way they bring witches to the page. Worth every moment!

 Favorite Odds and Ends of Witchy Tales...
These are great reads, but they don't fit into one category...except maybe AWESOMENESS!

Are there any above that you read and loved? Are there any suggestions you have for me to add to my collection?