Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to the Books Giveaway Hop! (US only)

Welcome to the Back to the Books Giveaway Hop
hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Buried in Books!

For this hop, the winner can choose ONE (1) of these 10 books:

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (ARC - read my review here!)
Speechless by Hannah Harrington (ARC - review coming soon, but trust me it's fantastic!)
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (ARC - read my review here!)
Lost Girls by Ann Kelley (ARC)
Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer (ARC - read my review here!)
Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (ARC)
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (ARC - read my review here!)
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (finished paperback)
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore* (hardcover - movie version cover)
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier (finished copy - read my review here!)

*Please note that the hardcover of I Am Number Four has slight sticker residue on the top right corner, because apparently Target does not realize you shouldn't put a sticker on paper. But I swear it's not noticeable or too bad!

Swear none of the post-its or papers will be in the copies when they get to you :)
US only, ends September 7!
Enter through the rafflecopter below, and all my usual giveaway policy rules apply.
Make sure to check out the rest of the linky list, there are some great prizes!
Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

PS. Lots of great giveaways going on here - check the right sidebar! Want to win a signed Throne of Glass or ARC of The Diviners or Legend in my Follower Appreciation contest? Or Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

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

I love this week's topic, because I had a draft post called How I'm A Bad Reader - so I decided to shove those into this post!

Top Ten Bookish Confessions
Don't hate me. I'm aware these are horrible.

1. If I really love a book, I stop reading it when I get near the end or to a particularly tense, eventful moment. I love it so much, I don't want it to end or to go through that emotional turmoil. I know, ridiculous - if I love it, I should want to devour it! But I just stop. For days. Which is why For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund took me a week to read (I couldn't. I just couldn't.), and why I have literally been reading Throne of Glass for a month. I don't want it to end! I can't!

2. I rarely read chapter breaks/titles. I don't know why, but I tend to not see them. I've tried to break the habit because they're such fabulous elements to a story, but it's difficult. From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer + Valerie Wilson was one book where I definitely tried hard, because fun movie quotes precede every chapter!

3. Following an author on Twitter has made me not want to read his/her book. No, I will not name the name(s). Conversely, however, following authors has also made me push their books higher on my TBR List. Most recently, Dan Krokos' False Memory. I've heard great things so I wanted to read it anyway, but after this tweet...I'm kind of in love with him, and now must read this book as fast as possible. (Number two on the wait list at my library!)

4. I purposely leave John Green's The Fault in Our Stars out of favourite/best of lists. That book is an emotion, it is an experience, and I don't believe I could ever rate it.

5. I tend not to read series until they're done, because I'm horrifically impatient. A few series I have not started: Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, Graceling by Kristen Cashore. I didn't read The Hunger Games until Mockingjay was released, and I am so glad I did that - no way could I have waited! And I didn't know The Mortal Instruments was still going when I picked it up all those years ago, else you can bet your buttons I wouldn't have started it yet!

6. I leave books in humid places. Hello wrinkly pages! I also put books in my purse. I know it risks damaging the corners or spine, but it's just too convenient!

7. I have a major pet peeve regarding bookish tweets: when people are pimping their review with a quote from their writing, and it goes something like "A stellar cast of characters and an even better plotline...i highly recommend!" If you're saying the book is so amazing and stellar already, isn't it implied you recommend it?! It feels like a waste of characters, and when there's only's precious space. I'm aware I'm being irrationally harsh.

8. I still haven't read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I KNOW.

9. I've only read 2 ARCs from ALA. (Three as soon as I finally finish Throne of Glass.) I know! I'm terrible! But I have leant out 17 of them to fellow readers/bloggers, so there's that.

10. I leave post-its on my favourite passages in library books. While not necessarily a bad thing, I always feel like I'm kind of spoiling it for the next reader by pointing out great quotes - but I can't help it! I write little notes on the post-it too, usually something that goes along with the words or something encouraging. Should I stop that? Would you hate that if you were a reader?

Ah, I feel a weight taken off my shoulders!
What are your bookish confessions?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

PS. Have you entered my awesome giveaways yet?
> Follower Appreciation: THE DIVINERS, LEGEND, or THRONE OF GLASS for the US followers, and any book from the TBD for Internationals!
> Finished paperback of Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins, open WORLDWIDE!
> House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier - US/Can only.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

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

Shades of Earth (Across the Universe #3) by Beth Revis
RazorBill, 400 Pages
Expected US Release Date: January 15, 2013

Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceshipGodspeed behind. They're ready to start life afresh--to build a home--on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience. But this new Earth isn't the paradise that Amy had been hoping for. Amy and Elder must race to uncover who--or what--else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. But as each new discovery brings more danger, Amy and Elder will have to look inward to the very fabric of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed--friends, family, life on Earth--will have been meaningless.
---------------------Goodreads summary

If you're unfamiliar with this here blog, there's really only one thing you need to know: I LOVE ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. It is seriously one of my absolute favourite YA novels, EVER. It is the very reason I started this book blog (as detailed in this post), and I will chat up Amy and Elder to anyone within hearing distance. Also, Harley <3.

Now, I loved A Million Suns too (read my review here!), but I pretty much view it as set up for book three. And I NEED IT NOW. I have to know what's on Centuri-Earth! Or who! Do they un-cryo (that's the technical term, of course) Amy's parents? Who survives? It worries me that I see Beth Revis repeatedly refer to it as a 'blood bath' and I have to frexing know why!

What book are you eagerly awaiting?
Leave your link in the comments!

PS. Have you entered my Follower Appreciation Giveaway yet? FIVE winners, one of which is international!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

400 Follower Appreciation Giveaway!

Back in June, I swore up and down I'd do a 6-month anniversary giveaway...and then I didn't. A few weeks ago, I said if I hit more than 400 GFC followers, I'd do an awesome giveaway...and then I didn't. And two weeks ago, I took a picture of two Breathless Reads bookmarks I found and tweeted they'd go up in a swag giveaway the following week...and then it never did.

I've got a lot to make up to you guys, don't I?
Follower Appreciation Giveaway!

This is going to get a bit complex, but trust me - it's worth it.
There will be FIVE (5) winners - FOUR (4) in the US, and ONE (1) International (as long as The Book Depository ships to you)!

While I'd love to ship international, it's just too expensive (sorry!) - so INTERNATIONAL followers, enter to win ONE (1) released book* of your choice ($15 USD max) from The Book Depository! As long as it ships to you (check here!), you can enter!

Please read my giveaway policy before entering. Age 13 and older only.
Following IS required. (It's a follower appreciation, after all!)
Ends September 13

***US ENTRANTS scroll down for your giveaway!
This rafflecopter is for INTERNATIONAL only!***
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The above giveaway is for INTERNATIONAL ONLY. You will be required to put in the country you reside in - your entry will be disqualified if you are from the US. And if I find out you are from the US and still insist on entering, I will delete ALL your entries from this AND the US prize. Sorry, but cheating isn't welcome here.

*I've had problems with pre-ordering before, so I am limiting it to released books - sorry! But I know there are TONS of fabulous books being released in September, so you are allowed to ask for a September 2012 release and I'll just wait until it releases to order for you. Hope that makes up for this a little bit!

I bet all you US followers are wondering what you could win. Behold!

ONE (1) Grand Prize Winner
Choice between an ARC of THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray, a SIGNED special Comic-con cover edition of LEGEND by Marie Lu, OR a SIGNED finished hardcover of THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J. Maas.

ONE (1) Second Place Winner: their choice between the above books, minus whatever Grand Prize Winner chooses. (I feel like this is obvious, but basically...say Prize Winner #1 chooses The Diviners. Second Place Winner will then get to choose between Legend or Throne of Glass. Make sense? Hope so!)

TWO (2) Third Place Winners: super awesome epic swag packs! Whoever's name is drawn third will get to choose which pack they want, and the fourth name drawn will get the remaining pack. Both are awesome, so don't fret! (Pictures and details are below the rafflecopter!)

Enter through the Rafflecopter below.
PLEASE read my giveaway policy before entering! Must be 13 years or older.
This book + swag giveaway is for US ONLY!
Following IS required. If you are super set on NOT following my blog, check the sidebar to the right - I've got lots of non-following giveaways going on!
Both end September 13! You've got a month!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Questions? Ask me! Want to tell me I'm awesome for doing this? Go right ahead! But really, my followers are the awesome ones, so give all of them the pats on the back. <3

What's in the swag packs?...
The swag varies slightly (usually because I forgot to pick up two of something--oops!), but here are the pictures of each one and what's in them:
Swag Pack #1
(click pic to enlarge)
DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) by Laini Taylor Chapter Sampler
Breathless Reads Bookmark
RIFT by Andrea Cremer bookmark
STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth bookmark
MONUMENT 14 by Emmy Laybourne bookmark
OF POSEIDON by Anna Banks bookmark
SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo bookmark
SUCH A RUSH by Jennifer Echols bookmark
TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini bookmark (signed!)
THE STORM MAKERS by Jennifer E. Smith bookmark
UNBREAK MY HEART by Melissa C. Walker bookmark
STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth small bookmark
IN HONOR by Jessi Kirby bookmark
STARTERS by Lissa Price bookmark
LET THE SKY FALL by Shannon Messenger bookmark (signed!)
LEGEND by Marie Lu mini card
TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini mini bookmark (2)
ZOMBIE by JR Angelella keychain
CREWEL by Gennifer Albin bracelet
TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini bracelet
KISS THE MORNING STAR by Elissa J. Hoole tattoo (2)
UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand tattoo (1)
THE HUNGER GAMES tattoos (5)
CINDER by Marissa Meyer sticker
CITIES OF LEGEND (game based off Legend by Marie Lu) postcard
CIRCLE OF SILENCE by Carol Tanzman postcard

Swag Pack #2
(click to enlarge)
RIFT by Andrea Cremer bookmark
STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth bookmark
MONUMENT 14 by Emmy Laybourne bookmark
OF POSEIDON by Anna Banks bookmark
SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo bookmark
SUCH A RUSH by Jennifer Echols bookmark
TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini bookmark (signed!)
UNBREAK MY HEART by Melissa C. Walker bookmark
CINDER by Marissa Meyer bookmark
STARTERS by Lissa Price bookmark
LET THE SKY FALL by Shannon Messenger bookmark (signed!)
TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini mini bookmark (2)
CREWEL by Gennifer Albin bracelet
KISS THE MORNING STAR by Elissa J. Hoole tattoo (2)
UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand tattoo (1)
THE HUNGER GAMES tattoos (5)
CINDER by Marissa Meyer sticker
CITIES OF LEGEND (game based off Legend by Marie Lu) postcard
THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray chapter sampler
52 REASONS TO HATE MY FATHER by Jessica Brody chapter sampler (signed!)
SUMMER LOVIN' tour headphones (picked up here!)
KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES by Shannon Messenger bookmark (signed!)
BORN WICKED/STAR CURSED by Jessica Spotswood postcard
THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater postcard
KISS THE MORNING STAR Elissa J. Hoole bookplate
STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth tattoo

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Lovestruck Summer by Melissa C. Walker

Lovestruck Summer by Melissa C. Walker
HarperTeen, 272 Pages
US Release Date: May 5, 2009
Source: Borrowed from Heather @ The Flyleaf Review - thank you SO much, Heather!
(Read her review here!)

A fun, flirty teen romance that makes for the perfect beach read, this sweet summer love story is set in the live-music capital of the world, Austin, Texas.
------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
Who cares about Penny's ringtone? If she likes the music, she likes the music. You don't own it. You can't tell people what to like - you can't control who likes the bands you like.
I think this is the PERFECT summer novel, you guys. Music, boys, a main character filled with a quirky fun personality, awesome secondary characters, and a cross-dressing dog. If that's not the best beach read recipe, I don't know what is! It's also part of this newly-established New Adult genre of YA lit: that awkward time between high school and whatever comes next. I know I would have appreciated New Adult lit when I was going through that time!

If you'd like more of a summary, allow me: Quinn (née Priscilla) just graduated high school and is looking to spend her summer more than just working at the mall with her best friend. So when she calls the record label of her favourite band on a whim to inquire about a summer internship, it turns into a wild summer spent living in Austin with her cousin, Party Penny, and interning at the label. An indie music extremist, Quinn spends the summer dodging her cousin's sorority girl lifestyle, hanging out with the annoying ever-present cowboy and ok-i'll-grudgingly-admit-kinda-sorta-super-hot next door neighbor Russ, and listening to the tunes Sebastian the DJ spins at Dirty's every Friday night -- and maybe hooking up with him every now and again, too. He's the boy she always wanted and always thought she'd be with...if only Russ would stop knocking on her door.

If I were forced at gunpoint (dramatic, I know) to say something negative about this book, I'd probably grasp about and finally say it's predictable - because it is. You pretty much know from 20 pages in how things will work out. But really, it didn't even bother me! Sometimes that makes a great book, you know? It goes exactly as planned, and I loved it. And I liked the end; it was quick, but definitely one of those situations where the two are SO close to being together, and for a few tense pages everything gets ripped away.

Quinn is the quirky, unique main character who thinks she's got herself figured out - but of course, things are always much more difficult than they appear. She's a barrel of sarcasm and laughs, and I loved being with her through her summer. Russ is the perfect friend and boy next door - I kind of felt like I was in the story, because he is definitely not my type and I found myself falling hard! I'd get a few pages in, realize how in love I was with him, and then be like "Nah, can't be - I don't do this cowboy thing." But then five pages later, I'd be swooning hard. It's a tough life! And even though I never liked Sebastian the DJ (ugh), he's a great little character too. Not someone you immediately dislike (I thought he was kind of sweet in the beginning!), but a good balance to friendly boyish Russ.

I know I'm gushing about this being a fluffy romance book, but don't be fooled: there are some great lessons buried in the pages, too. As much as this is a book about finding love, it's also about finding yourself and figuring out who are you - as a person and how you are seen. There's a great focus on people being much more than they appear and second chances, on looking deeper and farther than what we've considered. Not just in characters and people, but also within our choices and judgments.

And there's no way I could review this book and not mention the music! It's not like a lot of other YA books that give you real playlists of popular current songs - there are a few songs specifically named, but a lot of it is kept ambiguous too. I absolutely LOVED how Lovestruck Summer handled music. Never once did I feel stupid or judged for what I do listen to, and I was properly chastised right along with Quinn for being closed off to certain genres. It's a fun focal point to the novel and allows a fabulous amount of versatility with the plot and content.

The problem is, I want a boy to make me a mix CD now. Someone point him my way!

4.5 Stars / 5

Monday, August 13, 2012

Top Ten Book Romances That Would Make It In the Real World

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Book Romances
That Would Make It In the Real World

Before we begin, the topic is in honor of Jamie (contributor to The Broke and the Bookish and of the Perpetual Page Turner - two blogs you NEED to be following if not already!) and her upcoming wedding, so of course a big, big CONGRATULATIONS! to her.

I suck at this topic. Characters are already so real to me that I genuinely believe they exist in real life and end, begin, or continue as they are at the end of the book. So, because I'm lame and couldn't think of ten, I've also included a few couples who I'm fairly certain would not last! (Hope that's not too depressing...)

They'll Make It, No Matter What
1. Brittany + Alex Fuentes
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

2. Puck Connelly + Sean Kendrick
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

3. Lyra Belacqua + Will Parry
The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman

4. Augustus + Hazel
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

5. Lola + Cricket
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

6. Travis + Harper
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

7. Rusty + Honor
In Honor by Jessi Kirby
**SPOILER** Well...if they do end up together, anyway, I think it would work.

Sorry, But I Think It's Over

1. June + Day
Legend by Marie Lu
You have no idea how much it saddens me to put them on this side of the list - and I sincerely hope and pray to Marie Lu that I'm wrong - but their circumstances, their upbringing, everything they face? I just don't know.

2. America + Prince Maxon
The Selection by Kiera Cass
This might have to do with the fact I just don't like America, but sorry - she'll screw it up somehow.

3. Tessa + Will
The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
I seriously believe they have too much passion, tension and emotion with each other to get past it. Maybe they'll end up together in the books, but I don't think it would last in the real world. More Will for meeeeee!

4. Tessa + Jem
The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
Basically I just think Tessa will be alone hahah. (Truthfully? I think she might die.)

Which couples do you think would make it?
Tell me in the comments or leave your link!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Interview + GIVEAWAY: TEMPTATION by Karen Ann Hopkins

When I first heard about the book Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins, I knew it would be one I'd have to read. I'm fascinated by other cultures, especially ones that are completely unlike my own yet so close - something I think the Amish fall under pretty well! And then when you find out it's a romance, and pubbed by HarlequinTeen (if anyone knows a good romance, it's them)...I mean, that just has to be good. Today I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview Karen and discuss what the Amish culture is like and her experience writing Temptation. Check out the awesome photos she sent, too!
First, can you explain how you came to know the Amish culture?
In 2008 I moved from Tennessee to a farm situated in the middle of an Amish community in northern Kentucky. Immediately upon my arrival, the local Amish teens began coming to the farm to ride in the arena and participate with equine related activities. I got to know many of the Amish young people through the horse business, but I also drove Amish families as a part-time job. Amish girls babysit my younger children and my own teens have struck up close friendships with the neighborhood kids.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the Amish culture?
That their lives are cozy and quaint compared to their non-Amish neighbors. The Amish have many of the same problems that everyone else has. Marital difficulties, financial stress, issues with disobedient children and disagreements with other families in the community are common among the Amish. But adding to those common problems is a lot of hard work to do basic chores, such as laundry, dish cleaning and mowing the yard. The Amish also face the daily dilemma of having to pay a person to drive them to town or deal with the aggravation of catching and harnessing a horse to do the same task. There is a real possibility of accident and serious injury every time they take to the roadway with their buggies.

What stereotype about the Amish culture is true?
They are very religious.

Amish, Karen Ann Hopkins
Was the inspiration for your novel from a real life story you knew or witnessed?
I was inspired to write TEMPTATION from observing the interactions between the Amish and non-Amish teens at my farm. Although, Rose and Noah’s story is fictional, I’ve witnessed several Amish youth leave their community to be with outsiders. In all cases, they were shunned by their families.

What surprised you most about the Amish culture?
I’m constantly surprised at how technology-savvy some of the Amish teens are. They carefully sneak behind their parents and the elder’s backs to use cell phones, video games and computers. Whenever one of the local Amish teens pops up on my FB page requesting friendship, I chuckle, but unfortunately, it’s not a laughing matter at all. These kids will eventually get caught and face punishment for using the same items that every non-Amish teen takes for granted.

Was anyone hesitant when they heard you were writing a novel involving the Amish culture?
My entire community was uncomfortable with the idea, especially since the subject is about their biggest fear—a forbidden romance between one of their own and an outsider. Overall, they have looked the other way and treated me and my children well nonetheless. I was especially pleased when one of the Amish girls who left the community a year earlier to be with her non-Amish boyfriend contacted me to say she loved the book. She told me that she cried while turning the pages, admitting that her own situation was similar to Noah’s. She married her sweetheart a month ago, and her family didn’t attend the wedding. I believe Rose and Noah’s story needed to be told as their situation happens in real life and is an unknown struggle to most people.

Amish, Karen Ann Hopkins What other books or music inspired you while writing Temptation? (If any.)
I primarily read fantasy and paranormal myself, but I find the Amish lifestyle has its own surreal quality that makes it extra interesting and fun to write about. I was careful not to read any other Amish stories throughout the process of creating TEMPTATION. I wanted my book to be completely drawn from my experiential knowledge of the community that surrounds me.
The Amish aren’t allowed to listen to music, but one Amish boy in particular would sing the lyrics to Second Chance by Shinedown when he came to hang out with my sons. He related his own life to the song, and whenever I hear it, I think about Amish teens.

While writing, were you ever worried about a reaction to how you portrayed the Amish culture?
Yes, as stated above, I knew the Amish would be concerned to have their secretive world put into the pages of a book. I was careful to set Meadowview in Ohio and not Kentucky where I live and I tried not to use the names of my closest neighbors. Several former Amish have praised the book as accurate and fitting, making me feel confident that I portrayed the Amish fairly and honestly.

Have you experienced any backlash because of your novel/content?
Nope. I’m lucky to have wonderful neighbors. I know some of the Amish teens and their mothers have purchased copies of TEMPTATION in secret, but most won’t read the book. Overall, my relationships in the community haven’t changed much.

I know this is the first in a series - are the following two books continuations of Rose and Noah's story, or more companion novels to them?
They are continuations of Rose and Noah’s story. BELONGING, the second book in the series, will be available in May, 2013. (Ashley's note: It's on Goodreads already! Add it!)

What advice would you give writers who may be considering tackling a culture completely unlike their own?
They must live it to write about it. I actually went to my neighbor’s house to help with laundry for a day so that I’d get the real idea of what it’s like to hand wash with an old-fashioned ringer. I took an Amish family on vacation with my family to the Smoky Mountains and my younger children are babysat by the Amish on a regular basis. I’ve attended five Amish weddings and numerous church events. For the first two years that I lived in Kentucky, I spent more time with the Amish than anyone else. Through all these experiences I developed the knowledge to write accurately about not just the obvious differences between the cultures, but also all the little nuances that most people don’t know about.

Did anything surprise you about the Amish culture?
Tell me!
**My review of Temptation will be up near the end of the month!

Karen has also generously donated a copy to give away!
Open WORLDWIDE! (how awesome is that?!)
Enter through the rafflecopter below, and all my usual giveaway policy rules apply.
Ends 9/3, good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

A native of New York State, Karen Ann Hopkins now lives with her family on a farm in northern Kentucky, where her neighbors in all directions are members of a strict Amish community. Her unique perspective became the inspiration for the story of star-crossed lovers Rose and Noah. When she’s not homeschooling her kids, giving riding lessons or tending to a menagerie of horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats, she is dreaming up her next romantic novel.
Goodreads | Facebook
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Indie Bound
(bio & photo taken from Goodreads)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (9)

Really quick giveaway updates:
* The winner of my Summer Giveaway Hop was Jaime! She chose Gilt by Katherine Longshore.
* Still time to enter these giveaways: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (ends 8/15) and House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier (ends 8/29)! Both are US/CAN only.

And come back during the week, because two AWESOME giveaways will be going live:
*Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins (WORLDWIDE! How generous is she being?!)
*And my 400 follower appreciation giveaway! And let me tell you, the things I'm giving away are so damn good that I'm jealous of the winners! (And what's that, you see there are multiple winners?! Maaaaybe...) Here's the teaser:

Stacking the Shelves
Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews
I didn't plan to do one this week but my mailbox was pretty much filled with Epic WIN and I had to share!

ARCycled choice
Between You & Me by Marisa Calin (thanks Jenn!)
(have you heard of ARCycling? If not, go now and read up! It's an awesome program, and I think you should take part. Once I get through my ALA books, I'm certain a heavy chunk will go by way of ARCycling.)

Gifted For Review
Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins (thanks Karen!)

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard (from Kat Brauer - thank you SO SO much!)

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, for today's signing.
It's not for me, it's actually for the givea--NOW WAIT A SECOND, that's supposed to be a surprise ;) I already gave one hint above for the giveaway, now I'm just practically giving it all away! (trust me, there's still some great stuff I'm hiding...)


What's on your shelves?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

[Blog Tour] Review + GIVEAWAY: House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier
Orbit Books, 342 Pages
US Release Date: July 10, 2012
Format: finished paperback
Source: Publisher, via TLC Book Tours (thank you!)

Orphaned, two sisters are left to find their own fortunes. 

Sweet and proper, Karah's future seems secure at a glamorous Flower House. She could be pampered for the rest of her life... if she agrees to play their game.

Nemienne, neither sweet nor proper, has fewer choices. Left with no alternative, she accepts a mysterious mage's offer of an apprenticeship. Agreeing means a home and survival, but can Nemienne trust the mage?

With the arrival of a foreign bard into the quiet city, dangerous secrets are unearthed, and both sisters find themselves at the center of a plot that threatens not only to upset their newly found lives, but also to destroy their kingdom.
--------------------Goodreads Summary

Notable Quote
They were fond of subtle compliments in Lonne, as well as subtle threats.
One of the reasons I became a book blogger was so I could get pushed outside my usual genres and comfort zone of reading. When House of Shadows was offered to me, I went with it – I don’t know much (or anything…) about fantasy/supernatural books regarding bardic sorcery or magecraft, and this one seemed interesting and a good place to start. While I’m not so sure it’s my cup of tea, I’m glad I read this!

I think that if you do particularly like books involving sorcery and magic, this would be a great book for you. It’s interesting and compelling, and I really liked the descriptions. I felt like I was right there, standing next to Taudde and hearing the music from his pipes, or listening to the song of the sea.

I did have to look up if a keiso is a real thing; and while I couldn’t find it definitively, it’s very obvious from the first page they are mentioned that a keiso is almost identical to a geisha (I actually think they are, but as I’m not versed in either culture, I don’t want to make that sweeping statement). I loved that element – ever since reading Memoirs of a Geisha, I find that entire culture and facet absolutely fascinating, and the keiso is no exception. The peek into their world and how one ranks among the house and society itself is interesting and entertaining.

I loved the plot of the book too, but the pacing felt a bit slow for me. There’s not much action, really – a lot of it is plain description, and even though most of it is interesting, I was definitely flipping a few pages wondering when something more would happen. Even the parts that are filled with action are lengthy, and I never did get caught up in the story.

Still, I was never bored, and that’s a feat to me when it’s about subject matter I have absolutely no idea about! There’s a nice subtlety to the entire novel; nothing to knock you off you feet, but an underlying intelligence that I appreciated. There’s a nice sense of completion and satisfaction by the end as well. Even though the ending was predictable to me, and possibly a little too easy, it felt right.

I’m not sure how I feel about the characters though. I never really came around to any of them – sometimes, it was just a bit one dimensional, and on more than one occasion I felt much more annoyed than anything else. Especially with the penchant for most of them to go “mmm…” or say “well…” in the book. I get that some people do that in real life, but it appeared so often I started to get distracted. Maybe the author was going for a realism in dialogue, but we also categorize those as conversational distractions and are discouraged from doing them in real life. Of all the characters, Taudde, Leilis, and Benne were easily my favourites. Even though there’s a bit to be desired about all of them, they felt most fully developed and I really got a sense of the characters and who they were to this society. I was sad to stop reading about them.

Does anyone know if this is part of a series? Because I would love to read more about this conflict between Lonne and Kalchese! I was a bit surprised that I was taken into this political plotline – normally, I don’t like those. I’m not into politics in real life, and my reading self isn’t either; but there was something so compelling about this one I’m curious what will happen!

Speaking of what my reading self is into, I liked the bit of romance in this book. It’s small, and not a huge part is devoted to it even though relationships plays a large part to the plot movement itself; but I liked it that way. They are understated and handled perfectly: just enough to really believe in it, but not so plainly obvious we start to feel it’s forced. Romance was treated delicately, and that fit very well into this novel and the keiso world.

Overall, I really enjoyed House of Shadows; even though I looked ahead a few times, and the characters felt a little flat, the culture and story are so captivating. While I’m not able to suspend my reality enough to really believe in the bardic sorcery and magecraft, this was worth the shot. And if that is something you like, you should pick this one up.

Plus, there’s a dragon in this book. How can you turn down a dragon?!

3.5 Stars / 5

And thanks to the publisher, you can win a copy too!
Open to US/Can only (sorry, pub rules!)
Must be 13 year or older to enter, please read my giveaway policy before entering.
Ends 8/29 - Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student and needed a hobby unrelated to her research. Prior to selling her first fantasy novel, she had published only a few articles in venues such as The American Journal of Botany. However, finding that her interests did not lie in research, Rachel left academia and began to let her hobbies take over her life instead. She now raises and shows dogs, gardens, cooks, and occasionally finds time to read. She works part time for a tutoring program, though she tutors far more students in Math and Chemistry than in English Composition.

Website | Goodreads | Tour Schedule
Amazon | BN | The Book Depository | Indie Bound
(bio taken from Amazon)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: One Moment by Kristina McBride (eARC)

One Moment by Kristina McBride
Egmont USA, 272 Pages
US Release Date: June 26, 2012
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher, via NetGalley (thank you!)

This was supposed to be the best summer of Maggie's life. Now it's the one she'd do anything to forget.

Maggie remembers hanging out at the gorge with her closest friends after a blowout party. She remembers climbing the trail with her perfect boyfriend, Joey. She remembers that last kiss, soft, lingering, and meant to reassure her. So why can't she remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive? Why was she left cowering at the top of the cliff, while Joey floated in the water below-dead?

As Maggie's memories return in snatches, nothing seems to make sense. Why was Joey acting so strangely at the party? Where did he go after taking her home? And if Joey was keeping these secrets, what else was he hiding?
--------------------Goodreads summary

Notable quote
There was so much that I suddenly needed to uncover, no matter the cost. Because learning all the things I didn't already know, finding a few more slices of life when Joey was with us, even if it only helped for a little while, was the only way I could cheat my way out of his death.
Once upon a time, a girl was getting ready for bed around 3am. She saw her iPad on her nightstand, knew there was a book on it that she wanted to read and thought to herself, “Well, I don’t have anything to do tomorrow, I’ll stay up to read just one or two chapters. It’ll be fine.” So this girl did…chapter one flew by. And chapter two. And three, and four, and five…and suddenly, it was 6am and she flipped the last page feeling all sorts of sadness and tragedy and anger and mixed emotions.

I am STILL trying to get back on a regular sleep schedule, FYI.

One Moment seems to be about the tragic loss of Maggie’s boyfriend, the result of a terrible accident on the cliffs, and the known secrets of their relationship. And of course, it is – but I think it’s more about friendship. How friendship can exist, how it functions…and a much darker side. How friendship can actually bind a person, how it can become a limitation or an obligation. How ultimately, a friendship can lead to deception or tragedy.

I know that paints a bleak picture, but One Moment had a depth that took me completely by surprise. I knew it would be sad – it’s about the death of a girl’s boyfriend! – but I had no idea the extent of it. The unraveling and the twists and secrets.

I’m really sad I lost my notes while reading when it was archived before I could email them – there are some pretty good gems there, in my opinion. Usually “OMG I HATE HER” and “OMG I HATE HIM” and “WHAT.” You get the idea. 

While the story itself isn’t the most original, and a lot of the plot twists were kind of expected or at least not outside the bounds of consideration, I admit that there were enough twists or unexpected moments that were SO good, I barely even minded. I don’t know if it was the late night, or the ability of the story to just consume you entirely, but I was absolutely riveted to the pages. I had to know, and I had to know NOW.

Let’s talk characters. This book revolves around the tight friendship of 6 people – and at first I was weary of that. That’s a lot of personalities, thoughts, and emotions to handle – but it was never a problem for me. It’s very clear who we are with at the time and who feels what. Of course it was mainly about Maggie, Adam, Shannon and Joey; the remaining two were focused on very little – but that’s fine. They didn’t necessarily have to be. Adam was far and ahead my favourite character – not only do I kind of love him for what he is and does (distancing tendencies and all!), but I felt like he was done so, so well in the book. He’s given to you, and even though you immediately feel like you know him and can love him, he’s slowly revealed and peeled back in his own way. We gradually get inside his head and his actions, and I fell for him hard. Maggie, on the other hand, was frustrating. Her character is supposed to be, I think, but there are some moments where I just wanted to tell her to get there quicker. To stop being so naïve. To UNDERSTAND. Sometimes, it was just so obvious and I hated that it dragged out.

And even though I actually hated Joey, I admit that he’s done really well. The reader never questions Maggie and Joey’s relationship, we even understand how it’s perfect and think it is, too! And then shit goes down. And shit happens and shit is revealed, and more shit is tossed in just to mess it all up. And even though there’s all this messy shit going on, I still kind of liked Joey. Inexplicably, and I think most probably won’t. But how he’s written…it works and it makes sense for me, even though he’s completely shit-tastic.

(How many times can I curse in one paragraph? I know.)

One Moment was a riveting read for me, even though some of the characters are questionable and a lot of it is predictable. Somehow, the effect as you read is completely consuming, and the only solution is to just read on. I would have given it 5 stars, but here’s the thing (no spoilers, I promise): the ending is exactly as I knew it should be. And even though I enjoyed how we got there immensely (it could have wrapped up about 30 pages earlier, in my opinion), it wrapped so neatly into the way I thought it should from the beginning that it felt very underwhelming. Despite being twisted, torn and tugged through an emotional mess.

4.5 Stars / 5

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Weekly Wrap-Up + Stacking the Shelves (8)

If you can't tell, posts kind of dropped off at the end of last week - to make a long dragged out story short, I learned of, applied for, interviewed at, and got a job in the span of a week. Tuesday is my first day so as I settle into a new routine posting will be more sporadic than usual :( I still have a lot of scheduled content to come though, and I actually think I'll be able to get a routine of reading other blogs down so I'll still be here!

Review: Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Clair
Wasn't a fan of the main character, but still had some great, surprising elements. 3 Stars

Top Ten Characters I'd Switch Places With For 24 Hours
Church the Cat, Godfrey Gao, and Assassin Celeana make an appearance.

Tune In Tuesday: Teen Years
My favourite pop songs! *NSYNC comes in twice. It had to be done.

Summer Giveaway Hop!
You can win any of the books pictured below! Still time to enter! (US only, ends 8/7)

Want to read ORIGIN by Jessica Khoury or RIFT by Andrea Cremer?
I'm lending them out! Just ask me!

Coming next week...
A Blog Tour stop for House of Shadows by Rachel Numeier (with a giveaway!) and a review of One Moment by Kristina McBride!

I'll also finally put up my Follower Appreciation giveaway...and as a hint of one of the prizes...

Finally, my shelves!
Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews!
Mistletoe: Four Holiday Stories by Hailey Abbot, Melissa de la Cruz, Aimee Friedman, and Nina Malkin
Kissing Snowflakes by Abby Sher
The Prince and the Snowgirl by Simon Cheshire
(Christmas novels in August?! I know.)

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
I was chatting with Cindy Pon at an event this week and she couldn't recommend this enough.

Such A Rush by Jennifer Echols (!!!!)
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (!!!!)

Slide by Jill Hathaway, via her Twitter - thank you so much Jill!

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
I'm supposed to be on a ban, but when I heard this was on auto-approve I was just too curious to pass it up!
(have you read Jen's review? I'm so much more curious after reading it!)

What's on your shelves?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!
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