Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Weekly-Wrap Up (28): I'm really abusing 'weekly' at this point.

Yes, I am posting this on a Tuesday. Yes, I'm aware this isn't quite a "weekly" thing right now. And yes, I know I'm severely behind on everything to do with this blog. But I wanted to share all the awesome that's come through my house lately!
I have plenty of excuses for you, but nothing new. Work, trying to get my life in shape, a new boy that's making me all fluttery and in denial, and I'm gearing up for summer. I'm sad to say I will not be at ALA this year, travel plans and companions fell through :( Super bummed, but will definitely be at next year's!

In case you missed it...
Review: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown
Happy Book Birthday to When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney
Book Blast: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Review: You Look Different In Real Life by Jennifer Castle
Blog Tour Review: The Summer I Became A Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

Coming up...
A petite revue of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas; full reviews of Right of Way by Lauren Barnholdt and September Girls by Bennett Madison; and I'll finally get around to putting up a giveaway to celebrate having 1000+ GFC followers!

Onto the books!
In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren
Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews
The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Seeing as how the last time I did a wrap-up was the beginning of MAY, this seems like a lot - but keep in mind this was for 5 weeks! I find it fascinating to see how many books enter my house in a month...
(and please forgive the no-linking, my connection at this Starbucks sucks and there's a LOT of titles here...they're all available on GoodReads though if you search!)
Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer
Golden by Jessi Kirby for her signing
The Program by Suzanne Young for her signing
The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler for her signing
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

False Sight (False Memory #2) by Dan Krokos - thanks Cindy!
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater - thanks Ems!
And thanks so much Jasmine for:
Taken by Erin Bowman
Story's End by Elizabeth Burt
Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart
Sushi For Beginners by Marian Keyes
The Evolution of Mara Dyer (The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer #2) by Michelle Hodkin

ARC Tours
From Around the World ARC Tours:
The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna
Reality Boy by AS King
Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider (not pictured)
The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White
Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott
45 Pounds (More of Less) by KA Barson
The Vow by Jessica Martinez
From DAC ARC Tours:
Parallel by Lauren Miller

For Review
When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney, from her PR team (thank you, KP!)
Disneylanders by Kate Abbott, from author (thank you Kate!)
Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm, from publisher (thank you, HMH!)
Confederates Don't Wear Couture by Stephanie Kate Strohm, from publisher (thank you, HMH!)
The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni, from publisher (thank you, HMH!)
A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Sisterland: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld (SO EXCITED!!)
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (SO EXCITED STILL!!)
Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney (SO EXCITING!!) 
And the one I've been coveting...
Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas (!!!!!)
Thanks so much Bloomsbury, Random House, and Egmont!

What books came into your possession recently?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Review: Right of Way by Lauren Barnholdt (ARC)

Right of Way by Lauren Barnholdt Simon Pulse, 320 Pages
Expected US Release Date: July 9, 2013
Format/Source: Print ARC, via Around the World ARC Tours - thank you!
Challenges: Contemporary Challenge

Can a road trip repair a romance gone wrong? Find out in this standalone companion to Lauren Barnholdt’s Two-way Street.

Here are Peyton and Jace, meeting on vacation. Click! It’s awesome, it’s easy, it’s romantic. This is the real deal.

Unless it isn’t. Because when you’re in love, you don’t just stop calling one day. And you don’t keep secrets. Or lie. And when your life starts falling apart, you’re supposed to have the other person to lean on.

Here are Peyton and Jace again, broken up but thrown together on a road trip. One of them is lying about the destination. One of them is pretending not to be leaving something behind. And neither of them is prepared for what’s coming on the road ahead…
-------------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
But I read a very smart thing in a self-help book (don't judge--they can actually be very comforting) about how sometimes the people you don't spend that much time with are actually the ones you can end up getting the most hurt by, because you can get attached to the idea of them, as opposed to what they really are. You don't get enough time to really get to know them and their flaws, which is why you can sort of create this fantasy of who they are, and therefore indulge all your hopes and dreams of who you wanted them to be.

So, I’ll put this out there: I haven’t read Two-Way Street yet. I KNOW. I’m horrible. How can I claim to love contemporary road trip novels and not have read that?! I know, I know. I’m getting there.

I will say that if you haven’t read Two Way Street and DON’T want to be spoiled, DO NOT read Right of Way. It’s there. They appear. And while I don’t think it’s any surprise, if you can’t stand any sort of hint/clue/whatever, don’t even think about trying to read Right Of Way.

But if you’re like me, where you pretty much know (not just because you can guess, but because multiple have told you since they assume you have read it) and don’t mind knowing for certain what happens, go right ahead and dig into Right of Way. I don’t know if I missed any sort of relation between the two books, but it can totally stand on it’s own.

How much do I love dual narratives? So much. So, so much. I love getting two perspectives from the same situations, I love differing character voices, I love getting to know the thoughts and feelings of each character. And Right of Way was fantastic about that. I also loved the additional element of making the narratives from before their trip and during the trip. It was a great insight into their pasts and really opened up their personalities into who they really could be. However, I have been known to skip reading chapter titles – don’t do that! I definitely got confused a few times over because I didn’t realize we were reading about the past.

While Right of Way is a really good, solid contemporary to add to any YA shelf , I have to say that sometimes I felt like not much was really happening. The story had a straightforward plot, but nothing that was too exciting or too forward with the movement.  The story, the timeline, everything is belieivable – it’s just a little underwhelming and I was itching for just a bit more passion and action. (Not THAT kind of action, you dirty readers! Well…I mean…)

I was also surprised how the characters turned out for me. I knew I was supposed to love Jace, and while I really did like him…it was definitely not as much as I could have. He was a little predictable and totally typical. But Peyton? Really loved her! I thought she was going to be whiny, bratty and annoying – and the funny part? She totally is, but not at all in an unlikeable way! Maybe it’s the girl in me, but I was with her every emotional step and actually applauded her at trying to keep her head straight even when she was making really dumb choices.

Two small things to wrap this up: 1) Hector the dog? Love him. So adorable. I want him, dirty mitts and all. 2) Peyton’s mom and what she does to her? Horrible. I hated that there’s no real resolution to that whole situation, but I like to think she gets what’s coming to her.

3.5 Stars

Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (ARC)

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
Harper Teen, 375 Pages
US Release Date: May 28, 2013
Format/Source: Print ARC, via Around the World ARC Tours - thank you!
Challenges: Standalone Challenge, Contemporary Challenge, Debut Author Challenge

Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:
1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:
1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.
-----------------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
I practice carefully, paying attention to each note...Slowly. Obsessively. As long as I'm sitting at the piano, the entire universe is under my control. Eighty-eight keys, ten fingers. Sheet music is dependable. The notes don't change when you're not looking. You don't open your book one day to discover that your pieces have switched from major to minor, or that the fast ones have gone slow, or that the melody has changed beyond recognition, leaving your fingers to stumble over unfamiliar notes. You don't have to be brave; just careful.
Wild Awake was one of my most anticipated reads of this year – the moment I heard about it on TeaTime, I knew it was something I HAD to read. I got a little scared once I saw some of the reviews for it, but I still had every hope and faith it would appeal to me. And now that I’ve read it? I get the mixed reviews, but I am definitely one on the positive side. But for, surprisingly, very technical reasons!

I mention it often, though not at the forefront: I am a journalist. That is what my degree is in, that is what I have trained in since I was 12. That’s a whole freakin’ 14 years, guys! The habits I’ve picked up through that craft are ones I can never let go, even if I wanted to. And I think it’s with that mindset that I can really love Wild Awake.

Has anyone read Hunter S. Thompson? I think if you have, and you like his stuff – you’ll love Wild Awake, too. It’s got that same stream-of-consciousness flow, the drug-addled imagery and plot. And I don’t mean that figuratively about the story: there are so many drugs going on in this novel I would never, ever give this to my 12 year old cousin to read. Not that I expect to shelter him forever, but I’m not going to deliberately expose him to this stuff, either.

Anyway, Wild Awake was one part thrilling, one part terrifying, and one part completely adventurous. I never really knew what to expect with each end of the chapter, each turn of the page; and sometimes I hate that, but it really worked for this book. I wanted to go on this ride with Kiri, I wanted to figure out what was going on with Skunk, what happened to Sukey.  In some ways, I felt like I was the one tripping out and freaking about the cops or my messed up family, because I was so drawn into this turmoil Kiri was going through.

I feel like this is going to be a very polarizing book: you’re either going to hate it, or you’re going to appreciate it. Each scene evokes such distinct reactions that were so strong for me, I definitely had to pull back a few moments and consider how I was feeling towards it. Like how I’m actually kind of grossed out by Sukey and her story; but ultimately, it all makes sense and it had to go down that way. Or how repulsed I was by Doug and his imagery and that disgusting pile of junk he kept stuff under. Or like how I can’t stand synth music but the connection the characters have to it – so powerful for each even though it’s completely different for both – was so familiar to the connection I have to certain music that I couldn’t resist feeling that emotion, too.

I have to say, this book also has one of my favourite scenes in any book I’ve read this year yet: the midnight bicycle run that is kind of the kickoff of a lot of this book. It was so much fun, so filled with adrenaline that I swore the herd of bicycles was going to come bursting out of my book, right at me. I was with Kiri every pedal of her bike, every dark turn through the city – and even though I’ve never once been inclined to ride a bike, I so wanted to hop on one myself and find them to join in.

Skunk is definitely my favourite character here. He’s fantastic. He’s got so many unique elements to him, from things as obvious as collecting weird vintage radios to as subtle as his physique (former and current) to as surprising as his little part in the ending quarter of the book. He kept me on my toes, and I kind of wish I was the one who needed his help to fix the bike.

Awkwardly though, I kind of hate Kiri. I find her obnoxious and self-serving. I think she’s overly dramatic and entirely too much of a privileged kid with nothing better to do. I understand her obsession with music and how it’s practically her savior, but she drove me bonkers through her descent and how she treated her talent and piano. If it wasn’t Skunk and Kiri on the page, I wanted to scream and shout at her.

What really did save this story to me though was Skunk and his relationship with Kiri. I loved how they’re both completely messed up, in entirely different ways with their own types of problems. I loved how they reacted to each other, I loved the affection that was so prevalent through all their scenes. Even the ones where I was kind of scared of both of them and for both of them (that will make sense once you read the book), I was still so in love with him and them.  I was kind of surprised how touching their scenes were, because they’re not particularly delicate or sentimental characters. But when they’re together…it just works.

Wild Awake is a trip, in the sense of a journey and a bad drug habit. It is the every bit as colourful and chaotic as the cover depicts it – possibly even more so. And while I’m not certain that’s for everyone, it was definitely for me.

4 Stars

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown (ARC)

Born of Illusion (Born of Illusion #1) by Teri Brown
Harper Teen, 384 Pages
Expected US Release Date: June 11, 2013
Format/Source: Print ARC, from Around the World Tours - thank you!

Anna Van Housen is thirteen the first time she breaks her mother out of jail. By sixteen she’s street smart and savvy, assisting her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, and easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums and mentalists in 1920’s New York City. Handcuffs and sleight of hand illusions have never been much of a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her true gifts secret from her opportunistic mother, who will stop at nothing to gain her ambition of becoming the most famous medium who ever lived. But when a strange, serious young man moves into the flat downstairs, introducing her to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, he threatens to reveal the secrets Anna has fought so hard to keep, forcing her to face the truth about her past. Could the stories her mother has told her really be true? Could she really be the illegitimate daughter of the greatest magician of all?
----------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
The audience oohs and ahhs in all the right places and my movements get more dramatic as I warm up. Enthralling the audience is the best part, the part I love. I hate when people call magic trickery. What my mother does is trickery. What I do is entertainment.

I was a little weird going into Born Of Illusion simply because it’s things I know absolutely nothing about. Flapper era New York? Nothing. Magic? Nothing. Illusionism, Houdini? Nada. So I was simultaneously excited and nervous, since I had expectation without any sort of basis to it. But I’m really glad I pushed myself to read this! It was fascinating and a little fun, and even though sometimes it was a little frustrating, I found it fancy and overall, fulfilling.

(Why did I alliterate all those Fs? No idea. But I typed it, and I’m sticking with it!)

Like I said, I know absolutely nothing about this era, so I was really fascinated by it all! I mean, I’ve read a few books (Gatsby, mostly), seen a few movies or TV shows, but nothing concrete, so I loved everything I could garner from the descriptions. I know The Diviners by Libba Bray supposedly does it better, but for now? I’m happy with this. I was so swept up in the parties and gatherings and any sort of Society that Anna would find herself in.  Sometimes I craved a little more variety or dimension to the time, but I was happy with this.

So, onto the actual story (I guess that’s probably important…): Even though I had problems with some of it, overall I really enjoyed Born of Illusion. I really liked how Houdini played a part and we were kept guessing right along with Anna about how much he’s really a part of her. All their interactions were pretty great. I absolutely loved Mr. Darby and wish he’d had a slightly bigger part, though what he did was fantastic anyway. Anytime Anna could go to his place for tea and pastries I cheered in my head. I also loved all the magic and illusionism that went on, and how it even started getting into the séances and spiritual worlds – though I have to admit, I felt they trivialized those parts a little too much by making it a game and pawn in Anna and her mother’s tension. Still, there were some scenes I could absolutely see the show in my head and I wanted to be a part of the crowd!

Speaking of her mom, oh my goodness I did not like her! I get the resentment there, I even can kind of understand how much she feels threatened by Anna and her talents – but sometimes it was just a bit too far, y’know? I wanted to her just love her daughter for what she was, not hate her for it.

Which leads into some of my problems. Sometimes the tension was just a little too much, a little too drawn out and overdramatic. Sure, it does actually kind of fit the era and overall showman feel of the novel, but there were definitely pages I just shook my head at or rolled my eyes. I didn’t need the constant reminder of the struggle and bad relationships. Plus, I think my general annoyance at that took me away from the story a bit and I didn’t end up connecting to any of them. Sure, there were characters I generally liked, but I never really felt real emotions toward them or wanted to jump into the pages to squeeze them or kick them. Each was written well with real personalities, but they still felt a little lackluster.

And of course, I have to talk about the boys. It was another sorta-triangle situation – and I only say sorta because I swear it is super obvious which one will end up being the good boy and who will be bad. I did like that they were more to the story than just love interests, and I definitely rooted for one over the other. But one is so obvious, and the other was a bit too stereotypical. Still, I’ve read worse, and I wouldn’t mind a little Colin myself.

Born of Illusion wasn’t quite as magical as I’d hoped it would be, but I definitely found parts to love. I want more of this era, I want more of this type of illusion and trickery – though maybe with a different cast of characters.

(Small note though: I still love the cover to pieces. So gorgeous!)

3.5 Stars

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happy Book Birthday WHEN YOU WERE HERE by Daisy Whitney!

Happy Release Day to When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney!!

Filled with humor, raw emotion, a strong voice, and a brilliant dog named Sandy Koufax, When You Were Here explores the two most powerful forces known to man-death and love. Daisy Whitney brings her characters to life with a deft touch and resonating authenticity.

Danny's mother lost her five-year battle with cancer three weeks before his graduation-the one day that she was hanging on to see.

Now Danny is left alone, with only his memories, his dog, and his heart-breaking ex-girlfriend for company. He doesn't know how to figure out what to do with her estate, what to say for his Valedictorian speech, let alone how to live or be happy anymore.

When he gets a letter from his mom's property manager in Tokyo, where she had been going for treatment, it shows a side of his mother he never knew. So, with no other sense of direction, Danny travels to Tokyo to connect with his mother's memory and make sense of her final months, which seemed filled with more joy than Danny ever knew. There, among the cherry blossoms, temples, and crowds, and with the help of an almost-but-definitely-not Harajuku girl, he begins to see how it may not have been ancient magic or mystical treatment that kept his mother going. Perhaps, the secret of how to live lies in how she died.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
By day, Daisy Whitney is a reporter and ghostwriter. At night, she writes novels for teens and is the author of THE MOCKINGBIRDS and its sequel THE RIVALS (Little, Brown). Her third novel WHEN YOU WERE HERE releases in June 2013 (Little, Brown), and her fourth novel STARRY NIGHTS (Bloomsbury) hits shelves in September 2013. When Daisy's not inventing fictional high school worlds, she can be found somewhere north of San Francisco walking her adorable dog, watching online TV with her fabulous husband or playing with her fantastic kids. A graduate of Brown University, she believes in shoes, chocolate chip cookies and karma. You can follow her writing blog and new media adventures at DaisyWhitney.com.

Visit Daisy:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
You guys, I'm about halfway through this and I can't even...you want to read this. You need to read it. My review will be up early next week, but I sincerely hope by then you already have it on your shelves or sitting on your nightstand by then. If that summary above didn't convince you, check out the excerpt below!
     We eat in silence for a minute, then Holland breaks it. “So you’re going to Tokyo?”
     “Your mom told you?”
     “Did your mom send you to get info out of me or something?”
     “No. She mentioned it, and now I’m mentioning it. Why? Is there info to get? Are you going with a girl?”
      I scoff. “Yeah, right. I was supposed to go with some- one, but it didn’t work out,” I say, my eyes locked on her the whole time.
     “Well, I wanted to go, okay?”
     “So did I,” I say, so low it’s a whisper. But she hears me, and she inches her hand across the counter, just a little bit closer, and that hand, I want to grab it and hold on.
     “Me too,” she says, barely there, barely painting the space between us with all that has been broken. I glance at our hands, so close all it would take is one of us giving an inch.
     “I bought my ticket an hour ago.”
     “When do you leave?”
     “A couple days from now. I found a good deal.”
     She nods a few times, taps her fingers. I can feel the warmth from her hands. “Cool,” she says, and we stay like that. One stretch is all it would take to be back, so I wait. Wait for her to tell me she’ll miss me, to ask me to stay, to put her hands on my face and press her lips against mine and kiss me like it’s the thing that’s been killing her not to do for all these months. That it’s not cool for me to go. That if I go, she’ll be the one who’s sad.
     But she doesn’t. We just finish our food, and she washes the plates, and the other ones that were in the sink too, and she tosses out the cartons from Captain Wong’s and bags up the garbage, and she’s like a nurse. She’s here as a nurse. To take care of me. To make sure I eat enough food and clean the house and take my vitamins.
     I watch her take my vitals and check my temperature and adjust the tubes, and when she suggests we watch a movie, here on the couch, I just nod because my heart isn’t beating fast enough anymore, blood isn’t pumping smoothly enough anymore for me to find the will to say no like I did last night. Evidently I can buy tickets to fly out of the country, no problem, but I can’t even tell Holland to stop being so near to me all the time but not near enough.
     Because she is supposed to want to go to Tokyo with me now. She is supposed to invite herself, to ask me in that sweet and sexy, that bold and confident voice, to say that I should take her along, that we promised we’d go together, that we even talked about it last summer. As if I needed reminding. As if I were the one who’d forgotten.
     Instead she turns on the TV and finds a film where the hero survives a bridge being blown up. We stay like that through fire and bombs, through fists and blows, through a knife fight in an alley, a foot away from each other, not touching, not moving, not talking, not curled up together, just staring mutely at the screen.
     But faking it becomes too much for me, so when the hero clutches the crumbling concrete from the bridge, scrambling for purchase, I stand up and leave the living room, mumbling, “Be right back.” I walk to the bathroom at the end of the hall. I shut the door. I head straight for the window. I slide it open and pop out the screen. I stand on the toilet seat, then climb the rest of the way out of the window and hop into my front yard. I close the window, and I walk and I walk and I walk.
     When I return an hour later, my greatest hope is she’ll be gone. My most fervent wish is that I will have made my great escape from her, from her hold on me. But instead I find her sound asleep on my couch, Sandy Koufax tucked tightly into a ball at Holland’s bare feet.
     I kneel down on the tiles where the book she was reading has slipped out of her tired hands. It’s a paperback, The Big Sleep. I run a thumb across the cover, wondering when Holland developed a penchant for Raymond Chandler. There was a time when she would have told me her favorite parts. When she would have tried to tell me the ending because she just loved it so much, she had to share, and I’d have held up a hand and told her to stop. Laughing all the time. Then I’d have read it too, and we’d have walked on the beach and talked about the best parts. We’d have done that tonight with the movie too. Imitated the actors’ inflections at their most over-the-top moments, then marveled at the blown-up buildings.
     I shut the book we’re not sharing. The ending we’re not talking about. I place it on the coffee table and walk upstairs, because if I stay near her, I will wake her up, rustle a shoulder, and ask her. Ask her why she left. Ask her why she’s here. Ask her what changed for her.
     When I get into my bed, I am keenly aware of her in my house, as if the rising and falling of her breathing, the fluttering of her sleeping eyelids, can somehow be seen and heard from a floor above. I imagine her waking up, walking up the stairs, heading down the hall, standing in my doorway, a sliver of moonlight through the window sketching her in the dark. I would speak first, telling her the truth—that I’m still totally in love with her. That nothing has changed for me when it comes to her.
     Everything else is so muted, so fuzzy, so frayed around the edges. This—how I feel for Holland—is the only thing in my life that has remained the same. Everyone I have loved is gone. Except her. Holland is the before and the after, and the way I feel for her is both lethal and beautiful. It is like breathing, like a heartbeat. She would say the same words back to me, that she feels the same. Then she would say my name, like she’s been searching for something, like she’s found the thing she’s been looking for.
     Come find me, come find me, come find me.
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