Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best I Read 2011: Demonglass (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel Hawkins


Over the next few days (the last of 2011) I'll be posting my top ten favorite reads of the year, in no particular order. They're not necessarily books released in 2011 -- just books that I've read in the past year. I'll be giving the synopsis and linking to my review (if it's been posted) and telling why I love these books so much. Feel free to share your own favorites -- I'm always looking for a good recommendation!



Release Date: March 22, 2011
Series: Hex Hall #2
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Hex Hall Review

Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch.

That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered the family secret, and that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world—the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will destroy her powers.

But once Sophie arrives she makes a shocking discovery. Her new friends? They’re demons too. Meaning someone is raising them in secret with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Archer to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?


First Line:
At a normal high school, having class outside on a gorgeous May day is usually pretty awesome.


Why It Was The Best: Hex Hall made last year's "Best" list, and rarely do sequels live up to the original -- but in this case, Rachel Hawkins pulled it off flawlessly. I loved Hex Hall, but Demonglass was EVEN BETTER. I didn't even know that was possible. Sophie is as hilarious and hapless as ever, the adventures are even crazier, the world more sublime and OH that romance! STEAMY. I almost spontaneously combusted at one point (you'll know it when you see it... *fans self*). This is just such a fun series and it keeps getting better. I cannot WAIT for the final book, Spell Bound, which hits shelves in March -- especially after that cliffhanger O_O

That's it for this year's Best I Read! What were the best books you read in 2011?

Best I Read 2011: Wildefire by Karsten Knight


Over the next few days (the last of 2011) I'll be posting my top ten favorite reads of the year, in no particular order. They're not necessarily books released in 2011 -- just books that I've read in the past year. I'll be giving the synopsis and linking to my review (if it's been posted) and telling why I love these books so much. Feel free to share your own favorites -- I'm always looking for a good recommendation!



Release Date: July 26, 2011
Series: Wildefire #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

MY REVIEW

Every flame begins with a spark.

Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.


First Line:

Ashline Wilde was a human mood ring.


Why It Was The Best: Wildefire was high-energy and fast-paced -- I didn't want to put it down. Ashline kicks butt and takes names and is completely unapologetic about it. She's fierce and strong and a little bit wild. She's confident but flawed, loving but defensive. She's everything I want in a heroine. The mythology of this book is also different and exciting -- a blend of various traditions mixed with Karsten Knight's own imagination. This is a fun, thrilling read and I can't wait for more of Ash & Co's adventures!

Best I Read 2011: Bumped by Megan McCafferty


Over the next few days (the last of 2011) I'll be posting my top ten favorite reads of the year, in no particular order. They're not necessarily books released in 2011 -- just books that I've read in the past year. I'll be giving the synopsis and linking to my review (if it's been posted) and telling why I love these books so much. Feel free to share your own favorites -- I'm always looking for a good recommendation!



Release Date: April 26, 2011
Series: Bumped #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

MY REVIEW

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.

From New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty comes a strikingly original look at friendship, love, and sisterhood—in a future that is eerily believable.


First Line:
I'm sixteen. Pregnant. And the most important person on the planet.


Why It Was The Best: I know some people hated this book. It's really a love or hate kind of deal, no in-between. I'll admit I was a little baffled for the first few pages, but once I got into the flow of the story and saw what McCafferty was doing, I was blown away. This is satire run amok -- in the best way possible. McCafferty isn't afraid to take risks, and I think they really paid off in Bumped. It is a bold, intelligent novel. It is unflinching in its look at the dangers of our sex-obsessed, patriarchal society. It is candid and incisive and thought-provoking. Though the world initially seems very black and white, by the end the novel reveals the gray areas inherent in both extremes. I can guarantee you'll never find another book like this one.

Best I Read 2011: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand


Over the next few days (the last of 2011) I'll be posting my top ten favorite reads of the year, in no particular order. They're not necessarily books released in 2011 -- just books that I've read in the past year. I'll be giving the synopsis and linking to my review (if it's been posted) and telling why I love these books so much. Feel free to share your own favorites -- I'm always looking for a good recommendation!



Release Date: January 4, 2011
Series: Unearthly #1
Publisher: HarperTeen
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

MY REVIEW

In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees...

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has apurpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.


First Line:
The first time, November 6 to be exact, I wake up at two a.m. with a tingling in my head like tiny fireflies dancing behind my eyes.


Why It Was The Best: In a word, Clara. She seemed so real. Like a girl you would meet on the street, or who could be your best friend. Though she's a divine being, she's also just a teenage girl. She deals with hair-dying mishaps and irritating boys and going all tongue-tied around a crush. Her road's not an easy one, and sometimes she falters, but she's got a beautiful resilience that keeps her going. Sometimes she might get fed up, but she never gets whiny or angsty. It's impossible not to fall in love with her authentic, snarky voice. Another aspect that I can't say too much about without spoilers is the romance. Cynthia Hand takes it in a surprising and wonderful direction that is much more enjoyable and believable than the usual cliche love story. Overall, despite the paranormal elements, this is the most realistic, believable cast of characters I've read in a long time.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Dragonswood Tour: Janet Carey's Letter to Her Teen Self & Giveaway





Janet Lee Carey is the award-winning author of eight Children's and YA novels. Her YA fantasy is critically acclaimed: "Verdict: This is quite simply fantasy at its best–original, beautiful, amazing, and deeply moving.” School Library Journal starred review. Janet links each new book with a charitable organization empowering readers to make a difference in the world. She tours in US and abroad presenting at schools, children’s book festivals, and conferences.

Photo by Heidi Pettit  


Dear me at sixteen,

I’m writing to you from the year 2011 when you’re the whopping age of fifty-seven. I can still see you clearly. I still believe in your dreams. The first thing I’d like to tell you is not to worry about your mom’s second marriage. Doug will turn out to be a wonderful stepfather. I know you’re still bitter about your parents’ divorce. I can tell you now that loss ended up bringing a lot of amazing people into your life. You’re just getting to know Martha now and she’s going to encourage you to write poetry and songs. Listen to her. She knows what a joyful thing it is to create. Your world will expand beyond your wildest dreams. This year you’ll get involved with theatre, music, and the anti war movement. You’ll learn to deepen your perceptions through mediation. All good things. You’re going to be lonely for a while now you have broken up with David, but it won’t be too many years before you meet the boy you’ll end up marrying. He’ll be tall, dark, and handsome. He’ll be your best friend, a great father, and an inspiring travel companion along the ever twisting trail.

You think you’re too fat and you don’t like your body much right now. You won’t always be overweight. Eventually you will learn to love your body for the amazing soul vehicle it is. You’ve got your hopes set on creating a different kind of life than your parents had. You want to try something new and different. Go for it. The dreams of being a published author are good ones. Don’t let people talk you out of them. In future years you’ll write lots of books and get nothing but rejection. You’ll think about giving up. Don’t. Keep writing. Keep creating and sending in those manuscripts.

Finally, you have a tendency to try and do everything by yourself and never ask for help when you need it. This is going to backfire. Down the line you’ll have to learn to lean on your friends and on God a little more. Why? Because you’re going to face some things that would terrify you now if I told you what they were, but here’s the good news. You will survive. Your faith will grow. Not in spite of the difficulties but, in part, because of them. Continue to open your heart. Be generous.

Love, 
me

For more about this author, please visit:




Coming January 5, 2012

Preorder / Add it on Goodreads

Wilde Island is in an uproar after the recent death of its king. The uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is fraying, and a bloodthirsty witch hunter with a hidden agenda whips villages into frenzies with wild accusations. Tess, a blacksmith’s daughter from a tiny hamlet near the mysterious Dragonswood, finds herself caught in the crosshairs of fate when she is accused of witchery and has to flee for her life along with her two best friends.

Not even Tess’s power to see the future can help the girls as they set off on their desperate journey, but she keeps having visions of a man wielding a sword. And when she finally meets him, Tess has no idea how to handle the magnetic attraction she feels for him, or the elusive call she hears from the heart of the Dragonswood.

In this epic romance, an ancient prophecy comes true in a way neither dragon, fairy, nor human would have predicted.



GIVEAWAY


One lucky winner will receive both a signed copy of Dragonswood and a signed paperback of Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey!

To Enter:
  • Leave a comment telling me one thing you would like to tell your 16-year-old self. Include your email address so I can contact the winner.
  • US Only -- prize will be shipped from the publisher
  • Following is not required, but greatly appreciated 
  • Ends 01/06/12 at 11:59 pm EST 
  • One (1) winner will receive both Dragonswood and Dragon's Keep
  • Please review my giveaway policy

Good luck!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best I Read 2011: Divergent by Veronica Roth


Over the next few days (the last of 2011) I'll be posting my top ten favorite reads of the year, in no particular order. They're not necessarily books released in 2011 -- just books that I've read in the past year. I'll be giving the synopsis and linking to my review (if it's been posted) and telling why I love these books so much. Feel free to share your own favorites -- I'm always looking for a good recommendation!



Release Date: May 3, 2011
Series: Divergent #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

MY REVIEW

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.


First Line:
There is one mirror in my house.

Why It Was The Best: It's the day of Hunger Games comparisons and awesome heroines. Tris is another heroine up there with Katniss and Katsa. Tris could handle herself and never backed down from a challenge. I loved the concept of the factions, and the way it played out made for a very exciting read. I can't say too much without giving away spoilers, so I'll just say this is a must-read for dystopian fans!


Best I Read 2011: Graceling by Kristin Cashore


Over the next few days (the last of 2011) I'll be posting my top ten favorite reads of the year, in no particular order. They're not necessarily books released in 2011 -- just books that I've read in the past year. I'll be giving the synopsis and linking to my review (if it's been posted) and telling why I love these books so much. Feel free to share your own favorites -- I'm always looking for a good recommendation!



Release Date: October 1, 2008
Series: Seven Kingdoms #1
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.


First Line: 
In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind.


Why It Was The Best: I don't usually do high fantasy, but Katsa sounded too amazing to pass up. I'm so glad I listened to all the rave reviews, because this book is solely responsible for getting me into the genre. This is one of those books that was so amazing that I've put off reviewing it because I know my words can't do it justice. Katsa is right up there with Katniss Everdeen as one of my all-time favorite heroines. She's so fierce! I love a heroine who can hold her own in any situation, and that is definitely Katsa. This book was exciting and funny and full of adventure -- I didn't want to put it down! But I do want to be Katsa. Girl power, baby.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best I Read 2011: Chime by Franny Billingsley


Over the next few days (the last of 2011) I'll be posting my top ten favorite reads of the year, in no particular order. They're not necessarily books released in 2011 -- just books that I've read in the past year. I'll be giving the synopsis and linking to my review (if it's been posted) and telling why I love these books so much. Feel free to share your own favorites -- I'm always looking for a good recommendation!



Release Date: March 17, 2011
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Dial
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.

Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.

First Line:
I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.

Why It Was The Best: This book blew my mind. Billingsley's use of language was unlike anything I'd ever seen. It had a rhythm all its own, and gave the story a distinct flair and flavor. It made the magic of the fairy tale come alive. This is a suspenseful folk tale with a timeless feel, an original world and a beautiful style. I've never read anything like it, and I doubt I'll ever find an equal to Billingsley's genius.

Best I Read 2011: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin


Over the next few days (the last of 2011) I'll be posting my top ten favorite reads of the year, in no particular order. They're not necessarily books released in 2011 -- just books that I've read in the past year. I'll be giving the synopsis and linking to my review (if it's been posted) and telling why I love these books so much. Feel free to share your own favorites -- I'm always looking for a good recommendation!



Release Date: September 27, 2011
Series: Mara Dyer #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

MY REVIEW

Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.

She's wrong.

First Line:
The ornate script on the board twisted in the candlelight, making the letters and numbers dance in my head.


Why It Was The Best: This is one of those books where you never see any of the twists coming -- and it has a lot of twists. Mara Dyer kept me on the edge of my seat from page one, and completely blindsided me with the final reveal. Not only is it dark and mysterious, it's also hilarious and sexy. Mara's snark is nonstop, and her flirtatious banter with British heartthrob Noah Shaw is the best I've ever read. You saw the part about the "British heartthrob", right? He's scruffy and sarcastic, but also sweet and smoldering. Definitely the most to-die-for hero on the shelves. This book is one-of-a-kind and defies categorization. It's hard to take me by surprise anymore, but I'm still reeling from this one. If I don't get that sequel in my hands soon, I'm going to die of anticipation.

I think the trailer pretty much sums it up:



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best I Read 2011: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson


Over the next few days (the last of 2011) I'll be posting my top ten favorite reads of the year, in no particular order. They're not necessarily books released in 2011 -- just books that I've read in the past year. I'll be giving the synopsis and linking to my review (if it's been posted) and telling why I love these books so much. Feel free to share your own favorites -- I'm always looking for a good recommendation!



Release Date: September 29, 2011
Series: Shades of London #1
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble


The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

First Line:
The eyes of London were watching Claire Jenkins.


Why It Was The Best: Maureen Johnson hits the nail on the head with an improbable blend of humor and horror. The sharp wit of the main character Rory kept me in stitches the entire time I was reading, even when I was on the edge of my seat with the suspense of the sensational killings. Jack the Ripper has always been a fascination of mine -- as he has for many people, apparently -- and the concept of something even more terrifying than the Ripper himself is brilliant. This book has something for everyone, and it was the most fun I've had reading a book all year.


Best I Read 2011: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor


Over the next few days (the last of 2011) I'll be posting my top ten favorite reads of the year, in no particular order. They're not necessarily books released in 2011 -- just books that I've read in the past year. I'll be giving the synopsis and linking to my review (if it's been posted) and telling why I love these books so much. Feel free to share your own favorites -- I'm always looking for a good recommendation!



Release Date: September 27, 2011
Series: Trilogy TBA
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

MY REVIEW

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

First Line:
Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day.


Why It Was The Best: This book is gorgeous. The writing is lyrical, the world-building is breathtaking, the story is original and the plot exciting. Honestly, there's nothing more you could ask for -- it is a masterpiece, a work of art. I suspect you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who read this book and didn't fall head-over-heels in love. Karou is quirky and bizarre and brilliant and fierce, the love interest smolders and the truth will keep you guessing. Plus, there's this:

Tell me you aren't intrigued.

Preview the first fourteen chapters here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

#HeroineTourney: #TeamMara's First Match



Mara's first match in the YA Heroine Tournament is TODAY! She's facing off against Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I do love Karou, but I think Mara brings something really unique to the table. She's a different, darker kind of heroine, and I think her struggle makes her heroism all the more special. If you love Mara Dyer or have a special place in your heart for the underdog, then please vote Team Mara!

But don't just take my word for it -- see why Amber at Down the Rabbit Hole and Kathy at A Glass of Wine love Mara!




Don't forget, if you spread the word about Team Mara you can also enter to win a signed The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer bookmark! It will also get you an extra entry in Lori at Pure Imagination's The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer giveaway! Please use the hashtags #TeamMara and #HeroineTourney on Twitter!




Michelle Hodkin has also promised a special Noah Shaw-related treat if Mara makes it into round 2 of the tourney: an outtake from the book, the steamy uncut trailer, or maybe something even more awesome (if that's possible)! So if you love Noah Shaw (and really, who doesn't?), please vote vote vote!






Voting ends at midnight EST! You can grab a button or background HERE to help spread the word!



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