Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Giveaway #6: Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert (US only)

Stephanie's second book, Ballads of Suburbia, was one of the most powerful books I read in 2009. I was lucky enough to meet her at the Teen Author Carnival, so I can offer a SIGNED finished copy of Ballads of Suburbia for my summer giveaway!


Kara hasn't been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad-boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park....
Amid the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives. Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own. [summary from Barnes &]

Don't miss your chance to own this special book! To enter, fill out the form here, making sure to answer the question relevantly. This giveaway is open to US only (unless you pay for shipping), and ends Friday, July 16, 2010. Good luck!

Waiting on Wednesday (71)

Saving Sky by Diane Stanley

Her country is at war. Terrorists strike at random, widespread rationing is in effect, and the power grid is down. But thirteen-year-old Sky Brightman is remarkably untouched by it all. She lives in a peaceful haven, off the grid on sixty beautiful acres of New Mexico ranch land, with a loving family, three horses, and an elderly dog who gives her gifts. No TV or internet brings disturbing news into their little adobe home.
Then a string of mysterious arrests begin and her new friend Kareem becomes a target. Sky is finally forced to confront the world in all its complexity. Summoning her considerable courage and ingenuity, she takes a stand against injustice. With humor, hope, and fierce determination, she sets out to change the world. [summary from Diane's website]

This book has a lot of things going for it. A) I'm pretty sure it's a middle-grade novel. B) It has an apocalyptic feel amongst the middle-grade coming-of-age tale. Who can resist dystopian/apocalyptic literature? C) It feels like there's going to be great movement from an idyllic isolated setting to the grittiness of the real world. I can't wait to see how it's done. D) That cover is simple but amazing because of it.

Simply. Can't. Wait!

Saving Sky will be published by HarperCollins on August 24, 2010.

What are you waiting on today?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: Siren by Tricia Rayburn

Tags: YA, supernatural, ocean, mystery


Fraidy-cat Vanessa’s gregarious older sister Justine goes cliff-diving after a family argument. When her body washes ashore, everyone thinks it was an accident, but Vanessa thinks there’s more to the story, especially when she discovers things that Justine had been hiding from them all, and when Justine’s sort-of boyfriend, their family friend Caleb, goes missing.

But soon other worrying things begin to happen in Winter Harbor, Maine. Bodies of grinning men begin washing ashore at an alarming rate, and Vanessa’s new friend’s family seems to be keeping secrets. Together with Simon, Caleb’s meteorologist older brother, Vanessa is determined to seek out the truth. But what she discovers may be bigger and more dangerous than she can handle…


SIREN was a surprisingly heartfelt supernatural YA debut. It elegantly combines ocean myth with relatable human troubles for an interesting and absorbing read.

Though the plot unfolds slowly, Tricia Rayburn accomplishes a lot when she makes Vanessa into an actually sympathetic protagonist. Despite her self-acknowledged fears (unlike many other YA paranormal romance heroines, who don’t realize they’re irritatingly passive about everything), Vanessa’s attachments to the people she loves drives her to stretch her boundaries and take risks for their sake. I found her believable and likable; in real life she’d be that reserved classmate who’s hard to get to know but worth the effort to befriend.

Ironically enough, SIREN’s strength lies in its humanity. I found myself caring very much for the main circle of characters. The brothers, Caleb and Simon, are worth their weight in hardcover. Even though it’s Vanessa’s story, Vanessa’s journey, Caleb and Simon don’t exist merely as errand-boys for her mission: they have personalities and passions of their own, too. Additionally, Vanessa’s relationship with her parents, while not the central focus of the book, is a lovely touch, from her easygoing banter with her father to tensions with her austere mother.

Sadly, the best part about this book’s supernatural element may be its novelty. For the sake of leaving you with a (mostly) clean slate, I will just say that the book is not exactly about mermaids, but something related. There’s tremendous buildup for the supernatural aspect, and I found its history within the novel’s world to be well done. However, in the ending, everything—and I do mean EVERYTHING, pretty much all the subplots—comes together so handily, so effortlessly, so… “climax-ily,” that I found my eyes bugging out, unable to believe that it had ended like that, so perfectly, so disappointingly. The ending requires a whole heap of suspension of disbelief, and I really struggled with it.

Overall, however, SIREN was an entertaining read that took me away entirely for a few hours. The ending leaves open the possibility for a sequel, and I definitely would not mind seeing what else Tricia Rayburn has for us regarding Vanessa.

Similar Authors
Kimberly Derting (The Body Finder)
Phoebe Kitanidis (Whisper)

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - I think I must've been in the minority when I say that this cover didn't attract me at all. I mean, what has it to do with the story? It's just a borderline disturbing picture of a really pale girl.

EgmontUSA / July 13, 2010 / Hardcover / 352pp. / $17.99

ARC received from trade.

Author Interview with S. Terrell French!

Susannah Terrell French is the author of the wonderful middle-grade eco-adventure novel Operation Redwood, which I reviewed yesterday. She was gracious enough to answer some of my questions in an interview. Welcome, Susannah, to Steph Su Reads!

1. What is your one-sentence pitch for Operation Redwood?

Operation Redwood follows the adventures and misadventures of four kids as they try to save a grove of redwoods; Elizabeth Bird in her School Library Journal blog called it "one of the finest children's novels of the year . . . . [A] true emotional journey full of adventure, friendship, complex morality, trust, lies, and discovery."

(If I use a semi-colon, does it count as one sentence?)

2. I'm afraid that's cheating... but we'll let it slide! :) How did you come about your passion for redwood forests?

As an environmental lawyer, I helped defend timber harvesting regulations that were meant to protect the local forests, which were mostly redwoods. At one point, the timber industry was arguing that cutting down redwoods along streams was actually good for salmon and other wildlife because the redwood trees were sucking up all their water! In fact, redwoods increase the water available in an eco-system because they provide shade and channel the heavy summer fog into the ground. Before that, when my older son was an infant, we went camping all along the redwoods of the northern California coast. The forests there were so magnificent, anybody would love them.

3. Describe your dream treehouse.

I think the one in Operation Redwood! I love that it has a little shelter and an open deck and you can get to it using a pulley seat. My dream tree house might have a zip line to get back down.

4. The main character, Julian, is half-Chinese, and while his ethnicity is an important part of his identity, it never bogs the story down. What made you decide to make him half-Asian?

My husband is Chinese-American, so my own kids are "half-Chinese." I found it frustrating that almost the only books I could find with Asian main characters were set in Asia or had specifically Asian-American themes (immigration, discrimination, going to Chinatown). While these are great topics, I thought there was also a place for a story about an Asian-American kid which had nothing really to do with his ethnic identity. San Francisco is such a multicultural City that having parents from two different cultures or countries is almost the norm, so it was easy to write a book about a half-Asian character that didn't involve any soul-searching about ethnicity.

5. I completely agree with that! Now, nonfiction YA has been getting new attention recently. Do you have any favorite nonfiction books about environmentalism that you would recommend to teen readers?

For older teens, Richard Preston's The Wild Trees is a fantastic story and I really enjoyed Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which is about the environment in the larger sense. For younger readers or readers of all ages, Tracking Trash by Loree Griffin Burns is a great read.

6. While Julian is endearingly quiet and observant, I particularly love Danny's goofy yet real presence in Operation Redwood. From where did you draw your inspiration for Danny's character?

Danny's character was largely inspired by my older son's friends, who were about Julian's age when I was writing Operation Redwood. They were just a very funny, warm-hearted, smart group of kids (and still are!). Also, I had a childhood friend who was bilingual in Spanish, like Danny, so there's a little of that mixed in.

7. You've studied in many fields and worked a variety of jobs. Which one was your most interesting?

Working as a Forest Service volunteer in Misty Fiords National Monument in Alaska. We got to fly around in float planes and stay in remote cabins in the wilderness.

Misty Fiords National Monument - beautiful!

8. What's the most Robin-like thing you did when you were her age?

Run around barefoot in the forest. But they were little Maryland forests, not redwoods!

9. What natural wonder would you like to see before you die?

The whole natural world is pretty much a wonder. I'd like to be in a place where the stars are very bright during a meteor shower. I tried once in Hawaii, but it turned out the moon was too bright to see very well.

10. Do you have any future works in store for readers?

I'm working (slowly) on another novel set in San Francisco.


Thank you so much for stopping by, Susannah! I'm looking forward to reading future books by you. :)

My friends, I highly encourage you to check out Operation Redwood; I'm not exaggerating when I say it's one of the best middle-grade novels I've read in a long time. You can also check out Susannah's author website at Happy reading!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Review: Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French

Tags: middle grade, eco-adventure, environmentalism


Dumped with his snively aunt and uncle while his widowed mother travels to China, 12-year-old Julian Carter-Li’s life changes the day he intercepts an angry email meant for his CEO uncle. In the email, a girl named Robin Elder accuses Sibley Carter of destroying precious redwood trees just to get more money. As Julian and Robin write back and forth, they realize that it might be up to them to save the redwoods. But what can their odd group of friends do against money-seeking adults?


This is, simply put, the best middle-grade novel I have read in a long time. A winsome cast of varied characters, excellent writing, and an urgent but not proselytistic theme make this a book I would be an evangelist for.

S. Terrell French writes like J. K. Rowling—and no, I am not exaggerating when I make that comparison. The third-person narration from Julian’s point of view is wonderfully engaging and moving. Compared to his friends, Julian is really quiet, but it’s his dedication to the environmental cause in the face of his introversion that make him endearing. He is an unusual yet much-desired protagonist: quietly observant but not in an annoyingly self-pitying way, old enough to act on his own, young enough to have recognizable naivetes and limitations, and half-Asian. MG and YA literature needs more characters like him.

The other characters in the book are, of course, fantastic also. Julian’s best friend, Danny Lopez, is a laugh-out-loud force of his own, and certainly reminds me of my crazily outgoing and selfless middle school classmates. Robin’s a bit more difficult to define, but in the end both she and her friend Ariel are realistic, poised at the edges of the pages, ready to jump out and start chattering away right next to you. And it says a lot that the adults in OPERATION REDWOOD can be believable also, no matter how horrible some of them might be.

I also would like to point out how much I appreciated the diverse characters. Julian’s mixed race is a solid part of his identity without overwhelming the story. Indeed, if you fixate on his race in the story, then you have company in his nasty aunt Daphne, who is one of those characters that makes you really really hate them but be amazed that the author could write such a hateful character so well at the same time.

There’s nothing bad I have to say about this novel. It’s an easy must-read for all ages, both for its rarity of being an excellent middle-grade novel and its inspirational environmentalist themes. Find it and give it a try!

Similar Authors
Carl Hiaasen
J. K. Rowling
Mary Amato (Invisible Lines)

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - Look, an Asian guy! This cover is cute, exciting, and relevant. I love it.

Amulet Books / May 1, 2009 / Hardcover / 368pp. / $16.95

Sent by author for review. Thanks so much, S.!

Check back tomorrow for an interview with the lovely author!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt Giveaway Winners

The three winners of a copy of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman are:

#36 Ron-Michael Powers
#49 nfmgirl
#37 Jessy

Congrats! I've emailed you, so please respond to my email with your mailing addresses. The rest of you, I have a ton of giveaways still going on for my summer giveaway, so be sure to enter those if you want! They are listed in my right sidebar.

In My Mailbox (39)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme inspired by Alea and hosted by Kristi. Check out Kristi's post to see what others got in books this week!

This week, a truly wonderful number of surprises showed up.

For review:

Heart to Heart by Lurlene McDaniel
Nevermore by Kelly Creagh - thank you, Kelly!
What's Your Status? A Top 8 Novel by Katie Finn
The Agency, Book 2: The Body at the Tower by Y. S. Lee - for a Traveling to Teens tour, yay!
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla
Bring on the Night (WVMP, Book 3) by Jeri Smith-Ready - Jeri!!!! Thank you!!!
The Ring of Five by Eoin McNamee

From tours:
A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler (not pictured)
Forget You by Jennifer Echols (not pictured)
Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman


The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson
Slightly Married by Mary Balogh
More Than a Mistress by Mary Balogh
Wild Fire by Christine Feehan
Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
Peace, Love & Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle

Borrowed (not pictured):
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Review: Sleepless by Cyn Balog

Tags: young adult, supernatural, Sandman, sleep


Eron is a Sandman, a mythical creature who seduces his charges into sleep. His 100 years of service are almost up and he can return to being a human, but first he has to train his replacement…who happens to be the recently deceased boyfriend of Julia, one of his charges whom he feels inexplicably drawn to.

Griffin cannot seem to accept the fact that he isn’t human anymore and thus cannot have Julia. When trouble finds Julia, Griffin tries to help, but that also turns out the wrong way. Perhaps it may be up to Eron and his approaching re-humanity to protect the human girl he’s discovered he cares for.


SLEEPLESS is a unique and delightful supernatural read that combines romance with suspense, the real with the mythical.

The story travels along in a gentle yet always engaging pace, as we learn about Julia, her history with Griffin, and Eron’s backstory. Julia is appreciably complex: oftentimes we might find ourselves wondering why she ever dated Griffin in the first place, but Cyn Balog masterfully weaves together the different parts of a complicated girl who feels like she has to pretend to be someone she isn’t in order to protect herself. Eron, too, is a sweetheart, though perhaps less developed. It’s easy to see why he’s different from others of his kind, and we find ourselves cheering for him and hoping that he gets the girl and everything turns out alright.

Cyn Balog does a marvelous job with the supernatural element of SLEEPLESS. I had only vaguely heard of the Sandmen, but I like how Cyn puts together a complete portrait of a mythical people who have more complex motivations than legend says. Alongside the supernatural, the “real world” element is also well done. SLEEPLESS is a bit light on the grief stage, but—without giving away any spoilers—it does a great job of blending so many different things together, from Eron’s struggles with his too-human feelings, to Griffin’s inability to get over the past, to…the thing that Julia has to deal with.

SLEEPLESS is an easy but enjoyable read, with just the right touch of romance, human struggle, and heart to make it a story that lingers in your mind.

Similar Authors
Jackson Pearce
Mandy Hubbard

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - Cyn gets lovely covers. This one could've been just another black-background cover, but, I dunno, I really like the tiny moon, and colors on the flower. It could be rotting or it could be sweet (or both). There's a lot of symbolism I can read in this cover.

Random House / July 13, 2010 / Hardcover / 224pp. / $16.99

Received from Traveling ARC Tours.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer Giveaway #5: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (international)

Nightshade, Andrea Cremer's debut YA werewolf paranormal, is one of the most talked about titles for this fall. It's more than simply a love triangle story: it has the subtle elements of deeper discussions about power, servitude, and loyalty as well. I was lucky enough to meet the sweet Andrea at BEA, and I also have an extra ARC of Nightshade to give away to a lucky winner!


While other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Calla was born a warrior and on her eighteenth-birthday she’ll become the alpha female of the next generation of Guardian wolves. But Calla’s predestined path veers off course the moment she saves the life of a wayward hiker, a boy her own age. This human boy’s secret will turn the young pack's world upside down and forever alter the outcome of the centuries-old Witches' War that surrounds them all. [summary from Goodreads]

To enter, fill out this form here, making sure to answer the question relevantly. This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY, and ends Friday, July 16, 2010. Good luck!

What I've Been Doing Instead of Blogging

I have, surprisingly, not done very much in the way of reading, writing reviews, blogging, answering emails, and commenting in the past couple of weeks. Instead, I have been:

- gchatting with old and new friends
- getting to know my summer apartment-mates
- cooking kickass meals
- playing piano
- finding great new music to download and listen to
- appreciating other people's talents
- writing my WIP
- going through runs in the woods at my school

...and so on. In other words, I feel, oddly enough, very much alive. I have had ups and downs in terms of mood, but I have also made lasting memories, experienced new things, and made myself happy. This kind of activity and simultaneous calm is something I do not remember having known for a long time.

I always say that it's okay if you don't want to do something because you're not feeling in the mood for it: it doesn't make you a worse person as a result. So I WILL be back, and will start communicating more online, but in the meantime you'll have to mind just my pre-scheduled reviews, weekly memes, giveaway posts, and lack of more active presence. Sorry; I hope that's okay!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (70)

The Other Side of Dark by Sarah Smith

Since losing both of her parents, fifteen-year-old Katie can see and talk to ghosts, which makes her a loner until fellow student Law sees her drawing of a historic house and together they seek a treasure rumored to be hidden there by illegal slave-traders.
Law Walker knew Katie Mullens before she was crazy. Before her mother died. Law knows Katie’s crazy now, but she’s always been talented. And she keeps filling sketch pads even though her drawings have gone a little crazy as well—dark, bloody. What Law doesn’t know is that these drawings are real. Or were real. Katie draws what she sees—and Katie sees dead people. People who have died—recently, and not so recently—in accidents, from suicide, even a boy who was trapped in a house that burned down more than 100 years ago. And it’s this boy who makes Law want to get to know Katie all over again. So what if his dad doesn’t want him dating a white girl? So what if people think Katie is dangerous? The ghost boy is hiding a secret that Law needs to know—and it’s much bigger, much more shocking than anyone ever expected. [summary from Goodreads]

It sounds dark, with a promising blend of the historical, the paranormal, and the contemporary. It also has a POC main character, but it's not just about the trials and tribulations of being a POC. I like the sound of this!

The Other Side of Dark will be published by Atheneum on November 2, 2010.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson

Tags: YA, paranormal, werewolves, killer, romance


Claire’s sixteenth year was supposed to be her best yet, as her long-time crush Matthew finally starts talking to her. But then her photographer mother drops the horrifying news: Claire is going to turn into a werewolf and join the local all-female werewolf group.

The last thing Claire wants to be right now is a werewolf, especially with Matthew’s internationally known anti-werewolf father and a lone werewolf, a seule, terrorizing the community by ruthlessly killing people. Does Claire’s romance with Matthew stand a chance?


CLAIRE DE LUNE, Christine Johnson’s debut novel, is a good but not standout addition to werewolf lit. The simple way that this twist on werewolf lore is presented will make it a quick and satisfying read to ardent werewolf lovers, though it will have a tougher time winning the hearts of others.

In CLAIRE DE LUNE, Christine Johnson introduces us to a different type of paranormal world, in which only females can be werewolves. It’s not a feminist book, per se, but the dynamic that this sets up allows Claire to grow into a strong and self-reliant girl/werewolf. Here, it’s the girl protecting the boy, not the usual way around.

Having a girl be the strength in a relationship would be a great story, but the book unfortunately never fully lives up to its potential. Outside of Claire, I found the characters difficult to get to know, most of them only fitting “roles” expected to appear in a paranormal romance: the tensions among the werewolf group members, the love interest’s villainous father, the head-butting mother, etc. I never found myself fully immersed in Claire’s family dynamics, with her mother’s Type A “bad parent” personality and their rather inconsequential au pair (who’s more a red herring than a useful character, perhaps?). And all of Matthew’s father’s supposedly malevolent machinations and campaign against werewolves remained in the distant background and never fully took on immediacy.

I guess I’m just sort of extra cynical when it comes to paranormal romances nowadays: it’s going to take a lot to make something stand out for me. CLAIRE DE LUNE never reaches that point for me, but I have no doubt that it will find its audience as scores of werewolf lovers prowl the shelves for something equally supernatural and romantic after watching Twilight for the twenty-eighth time.

Similar Authors
Kimberly Derting
Bree Despain

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - I wasn't initially a fan--everything just felt too...bland for a werewolf story, but it's growing on me. It's a little whimsical, which I'm not sure how well it fits the story, but I like.

Simon Pulse / May 18, 2010 / Hardcover /336pp. / $16.99

ARC received from publisher.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Giveaway #4: Mandy Hubbard books (US only)

I have a gently used copy of Prada and Prejudice and a brand-new ARC of You Wish, both by Mandy Hubbard, for today's giveaway! These are two lovely books for quick reads.

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
(Razorbill / June 2009)


To impress the popular girls on a high school trip to London, klutzy Callie buys real Prada heels. But trying them on, she trips...conks her head...and wakes up in the year 1815!
There Callie meets Emily, who takes her in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. As she spends time with Emily's family, Callie warms to them—particularly to Emily's cousin Alex, a hottie and a duke, if a tad arrogant.
But can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, and win Alex's heart, before her time in the past is up?
More Cabot than Ibbotson, Prada and Prejudice is a high-concept romantic comedy about finding friendship and love in the past in order to have happiness in the present.

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
(Razorbill / Aug. 5, 2010)


Kayla McHenry's sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left, her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy Kayla's secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles, Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin' do.
Kayla wakes the next day to a life-sized, bright pink My Little Pony outside her window. Then a year's supply of gumballs arrives. A boy named Ken with a disturbing resemblance to the doll of the same name stalks her. As the ghosts of Kayla's wishes-past appear, they take her on a wild ride . . . but they MUST STOP. Because when she was fifteen? She wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her. And Ben is her best friend's boyfriend.

One winner will get both books. To enter, fill out the form below, making sure to answer one of the questions relevantly. This giveaway is open to US only (unless you are willing to pay for shipping), and ends Friday, July 9, 2010. Happy reading!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Review: Wayfarer by R. J. Anderson

Companion novel to Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter

Tags: middle grade, YA, fantasy, fairies, magic, adventure, evil


Linden is nothing like her foster mother Knife, the brave fairy who once saved everyone in the Oak. Now, however, the Oak is in danger of extinction, and the dying fairy queen gives Linden some magic, so that she may go out into the world and find other fairies who might be able to help them.

Together with Timothy, a troubled human boy, Linden sets off to find help. What they discover, however, is an even greater threat to the world’s population in general…


R.J. Anderson has done it again, proving that she was not merely a one-hit wonder with her debut novel, FAERY REBELS: SPELL HUNTER, which was one of my favorite reads of 2009. WAYFARER has all the sweet enchantment, world-building, and action of her first book, and ensures that Knife and Linden’s world is one that I never want to leave.

There are a variety of fairies in WAYFARER, from the small but determined Linden, to much bigger and badder ones. Anderson’s fairy world is one that never gets stale, as these new fantastical elements are effortlessly introduced, and we don’t even have to think twice to accept their plausibility. Timothy, too, is well developed, with his own set of problems and as yet undiscovered strengths. WAYFARER is, in the end, a story about finding your own strengths and sticking to your beliefs in the face of adversity.

The story starts off a little slowly in the beginning, as we are introduced to Timothy, his relationship to the Oak, and his troubles, but it quickly builds into a near-swashbuckling adventure that takes readers to all corners of the UK and back. Linden and Timothy are not quite as endearing as Knife and Paul were in FAERY REBELS: SPELL HUNTER, but the plot and movement of WAYFARER are much better done, with the result being that it’s extremely difficult not to put this book down!

WAYFARER is a unique fairy book that will charm readers of all ages. With lots of action-packed scenes, cross-country adventures, danger, and unforgettable characters, this is one book you’ll want to check out.

Similar Authors
J. M. Barrie (Peter Pan)
Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)
Holly Black
Julie Kagawa (The Iron King)

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - It's a little... I'm not sure how to put it. On the one hand, it feels a little light-hearted for the rather dark, evil themes that run through this book. And on the other, I feel it sort of...alienates the very audience it's aiming for: middle and high schoolers who might be put off by the Part City-esque fairy wings and the girl's doll-like expression.

HarperCollins / June 22, 2010 / Hardcover / 304pp. / $16.99

ARC received from Around the World Tours.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In My Mailbox (38)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme inspired by Alea and hosted by Kristi. Check out Kristi's post to see what others got in books this week!

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. I'm not sure what the heck happened, but hopefully I'll be more in the mood to blog next week! At least I've been writing again. :)

For review:
Grace by Elizabeth Scott
You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Virals by Kathy Reichs

From tours:
Angel Star by Jennifer Murgia
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan

An amazing number of surprise review books from Penguin this week! Wow! And I Now Pronounce You Someone Else was adorable, my kind of love story. (Angel Star, on the other hand, wasn't, unfortunately.)

In the Hand of the Goddess (Song of the Lioness, Book 2) by Tamora Pierce

I'm way behind on reading this series (why didn't I know about it when I was younger, but I blew through the first one and immediately wanted more. It's so good!

Warrior by Marie Brennan
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
On the Edge (Edge, Book 1) by Ilona Andrews
The Magicians' Guild (Black Magician, Book 1) by Trudi Canavan
The Novice (Black Magician, Book 2) by Trudi Canavan
The High Lord (Black Magician, Book 3) by Trudi Canavan
Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels, Book 3) by Ilona Andrews
Shadowlight: A Novel of the Kyndred by Lynn Viehl
Street Magic (Black London, Book 1) by Caitlin Kittredge
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Cast in Shadow (Chronicles of Elantra, Book 1) by Michelle Sagara
Cast in Secret (Chronicles of Elantra, Book 3) by Michelle Sagara
Cast in Silence (Chronicles of Elantra, Book 4) by Michelle Sagara
Cast in Fury (Chronicles of Elantra, Book 5) by Michelle Sagara
Urban Shaman (Walker Papers, Book 1) by C.E. Murphy
Thunderbird Falls (Walker Papers, Book 2) by C.E. Murphy
Coyote Dreams (Walker Papers, Book 3) by C.E. Murphy
Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier

Borrowed (not shown):
The Reckoning (Darkest Powers, Book 3) by Kelley Armstrong - gotta finish this series...
Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 13 - my favorite manga! And it's getting quite good and adorable with the love triangle... *toes tingle in glee*

And now let me give you a tiny status update...which may or may not be a weekly thing, I haven't decided, but doing this helps me keep track of myself, which is a good thing right about now.

What I'm in the Middle of Reading:

The Passage by Justin Cronin - The first part was absolutely incredible. It's not what I expected--but it might've been even better. Now there's an abrupt change in setting and characters and I'm not sure how I feel about that. Hopefully it doesn't drag the story down for me.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray - I just started because several people mentioned this week that I should read it, and soon. Libba's a fantastic writer; I'm not sure how I feel about Cameron yet. I have very low tolerance for apathy: I've dealt with too many of these people in my life.

Nomansland by Lesley Hauge - This one is going slowly for me, which is sad, because I expected a lot more. I dunno, something just I'll try to express my thoughts more clearly in a review soon.

City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments, Book 2) by Cassandra Clare - I didn't intend to reread this series before finally reading Clockwork Angel, but I guess that's what I'm doing right now! I like remember how good it is. It makes me smile. :)

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer - I don't know why it's taking me so long to read this. I'm about a third of the way through, and finally I'm beginning to better connect with the characters and learn some necessary backstory.

What I'm Going to Read This Week (Tentatively, Hopefully):

1 MMPB - Rosemary and Rue (October Daye, Book 1) by Seanan McGuire
1 Upcoming Review Book - 13 to Life by Shannon Delany
1 Already Released Review Book - Insatiable by Meg Cabot
1 Library Book - Keep Sweet by Michele Greene
1 BEA Book - ??? Maybe Clockwork Angel if I can't resist?

...and, of course, try to finish as many of my currently-reading books as possible.

Do you guys have any tentative reading plans for this week? Or are you an utter "pantser" when it comes to deciding which book to read next? I definitely go with my mood, but it's pretty soothing for me to have some vague plan-y sort of thing. :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Review: Escaping the Tiger by Laura Manivong

Tags: middle grade, historical fiction, Communism, Southeast Asia, refugee camps


In 1982, 12-year-old Vonlai Sirivong and his family risk their lives and escape across the river from Communist-controlled Laos to Thailand. They left behind what little the Communists had not taken from them—but life in Na Pho refugee camp doesn’t seem much better. Vonlai attends school, plays soccer, watches his older sister and parents go through mood swings, and endures abuse at the hands of the guards, struggling to hold onto his dream of being an architect in America, where buildings touch the sky and crazy inventions such as a machine that automatically washes dishes exist. Will Vonlai ever see his dreams come true, or will he spend the rest of his life in the refugee camp, as he fears every day?


Told in unassuming third-person narrative, ESCAPING THE TIGER sheds a necessary light on a painful part of history: the Lao refugees’ experience. While the writing is not quite spectacular, first-time author Laura Manivong just might move you to tears, as she did me.

ESCAPING THE TIGER is a slow close-up on the characters’ emotions as they go through their refugee experience. That means that if you’re looking for a fast-paced, plot-driven story, you won’t find it here. Vonlai’s time in the refugee camp is full of unending tension, impatience, and doubt. The refugees go through what most of us can never imagine: unhygienic conditions, extreme lack of privacy, and doubt as to whether everything you did prior to the Communist takeover was worth anything at all. But in the midst of all this are sparks of humanity that shine like relieving fireflies in the darkness: Vonlai’s banter with his friend stands out to me here. This book does something extremely difficult by balancing the inhumanity of the Na Pho experience with the little, warm things about people that keep our spirits alive even in the lowest of times.

The characters did feel a bit stiff at times, though, for me. I often couldn’t figure out whether the characters’ jarring “unapproachability” was intentional or the result of somewhat stilted writing. For example, Vonlai and his sister Dalah’s bickering often got borderline vicious with no real explanation from their personalities, with the result being that their improved relationship at the end came off as questionable to me. I was left feeling less emotionally attached to the characters than I wanted to be, especially since the book is on such a sensitive matter, but I’m not sure if anything could’ve been done about that, whether that was just an inevitable result of the subject material.

Overall, you can read ESCAPING THE TIGER as an essential work on Lao and Thai history, despite its sometimes detached writing. This could be a good one for the avid young reader who’s interested in learning an important history lesson.

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - It's not really one that would capture my attention, but then again, it's highly appropriate for the story, and hints at the tension that the Sirivong family will face in the book. Plus, there are Asian people on the cover! Score one for the publisher getting it right!

HarperCollins / Mar. 9, 2010 / 216pp. / $16.99

Review copy provided by publisher. Thanks, E!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Giveaway #3: Sapphique by Catherine Fisher (US only)

So apparently what I do when I have a blog block (right when my writer's block for my WIP has finally lifted, hmm, strange) is to continue giving away stuff. Well, I DID say it is summer giveaway season on my blog, did I not? Anyway, today I have a lovely ARC of Sapphique, the sequel to Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher, up for grabs. I highly enjoyed Incarceron earlier this year, though I know that not everyone liked it. I got a copy of Sapphique at BEA and was already planning on giving it away, but then another copy came in the super-awesome Penguin surprise two-pack in the mail yesterday, so yay! Don't read the summary if you don't want spoilers.


Finn has escaped from the terrible living Prison of Incarceron, but its memory torments him, because his brother Keiro is still inside. Outside, Claudia insists he must be king, but Finn doubts even his own identity. Is he the lost prince Giles? Or are his memories no more than another construct of his imprisonment? And can you be free if your friends are still captive? Can you be free if your world is frozen in time? Can you be free if you don't even know who you are?
Inside Incarceron, has the crazy sorcerer Rix really found the Glove of Sapphique, the only man the Prison ever loved. Sapphique, whose image fires Incarceron with the desire to escape its own nature. If Keiro steals the glove, will he bring destruction to the world?
Inside. Outside. All seeking freedom. Like Sapphique.

I'm super excited to read this, and maybe you will be too. To enter, fill out the form here, making sure to answer the question relevantly. Each person can only enter once. Open to US only (unless you're willing to pay for shipping; more international giveaways will be coming soon) and ends Friday, July 9, 2010. Good luck!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (69)

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge
(Iron Codex, Book 1)

A series set in a Lovecraftian industrial city in an alternate 1950s that centers on a mechanically gifted young girl approaching her 16th birthday, the age at which everyone in her family goes insane, leaving it up to her to unravel the mystery of their madness--and save the world.
It is 1955...but not the 1955 you know. The Witchcraft Scare polarizes America. Magic is outlawed and practitioners are burned. And one girls has discovered that magic is neither fiction nor fairy tale, but very much alive...
Aoife Grayson is a month shy of sixteen, the age when everyone in her family goes mad. An orphan in the steam-powered city of Lovecraft, Massachusetts, Aoife escapes the confines of her repressive boarding school and along with her best friend Sam and outlaw guide Dean, sets out to discover the secret of her family's madness. What she discovers is a world of forbidden magic and faerie curses, and a dark secret that has shadowed the Grayson family for generations. Aoife must choose between keeping the secret or keeping her sanity, and unravel the dark machinations of the Winter Court of the Fae before it's too late to save her city...or herself. [summary from Goodreads]

There are certain words that seem to invoke a sort of hypnotic magic over synopses. "Iron" seems to be one of them. (Iron King and Iron Daughter, anyone?) This one sounds amazing. A dash of steampunk, a dash of magic, a whole lotta suspense and danger. I hope this one lives up to its potential! I always get so worried when the summary sounds so fascinating...

Oh, wait, I just enlarged the cover, and Richelle Mead blurbed it. I am done for.

Unfortunately, this one's a long wait. The Iron Thorn will be published in hardcover by Delacorte Books on February 22, 2011.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards

Tags: middle grade, YA, historical fiction, floods, environmental disasters, classism


The year is 1889. Celestia, youngest daughter of a businessman, falls in love with Peter, a hired hand from the valley who works at the rich folks’ club up by Lake Conemaugh, a dammed-up lake high in the mountains, despite the impropriety of their relationship. Her family’s disapproval sends Celestia into the valley to pursue a new life with her true love. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the valley, Maura, a teenage mother, cares for her children while waiting for her train conductor husband to come home, while Kate trains obsessively to be a nurse after a devastating loss.

Celestia, Peter, Maura, Kate, and others…they have little in common with one another, until the day heavy rains destroy the dam and send an unimaginably horrifying flood rushing through the valley. Houses are swept away, families torn apart, and their lives entwine and change in ways that none of them foresaw.


THREE RIVERS RISING, Jame Richards’ debut novel, is a moving work of historical fiction, its verse format making it all the more accessible to a wider audience. The story and character development feel a little forced, however, but in spite of these problems I still found it a good read, worthy of sharing.

I had never heard of the Johnstown flood before, but it was a great backdrop for a variety of characters’ stories, and it added a deeper layer of complexity and suspense to the historical fiction. Celestia and Peter’s improper romance, in particular, was well developed, and presents to readers a moving portrait of class divisions in the late nineteenth century. The historical aspects of the book are unique, but not all-encompassing: you could probably consider this “historical fiction lite.”

Jame Richards’ verses are easy on the eyes and mind. It is happily devoid of the stiltedness that sometimes occurs in historical fiction; instead, the lines are straightforward, always more for plot and characterization than for building the setting. The sense of mounting tension we get as the moment of the flood draws nearer is spectacular. Richards’ writing and her sense of pace at crucial moments drove me forward in my reading, unwilling to put the book down.

Unfortunately, I felt that the multiple points of view contributed to the lack of thorough character development and connection. Celestia and Peter’s stories were the most developed; Maura’s and Kate’s felt sadly rushed, incomplete, and force, due to the less amount of space they are given in the novel. Switching narrators contributed to the rising suspense at the novel’s climax, but did not help me fully understand and sympathize with any of them. Dedicating the book to exploring the nuances of Celestia and Peter’s relationship would’ve probably made this a more emotionally satisfying story for me.

Additionally, the ending of the book felt unnaturally neat, which jars with our sense of the flood’s destructive power. The “perfection” of the ending brought me uncomfortably close to rolling my eyes and lowering the age range of readers I’d recommend this book to.

Despite these issues, I still overall enjoyed THREE RIVERS RISING for its unique way of approaching historical fiction. The verse was lovely, and the actual section where the flood occurs—which is what’s most important—will tug at your heartstrings. THREE RIVERS RISING is an easy historical read that can be enjoyed by a wide range of readers, from the middle school history buff to the grandparent looking for a light read on a fascinating moment in time.

Similar Authors
Sonya Sones
Jennifer Donnelly (A Northern Light)
Ann Rinaldi

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - I think it's so pretty! It's so unique, and that color blue is bright and eye-catching.

Alfred A. Knopf / April 13, 2010 / Hardcover / 304pp. / $16.99

ARC picked up at NCTE, other review copy sent by publisher.

Summer Giveaway #2: The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz (US only)

Because I feel unfortunately uninspired for blog posts besides reviews at the present moment, I am setting up another giveaway. (Wouldn't life be great if people did this for you all the time?) Today I am giving away a gently used copy of The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz, a contemporary retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion. It's chick lit to an extent, but the wit is acerbic and absurdly funny in a "haha I can't believe she actually said that" kind of way, and I find myself always reaching for this book whenever I'm in a self-hating reading funk (like I was a month ago). Check out the summary:

Jane Fortune's fortunes have taken a downturn. Thanks to the profligate habits of her father and older sister, the family's money has evaporated and Jane has to move out of the only home she's ever known: a stately brick town house on Boston's prestigious Beacon Hill. Thirty-eight and terminally single, Jane has never pursued idle pleasures like her sibling and father. Instead, she has devoted her time to running the Fortune Family Foundation, a revered philanthropic institution that has helped spark the careers of many a budding writer, including Max Wellman, Jane's first—and only—love.
Now Jane has lost her luster. Max, meanwhile, has become a bestselling novelist and a renowned literary lothario. But change is afoot. And in the process of saving her family and reigniting the flames of true love, Jane might just find herself becoming the woman she was always meant to be.

I reviewed it a looong time ago, so long ago that my review style has changed dramatically, but it's there if you want to look. To enter, fill out the form below; be sure to answer the question relevantly. This giveaway is open to US mailing addresses only (unless you're willing to pay for international shipping), each person may only enter ONCE, and it ends Friday, July 2, 2010. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas

Tags: YA, stalking, Catholicism, writing


Olivia Peters’ dream comes true when she wins a prestigious high school writing contest and gets the attention of Father Mark Brennan, an esteemed priest, professor, and writer. As a reward for her contest win, Father Mark takes Olivia under his wing and introduces her to the fascinating world of writers and the writing lifestyle.

For a while, Olivia is sailing. She has an attentive mentor, a new crush, and good relationships with her family, friends, and teachers. But then she begins to feel that something might be wrong. Hardly a minute goes by without Father Mark contacting her in some way, pressuring her to meet up with him, go over their writing together, have a drink. And the more Olivia tries to avoid it, the bigger and the more terrifying the problem gets.


THIS GORGEOUS GAME is one of those books that, try as hard as you can, you won’t be able to get off your mind after reading. It’s chilling and astonishingly well-written, and if you’re looking for a book that will disturb and move you, this should be the one.

Stalking is extremely difficult to discuss, because it’s personal, upsetting, and so subtle you don’t realize something’s wrong until it’s already happened. That’s why what Donna Freitas has accomplished in THIS GORGEOUS GAME is so impressive and respectable. In writing alternatingly lyrical and down-to-earth, Freitas captures the simultaneous realism and surrealism of Olivia’s situation. Passages of unearthly beauty entwine with creepy situations for the mood that this story needs to be effectively convincing.

Olivia narrates her story with all the subtlety that this topic demands. Most of us will know what’s happening, can see the signs, but we can also see why Olivia could not have noticed the signs like the way we with our foresight can. Olivia’s story perfectly captures the terror of stalking, because it’s precisely its near-invisibility that makes it so disturbingly powerful.

THIS GORGEOUS GAME is as far from a light read as you can get. I still get goosebumps every time I think about or try to talk about this book, which hopefully shows the power that Olivia’s story had over me, the effect of Donna Freitas’ words. If physical horror isn’t your thing and you want to read something that will affect you profoundly, THIS GORGEOUS GAME is the ultimate choice. See if you get chills from reading it as I did.

Similar Authors
Julie Anne Peters (By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead)
Courtney Summers

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - It's simple, yet gorgeous and powerful, so symbolic, so mesmerizing.

Farrar, Straus & Girous / May 25, 2010 / Hardcover / 224pp. / $16.99

ARC received from publisher.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In My Mailbox (37)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme inspired by Alea and hosted by Kristi. Check out Kristi's post to see what others got in books this week!

A lovely week full of surprises! ...And, uh, me justifying buying many UF books due to my getting my grades back and them being FABULOUS.

For review:

The Necromancer by Michael Scott
The Lighter Side of Life and Death by C. K. Kelly Martin
Nomansland by Lesley Hauge
God is in the Pancakes by Robin Epstein
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Insatiable by Meg Cabot - sooo excited!

From tour:
Sleepless by Cyn Balog - From Traveling ARC Tours. Not pictured because I already mailed it out. It was actually quite sweet.
You Wish by Mandy Hubbard - From Around the World Tours.

Bought (whoops, just realized I forgot to take pictures of these):
Fairywalker, Book 1: Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
Prophecy of Days, Book 1: The Daykeeper's Grimoire by Christy Raedeke
Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews
Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews
Bad to the Bone by Jeri Smith-Ready
Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson


Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Walk of the Spirits by Richard Cusick
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
The Dead Girls' Dance by Rachel Caine
Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh
Nightwalker by Jocelynn Drake
Stray by Rachel Vincent
Rogue by Rachel Vincent
Shift by Rachel Vincent
Pride by Rachel Vincent
Prey by Rachel Vincent
Touch the Dark by Karen Chance (not pictured)
The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu (not pictured)

Cover Lust (15)

Cover Lust is a once-in-a-while meme to showcase covers that have caught my attention recently. Let me know what you think of these!

Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
(Penguin / Spring 2011)

This is just so superiorly luscious. The pub date is a long ways off, and I don't even know if I've gotten the publication info correct, but talk about cover lust for sure. This is exactly the sort of cover that will have potential buyers drooling in the bookstore.

(Harlequin Teen / Aug. 31, 2010)

I won't be reading this, as I wasn't a fan of the first one, but I do love the cover, mostly just for that shade of blue. I know, I know, it looks really artificial, and if you look at the model's face he looks like a mannequin--but can we see that blue more often on covers? What's that shade called, anyway?

When Rose Wakes by Christopher Golden
(MTV Books / Sept. 28, 2010)

My favorite part is how the girl is in the middle ground, slightly off-focus. Otherwise, the contrast of the colors are cool too. It's very bold, and different. Ideal for a modern retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
(Lee and Low Books / Oct. 15, 2010)

This cover first caught my attention with the beautiful backlighting and silhouetting of the tree and girl. But as you get up closer, you can see more intricate details: handwriting? a map, maybe? It's pretty simple, but I like it.

Headlong by Kathe Koja
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux / Oct. 28, 2008)

This was published a while ago, but I'd never heard of it until I stumbled across it on Goodreads. Isn't it such an eye-catching use of black and white? I'm not sure how I feel about the text placement, but I like the starkness and the water texture that shows up in the black and white.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer Giveaway #1: Matched by Ally Condie (International)

So I did mention earlier this week that this summer I will be indulging you with what will hopefully be many, many giveaways of excellent books, both finished copies of books/series I've loved and ARCs. Let's start out big, shall we? I was lucky enough to get an extra ARC of the highly anticipated Matched by Ally Condie at BEA. For those of you who have been dying to get your hands on this book, here's a chance!


In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.
Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s barely any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one . . . until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow—between perfection and passion.

I recently read this book and thought it was pretty good. Sounds like something you're interested in? Fill out the form below to be entered! Since this is such a highly anticipated book, I will open it internationally, and will end on Friday, July 2, 2010. Good luck, and if you spread the word for me, I'll be ever grateful!

Review: The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells

Tags: YA, summer, romance, ocean


16-year-old Mia Gordon was planning for a boy-free summer, after having her heart broken by a boy whom she thought loved her. The Gordons stay in the Hamptons with Mia’s beloved cousin Corinne’s family. However, things have changed since Corinne and Mia last hung out. Suddenly, Corinne is slim, beautiful, and fashionable, and has better things to do than hang out with the totally uncool Mia.

But then Mia meets Simon, whose family is renting the house next door, and her summer begins to change unexpectedly. Like her, Simon also feels like an outsider in the exclusive Hamptons teen community, and they hang out nearly every night on the beach. Even as they each struggle with their own family problems, they grow closer, and Mia finally begins to understand to love herself, to love living, all because of one boy.


Normally I’ve gotten over the whole “the summer that changed my life” trope, but THE SUMMER OF SKINNY DIPPING was a surprisingly well-written, poignant, and deep read. Its cover suggests a good beach pastime, but it’s a story that will resonate during any season.

Amanda Howells does an excellent job of writing well-rounded characters that are more than just types. There are numerous layers to the interpersonal complexities of Mia’s life, from her parents’ rocky relationship, to Corinne’s two-facedness, to Simon’s own family issues. That is why this book cannot simply be classified as a summer love read, because it runs deeper than that.

Of course, this book’s back-cover summary implies there will be a romance, and thankfully Mia and Simon’s budding relationship was equally well developed. Simon doesn’t come off as an irritatingly perfect male specimen, irresistible to all womankind but wanting only Mia. (Whew *wipes sweat off brow*.) Their relationship is a relaxed, alternately playful and serious, dance across the summer, and we grow to love the way they work together in spite of all their individual difficulties.

THE SUMMER OF SKINNY DIPPING is a worthy read this summer, and the best part is that it’s a good deal in paperback form. Be sure to check this one out if you’re looking for a gentle yet emotional story of love, family, and self-discovery.

Similar Authors
Aimee Friedman (Sea Change)
Jenny Han

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - I think it makes a lovely picture, but that was not at all how I pictured Mia, who is depicted as strong, with an almost athletic build. When will the bias towards heavier or more muscular cover models end?

Sourcebooks Fire / June 1, 2010 / Paperback / 304pp. / $8.99

ARC received from publisher.

Giveaway Winners

The winner of the S&S Nancy Drew prize pack is:

#75 Selena Hopewell!

Entrants into the Big Honcho Media Iron King giveaway had to tell me their favorite fictional love triangle. I think the most popular one was Gale/Katniss/Peeta, followed closely by Edward/Bella/Jacob and Damon/Elena/Stefan. It gave me a swoony feeling just looking over all of them! Well, the winner of a copy of The Iron King is:

#27 marian!

The 10 winners of ARCs of Dear Anjali are:

#34 Kailia Sage
#52 Alexandra D.
#50 Jessica M.
#13 vslavetopassionv
#45 Aik
#48 Cynthial11
#9 Kirthi
#71 Krista
#12 Sarah R.
#42 Alannah Javier

Congratulations! I have emailed you all. Please get back to me with your mailing information. And if you didn't win, don't. freaking. worry. Seriously. My summer giveaway is about to kick off in 3... 2...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

BEA 2010, Pt. 2

I wanted to save Thursday of BEA for a different post because I feel like, in some ways, more happened on this day than on the previous. So Thursday I woke up with a much better sense of how to navigate the exhibitions and make the most out of my time there. I debated getting up an hour earlier and taking the earlier train in so that I could somehow attempt to grab some 9am titles, particularly Cassandra Clare's The Clockwork Angel, which was heavily advertised beforehand as having only 300 ARCs available. In the end, however, I decided to uphold my deep-seated dislike of crowds and take my time instead.

I arrived at the Javits Center around 9:20, checked my bag in, and began to wander past the booths, to see if there were any ARCs left that I could still get. I wasn't expecting to get any, however. I meandered past the S&S booth, only to hear a bunch of publicists say to a lady, "You got the last ARC of Clockwork Angel!"

Damn! I couldn't believe that it was almost 9:30 and they had still been giving out ARCs. And then that I had JUST missed it. I was about to leave when I heard the publicists talking amongst themselves, wondering what to do with the last CA ARC that was under the case they had on display. "We should give it away," one of them said, and the others agreed with her.

Well, I decided to go for it. "Excuse me," I said, stepping forward. "Did you say you were giving that ARC away?" After a few exchanged looks, the publicists decided that yeah, they were going to give it to me. Insert a million exclamation points here! We chatted for a bit--I learned that they had an ARC snafu when one box of CA ARCs went missing, disappointing about 20 people earlier (though lucky for latecomers like me!)--and they even took a posed picture of me taking the ARC out of the case. We exchanged business cards, and it turns out some of the S&S people knew my blog! Check out the picture; Cassandra Clare even tweeted it later:

How crazy is that? That sort of thing hardly EVER happens to me.

(And then I tweeted about it and bloggers brought it up when I met them later that day. Crazy tech-savvy bloggers. lol)

I got to get books signed by a lot of authors I'd been looking forward to meeting or whose books I've wanted to read: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (and yes, I did get her in on a surprise for Jenny of Wondrous Reads *grins*), Chelsea Campbell and The Rise of Renegade X (she had these cool H, V, and X embossers that she stamped onto each book she signed, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, you should read her book), Mistwood by Leah Cypess (loved her book! and she said she read my review!), and some more.

During those lines I met and/or stood with bloggers Cat (Beyond Books), Laura (Laura's Review Bookshelf), Khy (Frenetic Reader), Taschima (Bloody Bookaholic), Eleni (La Femme Readers), Susan (Wastepaper Prose), and oh goodness so much more and I'm sorry if I forgot you! (There will be another list coming up later in the post/afternoon.) I also got to talk to author Jackie Dolamore (Magic Under Glass), who is a lot of fun. She drew these awesome "name cards/bookplates" of herself in, like, 30 seconds flat, and she showed us an early idea for the cover of her next book. Gorgeous, by the way.

And then for lunch I went outside of Javits (Actually, the exclamation point should come for, I actually ate lunch!). I met up with author friend Lauren Mechling, and happily our mutual blogger friend Cat (Beyond Books) came along because the two of them had been trying to plan for a meet-up as well. So that was great fun. We had lunch at a small bakery. It was a great time; Lauren and Cat even took pictures! (As you can tell by now, I clearly didn't. I'm not good with taking pictures of people.)

As my college friends might say, ADORBS!

After lunch, we came back to Javits, and I got to meet up with Barb and Sarah of Blue Slip Media! This was lovely, because I have been talking to these two ladies for a long time, and Sarah and I have, like, the EXACT SAME reading tastes, and it was just so great getting to meet them in person. Afterwards, I stood in line for signed ARCs of Jennifer Donnelly's upcoming YA, Revolution (finally! she's written another YA!) with blogger Korianne. I also got to see Beth Kephart again, and meet bloggers Keyona (Only Sexy Books Allowed) and Donna (Bites) for the first time! And I can't forget Dominique (The Book Vault)!

I ended the day by getting an ARC of The Passage signed by Justin Cronin. According to the Random House publicist I talked to, they printed 10,000 ARCs for this book. TEN THOUSAND! I don't think I can even imagine that number. That's crazy. I hope to read that book soon.

And now some random (awesome) pictures:

The cover for the last book of the Vampire Academy series! A little weird, but it's VA, so whatevs!

A crazy costume at the EgmontUSA booth to... um... I forget?

And then...after an agonizingly delayed and slow train ride home, my BEA adventure ended. I slept 11 hours that night, and then took a 3-hour nap Friday afternoon, and STILL felt tired. Ah well. It was so worth it, and next year I might even go to Book Blogger Con, as I heard great things about it.

Now what you guys have been waiting for: pictures of the books I got! You can click on them to enlarge, I believe.

The right column is signed ARCs:

The right column is signed finished copies, plus a few on the left side:

Some of the books in the last picture I had gotten from the Strand or the Teen Author Carnival on Monday.

Overall, I had a fantastic time and would only hesitate slightly to go again (the slight hesitation comes from my fear of large crowds). I also learned a lot, probably enough to be able to give advice next year. It was a fantastic time and I'm very glad I decided to take the plunge and go this year--even though next year I might decide to stay in the city at nights, instead of commuting! Hehe.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (68)

Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst

What Lily Carter wants most in the world is to attend Princeton University just like her grandfather. When she finally visits the campus, Grandpa surprises her: She has been selected to take the top-secret Legacy Test. Passing means automatic acceptance to Princeton. Sweet!
Lily's test is to find the Ivy Key. But what is she looking for? Where does she start? As she searches, Lily is joined by Tye, a cute college boy with orange and black hair who says he's her guard. That's weird. But things get seriously strange when a gargoyle talks to her. He tells her that there are two Princetons—the ordinary one and a magical one—and the Key opens the gate between them. But there are more secrets that surround Lily. Worse secrets.
When Lily enters the magical Princeton, she uncovers old betrayals and new dangers, and a chance at her dream becomes a fight for her life. Soon Lily is caught in a power struggle between two worlds, with her family at its center. In a place where Knights slay monsters, boys are were-tigers, and dragons might be out for blood, Lily will need all of her ingenuity and courage—and a little magic—to unite the worlds and unlock the secrets of her past and her future.

One book (Ice) was all it took for me to automatically pick up anything Sarah Beth Durst writes in the future. And this one sounds extremely interesting! I'm always intrigued by any YA books that have something to do with colleges. It also reminds me a little of Diana Peterfreund's Secret Society Girl series, which I loved--although that might just be because of the Ivy League-secrets connection. Add an alluring cover, and I'm sold. I can't wait!

Enchanted Ivy will be released in hardcover by Simon & Schuster on October 12, 2010.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review: Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski

Tags: middle grade, YA, speculative


Newly single and long-time friendless high school senior Devi is sure her life can’t get worse—until she accidentally drops her phone in the fountain at the mall. For some odd reason, now the only person she can call is herself: her freshman year self.

Once senior Devi gets over the shock and believes that this is actually happening, she realizes that it can be an excellent way to right her mistakes. This time around, she’ll tell her younger self to be a better friend, help out her (their) parents’ floundering marriage, and, above all, avoid Bryan, the boy who will break her (their) heart(s) in three years. At first freshman Devi is on board, but things soon start to spiral out of control. Will telling her younger self how to “do it right” actually make senior Devi happy?


GIMME A CALL is a fast and fun chick-lit read reminiscent of Meg Cabot and Lauren Myracle. For a rather outrageous premise, the story is actually well done, and, given to the right audience, will be gleefully devoured.

The greatest thing about this book is that it never loses its momentum. GIMME A CALL starts out a tad bumpily for the first couple of chapters, but before you know it, you’ll be over halfway through the book and definitely enjoying the ridiculous ride. For a book that consists mostly of mistakes, poor judgments, and shocking consequences within every chapter, it surprisingly does not get dull. The voices of the two Devis are light and relatable, never forced.

I did find it rather off-putting that freshman Devi sounded much more intelligent and likable than senior Devi, yet took everything senior Devi did at face value. Indeed, senior Devi’s borderline hyperventilating exaggerations and freakouts got irritating quickly, and if it weren’t for the book’s unique and well-written plot, I would’ve liked the book a lot less.

GIMME A CALL will probably not leave a lasting impression on you, or win any awards, or move any mountains, but it’s definitely a great light choice for the days when you just need to switch your brain to off mode. You will be intrigued by the development of the speculative aspect, and find it well-grounded in the familiar contemporary success-obsessed high school world.

Similar Authors
Meg Cabot
Alexandra Bullen (Wish)
Kristina Springer (The Espressologist)
Lauren Myracle (TTYL)

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5

Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 1.5 out of 5 - Ehh. I like the font, and the careful and sparse use of colors, and even the blankness in the middle, but I'm not too much a fan of the iPhone. Somehow I didn't imagine Devi owning an iPhone, and I guess I'm opposed to the idea in general that the iPhone should represent our generation.

Delacorte / April 27, 2010 / Hardcover / 320pp. / $17.99

Review copy received from publisher.

Monday, June 7, 2010

This Summer on Steph Su Reads

June, I think, really officially marks the start of summer, which means it's time for... summer goals in reading, writing, and blogging! I don't usually set concrete goals, much in the same way I never make New Year's resolutions, but I think it wouldn't hurt to share with you some of what I'm hoping to accomplish in book-related stuff this summer:

Originally I was going to do a month-long reading "theme" for each month of summer ("theme" is in quotes because I am hardly hardcore about it, what with my wildly fluctuating reading tastes and moods), kind of like how March/April was "catch up on review books" month and May was POC month. I hardly have coordinating posts like reviews, interviews, or whatnot, but I did manage to read a decent number of POC books from my review pile (interspersed between books with May pub dates, of course). You'll see some of those books' reviews coming up later this month.

For the summer--which is only June and July for me, as I'll be out of the country (hopefully) for a decent part of August--I'm going to be reading a combination of my BEA books (sooo many of them!) as well as my giant shelf full of mass market paperbacks. (So that means a LOT of urban fantasy, fantasy, steampunk, and romance, whoooo!) There is a ridiculous amount of them (maybe I'll show you a picture some other time), and they all sound so good and I've been dying for the chance to tackle them when I have more time to read and don't feel guilty about picking a TBR-pile book up in place of a review book. I've already read a handful of my MMPBs that I enjoyed greatly--Glass Houses by Rachel Caine, Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah Maclean (this one kept me up until 4 in the morning last night, darnit!)--as well as weeded out some that I started but couldn't get into. Hooray for weeding! And hooray for reading incredibly addicting books!

Bloggiesta is this weekend, and I think I might actually try to participate. I'm not good at marathon-anythings, especially as, with any luck, I will either be going to the beach or hiking on Saturday, but there's a bunch of stuff I would love to do for my blog, and since this weekend is designated Bloggiesta, I figured, why not? That way I can catch up on reviews, write up some posts that have been tossing and turning in my head for months...etc. I think it should be fun and productive!

As for writing... oh man. I need to get back on that ship. I haven't written since the weekend before BEA--I've just been so busy, busy, busy with organizing, moving, cleaning, sleeping, watch movies (heh). I feel REALLY guilty about it and so am determined to start writing again TONIGHT. I hate making writing goals (cuz I never achieve them, and then I hate myself), buuuut perhaps that's the best way to do it? I know Jennifer Echols always has, like, monthly writing goals going on her blog, so maybe... 20,000 words is not an unrealistic goal by the end of June? That would bring me up to 70,000 words in my WIP, 70,000 killer words that will mostly have to be discarded because I still have to figure out where the heck my story is going (or, uh, how it's starting. Sigh). But! It will happen! Would anyone like to join me in kicking our writing butts in gear this summer? Nothing too serious, but I could do with a Word War every once in a while, or a "hey how ya doing WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVEN'T WRITTEN FOR THREE DAYS" kind of email. Yeah. Let me know, lol.

[ETA] TOTALLY forgot to put this really important one in! Well, I don't keep ARCs. So all summer long then I will be hosting giveaways for the many BEA ARCs that I will be hopefully reading and then passing on to you guys! How do you like that? I always like sharing the love. So stick around over the summer for chances to win fabulous and highly desired books--one should be just around the corner!

Well, that should about cover things for now! What about you guys? Do you have any goals related to reading, writing, or blogging for the summer? Any particular reading "themes" you want to work on over the summer? Any flailing WIPs that you really need to kick into obedience and, uh, productivity?


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