Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I'm off to Shanghai in the morning, so expect a decrease in posts and online presence until I get settled in. I'll try to keep you all up to date with book, Shanghai, and job news as much as I can. Bye for now!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cover Lust (28)

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
(HarperCollins / Sept. 6, 2011)

Ooooooh so gorgeous! I love the vibrancy of the cool blues and reds, and I love that it's illustrated. Very, very, very pretty.

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
(Delacorte Books / March 13, 2012)

Kirsten Hubbard gets the cream in YA contemporary covers. The cover of Like Mandarin was awesome and this one stays along those lines, making use of white space and one strong color scheme. Wowww.

Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles, Book 1) by Jessica Spotswood
(Putnam Juvenile / Feb. 7, 2012)

This makes my blood hum a little, I think. What lusciousness! I like that it combines the fairy/magic/witch cover art element (wilderness, light pretty dresses, flowers in her hair) with something slightly wicked and modern (the girl's stare).

Everneath by Brodi Ashton
(Balzer + Bray / Jan. 3, 2012)

So it's totally not my type of read, being a paranormal romance, but I can't help my eyes widening at the sight of that flowy dress trailing off into wisps of smoke (!!!). And that pinkish red color is to die for.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Luminous by Dawn Metcalf

Tags: YA, POC, magical realism, murder


Consuela led a normal life up until the point she discovers that she can slip off her skin and enter the Flow, a kind of other dimension. Those who can travel through the Flow exist to help save the lives of those in the real world, but Consuela’s arrival in the Flow coincide with the beginning of a string of frightening murders within the Flow. Someone, it seems, is determined to end the Flow, and everyone is a suspect—but the murderer might hold Consuela’s key to returning home.


LUMINOUS was…interesting. Okay, “interesting” might be a tad generous. LUMINOUS is ambitious, and beautifully written, but at times it was a confusing and emotionally distant read for me.

Dawn Metcalf’s writing is astounding, an awe-inspiring combination between the rhythmic hypnotism of freestyle poetry and deliciousness of rich and unusual prose. This is something I feel like I don’t see much of in current YA, that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of, these creative risks with writing style.

The concept of the Flow is very intriguing, and certainly unlike anything I’ve read. True to the whimsy of the writing style, the Flow is never fully explained, or at least is not explained in a way that solidifies its presence and purpose for me. Thus, my head was spinning for a great portion of the book, because I had never fully grasped the concept.

The same goes for the characters. LUMINOUS shifts between multiple characters’ points of view rather arbitrarily, making it so that the identity of the murderer is not long a secret. I would be alright with this, except that I felt like the murderer’s justification for his cold-blooded actions was only partially explored, and existed mostly in circular monologues declaiming his self-importance or the righteousness of his motives. Consuela did not feel as developed as she could’ve been, either. So she has this astounding new talent, and wants very much to return home to her family, but beyond that she did not seem to have much else to make her really “fill out” as a three-dimensional character. My lack of connection to the characters, along with the book’s uneven pacing—I was intrigued at the beginning, and then felt like things were dragging on and on—left me feeling a little “on the outside” of the story.

Still, LUMINOUS packs some powerful and thought-provoking themes, and may be extremely rewarding for the patient reader who likes the supernatural challenge. Check it out if it seems up your alley or if you want something different.

Cover discussion: I like how it's so colorful and eye-catching!

Dutton Juvenile / June 30, 2011 / Hardcover / 304pp. / $17.99

Sent by publisher for blog tour.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In My Mailbox (66)

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

My last one for a long, long while, probably. I move to China this Wednesday!

For Review:
Blood Red Road (audiobook) by Moira Young

Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman
I remember talking to Sarah about this book when she was still working on it. I hope it's a terrifying read.

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter
Received for a blog tour! I'm excited. I've been wanting to read this for a long time.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Something tells me that the universe wants me to read Blood Red Road...

Fateful by Claudia Gray

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans
Oh dear, another bestselling adult author trying to enter the YA market?

And then Random House sent me a giant box o' books...

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris
The Other Countess by Eve Edwards
Starstruck by Cyn Balog
Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt
Sass & Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler
Wildcat Fireflies by Amber Kizer
Amen, L.A. by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld
Sons of Liberty, Book 2: Death and Taxes by Alexander Lagos and Joseph Lagos

Thank you to Simon & Schuster, Trish, HarperCollins, Michelle, Disney-Hyperion, and Random House!

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison
NOOKcolor - I've been able to read GalleyGrab books on it, yay! Although for now I've kind of been using it primarily to play games. I've gotten quite good at Sudoku by now...

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
Eona: The Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman
Moonshine by Alaya Johnson

Well, that's all for now, folks. Thank you to all who have supplied me with more books than I could ever possibly read in a lifetime. IMM will be taking a break until I actually, you know, get books over in China. Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Tags: YA, contemporary, incest, love, family


Lochan and Maya are brother and sister, but they are much more than that as well. They are parents to their three younger siblings in place of their flighty and immature mother. Lochan has crippling social anxiety and cannot be himself with anyone other than Maya. They are also each other’s best friends and soulmates…but then they fall in love.

Their love feels to them natural and inevitable, but Lochan and Maya live in fear of others finding out. Will the rest of the world realize how wonderful their relationship is, or will they only think that it is disgusting and forbidden?


There has never been a book like FORBIDDEN in YA literature, and I can guarantee that there will never be one like it again. For Tabitha Suzuma has written an unconventional love story so powerful it will suck you under, suffocate you, and force you to rethink all that you thought about love and relationships.

Perhaps the most accomplished thing about FORBIDDEN is just how utterly deftly Tabitha Suzuma develops Lochan and Maya’s world and relationship. Here we have characters with a wide range of ages and maturity, and each one of them is fully fleshed out, so that we can both love and hate them at the same time. The mother is horrifying un-maternal, but not just in a way that conveniently lets the romance fall into place: her treatment of her children clearly has a great impact on Lochan and Maya’s closeness. Each of their siblings have their own personalities and issues, and you can’t help but be invested in all of their well-beings.

Everything feels just a little bit over the top—and yet, at the same time, nothing does. Lochan tends to always act like he’s on the verge of breaking down, which can get a little repetitive, and he and Maya can often act pretty dramatic for an already shocking story premise. Still, despite individual characters’ dramatic tendencies, and even the drama associated with the premise and conclusion, FORBIDDEN unfolds in a way that seems inevitable in the best and most natural way. You can’t help yourself when you root for Lochan and Maya—and you shouldn’t even feel bad for doing so, because if there’s any YA couple that has had to go through hell and sky-high obstacles, it’s this one.

FORBIDDEN is an enthralling read for those who like their contemporary YA deliberate, and can cherish the unconventional romance. It was an incredible read for me, and I hope it is so for you too.

Simon Pulse / June 28, 2011 / Hardcover / 464pp. / $17.99

Personal copy.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why Giveaway!

To celebrate the paperback release (finally!) of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and to announce the start of the 13RW Project, Big Honcho Media is offering TWO (2) winners the chance to win a paperback copy of this marvelous book! Here's a bit about the book:

Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of a girl named Hannah Baker who takes her own life. But before she does, she records several cassette tapes explaining why and sends them to the people she feels pushed her toward that decision. The story is told from the point of view of Clay Jensen who spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah’s voice as his guide. He becomes a first-hand witness to Hannah’s pain, and learns the truth about himself—a truth he never wanted to face.

The anti-bullying anthem was published in hardcover in October 2007 by Razorbill, and quickly became a word-of-mouth favorite among teenaged readers with fans claiming, “This book changed my life.” The novel has been on the New York Times children’s hardcover bestseller list for 65 weeks, foreign rights have been sold into 30 countries and it has been acquired by Universal Pictures and will star Selena Gomez.

Penguin launched the 13RW Project at as a place for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why to record their thoughts, stories, videos and photos relating to the book, and to view what other readers from all across the country have shared. Each review is logged on a map to show the many locations that viewers are posting from, and all content is shareable through Facebook and Twitter.

If you've read this book, or it has affected your life or the lives of those you know, I recommend that you check out the website and maybe even share your own story. To enter the giveaway, please fill out the form below. This giveaway is open to US only, and ends Friday, July 1, 2011. Good luck!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Giveaway Winners!

I've got a slew of giveaway winners to announce.

The winner of a copy of Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier is:

#148 Daniel!

The two winners of the June ARC Giveaway, Pt. II are:

#114 Amy K!
#122 Asheley T.!

The two winners of the June prize pack giveaway are:

#116 Hannah B.!
#206 Briana (The Book Pixie)!

The four winners of an ARC of Withering Tights by Louise Rennison are:

#38 Elise!
#21 booksNyarn!
#120 Victokirsh!
#75 Tahleen!

The winner of the Diversity in YA prize pack is:

#40 Bianca (Wicked Good Books)!

The winner of the This Is Teen prize pack is:

#201 Jessica (Jessica's Bookshelf)!

Congratulations to all the winners! I have emailed you all.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Tags: YA, contemporary, cancer, death, sex, love


Tessa has terminal cancer, and she’s decided that if she’s going to die young, then she wants to complete a list of things before she dies. Tessa’s list is a little controversial—doing drugs? having sex?—but she’s determined to see them through, while battling her own body and the people who mean well when they try to dissuade her.

But just as Tessa is about to come to terms with her own mortality, something happens that utterly destroys her.

She falls in love.


I had heard lots about BEFORE I DIE before I finally got around to reading it. And while it didn’t change my life the way I thought it was going to, BEFORE I DIE was still a beautifully written story that made me cry big fat tears all night long.

Tessa is not an easy character to like, but I think she behaves in the way that people who are not terminally ill will not understand. She starts off rather reckless, bitter at her diagnosis but pragmatically resigned to her mortality. Indeed, for the first half of the book I had rather little patience for her, as she insensitively plows ahead with her plans without any regard for the people around her. But, like she says, who’s going to criticize her? Her death sentence has given her the power to do whatever the hell she wants whenever the hell she wants. With this in mind, I plowed forward in the story, hoping that I would grow to love her.

While I didn’t end up quite loving Tessa, I did develop great respect for her, mostly through Jenny Downham’s incredible writing. Downham does things with words that you wouldn’t have thought of, yet afterwards you are like, now why hadn’t anyone thought of that before? Her writing had me on page 8:
“I want a big dark room you can barely move in, with bodies grinding close together. I want to hear a thousand songs played incredibly loud. I want to dance so fast that my hair grows long enough to trample on. I want my voice to be thunderous above the throb of bass. I want to get so hot that I have to crunch ice in my mouth.”
And page 158:
“The whole world could roar and it wouldn’t freak me out. I want an avalanche at the next junction. I want black rain to fall and a plague of locusts to buzz out of the glove compartment.”
Worth reading through the less sympathetic parts to get to those.

If you’re looking for a book along the lines of Gayle Forman’s (and, for the record, there’s also an Adam in BEFORE I DIE. Are all fictional guys named Adam so very lovely?), only a little rougher, a little more raw, a little bigger, then check out BEFORE I DIE. And keep some tissues close by, just in case.

Similar Authors
Cath Crowley (A Little Wanting Song)
Jandy Nelson (The Sky Is Everywhere)
Gayle Forman
Kirsten Hubbard (Like Mandarin)

Cover discussion: I actually had the UK version, which is possibly even more boring than this one, as it was just a stock photo of dandelions, but this one wouldn't have caught my attention on the shelves, no matter how much I like that photo on its own.

David Fickling Books / May 26, 2009 / Paperback (reprint) / 336pp. / $9.99

Personal copy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: White Cat by Holly Black

Curse Workers, Book 1

Tags: YA, urban fantasy, magic, organized crime


Cassel Sharpe is the only non-worker in a family of infamous magical workers who work for the infamous Zacharov crime family. Before, his main concerns were navigating high school and trying to get over the fact that he killed his best friend, Lila Zacharov, several years earlier. Now, however, a series of increasingly scary events—sleepwalking, revelations about his brothers, secrets of what really happened to Lila—draw Cassel deeper into the world of organized crime, where workers can do illegal magic on someone else with just one touch of their hand.


No pun intended, but I curse myself for not reading this book earlier because DANG was it good. WHITE CAT is a genius combination of memorable protagonist, brilliant world-building, and effortless narration.

Holly Black manages to paint for readers an alternate world in which magic is mixed with organized crime, all without sacrificing an action-filled, fast-paced plot. WHITE CAT is set in the affluent suburbs of New Jersey, and the Sharpe family’s secrets and the Zacharovs’ criminal doings clash deliciously with its idyllic setting.

While the plot of WHITE CAT is not expansive, it is fast-moving and fascinating enough to make it an unputdownable read. Occasionally I wanted more details about how working for a crime family works, but the details of curse-working are described thoroughly, and anyway, I think that the main focus of WHITE CAT is on the complexities of family loyalty. Cassel and his two older brothers share a complicated relationship with trust issues. What happens when one can’t trust one’s family?

As far as male protagonists go, Cassel is an enjoyable one. Sometimes male protagonists in contemporary YA rub me the wrong way with either their desperate attempt at coolness or their disturbingly played apathy. Cassel is neither type. Rather, Cassel is a survivor: he desires normalcy in his life, but when that inevitably cannot occur, he makes the best of his situations.

WHITE CAT is a highly engaging quality read by one of YA’s most talented speculative fiction writers. It will appeal to readers of both contemporary and speculative fiction. Don’t miss it!

Cover discussion: This cover is so bloody good. I love the high-contrast lighting and the black-white-red scheme. That white cat upon the black leather stinks of indulgent deliciousness.

Margaret K. McElderry / Feb. 8, 2011 / Paperback (reprint) / 310pp. / $8.99

Sent for review by publisher.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Books for Sale (Again)!

So I did a second massive sweep-through of my book collection and weeded out probably over 150 books that I'm going to get rid of. Are you interested? The same rules as last time apply. You pay for shipping and packaging; I will not charge you for the books themselves. You must have a Paypal account and be willing and able to pay BEFORE I ship the books to you. Special consideration will be given to teachers and librarians, because I love y'all, seriously.

To see what books I have available to sell and to place an order, click this form here. Thanks in advance! Hope you find something you want. :)

Waiting on Wednesday (110)

Blood Song (Lharmell, Book 1) by Rhiannon Hart
I wanted to turn but I was held captive by the song on the wind. I’m coming, I told the voices. Please, wait for me.

When her sister becomes betrothed to a prince in a northern nation, Zeraphina’s only consolations are that her loyal animal companions are by her side – and that her burning hunger to travel north is finally being sated.

Already her black hair and pale eyes mark her out as different, but now Zeraphina must be even more careful to keep her secret safe. Craving blood is not considered normal behaviour for anyone, let alone a princess. So when the king’s advisor, Rodden, seems to know more about her condition than she does, Zeraphina is determined to find out more.

Zeraphina must be willing to sacrifice everything if she’s to uncover the truth – but what if the truth is beyond her worst nightmares? [summary from Goodreads]
I've been following Rhiannon's blog since before she landed an agent, and I am so glad that her book FINALLY sold, and has an eerily mesmerizing cover, and I can WoW it! I am a proud high fantasy fan forever, and so I can't wait to see how Rhiannon tells her story. Hmm, maybe it'll be easier to acquire Australian books over in China...?

Blood Song will be published in paperback by Random House Australia on September 1, 2011.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Tags: YA, satire, beauty pageants, conspiracy, feminism, sexuality


When a plane full of The Corporations teenage beauty queen contestants crash on a deserted island, the surviving girls must bond together to survive and keep up their pageant training. But even as the girls struggle to understand one another and themselves, the island holds secrets that The Corporation might be willing to kill to keep them hidden…


BEAUTY QUEENS cements Libba Bray as the spokesperson of the level of intelligence that can be accomplished in YA literature. Regardless if humor and satire are not your thing, you should read BEAUTY QUEENS, for it comments on just about everything that is troubling about our society.

BEAUTY QUEENS features an ensemble cast, so we end up learning about a dozen or so girls and rooting for even those whom we thought were initially annoying or dumb. Bray works with a lot of hot topics in her book: feminism, beauty pageants, advertising, LGBT, and female sexuality, just to name a few. She skillfully weaves all these dozens of issues into the personalities and worries of the girls, so that while many of them have hilariously over-the-top dumb lines, we know that there is more meant than what is being said.

Some books have trouble even fully exploring just one topic, let alone several dozen. Frankly, I don’t know how Libba does it, how she managed to keep track of all the characters and all the issues they deal with. Which is why BEAUTY QUEENS is clearly the work of a genius. While at times the ridiculousness of the girls’ predicament and what they encounter on the island (e.g., hallucinatory plants and an evil dictator whose talk reminded me of the Foosa leader from the movie Madagascar) made me shake my head in disbelief, I think everything works for the good of the main message: Libba Bray invites us to question what society tells us and what we typically blindly believe. Her over-the-top story forces us to confront our own passive acceptance of the way things are and encourages us to think for ourselves.

It’s hard to talk about the quality of characterization or pacing or world-building or any of those typical things one of my typical reviews would talk about. That’s because Libba has got those writing essentials in spades, and then she kind of throws them all aside and takes a giant risk. It’s succeeded: BEAUTY QUEENS has escaped the usual limitations of literature, particularly YA fiction, and broken new ground. With this as the new standard of intelligence to match, YA should never be the same again.

Similar Authors
Megan McCafferty (Bumped)
M. T. Anderson (Feed)

Cover discussion: How badass is that cover? Like the book, it's daring and satirical and bitingly funny.

Scholastic / May 24, 2011 / Hardcover / 400pp. / $18.99

Sent by publisher for review.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June Giveaway, Part III

Several more ARCs that you can win here this week!

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin (ARC)
Perfect by Ellen Hopkins (ARC, signed)
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez (ARC)

I've read All These Things I've Done, and it's quite an exciting take on a future dystopia, featuring organized crime families. Will get to the other ones this week!

Oh... and just 'cause I haven't had one for a while, this giveaway will be open internationally. To enter, fill out the form below. This giveaway ends Tuesday, June 20, 2011. Good luck!

(Psst, did you enter the other giveaways I have going on? Info in the left sidebar!)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Tags: YA, paranormal, time travel, romance


Emerson has been seeing visions of times past since just before her parents’ death. These visions have affected Emerson’s day-to-day functioning, and nothing she’s tried has helped her. When Michael Weaver arrives at her brother’s recommendation from an organization called the Hourglass, Emerson reluctantly decides to give the Hourglass a try.

Neither Emerson nor Michael can deny their seemingly fated attraction to one another, but as they unravel the mystery behind Emerson’s visions, and what the other people in the Hourglass can do, it becomes clearer to them that something life-threatening is at work…


HOURGLASS is an atmospheric and witty debut that combines bad-ass female attitude with time travel and mystery. While sometimes the plot felt a little rough, I was thoroughly engrossed by the characters and their predicaments.

I like Emerson, the protagonist. She has the kind of snarky narrative voice that always attracts me, and which in this case actually helps her a lot through her ordeals. Emerson has built up this armor of snark because of all that’s happened to her: we see that, and understand it, and empathize with her for it—not to mention it made her a fun protagonist to follow.

HOURGLASS feels a little like “sci-fi lite”: we don’t get much explanation into the time travel and other concepts that the Hourglass deals with, which didn’t detract from the plot but will probably make a science nerd like me raise an eyebrow in dissatisfaction. The pacing is a little on the slow side, and it took a long time for the story to finally get around to talking about the secrets behind the Hourglass. The slow pacing didn’t bother me in the beginning—probably because I was too busy being distracted by Emerson’s shininess to notice—but more than once I did find myself beginning to wish that the book could be shortened.

The climax and resolution of HOURGLASS happened so cleanly, so unambiguously, that I couldn’t help but feel a little let down, especially after I had grown to like Emerson so much. The villains are caricatures, and the romance is a lot of “I like you but we can never be together due to circumstances”—not really my cup of tea.

Myra McEntire’s “sci-fi lite” offering deserves to be read, however. It defies traditional genre lines and offers readers, particularly paranormal lovers, their beloved romance type set in a world with different enemies.

Similar Authors
Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures)
Rosemary Clement Moore
Jeri Smith-Ready

Cover discussion: I might be in the minority in not liking this cover. Does that model's pose strike anyone else as being awkward?

EgmontUSA / June 14, 2011 / Hardcover / 400pp. / $17.99

Received from publisher for review.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Luminous Blog Tour: Author Interview with Dawn Metcalf!

Flowing from Books With Bite, the next stop on the MundiMoms' LUMINOUS Blog Tour is Steph Su! I have for you an interview with Dawn Metcalf, author of the upcoming book Luminous, in which she talks about the themes in her book. Welcome, Dawn, to Steph Su Reads!

1. LUMINOUS features many themes, such as the true significance of appearance, determinism vs. free will, and so on. At what point did the themes figure into your writing process? Did you know which themes you wanted to write about before you started drafting, or did they come out of drafting, revision, etc.?

Any underlying themes or messages really emerged as part of the writing process. I'd like to say I planned it all from the beginning, but really, it was my brain on autopilot enjoying the idea of creating a myth of a sort of Lady of the Dead, a supernatural-slash-paranormal heroine out saving souls with a closet full of elemental skins. Looking back, I can see where my feelings on body image in the media or beliefs about self-worth cropped up, but while I was in it, I was just in it.

2. Is there any character in LUMINOUS whose philosophy you disagree with?

Sure! Most of them, actually. Consuela is a bit too passive for my tastes, but that's because she is far more trusting as an idealist than I am. I'm not big on V's belief that you can "fix" something for someone else, because then you are imposing your standards on that person, presuming that they are somehow "broken". I'm not proud of Wish's "stick close to the person with the most power until something better comes along", which works well for him and his life experiences, but it's not gold star material in my book. I also don't agree with Sissy's "accept a situation and make the best of it" if there's something else you want and it's possible--however unlikely--to succeed; it feels too much like giving up or giving in. I don't think you can chart the world or people in it into nice, neat categories and expect it to reflect reality, no matter how pretty Abacus makes it look, it's disparaging and academic to real people (and it's pretty arrogant, too). And certainly Tender's belief that the ends justify the means no matter what the cost makes me a little queasy, especially when it's so single-mindedly self-serving.

Essentially, there's something I love and something I dislike about each of my characters' personalities; that's what makes them real to me and deserving respect as something separate than myself. My characters aren't meant to be mirrors or messages, they're (fictitious) people.

3. Consuela feels powerful in her pearlescent form, but as the story progresses she misses her old, loving life a lot. It's often said that beauty comes from within, but I'm sure we all have had experiences in which crappy days are alleviated through a manicure, new haircut, or shopping. What is your stance on the importance of physical appearance, and the relationship between physical appearance and inner beauty?

In one sense, you're asking the wrong girl! I used to joke that I failed "Girl School" because I know next to nothing about makeup, hardly ever get my hair cut, and the three times I had a manicure (all for weddings), it was my idea of torture. I'm also a prevention educator and big on positive body image and self-esteem including all the health and wellness issues that go along with it, for both young men and women.

That said, I am of the mind that you should do what makes you happy, what you feel meaningfully brings out your best. For some, that's their favorite pair of jeans, for others it's fresh-painted nails, for others it's self-expression with colorful hair or a new pair of shoes; as long as it's YOU choosing IT and not IT choosing YOU, if you get the difference. (Like having fun by matching your eyeliner to your shirt is different, in my mind, than never considering leaving the house without first putting on makeup or shaving your back. Make sense?) The funny thing is that it really isn't any of these things that make you feel powerful, beautiful, sexy, professional, or more mature, it's the associations you've created for yourself. You made these things powerful to you and therefore, you feel the power you've given yourself. If you can skip the middle man and just go to feeling powerful about yourself, the rest of it no longer matters a whole heckuva lot!

4. Tender is all about individuals being in positions of maximal impact. Do you agree or disagree with this thinking, and how might it play out in our world?

I believe that each individual should make a maximum impact in the time allotted to each of us. It was Marianne Williamson's A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, (Harper Collins, 1992) which had this incredible quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Playing small or waiting for a chance to someday get "It" (whatever "It" might be for you), is completely human and completely ridiculous. Your life starts now. It is happening now. Now. RIGHT NOW! And waiting to do something tremendous with your life isn't the way to go about things: you are only you, now, once. There is no better time to achieve your dreams than today. What are you waiting for? Why play small?

Now I believe that you being the best, most inspirational and empowered you that you can be includes empathy, abundance, and generosity. That is part of being human and shared karma and is nice, besides. So the idea of being the best "you" doesn't mean you should smash everyone else along the way; they are on their way to being the best potential "them" that they can be, so keep that in mind on your way to mind-blowing awesomeness.

Therefore, I think Tender has the right idea, but goes about it the wrong way.

5. Do you believe in destiny or free will?

I believe in free will. Destiny smacks a bit too much of Sissy saying "these are the cards you're dealt, so deal", which has its own wisdom to it, but I inherently don't like some outside force placing limits on anyone or saying "that's just the way it is." I've had enough personal experiences playing inside the box and outside the box, bowing to popular consensus versus expressing the less popular (but more personally meaningful) choice, and I'd place my chips on free will all the way. While each person may be meant to do great things by a Higher Power, I frankly think that our ability to make choices powerfully and passionately is a divine gift and any Higher Power would be awfully disappointed to see us not use it.

Thanks so much, Dawn! This interview on the MundiMoms' LUMINOUS Blog Tour was brought to you by the letter: O. (Visit this page to see the complete blog tour schedule.) Collect all the letters along the blog tour, unscramble the puzzle, and win a secret surprise as well as an extra entry in the LUMINOUS Grand Prize Giveaway, June 30th! Details at

As reality slips and time stands still, Consuela finds herself thrust into the world of the Flow. Removed from all she loves into this shifting world overlapping our own, Consuela quickly discovers she has the power to step out of her earthly skin and cloak herself in new ones-skins made from the world around her, crafted from water, fire, air. She is joined by other teens with extraordinary abilities, bound together to safeguard a world they can affect, but where they no longer belong.

When murder threatens to undo the Flow, the Watcher charges Consuela and elusive, attractive V to stop the killer. But the psychopath who threatens her new world may also hold the only key to Consuela's way home.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review: Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

Tags: YA, dystopian


In Nora, Micah, and Winter’s world, people can take pills that make them instantly forget the bad things they see—which comes in handy since bombings within their city are a daily occurrence. On her first trip to the forgetting clinic, Nora finds out what her mother is taking pills to forget, and decides that she must remember it.

She teams up with Micah and Winter to produce a comic, titled “Memento,” depicting the memories they have been told to forget, and it goes viral, catching the attention of the authorities. Now, Nora, Micah, and Winter are in a race to stay one step ahead of the authorities, who will undoubtedly force them to take the big forgetting pill in order to make sure they stay in line.


What happens if people could just make bad memories go away with one pill? What kind of deceitful and harmful world would that create? Angie Smibert answers these scary questions in the shockingly believable MEMENTO NORA, a short and quick-paced dystopian read that will remind you of the best—and worst—parts of hi-tech futuristic thriller movies.

Smibert’s dystopian world-building is believable. Nora, Micah, and Winter live in hi-tech dystopian world, where everything—everything that is not being bombed, or purposely ignored by the authorities, that is—is pristine and perfect and chock-full of personalized advertising. That’s Nora’s life. On the other side is the world in which Micah and Winter live, which is scruffier, less well organized…and, unfortunately, less well-depicted than Nora’s world. While I could picture the orderly world in which Nora lives, I had a more difficult time seeing Winter’s obstacle course of a house, or Micah’s beehive of a communal living area. How do the two different places fit together? I couldn’t really picture how the main characters traveled between the two different worlds.

The book, it seems, focused more on the plot and less on character development. The plot was quick, snappy, and a little frightening, although at times I did feel like it resorted to “off-page” moments to work things out. In comparison, the three protagonists are woefully underdeveloped. They didn’t really stand out to me as unique characters—which is not to say that character development isn’t possible under 200 pages, just that I don’t think MEMENTO NORA did that as much as I wanted. The plot, too, kind of fell off towards the end, speeding towards something that was out of the characters’ control, but which I never fully believed either.

MEMENTO NORA is an interesting and diverting dystopian read, with a decent world-building and plot. In terms of character development, however, I have read others in which I was more invested.

Cover discussion: I'm not the biggest fan. Is that model supposed to be Nora? And against a city skyline? Really now? Is that all it takes to supposedly portray this story?

Marshall Cavendish / April 28, 2011 / Hardcover / 184pp. / $16.99

Requested from author and publisher for review.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (109)

Variant by Robison Wells
Benson Fisher thought a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible. [summary from Goodreads]
I have only the vaguest idea of the what this story is going to be about from its summary, but... whoa. Is it paranormal? Thriller? Mystery? A combination of them all? I want to know!

Variant will be published in hardcover from HarperTeen on October 1, 2011.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June Giveaway, Part II

Still trying to give away as many books as possible before I leave at the end of the month... so this is a quick one-week giveaway. There will be more throughout the month.

I have two (2) prize packs up for grabs:

Prize Pack #1
Legend by Marie Lu (ARC)
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (ARC)
Forgotten by Cat Patrick (finished copy)

Prize Pack #2
Blood Red Road by Moira Young (ARC)
Fury by Elizabeth Miles (ARC)
Pretty Bad Things by C. J. Skuse (ARC)

To enter, please fill out this form here. I will ship to US and Canada mailing addresses; if you're international, you can enter as long as you are willing and able to pay for shipping if you win. This giveaway ends Tuesday, June 14, 2011. Good luck!

Author Guest Post: Patricia McCormick

Today I am honored to be part of a blog tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the contemporary YA novel Cut by Patricia McCormick. I read Cut many years ago, when I was in high school, and was blown away by how maturely and relevantly it dealt with the sensitive and difficult subject of self-injury. The venerable Patricia McCormick, who is also the author of books such as Sold and Purple Heart, joins me on my blog today and answers some of my questions. Welcome, Patricia, to Steph Su Reads!

1. A 10th anniversary edition of Cut—congratulations! It’s still relatively rare for a YA book to still be in print 10 years after its initial publication. Why do you think so many people still respond to Cut?

I am surprised and humbled, really, by the book’s longevity. I have a theory about why it remains so well-read. Partly, it’s because Cut was the first book to really look at self-injury—a problem that goes on unabated, sad to say. (And I think that the continued popularity of tattooing, piercing, extreme dieting and plastic surgery blurs the lines about what’s healthy self-expression—and what’s self-injury in a more socially acceptable form.)

But I think the bigger reason is that it speaks to a more general experience that kids are having whether they self-injure or not. It addresses the feelings of confusion and loneliness that so many kids feel as they cope with all the pressures of trying to grow up. Without healthy outlets for that pressure, they turn to unhealthy behavior. This book looks at the most extreme form of self-destructive behavior, but I think it resonates with kids who are engaging in or are curious about less drastic behavior, too. (Drinking, drugging, sexual acting out, eating issues, and even getting lost in cyberspace.)

I also think the book gives voice to those feelings of confusion, anger, hurt, alienation—and then literally gives the main character a voice to express those feelings. It doesn’t show her “getting better”—it shows a stumbling, awkward, and very realistic process. But it illuminates the process of her dawning self-awareness and suggests that she and her parents are willing to take action to change.

2. Your books tend to be about global human issues that many find difficult to talk about: self-injury, sexual slavery, etc. What motivates you to write about such things?

My son says that when I want to come up with a new book idea, I Google the word “sad.” But the truth is I am naturally drawn to darker topics. (I’m not a dark person—although my son will also tell you that my jokes are not funny.) I am a former journalist, so I’m always drawn to news-worthy topics. But I also feel like a book can really shed light on those darker corners of human behavior. And if I’m going to spend 2-3 years on a book, I want it to really make a difference for someone. My books are definitely not to everyone’s taste, but the honest and heartfelt response I get from readers is so meaningful to me that that’s all the reinforcement I need.

3. What is your favorite thing to do to unwind after a long day?

Yoga. I also like to listen to NPR or cheesy disco music while I cook. I also like to watch John Stewart at the end of the day. There’s nothing like his brand of humor to put everything in perspective.

4. Who are some of your favorite YA authors?

Carolyn Coman, Rachel Cohn, Francine Prose, Libba Bray.

5. Lightning round!

Black or white?
     White. My apartment is nearly all white; we call it the Cloud.

Making music or listening to music?
     I played the flute in my grade school band—Sister Ellen George was a tyrant with a baton—but now I’ve started taking lessons again and am really enjoying it. Not sure my neighbors are enjoying it quite as much.

Winter or summer?
     Summer. I’m like a lizard; I love the heat.

Salty or sweet?
     Salty, then sweet, salty then sweet. Repeat as necessary.

Naughty or nice?
     People always say I’m nice, but I’m not so sure about that. I want my tombstone to say “She Never Claimed to Be Nice.”

Cake or ice cream?
     Ice cream. Cake can let you down, especially in the frosting department. Ice cream pretty much always delivers.


Thank you, Patricia! Check out Patricia's author website, as well as Scholastic's This Is Teen Facebook page. Help celebrate Cut's 10th anniversary by spreading the word about this powerful book, or by buying a copy for yourself. The next stop on the Cut blog tour is Thursday, June 9 at Stacked.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ruby Red Giveaway!

Here's a quick giveaway, courtesy of Macmillan and Zeitghost Media: they have one copy of Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier up for grabs! Isn't the cover luxurious? Check out the summary:
Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.
Check out an excerpt and reviews on Ruby Red's website. And here is the book trailer:

To enter, please fill out the form below. This giveaway is open to US or Canada only, and ends Monday, June 13. Good luck!

Review: I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Tags: YA, contemporary, multiple POVs, love, family


Their whole lives, Sam and his little brother Riddle have been moved from place to place by their paranoid father, Clarence. In one quiet California town, however, Sam meets Emily, and their lives are changed forever. Emily and her family wonder about the mysteries surrounding the two boys, and are determined to draw them out of isolation and into society. When Clarence gets wind of his sons’ new relationships, however, he packs them up and makes a run for it, despite the fact that it may put Sam and Riddle’s lives in danger.


When one describes a novel as being “magical,” we often think of lyricism, of rhythm and beautiful descriptions. But Holly Goldberg Sloan’s debut novel, I’LL BE THERE, is magical in quite a different way. A story of how the little things add up to the big things, I’LL BE THERE takes extraordinary characters and ordinary moments and weaves them together into a suspenseful and unforgettable story, one of the most unique books I’ve read in 2011.

I want a Sam in my life. He is undoubtedly an extraordinary boy—model-worthy looks, raw musical talent, swooningly romantic—but made sympathetic and real by all the hardships he has had to endure. Unlike other beautiful and talented love interests in YA fiction, Sam does not seek the spotlight, which endears him all the more to us. His lack of awareness of his own specialness is his best trait.

I’LL BE THERE is told from multiple points of view, covering everyone from Emily, the girl who draws Sam and Riddle out of their shells, to Riddle, smart and determined and existing in a bubble of lack of oxygen, to the various adults who come in and out of these two boys’ lives. This is a technique we don’t see often in YA, and yet I think works exceptionally well at riveting our eyes to the page especially during the later, most suspenseful moments of the book, when I literally couldn’t put the last 250 or so pages down.

There is nothing flashy about Holly Goldberg Sloan’s writing: instead, the magic of the writing and story comes from the characters and predicaments themselves. Don’t expect to find a regular ole contemporary story of trial and triumph in these pages: I’LL BE THERE contains truly enviable story craftsmanship, and is a unique, and uniquely told, story that you will find difficult to not read in one sitting. Magical, indeed.

Cover discussion: I love this cover. Reminiscent of Francisco Stork's covers, this cover evokes a sort of inexplicable magic that complements well what goes on between its covers.

Little, Brown / May 17, 2011 / Hardcover / 400pp. / $17.99

Sent for review by publisher.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

In My Mailbox (65)

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 terms of books this week!

This is several weeks' worth... and it is DELICIOUS!

For review:
All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin - AHHH. AHHH. AHHH. A dystopian written by a fantastic author about a world in which chocolate and coffee are banned and there are MAFIAS.
Windows on the World by Andrea White
Legend by Marie Lu - How long have I been waiting for this? I think I freaked my roommate out when I got this in the mail. I'm reading it right now and it is exciting!
Withering Tights by Louise Rennison
Passion by Lauren Kate
Forgotten by Cat Patrick
She Loves You, She Loves You Not... by Julie Anne Peters
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson - I finished this in one day. Talk about being CUH-REEPED out! Very, very good.
Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner

Thank you to Macmillan, Namelos, Penguin, HarperTeen, Authors on the Web, Random House, Little Brown, and LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program for all these goodies!

From Simon & Schuster's Blogger Preview:
Fury by Elizabeth Miles
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel - Related to Frankenstein, and written by a Very Good Author. Oooh.
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez - I've heard good things about this contemporary YA.
Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

From Scholastic's This Is Teen Event:
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
Abandon by Meg Cabot
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Strings Attached by Judy Blundell
Pretty Bad Things by C. J. Skuse

You have the chance to win most of these SIGNED books here.

Supernaturally by Kiersten White - The one-of-a-kind blogger Jamie let me borrow this from her BEA stash. Thank you!!

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta - So. Impossibly. Good.
City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
Chalice by Robin McKinley
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley
Archangel by Sharon Shinn
Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready
Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart by Sarah MacLean
Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin van Draanen
The Dark is Rising: The Complete Sequence by Susan Cooper

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Only Thing I Really Hate

World, I am at a loss for what to say or do. This article appeared on the Wall Street Journal website today, yet another in a neverending line of articles appearing in esteemed publications that condemn young adult literature. It says nothing new, really, just the usual bunch of accusations against the genre, namely that YA literature encourages the spread of dangerous activities such as sexual exploration, self-injury, anorexia, etc. The author, a Meghan Cox Gurdon, suggests that the proliferation of "dark YA" on the shelves these days creates adolescent with darker minds, impulses, and desires.

Articles like this one, of course, can't exist long in the world before the online YA community rises up to the occasion. Seriously, we're probably one of the most well organized informational armies out there. Twitter is like our right hand, and online communication reigns in the YA world because YA is still a not-very-widely accepted part of our culture that requires our "going underground," or "taking to the ethernets," to find "our people." YA authors, bloggers, librarians, publishing professionals, and more have been tweeting Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) nonstop. Libba Bray wrote an encore-deserving series of tweets that have been republished by WSJ as a "letter to the editor." And on and on and on.

Again, there's not much being said that hasn't been said before, so I want to focus on what I believe is the real "enemy" here: the attack on change and progress, and the lack of openmindedness.

Furors regarding YA-condemning articles and the online backlash from the YA community remind me of dramatic court or political scenes where representatives from both sides just kind of stand face-to-face and talk quickly and at the top of their lungs while stuffing their ears and singing "lalalalalalalalala" in their heads. Scenes like this drive me crazy not because of WHAT is being debated, but HOW it is being done. They talk and talk, and we talk and talk, and it seems like nothing has changed because the same arguments are being made every time on top of the fact that neither side is willing to actually listen to the other. No, each side is preoccupied with their belief of the "rightness" of their position, and even as they claim to be listening to the other side, they are in fact busily constructing counter-arguments for what they are "listening" to at that very moment. This is the nature of debate: you pick a side, and by all hell's fiery rivers, you stick to it, gosh darnit.

What we need is discourse, which is the meeting of the parties on an equal plane in which both parties are willing hear the other's points with an open and innovative mind, to compromise if needed, and to create something new out of what's already there. Debate doesn't create anything new because it's too busy standing its ground: there is one winner and one loser. But in discourse, the answer arises from something that has never been there before, and that, over debate, is how progress gets made.

Technically I am well past the age range in which reading YA is considered acceptable. But I have never felt like I have grown out of YA, just like some people have never felt like they needed or wanted to read YA. YA is still my preferred literary genre not because of the content of the books, or the books' messages, but because of how these subjects are approached. It's because YA is the state of mind in which I have experienced the most openmindedness, the most support for innovation and creativity and progress. I love the YA mindset because it's dramatic, because it's crazy and fun and wild and unpredictable and a little scary at times... because it is always, always, always open to and searching for new possibilities.

I have come to realize in the past year that there is really only one thing that I hate, in its myriad of manifestations: I hate willful ignorance, and closemindedness, and the determined denial to see things as black and white and dismiss even the possibility that things might be gray. What the hell is really black and white in this world, besides for a chess board and a zebra? Reducing things--anything, everything--to dichotomies is a small-minded, judgmental, and uninformed way of thinking, no matter how many education degrees you've earned or awards you've received. Years don't make maturity; the length of your CV doesn't denote your amount of wisdom. Maturity and wisdom is gained through the experiencing of life through clear and permeable lenses, of keeping your mind open to new ideas and of constantly adapting yourself to an everchanging world.

Sometimes I miss the old days, too. Every time I read L. M. Montgomery's Anne series, I can't help but think that life would be so wonderful if I could be Anne. But my wishing for that is the same as these YA lit condemners bemoaning the "loss of innocence" in adolescence these days: there's no use in trying to make something go back to the way it used to be. There is only going forward.

Articles like the WSJ one don't just attack YA literature: they also attack the intelligence of young adults and YA readers, the act of reading, and the very institution of education and learning itself. The article is an attack on progress above all. When I read an article such as this one, I'm offended on behalf of the YA community, but I'm also offended on behalf of the human race. The natural state of things is entropy: to try to force things to stay as they always were is unnatural and, ultimately, harmful. Everything is always taken to a whole other level when it deals with young people because growing up is the ultimate metaphor for change and progress. We want things to turn out one way, try to shape things so that they do, but things are always out of our control, always moving forward. No one helps a person with a broken leg heal by keeping him/her off his/her feet forever and ever; no, physical therapy is involved, the gentle guidance to let the muscles become aware of its own abilities to heal.

I am hopeful of things turning out alright for YA lit. Civil, women's, LGBT rights--it's been an uphill climb for all of these movements, but no matter how loudly the naysayers cry, the world knows that the natural order of things is change.

Review: We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

Summer, Book 3
Book 1: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Book 2: It's Not Summer Without You

Tags: YA, contemporary, summer, wedding, love triangle


Belly and Jeremiah have been happily dating for two years, but things go rapidly downhill when Jeremiah hurts Belly badly. In an effort to keep her close, Jeremiah offers to make the most serious commitment that a man can make to a woman. Jeremiah and Belly start planning their future together in earnest, but are met with opposition from every side, especially Conrad, who returns from the West Coast and causes Belly to once more wonder if she hasn’t chosen the wrong guy after all.


As Jenny Han’s Summer series has been one of my favorite contemporary series in recent memory, I definitely had high expectations for WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER. And yet I don’t think it was merely my high expectations that made the third and final Summer book somewhat of a disappointment for me. WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE SUMMER gave me the ending I had been rooting for since the first book, but it did so in a way that, I think, unfortunately sacrificed characterization and reader sympathy.

Two years pass between the end of the second book and the beginning of this one, but I was shocked at how poorly most of the characters acted. Not only was it their actions that made me cringe, it was also their flatness: I felt like the three-dimensional, flawed, but still lovable characters from the first two books regressed into petulant children by this installment. Jeremiah, Belly, Conrad, and all the adults felt like they were playing the roles of good boy/bad boy, good parent/bad parent, unsubtly manipulating our sympathies toward them so that we can be happy—nay, relieved—at the ending. And that definitely made me feel cheated, cheated that I, as a reader, was not trusted enough to be happy for Belly and whichever guy she ended up with.

And then: the marriage. It’s not that I’m against teen marriage—okay, I am, but in literature I’m willing to go with whatever the character wants…so long as it’s written convincingly. I felt like everything in this book happened too fast. Yes, I know that Belly and Jeremiah wanted things to go fast—but does that mean the story had to be told in what felt like a slapdash manner, with people running around frantically trying to coordinate things, only to have them fall into place perfectly at the last minute thanks to some “divine” (read: nice parent) intervention? Does that mean that tensions and arguments could arise seemingly randomly, and then settled without a problem a few chapters down?

Still, props for finishing up a really good YA contemporary series. Basically, it wasn’t that I had a problem with what happened in this book; rather, I had some issues with how this story was told. This evidently wasn’t a problem for the majority of bloggers who loved this final book!

Cover discussion: Not much to say about this series' covers. They're alright, they do well for the summer theme, but they're pretty unforgettable if taken out of context of how much I love the story.

Simon & Schuster / April 26, 2011 / Hardcover / 304pp. / $17.99

Copy sent for review.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Review: What Comes After by Steve Watkins

Tags: YA, contemporary, abuse, farms


Iris Wight’s idyllic life in Maine ends when her veterinarian father dies and she is sent to live with the aunt and cousin she’s hardly met, on their farm in North Carolina. Iris immediately does not get along with Aunt Sue or Book Allen, on account of their cruelty towards both her and their farm animals. As Iris gets closer to the farm animals, she is determined to save them from Aunt Sue’s cruelty. But saving them may mean getting hurt herself, and Iris is not sure who is willing to save her.


WHAT COMES AFTER is a powerful and heartwrenching YA contemporary read. Watkins slips effortlessly into Iris’ voice and gives us a gorgeously told story about both the extreme cruelty and the endurance of human nature.

It’s hard to believe that this book was written by a man, because Iris’ voice is so convincing. She is a bit on the quiet side, due to the upheavals she’s had to endure, but she is far from weak: from the start, I admired how Iris respected her aunt yet did not let Sue trod all over her. This is a girl who has the capacity to love deeply, whose capacity to do so is tested by her circumstances. WHAT COMES AFTER was a gorgeous read primarily because of how believable Iris is.

It’s easy to caricaturize villains, but Aunt Sue, Book, and other troubled characters in the book are well-rounded; we can believe that these people could exist in real life, even if we may not understand or agree with their attitudes or decisions. Watkins also knows his way around a farm: his depiction of the goats will tug at even a non-animal lover’s heart, and I empathized with them as much as I would with a human character.

Overall, WHAT COMES AFTER is arguably one of the strongest contemporary reads I’ve had the pleasure of discovering this year so far. It’s a shame that this book hasn’t gotten much notice so far, but I’m hoping that, with the endorsement of well-respected authors such as Francisco X. Stork (Marcelo in the Real World), this book will find its way into more readers’ hands.

Similar Authors
Nina de Gramont (Every Little Thing in the World)

Cover discussion: It's a little generic. A beautiful picture. But generic.

Candlewick / April 12, 2011 / Hardcover / 334pp. / $16.99

Personal copy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June Giveaways!

Due to time constraints, I have to post a number of giveaways at the same time, on this one post. (Not that this should be a problem for YOU!)

First off, the June giveaway prize packs will consist of two (2) winners of 3 ARCs each:

Prize Pack #1:
Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari (Scholastic / June 1, 2011)
Nightspell by Leah Cypess (Greenwillow Books / May 31, 2011)
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (Aladdin Books / Aug. 30, 2011)

Prize Pack #2:
Luminous by Dawn Metcalf (Dutton Juvenile / July 7, 2011)
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma (Dutton Juvenile / June 14, 2011)
Pretty Bad Things by C. J. Skuse (Chicken House / July 1, 2011)

(Sorry for the atrocious photo quality.)

One winner per prize pack. To enter, please fill out this form here. Giveaway open to US residents only and ends Friday, June 17, 2011.


Thanks to HarperTeen and Authors on the Web, I also have 4 ARCs of Withering Tights by Louise Rennison for four winners! Here is the synopsis of Withering Tights if you haven't heard of it:
Wow. This is it. This is me growing up. On my own, going to Performing Arts College. This is good-bye, Tallulah, you long, gangly thing, and hellooooo, Lullah, star of stage.

Tallulah Casey is ready to find her inner artist. And some new mates. And maybe a boy or two or three.

The ticket to achieving these lofty goals? Enrolling in a summer performing arts program, of course. She's bound for the wilds of Yorkshire Dales—eerily similar to the windswept moors of Wuthering Heights. Tallulah expects new friends, less parental interference, and lots of drama. Acting? Tights? Moors? Check, check, check.

What she doesn't expect is feeling like a tiny bat's barging around in her mouth when she has her first snog.

Bestselling author Louise Rennison returns with her trademark wit, a hilarious new cast, and a brand-new cheeky heroine who is poised to discover plenty of opportunities for (mis)adventure!
Four (4) winners dwelling in either the US or Canada will receive a lovely ARC of this book! To enter, please fill out this form here. This giveaway ends Friday, June 17, 2011.


Diversity in YA Giveaway

Several weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending the Diversity in YA event at Books of Wonder in NYC. It was amazing meeting some of the loveliest authors I've ever known for the first time (Cindy, Bemi) and seeing Malinda again. I've also gotten a few SIGNED books to give away to one lucky winner!

8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich
Ash by Malinda Lo
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon you can't see it very well, but you also get two spectacular postcards featuring original Silver Pheonix artwork. Seriously, the art is so beautiful it takes my breath away.

To enter this giveaway, please fill out this form here. I'll ship to anywhere in the US but international residents can enter if you are willing and able to pay for shipping. This giveaway ends Friday, June 17, 2011.


This Is Teen Giveaway

And then, last Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend the This Is Teen launch party, hosted by Scholastic, and featuring Libba Bray, Meg Cabot, and Maggie Stiefvater! Talk about being seriously starstruck. It was wonderful to meet these amazing and talented ladies, and, yes, I did get goodies for you guys. One winner will receive the following four SIGNED books:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Forever (ARC) by Maggie Stiefvater
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Abandon by Meg Cabot

Yes, that is a signed ARC of Forever. Yes, I am giving it away to one of you. No, I am not crazy. (Oh, and you should read Beauty Queens as well: it's flipping fantastic so far! And Abandon is pretty sweet if you're into Meg Cabot retelling Greek myths!) To enter, please fill out this form here. I will ship to anywhere in the US, but international residents can also enter if you are willing and able to pay for shipping. This giveaway ends Friday, June 17, 2011.


Okay, what are you waiting for? GO ENTER! kthxbai :)


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