Sunday, July 31, 2011

In My Mailbox Vlog - (7/31/11)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It is a list of any of the books you may have received in the past week from bookstores, libraries, authors/publishers, trades, etc.

For Review:
Earth Blend by Lori Pescatore

Bought:
Witch & Wizard by James Patterson & Gabrielle Charbonnett
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
The Journal of Curious Letters (The 13th Reality, #1) by James Dashner
The Hunt for Dark Infinity (The 13th Reality, #2) by James Dashner
The Blade of Shattered Hope (The 13th Reality, #3) by James Dashner
Supernaturally (Paranormalcy, #2) by Kiersten White
Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Wildefire SIGNED by Karsten Knight - Thanks Karsten!

Won:
Harry Potter swag - Thanks to MYX TV
The Faerie Ring SIGNED by Kiki Hamilton - Thanks to Leah Clifford

Gifted/Borrowed:
Bitter End by Jennifer Brown
The Pledge swag
The Pledge by Kimberly Derting
Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham
As I Wake by Elizabeth Scott
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

People mentioned (and deserving of hugs) in this vlog:

*Big, HUGE, OMG thanks to Lori Pescatore, Karsten Knight, Leah Clifford, Lori, Candace, Danielle, and Dani

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Winners of Dark Parties by Sara Grant!

The two winners of Dark Parties by Sara Grant are....

Kapri from Book Fanatics 
 
 &
 
Nicole Weisz
 
*Winners will be notified and will have 48 hours to respond or alternate winner(s) will be chosen

Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab


Title: The Near Witch
Author: Victoria Schwab
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Disney*Hyperion
ARC, 282 pages
Date Published: August 2, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.


These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget. 
The Near Witch is an exquisite folklore-ish tale that has hints of the Brothers Grimm and the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Victoria Schwab’s storytelling is intriguing, invigorating, and has this ethereal quality to it. The words almost float off the page in a lyrical, melodic way.

Lexi is strong and determined, fierce and unafraid to speak her mind. She’s everything the oldest daughter with a dead father needs to be in a house with a ghost of a mother and a twinkle of a sister. Her willingness to accept the stories her father told her is what separates her from the rest of the town of Near. She’s open to her world, to the moors, and the witch stories. And she’s curious, not fearful of a stranger in the town of Near.

And boy is that stranger mysterious. Dark hair, dark clothes, and bathed in an ash-like embrace, Lexi aptly calls him Cole. The town’s fear of Cole, of his strangeness, hangs heavy in the book. It’s felt in every page, with every disappearance. Schwab’s penchant for making the story of the Near Witch tangible for all the townspeople is astounding. Her descriptions of Near and of the moors and the woods makes the setting a character all its own.

The secondary characters create an image of a tiny, isolated town with a storied past and many ghosts. Magda and Dreska Thorne are two witches that are practically shunned, but who I couldn’t get enough of. Their thinly veiled warnings and knowledge of the town is a treasure to be cultivated. The two of them command every scene they’re in, demanding the reader take notice. Their traditions and beliefs add so much to an already perfect tale.

Victoria Schwab has melded the folklore-ish town of Near with the realities of love, distrust, and a constantly creeping undertone of fear. Not only is the lyrical writing beautiful, but it is impressive and vibrant. I could hear the wind whistle through the air, the trees rustling, the twigs cracking, and I could taste the ever-growing fear of the townspeople. Countering all this is the intense connection between Lexi and Cole, as well as Lexi’s memories of her father and the stories he used to tell her. The pacing – much like the mystery of the story – builds slowly, but surely, capping off in a crescendo of frantic heartbeats and wild actions.

The Near Witch is one of those books that take you by surprise, sweeping into your consciousness and filling your head with tales of witches and mysteries and fairy tales come true. It’s a bedtime story gone wrong, with the Near Witch rolling in as fast as and as swift as the fog. It’s impossible not to feel an inkling of the childhood terror one gets at the thought of monsters under the bed. Just thinking about it makes me want to read it again, so I can experience the wonderment of such a deeply enchanting and striking world. Victoria Schwab’s debut is a knockout that has left me eager to see what magic she churns out next.

Opening line: It starts with a crack, a sputter, and a spark. ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines/passages (I have so many, so narrowing it down is hard):
“Believing and knowing are different things,” says Dreska, returning to the table.
“Knowing and proving are different things,” says Magda. ~ pg. 168
I had to have Dreska and Magda, but love this one too:
Funny how when we start to tell a secret, we can’t stop. Something falls open in us, and the sheer momentum of letting go pushes us on. ~ pg. 186

*This is the ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy
This one's vying for my affections as favorite book this year
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Victoria Schwab online:

Pre-order it online:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Indiebound

And because I like to torture myself with a little public humiliation, here's The Near Witch rap:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review: The Cellar by A.J. Whitten

Title: The Cellar
Author: A.J. Whitten
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Graphia (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
e-ARC, 282 pages (via NetGalley)
Date Published: May 2, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
Meredith Willis is suspicious of Adrien, the new guy next door. When she dares to sneak a look into the windows of his house, she sees something in the cellar that makes her believe that Adrien might be more than just a creep—he may be an actual monster.

But her sister, Heather, doesn’t share Meredith’s repulsion. Heather believes Adrien is the only guy who really understands her. In fact, she may be falling in love with him. When Adrien and Heather are cast as the leads in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, to Heather, it feels like fate. To Meredith, it feels like a bad omen. But if she tries to tear the couple apart, she could end up in the last place she’d ever want to be: the cellar. Can Meredith convince her sister that she’s dating the living dead before it’s too late for both of them?
Zombie books are awesome, they really are, but The Cellar just did not cut it for me. The premise has so much promise, playing off of Romeo and Juliet, but with a zombie and a depressed girl as the leads. It’s the execution that just didn’t work for me.

The chapters alternate between Meredith’s first person POV and her depressed sister Heather and zombie boy Adrien’s third person POV. This style allows the reader to see more into the story and the characters, but also makes it harder to connect with them.

I felt next to nothing for all of the characters. There were moments when Meredith would shine through, but The Cellar is mostly a plot-driven story. And sort of a gross one at that. The scenes with Adrien and his ‘mother’and their tasty human treats are too graphic for my liking. If the story had been centered more on the creepy, ‘there’s something wrong with my neighbor and he gives me bad vibes’ feeling, then I probably would have gotten into it more.

As it is, The Cellar is more of a weird zombie lovefest. Adrien has some odd power over women because their minds are easily influenced – this thought alone bothered me – yet he is, at least to me, a tool. He’s a zombie sure, but in trying to blend so he can seek out his next victim, he takes on the role of a pretentious, ‘I wear my sunglasses at night because my eyes are infested with worms’, high school kid with a hold on everyone, but Meredith. Heather is his chosen victim and instead of seeing him for what he is – or even seeing him as more than a sex symbol – she falls in love.

And then we have a mindless gaggle of girls who are gaga over Adrien, simply because he can plant nice ideas of himself into their thoughtless minds. The saving grace is Meredith, whose will to find the truth and help her sister carry on throughout the book. She’s also the best thing about the book, along with Heather’s ex Sam, because she (and Sam) see right through Adrien and don’t trust him one bit.

The Cellar
has some good tension and more than a few gross-out scenes, but its predictability and insistence on Heather and Adrien’s forever love is contrived and flawed. By the end of the book, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to view Adrien as the manipulative, people-eating bad guy who only wanted to kill Heather and keep forever her as his zombie bride, or as a zombie with feelings. Either way, The Cellar was not for me. I could see fans of paranormal stories with a substantial amount of gore appreciate the more disgusting scenes though and if that’s your thing, pick this one up.

Opening line: “Some days, Meredith, I just . . . I just wish it was me who died,” my sister said that Tuesday morning in early September.

Favorite lines/passages: Maybe my father’s death was just now hitting me, making me see and imagine things that weren’t real, and I needed a vacation or something. Or a whole lotta Prozac and a box of Ho Hos. ~ pg. 122

*This is the e-ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy

1.5 - It held my attention long enough to finish it, but it wasn't for me
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find A.J. Whitten online:
A.J. Whitten is a mother/daughter writing duo, they can be found: 

Buy it online:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Review: Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

Title: Personal Demons
Author: Lisa Desrochers
Reading Level: Older Young Adult
Publisher: Tor Teen
Paperback, 365 pages
Date Published: September 14, 2010
Description (Taken from Goodreads):
Frannie Cavanaugh is a good Catholic girl with a bit of a wicked streak. She has spent years keeping everyone at a distance—-even her closest friends—-and it seems as if her senior year is going to be more of the same . . . until Luc Cain enrolls in her class. No one knows where he came from, but Frannie can’t seem to stay away from him.

What she doesn’t know is that Luc is on a mission. He’s been sent from Hell itself to claim Frannie’s soul. It should be easy—-all he has to do is get her to sin, and Luc is as tempting as they come. Frannie doesn’t stand a chance. But he has to work fast, because if the infernals are after her, the celestials can’t be far behind. And sure enough, it’s not long before the angel Gabriel shows up, willing to do anything to keep Luc from getting what he came for. It isn’t long before they find themselves fighting for more than just Frannie’s soul.

But if Luc fails, there will be Hell to pay . . . for all of them.
Personal Demons pleasantly surprised me with its take on the age old battle between angels and demons. This one isn’t just about good vs. evil, it’s more about the fight for a soul; Catholic school reject Frannie Cavanaugh’s soul, to be more specific. And Frannie’s soul is worth fighting for, since there’s something just a bit different about her. She has a sarcastic and fiery attitude, a no-nonsense take on love – it’s not for her – and a deep-rooted belief that there is no God; that last one is with good reason though.

As much as I liked Frannie as a character, I felt the need to slap some sense into her often and with force. A pet peeve of mine is repetition in dialogue. It’s different if a character has a catchphrase, but Frannie says ‘whatever’ all the time! It drove me crazy, but halfway through, her usage of the word dissipates. Then when the boys come around, she’s a goner. For a girl who is strong-willed and independent, she tends to turn into a babbling, lovestruck girl when the dark, sexy, bad boy Luc is around and then again when the light, sweet, and gorgeous Gabe pops into her life. She’s more than willing to have a ‘thing’ with both guys, for better or for worse. Her attitude goes from smart and spunky, to a mess of lusty emotions.

Some of it I understand, because Luc sort of forces the emotions, but most of the time Frannie can fight it off, she just chooses not to. Her flip-flopping feelings can be grating, but it’s contrasted very well with steamy scenes and both the Heaven and Hell backstory, as well as Frannie’s backstory regarding her disdain with God. I was more interested in some of her personal issues with religion and her family, than with her complicated feelings for both boys, but the reveal of it all is satisfying enough.

We all know that when a love triangle is present, readers pick sides and Personal Demons is no different. And even though Luc gets much more page-time than Gabe, I’m firmly on Team Gabe. There’s just something about the underdog that tends to reel me in. Gabe is almost perfect too – I think it’s the angel thing – so he was pretty hard for me to resist.

Personal Demons is a guilty-pleasure book with a fairly predictable plot, but stands as an addicting read nonetheless. Frannie got on my nerves some, as did Luc and a few other characters, but overall, I enjoyed how everything progressed and I’m looking forward to reading Original Sin soon.

Opening line: If there’s a Hell on Earth, it’s high school. ~ pg. 11

Favorite lines/passages: 

 “You’ll see it – eventually.”
“See what?”
“Everything,” he says. ~ pg. 201

*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Lisa Desrochers online:

Buy it online:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

August Indie Takeover is Almost Here!




August is almost here and with that it comes August Indie Takeover.

This event will be hosted by Wicked Awesome Books, but there are a few other lovely bloggers who I'll be linking to throughout the month. Aside from that, there will be a linky for others to post their indie/self-published reviews as well. I'm planning some sort of giveaway for the end of the month, so the more reviews you post in the linky, the more entries you'll get.

I have a few giveaways scheduled throughout the month, to go along with the reviews, interviews, and spotlight posts. A more definitive schedule should be up in the coming week.

Feel free to spread the word and post the button above.

August here we come!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Review: The Goddess Test by Aimée Carter

Title: The Goddess Test (The Goddess Test, #1)
Author: Aimée Carter
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
e-ARC, 293 pages (via NetGalley)
Date Published: April 26, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads):
It's always been just Kate and her mom—and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld—and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy—until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.
Greek mythology can be endlessly fascinating with so many different stories to tell, but Aimée Carter does something unconventional and takes the focus off the gods and puts it on Kate, the everyday, average girl. Kate really is spectacularly average, but she’s exceptionally caring at the same time; willing to give up her life and her dreams to care for her dying mother. If Carter was attempting to make Kate endearing right off the bat, this is a surefire way to do it.

The beginning of the story is focused entirely on Kate and her integration into her new home where her mother used to live. That means new setting, new school, and new people. Ava is instantly a disliked character, but her sudden rise from the dead at mysterious Henry’s hands turns her into a new person. Ava gets to come back because of this vague agreement between Kate and Henry. This part is annoying because Kate agrees to something, but has no clue what it really is, then Henry shows up and she doesn’t agree, but it’s confusing and – I never thought I’d use this word – befuddling.

Once we get past that and Kate moves into Henry’s fortress of a home, things get much more complicated, but make more sense. Henry is intriguing and has the tortured soul thing down perfectly. His story is a sad one, just as Kate’s is. Their slowly growing relationship feels very genuine. The tasks set up for Kate – the reason she’s there –  aren’t explained at all, but I enjoyed seeing her new day to day life, away from the responsibility of caring for her mother.

Carter has not only created two wonderful main characters, but her secondary characters are phenomenal. Ava - the new and improved Ava – has this perky nature brings vivaciousness to the story. James, another of Kate’s classmate is sweet and kind of dorky, but in a cute way. I loved him from his first appearance with goofy grin, then even more with his bulky headphones and affinity for french fries doused in ketchup.

Kate’s mother, who appears in dreams, brings out the more emotional aspect of the book. The scenes between Kate and her mom are almost bittersweet. These moments are balanced by the huge number of inhabitants in Henry’s house, all of whom have in interest in meeting Henry’s new girl. I was taken by every aspect of the story, yearning to learn more about the gods and everything in between.

The Goddess Test
is wonderfully unique and almost whimsical read that anyone could enjoy. The story is unlike any other and Carter takes the age-old mythology we know and spins it into her own tale; one that is always interesting and full of twists. I thought I knew what to expect at times, but was completely wrong when things turned out a different way. Reading that last page doesn’t feel like the end, but the beginning of something even bigger. I’m anxious to find out where Kate’s journey goes from here in Goddess Interrupted.

Opening line (from Chapter 1): I spent my eighteenth birthday driving from New York City to Eden, Michigan, so my mother could die in the town where she was born. ~ pg. 12

Favorite lines/passages (my favorite passage felt too spoilery to include here): “When you have eons to live, the world becomes a much smaller place,” he said. ~ pg. 98

*This is the e-ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy
3.5 for sure
 *This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Aimée Carter online:

Buy it online:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dark Days Tour Picture Explosion

I attended the final stop of the Dark Days Tour, featuring Leah Clifford, Courtney Allison Moulton, and Lisa Desrochers, back on July 6th and it was a blast!

I was too lazy to take notes, so I'll leave you with some pictures: 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Review: Dark Parties by Sara Grant

Title: Dark Parties
Author: Sara Grant
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown
ARC, 308 pages
Date Published: August 3, 2011
Description (Taken from Big Honcho Media - Link to Goodreads):
In a world shrouded in fear and lies, how can you shed light on the truth?

Sixteen-year-old Neva lives in Homeland, an isolated country separated from the rest of the world by the Protectosphere. The government insists there’s nothing beyond its borders, but as Homeland’s resources dwindle, people, girls mainly, have started to go missing. If there’s no way out of the Protectosphere, where are they going? Suspecting the government is lying about everything, Neva and her friends stage a Dark Party in the hope of uncovering the truth and finding the freedom they dream about.
Going into Dark Parties, I expected a dark dystopian with a controlling government and an undercurrent of fear. I got that, at least somewhat; but I hadn’t realized how Neva’s age and her newly minted adulthood would come into play. Many of the people living under the Protectosphere move about their day to day lives with no passion and no motivation to rebel. They do what their told, when their told. Neva doesn’t, but she isn’t the spark of a rebellion either.

I liked Neva, but I had issues connecting with her. I felt strongest about her when she was thinking about the Missing people that she writes about in her journal and remembering her Grandmother who named her. Aside from that, Neva’s strong, sure, but she’s also a bit obsessed with red-booted Braydon. I get that the guy has some sex appeal, but she wants him and a lot. All based on a kiss in the dark. It’s like that one kiss dominates her thoughts, especially since she didn’t really like Braydon before that. Her internal war between wanting Braydon and not wanting Braydon got to be a bit much.

The secondary characters like Sanna (Neva’s best friend and Braydon’s girlfriend), Braydon, and Neva’s boyfriend Ethan stood out, but not a great deal. They play their roles and play them well, but I never connected with them or with their relationships with Neva. Braydon is supposed to be all sexy and broody, but I had issues getting behind a romance between him and Neva when it was all based on that one kiss. Neva’s raging guilt pecked at her constantly too. She grows throughout the story though and her reactions towards Ethan showcase her more mature mindset. Surprisingly, it was Neva’s mother and father who struck me as complicated characters. We don’t get to know them that much, but their minimal presence bears a lot of weight in the story.

As much as I enjoyed Dark Parties, the focus on sex and procreation threw me for a loop at first. I hadn’t realized it would be such a huge part of the plot and it is. There are fewer children being born, so the government has to go to extreme measures to keep the population up. It makes sense for the plot, but I didn’t realize it would be such a huge focal point. So much so that Neva has all her friends make a vow to not have sex and give into the government’s wishes for the 16 year olds (their age of adulthood) to get pregnant.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed Dark Parties. Sara Grant has added a worthy title to the ever-growing list of dystopian young adult books. This is definitely more a utopia with dystopian elements, but still interesting and actually realistic too. It doesn’t seem like a stretch that a community would wall itself off from the rest of the world and then dictate the lives of its citizens from then on. Dark Parties feels a bit reminiscent of 1984, only with a younger audience in mind. If you’re a fan of dystopians, then be sure to check this one out.

Opening line: I’m standing in the dark, not the gentle gray of dusk or the soft black of a moonlit night but pitch-black. ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines/passages: Maybe things can change. It’s an impossible thought, but this hope is now a balloon floating above me and I’m holding on to it with a very thin string. ~ pg. 37
And this one:
We are safe for now and that’s all that matters. I sniff and wipe my eyes on the pillow. I’ve been living in a carefully constructed house of lies. I’ll let Sanna live there a little while longer. I was much happier not knowing. ~ pg. 262

*This is the ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy
3.5
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

The first two chapters of Dark Parties are available online to preview. If you're interested, make sure you check it out!

Find Sara Grant online:

Pre-order it online:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Books to Swoon Over (2)

Have you ever read a book that you loved so much you swooned?

One that, upon turning that final page and closing the cover, you wanted to flip it over and start again?

I have. And while it doesn't happen all the time, it's happened enough for me to make a list. So here are some of my swoonworthy books (some even with swoonworthy boys) and why they make me swoon:
 
Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal - SEE REVIEW
This was one of the first books I read at the beginning of the year, but it still sticks with me. It's a story that anyone can relate to and has this astounding emotional backbone that made me laugh, cry, and feel so much hope. It also has some great comedic and sarcastic moments as exhibited by the quote below:
“That’s nice,” Evelyn said with a stiff grin, the way people do when they meet an ugly baby. How cute. How adorable. That’s the most hideous thing in existence but I’ll just smile and tickle the unsightly creature because it’s the polite thing to do. ~ pg. 91
Chime by Franny Billingsley - SEE REVIEW
When I read Chime, I hadn't expected to love it as much as I did and still do. When I closed the back cover, the book had somehow claimed the throne of my favorite book of the year and it still holds that place, though there is another book that may be prepared to dethrone it. I think they'll both need a reread to decide, but Chime is still absolutely stunning and amazing and a beautiful mix of perfection.
The moonlight slipped and shifted beneath my feet; my legs dissolved into mud. The swamp has no beginnings, it has no end, it’s all fringes and wisps and foreverness. ~ pg. 217
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff - SEE REVIEW
This one is much darker than the other two, but still very worthy of the swoon. I found Mackie's entire existence to be interesting, but the thing I connected with most was his relationship with his sister Emma. If you have siblings, you'll understand. Yovanoff presents the sibling relationship in such an honest and beautiful way. We love our siblings wholeheartedly and without reservations and that's exactly what I got from Mackie and Emma.
I wanted to tell her that I loved her, and not in the complicated way I loved our parents, but in a simple way I never had to think about. I loved her like breathing. ~ pg. 38
That's the soon I have for you today, but fear not, I've created an entire list of books to swoon over, so I'm sure I'll be doing more of these in the future. Once a month, maybe?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: Love Story by Jennifer Echols

Title: Love Story
Author: Jennifer Echols
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: MTV Books
ARC, 243 pages
Date Published: July 19, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads):
She's writing about him. he's writing about her. And everybody is reading between the lines..

For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions--it's her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family's racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin's college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter . . . so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment?

Then, on the day she's sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He's joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin's heart with longing. Now she's not just imagining what might have been. She's writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter . . . except this story could come true.

Love Story is really a deceiving title, given that the two people who could be members of this love story are a disinherited, newly broke, Kentucky farm girl with a chip on her shoulder and a newly rich, ‘used-to-be stable boy to said girl’ guy with a cocky attitude. And they don’t really get along. That stems from a broken friendship, superiority/inferiority issues, and a stolen inheritance. It’s complicated.

Yet Jennifer Echols somehow creates this fascinating tension and attraction between Erin and Hunter. The two clearly have a magnetism between them, but they’re both too proud, too stupid, and too stubborn to get past it. Erin is hard-headed, but I got her. She’s the privileged rich girl who doesn’t want to depend on the family money for anything. She’s sees the logic in her actions, even if Hunter doesn’t. Hunter I understood to a degree. Erin’s the narrator though, so the reader only knows what she knows. That makes Hunter infinitely sexy, but an ass at the same time. I wavered between attraction and anger with him, never quite sure of his motivations or intentions.

Love Story is set in the bright lights of New York City, but not the NYC that most people think of. This New York is bright and flashy, but all Erin gets to experience is the walk between her dorm, her classes, and her job. Gone are the Broadway shows and the culture, replaced by a landscape that reeks of longing. This New York perfectly counters Erin’s emotions, sometimes cold and raw and other times lit up with electricity.

Erin and Hunter’s creative writing class is as much a setting as the city’s backdrop. So much happens within and because of the class. Erin’s and Hunter’s short stories are showcased throughout the book and it gets the reader thinking more and more about the subtleties they each impart with their words. I found myself longing for a new story from each of them, so I could gain another piece to the Erin/Hunter puzzle, and figure out what pulled these two people apart and what it may take to put them back together.

Love Story isn’t about the perfect relationship or even necessarily about falling in love and that’s kind of why I loved it so much. Erin and Hunter aren’t perfect for each other; in fact, their history makes them sort of an imperfect fit. But they do fit, if they’d allow it. Echols has once again crafted a realistic, emotional, and entirely believable story that will have the reader flipping pages rapidly in hopes of some sort of happiness by its close. Love Story paints a real life image of a lost girl and a lonely boy and the happy endings they’re not sure how to write, and I enjoyed every heartfelt page of it.

Opening line: Captain Vanderslice was something of an ass. ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines/passages: He made it sound as if the prerequisites for hooking up were familiarity, proximity . . . and he must sense the desire, at least on my end. He didn’t understand the complications, the humiliations, the hundred reasons why not that hummed underneath us like the never-ending sound of New York traffic, or the drone of the Kentucky interstate behind the autumn trees. ~ pg. 184
And, in true Jennifer Echols fashion, a sexier snippet:
My blood raced through my veins and seemed to throb toward him like the ocean tide pointing toward the moon. It was one of those things in life a writer needed to experience: feeling smitten, rendered helpless, being taken. ~ pg. 221

*This is the ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Jennifer Echols online:

Buy it online:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

*UPDATE - New Address* Ballou Senior High School Library Needs Your Help!

Danielle from Frenzy of Noise has brought it to my attention that a school in Washington, DC, a school that is desperately in need of books for its students, is currently holding a book drive. Now I know not everyone can donate, but if you can spare a few books, then please consider sending them to the school.
"The literature section of Ballou Senior High School's library in Washington, DC has 63 books, not enough to fill five small shelves. In the area marked "Pure Science," there are 77 volumes. The generally accepted standard for school libraries is 11 books for each of Ballou's 1,104 students."
As an online community of bloggers, readers, authors, aspiring authors, and friends, we have done things in the past year that no one could have imagined. When our favorite authors are attacked, we respond, when the young adult genre is attacked, we respond; as Danielle said, "I know I'm part of a community that bands together to stand up for literary injustice, backlash, plagiarism and everything in between. We build hashtags on Twitter and give small ideas a way to be big. We're awesome."
Source

She found out about this high school through her MFA program. The director of her program sent this over to her:
"It's a challenge for kids to take their literacy seriously when they don't even have books to read. Ballou is located in the most dangerous ward in our nation's capitol. Right now, the library serves as a physical safe space and a refuge for students in off school hours, but wouldn't it be great if they had something to read while they were there--even choices across genre?....This is not the only school in the country with needs, but when the flare went up we saw it and chose to respond."
What they need: Everything.  From Shakespeare to Octavia Butler to Richard Wright. Fantasy, sci-fi, YA, adult fiction, history books, poetry, classic literature, science.

She said they would take anything as long as it is in GOOD condition and has no writing in it.

I've asked if they would accept ARCs, and the director of the book drive, Lisa, said YES.

*UPDATED ADDRESS*
How to donate:
If you have books you want to give, please mail them directly to:

The Art of Living Center
International Association for Human Values
c/o Filiz Odabas-Geldiay
2401 15th St. NW
Washington, DC 20009

There should be a note inside donation boxes that says:
Green Line Initiative Book Drive
attn: Lisa Pegram

The school will be accepting books until August 22nd.
Also, if you'd like to include some kind of quick note for the kids, words of encouragement, that would be awesome!!

Spread the word!
Reblog this post on your blog. Tweet this post. (we're on twitter at #HSBookDrive) Tell everyone. Send books.

This is a chance for our community to step up, to reach out and to provide teens with books. This is why we're here, so I challenge you to be part of this.

If you can help, please do!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Recent Winners!!

I have some winners to announce!


HOLD ON!
I have some announcements first:
My final giveaway for a SIGNED copy of The Near Witch asked readers about their favorite fairy tales. Some popular favorites are:

Beauty and the Beast
Cinderella
Ella Enchanted
The Little Mermaid
Rapunzel - Tangled too
Oddly enough, many people pointed out that the Disney version is not their favorite. I'm going to have to get on top of catching up on my fairy tales now!

Back to the winner . . .

Victoria Zumbrum

Now the Once Upon a Read-a-thon challenge was all about putting your matchmaking skills to work. 

The winner of that is . . . 

Kris @ Imaginary Reads who said:
I'm going to pair Ethan from Spellbound with Sarah from A Need So Beautiful. Weird couple? Maybe. I couldn't select characters who are already matched in their respective worlds because I hate tearing apart happy couples, so I was left with the side characters who either haven't had the chance to be matched (like Ethan) and characters who haven't found "The One" (like Sarah). Both of these people are from recent paranormal reads that I've read and whom I believe need a happy ending.

Ethan is a cool guy. He's mature and caring, both of which Sarah really needs in her life, and... let's face it. I want him back from the dead. Sarah is fun-loving and seeking the perfect guy. Sure, Ethan may not be rich, but his aunt has some money so that might count for in Sarah's opinion. Regardless of how much he has at the moment, I bet he's smart enough to make a money.  ~ Imaginary Reads

*Winners have either been contacted or will be shortly and have 48 hours to respond

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter: Mischief Managed

I was 11 when I discovered Harry Potter and I honestly can't remember how I got that very first book, whether it was because I saw people at school with it or a teacher told me to pick it up or even if I just walked into a bookstore with my mom and it caught my eye. But I remember the moment when I opened that first book and I remember the feeling that came over me.

Not to be cheesy, but it was magical. At the time, books 1 and 2 were out, so I read the first one, then promptly forced my mom to pick up the second one. From then on, I was obsessed. I went to the midnight releases, I waited in the lines, I imagined what would happen and how it would happen and now it's over.

It's really over and part of me is still in shock of it all. But the other part of me is overwhelmed with knowing that I experienced something astounding. Because I grew up with a series, with a group of witches and wizards that changed my life.

I filmed a vlog last night/this morning, right after watching the movie, but it's mostly me incoherently babbling about how lost I felt, but also how emotionally charged I was and still am. Harry Potter has honestly been one of the most important things in my life. Some might think that's crazy to say, but I don't, because I lived with it, grew up with it, and now will go on with the memory of it.

This is most likely my last Harry Potter post for a while because the series is over. I've said all I can say without giving you a novel. And I'm happy with how it all ended. It truly is the end of an era, but I'm lucky to have experienced it. I don't think other generations can really know the feeling that Harry Potter gives to so many older teens and people in the their early 20's. We've lived these books, desperately waited for the next installment, then saw our magical world come to life on the screen. And it was amazing.

Now, as I always do, I'll leave you with a Harry Potter video; a tribute, set to 'End of an Era' by the wonderful wizard rocker Oliver Boyd and the Remembralls.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter: It All Ends in 2 Hours

Less than 2 hours from now I will be sitting in a movie theater, surrounded by devoted fans, friends, and fellow Harry Potter fanatics. We'll all hold our breath as the theme we've all grown to know and love filters through the speakers, as the words 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2' light up the screen, and as the beginning of the last 10 years begins.

I know I've been bombarding you with Harry Potter related posts, but I can't help it. Harry Potter is such a fundamental part of who I am. I was 11 when I picked up the first book. I'm now 23 and about to witness the end of an era. The end of one of the most incredible series I have ever known.

It's been a pleasure and an honor to not only know Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but to have grown up with them.

Below is another video that gave me chills, that gave me a short, visual representation of some of my most beloved memories.


I'm off now, for the very first of the last times, to head home.

"The stories we love best, do live in us forever. Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home." - J.K. Rowling 
 
When I come back, I may or may not vlog. We'll see just how emotional I am by the time the credits roll and my childhood truly ends. I'll leave you, like I did in my last Harry Potter post, with this quote:
 
"No story lives unless someone wants to listen." - J.K. Rowling 
 
Thank you Jo, for telling us such a phenomenal story.



Dazzling Debuts - July Releases


July 4th
Lost Voices by Sarah Porter - Harcourt Children's Books

July 5th

July 8th

July 11th

July 12th
Sister Mischief by Laura Goode - Candlewick
Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris - Delacorte Books for Young Readers

July 19th
The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock - HarperCollins (Not sure if this is actually YA)

July 26th

*This list isn't comprehensive and I probably missed a bunch - feel free to leave book titles in the comments and I'll add them to the list
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