Tuesday, January 31, 2012

World Book Night

World Book Night was first held last April in the UK and has now come to the United States. On April 23 50,000 people will be giving away one million free books to light or non-readers to promote the love of reading. Thirty titles have been chosen including The Hunger Games, Bel Canto, and Because of Winn Dixie. Today is the last day to sign up, but I encourage you all to take a moment today to do so. I think it's fair to say we all like to promote literacy in some way or another, and encouraging someone else to get lost in a book sounds like a great night to me. Please visit the World Book Night website for more information!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Jodi Meadows
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: January 31, 2012
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Series: Newsoul #1
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies-human and creature alike-let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?
I am going to be completely honest and admit I was kinda "meh" about starting this book. The cover is pretty and people seem to like it, but I'm a contemporary girl at heart. Dystopians scare me. However, I can be a bit overzealous when requesting titles from Netgalley, and being approved makes me responsible for reading and reviewing it. So can I just say, YAY for having no self control!

Incarnate begins with Ana leaving for the city of Heart. The reader is briefly informed of the world Ana lives in and her situation, but it is vague enough that I was intrigued from the very beginning. Ana is completely ill-equipped to find her way to the city, but she is luckily rescued by Sam who becomes her only friend. Sam helps Ana get to Heart, and takes on the responsibility of "teaching" her what the counsel deems necessary.
As Ana searches for answers regarding her existence, weird things begin happening, and it becomes clear that not everyone is in support of her new presence.

This book is yet another example of a great debut. I love the idea of reincarnation Jodi Meadows takes and twists into a dystopian world with dragons and tons of mystery. I love the butterfly on the cover and all that it represents within the pages of this novel. I love being blown away by the world building and the wonderfully frustrating cliffhangers of the last few chapters. I love reading a book and feeling like I had an actual experience - not just a few hours holding an inanimate object. I love Ana, almost as much as I love Sam, and I cannot wait until next winter when I can find out more about Ana's world and her place in it.

FTC: I received an eARC of this novel from HarperCollins via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (34)

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It features upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.

This week's pick is...

Life Is But a Dream
Brian James
Coming March 27, 2012 - Preorder it below
Indiebound| Amazon | BN

I haven't read many books about mental illness in the world of YA, so I'm really interested in James's upcoming release. I really hope it lives up to its possibility.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan

My Awesome Awful Popularity Plan
Seth Rudetsky
Publisher: Random House
Released: January 24, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Source: Cavalier House Books
Justin has two goals for sophomore year: to date Chuck, the hottest boy in school, and to become the king of Cool U, the table in the cafeteria where the "in" crowd sits.

Unfortunately, he has the wrong look (short, plump, Brillo-pad curls), he has the wrong interests (Broadway, chorus, violin), and he has the wrong friends (Spencer, into Eastern religions, and Mary Ann, who doesn't shave her armpits). And Chuck? Well, he's not gay; he's dating Becky, a girl in chorus with whom Justin is friendly

But Justin is determined.

In detention one day (because he saw Chuck get it first), Justin comes up with a perfect plan: to allow Becky to continue dating Chuck, whom Becky's dad hates. They will pretend that Becky is dating Justin, whom Becky's dad loves. And when Becky and Justin go out on a fake date, Chuck will meet up with them for a real date with Becky. Chuck's bound to find Justin irresistable, right? What could go wrong?
Justin Goldblatt is tired of being the overweight, gay kid sitting at the loser table. So he contrives this less-than-believable plan to switch things up and become popular. Of course, this plan also involves sharing his first kiss with the high school quarterback who happens to prefer kissing girls.

The writing really keeps me from loving this novel. It switches tenses, which becomes confusing, and I feel like some of the transitions to and from flashbacks are forced. These things make the prose somewhat choppy, and I wish these things could be smoothed out. That said, I think the subject matter is important enough for me to overlook the less-than-stellar writing.

In a world where it isn't always okay to be different, Rudetsky's novel shows teens that staying true to themselves is really the most important thing there is. There is obviously the LGBT issue (of which I am a huge supporter), but there's also the struggle Becky goes through, which makes this novel empathetic to all teens - not just gay ones. It is a cute story with a good message, I just find it lacks in the execution.

FTC: I received an ARC of this novel from Random House via Cavalier House Books in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In My Bag (40)

In My Bag is my version of the weekly meme, In My Mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi over at The Story Siren, and it explores the contents of my mailbox or shopping bag on a weekly basis.

For review:

Gilt by Katherine Longshore
Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
My Life in Black and White by Natasha Friend

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz

Small Damages by Beth Kephart
The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland
The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn
Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price

I also received some signed swag from Holly Cupala as a part of the Don't Breathe a Word Street Team. Look for a giveaway soon!

What'd you guys get this week?

Friday, January 20, 2012

John Green Recap

Ask me why it's been so hard to type up this recap post.

Because I still can't believe it freaking happened.

You'd swear I had a near-death experience recently with the way I've been reflecting on how my life has changed since I began blogging. I started this whole thing on a whim, concentrating on a new-to-me genre, all while I should have been spending my time doing fifty bajilliony more important things. I could really use a newer vehicle and a fatter savings account, but instead I have spent more money than I'd care to admit on hardcovers, shipping contest prizes, and an indulgent trip to New York. It all seems like I've been very irresponsible.

Ask me if I'd change it.

Absolutely not.

You see, back when I started blogging, before the ARCs and the galleys, I took recommendations from a few trusted bloggers and went to the library. I read YA "classics" like Speak and the Jessica Darling series, and then I heard about this guy named John Green. So I picked up his books, and I fell in love. With each new release and each reread, I fall in love all over again. I feel like I owe so much to those first few books I read, especially John's.

After a few missed attempts, I finally got to meet John this past Wednesday. Hearing him read from The Fault in Our Stars, having him answer one of my very own questions, and even hearing him "sing" with his brother Hank were very surreal moments for me. I am so incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to meet John. I wish I could convey my appreciation for who he is, what he does, and how he makes me feel all of the things. Also, I couldn't be happier about finally having this:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Brodi Ashton
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Released: January 24, 2012
Genre: Paranormal
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...
I have to admit, I requested this title from Netgalley solely for my love of its cover. I knew nothing about it, other than the fact that the entire blogging community had been lusting over it for months. I'm actually glad I didn't take the time to read the synopsis because I may have passed it up due to my overall distrust of the paranormal genre.

Everneath begins with Nikki regaining consciousness just after the Feed. It is unclear exactly who she is or where she is, but Ashton does an amazing job of throwing the reader into the story and planting the urge to know more. Throughout the entire story, Nikki is discovering things about herself and the world of the Everneath with the reader - making her a deeply empathetic character from the start. Her struggle with fixing what is left of her old life, all the while knowing she is only to leave again, is painfully evident. For a person lacking emotion, Nikki has the ability to make the reader feel all the things she can't.

Without giving too much away, one of my favorite aspects of this novel is its tie to Greek mythology, one myth in particular being one of my favorites. If this is to be a new trend in the paranormal genre, I must say I can't wait to see what other authors will do with it. That said, of the few I've read, Ashton certainly wrote the best. The story is solid, the characters are well fleshed, and holy cliffhanger ending! I swear this reviewing thing has its setbacks. I can't imagine having to wait over a year to find out what happens next.

Overall, Everneath was a very ambitious debut novel, and Brodi Ashton nailed it. As I said before, I've been very leery of  paranormal as of late, but with new titles like this one, it gives me hope for the future of the genre.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Maybe We Should See Other People... (1)

Ever start a book you were really looking forward to reading and it just...didn't live up to your expectations? I, personally, hate that. Your first instinct is to blame it all on the book. But then you think about it, and it's not really the book's fault. So then you start to wonder if there's something wrong with you. Surely you must be missing something because this person loved it and it won that award. Again, I hate that feeling. And so this feature, Maybe We Should See Other People, was born. Because you know, every book deserves a chance, and I'm sure there's someone else out there who will love it - maybe even a future me.

Lucy Christopher
May 4, 2009

Forever Young Adult
Makeshift Bookmark
Frenetic Reader

The subject matter alone left me a bit reluctant to begin, but Stolen was a Printz honor book, for crying out loud. It was supposed to be amazing, and I couldn't let an uncomfortable storyline get in my way. Unfortunately though, regardless of the plot, it was the format that forced me to shelf it. Without chapters or defined pauses, I just couldn't get into it. This was a case where it was definitely me, not the book. I am a sporadic reader who likes to read a chapter or two at a time, and without clear stopping points, I couldn't continue. I'd love to give it another try when I have a day to devote to it without distractions, but it just hasn't happened yet.

Did you read Stolen? If so, what did you think? Has there been another well-received book you couldn't get into? Leave answers in the comments!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fracture by Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda
Publisher: Walker & Co.
Released: January 17, 2012
Genre: Magical Realism
Pages: 264
Source: ALA
Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine — despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?

Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?
I really love when an author can just throw me into a story and capture my attention with the very first line. Megan Miranda not only managed that, but she kept me invested in the story even when things got a little weird.

Delaney barely escapes death and wakes up from a coma even though no doctor understands how. Science can't explain how Delaney survived the impossible, so she doesn't even tell the doctors about what's happening to her now that she's awake. She attempts her return to school and everything else normal in her life, but it soon becomes clear that normal is in the past. Things get even more unbelievable when she meets Troy, a stranger who apparently has the same "talent" as Delaney. She pushes her family and friends away as she tries to get closer to Troy and figure out what's happening to her.

I loved Delaney's relationships with her parents and Decker. Although they frustrated me at times, her overbearing mother reminded me of my mom, and although Decker made some bad decisions, so did most teenage boys I used to know. I also really enjoyed Delaney's other friends from school. Janna was sweet, Carson was worthy of several eye rolls, and I wanted to punch Tara. I thought the entire supporting cast was well fleshed out, and love them or hate them, I appreciated them and their actions.

When Troy entered the picture it got a little weird for me. I understood Delaney's attraction: if he couldn't help her, he could at least understand her. But I got a total creeper vibe from him from the start, and it only got stronger as the story progressed. About three quarters into the book, I started to get restless, wondering where exactly things were going. Thankfully, things started moving in the right direction, and the ending completely redeemed the story from the bit of trouble I had with the middle.

Megan Miranda took an amazing idea and executed it well. While there were a few issues for me, it was overall a great debut. Her writing was so descriptive, I felt myself shivering at the unbearable cold she described. I felt all the angst between Delaney and Decker during their arguments. I felt all of the things that I love to feel while reading a good contemporary. I'm very interested in what Megan comes up with next.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In My Bag (39)

In My Bag is my version of the weekly meme, In My Mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi over at The Story Siren, and it explores the contents of my mailbox or shopping bag on a weekly basis.


Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay
The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

I had a few gift cards from Christmas burning a hole in my wallet, so I placed an order over the weekend. I'm super excited about all of these titles and can't wait to dive in. What'd you guys get this week?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Best of 2011: Runner Ups

I highlighted several of my favorite reads during the YA Superlatives Blogfest a few weeks ago. The blogfest was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed placing the books I read into the categories. However, the number of books I read far outnumbered the categories, and there were several titles I wish I could have included. Instead of letting them be forgotten, I've chosen to feature a few of them in this post in case you missed them.

I am a very restless person, so if I read an entire book in one sitting: it must have been damn good. Everneath was one of those books. Mythology seems to be popping up more and more in YA, and I couldn't be happier.

As a child of the nineties, I grew up with boy bands much like the one in Reunited. I definitely felt a bit nostalgic while reading, and as you'll see below in another similar instance, I enjoyed the "older YA" characters.

I have pledged to read the book before seeing the movie, so I had to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret this fall. The drawings were absolutely breathtaking, and the story was very dramatic. I am so amazed by Brian Selznick's process, which I learned about firsthand when I heard him speak in New York.

In what could have easily been an overly morbid situation, Harper's honesty really saves (heh heh) Saving June from being a downer. Her two car mates are wonderful supporting characters, and the story is beautifully written.

I'm not much for adult fiction these days, but when I was contacted for a blog tour of The Radleys I was intrigued. The story was much funnier than I'd imagined, and I really enjoyed the different points of view. The ominous narration reminded me a little of Pushing Daisies. This novel had great crossover appeal for both adults and teens.

Dear Bully wasn't a particularly enjoyable book based on the subject matter, but it is a very important book. Bullying is unfortunately a common truth for most youth, and hearing popular authors' takes on the matter was incredibly interesting. This book should be kept in all school and public libraries for the kids who need to find it.

Brooklyn, Burning took me a bit to get into, but it was well worth the difficulty. You see, we never really know if Kid is a guy or a girl, but in the end it really doesn't matter. It's a beautiful love story and still has me craving a New York pizza even months later.

For those craving "older YA," Wanderlove may be for you. For those craving gorgeous writing, Wanderlove is definitely for you. Kirsten Hubbard has me scoping out flights to Central America when Lord knows I don't speak Spanish, can't go more than a day without a shower, and would never carry something as heavy as a backpack by choice.

Dual narrative? Check. Plausible love interest? Check. Original idea? Double check. The Future of Us is a cute story about two kids who find their future selves on Facebook and don't necessarily like what they see. For anyone ever wondering where you'll be in ten years will be amused by this novel.

I shamefully began 2011 without ever reading an Ellen Hopkins book. After receiving an ARC of Perfect, I knew I had to read Impulse first. It may have partially been because I listened to it on audio so he did have an actual voice, but Tony's was one of the most authentic I've ever heard.

I love love love Greek mythology, and Starcrossed is deeply rooted in it. Helen is a great main character, and  Lucas isn't so bad of a love interest. I love the mystery and suspense found in this novel, and I can't wait for the sequel, Dreamless.

There is just something about David Levithan's writing that speaks to my soul. The Lover's Dictionary is exactly what it implies: a dictionary of sorts that tells a story about love. Neither gender specific nor chronological, the dictionary entries tell of vastly different aspects of a relationship - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best is a great story about friendship. I wish I had more friends like Henry and Eva. I also appreciated the research the author must have done to create a tennis player and a ballet dancer so realistically.

If you leave out the time travel, Timeless is really just a historical fiction novel - a fantastic historical fiction novel. This book made me want to be in 1910 New York in a big poofy dress with lace gloves and a dainty umbrella.

Ari from Other Words for Love was one of the most relatable characters I've ever read. This was an incredible debut, and one of my most favorite contemporaries.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick

Her and Me and You
Lauren Strasnick
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Released: October 5, 2010
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 224
Source: Bought
I met Fred first.

Fred: Hot. Enigmatic. Alex’s first friend in her lonely new town. Maybe her first…everything.

I met Adina the following Monday.

Adina: Fred’s twin sister. Cold. Troubled. Trouble.

I kissed him.

She pressed her mouth to my mouth.

People warn Alex to steer clear of the twins, but Alex is drawn to them. She wants to be part of their crazy world…no matter the consequences.
Alex leaves everything she's ever known when she moves out with her mother and her father's girlfriend moves in. Alex's mom is an utter disaster - literally drowning her sorrows in alcohol - and Alex must forget her own sadness to take care of her. Her only "friend" at her new school is the daughter of one her mom's high school classmates, and the distance proves to be too much for Alex's best friend Evie causing added stress. Alex is soon seduced by the Bishop twins, a reclusive pair of siblings avoided by most of the school.

Fred introduces himself to Alex at a party. He seems intrigued by her elusiveness, and he and his sister Adina begin seeking Alex out at school. Ignoring the warnings from other classmates, Alex starts hanging out with Fred and Adina at lunch and after school. She discovers many oddities about the twins, and although she has a bit of a crush on Fred, Adina keeps getting in the way. Unsure if there is actually something wrong or if it's just a struggle for attention, Alex is frustrated by Adina's antics and her control over Fred.

This book is certainly different. Really a novella, Her and Me and You is a relatively short story about Alex's changing relationships with her family and best friend and her growing attraction to the Bishop twins. I completely understand Alex's fascination as Fred and Adina are the forbidden fruit of this novel: as life around her falls apart, Alex allows herself to be intrigued and seduced by the mysteriousness of the twins. However, I am somewhat disappointed by the lack of plot. The story, characters, and writing are all fantastic, but nothing really...happens. Even the ending is left a bit too open for my liking.

Lauren Strasnick is an amazing writer: she pulled me in from the very first page. I'm looking forward to reading her debut, Nothing Like You, which I've heard nothing but great things about. While Her and Me and You isn't exactly the book I thought it would be, I am sure others will enjoy it more than I did, and I look forward to anything she publishes in the future.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (33)

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It features upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.

This week's pick is...

Spell Bound
Rachel Hawkins
Coming March 13, 2012 - Preorder it below
Indiebound| Amazon | BN

I just love Sophie and Jenna and Archer so much... I'm really excited for the final chapter in this series, but I really don't want it to end.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (a nonreview)

The Fault in Our Stars
John Green
Publisher: Dutton
Released: January 10, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 312
Source: Bought
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
“...books so special and rare and yours
that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.”(33)

This is more of a reaction post than anything because a) I can't dream of ever finding the words to describe the heartbreaking beauty of this novel and b) I wouldn't want to ruin anyone's experience with even the most minuscule descriptions. And although I feel as if I should heed the quote's advice, I also feel like I must say something about this novel: if not for my readers, then as a thank you to the author.

"I fell in love the way you fall asleep:
slowly, and then all at once."(125)

This book is no Hunger Games. The pace is much more relaxed, slowly building up until the very end. The Fault in Our Stars is heartbreakingly honest and poignantly brilliant. This book absolutely slayed me in the best way possible. John Green has such a way of making the unfunny humorous and the painful beautiful. I am forever grateful for his words, his stories, and, especially, for Hazel and Augustus.

Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. New York: Dutton Books, 2011. Print.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jessica Rules the Dark Side

Jessica Rules the Dark Side
Beth Fantaskey
Publisher: Harcourt Children's
Released: January 10, 2012
Genre: Paranormal
Pages: 320
Source: ALA
It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is—and whom she can trust—before it’s too late?
I read Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side back before there was news of a sequel. I loved Jessica and Lucius so much that hearing there would be a second book pretty much made my life. Jessica Rules the Dark Side was a satisfying follow-up to one of my favorite paranormal tales. I knew I loved Jessica, but I had forgotten just how much.

Fast forward past the wedding and the first few months of marriage and Jessica finds herself feeling out of place in her own castle. Apparently Romania isn't all it's cracked up to be, and Jessica faces embarrassment after embarrassment as she is unable to fulfill her duties as a ruler. Soon she is on her own when Lucius is accused of murdering one of the elders. Jessica is forced to follow the laws she and Lucius put into place by sentencing him to solitary confinement until his trial. Jess must not only find evidence to clear her husband's name, but also preside over his trial and dole out his punishment should she fail at redeeming him.

While Jessica certainly made some impressive moves in Dating on the Dark Side, she really didn't think past marrying Lucius. So when she finds herself expected to attend trials and make actual decisions, she's immediately overwhelmed. Losing Lucius to what must be a set-up nearly leaves her immobilized. I've already mentioned my love for Jessica, and it did not falter in this sequel. I was always sympathetic and really wanted to give the poor girl a hug at times. But, in true Jessica fashion, she rose to the occasion when it counted and really made me proud.

Several characters introduced to us in Jessica's Guide make repeat appearances. Mindy and Dorin play major roles along with a few new characters. I loved the supporting cast before, and in the follow-up they really have a chance to shine. The story is told from four points of view - Jessica, Lucius, Mindy, and Raneiro. Like last time, we see into Lucius's mind through emails and written letters, this time addressed to his cousin and confidant Raneiro. Included are Raneiro's responses, and we also get Jessica's best friend Mindy's take on things. There may be a lot going on in this novel, but it is all tied together beautifully.

Jessica Rules the Dark Side was a fabulous follow-up to a novel I dearly love. Jessica's Guide is one of my go-to recommendations, and I am so glad to have a second book to shove at readers. Beth Fantaskey did an incredible job with this novel. Some series feel like they are written into several books just for the sake of being a series. Jessica's Guide could have certainly been left as a stand-alone, but Fantaskey sets up a believable plot and captures the reader as she did with her debut. I can only hope that she thinks up a few more obstacles for my favorite vampires as I'll be sure to read them.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

In My Bag (38)

In My Bag is my version of the weekly meme, In My Mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi over at The Story Siren, and it explores the contents of my mailbox or shopping bag on a weekly basis.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
(Bargain bin for $4 - Score!)

A Million Suns by Beth Revis
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
(An advantage to working for your local indie... Eep!)

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
(Thanks, Sash & Em!)
Fallen in Love by Lauren Kate
(Thanks, Random Buzzers!)

I already read and loved Wintergirls - I can't wait it's taken me this long to read it. I'm really excited about the books I won, but obviously the real gems this week are Tuesday's releases. I am so freaking scared of both of these books. What'd you guys get this week?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Reflection and Resolution

I know I'm a few days late, but I'd like to officially wish everyone a happy new year. I hope you all enjoyed your holiday season and found yourselves with stuffed bellies and piles of new books. Last year had its share of ups and downs, beginning particularly low when I lost a dear friend. The rest of my year certainly wasn't as desolate, but that event seemed to hover over the rest of my year. I struggled a lot with work, didn't meet my reading or blogging goals, and had a hard time staying organized.

But 2011 saw a lot of triumphs, as well. John Green commented on my blog, I shared a cab with David Levithan, and Ellen Hopkins told me I rock. I met countless bloggers, authors, and book lovers from New York to New Orleans. I read fifty-nine fantastic books written by phenomenal authors, and I gained a ton of new followers I appreciate every day. Blogging can certainly be time-consuming and stressful (and believe me, Josh still searches for the paychecks...), but it is also one of the most rewarding experiences with one of the most supportive communities out there. I am forever grateful to be a part of it.

Now that 2012 is here, I want to make a few conservative goals.
  • Read fifty books, with at least ten being historical fiction and at least twelve by debut authors
  • Blog at least once a week, not including WoW or IMM
  • Read what I want when I want without feeling "committed" to things I didn't commit to
I desperately feel the need to tone things down while still being productive and efficient. It's so easy to get bogged down by review copies and release dates, but there are so many books and so many bloggers. What fun is it to see the same books being reviewed over and over again? I have a plethora of books I own but haven't read, and my book buying is not likely to cease. I'd like to spend more time "catching up" on the books and review copies I already have and less time feeling like I have to read this right now. We've all, at times, questioned why we do this, but I think the general consensus is because we enjoy it. And the second it feels like work, most of us will quit.

In addition to reading and blogging, I also want to spend an adequate amount of time with my family, my friends, and my side projects. And until someone wants to pay me to read and review*, I also must dedicate forty-plus hours a week in exchange for a paycheck. I should also mention that the first half of the year will be particularly low-achieving while I prepare for the best day of my life thus far: the day I marry my better half**.

*I'm looking at you, NYT! You know you want me!
**You thought I was talking about meeting John Green, didn't you? Believe me, it was tough to choose, but Josh won out...barely ;)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
Beth Fantaskey
Publisher: Harcourt
Released: February 1, 2009
Genre: Paranormal
Pages: 368
Source: Library
The undead can really screw up your senior year...

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn't fit into Jessica Packwood's senior year "get-a-life" plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth - and he's her long-lost fiance. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire's Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war - and save Lucius's soul from eternal destruction.
I picked up this book because after reading Beth's second novel, Jekel Loves Hyde, I heard most people preferred her debut. Based on the synopsis and my opinion of the aforementioned title (which I enjoyed, but didn't love), I expected Jessica to be a light-hearted, fluffy read. It was anything but! Jessica's Guide was a surprisingly well written, plot-driven adventure.

When Lucius Vladescu shows up at Jessica's school claiming to be her long, lost betrothed, Jess doesn't exactly take him seriously. Who would? Unfortunately for Jess, Lucius happens to be right: she really is a Romanian vampire princess. Jessica, of course, denies this as best as she can and tries her best to ignore Lucius. However, Lucius is determined to show Jessica who she really is and eventually make her his queen. While the developing relationship between Jessica and Lucius is certainly important, just as important is Jessica's journey of self discovery and self acceptance. We may not all be vampire princesses, but I think most readers can relate to Jessica's struggles.

Jessica and Lucius are obviously the focus of this novel, but one of my favorite aspects was the development of the supporting characters. Jessica's best friend Mindy is fiercely loyal and provides frequent comic relief, and Jessica's vegan parents are just the right mix of cool yet protective. They all are obviously an important part of Jessica's life, and it shows on the pages.

Fantaskey's debut hooks the reader with smartly written characters and keeps them turning the pages with an incredibly original story. Jessica and Lucius are one of my favorite couples in all of YA, and Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side is by far my favorite vampire novel. Readers tired of the slew of vampire novels should really give this one a try. The only thing that glitters in this novel is the fantastic (pun intended) writing.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (33)

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It features upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.

This week's pick is...

The Académie
Susanne Dunlap
Coming April 10, 2012 - Preorder it below
Indiebound | Amazon | BN

Historical Fiction is something I crave in today's world of YA. Sure I'm usually a contemporary girl, but when it comes to far off lands and mythical creatures, give me princes in 1800 Paris any day.
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