Thursday, June 28, 2012

Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price

Zoe Letting Go
Nora Price
Publisher: Razorbill
Released: June 28, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Source: Cavalier House Books
Twin Birch isn't just any hospital. It's a strange mansion populated by unnerving staff and glassy-eyed patients. It's a place for girls with serious problems; spindly girls who have a penchant for harming themselves. Zoe isn't like them. She'll never feel comfortable with Caroline, her silent and meek roommate, or Victoria, a southern belle with a loud mouth, or Brooke - who seems to have it in for her.

Through letters to her best friend Elise, Zoe tries to come to terms with why she was sent to Twin Birch against her will. But Elise never writes back. Alone and trying to navigate tenuous friendships and bizarre rules, Zoe finds that the reason for Elise's silence lies in her memories of their beautiful, inescapable, and sometimes suffocating friendship. A friendship that has both saved her, and may still destroy her - unless she is able to confront the truth about her past once and for all.
The back of my review copy tells me "Nora Price" is a pseudonym for a twenty-something, New York-based writer. I'm not sure why, but I like to have more information than that. I don't need an entire history, but I like knowing a few personal tidbits about people - something I can connect with. I wonder if the author's ambiguousness infiltrated the pages and kept me from connecting to this novel as well.

Despite being told through first person narrative and through letters to her best friend, I had no idea who Zoe was. In the very beginning of the novel, Zoe's mother packs her up and brings her to Twin Birch, a hospital in the middle of nowhere full of starving girls. Zoe not only is confused about why she's there, but she refuses to see any similarities between herself and the girls around her. Because the reader sees things through Zoe's eyes, it's easy to wonder the same thing. But ultimately, I see Zoe's vision is skewed and despite her obvious denial, there is more to Zoe's past than meets the eye.

Throughout the novel Zoe's peers and the professionals trying to help her become frustrated and often angry with Zoe for her disinterest in admitting her problem and getting better. I couldn't help but share that frustration because Zoe never really struck me as someone who deserved my empathy. With the attractive cover and intriguing synopsis, it's easy to see why I picked up this review copy. However, I don't think I'm alone in my disappointment in its execution.

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (40)

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 Evolution of Mara Dyer
Coming October 23, 2012 - Preorder it below

I think about Mara all the time. I was super intimidated by her. So much hype. But I was blown away by her, and now, nearly a year since reading the first book, I still think about her all the time. To say I'm looking forward to her sequel would be the understatement of the year. As I type this in advance, I am thinking of all those lucky bastards currently at BEA getting copies. So. Jealous.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Life in Black and White by Natasha Friend

My Life in Black and White
Natasha Friend
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Released: June 28, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 304
Source: Cavalier House Books
What if you lost the thing that made you who you are?

Lexi has always been stunning. Her butter-colored hair and perfect features have helped her attract friends, a boyfriend, and the attention of a modeling scout. But everything changes the night Lexi's face goes through a windshield. Now she's not sure what's worse: the scars she'll have to live with forever, or what she saw going on between her best friend and her boyfriend right before the accident. With the help of her trombone-playing, defiantly uncool older sister and a guy at school recovering from his own recent trauma, Lexi learns she's much more than just a pretty face.
I love getting ARCs from my local indie. They receive a box full of goodies, set the YA aside, and I have my pick. I know: I'm spoiled. But honestly the thing I love, even more than getting the book I'm most looking forward to, is finding a book like this: familiar author, interesting premise, but no knowledge of its existence. Finds like this one often surprise me in the best possible way.

Lexi is beautiful. It's not even an opinion; it's a fact. She is popular, she is dating the boy every girl wants, and life is easy. But Lexi isn't clueless; she knows life is great because of the way she looks, but why question a good thing? She doesn't until everything changes when she finds her boyfriend and best friend in a compromising situation at a party. She leaves the party only to get in an accident and fly through a windshield face-first. Post-accident Lexi is friendless, single, and ugly - scarred emotionally and physically from the events of one night.

It would have been easy for Lexi to be a whiny character with much of the book being a pathetic pity party, but she wasn't. Sure she was devastated by her injuries and the abandonment she felt. Sure she may not have felt so alone if she hadn't pushed everyone away. But all of Lexi's reactions after the accident, good and bad, were one hundred percent believable. I really liked Lexi, and I hate that she had to literally go through something to grow up. However, watching her grow up was most enjoyable. I loved the relationship with her sister Ruth. (I didn't have a traditional relationship with my sister growing up, so I find siblings to be extremely interesting.) The one thing that didn't click with me was the love interest. I don't know, he just didn't do it for me, I guess. Even still, I liked what that relationship taught Lexi, and I'm glad she dug Theo even if I didn't.

Overall I thought My Life in Black and White was my favorite kind of contemporary - one that takes every day events and turns them into something magic.

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

Monday, June 25, 2012

Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer

Smart Girls Get What They Want
Sarah Strohmeyer
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Released: June 26, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Source: Sasha
Gigi, Bea, and Neerja are best friends and total overachievers. Even if they aren’t the most popular girls in school, they aren’t too worried. They know their real lives will begin once they get to their Ivy League colleges. There will be ivy, and there will be cute guys in the libraries (hopefully with English accents)! But when an unexpected event shows them they’re missing out on the full high school experience, it’s time to come out of the honors lounge and into the spotlight. They make a pact: They will each take on their greatest challenge—and they will totally rock it.

Gigi decides to run for student rep, but she’ll have to get over her fear of public speaking—and go head-to-head with gorgeous California Will. Bea used to be one of the best skiers around, until she was derailed. It could be time for her to take the plunge again. And Neerja loves the drama club but always stayed behind the scenes—until now.

These friends are determined to show that smart girls get what they want—but that could mean getting way more attention than they ever bargained for...
Can I just say how much I lovelovelove feel-good contemporaries that are more than just fluff? Smart Girls Get What They Want is about exactly what the title implies. Gigi, Bea, and Neerja are smart girls. They may not have overflowing social calendars or afternoons filled with extracurriculars, but who cares? They're totally going to Harvard/Princeton/Dartmouth and will have plenty of time for that later. Except when they find Neerja's sister's empty yearbook, they panic. What if by only worrying about life after high school they are missing out on some of life's greatest experiences? The three girls decide right then and there to make the most of high school, and not just in the academic sense. After all, they are smart girls. Who says they can't have everything they want?

One of the things I liked most about this novel was the meaningfulness of it. The girls didn't just want to let loose and party. They each faced some major obstacles and took on their fears. Of course they had a lot of fun on the way, but I really appreciated the way they remained themselves but became better versions. I loved that there was such a positive message throughout the story without it feeling preachy or condescending. I also loved the confidence these girls had in themselves, and in each other, and their attractiveness. Too often the smart girls are the mousy-haired, glasses-wearing loners. It was very refreshing to see three beautiful girls rocking the books who weren't constantly moaning about their insecurities.

There was a small love triangle, but it did not provoke one single eye roll from me. Both boys were not without merit (at least in the beginning), and I could see it going either way. Of course, as the story progressed things were more clear, and I was very happy with the outcome. I really appreciated the poetry-loving jock and may have even swooned a time or two.

Smart Girls was a smartly written, humorous contemporary I wish was around when I was in high school. Then maybe I could have been more like Gigi, Bea, and Neerja. Sarah Strohmeyer did a fantastic job of erasing stereotypes and giving value to being a smart girl.

FTC: I was gifted with an ARC of this novel, which was picked up at ALA Midwinter. Sash for the win!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

One Moment by Kristina McBride

One Moment
Kristina McBride
Publisher: Egmont
Released: June 26, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 272
Source: Netgalley
This was supposed to be the best summer of Maggie’s life. Now it’s the one she’d do anything to forget.

Maggie Reynolds remembers hanging out at the gorge with her closest friends after a blowout party the night before. She remembers climbing the trail hand in hand with her perfect boyfriend, Joey. She remembers that last kiss, soft, lingering, and meant to reassure her. So why can’t she remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive? Why was she left cowering at the top of the cliff, while Joey floated in the water below—dead?

As Maggie’s memories return in snatches, nothing seems to make sense. Why was Joey acting so strangely at the party? Where did he go after taking her home? And if Joey was keeping these secrets, what else was he hiding?
I'm going to go ahead and get what I didn't like out of the way. You see how up there in the synopsis it says Maggie lost her memory of the final moments before the accident? Well, she didn't lose enough. From the very beginning, way too many details were known for there to be any mystery for me. Maggie may not have remembered exactly what happened to Joey, but I did, and it made for a long, drawn-out "mystery" that lacked both surprise and my enthusiasm.

Now that said, this book was not without merit. I did, after all, not only finish but enjoy it. This was definitely one of those, "it's not about the destination but the journey," types of books. Maggie was a classy girl who kept her cool even though some pretty crappy things happened to her. There were a few smaller mysteries that also weren't hard to figure out, but were much more enjoyable to see played out. I also really appreciated the romantic aspect, or rather lack thereof. Maggie could have easily fallen into the arms of Adam, and though she did frequently lean on him, she remained on her own two feet - a characteristic that is often lacking in YA's female protagonists.

The writing was quite good, good enough that I definitely want to read the author's previous title, The Tension of Opposites. But unfortunately I think the too-revealing beginning chapter will deter many other readers as well.

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

Friday, June 22, 2012

Discussion: Stereotypes and Being White

I can be a horribly unfocused person, and I allow a ridiculous amount of time to pass between finishing a book and reviewing it. So while typing reviews it is not uncommon for me to head over to Goodreads and scroll through others' comments to get myself back into the story so I can write about it. Just recently I was doing this and noticed a blogger whose opinion I highly value differed from mine in the extreme. Now I realize we all don't all agree on everything nor should we want to. However, when someone whom I look to for recommendations is so upset by what she found in a novel I thoroughly enjoyed, I can't help but needing to know why.

The blogger I'm talking about is Steph Su, and the book in question is Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.

I was a little surprised when I saw Steph wasn't even able to finish this novel, so I had to read her entire review to know why she felt so strongly. I could definitely understand her issues with Alina - the self-doubt certainly grated on my nerves at times. I could also understand her view of "telling" statements - it would have been nice to show the reader what the palace and the queen were like. And I could understand the questionable research - my lack of Russian history and culture is abominable so I won't pretend to know better, but there were a few eyebrows raised while reading.

All of these things were fairly obvious to me, too. Steph, being a more critical reviewer than I am (and I say this with the utmost respect - there is no other blogger who makes me think about writing and plots and character development as she does), was bothered by things I saw but looked past. We're different, and that's okay. However, Steph actually got angry with the stereotypes she found in this book - stereotypes I didn't even recognize. This really made me think.

I am white. I come from a middle class family. Other than being a woman, I have never really experienced prejudices. Obviously this is a good thing for me; my life has been relatively easy. However, this fact, of which I truly have no control, makes me feel guilty at times. How often do I look past stereotypes because they don't affect me? Am I perpetuating the cycle by standing silently aside? These are the sorts of thoughts going through my head since reading Steph's review.

Now Steph's review did not change my opinion of this novel. Despite its flaws, it swept me up and into another world and gave me a want for more high fantasy. I loved this story way more than I anticipated, and I will eagerly await its sequel. What Steph's review did was make me think about stereotypes in a new light. I hope it brings even more discussion and we might all learn how hurtful even unintentional stereotyping can be.

*I contacted Steph regarding this post and received her full support in referencing her thoughts and opinions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (39)

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...

Through to You
Coming October 2, 2012 - Preorder it below

There aren't enough YA books written from a boy's perspective. Also, Courtney Summers gave it five stars on Goodreads. I can't really think of another reason not to read it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham

Hilary Weisman Graham
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: June 12, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Source: The Teen Book Scene
1 Concert
2000 Miles
3 Ex-Best Friends

Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends. Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3. But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.

Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show. Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. Good thing Alice’s graduation gift (a pea-green 1976 VW camper van known as the Pea Pod) is just the vehicle to get them there.

But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?
Being a child of the nineties, I am no stranger to boy band fandom. So the thought of three girls traveling across the country in a beat up camper all for their favorite band's reunion show gets me pretty excited. I also get pretty excited about post-high school YA and multiple points of view - another few things that can be found in this novel.

When Alice's parents gift her with a running Pea Pod after graduation, her mind instantly flies to a summer-long road trip with her best friend. Friend going to China nixes any plan for cross-country travel until Alice hears about Level3 playing a one-time show a few thousand miles away. Alice jumps on the opportunity knowing she can't make the trip without her childhood friends Tiernan and Summer by her side. Only problem is they haven't spoken to one another since the beginning of high school.

What ensues is a mostly believable, often hilarious tale of three girls coming together for a common love. I love the way each character gives her own perspective. It gives the story diversity, and the reader has a better understanding of each girl. None of them are perfect - all have made mistakes, and in hearing each voice there is no enemy. I can't help wanting them all to push aside the past and be besties again.

I wasn't completely in love with this novel, but most of it worked for me. There was definitely a certain spark it lacked, keeping it from becoming a favorite; however, as a debut I thought it was a really good example of a feel-good, girls-rule contemporary. I am looking forward to Hilary's future novels. Will one of them feature these three..?

FTC: I received an ARC of this novel as part of the Teen Book Scene blog tour in exchange for an honest review and a promotional post.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland

The Summer My Life Began
Shannon Greenland
Publisher: Speak
Released: May 10, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 250
Source: Cavalier House Books
Elizabeth Margaret--better known as Em--has always known what her life would contain: an internship at her father's firm, a degree from Harvard, and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is, it's not what she wants. So when she gets the opportunity to get away and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em learns that her family has some pretty significant secrets. And then there's Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn't. Naturally, she can't resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels that for the first time ever, she is really living life on her own terms.
Privileged girl wants to break free from the life her parents have meticulously planned for her. Enter long lost family member who invites her for a visit, her uptight parents uncharacteristically agree, and girl realizes everything is not as it seems. Enter brooding boy, unlikely romance ensues, and girl magically gains confidence.

Cliche much?

I really wish I could post a longer, more thoughtful review of this book. However, my lack of enthusiasm for it has kept me from having much of an opinion. The plot was too predictable, the characters too flat. It was a quick, easy read that left me feeling unsatisfied. I thought there was a great opportunity to address a few serious issues, but the story sort of skirted around them instead. I honestly think I would rather fluff.

The romance factor was lukewarm at best, and the family dynamic was much too unrealistic. I also thought Em's rebellion was a bit of a joke. I didn't expect her to start bar-hopping and racking up on meaningless hook-ups, but I thought her fraternizing with "the help" was a bit G-rated. I felt like the target audience would be offended by the lack of maturity found within these pages.

This was, thankfully, a short, quick read that was interesting enough to finish. Unfortunately it was not enough to be very memorable, and I wouldn't be surprised it other readers felt the same.

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

Sunday, June 17, 2012

In My Bag (42)

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:
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

WHAT?! My indie never gets review copies from Simon & Schuster. Never. I've been told their marketing budget is smaller than those of the other Big Six. I've no idea if that's true, but regardless: boxes-of-ARCs just do not come from S&S. So when one of the store owners texted me a picture of this the other day, I about died.


What'd you guys get this week?!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (38)

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...

What's Left of Me
Coming September 18, 2012 - Preorder it below

Doesn't this book sound wonderfully creepy? I love both the cover and the concept. Also, I want this model's eyelashes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tokyo Heist by Diana Renn

Tokyo Heist
Diana Renn
Publisher: Viking
Released: June 14, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Source: Cavalier House Books
Sixteen-year-old Violet loves reading manga and wearing scarves made from kimono fabric, so she’s thrilled that her father’s new painting commission means a summer trip to Japan. But what starts as an exotic vacation quickly turns into a dangerous treasure hunt.

Her father’s newest clients, the Yamada family, are the victims of a high-profile art robbery: van Gogh sketches have been stolen from their home, and, until they can produce the corresponding painting, everyone's lives are in danger -- including Violet's and her father's.

Violet’s search for the missing van Gogh takes her from the Seattle Art Museum, to the yakuza-infested streets of Tokyo, to a secluded inn in Kyoto. As the mystery thickens, Violet’s not sure whom she can trust. But she knows one thing: she has to solve the mystery -- before it’s too late.
I realize this sounds extremely negative, but I wish I hadn't finished this book so I wouldn't have to write a review. That way I could just link to Forever Young Adult's review and say, "what she said," and link to other bloggers who loved it.*

I most definitely did not love this book, but I also didn't hate it. (I think that's why I'm having such trouble conveying my feelings - I'm just indifferent.) Violet was not a character that clicked with me. She was so wrapped up in all things Japan, it felt like she'd rather hide away in her art like Kimono Girl, the main character in the manga she created, rather than deal with her actual life.

I also took huge issue with Violet's family and the way they treated her compared to the way she was viewed by the Yamadas and the police. Violet's dad certainly was not the most stable of parents, but the way he went from being ridiculously absent to ridiculously over-protective practically gave me whiplash. And the fact that Violet never so much as had a phone conversation with her mom as she's traveling across the world being chased by the Japanese mafia seemed improbable. While on the other hand, the Yamadas were quick to share very detailed information about the items stolen, and the FBI were all-ears when the random teenager offered up a theory. I found all this to be extremely glossed over and unrealistic.

I did, several times, think very seriously about putting this one aside and moving on to more promising things. But ultimately I did care about the painting, and I wanted to know what happened to it. I really wish I would have liked this one more because in theory it's one hell of a book. I just didn't mesh with its execution.

Raves: Hobbitsies | IceyBooks | The Reading Date

*I am doing this anyway, as FYA's review sums up a lot of my feelings (especially the comparisons to MG), and I think it's important to note how much others have LOVED this book. I truly believe this is a case of, "It's not you, it's me."

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

Monday, June 11, 2012

Timepiece by Myra McEntire

Myra McEntire
Publisher: Egmont
Released: June 14, 2012
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Sasha
Series: Hourglass #2
A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking...

Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?

Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough...
So one of the greatest things about blogging is community. Commenting and tweeting are great, but meeting people at all the various bookish events is even better. Because when you can't get to the next conference and someone you know can, she sends you goodies. Enter Sasha from Sash & Em: she not only scored one of the few copies of Timepiece at ALA Midwinter, but she also sent it across the country to share with her fellow bloggers. I may not have been lucky enough to make it to Dallas, but I am lucky enough to know her.

In the follow-up to Hourglass, we get to see things from Caleb's point of view. His dad is back from the dead, his mom's in a coma, and all of Hourglass is being held responsible for changes in the time continuum. Consequently, Caleb is a bit . . . distracted. Luckily Emerson's best friend Lilly is there to set him straight, while the entire Hourglass team is scrambling to find Jack and the missing research.

Myra once again blew my mind with the stuff she comes up with. How I would love to live in her brain for a day. The twists and turns that kept me gripping the pages of Hourglass were found again in Timepiece. The pacing is fantastic, the depth of her characters is fantastic, and the way this woman makes me want need the next book is unprecedented. I have been a Myra cheerleader from day one, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next - in the world of the Hourglass or otherwise.

I have to say I did miss Em. I loved being inside Caleb's head, and the plot was just as stellar as in the first book. But I did miss the snarky spitfire that was Emerson, and my only wish was that there was more of her spunk found in the pages. I'm very anxious to see whose point of view we get in book three. Someone new? Maybe multiple perspectives? Either way, Myra McEntire is an author I have come to wholeheartedly trust with a story, so whatever it may be I'm sure will be phenomenal.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wedding Recap (with some bookish features)

For those of you not so interested in personal posts, I apologize, but I promise there are some bookish things to be found below.

I believe I promised you guys some wedding pictures! I was thrilled to finally get a sneak peek at my photos this past week, and I'm so glad I can finally share them with you. To anyone in the area, I cannot recommend my photographer, Beebe of Studio Tran, enough. From our engagement session to our wedding day, he did a phenomenal job at capturing every important moment.

It was very important to Josh and me for our wedding to reflect who we are. Because books play such an integral role in my life, we chose to incorporate them into our reception decor. Several tables featured a few of my favorite books, from Looking for Alaska to The Book Thief to Hourglass to Jenny Han's Summer series. We also chose a non-traditional guest book in the form of postcards of vintage Penguin covers. Near the end of the reception Josh brought nearly the entire room to tears during his toast where he quoted John Green's The Fault in Our Stars - a book that also traipsed through New Orleans with us during our engagement shoot.

And as a special bonus, my favorite shot from our engagements...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Maybe We Should See Other People... (2)

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.

No Safety in Numbers
Dayna Lorentz
May 29, 2012

The Hiding Spot
Our Time in Juvie
The Book Monsters

I gave this one 100 pages. I tried; I really did, but unfortunately I couldn't get into the plot and I didn't care about the characters. I thought it was extremely promising, and I had really looked forward to it. But I ultimately became very frustrated with it and decided not to suffer through the 170 pages after realizing it was the first in a series. I may have pushed through for a standalone, but I wasn't forcing myself through an entire series.

Monument 14
June 5, 2012


The most frequent complaint I've heard about this novel was the lack of action. During what appears to be the beginning of the end of the world, the story is trapped inside a supermarket while earthquakes, tsunamis, and hail the size of houses are destroying the earth. This, actually, was not what kept me from reading past page seventy. I'm a contemporary girl, so I can handle a controlled environment. Hell, one of my favorite contemporaries features a main character who spends most of her time in a beach house. But what I can't handle is unrealistic dialogue and bland characters.  I don't think this book is without merit, but it just didn't click with me.

Have any of you tried either of these books? Loved 'em? Hated 'em? Let me know what you thought in the comments.

FTC: I received ARCs of these novels from Penguin and Macmillan, respectively, via Cavalier House Books in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson

Flirting in Italian
Lauren Henderson
Publisher: Delacourte
Released: June 12, 2012
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Four girls. One magical, and possibly dangerous Italian summer. Family mysteries, ancient castles, long hot nights of dancing under the stars . . . and, of course, plenty of gorgeous Italian boys!
The Good: Post-high school Violet. Italy. Cute boys. Italy. Mysterious girl in 18th Century painting who looks exactly like Violet. Italy.

The Bad: The last few pages felt like a rush of, "Oh, you expected a resolution? Oh, well, there's going to be a sequel for that. Oh, you didn't see that coming? Oh, sorry!"

I love "older" YA, so girl going on a senior trip of sorts to Italy sounded like a fantastic story. Violet is very interested in art, and during a trip to a nearby museum, she comes across a painting of herself - except it was painted in an Italian castle in the 1700's. Haunted by the eeriness of the resemblance, Violet discovers a summer program in Italy that features a private tour of the castle where the portrait was painted. Desperate to know more, she convinces her mother this will be a unique opportunity for her future in art even though it really isn't more than a fancy finishing school.

Violet is in attendance with another British girl and two Americans, all of whom become her friends sooner or later. More important, however, is her acquaintance with Luca, who turns out is part of the family living in the mysterious castle. Violet is quite taken with Luca, partially with his possible connection to her past. Things between them fluctuate from hot to cold, and when weird things happen to Violet when she visits the castle, she isn't sure what to think of Luca or his family.

All of this I enjoyed. I really liked Violet, I liked her housemates, even Luca was okay. I loved the scenery: the Italian countryside, the foreboding castle. And I didn't mind that it was the first in a series, even if I didn't realize it before picking up the book. However, I did not enjoy the rush of the last few pages which ended with no resolution whatsoever. It didn't even end with a cliffhanger! It just stopped! Very very strange. I sincerely hope this is not a trend because I very much want to read Lauren's Scarlett Wakefield books, as well as the apparent sequel to this story.

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (37)

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...

Burn for Burn
Coming September 18, 2012 - Preorder it below

Isn't it funny how my last WoW pick was a Jenny Han book? I swear I didn't plan it that way. I just happened to see this cover in the last week, and man did it catch my eye. I originally wasn't looking forward to this book very much. In fact I talked about it in my last WoW post. But then I saw the cover and actual synopsis and I must say, it's definitely up near the top of my list now.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Of Poseidon
Anna Banks
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Released: May 22, 2012
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy
Pages: 336
Source: Cavalier House Books
Galen, a Syrena prince, searches land for a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. It’s while Emma is on vacation at the beach that she meets Galen. Although their connection is immediate and powerful, Galen's not fully convinced that Emma's the one he's been looking for. That is, until a deadly encounter with a shark proves that Emma and her Gift may be the only thing that can save his kingdom. He needs her help--no matter what the risk.
There were a few things about this novel that kept me from loving it; however, I did thoroughly enjoy it and would recommend it to fans of this genre.

The story went back and forth between Emma's and Galen's points of view. This would normally excite me to no end, but Emma's chapters being told in first person and Galen's chapters being told in third person threw me in the beginning. After several chapters the switch didn't so much bother me except for the way it made me feel differently about Emma. While reading Emma's chapters, I really felt for her. Sure she let her temper get the best of her on more than one occasion, but being in her head gave validity to everything she did. While seeing her actions and reactions through Galen's chapters made her seem like a whiny snot. There were several points where I thought I had enough, and then a new chapter began and Emma was back in my good graces. While it wasn't enough to keep me from finishing, I would be interested in knowing why the author chose to tell the story this way.

The story itself was pretty good. I had a few issues with the believability of the plot. There were a few small details that didn't quite fit with one another. But the mythological basis for the story was very interesting, and overall I was invested in it. I really enjoyed a few of the side characters. I really enjoyed the ending. I figured out part of the mystery, but another part surprised me. I was definitely interested enough to be looking forward to the sequel.

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

Monday, June 4, 2012

Character Interview: Alice from Reunited

Today I have Alice, the main character from Hilary Weisman Graham's Reunited, for an interview! She is here courtesy of the Teen {Book} Scene blog tour.

1. Twitter style: describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

I’m a quick-witted, eco-conscious, independent thinker whose curly hair is extremely susceptible to frizz on rainy days.

2. How worried were you about convincing Tiernan and Summer to go along with the road trip?

In a word: very. But I was way more nervous about talking to Summer than Tiernan. To be honest, I was pretty shocked that Summer came along.

3. Favorite part of the trip? Least favorite?

Favorite part: Meeting Quentin. Duh. Least favorite: the night we spent in West Virginia. For obvious reasons.

4. Other than Level3, of course, what kind of music would you recommend for a road trip playlist?

Brett Dennen, Gotye, Carly Rae Jepsen, Dilly Dilly, Florence and the Machine

5. Any future road trips planned?

Not yet. But there are some super secret plans brewing for next summer that may or may not involve a whole different continent. Fingers crossed.

Thanks, Alice (and Hilary) for stopping by bookmarked today! Be sure to check out the other tour stops for more interviews, guest posts, and reviews!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I'm Back! and In My Bag (41)

So it's been a while... I've been pretty busy. You know, getting married and stuff. I haven't gotten any professional pictures back yet, but don't worry. I'll share some with you as soon as I can. Overall it was beautiful. All our family and closest friends were able to share the day with us, and Josh and I finally said, "I do." It's been a long time coming, and honestly we're both thrilled it's all behind us. We had a wonderful day and a relaxing "mini-moon," and now we're just enjoying married life, which, for the record, is the same as life was before. That is very comforting.
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.


Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson

I went thrift store shopping with my mom yesterday and found these beauties! All hardcovers and less than $10 spent. Unfortunately my mom didn't have the same luck, but we'll just plan another trip.
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