Saturday, January 28, 2012

Under the Never SkyTitle:  Under the Never Sky
Author:  Veronica Rossi
Series:  Under the Never Sky
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Publication Date:  January 3, 2012
Source:  purchased
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Rating:  Photobucket

From Goodreads:

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

I buddy-read this one with my friend Michele over at A Belle’s Tales as part of the DAC 2012. (Her review can be found here.)

Under the Never Sky is one of those books that, had I been able to, I would have stayed up until 5am to finish, like Chele did. No hard feelings, Michele…I know you can’t help yourself when it comes to yummy fictional boys. :D

As I was saying, it was one of those books. You know the kind I’m talking about…fast-paced and very hard to put down once you get started. And for this book, that was right from the very first page for me. No respite for the weary here. Once the action gets going – and I’m serious, it’s almost right from the start – it doesn’t stop, and it took all my effort to stop reading and make myself go to bed that first night. And I immediately finished the book the next day because I just had to know how the trek was going. (That, and Michele was very eager to discuss since she’d already finished it…lol.)

Okay, so you know there’s action, but there’s also a very engaging love story. Based on the premise for this book, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of romantic encounters, maybe because I was expecting the characters’ prejudices against each other to really be too much for them to ever forge a connection. Prejudice has a way of doing that. But the love in this story is to be revered. They hate each other. They tolerate each other. Bad things happen. More bad things happen. They rely on each other. They become friends. And THEN they fall in love. It’s beautiful, really, in the way that it’s realistic and not an immediate, all-consuming love.

This story is intriguing and amazing and another dozen adjectives that mean awesome. It depicts the ultimate sibling rivalry. It portrays an honest and open relationship. It reveals how appearances can be deceiving. And with all of that, it shows how, even in the future, some things never change. In this novel, it’s the Dwellers versus the Outsiders, but the difference between these two sects could be simplified as the “haves” and “have-nots.” Whether by choice or out of necessity, this is how the world works, and apparently, that’s how it will always work. I guess what I’m saying is, I value the honesty of this book.

Just thinking about certain things from this book makes me want to go back and re-read it. Or purchase the audio so I can listen to it at work, as I am sometimes wont to do. So, yeah, for my first Debut Author Challenge book, I couldn’t have asked for a better pick. If this book is any indication of how the rest of the books I read this year are going to go, I am going to be riding Cloud Nine for a very long time.

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  It's a weekly meme where we all get to brag about the books and swag we got in the mail, for review, won in contests, etc.

Okay, so I had to ask a friend for advice on this, due in part to the recent drama all over the blogosphere.  I don't want to get into it, mostly because I'm a newish blogger -- only eight months into this thing -- and I don't want to judge anyone (or be judged) without knowing the full story.

First off, let me say that some part of me has always wanted to be a librarian.  But in the back of my head, this was just a job that you fell back on when everything else flopped. No offense meant...I just didn't understand, until I had a friend who was actually going to school to be a librarian.  "They have librarian school?" I said.  Of course, this friend ended up teaching instead, but to each their own.  I still have a burning desire to be a librarian, even if it wasn't a true profession.  I just love books.  And I want to encourage everyone, young and old, to read and hopefully take away from reading what I do.

That said, I met an awesome librarian at ALA Midwinter, and we talked shop -- books and reviews among other things.  She invited me to come talk to her students about book blogging.  She also encouraged me to donate to the library.  And my immediate reaction was, "Why haven't I considered this before?"  Especially since my local library is ever so small and wouldn't have 1/8 of the titles I'm looking for, maybe even less since it's actually also the high school library.  (Yeah, I live in a rural area...not much I can do about it.)

So, yes, after my amazing experience (and haul) at ALA Midwinter, I will be doing a few giveaways.  But I'll also be donating my books (once read) to my local library so others can enjoy them, too.  Others who, quite possibly, wouldn't have had access to these titles otherwise.

Here's the advice my other friend gave me (the one who's not a librarian turned teacher) and ultimately resulted in me proceeding with this post:  Mike and I were talking about something completely off-topic this morning, and he said, "You can't please everybody...but you sure can piss them all off."   Jen, who cares if a few people get their feathers ruffled?  I guaran-damn-tee you if they had been able to go, they would not hesitate to post pics of all their loot!  And with that, here are the pics:

And here are the books I was most excited to get ARCs of:

Destiny and Deception (13 to Life, #4)Incarnate (Newsoul, #1)The Springsweet (The Vespertine, #2)
The Book Of Blood And ShadowShadow & Bone (The Grisha, #1)Of Poseidon
IlluminateThe PeculiarsMe and Earl and the Dying Girl

I bought some books at ALA, too, just so you know.  That Rapunzel book, for one.  My daughter is in love with everything Rapunzel, so I had to have it.  Also, the second picture is from the last day of ALA, when they just want to be rid of everything so they don't have to ship it back.

I'm relatively new to the small town I live in now, but I do have plans to check out the local library's volunteer program and see if they need any help, paid or otherwise, besides just donating books.  I would love it if I could give up my full-time job and do what I love best, but it's not in the cards, at least not right now.  I'll continue researching it and I'll continue to support the ALA, even as just a friend, though I hope to one day join as an actual librarian. 

I guess what I'm saying is, don't judge all of us based on the actions of a few.  I wasn't at ALA just for free books.  Shoot, I bought or won almost every single book I read last year, which was definitely over 100 if my Goodreads count is to be believed.  This was my first conference, and I learned soooo much from it.  I'm shy, so I didn't meet many of my fellow bloggers and network like I suppose I should have.  But I still had a great time.  And although I probably won't be attending any conferences in the near future, I'll still be attending book signings and giving authors and publishers my money.

Friday, January 27, 2012

TGIF #24 - Buy or Borrow

Friday, January 27, 2012 with 2 comments

TGIF is hosted by Ginger at GReads!  In this weekly feature, Ginger poses a question to her followers and then asks everyone to link up at the end of the post, sharing their responses.

This Friday's Question:

Buy or Borrow: Where do your books that you read come from? The bookstore? The library? Do you prefer to own a book, or have it on loan?

Well, I live in a rural area right outside of Dallas, and the library in my town is very small.  As in, it's housed in the only high school here in town.  Yeah.  But even before that, it wasn't often that I frequented my local library.

I prefer to own the books I read, whether they be real books or Nook books.  I like to have the opportunity to revisit books any time I choose so owning said books makes that a lot easier.  Also, it's been my dream since I was a little girl to have a library in my house, one with a rolling ladder and wall-to-wall books, so buying books as I read them puts me well on my way to that goal.  I've already had to upgrade my bookshelves twice in the last year (YAY!) and already my husband fears I'm going to run out of room again soon:

(And this isn't even including Katie's books or
Jerrod's...those have been relegated to a separate
shelf on the other side of the office.)

That said, I don't have to own brand new books.  Well-loved books are just as nice.  So, now that Borders is gone, I frequent Half-Price Books, as well as Barnes & Noble.  I'm very lucky to work right down the road from the flagship HPB, so a lot of my older books come from there.  They have a great YA section, as compared to other HPB's I've lived near.  Like, it's dangerous for me to walk in there unsupervised.

Also, I've made some great blogger friends over the last several months, and well, we love to share.  I don't think that's any big secret.  So, I know I can count on my friends to share books that I'm iffy about or to share their advance copies, if they're so willing.  And not much makes me happier than shipping off a box of books to someone else who will love them as much as me.  Sharing is caring, right?

So, where do your books come from?  Are you trying to start your own library, too?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)Title:  Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author:  Laini Taylor
Series:  Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Publisher:  Little, Brown & Company (hardcover) and Hachette Audio (audiobook)
Publication Date:  September 27, 2011
Source:  purchased
Links:  Amazon | Goodreads
Rating: Photobucket

From Goodreads:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Okay, this review is going to be a little different, since I both read and listened to this book. So, here goes:

First, a random thought: Do mustache bars really exist? Because that would be the most awesome thing since…ever. My sister and I have decided that, regardless of whether this has been done before or not, we are going to open up a bar in Dallas where everyone wears fake mustaches and said fake mustaches can be purchased from vending machines in the bar, just like in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. And if this is a real and normal thing where you’re from, please disregard the crazy lady behind the keyboard and read ahead. That is all.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can gush about this book. I don’t know what I was expecting going into this novel – I know it probably wasn’t much, considering I’m trying this new thing where I don’t read a synopsys so that there’s less of a chance I’ll have the whole thing figured out by the 10th chapter – but what I got was something incredible and mesmerizing and completely unique. I read the actual book in the middle of December, but then a friend was raving about the audio on Goodreads, and lo and behold, Audible was having a sale on said audiobook, and so I just HAD to pick it up and see for myself. I was not disappointed.

The book: In a word? Fantastic. So much thought-provoking fantasy weaved into one beautiful love story. The world-building was phenomenal, and the way the author started at the end, went back to the past, and brought the story full-circle to that incredible ending? Wow. This is why I read. Books like this.

I loved every single character in this book. Even Svetla, with her caterpillar eyebrows, and Kazimir, the robber of innocence. The characters, complete with horns and hooves and scales, are described in unwavering prose, beautiful in their hideousness and ugly in their beauty. I appreciated the focus on Karou and Akiva, but I’m glad for further novels in this series so that I can get to know the chimaera better. I’m rather indifferent to the Seraphin, but I’m sure the author can change my mind on that front.

The love story is one of those “we’re drawn to each other” types, but this does not even begin to describe the relationship between Karou and Akiva. Akiva is a changed man upon encountering Karou for the first time. And Karou may be young, but she’s not innocent or naïve. She’s seen much more than most would believe. They are drawn to each other, even once they realize they are truly meant to be enemies. But what good love story would stop there?

The audio: I love, love, love Khristine Hvam. She is so awesome with accents, be they that of Scottish hotties or creepy monsters or Russian vampire protectors. I’m familiar enough with her work now that the second I see she’s the narrator, I’m pretty much assured that audiobook will end up in my collection.

With some audiobooks, I still feel like I missed something in the story by not having read it myself. But with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, that is definitely not the case, and it’s not just because I only read the book a month before listening to the audio. I feel confident that I would feel the same had I not previously read the book.

So, whichever way you go, audio or a traditional read-through, I feel secure in saying you will enjoy this book. I know it was hyped quite a bit last year when it was released, but I feel all of that praise came honestly and was well-deserved. This will definitely be one of those novels that I re-read many times, searching for any nuances and details I missed on my first several reads (or listens, as the case may be).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

In My Mailbox #15

Saturday, January 21, 2012 with 7 comments

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  It's a weekly meme where we all get to brag about the books and swag we got in the mail, for review, won in contests, etc.


A Million Suns by Beth Revis, courtesy of the zany April from Sim~Sational~Books

A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2)

Um, so Audible was having yet another one of their member sales, and well, you know I can't say no to those, so I ended up with these gems:

Delirium by Lauren Oliver - couldn't pass up the deal, need to re-read anyway for Pandemonium
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - already read but heard the audio was awesome
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick - need to "read" before seeing the movie
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins - re-"read" is necessary before seeing the movie in March with the sisters I forced this series on (they loved it, too)

Delirium (Delirium, #1)The Graveyard BookDaughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)
The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)

What were your spoils from the short week that didn't seem so short?

Friday, January 20, 2012

TGIF #23 - Recommend It

Friday, January 20, 2012 with 7 comments

TGIF is hosted by Ginger at GReads!  In this weekly feature, Ginger poses a question to her followers and then asks everyone to link up at the end of the post, sharing their responses.

This Friday's Question:

Recommend It: Which book from the last 10 you've read would you recommend to a friend?

Um, all of them???  Just kidding...sort of.  There were a couple that weren't as good as I'd hoped, but for the most part, I'd still recommend them because what might not be my cup of tea might just be someone else's.

That said, of the last ten books I've read, I'd most heartily recommend the following:

Under the Never SkyThe Goddess Test (Goddess Test, #1)Fracture

Those three were all Photobucket reads for me.  However, I'm behind on my reviews -- shocking, I know -- so I've only posted the review for Fracture to date.  But let me just say that it completely surpassed my expectations, and that alone should make you run out and add it to your TBR list because it doesn't happen often.  The other two I whole-heartedly expected to love, but you should still read them, too.  :D

Do you agree that these are all awesome books?  If not, what would you pick in their place?

Week in Review:

In My Mailbox #14
Review:  Fracture by Megan Miranda
Review:  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Uncovered - 1/19/12

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Uncovered - 1/19/12

Thursday, January 19, 2012 with 4 comments
Squeeeeee!  I love novellas because of the additional character insight provided...well, that, and it's another snippet into the lives of my favorite characters.  :)  So, when I saw that Aimee Carter had written a short story for her Goddess Test series, I was obviously delighted.  And I'm doubly delighted now that the cover has been revealed:

I wish it were a real book because it would look so pretty with the rest of the series on my shelf!  What are your feelings on novellas?  Do you mind paying a nominal fee for them?  Do you also wish they were offered in print form, as well as ebooks?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 with 9 comments
The Night CircusTitle:  The Night Circus
Author:  Erin Morgenstern
Series:  n/a
Publisher:  Doubleday
Publication Date:  September 13, 2011
Source:  purchased
Links:  Amazon | Goodreads
Rating:  Photobucket

From Goodreads:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

The Night Circus is as achingly beautiful in its descriptiveness as it is eerie in its setting. You'll be riveted by the magicians' duel and captivated by the circus, as well as its inhabitants. This story is heartbreaking in its loveliness and lovely in its heartbreak.

The events surrounding The Night Circus encompass the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the depiction of the time period feels very authentic, right down to Marco's bowler hat. The circus itself is created as an arena for the young magicians to showcase their talents and prove themselves the more worthy opponent. It is described in beautiful, flowing prose, and at times, I was so engrossed in the author's lovely words that I forgot to properly visualize what I was reading. This novel begs to be read slowly and with focus in order to attain the maximum visual effect. The author incorporated breath-taking imagery as described not only by the patrons of the circus but also from the point-of-view of those whose lives ARE the circus. Though the story is shown from many different vantage points in order to show the many facets of the circus, it was most entertaining to read how the circus was viewed from both sides of the gate.

As lovely and unique as the circus is, though, the characters are even more engaging. From the devious masters instructing Celia and Marco to the woeful magicians themselves, there are no bit players. They are all bound to the circus, and as such, they are bound to each other. The story may focus on the young magicians and their struggles and loves, but anyone attached to the circus quickly finds themselves attached to Marco and Celia's story, as well. The characterization in this novel is phenomenal. By the time each character's story has been told, you may have the urge to don your red scarf and run away with the Reveurs in order to spend more time with them at The Night Circus.

This is a story not to be rushed through. It should be read at night…preferably under a blanket of stars. It is a story for dreamers, for those who refuse to grow old. It is a story so incredibly delightful that I wish it were true.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Fracture by Megan Miranda

Monday, January 16, 2012 with 1 comment
FractureTitle:  Fracture
Author:  Megan Miranda
Series:  n/a
Publisher:  Walker & Company
Publication Date:  January 17, 2012
Source:  Netgalley
Links:  Amazon | Goodreads
Rating:  Photobucket

From Goodreads:

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?

For fans of best-sellers like Before I Fall and If I Stay, this is a fascinating and heart-rending story about love and friendship and the fine line between life and death.

This story was so unexpected and surprising. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I almost didn’t even give it a try. I passed it up several times on Netgalley because I was afraid it would be too contemporary for my taste. I’m glad I did eventually read it, though, because it’s now going on my favorites shelf. Seriously…it’s not very often that I’m left completely satisfied at the end of a novel. And it appears that this is a stand-alone…bonus points for that.

The entire time I was reading this story, I kept thinking to myself, she could be writing about me. The mistakes, the heartbreak, even the academic aspect felt all-too familiar to me. At least, the teenage version of me. And yet, the story was unpredictable. It doesn’t skip a beat getting right to the action, and though it’s not explosive action, there’s never a lull in the storyline. When I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about it, and I stayed up way past my bedtime trying to find a good place to stop for the night. (There’s not one…I suggest you read it straight through if you can.)

Fracture is reminiscent of Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series, except instead of being lured by the imprints of dead bodies as Violet is, Delaney seems to be drawn to those who are on the brink of death. Even the best friend/potential boyfriend angle is similar, but it’s handled so differently in Fracture that that’s where the similarity ends.

The characters were very realistic, as were the character interactions. I never once thought, A real teenager wouldn’t say that. Delaney was impulsive and stubborn and afraid of being hurt, just like any other girl. Her relationship with her best friend Decker was strained after the accident because everything had changed, and he was harboring some serious guilt. Her parents treated her like she was someone else, someone they didn’t know. And yet Delaney persevered, threw herself into her studies to try to get back to normal. Enter Troy. Like matters weren’t complicated enough.

If the story itself wasn’t perfectly orchestrated, that ending sure was. Wow. I’m not one to be easily surprised either. I’ve been reading for a long time, and I’ve come to expect certain things from the writing in this genre, and most of the time, those expectations are met, be that good or bad. But with this novel, I can honestly say I did not see that ending coming. Actually, I didn’t see a lot of what was coming in this story. I know many are raving about this book, and I have to agree…this is definitely one book not to miss!

After reading Fracture, check it out on Facebook to read a short story told from Decker's POV from the eleven minutes Delaney was under the ice to when she wakes up, six days later.  Your only payment is a tweet or a Facebook share.  Enjoy!

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