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Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Monday, October 31, 2011
Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Pages: 316
Publisher: Tor Teen
Buy it: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.

My rating:  5 of 5 stars

Happy Halloween, everybody! Since it's Halloween, here's a scary book for today!

Anna Dressed in Blood has had amazing hype since the day it's been announced. I've been lusting after it since June. Well, let's just say the hype's been lived up to. Anna took me through twists and turns that left me breathless, and in the end, heartbroken.

It's been ages since I've read a guy's perspective in YA (since Beautiful Creatures, to be precise), and it was really refreshing to have a male take on things this time round. Cas was a kick-ass protagonist, and I fell in love with his voice. Also, he sounds really cute--that's always a plus, right?

Surprisingly, it wasn't Cas I fell hardest for. Anna was the one I really, really loved. She's not just a ghost. She knows that she's dead, she can't control the killings, and she's just one damn cute ghost. I loved those midnight conversations between Cas and Anna. Those were probably what made me turn from "I love Anna" to full fangirl mode, which includes too much high-pitched squealing to type out properly.

Not revealing too much, I really loved how the plot went. How it changed halfway from Cas trying to kill Anna to their bittersweet love that nearly made me burst into tears at the end of this book.

For anyone wanting a super-scary ghost story with a love twist, Anna's your read. For everybody else, just read it anyway. You won't regret it, trust me. Anna and Cas are the sweetest star-crossed lovers I've ever seen (or read, rather), and yes, according to me, they're even sweeter than Romeo and Juliet.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.

Review: You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

4 Stars: A Great Read
Hardcover: 240 Pages
Publication: October 25, 2011 by Egmont USA

Emmy Rane is married at nineteen, a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with a husband she no longer loves, Baby is her only joy. Then one sunny day in September, Emmy takes a few fateful steps away from her baby and returns to find her missing. All that is left behind is a yellow sock.

Fourteen years later, Sophie, a homeschooled, reclusive teenage girl is forced to move frequently and abruptly from place to place, perpetually running from what her mother calls the "No Good." One afternoon, Sophie breaks the rules, ventures out, and meets Joey and his two aunts. It is this loving family that gives Sophie the courage to look into her past. What she discovers changes her world forever. . . .

You Are My Only is told from the perspective of Emmy fourteen years ago and Sophie from the present day. Emmy has been abused and degraded by her husband, and now she suffers the blame for the disappearance of her baby. She feels the despair of losing the one bright spot in her life. Sophie has been homeschooled all the life, which isn’t much of a life as she’s always been on the run from what her mother calls the “No Good” people. She wants to live a normal, open life.

What really stood out to me in this novel is how Beth Kephart captured the emotions of Emmy and Sophie in words and transmitted them to the reader in a stream-of-conscious narrative. I could never entirely imagine being in either narrator’s place: feeling the horror of losing a baby or having to live my life locked in a house without being able to join kids my own age out in the open. Throughout the novel, I sat in my seat, horrified and anguished at my inability to help the two of them.

Beth Kephart has written a beautiful, beautiful story of tragedy, hope, and self-discovery, one that can only be fully appreciated by having read the novel. I will definitely be reading more of Kephart’s past works, and I will be looking forward to future works from her!


An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Saturday, October 29, 2011
5 Stars: Incredible
Hardcover: 341 Pages
Publication: October 18, 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?

Mandy Kalinowski knows what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about what it means to be a family and the many roads we can take to become one.

I could have read this book forever, if Sara Zarr only had more to tell. The imagery is so stark and vivid, the characters so filled with such raw, pent-up emotions, that my heart bled for them as I read this book. I haven’t been in either girl’s position before—and I hope that my parents both live long lives—but both girls are entirely relatable. That goes to show Sara Zarr’s genius skills at building characters.

Mandy and Jill are two girls searching for their place in life. Jill has grown distant and rebellious since her father’s death, and she isn’t very thrilled (a huge understatement) by her mother’s decision to adopt the unborn baby of a perfect stranger. She wants to find the old Jill—the good Jill from before her father’s death. On the other hand, Mandy never knew her father. She’s an insecure girl and eight months pregnant. While she knows who she isn’t, she’s having trouble finding the real Mandy. Both are learning to cope with their unexpected situations and to open their hearts.

How to Save a Life is about finding peace and gaining confidence in oneself. While there are love interests, this book isn’t centered on romance. The focus is on the internal struggles that Mandy and Jill must conquer to find peace with themselves. I love this book and recommend it to those of you who enjoy books about individuals searching for their personal identities. I’m definitely be looking forward to more books by Sara Zarr!


A copy was provided by the publisher for review purposes

ARC Review: Graffiti Moon

Title: Graffiti Moon
Author: Cath Crowley
Pages: 272
Publisher: Knopf
Buy it: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository

Senior year is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight, she's going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. He's out there somewhere—spraying color, spraying birds and blue sky on the night—and Lucy knows a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for. Really fall for. Instead, Lucy's stuck at a party with Ed, the guy she's managed to avoid since the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells her he knows where to find Shadow, they're suddenly on an all-night search around the city. And what Lucy can't see is the one thing that's right before her eyes.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's start off with a rant: Ed and Lucy are so freaking cute! Okay, rant done, onto the review...

First off, I loved Graffiti Moon. I finished reading it on my Kindle in a day, which included reading on minibus rides, MTR (train) rides, at dinner (my mom was not amused), and it was all I can do not to read  it while I was walking. Shadow's graffiti art comes to life in Cath Crowley's writing, Ed has more sides to him than the guy who dropped out of school, and Lucy just wants to find her idol.

Even though Graffiti Moon only takes us through one night in Lucy and Ed's life, that one night still stays with me as the story that was just plain amazing. I loved the double POV between Ed and Lucy, as well as the occasional poem by Leo. Having the story told between the two of them tells the reader a lot more than what the characters know. That made me want to hit Lucy overhead with something hard on more than one occasion and go "Open your eyes, idiot! Realise Ed's the one! Then kiss him or something!"

What really made Graffiti Moon stand out was the way art was woven through the story. Through Shadow's graffiti and Lucy's glassblowing hobbies, I got to see different sides of the characters, and Crowley's writing really makes their masterpieces paint themselves in my mind.

Graffiti Moon's an artsy romance that'll have you whispering "It's him, idiot! Kiss him or something!" desperately to the book (hopefully not in a public place) and nearly bursting with happiness when Ed and Lucy finally get together. I'd recommend it to anyone who'd care. It's definitely a read to look out for in 2012.

Graffiti Moon will be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on the 14th of February, 2012 (Valentines!!).

Book Blogger Hop (23)

Friday, October 28, 2011
Book Blogger Hop
“What is your favorite Halloween costume? Even if you don’t celebrate, what kinds of costumes do you like?”

I'll be celebrating Halloween on Monday, like the people in the US (I'm in HK). Though most the trick-or-treating of Hong Kongers will probably take place Sunday or Saturday night because there's no school (Asian parents...). My favourite Halloween costume (that I've worn) is probably Blossom from the PowerPuff Girls. I was really small back then and I remember winning a prize for "best costume." Mind you, I couldn't really see with those huge bug-like eyes.

Follow Friday (23)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Q: If you could have dinner with your favorite book character, who would you eat with and what would you serve?

This would be a dream come true!


It just might turn into a nightmare deciding WHO to invite. There are just too many amazing characters out there!! I could invite Peter Pan and eat delicacies from Neverland. I could invite Grimalkin and somehow end up discussing some deep philosophical notion that will end with the words, "because I am a cat," and it will be my loss because (1) cats always win and (2) Grimalkin will have eaten all the food while I was distracted coming up with arguments in vain to use against him.

Or maybe I could invite Evie from Paranormalcy, and I know we'd have a blast eating at a normal pizza joint--never will pizza have tasted so good, so... supernaturally good. Think Lend would take some time off college to join us?

Review: Reckless by Cornelia Funke

4 Stars: A Great Read
Series: Mirrorworld #1
Paperback: 400 Pages
Publication: September 5, 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

For years, Jacob Reckless has been escaping to another world--a world behind the mirror, where witches haunt the forests and fairies and dwarfs roam. A world for treasure hunts and magnificent quests--but also a world locked in a deadly war.

Jacob's secret seems safe, until one day his younger brother Will follows him, to disastrous consequence. Faced with a curse that is quickly turning Will to stone, the Reckless brothers are thrust into a race against time to find a cure before one of them is lost forever.

Inspired by the Brothers Grimm, master storyteller Cornelia Funke introduces a lush, enchanting landscape of fairy tales and legends re-imagined as never before. Reckless is a thrilling adventure and a tale of heroism, filled with danger, mystery, and above all, magic.

Cornelia Funke has one incredible imagination. Ever since reading Inkheart, I’ve been a big fan of hers, so I was really excited to be given the opportunity to review Reckless. She didn’t disappoint. Overall, Reckless is a highly enjoyable read filled with a brilliant cast of characters that comes to life through the magic of Cornelia’s rich, vivid imagery, and the strong voices that she implants within them.

Reckless takes place in an enchanted world ruled by dark magic, inhabited by fantastical creatures, and saved by heroes’ sacrifices. While I would have enjoyed getting to know Jacob better, seeing how he’s the protagonist, Cornelia successfully integrated multiple perspectives into the story without confusing me at all. In the long run, I appreciated knowing what was going on where, as it added more suspense and foreshadowing to the story and allowed me to appreciate characters that I wouldn’t have liked much otherwise.

Being in his twenties, Jacob is an older protagonist for a YA book; however, it doesn’t take away from the ability of younger teens to relate to him should they decide to pick up Reckless. He knows love, despair, and anger. He possesses a strong will. And his friends are as loyal and courageous as he is. All of these make him the hero that we want to see.

Joining Jacob as he seeks the cure to save his brother’s life and protect a world from impending evil has been quite an adventure. I enjoyed meeting the Mirrorworld counterparts of many fairy tales that we heard growing up. Cornelia Funke is a master storyteller. I would definitely recommend reading Reckless if you enjoy darker fantasy stories and don’t mind an older protagonist. I can't wait until its sequel comes out!


An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Review: Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon

3 Stars: A Good Read
Hardcover: 273 Pages
Publication: November 1, 2011 by Bonneville Books

After their father’s disappearance, Cinder leaves home for a servant job at the castle. But it isn’t long before her sister Ella is brought to the castle herself—the most dangerous place in all the kingdom for both her and Cinder. Cinder and Ella is a Cinderella story like no other and one you'll never forget.

Told in true fairytale fashion, Cinder and Ella is set in a fantastical land under the peaceful reign of a kind king and queen. However, as is bound to happen in all fairytales, darkness strikes in the form of the king and queen’s only son, whose wicked heart urges him to seek power. He has only one fear, the daughter of Weston of Willow Tops.

The third out of four daughters of the aforementioned Weston, Ella is a strong-willed with a courageous heart that hasn’t diminished any since she was a nine-year-old girl and recognized Monticello for the evil man that he is. While the story gives us the perspectives of both girls (and that of Sir Tanner), I like Ella much more. She is my favorite of the four sisters. Cinder is too benevolent and trusting while Katrina and Beatrice are brats for the most part, with Beatrice magically turning back into a naïve eleven-year-old girl at the end of the novel.

This is a fairytale story, albeit a darker one, so I can’t say that it isn’t entirely unexpected that everyone’s good and bad qualities are exaggerated. Katrina and Beatrice are detestable. Cinder is too nice. The bad guys are very bad. Tanner is a huge klutz and yet a very (too) honorable knight. The king and queen are kind and generous, the kind of people you expect to be always fair.

I do wish that there were more backstory, as it seems as though many of the characters act without motives. I want to know where Prince Monticello got his dark powers and why he wants to take over the kingdom other than for the very obvious fact that he’s evil. I want to know how the king and queen can sit on their thrones, watching their people suffer under the prince. If the king hopes that his son will reform, shouldn’t he try some intervention to reform him? Nevertheless, this is a fairytale retelling, and fairy tales don’t need to make sense, do they? The beauty behind fairy tales is that they cause us to question so many things and learn from them.

If you like fairytale retellings, you’ll enjoy Melissa Lemon’s take on the Cinderella story. Be warned, however, that it is a quick read with no big plot twists or exploration of human character. It is told plain and simple. Still, it does raise good discussions questions, which are provided in the back of the book, and would make a great book club reading for tweens and perhaps even older elementary school students.


An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Review: The Shattering by Karen Healey

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
4 Stars: A Great Read
Hardcover: 311 Pages
Publication: September 5, 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Seventeen-year-old Keri likes to plan for every possibility. She knows what to do if you break an arm, or get caught in an earthquake or fire. But she wasn't prepared for her brother's suicide, and his death has left her shattered with grief. When her childhood friend Janna tells her it was murder, not suicide, Keri wants to believe her. After all, Janna's brother died under similar circumstances years ago, and Janna insists a visiting tourist, Sione, who also lost a brother to apparent suicide that year, has helped her find some answers.

As the three dig deeper, disturbing facts begin to pile up: one boy killed every year; all older brothers; all had spent New Year's Eve in the idyllic town of Summerton. But when their search for the serial killer takes an unexpected turn, suspicion is cast on those they trust the most.

As secrets shatter around them, can they save the next victim? Or will they become victims themselves?

I really love Healey’s first novel Guardian of the Dead. Since reading The Shattering, I can officially call myself a fan of hers. Like Guardian of the Dead, The Shattering is a murder mystery with folklore and magic mixed in, and they both take place in New Zealand. This time, however, Healey presents us the mystery of supposed suicides rather than an immediately recognizable serial killing.

The Shattering starts off as a seemingly normal story—like with Guardian of the Dead—this time as one about grief and a girl coming to terms with the suicide of a beloved brother. The story is told from the perspectives of these three teenagers who have been brought together through their shared desire to piece together the truth behind their older brothers’ deaths… and to ultimately prove that their brothers were murdered.

Then Healey starts introducing elements of the murder mystery, and it becomes quickly apparent that there is more to the story. Healey is a master at plot, and it is definitely a big part of why of I love her writing. Her attention to detail and clever plot twists kept me enthralled with the story and consistently second guessing myself. It wasn’t until I reached the end of the novel, that I was one hundred percent sure of the story and how it would end.

The Shattering is a brilliantly crafted novel with a fresh setting (for me—Healey herself is a New Zealander). Those of you have who read and enjoyed Guardian of the Dead should definitely pick up The Shattering. If you haven’t and you end up enjoying The Shattering (if you haven’t already read it), then you should try picking up Healey’s first novel. Just keep in mind that both contain darker themes, more so in The Shattering what with references to suicide, racism, and bullying.


An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Spooktacular Giveaway

Sunday, October 23, 2011

We're participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader Not a Writer and I Read Banned BooksOne lucky US/Canada winner will be winning a signed ARC of Flame of Surrender by Rhiannon Paille, and one lucky US/Canada winner will be winning a signed exclusive blue-themed finished copy of Flame of Surrender.

About Flame of Surrender:
The boy who follows death meets the girl who could cause the apocalypse.

Krishani thinks he’s doomed until he meets Kaliel, the one girl on the island of Avristar who isn’t afraid of him. She’s unlike the other girls, she swims with merfolk, talks to trees and blooms flowers with her touch. What he doesn’t know is that she’s a flame, one of nine individually hand crafted weapons, hidden in the body of a seemingly harmless girl.

Nobody has fallen in love with a flame until now. She becomes Krishani’s refuge from the dreams of death and the weather abilities he can’t control. Striking down thousand year old trees with lightning isn’t something he tries to do, it just happens. When the Ferryman dies, Krishani knows that he’s the next and that a lifetime of following death is his destiny.

And Kaliel can’t come with him. The Valtanyana are hunting the flames, the safest place for her is Avristar. Krishani can’t bear to leave her, and one innocent mistake grants the Valtanyana access to their mystical island. They’re coming for Kaliel, and they won’t stop until every last living creature on Avristar is dead. She has to choose, hide, face them, or awaken the flame and potentially destroy herself.

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Author Interview: Rhiannon Paille

Today, Rhiannon is back at Imaginary Reads, this time author interviewing with Kris!

A little about Rhiannon, as quoted from her blog:

Rhi was never a normal girl. Her life was an urban fantasy wrapped in a paranormal romance and served with a side of horror. To escape her everyday weirdness she began writing fantasy. She studied at U of Sedona and MIMT, obtaining a PhD in Metaphysical Science and Parapsychology. She's married to a chef/comic book shop owner and has a fondness for architecture. She frequents twitter and facebook, but if you really want to get to know her you should visit her site:

First, the big question that everyone's asking. How did you come up with the idea of the Flames?
The story and existence of the Violet Flame is still very popular in Eastern culture today. That's where Kaliel's story collides with human history, but there was an entirely other story about her that existed in the other realms, away from Earth. That's also where the other Flames are from. I didn't exactly make them up, I'm just bringing them to the surface.

How did you decide on writing a fiction novel based off the idea of the Violet Flame?
I actually thought it was a tragedy that nobody knew the stories about the Violet Flame, or the other Flames for that matter. My mentors supported me in bringing Avristar, the Flames and the Ferryman alive.

I noticed that you also wrote Integrated Intuition: A Comprehensive Guide to Psychic Development. How did you go from writing a guide to becoming a Metaphysical Therapist to writing a YA novel, and has it in any way influenced your writing of Flame Surrender?
I began writing FoS at the same time as Integrated Intuition. The psychic development book was something I wrote by accident. I was teaching quite a few people back in 2005 - 2008 and I kept all the lessons in a file. In 2009 I realized it was the length of a book!

Writing fiction is a lot different than writing non fiction and for me it's the opposite, writing fiction made my non fiction less technical and boring. So I'm glad I did both.

When did you first know you wanted to write a fiction novel?
I suppose it was back in 2005 when I realized that all the stories I believed to be true, weren't stories that others would readily accept as true. That then became the basis for The Ferryman and the Flame, which is a fictitious story based on things I believe to be true.

How did you come up with the names for Flame of Surrender?
I worked with my mentors for most of the names. Actually it was my mentors who told me the ancient myths that these stories were based on. Most of the names of people and places came either directly from the myths like Kaliel, Krishani, Desaunius, and Pux, the rest were translated from the original languages the myths were told in. Avristar came from a translation, along with Atara, Istar, Shimma, Kuruny and Kazza.

I love how you stayed true to the original culture from which the idea of the Flames originated! What did you enjoy most when writing Flame of Surrender?
Tough question. I enjoyed making the book sing. I had to rewrite it a few times before it flowed like a song. I knew I had "it" when I could read the scenes and hear the cinematic score in the back of my head.

This is related to an earlier question, but has how has life on Earth influenced the development and eventual writing of Flame of Surrender? (Has anything in the 'real' world worked its way into the world in Flame of Surrender?)
Like I said, in many eastern cultures, the Violet Flame is well known as a being to call on for healing and erasing karma. It's been associated with archangel Zadkiel, Buddhist goddess Kwan Yin and Saint Germaine. While my sort of the Flame doesn't follow any of those more common stories, I think the readers will enjoy what I've decided to retell.

Avristar is a fantastical island. If you could create a fantasy world of your own, what are the top five things you want in it?
Ahh well I did bring Avristar to the pages. I would want four full seasons, lush thick forests, talking trees, apple orchards, and talking animals. See if you can figure out which of those things Avristar doesn't have already. ;)

Do you have anything else to say to readers at Imaginary Reads?
My favorite stories are the ones that stay with me for a long time and Flame of Surrender is one of those stories, classic and timeless.

Thanks for dropping by again, Rhiannon!

Imagine My Mailbox (12)

Hikari's Mailbox

I haven't done IMM in ages! I'm a little rusty at this...

I pre-ordered Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins and you can read my review here (loved it, by the way)
I received Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake from Kendare's awesome publicist for review, and it'll be coming along soon!

Bought these ones for school.
An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley
Nineteenth Century Short Stories 
The Black Sheep by Balzac (not so much school related, but recommended by my English teacher)
Took The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood out from the library (for an English oral).
Thank you so much to Emmelyn, who sent me this pretty, pretty bookmark as an October RAK. It's currently sitting in Anna Dressed in Blood.
And here are all the books I've gotten since the last time I did IMM (I'm pretty sure I've missed some out, but I'm not sure which)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen 
Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey (ARC) 
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting 
Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon (ARC) 
Evernight by Claudia Gray 
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder 
Vanish by Sophie Jordan (ARC) 
Keeper by Kathi Appelt 
The End is Near by Harry Ramble 
Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner

And the last of this week's IMM doesn't have much to do with books but a lot to do with the blog!
Yups, I now have a Macbook Pro! Isn't he a beauty?

Book Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Saturday, October 22, 2011
Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Pages: 338
Publisher: Dutton
Buy it: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading Stephanie Perkins' first book, Anna and the Frech Kiss, I was pretty sure nothing could beat it (and St. Clair's hotness). But then Lola comes waltzing along with Cricket and his skinny pants in tow. And even if it doesn't completely top Anna (I still love Étienne St. Clair too much), it's now equal to Anna in terms of how much I love it. I thought that was impossible.

Lola has a rockstar of a boyfriend who's five years older than her. Let me just get this clear--I didn't like Max from the first page. He's a wannabe angsty teen who does pot, has sex with a lot of women, and smokes. Then there's Cricket Bell, brilliant inventor, sweet as hell, lets Lola put nail polish on him (I have no idea why, but I love that about him so, so much), and wears tight-fitting pants. I can't phantom why it took Lola so long to choose. But then again, if she didn't, this book I love so much wouldn't exist.

It was agonizing, waiting for Lola to decide. I couldn't flip the pages fast enough no matter how fast I read (and trust me, that was very fast. I finished the book the night I got it in the mail). I didn't like her at times--well, it's more accurate to say she got on my nerves a lot sometimes--especially when she was stringing poor Cricket along. Calliope Bell was, surprisingly, a character I liked. After you get past her barriers, she's just another girl who doesn't want anything to happen to her brother. Lola's parents, Andy and Nathan, were also a nice touch. I loved how she had two overprotective, gay fathers.

Oh, and did I mention? Anna and Étienne St. Clair make an appearance in Lola. They're adorable, as usual. Though in Lola, Lola and Cricket are still a tad cuter. I swear, I could squeal all day and all night about this book if I had enough breath.

I'd recommend Lola and the Boy Next Door to anybody who'd listen to me. It's a story that'll leave you grinning beatifically to yourself (and people around you questioning why you have a silly grin on). Now I can't wait for Stephanie Perkin's next book, Isla and the Happily Ever After... 2012's too far away and I'm hungry for more of Stephanie Perkin's addictive writing. Meanwhile, I'll be wishing for my own Crickets and St. Clairs.


Guest Post: Rhiannon Paille on the Flames

Today, we have a special guest post by Rhiannon Paille on the Flames from her novel Flame of Surrender, which will be published on November 1st.

How far would you go to save everything you ever loved?

Kaliel was warned about her love for the Ferryman. One day he will marry the land and leave Avristar forever. She doesn't listen, and because of what she is-- a Flame-- one of nine apocalyptic weapons, she sparks a war. In a desperate attempt to save her home and her love, Kaliel tries to awaken Avred, not knowing she may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.(
The Flames were created to destroy things

I knew this was going to happen. I was going to write a book about Flames and everyone was going to look at me with question mark bubbles above their heads.
Think things. Think weapons. Think souls. Think magic. Think genies but not I Dream of Genie.
The Flames are living weapons. (Remember when they deemed Mike Tyson’s fists weapons? I wonder how he gets through airport security nowadays)
The Flames are living weapons. Everything about them is deadly, powerful, magical, enchanting, and alluring. Ultimately though? They were created in order to destroy things.
And they’re very good at it.
When they’re not in a corporeal form.
You’d think I’d created all of these god-like female heroines by the sounds of it, but that’s not true. I didn’t do that. My story is about a girl who has all of this power inside of her, the power to destroy, but she tries with all of her might to hold it in. Because letting it out means destroying herself. It’s not that she denies who she is so to speak it’s that, the Flames don’t do small scale destruction. They destroy entire planets and wipe out life as we know it.
And nobody wants to read a book about the extinction of the human race.
In addition to this, inside the body of a girl the Flame is dormant, it’s less powerful. Kaliel would prefer to be a girl and not a Flame. She would rather fall in love, live a life bereft of war, and be happy. Flames don’t have that luxury. They often have a master, and that master often makes them do things they don’t want to do.
At some point or another you’ll meet all of the Flames. They are not a united bunch as uniting them would provide enough power to wipe out everything in existence and keep it that way for billions of years.
The Valtanyana want that to happen, that’s why they’re hunting the Flames.
They especially need Kaliel because without her, they have nothing.
Ready to find out what happened to her when she fell in love with the Ferryman?


Rhiannon's Website | | FacebookTwitter
Rhi was never a normal girl. Her life was an urban fantasy wrapped in a paranormal romance and served with a side of horror. To escape her everyday weirdness she began writing fantasy. She studied at U of Sedona and MIMT, obtaining a PhD in Metaphysical Science and Parapsychology. She's married to a chef/comic book shop owner and has a fondness for architecture.

Thanks for joining us here today, Rhiannon!

Book Blogger Hop (22)

Friday, October 21, 2011
Book Blogger Hop

“What is your favorite type of candy?”

I'm a chocolate girl all the way! I love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kats, Hersheys... most any kind of chocolate. I'm also partial to chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips in them.

How about you? What is your favorite type of candy?


Follow Friday (24)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Q.What superhero is your alter-ego?

Definitely not Superman? Or any of them that wears spandex... I don't fancy wearing spandex (or underwear over my tights). Probably somebody like Jean Grey? She's cool, she's telepathic, she's female. Close enough.

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

4 Stars: A Great Read
Series: Fire and Thorns #1
Hardback: 424 Pages
Publication: September 20, 2011 by Harper Teen

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who needs her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

Elisa is a very real and believable heroine. Having been sheltered her entire life, Elisa is unable to live up to the people’s expectations for the one blessed with the godstone, and she turns to food for comfort. The beginning drags a little, and it seems as though a dreary marriage life is all that Elisa can expect. Once the revolutionaries come in, however, Elisa must face the brutal realities of the world outside the castle walls.

Kidnapped, Elisa must learn how to survive on her own. Her transformation is miraculous, both physically and emotionally. She learns what it means to be truly loved, she learns what it means to love in return, and she realizes what it means to be a queen. Elisa is a wonderful heroine, possessing a great strength of heart. While the ending is not ideal, it is a peaceful conclusion, one that needed to happen. As The Girl of Fire and Thorns is but the first book in a trilogy, I hope for the best for Elisa.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns about a heroine growing out of her insecurities and awkwardness into becoming someone worthy of holding the title of Queen. It is about a girl who learns about the significance bearing the godstone, the fate of her people, and the immense duties that come with her position in life. I really enjoyed reading this book and will be looking forward to the next two books in the Fire and Thorns trilogy!


An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Monday, October 17, 2011
5 Stars: Incredible /Keeper
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1
Hardback: 417 Pages
Publication: September 27, 2011 by Little, Brown & Company

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?

Laini Taylor has put me in a bit of a jam, as I have no idea how I can write a review worthy of praising Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It is such an amazing, wonderful, beautiful work. I love the imagery, the plot, and the characters… the story is a masterpiece. It is definitely at the top of my favorite reads this past year.

Karou is an oddity. With her blue hair, gift for languages, and family of chimaeras, you wouldn’t hope to find another like her on Earth. The first two come from wishes, and the third makes the first two possible. How is this possible? Magic, rituals, and ingenuity. The rest comes from Laini Taylor’s gift for presenting the story to readers.

Vivid imagery brings the streets of Prague and a fantastical world to life. I never read the story. I lived with it. Laini Taylor is that amazing of a storyteller. With the third person point of view, she gives us glimpses into the minds of various characters as needed, rounding out the plot and keeping us in high anticipation of the second book. Don’t make light of my words. You will laugh, you will rage, and you will despair.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the kind of book that you have to read to understand the plot. I can’t possibly hope to explain the beginnings of it to you. This is a book that you will want to buy to read and reread and reread. It’s phenomenal. Magical. Prepare yourself to jump from truth to untruth and back again as Laini Taylor introduces you to unimaginably hot boys, magic, shadows, and a war-torn world that threatens Karou’s very existence.


A copy was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Review: Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
3 Stars: A Good Read
Hardback: 314 Pages
Publication: September 13, 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Princess Wisdom, known as Dizzy, longs for a life of adventure far beyond the staid old kingdom of Montagne.

Tips, a soldier, longs to keep his true life secret from his family.

Fortitude, an orphaned maid, longs only for Tips.

These three passionate souls might just attain their dreams while preserving Montagne from certain destruction, if only they can tolerate each other long enough to come up with a plan. Tough to save the world when you can't even be in the same room together.

Magic, cunning, and one very special cat join forces in this hilarious, extraordinary tale by the author of Dairy Queen and Princess Ben. An incredibly creative tale told with diaries, memoirs, encyclopedia entries, letters, biographies, even a stage play, all woven together into a grand adventure.

Wisdom's Kiss is an innovative story told in an unconventional fairy-tale manner. Strange, no? Princess Wisdom, better known as Dizzy, yearns for adventure. Chambermaid Trudy becomes Lady Fortitude, but her love for her childhood friend Tips still burns. What she doesn’t know is that Tips is keeping secrets. That’s not all. The story is told from eight different perspectives, its sources ranging from letters to encyclopedias to straight narration. At first, it’s charming in a whimsical manner, and it rounds out the plot. However, it gets tiresome switching perspectives every couple pages.

I do like how we get a feel for more characters through the multiple perspectives. Rather than rounding out the plot, however, the multiple perspectives ended up making it shallower, as the brevity of the time spent with each perspective in Wisdom’s Kiss prevented me from getting the depth that I look for in YA books. With the exception of braver teen readers, I feel that middle grade students will appreciate Wisdom's Kiss more, provided that they don’t mind the unconventional format.

As I mentioned at the start of my review, Wisdom's Kiss is not your typical fairy-tale story. It is about falling in love and growing up. If you are looking for a magical romance, you’re looking in the wrong place. Murdock tells of the harsh reality of love and growing up. If you love realistic fairy tales, then give this a shot. I myself enjoyed reading Wisdom’s Kiss and found the realistic romance refreshing.. If you’re still looking for Prince Charming, however, you might want to postpone picking up a copy of Wisdom's Kiss.


An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Review: Ambitious by Monica McKayhan

Tuesday, October 11, 2011
1 Star: Not For Me
Series: Premiere High #1
Paperback: 356 Pages
Publication: August 23, 2011 by Kimani Tru

There's only one thing tougher than getting in to Premiere High: Staying in…

At Premiere School of the Performing Arts, nicknamed Premiere High, talent is a must and competition is fierce. But the payoff is worth it. Some of the biggest stars in music, movies and dance are on the alumni list. New student Marisol Garcia dreams of taking her place among them one day. And being chosen to take part in a local dance contest where a film role is the prize could possibly be her first step into the spotlight.

Almost as big a challenge: getting Drew Bishop to see her as more than a friend. But Drew is preoccupied with his own dilemma of either playing basketball, which could be a free ticket to college, or pursuing the stage where he really comes alive. But every dream comes with a price. And as Marisol becomes consumed with winning, the once straight–A student risks losing everything. Starting with her parents' approval, her friends and her place at Premiere High…

Ambitious just wasn’t the book for me. The idea was nice: I like how the novel features ethnic variety in the two narrators, Mari being a poor Latina dancer and Drew being a wealthy African American, and I like the premise behind the novel. However, it wasn't developed well enough for me.  The characters are superficial and stereotypical, and the entire plot is too generalized and overly predictable as a whole.

I like to see characters struggle. While Mari and Drew, the two narrators, do have problems of their own, the various side plots were never developed with depth, and everything else came too easy for them. Mari is gorgeous and excels at dancing when she hasn’t taken many formal dance classes. Drew is a star basketball player who decided to pursue his love of the stage, and he too takes lead roles without having studied acting. And just how did they both make it into the prestigious Premiere High without much formal study of their choice of the performing arts?

On the whole, there isn’t nearly enough character or plot development for me, an underlying problem that I’ve found in shorter YA novels. Rather than calling this a YA novel, I believe that middle grade students will enjoy a lot more, as the story isn’t complex, though I have read middle-grade novels that I liked a lot better. Note that there are gangs in this book, smoking, and romance. There isn’t any sexual activity.


An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Review: The Marked Son by Shea Berkley

Monday, October 10, 2011
4 Stars: A Great Read
Series: Keepers of LIfe #1
Paperback: 334 Pages
Publication: August 2, 2011 by Entangled Publishing

Seventeen-year-old Dylan Kennedy always knew something was different about him, but until his mother abandoned him in the middle of Oregon with grandparents he's never met, he had no idea what.
When Dylan sees a girl in white in the woods behind his grandparents' farm, he knows he's seen her his dreams. He's felt her fear. Heard her insistence that only he can save her world from an evil lord who uses magic and fear to feed his greed for power.

Unable to shake the unearthly pull to Kera, Dylan takes her hand. Either he's completely insane or he's about to have the adventure of his life, because where they're going is full of creatures he's only read about in horror stories. Worse, the human blood in his veins has Dylan marked for death...

Shea Berkley is an amazing writer. From the beginning, she engages us with the mystery of the girl in white, the girl who never speaks and whose face Dylan has trouble remembering outside his dreams. Dylan is a rare male narrator, and I enjoyed reading from his perspective. His thoughts are straightforward and often sarcastic. Deep inside, however, he has a caring nature and passionate resolve, and he has strong support from his good friends Leo and Jason. He’s a modern high-school hero.

While Dylan is the hero of this story, the story is told from the alternating perspectives of Dylan and Kera, the girl of his dreams. If you only knew Kera from Dylan’s dreams, you would think of her as a mysterious beauty. In reality, Kera is a headstrong, brazen girl. One thing hasn’t changed from the dreams, she does care for Dylan, and the feeling is mutual. There is nothing Dylan wouldn’t do to protect the girl of his dreams and her home world: the world of Teag, a fantastical world filled with diverse supernatural beings.

Boys and girls alike will love this book: not only because of the alternating perspectives, but also for the adventure and amazing storytelling. While Dylan is the true hero of the story, Kera is a strong heroine who doesn’t let Dylan overshadow her role in the story. She plays her part with fiery spirit despite the ordeals she must endure. There is romance in this story, but it’s nothing of the chick-flick sort. Dylan and Kera have known each other through their shared dreams since they were children, and their love is true and pure.

The Marked Son is filled with a wild cast of characters, gorgeous settings, and magical storytelling. I laughed, cried, cringed, and literally lost myself in the world that Berkley has created. If you are looking for an action-packed paranormal/fantasy read, I highly recommend this novel.


An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Follow Friday (23)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Q.If you could pick one character in a book, movie or television show to swap places with, who would it be?

There are a lot of characters I'd love to swap with, but if I had to choose one... I have no idea, really. Anna from Anna and the French Kiss? She has Etienne, and she doesn't go through anything really torturous like having a mafia organisation after her or something like that. I'd love to be in Harry Potter (for obvious reasons) but I wouldn't like to be Hermione. That girl has to stick with Harry destroying horcruxes and whatnot... No thanks... I'd love to be Rose Weasley or Victoire Weasley though. One of the post-Voldemort children who get wands and Hogwarts and owls without the Voldy drama.