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Review: From Willa, With Love by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

Thursday, June 30, 2011

3 Stars: A Good Read
Series: Wedding Planner's Daughter #5
Hardcover: 208 Pages
Publication: July 1, 2011 by Scholastic Press

It's a surprising, sparkling summer for Willa!

It's August on Cape Cod and Willa has a lot to look forward to. Soon, JFK will return home from baseball camp, and Willa has an idea for an exciting new project that will challenge her to dream big! But life throws Willa some unexpected twists and turns: Ruby has bad news, a beloved friend leaves, a dear friend returns, her brother Will has something he does't want to talk about, and of course, there's a wedding to plan! There's also a cute boy who likes Willa . . . a lot, and Willa thinks she might like him too. It's a summer full of romance and surprises!

From Willa, With Love is the fifth installment in Paratore’s Wedding Planner’s Daughter series. While Willa expects her summer to be boring without JFK (as she likes to call her boyfriend), it’s actually pretty eventful. Her half-brother Will looks for their father, there are weddings and there is sad news. There is also a cute boy who seems to be expressing interest in her.

I hadn’t realized that this was the fifth installment in a series when I picked this up, but while I was expected to know some characters, I found it fairly easy to follow the storyline. I love Willa’s character. She’s a sweet girl with a passion for planning weddings and serving her community. I adore her love for books; it’s a great characteristic that tweens can love from her. Her ideas of raising money for humane causes and of giving her books away are brilliant and inspiring!

Honestly, I feel like there could have been more character development in this book. While Willa is dynamic and relatable, the other characters felt flat to me. I believe that it’s because so many side plots were being developed that Paratore didn’t have enough time to spend on each one considering how short the novel is. Still, I realize that the characters have been developed over the course of the series, which I have yet to read. I know that tweens will adore Willa, fall in love with Will’s charming personality, and become as torn with Willa between JFK and Jess. And if they haven’t read the series before—like me—they’ll find themselves running to the bookstores to buy a set.

While this book does introduce a love triangle, I like Willa’s decision in the end. So as not to give away anything, I’m going to say that there hasn’t been enough development of romance in the book for a ‘real’ conclusion to be made. Tweens who have enjoyed reading this series will be looking forward to another installment in this series.

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An ARC was provided by the publisher for review.

Review: Flyaway by Helen Landalf

Wednesday, June 29, 2011
5 Stars: An Incredible Read
Hardcover: 176 Pages
Publication: December 20, 2011 by Harcourt Children's Books

Fifteen-year-old Stevie Calhoun is used to taking care of herself. But one night, her mom, who works as an exotic dancer in a downtown Seattle nightclub, never comes home.

That’s the night Stevie’s life turns upside down.

It’s the night that kicks off an extraordinary summer: the summer Stevie has to stay with her annoyingly perfect Aunt Mindy; the summer she learns to care for injured and abandoned birds; the summer she gets to know Alan, the meanest guy in high school.

But most of all, it’s the summer she finds out the truth about Mom.

Flyaway is the story of a teen girl’s struggle to hold on to what she’s always believed, even as her world spins out of control.

Flyaway is the story of Stevie Calhoun as she struggles with her mother’s addiction to meth and her growing sense of what is right. It’s always been Stevie and her mom. While the rest of the world strives in vain for Barbie looks and/or is out to get them, Stevie and her mom eat fast food and buy cool outfits from the thrift shop, and Stevie’s mom encourages her not to be tied down by society. It’s clear from the beginning that Stevie idolizes her mom. However, her mom has been missing for a couple days now, and her aunt Mindy threatens to call childcare if Stevie doesn’t come live with her.

Initially, Stevie resents her perfect aunt, and it’s perfectly understandable. Not only does Aunt Mindy take control of Stevie’s life, she can’t say anything nice about Stevie’s mother, aka her own sister. Mindy often speaks to Stevie without considering Stevie’s feelings, such as her suspicions that her sister addicted to crystal meth even though she has no evidence.

Stevie will frustrate you because of her unwillingness to accept that she can make a home without her mother. However, Landalf does a wonderful job of portraying Stevie’s emotions so that you empathize with what she’s going through. While I recognized that Aunt Mindy only wants the best for Stevie, I couldn’t help hating her for ‘assuming’ (rightfully) that she knew what Stevie needed. Aunt Mindy hasn’t had much experience raising a child, and Stevie hates anyone who talks against her mom. At first, the two of them try to move at their own pace without regard for the other’s feelings, but over time you can see a new family form.

I loved how On the Wing both provides Stevie a place of refuge as well as a unique setting in the story. A place for birds to recuperate before being released back into the wild, it’s where Stevie can escape the confusing events taking place around her. It’s also where she grows closer to Alan, a boy with a bad reputation and yet who’s gentle around birds, and to understanding how she wants to live her life. In a way, the birds represent the two of them, struggling to escape their problems before they get hurt.

While Stevie’s mother has a large negative impact on her life, this is not a story of the breaking relationship between a girl and her mother. It’s a story of healing and learning to recognize true love in a person’s actions, not the words she says to appease you. Flyaway explores the story of a teenage girl trying to find a place in the world while going through the denial that her mother is a drug addict. I recommend Flyaway to those looking for a contemporary read that looks into the influence of drugs in the lives of teenagers and yet possesses a strong, clear voice that doesn’t lose hope in the darker themes found in this book. Flyaway will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on December 19, 2011.

Related Posts
Hikari's review of Flyaway


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Author | Goodreads | Amazon | Kindle

An ARC was provided for review purposes by the publisher.

Sorry Guys!

Sorry guys... I'm in Singapore for the following few days, so I'll be taking a week's break from blogging. I'll be back and better than ever, promise! I'd bring souvenirs back from Singapore and host a giveaway, but apparently, the only books I'm going to be buying are exercise books and textbooks. What's more, they're probably Chinese.

If anybody wants to know about Singapore after I visit, drop me a line and I'll do a blog post about it sometime in the near future!

I'm not bringing my beloved Mac to Singapore though, so I don't think I'll be doing much online-wise. But I've got my iPad with me (which is going to be hogged by my mom most of the time), so I'll be reading emails for sure!


Character Interview: Brendan Salinger

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Happy release day for Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz!


What's a girl to do when meeting The One means she's cursed to die a horrible death?

Life hasn't been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she's irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can't stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma's been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.

Today we have the honor of hosting Brendan Salinger, Emma's fated love partner.

We've seen so much of you from Emma's perspective. Why don't you start us off by telling us a little about yourself?
I'm kind of normal, I guess. I'm 17, from NY. Love music—I probably buy about 3 or 4 different albums a week. Not just on iTunes either, I go down to Bleeker Bob's and pick up vinyl and stuff, because I DJ. Love sports. I'm on the basketball team, but I like playing baseball, too. Not so much into watching football but I'll play it. Now that school's over I'm going get a badass K/D on Free for All in COD: Black Ops.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
When I was a kid, my dad took me to spring training down in Tampa. It was awesome. I was by the fence and some guy tried to muscle me out of the way and Jeter said, "Hey man, stop it" and went to me and signed the ball. Posada signed it, too. I was about 8 or so, really little.

You also attend a prestigious private school. Do you have any advice to people seeking to attend Vincent Academy?
Don't. I don't know... it's a good school and all, I guess. You're practically guaranteed Ivy League afterwards, but I feel like if you went to a different school and did well you'd have just as much of a shot. Everyone's pretty snotty and always throwing their family names around like it should matter. There's just a lot of arrogant, entitled people there.

Now, we’ve seen you buy a gift for Emma. Why don’t you try writing a haiku to Emma?
A haiku? LOL no, do you want her to dump me?

I rather like to think that Emma would think it cute of you. How did you feel when you found out that you knew Emma in another life?
A little freaked out but once I accepted the whole magical part of it, it made sense. I didn't really understand why I was so intrigued by her at first. Then I hung out with her and it just felt natural, and she was so much fun. Even if it wasn't for the whole past lives thing I probably would have ended up asking her out because she's awesome.

There is plenty of magic involved where you and Emma are involved, and Emma’s twin brother is in the thick of it. If you had the chance to hang out with Ethan, what would you do with him?
From what Emma tells me, we would have gotten along. We'd probably go to concerts or go skateboarding. I don't know, he'd probably give me a hard time, though, because I'm dating his sister.

Thanks for joining us here today, Brendan! Before you leave, I’d like to ask something I feel all of us fans would like to know. Do you believe you're strong enough to protect Emma?
I hope so. She's pretty strong, but I'll do everything I can.


Cara's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Cara Lynn Shultz’s love of supernatural writing began when she was 7 and wrote a play about ghosts, which she and her friends acted out on her grandparents’ porch. Since then, her work has appeared in Teen People, Alternative Press, Stuff, InStyle, Us Weekly, The Guardian UK and countless posts on Facebook and Twitter. She is a proud graduate of Fordham University and is currently a senior editor at PEOPLE.com. Cara lives in her native New York City with her husband, tuxedo cat and 8 million other people.  Spellbound is her first novel.


Interested in learning more about Brendan?

Find Brendan at:


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My review of Spellbound


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Review: Lost in Dreams by Roger Bruner

Monday, June 27, 2011
3 Stars: A Good Read
Series: Altered Hearts #2
Paperback: 368 Pages
Publication: August 1, 2011 by Barbour Publishing, Inc.

Grace, hope, and healing intersect in the California mountains.

From the moment eighteen-year-old Kim Hartlinger steps off the plane from a mission trip to a remote Mexican village, her journey takes a turn for the worse. As she collides with the biggest challenge of her young life—and faith—Kim struggles with haunting questions and recurring nightmares. . .all the while trying to hide a deep, dark secret.Will Kim find the hope and healing she needs? . . . Or is her broken spirit beyond repair?

Lost in Dreams is the second installment in the Altered Hearts series about Kim Hartlinger, a series by Roger Bruner with Kristi Rae Bruner. Having just returned from her mission trip in Mexico, Kim frets over her mom’s late arrival to the airport only to learn that her mom died in a car accident along the way. Guilt plagues Kim as she blames herself for her mom’s death, inflicting her with increased fatigue. It isn’t until receives the opportunity to help those in need that she begins to awaken. The story follows her as she struggles with her guilt, bonds with her previously estranged father, and grows spiritually and emotionally with her companions.

While Bruner does incorporate much of the spiritual factor into the novel, he doesn’t forget the teenage factor. Kim is a really fun character with a great sense of humor. Her distress at her mother’s death will touch the reader’s heart and yearn to pray alongside with Kim’s friends for her recovery. I rejoiced along with her friends with her miraculous recovery, and her experience with the prisoners moved my heart.

While the story is told from Kim’s perspective, it isn’t her story alone. As Kim attempts to forgive herself for her mother’s death, she searches for a way to share her love with God to the prisoners and aid her companions with their personal situations. Side plots include Jo’s strange behavior, conflicts between Jo and Aleesha, her father’s personal struggles, Graham’s guilt, and the hostility of Chaplain Thomas, who doesn’t seem happy that Kim’s group plans on spreading the Gospel among the prisoners.

Kim’s story is spiritually moving. Her honest love for God, Christians, and those yet-to-be saved will touch readers’ hearts and motivate them to be as active as she is in her spiritual life. Lost in Dreams is about learning to forgive yourself and trust in God’s love and salvation. I recommend this for those looking for a good, heartwarming Christian story.

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An ARC was provided for review purposes by the publisher.

Imagine My Mailbox (4)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kris's Mailbox
I received for review:

Signed copy of In My Shoes by Adrian Stephens and Healer by Carol Cassella, both from First Reads giveaways

From Scholastic, I received a brand-new hardcover edition for review!

As gifts...
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray from a giveaway at Tribute Books and Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock




Hikari's Mailbox
I received for review:
The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle


... as gifts:
Steampunk anthology -- Thank you, Candlewick Press!
Ten Things We Did (and probably shouldn't have) by Sarah Mlynowski -- Thank you, HarperTeen!

Author Interview: Jon Skovron

Saturday, June 25, 2011
For those of you who've seen me rant about Misfit in my review, you'll probably have realised that I love it so. Today, I have the awesome-person-who-wrote-Misfit here!

Jon Skovron has never really fit in, and has no plans to start now. After twelve years of Catholic school, he went on to study acting at a conservatory program for four years before returning to his first love,writing.

Hey! Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with me! Okay, so first things first... I'm going to go for the book I've been ranting about: Misfit. What inspired it and how did you come up with the title?
Misfit was inspired by my own Catholic School experiences. I got a great education there, but being a creative free spirit, I always felt out of place. Sometimes I was even told that I didn't belong or that I was wrong or sinful because of my beliefs and values. And yet, because of a few great friends and teachers, I don't regret the experience at all.

The title "Misfit" was supposed to be just a working title. I put it there as placeholder until we came up with something fancier. But after spending weeks wracking our brains and coming up with nothing, my editor (who came up with the title for my first novel, Struts & Frets) said, "Wait a minute, why don't we just stick with Misfit?" For whatever reason, I hadn't even considered it until that moment, and then it was like "Oh yeah!"



I’m glad you didn’t change it. I can’t imagine Misfit as anything else—it’s perfect. Speaking of perfect, you use third person present tense in Misfit, which is unique, but somehow, it works for your book. How did that come along? Was it another “Oh yeah!” moment?
I always knew it was going to be third person so that I could shift to other points of view for the chapters told by Jael's parents (and the one little bit from Asmodeus's view). There were also a few short scenes told from Belial's perspective, but those got cut. The decision to use present tense came later. Originally, it was all in past tense. But I wanted a starker contrast between the present day chapters and the flashbacks. So I decided to keep the flashbacks in past tense and change the present day scenes to present tense. I'd never written in present tense before and I had a lot of fun with it. Everything is so immediate and tangible! It's all right up in your business!


It’s tangible all right! I almost found myself trying to manipulate elements, what with the way you described them. If you could manipulate one element, what element would you choose?
You know, I should say Spirit, because you can do so much with it, it's really the most powerful. I mean, you could control everyone around you. But honestly, that doesn't sound appealing to me. What does sound appealing is being able to throw fireballs! FWOOSH!


To be honest, I’d choose fire too, even though Spirit is the best one. I think flames are really pretty (and no, I’m not a pyro). Ooh! Something else really cool about your story: would you like to be an exorcist, a demon, a halfbreed, a priest, or just a mortal?
At one point in my life, I think would have picked "mortal", just because I really wanted to fit in. To just be like everyone else. But after years of trying, and failing, I realized that wasn't me. I'm a misfit. So it Jael. She's some of this and some of that, she straddles boundaries, she maybe even contradicts herself. Like good old Walt Whitman says, "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."

So um, yeah, all that to say, "halfbreed".


I want to be an exorcist though! Actually, I just want that crucifix sword. I’m pretty sure the sword was made up, but there were so much religious stuff and myths bundled into Misfit that I haven’t even vaguely heard of. How much research did you do?
I did a lot of research for Misfit.

I read a ton. Pretty much every religion, myth, and folktale mentioned I researched. I read about 5 books on the vodoun stuff alone. I also went back and re-read a lot of stuff I had to do in high school. Biblical stuff, of course, but also early theologians like St. Aquinas and St. Augustine. And I researched all  the different ways that Hell has been depicted over the years from really early stuff like Milton and Dante to recent movies and books. Probably the weirdest and scariest research I did was this book on conducting exorcisms called The Malleus Maleficarum, or "The Witch Hammer". Those dudes were serious about killing witches. They had it all down to a science.

I also did a lot of live research too. I talked to people about their religions. I even spent an afternoon in a Benedictine monastery. I've also lived in or visited all the places in the book except Hell and the kingdom of the Philistines.


Woah, I’d probably die if I had to do research like that. Back to the fictional side then… I can handle that better. Who is your favorite character?
Oh man, this is tough because I love them all. They each have their time to shine. I'm going to go with Jael because I did decide to write an entire book about her. But I also have a thing for minor characters. Characters like poor, sad Asmodeus. Love that guy...after being a total jerk for centuries, the love and generosity he sees in only a few minutes completely transforms him. Not everybody is that open to change.


But Rob’s the best! I mean, he’s sweet and he’s a skater slash science nerd—how cool is that? (Okay, ignoring the girly side of me and continuing…) Speaking of Rob’s science-ness, what do you think about magic and science being the same thing?
A long time ago, before people really understood how things like astronomy and physics worked, they thought that everything was magic. The idea that it could be explained logically by tiny, microscopic things we couldn't see would have been ridiculous to them. Are we really so arrogant to think we're that much better today, that we've figured it all out? I think most scientists would agree that our current understanding of the world only takes us so far, and past that, we're still little better than dudes painting stick figures on walls. Who knows what we will find in the future. One thing is for sure, it's going to be surprising. And possibly upsetting. Like the time that guy Copernicus said that we weren't really the center of the universe. That made a lot of people mad.


Hey! I still draw stick figures… well, maybe not on my wall, but still. Anyway, aside from us being nincompoops (or something to that effect), what do you want us readers to get from reading Misfit?
First and foremost, I hope they find it entertaining and that they enjoy reading it. But I hope some of it sticks with them, things that they can apply to their own lives. Whether that's Paul's struggle to put his faith in others after he's been betrayed, or Jael's struggle to put her faith in herself after she's been told so many times she's "bad", or maybe even just something as simple as Rob's passion for science and discovering the unknown. I really do think there's something significant in there for everyone.


Well, I certainly liked—loved—reading Misfit! I loved it so badly that now I’m going to pester you about sequels: will Misfit have one? Also, I hear there’s another book… Struts & Frets?
Struts & Frets was my first book. The paperback comes out in September. It's a very different book. Contemporary realistic story about a teen following his dreams to start an indie rock band while dealing with family drama and a friend/girlfriend situation. It's much more romantic and sentimental.

As for Misfit sequels....hmmm, who knows...check back with me in a month or two...


Oh, you’ll hear from me in a month or two… (cue evil laughter) On the less evil side of things, and just ‘cause I’m feeling random… five random facts about you?
I have nine fingers
I play nine instruments
I dislike anything sweet
I have two sons and two cats
I am a classically trained Shakespearian actor

I swear, this is so damn cute!
How could you dislike sweet things? That’s like… gah! I can’t live without my desserts! And just to round things off: quick-fire questions!

Ice or fire? Fire
Angels or demons? Demons
Misfit playlist? Check it ;) http://grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Misfit/38097505


Thanks for being here today! Remember to check out (read: stalk) Jon's site! Oh, and of course, keep your eyes peeled for Misfit when it comes out in August and ditto Struts & Frets in September! 


Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to everybody who entered!
Congratulations to...

Chen Chang


She wins a signed copy of Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer! I hope she enjoys the book as much as I did.

The winner has been notified, and if she does not respond within 48 hours, a new winner will be drawn.

Thanks again to everybody who entered! If you didn't win, there's still time to enter our 100 Follower Giveaway, which ends 30th June.

Keep an eye out, as we have more giveaways coming soon!

Solstice Trading Cards Winners

Friday, June 24, 2011
Congratulations to...

Panda Girl
Diana
Phanee
Janhvi Jagtapand
Jeanne

The winners have been notified and have 48 hours to respond, or another winner(s) will be selected. Thank you, everyone who entered. If you didn't win, never fear! We have two other giveaways going on at this moment.

Our 100 Followers Giveaway, which ends with June.
Our Midsummer's Eve giveaway, the signed copy of Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer, which ends tonight at 11:59 PM.

We'll also be hosting even more amazing giveaways in the near future!!

Book Blogger Hop (8)

Book Blogger Hop
When did you realize reading was your passion and a truly important part of your life?

Probably around Primary 2, I think. I was so proud of being able to read chapter books that I devoured them day after day. The six-year-old me loved the feeling of being able to do something everybody else couldn't (everybody else was still on picture books). As I read more and more and grew more arrogant, I realised I loved reading. I'd read so much that I couldn't bear to stop. My parents were really happy I liked to read, but I couldn't get a lot of books because of my awkward location.

Follow Friday (8)

Thursday, June 23, 2011


In light of the Summer solstice also known as Midsummer... let's talk about faeries. What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

This is a toughie. Regarding fairy tales, I love the original Grimm versions, not the Disney retold versions. But I do like some retellings like Spindle's End (Sleeping Beauty) and more recent retellings like Entwined.

Regarding fae books, I LOVE the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr. No question. I own the entire series, and it's one that I could reread over and over again. The different fae are all so interesting and lovable in their own fashions.

I also love Prince Ash from the Iron Fae series by Julie Kagawa. And Puck is an awesome character as well.
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Review: Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson

4 Stars: A Great Read
Hardcover: 198 Page
Publication: September 13, 2011 Milkweed Editions

Fifteen-year-old Calli has just about everything she could want in life—two loving moms, a good-looking boyfriend, and a best friend who has always been there for support. An only child, Calli is excited when her parents announce that they want to be foster parents. Unfortunately, being a foster sister to Cherish is not at all what Calli expected. First Cherish steals Calli’s boyfriend, then begins to pit Calli’s moms against one another, and she even steals Calli’s iPod. Tired of being pushed around and determined to get even, Calli steals one of Cherish’s necklaces. But this plan for revenge goes horribly awry, and Cherish ends up in juvenile detention.

Isolating herself from her moms, her boyfriend, and even her best friend, Calli wrestles with her guilt and tries to figure out a way to undo the damage she’s caused. When her moms are asked to take on another foster child, Calli sees an opportunity to make amends for her past mistakes.

Funny, moving, and emotionally rich, Calli is a portrait of an endearing young woman caught between adolescence and adulthood, striving to do the right thing even when all of her options seem wrong.

Calli is a refreshingly realistic YA novel about a fifteen-year-old misfit who has two moms, wears size thirteen, and has a foster sister who acts mean to her outside of the house. Yes, Calli’s mom is a lesbian, but the story doesn’t center on the issue of Calli having to deal with lesbian issues herself. While she is teased for supposedly being lesbian herself, she has a loving boyfriend and loves him back. At least, until she sees him kissing her foster sister Cherish in the school hallways, which is where the story starts off.

The heart of the issue of this story is normal teen angst. Calli suffers the problem of loving Dub even though she saw him cheating on her. Call feels neglected by her mom, who spends most of her time trying to help Cherish feel at ease in their family. Calli worries that her best friend Delia is becoming a stranger.

Calli’s issues are relatable to any teenager. We’ve had fights with siblings, felt alienated from friends, and believed that our parents liked the other sibling better. To be honest, there were times when I was frustrated with Calli. She doesn’t speak up to her moms about Cherish’s rudeness. She doesn’t try to communicate with Delia or confront Dub. She constantly beats herself up on the inside about her problems. However, I’m just as guilty as her of having done the same things in my life.

One thing I loved about this novel is the strong focus on familial relationships. Despite her feelings of neglect, Calli has a strong relationship with both her moms, and she grows to understand and appreciate the foster system despite her troubles with Cherish. In fact, she grows to understand and appreciate Cherish. As she matures over the course of the story, Calli will learn to confront people, to forgive, and to make peace.

Jessica Lee Anderson has written a powerfully realistic and moving story on learning to be more open and accepting of both yourself and of those around you. While Calli’s mom is a lesbian, she doesn’t feel the need to be one herself, and Anderson never makes gay issues prevalent in her novel, which is something we should learn to do in our lives. Instead, it focuses on teen angst, Calli’s relationships with family and friends, and confronting our doubts and fears.

Something I really liked from the story:
Calli has a unique personality. She doesn’t cuss outright, saying words like ‘French’ instead of the four-letter ‘f’ word and ‘chicken turd’.

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An ARC was provided for review purposes by the publisher.
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Graphic Novel Review: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

4 Stars: A Great Read
Hardcover : 159 Pages
Publication: January 25, 2011 by Idea & Design Works LLC

Whimsical. Lyrical. Poignant. Adapted for the first time from the acclaimed and beloved novel by Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn is a tale for any age about the wonders of magic, the power of love, and the tragedy of loss. The unicorn, alone in her enchanted wood, discovers that she may be the last of her kind. Reluctant at first, she sets out on a journey to find her fellow unicorns, even if it means facing the terrifying anger of the Red Bull and malignant evil of the king who wields his power.

Adapted by Peter B. Gillis and illustrated by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon.

The Last Unicorn is a classic tale that pits nature against man and good against evil. I first watched the film adaptation of The Last Unicorn this past year and fell in love with the story. The story follows the last unicorn left as she leaves her forest home in search of the rest of the unicorns. As she journeys across the land, she finds out that not only are the unicorns gone, man has stopped believing in unicorns. Along the way, she meets a wizard who has trouble getting spells to do what he asks of them, a woman who still believes in magic, and a prince who tugs at her heart.

The graphic novel edition is illustrated in the same style as the film adaptation of The Last Unicorn. The vivid, colorful illustrations accurately capture the magical and fantastical nature of the setting and bring the characters to life while giving insight into the characters’ thoughts, something that is hard to work into a film.

As the illustrations provide for the setting and action, the language is simple and limited to context and dialogue, and so young children will be able to read it as well. I’m so excited about this because it is definitely a story that everyone should read. It conveys so many important messages to the reader.

The unicorn possesses a strong spirit within a soft and amiable demeanor and will capture your heart from the first pages. Readers will cry for her as she learns the state of the world and what comes upon humans when they forget the power of faith. And again when a well-meaning magic spell goes awry and threatens to tear away her identity, forcing her to learn the heartache of a human’s heart.

"I have been mortal, and some part of me is mortal yet.
I am full of tears and hunger and the fear of death,
although I cannot weep, and I want nothing, and I cannot die.
I am not like the others now, for no unicorn was ever 
born who could regret, but I do. 
I regret." 

A poignant tale of love, loss, and magic, The Last Unicorn incorporates themes such as the consequences of greed, the importance of faith, and the need to respect nature. It is also a story of love and knowing when to let go. If you loved the film, you’ll enjoy reading the graphic novel edition. If you loved the book, you’ll adore the gorgeous illustrations in the graphic novel edition. And if you haven’t heard of The Last Unicorn, you should definitely pick up a copy of this! The Last Unicorn will relate to people of all ages and is a read that I strongly recommend.

"As for you and your heart and the things you said and didn't say,
she will remember them all when
men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits."

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A copy was provided for review by the publisher.
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Review: Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

5 Stars: An Incredible Read
Series: Ultraviolet #1
Pages: 303
Publication: September 1, 2011 by Carolrhoda Lab

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.


Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right?

I’ll confess that I had a hard time deciding what to say in my review. The book left me that much awe. Ultraviolet is a complex read that really makes you think. Every time I began to grow comfortable, something else comes along. At first, I was confused about whether or not Alison’s condition was paranormal or if she really did belong in the psychological institution. While I no longer doubt her sanity, I do wonder how her abilities will continue to develop in the future.

The story begins with Alison having been institutionalized in a mental facility for teens having confessed to the murder of her classmate Tori; the problem is that not only is Tori’s body nowhere to be found, Alison’s condition is difficult to diagnose. While she appears sane, she associates names, letters, and numbers with colors, taste, and personality. I found it fascinating how each chapter number is associated with something. It brings us one step closer to understanding how Alison’s mind works, along with the detailed imagery that Anderson works into the story.

While the story begins as somewhat of a slow read with Anderson developing Alison’s environment in the mental facility, there is no lack of intrigue. The cast of characters in the psychiatric ward is diverse and entertaining, making Alison seem tame in comparison. You will wonder along with Alison how she ended up there and why she isn’t allowed to go home, though it’s so apparent to Alison that she’s sane. Every time you begin to suspect that you understand the story, Anderson brings in a new twist—such as Faraday and then the scene with Kirk in the library. You begin to question everything you thought you knew all over again. Then come the clues, and you work with Alison to understand what’s going on. That’s the fun part.

I really loved Faraday as a character. Whereas everyone else acts as though he or she knows what is best for Alison, Faraday tries to understand her as a person. He doesn’t treat her as mental; he listens to her, and he believes in her. Alison really needed a supportive character in her life, and Faraday provides this constancy for her.

There’s an amazing twist at the end of the story. I loved learning the truth about Tori’s disappearance and more about Alison’s condition. The ending was just breathtaking and oh so bittersweet. While I love—and hope for—happy endings, real life isn’t always so satisfying. Sometimes, we need a little tragedy, and Ultraviolet has a powerful ending that will stay with you long after you put down your book or e-reader.

Ultraviolet is a literal out-of-this-world adventure filled with mystery and intrigue as Alison struggles to uncover the truth behind Tori’s disappearance and prove her sanity. With each new discovery, readers will wonder who can be trusted and even question Alison’s sanity in the process. Ultimately, it is a story of self-discovery and learning to trust both in others and in oneself. It has been the best out-of-this-world read that I’ve had this year.

Related Posts
Hikari's Review of Ultraviolet


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View my favorite quotations from Ultraviolet.
An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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ARC review: Ultraviolet

Title: Ultraviolet
Author: R. J. Anderson
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books (Imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)
Pages: 306
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository
Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.


Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right?



Ultraviolet left me breathless. Taste. See. Hear. Touch. Smell. Alison can do all of those at the same time. Ultraviolet did that to me, feel everything at the same time. Result? Complete sensory overload.

I read this book because the pitch chilled me. “Unless you count the part where I killed her.” You could say I read Ultraviolet almost solely because of this line.

Although this book started off slow—the pace quickened once Faraday arrived on scene—things are interesting in the psychiatric ward, and with Alison’s senses, there wasn’t ever a dull moment. R. J. Anderson’s writing works beautifully with the story as well, her vivid imagery matching perfectly with how Alison’s mind worked.

Alison wasn’t the only one who fell in love with Sebastian Faraday. He’s charming, he’s handsome, and he understands Alison in a way nobody else does—or want to. Oh, and those brilliant violet eyes. When Faraday comes along, the whole story shifts, and you just know something’s going to happen. This amazing guy pops up—no way something isn’t going to happen. Which left me irritably turning pages trying to find out what’s going to happen, of course.

Alison herself was an enigma. I had no idea what to think of her at first. Seeing stars? Was she insane—well, she is locked up in a ward, but she sounds perfectly sane. I didn’t understand why they didn’t just let her out. I didn’t know if Alison had weird powers. Her calmness is disorienting at times and her flashbacks even more so. I wanted to know more though. Which, I guess, was why I read on.

As I learned more about the characters and figured out a little more of what’s happening with Alison, the hate I’d harboured against some of the characters melted away. I must admit, I was never a huge fan of Dr. Minta or Alison’s mother. But after learning about their story, I started empathising with them. As Faraday says, everybody has a story behind them. There are always reasons people act the way they do.

I never thought Ultraviolet would be this deep. I’m glad it was though. It’s complex, it made me think. True, my brain was tired (what with the little functioning brain cells), but the book was worth all the effort.

The twist at the end gave me a lot of confusion. It seemed as if the sci-fi aspect just popped out of nowhere. That felt a bit random and somewhat forced, but it tied the story together and answered a lot of questions. Though, I still think Ultraviolet would be more powerful left as a contemporary, and personally, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of E.T.

The bittersweet ending left a lump in my throat. It was perfect, in a way that made me want to cry.

Ultraviolet is the best cross-dimension read I’ve read this year (not that I’ve read a lot). I loved it, and best bet: so will you. Pounce at it if you see it on the bookshelves on September 1st, 2011. You won’t regret it—promise. Well… at least I hope you won’t!
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See Kris's review of Ultraviolet!

Disclaimer: This book was received for free from the publishers. No payment was received in return for this review. Opinions expressed in this review were in no way influenced by payments of any kind.

Midsummer's Eve Giveaway

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Welcome to the second last stop, a.k.a. the most awesome one. This giveaway hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.

Sarah Bennett Wealer has graciously offered a signed copy of her debut novel Rival to one lucky international winner. (Thank you, Sara!)

What if your worst enemy turned out to be the best friend you ever had?


Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.


Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.


The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.


As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?



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#Win #Rival #signed by @sbennettwealer @harperteen  @ImaginaryReads #MidsummersEve #giveaway #INT http://to.ly/aI4a

For other giveaways in the hop, click here.

Author Interview: Sara Bennett Wealer

I finished Rival earlier this year and liked it so much that I just had to ask Sara for an interview. Being awesome as ever, she agreed (cue squealing). She's amazing, she can sing, act, and write. For those of you who don't know her... here's a brief bio I stole from her site.

I grew up in Manhattan, Kansas (the “Little Apple”), where I sang in choir, wrote for the MHS “Mentor,” and had a couple of leads in the high school musical. I majored in voice performance at the University of Kansas before deciding I had no business trying to make a career as an opera singer. I then transferred to journalism school, where nobody cares if you can hit a high C or convincingly portray a Valkyrie.

I now live in Cincinnati with my husband, daughters, and more cats than any family reasonably needs. When not writing novels, I write ad copy, live presentations and articles for newspapers and magazines. I’ve even helped design theme parks! And when my schedule allows, I still like to sing—most recently you may have heard me in the May Festival Chorus, the official chorus of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

And for those of you who haven't read Rival yet (where the hell have you been?), here's something else I stole.

Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.

Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.

The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.

As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?


Okay, so most our followers probably know I’ve been practically rolling in dystopias currently. What can I say? There haven’t been many contemporary novels for me to read. So, in this market filled with anything-but-contemporary, why do you think RIVAL has been so popular as a contemporary?

I think it's catching peoples' interest because it deals with music/the arts, which is a topic you don't see all that often--although that's changing! There are some wonderful arts-related YAs coming out this year, and some more-recent favorites have dealt with the arts, though perhaps not as overtly as RIVAL. I'm also hearing from readers that they like how my characters are focused on activities, school, succeeding and, of course, each other, as opposed to being heavily focused on boys. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE a good romance, and RIVAL definitely has a little, but this is really a story about friendship


I love a good romance too, but Rival being mainly centered on friendships certainly was refreshing. Speaking of friendships and rivals, do you have a "Brooke" in real life?

I guess the easy answer would be yes, and I have been a Brooke, too. Rather than base my characters on real people, I more based my characters' relationships on what I remembered from being active in the arts in high school. I had a few rivals, and I remember how complicated some of those friendships became. I was never as fixated on another person as Brooke and Kathryn are on each other, but I have strong memories of wishing I could connect better with someone but not knowing how, especially when that other person was a competitor.


Sara in the Pops Choir--her school's version of Glee
Well, I have a few rivals too—but then again, doesn’t everybody? I heard that even Rival had rivals too. You had three other books written before Rival was published. Will any of those ever see the light of day?

I really, really hope so! One of them I know will never be published because it was my "learning" novel (and it sucks!). One of them may find a home if my agent and I can figure out how to fix some of its flaws and market it. The third one, which I actually finished as I was waiting for RIVAL to come out, is a book I really like and believe in. It's about sorority rush, and it's still getting looked at. I have my fingers crossed!


My fingers are crossed too! And wow, sounds like you’ve been writing a lot. How did you feel when you—finally!—got published after so many years of writing?

Relieved and validated. It feels wonderful to achieve a goal knowing you worked your butt off for it. Trying to get published can be grueling and heartbreaking, so you have to appreciate what a big deal it is to finally see your book in print. Then you move onto your next goal, which is seeing another book in print. Lather, rinse, repeat!


I’ll definitely take your “Lather, rinse, repeat” advice for my hair after I swim. We all want to see our books in print, so for those of us unpublished, do you have any advice for that too?

Work on your novel every day, even if it's just 500 words a night. Learn to finish a book. And then, be willing (and eager) to listen to critique, rip things up and revise so your book is the best it can be. When you're ready to look for an agent/publisher, don't give up. If one book doesn't sell, write another.

Great advice, if a book doesn’t sell, write another. Even though Rival sold (really well, may I add), are you writing another book currently? Are there any WIPs that we can look forward to?

I have a short piece in the DEAR BULLY anthology that's coming out in September with HarperCollins. And then I'm working on a project I'm really excited about. I don't want to reveal the concept, but it has contemporary, supernatural and dystopian elements.

Ooh! Dystopian! I swear, I’m addicted to the genre. I can’t wait!
Just to round things off, some quick-fire questions (also known as random questions off the top of my head):

Coffee or tea? I love coffee but am trying to drink more green tea, so, reluctantly, my answer is tea.
Laptop or netbook? Laptop at home, netbook when I travel.
RIVAL playlist? Right here: http://www.sarabennettwealer.com/rival_playlist.shtml

Thanks so much for the interview, Sara! Is there anything else you want us to know?

Just that I'm so grateful to the bloggers and readers who've loved RIVAL and helped spread the word about it. It means everything to know that my story is connecting with people. Thank you!

Bloggers and readers who’ve loved Rival… hmm… I think that’ll be me. Sorry, that was my ego speaking.

Don't forget to check out my review of Rival and the mega-awesome giveaway Sara's so kindly offered! (It's a copy of Rival. Signed! I'm almost tempted to enter and win it for myself!)

Visit:


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Book Review: Rival

Title: Rival
Author: Sara Bennett Wealer
Publisher: HarperTeen (Imprint of Harper Collins)
Pages: 336
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository
Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.

Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.

The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.

As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?


At first, I was dubious about Rival and only read it because its cover was pretty. I can’t sing to save my life, so I was skeptical about how good a book revolving almost entirely around singing would be. But I found myself amazed. It was so compulsively readable that I finished the book in less than a day.

I think the best thing about Rival was how I could relate. It doesn’t matter who you were (or are) in high school, there is someone in Rival you could relate to, I can guarantee that. Even though not everybody’s in the choir, having a rival is something most people can relate to and Rival manages to capture the teen years perfectly. Even though this book appears to be only about singing, it’s more about friendships, rivalries, popularity, and envy.

What made this book its best were the emotions. I could understand both Kathryn and Brooke so well, how they felt towards each other. I could even understand their misunderstandings.

Although Rival was more about friendship than romance, the romance it had spiced things up. The makings of a love triangle were hinted at, although it had an obvious “winner” from the start, which was a nice change from all the triangles I’ve had recently. Matt is really sweet, and I loved the Matt Melter (tee em). The Matt Melter was the cherry on the cake for me. I loved that Kathryn and Matt had a history, that they weren’t born only for the sake of the story.

The PoV alters from Brooke to Kathryn and from Junior year to Senior year. Being a “secondary schooler” in Hong Kong instead of a “high schooler” in the US, I couldn’t tell what Junior year was, but I assumed that Junior was younger than Senior anyway (clever me). The constant time changes were sometimes confusing, but they were effective as they fed me tidbits of the story and kept my interest annoyed because it couldn’t be satisfied. The double PoV really worked for Rival because Brooke and Kathryn each had a story to tell, and their voices were so diverse that I never mixed them up. I love both Brooke and Kathryn equally much because of the PoV, if it were only one, I’d have probably thought the other one was a bitch, and it wouldn’t have worked, because this story belongs to both of them.

Rival has it all down perfectly: the high school hierarchies, the parties, the gossip… It’s social life in high school conveniently packed into a book.

Forgive, forget, know who your friends are, and keep them.
Then go read Rival.

See my interview with the lovely author of Rival herself, Sara!
Enter to win a signed copy of Rival!


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Review: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Monday, June 20, 2011
5 Stars: An Incredible Read /Keeper
Series: Artemis Fowl #1
Paperback 280 Pages
Publicatin: June 23, 2009 Disney-Hyperion

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius—and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn't know what he's taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren't the fairies of bedtime stories—they're dangerous! Full of unexpected twists and turns, Artemis Fowl is a riveting, magical adventure.

Artemis Fowl has been a longtime favorite series of mine. From the first pages, Colfer lures you into the criminal world with Artemis’s dealings with faeries, continuous outsmarting of them, and the first inklings of his awakening conscious.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Artemis and Holly Short, but two of the many memorable cast of characters that Colfer introduces. Others include Butler (Artemis’s… butler!), Commander Root heading Recon, Foaly the technological genius of a centaur, and Mulch Diggums the kleptomaniac dwarf.

Artemis is a criminal mastermind and speaks at an advanced level for any age. Still, there are telltale signs that he’s only twelve. He worries over his mother, and he’s desperately seeking out his father to restore the Fowl family’s status. He also believes in faeries. Plus his genius brain, and he possesses the power to do one thing no Mud Man (faerie jargon for humans) has ever done before: part the faeries from their gold.

Opposing him is Captain Holly Short, the first female member of Recon and also someone who is continuously getting into trouble. While she’s definitely one of the best officers under Root, he pushes her to excel above the others to her dismay at the unwonted prejudice. She has a colorful nature and will never fail to amuse readers with her smart aleck comments.

As someone who has read further installments in the series, I can say that while this first book seems clich├ęd with the whole humans are bad deal, you can see the stirrings of potential development. Holly Short jeopardizes her life to save humans even after they hurt her, and Artemis is beginning to soften up. He realizes that what he’s done is evil. Remember, he’s a kid despite his genius nature.

Forget lollipops, rainbows, and sunshine. Artemis Fowl’s dark brilliance and criminal exploits will leave you hankering for the next installment in the series. With his wit and great sense of humor, Colfer brings to readers of all ages a genius antihero, futuristic technology, mind games, and a bit of magic.

View my favorite quotations from Artemis Fowl #1

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A copy was provided for review by the publisher
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Review: Nice Shot, Cupid! by Kate McMullan

4 Stars: A Great Read
Illustrator: Denise Zilber
Series: Myth-O-Mania #4
Hardcover: 199 Pages
Publication: August 1, 2011 by Stone Arch Books

What a myth-o-maniac (that's old Greek-speak for "liar")! Zeus's version of the myths is completely wrong. It's time to set the record straight. For the first time ever, Hades, King of the Underworld, reveals the true story behind the myths.

That story about Cupid falling in love with the beautiful Psyche? What malarkey! He did accidentally prick himself with one of his own arrows and fall in love — but with himself!

Reading Nice Shot, Cupid! reminded me of how much I love McCullan’s Myth-O-Mania series, where Hades tells us the ‘true’ stories behind Greek myths. She has modernized the Greek gods and goddesses, giving them unique personalities and very human problems. While it isn’t the best series to offer children when you want to teach them what we know as the Greek myths, it does make for an enjoyable read, especially when you already know the stories!
In this story, Cupid isn’t as hot as you think the god of love should be. In fact, he’s suffering from normal teenage beauty problems—pimples and braces and a gangly teenage body. Of course, since Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty, she does everything in her power to provide beauty products for him, making him feel disheartened by his appearances. So when he falls in love with Psyche, a beautiful mortal princess, he decides not to take chances courting her in person. Instead, he kidnaps her and doesn’t let her look at him.

The story follows Hades as he does everything in his power to help Cupid gain more confidence in himself and arrange a happily ever after for Cupid and Psyche. I love how Cupid reminds us of any teenage boy suffering from puberty. I love how strong and beautiful Psyche is, and how true she remains to her love even after seeing Cupid in all his teen glory. And I love the sense of humor that Hades possesses. I recommend this for those looking for a fun, light-hearted read at the middle-grade and even elementary-grade level.


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