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Author Interview: Sara Zarr

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Today, I'm delighted to be interviewing with Sara Zarr, author of How to Save a Life.


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.

What is the most inspiring thing that has happened to you since you became an author?
There really isn't anything better than hearing from a reader who has made a deep, personal connection with one of my books. Whenever I read a letter or email like that, it's like getting a dose of good medicine. It cures selfishness and negativity and hopelessness and whatever else might be trying to keep me from writing that day.


As a writer, you must come up with hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas. How do you decide which one to write about?
I'm not actually one of those writers who suffers from an overabundance of ideas. I usually get just one good idea at a time, and it makes itself obvious. The one to write about is the one that preoccupies my imagination and "feels like a book." I know that's vague, but it's hard to put it any other way.

Your published stories thus far are contemporary. Have you thought about branching out into new genres?
Yes. I hope to get to try a variety of different things throughout my writing life. We'll see--I would never dismiss anything out of hand because of its genre or category.

What books and authors have influenced you in your childhood and adolescent years?
In high school - anything by Robert Cormier, M.E. Kerr's I Stay Near You, Madeleine L'Engle's series about the Austins and the O'Keefes. A Separate Peace. In younger childhood, Joan Aikin, Marilyn Sachs--especially The Truth about Mary Rose--Zilpha Keatley Snyder, especially The Changeling.

What are your favorite writing snacks?
Toasted almonds and dark chocolate. Coffee. (Does coffee count as a snack? It should.)


If you were to become a side character in one of your stories, which one would you insert yourself into, and what would you do?
I think I'd slip into How to Save a Life and be Dylan's rebound relationship.

Is there anything else you'd like to add for readers?
Thanks for being out there. Without you, this job would be kind of sad.

Sara's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of four novels for young adults: Story of a Girl (National Book Award Finalist), Sweethearts (Cybil Award Finalist), Once Was Lost (a Kirkus Best Book of 2009, Utah Book Award winner, INSPY winner) and How to Save a Life (Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and L.A. Public Library Best Book of 2011). Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Image, Hunger Mountain online, and Response. She’s also a regular contributor to Image‘s Good Letters blog on faith, life, and culture. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, and online at her website.

Related Posts
My Review of How to Save a Life

Review: Partials by Dan Wells

Monday, January 30, 2012
3.5 Stars: A Good Read
Series: Partials Sequence #1
Hardback: 468 Pages
Publication: February 28, 2012 by HarperTeen

The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.

Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic in training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws threaten to launch what’s left of humanity into civil war, and she’s not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will discover that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

In Partials, Dan Wells creates a realistic future in which humans have suffered through a couple more wars before being decimated by the RM virus. Now, the remainder of North America, at least to Kira's knowledge, has retreated to Long Island. Humanity is now divided in their argument for how to fight for the survival of humanity even as they guard themselves against the Partials, super soldiers they believe to be responsible for the release of the RM virus.

It is eerie how Dan Wells is able to create such a realistic future in light of the events that have passed in his world. The Senate is made up of older people who survived the attack of both the Partials and the RM virus unleashed upon humanity, and they are unwilling to take risks with the remnants of the human population. Instead, they decide to use statistics and pass the Hope Act, forcing women eighteen and older to have a baby every year in the hopes that one will be immune to RM. Kira and her younger friends believe that something else can be done, and her friends take little convincing to go along with her outrageous plans that follow.

The medical focus of the novel interested me the most. Kira first trained to be a medical intern in the maternity ward, because she thought that the dying newborn babies were the ones she needed to observe to find a way to save humanity, before deciding to research Partials. Kira's conflicting scientific and emotional views give her a unique voice. While there is a lot of scientist in her, Kira will let her emotions get in the way when there are lives in danger, and she will jeopardize more lives along with the mission to save a single person.

The events in the novel take time to unfold, and more questions are raised than are answered. Partials is the start of what promises to be a thrilling series about a girl's journey to find herself and the reason behind humanity's destruction.
An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Imagine My Mailbox (21)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kris's Mailbox

I receive a fair amount of books, and sharing them all wouldn't allow me to spotlight why I'm looking forward to them, as it would involve a super long post that no one will read. From now on, my IMM's will be a combination of IMM and Waiting on Wednesday. I will spotlight a couple books that I received for review and explain why I am looking forward to them.

For Review
   

Gifted


Thanks to Harper Teen for these books (and, yes, they are hardcopy ARCs)! Click on the cover images for more about them.

Unraveling and Masque of the Red Death sound like phenomenal reads from their synopses. While I read and love many genres, I have a particular interest in books with supernatural elements in them, especially when there is plenty of action and intrigue. As a bonus, I adore the covers, especially that of Masque of the Red Death. It's shiny!

Unraveling is about a girl (Janelle) who knows that she has been brought back to life by a loner from her high school (Ben). After uncovering a clock that is ticking a countdown towards something, Janelle must uncover Ben's secret, while trying not to fall in love with them in the process, to save life as she knows it. I must add that Janelle's father is an FBI agent, which had a major impact in my initial interest in the story as it promises plenty of action along with the ticking clock.

Masque of the Red Death provides less detail in its synopsis and intrigues me with whispers of a crumbling city. Araby is a girl with a gorgeous name who lives for nights in the Debauchery Club, where everyone has secrets. If this isn't intriguing, what is? Masque of the Red Death is just the kind of dark book that promises to keep me vested in it, wanting to turn the page yet unwilling to turn it.

The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers is a 180-degree turn from the dark paranormal books that have been flooding the YA market. Girls who have access to magic through the tears of brokenhearted boys? This promises to be a fun read, and it is a perfect read for the Characters in Love event that I'm hosting at Imaginary Reads this February!

Book Review: Before I Fall

Saturday, January 28, 2012
Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Pages: 470
Source: Gifted (Thank you, HarperTeen)
Rating: 5 stars - Took My Breath Away
Publisher: HarperTeen
Buy it: Amazon, Kindle, B&N, Book Depository

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.
Can I say amazing? Wait, no--Amazing. With a capital 'A' and italics, yes.

I didn't think I could love Lauren Oliver's writing even more after reading Delirium but Before I Fall proved me wrong. Lauren Oliver's writing is beautiful in a way I cannot even start describing--because my words will never do her writing justice.

Sam was a despicably spoilt brat when I first met her. She's a horrible snob, who thinks she can do anything she likes to other people just because she's "popular." Actually, she's popular to the point of sickening me, as other people let her trample over them because of her social status, and however much I tried to like her, she was simply hatable. She hasn't done anything majorly wrong, but her lifestyle is something I'll never approve of--and will never be able to relate to.

However, as the accident occurs, and Sam starts living Friday, 12th of February over and over again, she starts to change, and as I neared the last pages, I completely and utterly loved her. But just when I fall in love with her, just when she's the best person she's ever been, it's her last day of life, and for me, the end of an amazing story.

Another thing I feel like I should say: Kent and Juliet Sykes, both of you were amazing. (Yes, I'm talking to fictional characters in a book review, I may or may not be going slightly crazy.) Kent was, perhaps, the sweetest guy I've ever read. I hope all those "Juliet's" out there will have a chance to read Before I Fall and know that there is always time for change, that it's never too late.

Before I Fall is a story about hope, love, and life. When it ended, it took my heart with it. This book will continue to be one of my all-time favourites, and remember: It's never too late. Live as if you'll die today.


Related Posts:
Read Kris' review of Before I Fall
Read Lauren Oliver's interview here at Imaginary Reads

Imagine This: Fictional Factions

Friday, January 27, 2012
Imagine This is a feature hosted by Austin at Imaginary Reads. Every Saturday, Austin comes up with a question that asks readers to explore a book and come up with an outcome using the power of imagination.

This week's question:

If you could join any fictional organization or faction, what would you join and why?

My Answer:
I would join Slytherin's Quidditch team because that rich snotty kid (Malfoy) buys them all cool broomsticks and I would get to beat Harry (in a game). It's way cooler to be the guy that defeats the hero than to be the hero himself after all.

Review: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

Thursday, January 26, 2012
5 Stars: Keeper
Series: Bloodlines #1
Hardback: 421 Pages
Publication: August 23, 2011 by Razorbill

The first book in Richelle Mead's brand-new teen fiction series - set in the same world as Vampire Academy.

When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.

I love Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, and I was excited when I found out that she would be writing a spinoff series off it. It was an unbelievable feeling to finally hold this book in my hands and spend the day reading it.

Sydney's collected voice is a sharp contrast to Rose's passionate nature. Whereas Rose plunges straight to the point, Sydney bides her time and observes the situation before acting, the scientist in her coming out. Learning more about the Alchemists has been a blast. I was curious about them when Rose first ran into Sydney, and with Sydney taking the stage in Bloodlines, I got to see more of her world--its structure and the limitations that are placed on her through her duties.

I'm happy that we get to see more of Adrian. He's a bundle of fun, sexy fun, and it's amusing to watch his interactions with Sydney. Everyone has already written him off as no good, but Sydney brings out the best in him, including his witticisms, because they're a central part of him. They banter, they argue, and Sydney just can't leave him alone despite the trouble that he continuously puts her through. Between attending a normal high school for the first time and spending time with Adrian, I'm thinking that Sydney will learn more about friendship and romance in the near future.

While Sydney initially goes to Palm Springs to protect Jill, a couple other plots emerge from Jill's unusual relationship with Adrian to a secret among the students at the school to the impending sense that the turmoil back at court isn't the only danger that the group faces. Sydney's skills as an Alchemist are put to the test as she fights to prove that she is fully capable of carrying out her duties and that it is time for the higher ups to trust her once more.

Bloodlines is a brilliant continuation to the world that Richelle started in her Vampire Academy series. Old characters grace the pages, including Abe, Adrian, Jill, and Eddie, and it looks like we'll see more of some familiar faces in book two. I cannot wait to read The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2) and see where she takes it. I am especially curious about Trey and Mrs. Terwilliger, in addition to a unique trait of Sydney's that comes out near the end.

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YA Giveaway



Thank you for stopping by our blog. We love YA books and are excited to present some favorites. One lucky winner will receive a copy of Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley!


(click book cover to see Goodreads synopsis)

One international winner will receive an e-copy of Entwined by Heather Dixon

Mandatory entry: Leave a comment telling us what book(s) you're looking forward to this coming year. Also tell us which book(s) you are entering to win.

Extra Entries for following us.




DO NOT LEAVE YOUR EMAIL IN THE COMMENTS SECTION, OR YOUR ENTRY WILL BE REMOVED.


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Click here to check out the full list of blogs participating in this giveaway hop!

Read Hikari's review of Graffiti Moon

Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
3 stars: A Good Book
Series: Scarlet #1
Hardback: 292 Pages
Publication: February 14, 2012 by Walker Books for Young Readers

Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in. It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

Scarlet is a strong girl, perhaps a little too strong. She's an adept thief, quick with her blades, and has a good heart. She has a dark past that prevents her from coming clean with the band that views her as one of their own. I had a hard time with how quick she is to dismiss people who want to help her. Rob's band is obvious made of good guys, and they can't give her what she needs when she doesn't tell them about herself.

I did not like the love triangle. There must be a reason somewhere, but I couldn't see John the charmer developing a sudden interest in Scarlet, and she doesn't clarify their standing with each other. Then there's Robin, who seems interested in Scarlet yet keeps hurting her with his words. Both have trust issues in themselves and each other. Much of it is Scarlet's fault for keeping so much to herself, but Robin also has to learn to open up too.

I did like the action, and there is plenty of it. A battle of wits. Close calls. Rescue missions. Forbidden love. This book has it all. There are adrenaline-rushing moments when the band meets the law, and there are tense, suspense-filled moments when they can only lay low and keep watch. I did feel that this novel wrapped up a bit too quickly, and it leaves us hanging as to what will happen next. Overall, however, this is a fun novel starring one of my all-time favorite outlaw heros and his fair maid of sorts.

I recommend this for historical fiction (and Robin Hood lovers) looking to pass the time with an independent-minded young woman making her way as a thief in band of outlaws bringing justice to town.

An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Character Interview: Reyn from Immortal Beloved

Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Today, I'm excited to Q&A with Cate Tiernan and Reyn from Tiernan's Immortal Beloved series!


Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.

Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.

Q&A with Cate Tiernan
Where did you find the hot "Viking god" Reyn?
I saw him in a dream. Later, when I came up with the idea for IB, I put him in and he seemed to belong.

He does! I can't imagine Immortal Beloved without him. What do you find most endearing about Reyn?
I love that he's flawed, but trying to do better. I love that he has a hard past and is a little shopworn. I love his loyalty.

I also admire how he's trying to move forward from his past and into a better future. If you got to spend the day with him, where would you go?
Ooh--maybe for a horseback ride? With a picnic? Over gorgeous English countryside? And I would be wearing fabulous clothes?


Character Interview
Reyn

Thanks for joining us, Reyn. To start, would you tell readers a little about yourself?
Like what? Well, I'm immortal, more or less. I don't know what else to say.

How about your decision to do better with your life? In making your decision to stop raiding, what was the first thing you did when you decided to change your way of life?
I stole one of my clan's horses and loaded all my stuff on it and rode away in the night. When I came upon a rocky crevice, I threw all my weapons into it.

Then I almost killed myself climbing down that freaking crevice to get all my weapons back. What a stupid thing to do.

As an Immortal, you must have had a lot of time to try things out. What are your hobbies and interests?
I like horses. I still like swords. Museums are interesting--full of stuff just like what I have locked away in different places. I like travel. History is really interesting. I like food and cooking and wine. I like boats.

What is your favorite food?
Steak. Like a really good steak.

When did you first become interested in Nastasya romantically?
When she lost the black hair and the stupid goth makeup. That was when I noticed how pretty she was. At least, when her mouth was shut. Then . . . the more I got to know her, the more she got under my skin. And even though she still made me crazy, I knew we had to be together. That we were supposed to be together. That she was the one.

What is your favorite memory with Nastasya?
When I've won arguments and she's so mad and her dark, dark eyes are shooting sparks and she looks so furious but she knows I'm right. I love that. Nothing better.

It's been a long journey for you with Nastasya. What are your hopes for the future?
You'll see.


Related Posts
Reviews of Immortal Beloved #1 & #2


Review: Allegiance by Cayla Kluver

Monday, January 23, 2012
3 stars: A Good Read
Series: Legacy #2
Paperback: 490 Pages
Publication: February 28, 2012 by Harlequin Teen

Only I saw Narian for who he truly was: a young man with courage and an independent mind, and made to pay for what was outside his control. He couldn't help his past any more than he could help the way those intense, deep-blue eyes pierced me and held me captive.

An eighteen-year-old queen in love with the enemy as their countries pass the point of no return...

Bound to a man she cannot love, Queen Alera of Hytanica must forget Narian, the young man who holds her heart. For Narian is destined to conquer Hytanica at the behest of his master, the powerful magic-user known as the Overlord. Alera doesn't truly believe Narian will fight against Hytanica-until Cokyrian troops attack with Narian commanding the charge.

Faced with the greatest betrayal a heart can know, Alera must set aside personal feelings and lead her kingdom through its darkest time. And when all hope, will and courage seem lost, she must find strength and remember that even the blackest night must have a dawn....

The beginning of the novel was all that I could hope for. Steldor and Alera's marriage comes to a rocky start with Alera avoiding intimacy and Steldor respecting her but for some flirtations. However, the awkwardness is still there, and both have tempers that cause them great frustrations. I can't help but wonder why Alera continuously refutes Steldor's advances rather than permitting him to continue courting her after marriage and trying to get to know him better. After all, when she agreed to marry him, she should have expected to carry her duty, as Queen and a wife, to produce an heir.

I was frustrated with Alera for the most part. While the motivations for her actions in book one are understandable, she's a Queen now by her own choice, and she ought to take responsibility now. Yes, she wanted to protect Miranna, but she now has a duty as Queen to fulfill yet she still acts like a rebellious teenage girl. I feel that Alera was in denial about a lot of things. She keeps Steldor at bay despite her responsibility to him as a wife to respect him, rather than try to anger him, and to produce an heir to keep the royal line running. She goes horseback riding without regard to her position. She refuses to forget about Narian.

I grew more fond of Steldor, who is obviously trying to be a good husband, as the story progressed, and it is apparent that Alera develops some feelings for him. However, Narian is still the one she loves, though she can't deny that he has joined the enemy forces, a fact that coincides about the same time that her sister is abducted by enemy forces. Something possible only because she told him about a certain tunnel.

It is after the castle falls to the enemy that my interest in the story wavered as the anticipation built in book one fell short of my expectations. I won't list all my grievances. I don't want to go on a rampage because some things didn't go my way. Let's just say that everything happened a little too conveniently and that while I liked Legacy, Allegiance just doesn't follow through all the way for me.

Thus far, Alera has been a pawn in a game of mens. In Sacrifice, the final book in the trilogy, she will be a woman in her own right, with her own power. I look forward to seeing what she does.

An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Related Posts
Review of Legacy (Legacy #1)


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Book Review: All-American Girl

Saturday, January 21, 2012
Title: All-American Girl
Author: Meg Cabot
Pages: 398
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 stars - It Amused Me
Publisher: HarperTrophy
Buy it: Amazon, Kindle, B&N, Book Depository

Samantha Madison is an average, cool Washington, D.C., teen: She loves Gwen Stefani (who doesn't?), can draw like nobody's business, and enjoys being opposite to her sister's annoying ultra-social personality. But when she ditches art class one day, she doesn't expect to be jumping on the back of a wannabe presidential assassin. Soon the young hero is receiving worldwide acclaim for her bravery, having dinner with her family at the White House, and is even being named teen ambassador to the UN. As if this weren't enough, she and David, the president's son, strike up a friendship that everyone wants the dirt on, which starts to give her romantic "frisson" feelings. Unfortunately, Sam thinks her sister's boyfriend, Jack, is the true love of her life, and she makes a few wrong turns that could screw up what she's developing with David. Will she ever stop following what she knows and start following what she sees?
This was a book I read long, long time ago, back when I was a wee little one (not entirely sure if this is the most appropriate book for 10-year-olds, but... oh well).

I loved Sam's voice. It's a breeze to read, it's compelling, and it's easy for most teens to relate to. Again, I remind myself, this is why I read Meg Cabot's books--for her characters that I can't help but love and their fun voices that just get to me. Speaking about characters, David was, of course, the main deal of the story (hello? Hot guy, anybody?) and even as a 10-year-old, I got slightly annoyed at Sam for not immediately getting together with David. If she did, that would defy the whole point of the novel, but hey, a girl can dream.

I felt that the side characters were what really completed this book. Susan Boone was the ultimate Yoda-style sensei who is just plain cute in an older woman way, and Sam's younger sister, Rebecca, spouts trivia 24/7 (I learnt some facts from Rebecca). Each and every one of Meg Cabot's characters came to life and all of them have their own role to play in the story.

The plot--much like the characters--was fun-filled and lighthearted. Although stopping a wannabe presidential assassin does sound a bit far-fetched, it was fun to read, and it kickstarted the whole novel. (And otherwise, we may have never met the president's son!!)

All in all, it's a light novel that made me laugh, and that I read again and again when I was feeling down. I don't think the target audience for All-American Girl was 10yo's, but if a 10yo enjoyed this book, you can too.

Old Books are Gold

You know the saying "make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold"?

Well, here's the new saying, courtesy of yours truly: "read new books, but remember the old, one is silver and the other's gold."

So I've decided to spend more time reviewing books I've read in the past as well as new releases. Older books don't get enough love in book blogger circles, and hey, they need love too!

Time Gangsters Tour: Review

Thursday, January 19, 2012
As a part of the tour, I have for you my review of Time Gangsters by Berin L. Stephens.

5 stars: Keeper
Paperback: 287 Pages
Publication: February 14, 2012 by Cedar Fort

When Billy discovers a hidden cache of ancient coins, it isn't long before a gang of thugs swipes them right from under Billy. Plotting to use the magical properties of the coins to seize power in the past, these power-hungry gangsters will do anything to reach their goal. Their future threatened, Billy and Danny must race through time to steal back the coins---before history is changed forever!

Time Gangsters is a timeless read that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages. The story begins when Billy wakes up in the middle of the night to find who he believes to be a gangster in his room. From there, the story takes off as he makes a truce with his cousin Danny (short for Danielle), whom he's been pulling pranks on forever, and a search for treasure leads them and his friend Wheezy into a conflict bridging time.

Billy is a reckless youth who believes he is capable of anything. While he finds himself scared for his life a couple of times, he seeks adventures and is annoyed by Danny's attempts to tell him that they should tell an adult. Danny is the voice of reason and even looks the part, as her recent growth spurt makes her look more sixteen than twelve. Wheezy is the dorky friend, who Billy brings into the plot for his brains.

Soon, they realize that they are up against a crime lord who wants to take over the United States with the ancient Egyptian "coins" and their magical abilities. There is plenty of adventure, magic, and humor. There is even a hint of romance in a dashing young drummer for the most mature member of the gang. I love the ending and how it brings the story together, even if it may not bring about a fully satisfying ending for a couple.

A book about true friendship, time travel, and doing the right thing, Time Gangsters is a book that I would recommend it to everyone, especially if you want to share it with friends and/or family.

An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Review: Stolen Away by Alyxandra Harvey

Wednesday, January 18, 2012
3 Stars: A Good Read 
Hardback: 288 Pages
Publication: January 17, 2012 by Walker Books for Young Readers

For seventeen years, Eloise Hart had no idea the world of Faery even existed. Now she has been abducted and trapped in the Rath of Lord Strahan, King of Faery. Strahan was only meant to rule for seven years, as Faery tradition dictates, and then give up his crown to another. But he won't comply, and now chaos threatens both worlds.

The only one who can break his stranglehold on the Faery court is his wife. . . Eloise's aunt Antonia. Using Eloise to lure Antonia, Strahan captures his wife, desperate to end the only threat to his reign. Now Eloise must become the rescuer. Together with her best friends Jo and Devin, she must forge alliances with other Fae, including a gorgeous protector named Lucas, and Strahan's mysterious son, Eldric-who may or may not betray them.

Stolen Away is a quick read. Harvey's writing is to the point and without elaborate detail. I easily finished this book in a couple hours. Contrary to what the synopsis suggests, the story is told from the perspective of both Eloise and Jo, both in the first person. The bright side, this means there isn't a love triangle involving Elois, Lucas, and Eldric. Instead, we get two romances. Double plus.

I love the fantasy elements woven into the story. There are so many interesting kinds of fae, and I'm sorry that the story isn't longer so that we could spend more time with them. I did have some problems with the characters. Jo is a little boy-obsessed for my liking, but it tones down a bit once she really gets into Eldric. In addition, Jo and Eloise seem to fall in love a bit too quickly.

A lot of it has to do with the pacing of the story. As I mentioned earlier, it's a quick read with little elaboration, so it seems a bit rushed. On the bright side, the story is fantastical and magical, making a quick read for fantasy lovers. I recommend this as a read for when you don't want to take the time to go through a thick book and want to relax.

An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Treasure Reads: Books for Keeps

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Treasure Reads is a feature at Imaginary Reads where Kris talks about special reads. This may be from as recent as the past week to as far back as a childhood favorite. This may be from a character I adore to a new author I discovered to lines from a book that I want to share with readers.

Since my reading appetite is greater than my pockets can feed, the library has long since become one of my best friends. I have scoured library after library for new books to read, and my school librarians all grew to know me. However, even after reading a book at the library, there are some that just call out to you. That you continue to revisit.

One day, my family decided to visit the mall for whatever reason, and I dropped by Barnes and Noble. There, I saw a familiar title sitting on the shelf. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. That was also the day that I found out that it is actually the first in a series. I love fantasy books, especially those with unique magic and a fairy-tale-like air about them, and The Goose Girl is one of those books. That day, I bought the first three books to the Books of Bayern series, and I spent the afternoon rereading The Goose Girl.

How about you? What books are the ones you will keep on your bookshelf forever? Let me know in the comments section. I love hearing from you, especially when there's a chance to find out about new books to read!

Review: The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker

Monday, January 16, 2012
5 Stars: Keeper
Hardback: 375 Pages
Publication: January 2, 2012 by Poppy

Fourteen-year-old Kentucky girl Ricki Jo Winstead, who would preferred to be called Ericka, thank you very much, is eager to shed her farmer's daughter roots and become part of the popular crowd at her small town high school. She trades her Bible for Seventeen magazine, buys new "sophisticated" clothes and somehow manages to secure a tenuous spot at the cool kids table. She's on top of the world, even though her best friend and the boy next door Luke says he misses "plain old Ricki Jo."

Caught between being a country girl and wannabe country club girl, Ricki Jo begins to forget who she truly is: someone who doesn't care what people think and who wouldn't let a good-looking guy walk all over her. It takes a serious incident out on Luke's farm for Ricki Jo to realize that being a true friend is more important than being popular.

This is such a fun read! Most of us at one point or another worried about fitting in, with any crowd, and Ricki Jo is the same way. She wants to be popular, date a hot guy, and be liked. The way she goes about it is hilarious and sometimes nerve-wracking and over-the-top. I mean, a fourteen-year-old girl sneaking out and drinking? Yeah. Ricki Jo is willing to sacrifice to some of her moral qualms in order to belong, and her flaws made her all the more endearing to me.

Of course, Ricki Jo's actions, their consequences, and her re-actions, are what make her a bundle of joy to read about. There are times when I was frustrated with her lack of awareness of how she's hurting good people like Luke and Candace, and I wanted to go right up to her and set her on the right track. Ricki Jo is a country girl at heart, trying to find her place, and she grows a lot over the course of the novel. I adore the country setting. I love country settings in general. Offer me a book with a rural setting, and I'll snatch it up. Whitaker ties in Ricki Jo's country roots into some incidents, some of which are laugh moments, some of which made me gasp.

The Queen of Kentucky is more than a book about a country girl wanting to go country club. There are some dark clouds looming close to home, and Ricki Jo struggles to bring together who she is on the inside and who she is trying to become on the outside. The serious incident takes place close to the end of the novel, which was slightly disappointing because I was hoping to find out what exactly comes out of it. However, I appreciate how Whitaker concludes the novel by leaving it open for Ricki Jo to take the next step.

While Ricki Jo pines for the resident bad boy and deals with a new awareness of a boy she's known all her life, these are part of the process of her self-discovery. This book is not centered on romance. If you are looking for a light, fun contemporary read that is focused more on character growth, I strongly recommend this novel. It is a breath of fresh, country air for the YA genre.

A copy was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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