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Imagine Weekly: Mailbox #45

Sunday, March 31, 2013
Imagine Weekly is a weekly feature where we share a summary of what has taken place on the blog the previous week and show off books that we got.

For Review

Twerp by Mark Goldblatt
If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin
Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally
Rock Harbor Search & Rescue by Colleen Coble
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Loki's Wolves by K.L Armstrong and M.A. Marr
Icons by Margaret Stohl
Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff
Surrender by Rhiannon Paillle
Justice by Rhiannon Paille

Thanks to Little Brown, Random House, Rhiannon Paille, Sourcebooks, Thomas Nelson!

* Check out more book hauls through Tynga's Stacking the Shelves *

Previous Week

Other News
My Life After Now Tour: Interview with author Jessica Verdi
Sidekick Tour: Tour-wide giveaway, open internationally
Dear Cassie Tour: Tour-wide giveaway, open internationally

New follow method!
You can now follow Imaginary Reads on bloglovin'. Let me know if you have a blog as well, so I can follow you back!
Follow on Bloglovin

Upcoming Week
  • Reviews of If He Had Been With MeTenProphecy GirlFated
  • Interview with Laura Nowlin

What did you get this week? Leave a link in the comments section, and I'll check out your week's haul!

Review: Scowler by Daniel Kraus

Saturday, March 30, 2013
by Daniel Kraus

4.5 Stars: A Good Read
Hardback: 304 Pages
Publication: March 12, 2013 by Delacorte BFYR

Imagine your father is a monster. Would that mean there are monsters inside you, too?

Nineteen-year-old Ry Burke, his mother, and little sister scrape by for a living on their dying family farm. Ry wishes for anything to distract him from the grim memories of his father's physical and emotional abuse. Then a meteorite falls from the sky, bringing with it not only a fragment from another world but also the arrival of a ruthless man intent on destroying the entire family. Soon Ry is forced to defend himself by resurrecting a trio of imaginary childhood protectors: kindly Mr. Furrington, wise Jesus, and the bloodthirsty Scowler.

Ry, his mother, and little sister are trying to recover from a nightmare: Ry's abusive father Marvin Burke. Back when he was only ten years old, Ry saved his mother and had Marvin put away in prison for the unspeakable abusive things he did to them. At that time, he got help from his childhood toys, the Unnamed Three (who are actually different facets of Ry's personality): Mr. Furrington, which is a small teal teddy bear; Jesus Christ, which is a robber figurine, and the Scowler, which is the ugliest: a disgusting hunk. Nine years later, Ry needs Unnamed Three’s help again because Marvin has broken out of prison and threatens their family once again. He never wants his father to do what he did to his mother and little sister ever again.

I really feel for Ry. Knowing what it is like to live in an abusive home, he wants nothing more than to not be like his father. However, he knows there is a chance that he could become like his father. That's why he can't let himself get angry. If he does, he will let out the Scowler within him, and Scowler is dark and brutal. However, it becomes clear that his father will continue to hurt, haunt, and manipulate the family until he gets what he wants. And Ry knows that he needs to become Scowler to protect his family. Ry's conflicting desires to run away from the potential darkness within him and to take care of his mother and sister are central to who he is as a character and person.

Scowler is bloody, frightful, and shocking, filled with tension and driven by Ry's fear of his father's return. If you can't stomach a lot of violence or language. This may not be the book for you. There are a lot of brutal, graphic descriptions of calculated violence. I don't know how a human can do such things to another human being. I kept having to put this book down, and yet I couldn't stop reading it. It's so enthralling.

This novel is all about how ugly humans can be, and sometimes are, to one another. Also, it deals with spousal and child abuse. Kraus knows the horror genre well. He leaves you guessing whether Ry will become a good person or if he will turn into the kind of man like his father.

Recommended for upper YA readers.

A copy was provided by Random House for review.

Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

Friday, March 29, 2013
Strands of Bronze and Gold
Jane Nickerson

3 Stars: A Good Read
Series: Strands of Bronze and Gold #1
Hardback: 352 Pages
Publication: March 12, 2013 by Random House Children's Books

The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .

When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.

This book is Criminal Minds [victim’s perspective] meets the Grimm brothers. As a fairy tale lover, I was expecting a bit more out of Strands of Bronze and Gold. As a reader, I enjoyed the way that the author took liberties with the story.

My first impression of Sophia Petheram was – boring. Sophia is supposed to have this insatiable curiosity that moves the story forward - and Bernard even calls her out on it - but I really did not find her all that inquisitive. She spends the first third of the book languishing in obsession, the second third just hanging around, and it wasn’t till the end that she really came through. As this novel is a Bluebeard retelling, I feel like the author could have added more action to Sophie’s everyday life. (Hello, there's a serial killer in the house! I want to see some sense of urgency.) There were qualities I admired such as her compassionate attitude with the enslaved servitude and the fact that she did evaluate what she was chose to do and did not act upon sheer stupidity.

Monsieur Bernard de Cressac was a creep. At the same time, he’s probably my favorite character in this book. Out of all the characters, it is Bernard that is the most fleshed out. In this retelling of Bluebeard, Bernard was a hottie. People did not avoid him because of a hideous beard; no, his good looks encouraged his air of mystery around town. What really tore me up was Sophia’s infatuation with him. I thought it was oogie that even though he was her father’s age and, of all relationships, her godfather, he still dared to hit on her. That was a very disturbing angle. A godfather is to take the place of a father that for whatever reason has been removed out of a child’s life. I felt that this added twist showed the extent of Bernard’s sick mind. I’ve never thought of the story of Bluebeard as merely one of a serial killer.

To my surprise, the author introduced another more romantic counterpart to Sophia. I thought it a very good choice, because it helped set up a background story to Sophia’s future marriage. In the original tale, I always found it lacking that the girl lived happily ever after because she now had money. The end. Gideon was refreshing, and he gave Sophia something to do while she dealt with the creep of her godfather. Another twist the author added was the plainness of Gideon’s looks. In most of the books I’ve read the guy that gets the girls is usually good looking. At one point in the story, in order to calm Bernard down, Sophia even actually blasts on how ugly Gideon is. I really respect Gideon, especially since he cherished her despite her disregard for her personal reputation. The one phrase that comes to mind when I think of Gideon is “aww, you tender-hearted fool.”

In retellings, authors may bend off of the original story line, which can either go well or not. I was pleasantly surprised with the direction that Nickerson decided to take with the ending. She did somewhat incorporate the rescue-by-brother, but it was not a central part of the story. Though the one-dimensional Sophie in the first third lowered the reading experience for me, the characters are more real and believable and the plot intriguing.

A copy was provided by Random House for review.

Dear Cassie Tour: Review & Giveaway

As a part of the Dear Cassie tour, I have for you my review of the book.

Dear Cassie
Lisa Burstein

4 Stars: A Great Read
Paperback: 352 Pages
Publication: March 5, 2013 by Entangled Teen

What if the last place you should fall in love is the first place that you do?

You’d think getting sent to Turning Pines Wilderness Camp for a month-long rehabilitation “retreat” and being forced to re-live it in this journal would be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.

You’d be wrong.

There’s the reason I was sent to Turning Pines in the first place: I got arrested. On prom night. With my two best friends, who I haven’t talked to since and probably never will again. And then there’s the real reason I was sent here. The thing I can’t talk about with the guy I can’t even think about.

What if the moment you’ve closed yourself off is the moment you start to break open?

But there’s this guy here. Ben. And the more I swear he won’t—he can’t—the deeper under my skin he’s getting. After the thing that happened, I promised I’d never fall for another boy’s lies.

And yet I can’t help but wonder…what if?

Dear Cassie follows Cassie at camp as she struggles with what happened to her. Though we know about events at a surface level, we also know that there is something deeper hapening to Cassie. And that is what we are here to explore.

The most powerful thing about this novel is how filled it is with raw emotion. Cassie is one of those broken characters that we want to hug and comfort. (At least, once I got over my initial shock over her colorful use of language and saw the vulnerable girl underneath.) At the same time, we want to pry her secrets out of her. We learn more about her through diary entries, but the most important thing is always kept from us, teasing us like bait on a line. It made me wonder "just what is she hiding from us?" What I love most about is is, though she's gone through a lot, she still has a lot of courage and pluck, and she has the strength to keep moving on in life. She's a tough girl.

My favorite character, other than that love-hate interest we have to love in the end, has to be Cassie's brother. I'm a family girl at heart, and I love when a character's relationship with family is strong. Cassie's brother really understands us and is a strong support for her. There are other people at camp who are so very fun to read about. There are lots of crazy personalities to find at camp!

At it's heart though, this is about Cassie's personal journey to find herself. A deeply moving, gritty contemporary novel, Dear Cassie about the bad things that happen in life and the consequences that we must learn to deal with. It is about forgivness and accepting both the good and bad sides of life. It is about stepping up to deal with it all. Cassie is a deeply flawed and human character. She's been through things most of us will, hopefully, never have to go through, and she goes through so much more maturing along the healing process.

A copy was provided through Rockstar Book Tours for review.

About the Author

Lisa's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Lisa Burstein is a tea seller by day and a writer by night. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University and is glad to finally have it be worth more than the paper it was printed on. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her very patient husband, a neurotic dog and two cats. Dear Cassie is her third novel.

Sidekick Tour: Review & Giveaway

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
As a part of the Sidekick tour, I have for you my review of the book.

Sidekick: The Misadventures of the New Scarlet Knight
Pab Sungenis

3.5 Stars: A Good Read
Paperback: 225 Pages
Publication: March 12, 2013 by Month9Books

Bobby Baines is in high school, which is bad enough. When his hero, Scarlet Knight, dies, Bobby is forced to take up his mantel. Only Scarlet Knight never had to deal with eking out a passing grade in math, keeping his fellow sidekicks in check, or stopping a giant squid from bearing down on his school and crushing everyone inside. After all, Bobby Baines is no super hero, he’s a Sidekick!

Sidekick is a fun, humor-filled read about the ups and downs of life as a superhero and the growth of one teen as he struggles to fulfill the legacy left by his predecessor. I can't remember the last time I read a superhero book, but this is what I look for in a modern superhero book (at least, it's one of the types): it makes fun of cheesy old superheros and introduces modern innovations, it's fun, and there is a wide cast of lovable characters.

Bobby is your typical American teenage boy, and he knows it. He talks in a matter-of-fact way about his two lives and doesn't make a big deal of things, unless he's trying to make a point, which he often makes aside to readers. I enjoyed getting to know him as he searches for his identity--is he Bobby the teenage boy, or is he the new Scarlet Knight? Many superhero books are about the adventure, but this one focuses primarily on the human factor and how being a superhero impacts Bobby, morally and as an individual trying to get through high school and college apps at the same time. The only thing I felt was missing was more on Bobby's life at school, outside of superhero work, though given his situation at the beginning of the novel I can understand why so much of this is missing.

What I do wish is that the other characters were developed just as well as Bobby. There are so many interesting characters surrounding Bobby. I would have liked to see more of them, especially the superheros and how they work together. It would also have been nice to see more mystery and tension surrounding the circumstances of the intrigue surrounding the new supervillain in town. At the same time, I feel that the lightness of this novel fits the novel overall. This is a read that didn't have me hiding under the covers at night; rather, it made me laugh and relax. I recommend this for middle-grade readers, but this is still a fun read that readers of all ages can enjoy.

A copy was provided by Month9Books for review.

About the Author

Pab's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Born in the swamps of Southern New Jersey, Pab Sungenis developed a childhood fascination with cartooning and drew a daily strip for his own amusement for two years before realizing he couldn’t draw and wound up in broadcastingU. He describes his drawing ability as like that of “a mentally challenged rhinoceros on a Ny-Quil bender”, but thanks to the wonders of photo-manipulation and computer image editing, on February 8, 2006 he found himself creating The New Adventures of Queen Victoria.

My Life After Now Tour: Review

Monday, March 25, 2013
As a part of the My Life After Now tour, I have for you my review of the book.

My Life After Now
Jessica Verdi

3.5 Stars: A Good Read
Paperback: 304 Pages
Publication: April 2, 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire

Lucy just had the worst week ever. Seriously, mega bad. And suddenly, it's all too much—she wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a whole new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of.

And now her life will never be the same. Now, how will she be able to have a boyfriend? What will she tell her friends? How will she face her family?

Now her life is completely different...every moment is a gift. Because now she might not have many moments left.

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Lucy has a perfect life: she has the perfect boyfriend and two fathers who are very loving and caring. Then, her life turns upside down. She finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her and posted it to Facebook, so everyone knows. Also, her fathers let her pregnant, drug-addict mother moves in with them without any explanation. To relieve the stress, Lucy decides to have a night of drinking and dancing at a Manhattan nightclub with her best friends. She ends up going home with a guy and having unprotected sex. Lucy never imagines that one reckless night of fun is going to have some serious consequences, but she now pays the ultimate price for it.

When Lucy tests positive for HIV, she is in so much fear and pain. It’s heartbreaking to see her reaction to the news and her determination to keep it all a secret from everyone, even her family. You can feel Lucy’s fear of never being loved again and the anger she feels towards herself. I can’t imagine how a sixteen-year-old girl can deal with this tragic situation. Throughout the book, you walk with Lucy to learn that the life is not over and what is it like to live with HIV. You have to adjust your life style to fit your situation.

What I loved the most about this book is how inspiring it is. Lucy pushes people away from her at first, but eventually she is able to pull through her situation thanks to the people around her, especially Evan, who becomes an important person in her life. My Life After Now is a wonderful, touching story that portrays Lucy’s devastation and her tangled emotions with honesty. The book is about acceptance and learning to live your life with your illness. It brings every single perspective of a life changes after a positive HIV test.

An ARC was provided by Sourcebooks Fire for review.

My Life After Now Tour: Interview with Jessica Verdi

As a part of the My Life After Now tour, I have for you an interview with author Jessica Verdi. Come back later for Alice's review of the book.

My Life After Now
Jessica Verdi

Lucy just had the worst week ever. Seriously, mega bad. And suddenly, it's all too much—she wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a whole new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of.

And now her life will never be the same. Now, how will she be able to have a boyfriend? What will she tell her friends? How will she face her family?

Now her life is completely different...every moment is a gift. Because now she might not have many moments left.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.
First of all, thank you so much for having me on your blog! Let’s see, a little bit about me: I live in Brooklyn, NY, and I love animals, tattoos, TV, and theater. And reading and writing, of course! I got into writing after ten long years as an on-again, off-again actor in New York. I was sometimes cast in shows, but in a city with so much talent and competition, those opportunities were few and far between. I started to get frustrated just waiting around for someone to cast me in something and finally give me the opportunity to be creative. I knew I needed to start making those opportunities for myself. And what better way to tell a story and use your own creativity than writing? Unlike acting, you don’t have to wait for anyone to give you the go-ahead—you can write on your own terms. And once I started writing, I knew it was what I was supposed to have been doing all along.

It's really cool how you went from acting to writing. It sounds wonderful to be able to choose your own schedule and stories to tell. What did you learn while researching for My Life After Now?
I already knew a bunch about HIV/AIDS before I wrote the book, but during the research process I learned a LOT more. The statistical facts of the virus, the more personal aspect of what it’s like to live with it, what the free testing clinic environment is like, what sorts of medications are available, the (shockingly high) rate at which young people in the U.S. are becoming infected, and so much more.

We learn about some stats at school, but there's nothing like hearing an actual story to learn about the realities of HIV and AIDS. Lucy goes through a challenging time in her life what with losing acting and her boyfriend, having her estranged mother show up after three years, and contracting HIV in a one-night stand. What was it like having to put Lucy through all this through the drafting and editing/revising process?
She really does go through a lot, poor girl, but I think it was important for her to have a series of really, really bad days in order to build the believability of her running away and doing something so out of character for her—the very thing that leads to her contraction of HIV. It was rough having to go through her journey with her time and time again, from the initial drafting stages all the way through revisions, but I love her (and her dads and her friends) so much, so I wanted to work hard to do her story justice. That’s what kept me going.

It is because she goes through all that that we can really sympathize with her. How did you go about finding the balance between sharing enough facts about HIV and all that Lucy goes through while keeping her story relatable and not preachy?
Whenever I found myself going into “preachy” territory, I took a step back and reminded myself this book is about a character, above and beyond anything else. It’s not a book about everyone in the world who has HIV, and it’s not a book meant to express an opinion on right vs. wrong. It’s a book about one character going through her own journey. So I just focused on her individual experience, her life, and the rest sorted itself out.

While the story is about Lucy at its heart, the people around her also move our hearts in different ways. Many of the characters reveal new sides to themselves as the story progresses. Is there any that surprised you in particular?
Yes, that happened so many times! But I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say that the way Lucy’s relationships change with pretty much everyone in her life—her mother, her dads, her friends—always kept me on my toes.

Relationships are a big part of the book, I agree. Would you share an excerpt from the novel that sets the tone for Lucy's story?
If I told my family and my friends the truth, everything would change. They would look at me differently, treat me differently. Of course they would—I was different. But right now I was the only one who knew it. And that was the safest place to be. Because if the world outside me became as unrecognizable as the world inside me had, I honestly wouldn’t know what to do.

On the other hand, if no one knew, they would still be expecting me to be the same old Lucy. But how do you play the role of yourself when “yourself ” no longer exists?

What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m in revisions for my second book, The Summer I Wasn’t Me, which comes out next April. It’s a love story set at an ex-gay conversion camp for teenagers.

Thanks for interviewing, Jessica. I'm looking forward to your next book!

About the Author

Jessica's Websiste | Facebook | Twitter
Jessica Verdi is a young adult author who writes envelope-pushing stories about not-so-pretty real-life issues, but always with a positive spin. After nearly ten years on the stage, she got an idea for a novel. Now she can’t imagine doing anything else. Jess received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School and works as an editor at a romance novel publisher. She loves all animals, from the cute and cuddly to the large and freakish, has been a vegetarian for most of her life, is a little too obsessed with TV shows about vampires, and has an amazing group of writer friends who keep her sane. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and dog.