Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MiddleGrade Monday and Contest Winners

First up, I'd like to announce the winners of the first ARC grab bag giveaway. These folks were chosen at random and they will need to contact me at blogger at yaliteraturereview.com to claim their prizes. The four winners are: Kristin, Braine @ Talk Supe, Dorine White, and Eric at YAvolt. Watch for another contest this Wednesday - all about signed copies!

Middle Grade Monday: The Pen Pals Series, by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Publisher: Yearling
Pages: 144 (varies - paperback)
Reading Level: 10 and up
Enjoyment Level: High

This is one of the series that I loved growing up. I didn't get to read them all, but I devoured the ones I did have. And reading them made me want to go away to boarding school.


Four girls at boarding school meet, become friends, and run an ad in the neighboring all-boys' school newspaper for pen pals.

While I think writing for kids has kind of come a long way since the late 80s, this series is pretty well-written. There are details here and there that make me cringe a little, reading them now. But I also remember how it was to read them the first time, and as a kid (which might be more important), I never would've found anything to critique. I had characters I liked, and some that I didn't, but I never had any trouble loving the stories.

As an adult, I feel like several plots could be cleaned up, and the characters are definitely not as modern now as they felt then, although unlike some books, even the references to electronics (records, tapes, and VHS!) and other pop-culture things don't date the series for me. And, if they were to re-release these (like they are with some BSC books) it wouldn't be difficult to update the various details.

The characters always seemed older to me, but then, I was reading them as a 12-year-old. I can't say that they are realistic for 13 and 14-year-old girls. The dialogue sometimes comes off as forced. They get into trouble and have reactions that sometimes don't make sense to me.

But whatever they are to me as an adult, they were successful for me as a kid, and the books still have me reading easily as soon as I start page one. I miss having a series like this to read - the kids' market has changed so much that a lot of long-running series aren't as successful as some from back in the day.

This series is still a good one to share with middle grade girls. They might want pen pals and to go to boarding school after reading them, but there's nothing wrong with that, right?

Until next time, go read something.

~ Vilate

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Super Holiday Giveaway 2

It's that time again! Time to announce another giveaway for the holidays! This is the "I'm Thankful for Awesome Authors, the Melissa Walker Edition."

Yesterday, I posted my review of Small Town Sinners, by the fabulous Melissa Walker. And on the podcast, we have my interview with her from the Austin Teen Book Fest. Now it's time to give you the chance to win a signed copy of Small Town Sinners.

To enter, be a follower of the blog. Leave a comment on the review entry. Deadline to enter is November 30th. The winner will be chosen randomly.

Good luck!

~ Vilate

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Small Town Sinners

Small Town Sinners, by Melissa Walker

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288 (hardcover)
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: mid-high

I meant to read Violet on the Runway and review that with my Melissa Walker interview, but this is her newest book, and I thought it’d make a better giveaway, lol. Also, the blurb for Small Town Sinners caught my attention even before I heard Melissa Walker talking about the book at the Austin Teen Book Festival.

From Amazon.com:

Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver's license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church's annual haunted house of sin, Lacey's junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn't know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for Ty make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion.

I’m glad I felt drawn into this book enough to want to see what happened in the end. Lacey Anne, the main character, has an innocent voice that carries the story well and makes you want to get to know what’s going on. While at times she seemed younger than sixteen, I can chalk that up to the character being from a small, evangelical town, and to the innocence that is so obvious from the beginning. Lacey Anne has a good, strong development through the story and I liked the highs and lows she experienced. They felt like a natural progression, leading her to discover things about herself without seeming overdone.

The details about the Hell House had me creeped out, which might not be what the author was going for, but I believe she portrayed the whole idea realistically. That goes along with Walker’s treatment of the religious beliefs of the characters – I do feel like she tried to write this book while respecting the evangelical religions, and by the end of the book, Lacey Anne hasn’t given up her faith but also hasn’t submitted wholly without getting her questions answered. I felt that it was fair and it shows a respectfully open mind.

Overall, the story kept me interested. The characters are definitely done well. I did have some issues with some of the dialogue at times seeming unnatural or forced. While there wasn’t any time where I felt a “message” was being shoved at me, some of the conversation the kids have at the end felt stilted, as though a “moral” was being given and being unsuccessfully hidden in a page of dialogue.

Of course, that didn’t keep me from enjoying the book as a whole, and I still recommend it as great reading. The title may make you think it’s deep and hard to get through, but the writing is light and very easy to like and connect with.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Super Holiday Giveaway 1

Today kicks off my season of giving stuff away! This is my "I'm thankful for all my ARCs" grab bag giveaway. You won't know what you get until you get it, but some of my ARCs include:
  • Tempest Rising, by Tracy Deebs,
  • The Lost Saint, by Bree Despain,
  • Trial by Fire, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, and
  • Drought, by Pam Bachorz.
Someone may get my ARC of Crescendo, by Becca Fitzpatrick as well. For this first giveaway, there will be up to four winners.

Just be sure to follow the blog, tweet about the contest, and leave a comment on this blog post, and that enters you to win! Winners will be chosen at random after November 15th, so you have until then to enter.

Good luck and thanks for being part of my blog!

~ Vilate

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fantasy Friday: Sisters Red

Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce

Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 324 (hardcover)
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: mid-high

If you haven’t already, check out my interview with the lovely and talented Jackson Pearce from this year’s Austin Teen Book Festival: http://bit.ly/p1rDWY

From GoodReads:

Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris--the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls' bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an axe and Scarlett's only friend--but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they've worked for?

Of course I failed to read this one before ATBF and my interview with J.P. I didn’t actually finish it until about a week ago. Partly because I had a hard time finding time, and partly because it took me a while to get into the story. The beginning was slow for me, but I felt the action and plot pick up about midway through. So where the first ten or so chapters took me almost two weeks, I finished the rest of it within two days.

I had a really difficult time liking Scarlett March, one of the two sisters and voices in the novel. She was overbearing and extremely rigid for a main character, and I think she reminded me of someone I know who I consider a little insane and hard to get along with. However, as a character, she’s very rich in personality and history. I saw why she had developed her particular personality quirks and I understood, even though none of it made her a sympathetic character for me.

On the other side of that is Rosie March, and oddly enough I also didn’t like her much until about halfway through the story. I found her weak-willed and sappy. Again, she was very well-written. I just couldn’t seem to like her, and that made it difficult for me to really get into this tale.

I’ve put books down for less (Beautiful Creatures will never leave my to-be-finished pile!), but the premise of the story was too interesting, and I stuck it out to the halfway point before deciding my fate with the book. Luckily, Rosie became more interesting and J.P. added depth by moving the characters to a different city with new problems to overcome. The added tension caught my interest more, as well, and little details started coming in as mystery and intrigue for me.

And one huge detail had me on the edge of my seat – I thought I knew what would happen, but J.P. effortlessly turned my attention elsewhere, only to reveal that I was right in the first place! I love mysterious details like that.

So overall, I liked this one, and I would recommend it. Not everyone will feel the same way I did about the characters, and it wasn’t enough to stop me from reading. The ending was well worth the slow beginning.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fantastic Holiday Giveaway

Christmas is my favorite holiday, so in honor of that, I'm doing a supergiveaway. Many will play, many will win.

Some of the books will be simple comment/follow/win giveaways. Some will involve answering some trivia, or doing something in the holiday spirit and then commenting, etc. Some people will get gift cards or other bookish, fun, holiday items. One person will win a holiday basket filled with fun goodies. All the books will be kept secret until you get your package in the mail, all gift-wrapped for Christmas fun. Some books will be ARCs, and some signed copies of popular titles.

To win any of the prizes, you'll need to be a follower of the blog, so if you aren't already and you want to get a jump on it, take a moment to become a follower now. :) The giveaway event will start mid-November. It'll be one prize per person, in most cases.

And if anyone catches the Christmas spirit and would like to participate by donating books, gift cards, or anything else, let me know. The more, the merrier when it comes to Christmas. If you'd like to donate, but don't have anything specific, you can just go the monetary route by clicking our 'Donate' button in the sidebar. That will automatically enter you into all of the contests, no matter if you've already won something or not. If you donate $20 or more, you'll get a special gift, and a part of all monetary donations will go to kidsneedtoread.org. Please know that I don't want this to seem like I'm soliciting monetary or other donations - the giveaways are free to all followers of the blog. This is just an option for anyone who'd like bigger participation. :D

Other bloggers who'd like to participate on their own blogs are also more than welcome. Anyone who wants in on this will go on a list of participating bloggers and links will be posted here whenever someone posts a participating contest once my event starts.

So that's it! Check back here for updates on this event. If you have any questions and/or are a blogger who wants into the event, or if you want more info on donating, email me at podcast at yaliteraturereview.com. Happy Holidays, everyone!

~ Vilate

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sci-Fi Saturday: Human.4

Human.4, by Mike A Lancaster

Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: 240 (hardcover)
Reading Level: 12 and up
Enjoyment Level: High

Egmont has really been hitting home runs for me lately. This is no exception. I loved getting this one along with a few other ARCs from them. Not only did I get to read it, but my brother really liked it, as well, so that’s another plus for the book.

From GoodReads:

Kyle Straker volunteered to be hypnotized at the annual community talent show, expecting the same old lame amateur acts. But when he wakes up, his world will never be the same. Televisions and computers no longer work, but a strange language streams across their screens.

Everyone’s behaving oddly. It’s as if Kyle doesn’t exist.

Is this nightmare a result of the hypnosis? Will Kyle wake up with a snap of fingers to roars of laughter? Or is this something much more sinister?

Narrated on a set of found cassette tapes at an unspecified point in the future, Human.4 is an absolutely chilling look at technology gone too far.

The premise of this book grabbed my attention while at the same time giving me an eerie feeling, right from the start. The story is narrated by Kyle Straker, who has a nice but bold voice that I think can easily resonate with teen boys. He’s introduced to us as a normal kid who has a pretty normal life in his small town. And he’s strong enough to keep it together as events and people around him become more difficult to handle.

After the hypnotism, Kyle and the other characters who were under band together and try to deal with what happened as a sort of hodge podge team. They have their hard times, but I liked the dynamic of all the characters together, working towards their goal of figuring out what has suddenly happened to their world. They’re all interesting characters separately, as well, so that helps with their chemistry together.

Although there aren’t many big action scenes, I did feel the tension and suspense of the story. I kind of knew what was going on the whole time, but still found myself anxious as I read because the characters were so real to me that I worried for them. The book blurb promised me chills, and I found them, although this is not a horror story.

What a great book for boys. And it’s a great sci-fi read and should have you turning the page to make sure Kyle gets through safely on the other side.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Austin Teen Book Festival - Review

This past weekend was the awesome Austin Teen Book Festival. I dragged a high school friend up there and we hung out on Friday night with a bunch of fabulous bloggers.

Threadgills is amazing! Great food and the waitress was patient with everyone. C and I walked 6th street, but had to call it quits because we were both sick and we had to get up early-ish on Saturday for the festival. Luckily, I booked us a room at the Hilton Garden Inn. I almost booked at the Homestead, which is where a lot of other bloggers and authors ended up staying. So glad I didn't! I love Austin, but the Homestead is one destination I'll never have to arrive at.

The festival started at 10am. I was late, as per usual, but I didn't miss much. The place was packed (The Palmer Events Center). Scott Westerfeld gave the keynote address and had the audience laughing a lot. He's a wonderful speaker and he really knows how to connect with a room full of teenagers. What a great choice for keynote speaker!

After the keynote, we had time to get to the first panel session (they had five panels to choose from and three time-slots). The Palmer has one main hall and a few meeting rooms upstairs. Unfortunately, the organizers of the Festival put three of the panels in the big meeting hall with just some curtains dividing the room. So the first hour downstairs was kind of a mess. I will give them credit for realizing their mistake and rearranging panels so only one at a time was going on in the main hall. I'm sure next year they'll make other arrangements.

I was very happy with the selection of authors and panels. It was really nice to see such a wide range of genres represented there. Last year was also good, but I definitely felt like this was better, although I really enjoyed having the festival at a high school. The big event center kind of made it feel a little impersonal.

I'd say the low point came with the signings at the end of the day. They packed in the panels and didn't allow enough time for the actual book signings, which disappointed a lot of kids. Not everyone got everything signed. I think the mistake came when the allowed about the same amount of time as last year, but they this year there were several more authors. It would have been nice to have a bit more time.

But I came away with several interviews to post on the podcast, and I'll get to each one along with reviews and possibly some giveaways. I had a great time, and my hat is off to the organizers of Austin Teen Book Festival. Not many people can get something like that together without too many hiccups, and these folks did a great job with such a huge gathering of fest-goers. I can't wait until next year!

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fantasy Friday: Supernaturally

Supernaturally, by Kiersten White

Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 352
Reading Level: 12 and up

Paranormalcy was one of my absolute favorite books of last year, so I was super excited for Supernaturally.

From GoodReads:

Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.

So much for normal.

I'm a little torn with how I feel about Supernaturally. Don't get me wrong, I loved it, but last year, Paranormalcy sucker punched me with its freshness and originality. It had that real "Wow" factor because it was so unique, not only in storyline, but in the way the story was told. Since I've already been exposed to it, I was less blown away by Supernaturally. That being said, Supernaturally still kept all the awesome elements I loved from Paranormalcy and advanced the story in a way I think will make Endlessly amazing.

Let's start with the voice. Bleeping amazing! Evie jumps right off the page and makes me jealous I don't have Kiersten White's genius. Even in the most dire of circumstances, the narrative is funny but not in a distracting way. Aaand, how cute are Evie and Lend? The book could've been entirely encompassed by their flirting and I still would've been pleased.

I'm a little surprised, but I didn't dislike Reth in this novel. I'll be honest, I hated him through most of Paranormalcy and only at the end did I start to hate him a little less (which, is due to his character, not any flaw on White's part). Reth's involvement in the story makes him more and more intriguing. I kind of want to go back and read Paranormalcy again, knowing what I know now, and see if I can like him a little more. Also, Neamh = lovely.

I think what I really enjoyed about Supernaturally--besides the amazing characters, voice, plot, and overall great writing--was the moral dilemmas. There were several of them in this book and they were examined with just the right amount of attention. They didn't overwhelm the story nor were they rushed over. I have a feeling the conclusions of these dilemmas are key for the last book and it makes me extremely excited.

If you haven't read Supernaturally (or *dies at the thought* Paranormalcy) you should go do that. Now. Even if you're not a fan of paranormal I think you'll like it.

Happy reading!


Monday, August 15, 2011

MiddleGrade Monday: The Secret Language of Girls

The Secret Language of Girls, by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Publisher: Atheneum (Simon Schuster)
Pages: 256 (paperback)
Reading Level: 9-12 (middlegrade)
Enjoyment Level: Medium

This is another one from my good friends at Simon Schuster. And it’s another one I’d seen around and heard about, but didn’t read until I got my copy from the publisher.

From GoodReads:

In the old days, when Kate had no interest in romance, she never cared what other people thought. Now, it appeared, love was turning her into a rotten human being.

Eleven-year-old Kate Faber wishes she could talk to her best friend Marylin about this. But Marylin is no longer her best friend. Or is she? Kate and Marylin had always been the kind of best friends who lived on the same block for their entire lives and who could agree on the kind of boys worth kissing (only movie stars) or who should be invited to their sleepover (definitely not Mazie Calloway or Elinor Pritchard). The kind of best friends who didn't need words to talk, but who always just knew.

But lately Marylin has started to think that Kate can be a bit babyish. And Kate thinks that Marylin is acting like a big snob. And a lot of the time, well, it feels as though they just don't know each other anymore. Somehow nothing is the same, but secretly Kate and Marylin both wish that it could be....

I think I must be losing my touch with middlegrade books. I just wasn’t terribly impressed and I think part of it is just that I haven’t read many for this age range. I know what I liked and disliked about the book, but I might be behind in what’s the norm for MG books.

I liked the characters just fine. They seemed slightly young at times for being in sixth grade, but the personalities worked for me. The author did a wonderful job at building the girls and making them pop as real people in real situations, and all of the side characters were well-rounded. I don’t usually enjoy books where the point-of-view switches between characters, but it worked all right for this storyline. I did like getting both perspectives, since the book was about both of the girls.

The plot didn’t really work for me as well, though. It fell flat in several places and left me questioning the reasons behind various plot points. The writing was sort of simplistic, which, I think, led me in feeling like the girls were younger than sixth graders. I wanted a more mature writing style to really help drive the story and tie everything together. By the ending of the book, I still wasn’t quite sure where the plot was going, and it left me hanging, but not as though it was a cliffhanger.

In my mind, I’m comparing this to Princess for Hire, by Lindsey Leavitt and I much prefer that story and writing style to this one. That’s not to say others and MG girls won’t like this one. I just wouldn’t suggest it to reluctant readers, as it isn’t as fast-paced as other books. The characters are relatable for younger readers, so that’s a definite check in the pro column. Readers will be able to identify and others may have a better time enjoying the plot than I did. It’s worth checking out if you’ve got young girls in the house.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate ~

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Across the Universe

Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Pages: 398 (hardcover)
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: Highest

There was a movie a few years ago called Across the Universe, so when this one came out, I thought it hadn’t just come out – I thought it was a book of the movie. I couldn’t figure out why everyone was suddenly talking about it. Of course, I was set straight eventually, and put it in my to-read pile.

From GoodReads:

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

So many, many amazing books have been released lately! I feel like it’s impossible to read all of the good ones and do justice to them in reviews and interviews. Plus, I’ve been slacking in reviewing what I’ve read recently. It’s hard to know exactly what to say with a book like this one, though. It was just fabulous!

The story is dystopian, but it’s mystery, as well, with a lot of science fiction thrown in. I loved the plot – it kept me hooked. The intricacies of life on the spaceship got more and more interesting as the book moved on and mysteries were revealed. I felt like the writing was solid, and just enough information was given at any one time. It kept me turning pages (and staying up late).

Amy is a good character. I felt so sorry for her but cheered when she did what she had to. Her interactions with others on the ship drove home all the differences between what we know as modern life and what the characters knew on the ship. I can’t say that Amy was a stand-out character if she was compared to some others I’ve read recently, but for the story and her chemistry with Elder, the development is spot on. I believed the relationship between the two of them.

I did guess who the bad guy was early on. I don’t know if the author meant to be more subtle, but I was clued in at the introduction of this particular character, and the subsequent development of that storyline had me sure long before the mystery was solved. On the other side of that, the other “bad guy” character development did surprise me a little, so I felt that it was all balanced out in the end.

This is definitely a favorite for me this year, and I can’t wait to read the sequel. I’m so excited to keep reading about Amy, Elder, and the unusual lives people live on the ship. I highly recommend this one. You won’t be sorry if you read it.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate ~

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fantasy Friday: Tempest Rising

Tempest Rising, by Tracy Deebs

Publisher: Walker Books
Pages: 352 (hardcover)
Reading Level: 12 and up
Enjoyment Level: medium

I love getting free stuff! At this year’s Houston Teen Book Con, they were giving ARCs away as “door prizes” as you entered. I remembered seeing the cover of this one on GoodReads at one point, and I got the last one they were giving away! Lucky me!

From GoodReads:

Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water's temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her—and that the entire ocean's future hangs in the balance.

I liked this one quite a bit. The writing drew me in and kept me reading, and I didn’t feel there was anywhere the story lagged. I don’t think the plot and characters were quite as well-developed as they could’ve been, though, which keeps this book from getting my highest rating.

Tempest is the most well-rounded character in the book, and she is interesting. As she comes into her powers and realizes what awaits her as half-mermaid, I did feel like it was a natural and gradual development for the most part. There were a couple of places where I wasn’t sure what was going on and the confusion left me irritated. I’m not sure if that’s because it happened too fast, or things somehow just got jumbled.

Kai felt slightly more flat to me, although he wasn’t terrible. I think I just didn’t really feel the right kind of connection between him and Tempest. I know I was supposed to get the idea that they’re deeply connected, but that lacked a little spark or something to make it a nice, dramatic thing. I liked that Kai was a selkie, though, and the family dynamic he had gave more depth to the character.

There is a lot of action once Tempest ends up under the ocean. It helped make the story seem less simplistic. The author did give us a couple of really dramatic moments that had me holding my breath in anxiety, so full marks for the battle and action sequences.

Despite the taste of destiny, I feel like this is a lighter fantasy that will be enjoyable for a range of audiences. I may not have connected much to Kai, but younger girls will definitely find him crush-worthy, and Tempest is a strong female lead. It’s worth a read and makes for a good summer tale.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Contest Winner: Cryer's Cross

Sorry everyone, for the crazy late winner here. I'm heading to Florida next week, and of course I've been running around like I have no idea what I'm doing. But, better late than never...

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. And thanks to everyone who reads the blog. I appreciate all the support and the continued readership, despite my terrible track record at putting things up on a regular basis!

So, the winner of a signed copy of Cryer's Cross is:

Maggie Desmond-O'Brien said...

Yay! I've wanted to read this one forever. =) Thanks for the giveaway!



Maggie, please email me at blogger@yaliteraturereview.com to claim your prize. I'll need your mailing address so I can send this your way. Thanks!!!

~ Vilate

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Wild Roses

Wild Roses, by Deb Caletti

Publisher: SimonPulse
Pages: 296 (paperback)
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: Mid-high

This is the first book I’ve read of hers. She was the keynote speaker at this year’s Houston Teen Book Con and she was so great! I loved hearing her speak. Naturally, it made me want to read something she’d written and this one sounded the most interesting.

From GoodReads:

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Morgan lives with a time bomb (a.k.a. her stepfather, Dino Cavalli). To the public, Dino is a world-renowned violin player and composer. To Cassie, he’s an erratic, self-centered bully. And he’s getting worse: He no longer sleeps, and he grows increasingly paranoid. Before Cassie was angry. Now she is afraid.

Enter Ian Waters: a brilliant young violinist, and Dino’s first-ever student. The minute Cassie lays eyes on Ian, she knows she’s doomed. Cassie thought she understood that love could bring pain, but this union will have consequences she could not have imagined.

In the end, only one thing becomes clear: In the world of insanity, nothing is sacred. . .

I probably should stop going into books with expectations. I thought this one would have a much more dramatic ending than it did. From the beginning, the situation that’s foreshadowed from Cassie’s retelling made me very nervous about how this would turn out. There’s a lot of building up, and of course, that made me want to read and read. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed when it came down to it.

The characters, however, are very interesting. I liked Cassie and I felt like she told her story in a way that made it accessible. I cared very much about what would happen to her and between her and Ian. I also really liked Ian, and the side characters we met along the way. We’re not meant to like her stepfather, of course, and I didn’t, but he was a well-drawn character. The only one I felt was lacking was Cassie’s mother. She just wasn’t quite rounded out enough for me.

Overall, though it wasn’t what I expected, I found the writing to be done well and I enjoyed getting to know Cassie and her situation. I can’t say this one would be great for reluctant readers, but it’s a good showing for anyone who likes straight up teen fiction. The musical element is interesting, and Cassie keeps the story going with a great voice and deep connections to her fellow characters.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Monday, June 20, 2011

MiddleGrade Monday: Princess for Hire

Princess for Hire, by Lindsey Leavitt

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 239 (paperback)
Reading Level: 10 and up
Enjoyment Level: High

This one has been on my list for a while, and I was so excited to see her at this years Houston Teen Book Con. I picked it up and had it signed while I was there.

From GoodReads:

When Desi Bascomb gets discovered by the elite Facade Agency–royalty surrogates extraordinaire–her life goes from glamour-starved to spectacular in a blink. As her new agent, Meredith, explains, Desi has a rare magical ability: when she applies the ancient Egyptian formula “Royal Rouge,” she can transform temporarily into the exact lookalike of any princess who needs her subbing services. Dream come true, right?

Well, Desi soon discovers that subbing involves a lot more than wearing a tiara and waving at cameras. Like, what do you do when a bullying older sister puts you on a heinous crash diet? Or when the tribal villagers gather to watch you perform a ceremonial dance you don’t know? Or when a princess’s conflicted sweetheart shows up to break things off–and you know she would want you to change his mind?

In this hilarious series debut, one girl’s dream of glamour transforms into something bigger: the desire to make a positive impact. And an impact Desi makes, one royal fiasco at a time.

For some reason, I thought this would be for older kids, but it’s definitely middlegrade reading. I flew through it quickly, and really enjoyed the story. I like the unique take on the princess theme. Desi gets to live the lives of princesses, even if she isn’t one herself, but it helps her take charge of her real life, too.

Desi is a great main character. She’s fun and she’s got a mind of her own. There are some things she struggles with, which make her grounded and realistic, despite the magic of being a princess-double. Desi wants to help people and make an impact. She doesn’t always stick to the rules and she deals with the consequences of that – and things still turn out okay in the end.

The other characters don’t necessarily fade into the background, but they don’t feel like major players either, except for Meredith. There are definitely things going on with her. I like how she interacts with Desi. Despite coming across as dismissive, we get to see why she’s like that and we get to see why she makes the best agent for Desi.

If you know a little girl who dreams of being a princess, this one is for her. It’s a good one for the pre-Princess Diaries age group. The story is excellent and it’ll keep even reluctant readers reading to find out how Desi gets into and out of her spots of trouble.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: The Goddess Test

The Goddess Test, by Aimee Carter

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 293 (paperback)
Reading Level: 14 and Up
Enjoyment Level: High

***Spoilers Below***

This is my first review since I got my stuff stolen out of my car! I lost a bunch of reviews I’d already written to post. Bummer, right? Well, I’m still kind of picking up the pieces, but luckily, I’ve kept my spirits up by reading some awesome books.

From GoodReads:

It's always been just Kate and her mom—and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld—and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy—until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.

I’ve decided it’s time for me to stop paying attention to “trends” in the market, and yet, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve read two fairly-recently-published books having to do with the Greek gods. And they’ve both been fantastic. The Goddess Test wasn’t quite what I expected, either, which is always a good thing.

I liked the whole set up of the plot. Kate is a nice character who is in a lot of pain, but doesn’t let that stop her from being a good person. She’s also driven, trying to change her situation with the tools that are presented to her. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but I like how she deals with the consequences.

The other characters were just as good. I found myself hoping Henry would win out in the end. Hoping that he would be able to care about Kate and save himself. I also really liked seeing how the other characters interacted, and knowing that all of the Greek gods would come into play, I tried to figure out who was who.

I only had one tiny grumble, and that’s about how quickly Kate decided she was really in love with Henry. I expected it to take longer and develop more slowly, but it didn’t. Other than that… I really liked how the mystery came together and how the ending met my expections but didn’t become completely predictable. It left me wanting more. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

The Goddess Test is fun and interesting. Not too deep, but certainly not just fluff. Despite it taking place during the fall and winter, it would make a nice summer read. I highly recommend it.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Cryer's Cross

Cryer’s Cross, by Lisa McMann

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 232
Reading Level: 12 and up
Enjoyment Level: High

I’m not sure how to intro this one. I went to the event at Blue Willow Bookshop when Lisa McMann was in Houston – I’d never read anything of hers before, but Cryer’s Cross sounded really interesting. I tried to get in contact with her publicist for an interview, but I never heard back. Luckily, Lisa is awesome and she gave me a few minutes of her time anyway (hear the interview HERE). She gave us a great author event full of readings from Cryer’s Cross and her new, upcoming series. And afterward, I read CC and loved it.

From GoodReads:

Kendall loves her life in small town Cryer’s Cross, Montana, but she also longs for something more. She knows the chances of going to school in New York are small, but she's not the type to give up easily. Even though it will mean leaving Nico, the world's sweetest boyfriend, behind.

But when Cryer's Cross is rocked by unspeakable tragedy, Kendall shoves her dreams aside and focuses on just one goal: help find her missing friends. Even if it means spending time with the one boy she shouldn't get close to... the one boy who makes her question everything she feels for Nico.

Determined to help and to stay true to the boy she's always loved, Kendall keeps up the search--and stumbles upon some frightening local history. She knows she can't stop digging, but Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried...

This is a tense book. Pretty much the whole time, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I love that the mystery and creepiness just kept me reading. The story kept me interested and engaged, and offered a few surprises and twists that I didn’t expect.

Kendall is a great character. I love that she has OCD and deals with it the best she can. Even though I don’t have that problem, I could empathize with her. I had no trouble connecting with her personal story. Her quirks really felt like they made her who she is, and although she struggled with the disorder, she would’ve been a different person with a different outcome if she hadn’t had that trial to deal with. I love that the author writes clearly enough to show that our trials help prepare us to handle things we encounter outside of our lives and experience.

I highly recommend this one. It’s great for reluctant readers, too, since it hooks the reader quickly and keeps the tension high until the ending. It’s got a touch of the paranormal, but it’s not overstated or overdone, so readers of straight fiction and of mysteries will like it as well.

Here's your chance to win a signed copy - just follow the guidelines below.

  1. be a blog follower
  2. tweet, blog, or facebook about the contest
  3. leave a comment on this post with a link to your tweet, blog, etc.

You have until May 16th to enter. Sorry, due to major budget cuts, this one is not open internationally. :(

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Monday, May 2, 2011

Middle-grade Monday: The Genie Scheme

The Genie Scheme, by Kimberly K Jones

Publisher: McElderry Books
Pages: 179 (paperback)
Reading Level: Middle-grade
Enjoyment Level: Medium

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Simon and Schuster, I got a whole load of books for middle-graders to review. I’m making my way through them, and this will be the first I’ll share with you. (Lucky you!)

From GoodReads:

When Janna impulsively buys a winter hat for a bag lady, she expects nothing in return. But Janna's kindness pays off in a big way when the bag lady turns out to be a genie! Now Janna is the genie's master and she couldn't be happier, especially when she learns that the "three wishes" rule is strictly for fairy tales!

Before long, Janna's room is overflowing with clothes and gadgets -- but things aren't quite as simple as they seem. Making wishes comes with its own set of rules, and Janna discovers that "unlimited" has some...well, limits. Genies can't make something out of nothing, so everything that Janna wishes for is taken from somebody else. Oops. And then there's the problem of genie wattage -- there's only so much of it, and Janna is using it up faster than she'd like. What's a greedy girl to do?

With insight, warmth, and a refreshing dose of humor, Kimberly K. Jones puts a new twist on the old adage "Be careful what you wish for."

I can’t say this is the strongest middle-grade showing I’ve read. It’s cute, and witty in parts. The flow of the story is probably the best thing the story has going for it. I felt like the plot moved nicely along, pulling me toward the ending without any snags or points where I felt snags. From the beginning, we see the direction of the plot, and the author delivers what you expect.

That said, the main character, Janna, isn’t terribly likeable, even at the end after she’s done her growing. The point is that she grows from a greedy, selfish girl, to one who thinks of others. I think it’s poorly executed here. Janna has few redeeming qualities – the fact that she buys a hat for a poor elderly woman is the only moment that pointed to an underlying good nature in Janna, and that was at the beginning. It was difficult for me to really enjoy the book while I was totally exasperated with the main character. She also seemed much younger than thirteen.

The moral of the story is not subtle in any way. It smacks you upside the head from the beginning, and that also made it difficult to really enjoy this. Maybe I’ve gotten used to the intricacies and nuances that are in older teen fiction, but I found that I didn’t like being forced to have the theme and moral shoved in my face.

But I’ll end on a positive note and say that I loved the interplay between Janna, the genie, and Janna’s friend Albert. That gave me a few chuckles here and there. Albert is a great character and he surprised me more than once, which was a welcome thing in this book.

Although I didn’t care for the story, it’s still a decent middle-grade novel for kids who like magic. And with the pace of the plot, it’s a good one for some reluctant readers. There’s a lot of action and the flow will keep reluctant readers from losing interest.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Wither

Wither, by Lauren DeStefano

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: Highest, Highest, Highest

I have to thank Anna and Bernadette over at S & S publicity for sending this book to me. I wanted to read it and my wish was granted without even asking for it! I love, love, love this book.

From GoodReads:

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

So this is one where I could just put “gush, love, gush” for the entire review, but that wouldn’t be very informative, would it? You want to read about how the characters are amazing and the story is intense and interesting.

The characters are amazing. Rhine’s plight doesn’t make her whiny or pathetic. She shows a quiet strength and a lot of depth as she struggles to make sense of what’s happened to her. Her new life is hard on her, but in her world, the wealth she’s thrown into is enough to turn her head a few times. She holds on by remembering freedom and that she has a brother who needs her. I loved the grace she showed under pressure, and the way she handled her relationships with her sister wives and her “husband”.

I thought Wither would be more of a fantasy, but the plot is definitely sci-fi with it’s genetically engineered children and virus. There are a lot of questions about what’s happening to the human race. I loved the way the author handled the characters researching an antidote to the virus. Just like issues in reality, the fictional issue had people on both sides – those that said the human race needed the antidote and those who were for humans to die out gracefully. And set against this, the father of Rhine’s “husband” is determined and relentless in his pursuit of an antidote.

I started and had to finish this in just one day. I couldn’t put it down, and that’s definitely the mark of an excellent book. If you haven’t put this on your to-read list, you should. It’s well worth the read, and it’s a unique idea in the current dystopian overload.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fantasy Friday: Dragonfly

Dragonfly, by Julia Golding

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Corp
Pages: 390 (hardcover)
Reading Level: 12 and up
Enjoyment Level: High

This is another fantasy that I absolutely enjoyed. I remember more and more how much I loved fantasy novels as a kid, and I’m glad to see so many of them around in the YA market now.

From GoodReads:

Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands is appalled when she is ordered to marry Prince Ramil of Gerfal. And he's not too pleased, either. She is used to a life of discipline, ritual, and splendor. He is used to hunting and carousing. They hate each other on sight. But both of their countries are under threat from a fearsome warlord, and the only chance of peace is to form an alliance.

When Tashi and Ram are kidnapped, they fear there's no escape--from their kidnappers or from each other. Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive ambush, unarmed combat, brainwashing, and imprisonment? And will the people they meet on their adventure--including a circus strongman, a daring rebel leader, a sinister master of spies, and the best female fighter they have ever seen--help them or betray them to the enemy?

As pure fantasy goes, this hits the spot. I loved it from start to finish. The plot kept the tension going and there were a lot of twists and turns I didn’t see coming. Adventure and danger added to the fantastical, so it wasn’t just your typical quest-type book or even hero-journey.

The characters are great. I loved the blending of cultures and personalities. Taoshira is excellent as a princess who is struggling to fit into her own world. Once she’s thrown into the land of Gerfal, all she has are the customs and rituals she’s been taught. I particularly liked watching the changes and growth she goes through as a character when her religion and faith are tested after she’s kidnapped. The faltering of her faith is natural and it gives her dimension.

Ram is also a great character. His growth and development are complemented by Tashi’s and it was so nice to see the connection between the two of them solidify as Ram learns about himself on their journey. He matures and becomes the leader he needs to be.

This book didn’t get much attention when it came out, but I highly recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy. On the surface it appears to be a fluff piece of fantasy, but the themes of faith, maturity and love push the story to a different level.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Monday, March 14, 2011

Middle Grade Monday: The Shards of Excalibur

The Shards of Excalibur: Song of the Sword, by Edward Willett

Publisher: Lobster Press
Pages: 336 (Paperback)
Reading Level: 12 and up
Enjoyment Level: Medium

This one came from the publisher as an ARC, though I’m just getting the review up now. I’m not terribly late with it, but…

From the publisher:

Ariane Forsythe’s life is in turmoil. Two years ago, her mother disappeared. She bounced from foster home to foster home until her aunt finally took her in. An outsider at her new school, Ariane quickly becomes the target of group of girls that is determined to make her miserable. And to top it all off, she is having frightening premonitions, and they are becoming more intense. The moment water touches her skin, she sees visions of a lake, a lady, and a sword.

Ariane learns that she is heir to the Lady’s power, and soon the stories she thought were legend become a real life nightmare. She and her unexpected companion, Wally Knight, are charged with finding the scattered shards of Excalibur before Merlin can get his hands on them. The infamous magician, known in this world as software tycoon Rex Major, is trying to recover the pieces of Arthur’s sword so he can reforge it and restore his limitless power. Suddenly, Ariane’s life seems to have a purpose and a clear direction – but how can a troubled teen and her brainy sidekick outwit the ancient, ruthless sorcerer?

I’m not particularly fond of Arthurian tales, as a rule. Arthur is done too often and there aren’t that many new ways to look at him – and there’s very little historical data in the first place. I surprised myself by choosing this book from the publisher, but it sounded interesting and I thought I’d give it a shot.

Song of the Sword is not a fast read. The beginning is pretty slow, and I felt like there were more explanations than were necessary. They dragged the pace a little and kept me from really getting into the plot and the characters. I definitely wished for something more interesting going on for the first part. I think it would have been great if the first four to five chapters had been condensed into one.

I did like the main character, Ariane, and her “sidekick” Wally. They were both developed well, and they felt well-rounded. Wally is particularly interesting as the nerdy kid who attaches himself to Ariane. There’s a nice dark side to him that comes out every once in a while, and it added depth to what was happening.

And the story got interesting about halfway through. Once the action actually got started, I was invested, and wanted to know what would happen. The tension turned on and was only interrupted again once by an explanation of something. Then, I was pleasantly surprised when the main character was thwarted again near the end, making the last bits unpredictable.

It was a different enough take on the Arthurian legend that it didn’t feel as tired as some. I don’t know that I would recommend this to reluctant readers, but it might make a good read-aloud story for classrooms.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Linger

Linger, by Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 368
Reading Level: 14 and up

Last March, I wrote a review for Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver. One of my favorite aspects of the book is it's unique layout. The cover is blue-gray ink on a white background, with blue-gray lettering on the inside. The next in the series, Linger, is similarly made. Instead of a blue-gray color-scheme, Linger has green lettering and a green cover, which is much more appropriate for the warmer weather featured in the story.

Okay, enough about the cover! Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past…and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves… and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

What I enjoyed about Linger is that it kept all the good parts about Shiver and improved upon what I would consider weaknesses. The plot was interesting with new surprises, including the introduction of two new viewpoints. While readers met Isabelle and Cole (briefly) in Shiver, their viewpoints were not expressed. I found their voices refreshing and clearly distinguished from Sam and Grace. The character development of all four teens was well-balanced throughout the story.

In Shiver, I found the pace to be a little off. For my taste, it was too slow in the middle. However, I did not have this experience with Linger. The addition of the new voices helped keep the story flowing. Also, I did not enjoy Grace's viewpoint as much in the first book. With the second story, I realize the reason I don't like Grace's viewpoint is that I could not connect with her. I still had this same feeling in Linger, but the multiple voices distracted me from this issue.

Overall, I think Linger is a great story for anyone who enjoys YA romance and fantasy. I can't wait to read the third installment, Forever, to be released July 12, 2011.

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Contest Winners!

It's time to announce a few winners from recent contests. Right now we've got two that need winners. The contest for The Lost Saint, and also for Dark Days.

(Winners are chosen randomly - my random of choice? Scrabble tiles!)

The Lost Saint has two winners... Congratulations to Danielle Gorman and to Jennie Englund! You each get an ARC copy of The Lost Saint and a bottle of fun, blue nail polish.

The winner of the five books in our Dark Days of Supernatural giveaway is... donnas!

I need all of you to email blogger@yaliteraturereview.com with your addresses. Thanks so much for reading and playing!

~ Vilate

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dark Days of Supernatural

You may have heard about the exciting tour Harper Collins has had going around - The Dark Days of Supernatural Tour. They were nice enough to allow me to host a contest, in honor of this awesome event. (Please check out both links.)

The contest is to win a full set of five books:

- Once in a Full Moon, by Ellen Schreiber (released 12/28/2010)
- Unearthly, by Cynthia Hand (on sale 1/4/2011)
- Angelfire, by Courtney Allison Moulton (on sale 2/15/2011)
- Afterlife, by Claudia Gray (on sale 3/8/2011)
- Desire of the Dead, by Kimberly Derting (on sale 2/15/2011)

This contest is only open to US citizens. To enter, you need to be a blog follower, tweet or blog about this contest, and comment on this post with links to your tweets/blogs. Deadline is February 15, 2011.

You can find info and excerpts below for all the books offered in this giveaway. Good luck!!


Author: Ellen Schreiber

Synopsis: An accessible and clean paranormal series about werewolves—and the popular girl who loves one.

Celeste hangs with the popular crowd at Legend’s Run High and is being wooed by Nash Hunter, the football quarterback, but doesn’t really feel that she belongs. She only comes in contact with the new and enigmatic student, Brandon Maddox, when she passes him in classes, the hallway, and at lunch, but she suspects there is something different about him other than that he is a Westsider and comes from the wrong side of town.

On a dare, Celeste and her friends go to a psychic’s shop for a reading. When it is Celeste’s turn for a fortune, the psychic grabs Celeste’s hands and warns, “Beware of a kiss under the full moon.” Celeste and her friends laugh and mock the fortune teller. But on her way home from their outing, Celeste is blinded by a blizzard. Disoriented, she finds herself deep in the woods bordering town. She is overcome by snowfall and unable to see anything. Above her hovers the glow of a full moon. Just then, she sees beady eyes staring back through the falling flakes. She finds herself in the midst of a pack of hungry wolves. The wolves begin to howl. She can’t outrun them, and the shortest tree branch is out of reach. They slowly approach her. At the last moment, a stranger pulls her from the hungry pack. He grabs a branch and fights the pack of wolves until they retreat. In the scuffle the stranger is bitten. It is Brandon Maddox.

Celeste is enamored by her hero and can’t get him out of her mind. Where Nash is a hero on the field and court, Brandon is a hero in reality. Celeste steals away from her friends to find Brandon, and they meet on a hilltop near his home. A cloudy sky lingers above them, and Celeste realizes she has fallen in love with a Westsider. But in the next few moments, Celeste will face an even bigger challenge than falling for a guy from the wrong side of town. As the two lean in to kiss, the clouds pass, exposing the glow of a full moon. Brandon feels strange and pulls away. Something is about to change—him.


Author: Cynthia Hand

Synopsis: Clara has known she was part–angel ever since she turned fourteen two years ago. But now she is finally getting visions of what her Purpose—a rite of passage for every part–angel—is to be, and it happens to involve a gorgeous guy. Of course, there is the raging forest fire surrounding them, too. When Clara’s Purpose leads her family to Wyoming, Clara finds the boy of her visions, Christian, but complicating her mission are her growing feelings for another guy, Tucker. As the day in her visions draws closer, Clara discovers that her Purpose may play into a larger struggle between angels and Black Wings—fallen angels who spread sadness and misery wherever they go. But when the fire erupts and both Christian and Tucker are in danger, who will she choose to save?

From debut novelist Cynthia Hand comes a riveting tale full of supernatural powers, forbidden romance, and the choice between fulfilling your destiny or following your heart.


Author: Courtney Allison Moulton

Synopsis: When ordinary seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers—monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell—she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between Angels and the Fallen, and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

A mysterious boy named Will, who has been waiting sixty years for her return, reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one armed with angelfire, and capable of fighting the reapers. He is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Her soul has been reborn again and again over the centuries to fight the reapers, and he’s been there for five hundred years to protect and fight alongside her. Now that Ellie’s powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her—an assassin who has already killed her once. At the same time, Ellie is falling in love with Will, even though they know their relationship should be impossible.

While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper–hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to destroy Ellie’s soul forever, not to mention the devastating ramifications for human souls. Now she must face an army of Bastian’s most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives—including truths that may be too frightening to remember.


Author: Claudia Gray

Synopsis: In AFTERLIFE, having become what they feared most, Bianca and Lucas face a scary new reality. They must return to Evernight Academy, Lucas as a vampire and Bianca as a wraith. But Lucas is haunted by demons, both personal and supernatural. Bianca must help him fight the evil inside him-and find the power to claim her destiny at last. Readers have fallen in love with Bianca and Lucas, and they will be thrilled to read this exciting conclusion to their romantic adventure.


Author: Kimberly Derting

Synopsis: Violet and Jay are finally dating, but adjusting to the new relationship is not as easy as Violet anticipated. Especially when she has to split Jay’s time and attention with his new best friend, Mike, and Mike’s pesky younger sister—who happens to be obsessed with Jay. Meanwhile, when Violet’s special abilities lead her to the body of a young boy, her tip to the police puts her on the radar of the FBI. Violet tries to fend off the FBI’s questions while maintaining the semblance of a normal life, but somebody’s leaving her threatening notes and an echo around Mike’s house reinforces that all is not right. Violet is forced to admit that perhaps the only people who can help her figure it out are the very people she’s desperate to avoid—the FBI.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Matched

Matched, by Ally Condie

Publisher: Dutton Books
Pages: 366 (hardcover)
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: Very High

The cover of this book caught my eye first (thanks, GoodReads). It’s gorgeous, and simple – it reminds me a little of the cover for Girl Parts, by John Cusick. Anyway, after the cover got my attention, I read the blurb and decided I had to read the whole thing.

From GoodReads:

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

I love this book! Ally Condie has a beautiful way of writing. I flowed into the story seamlessly, and enjoyed getting to know Cassia and the rest of the characters. But I especially loved the way the poetry is woven into the plot and the development of Cassia. From the opening paragraph to the end, I felt like there was a poetic flow to the writing, and especially to Cassia’s thoughts and voice.

I could say a lot about how I loved watching Cassia grow from na├»ve Society member to rebel… I could talk about how I loved Xander and Ky. There are so many great things to say about this book – but I think the best way for me to review this is to compare it to a couple of my other favorite novels.

This sort of dystopia reminds me of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. Tally, from Uglies, and Cassia aren’t exactly the same, however, they both were perfectly happy in their respective societies until someone else gave them a reason to become something more. Neither of these characters showed much potential for rebellion early on, but the spark was there enough that when the right situation came up, they took the path of resistance. It’s refreshing for me to read characters like that.

I also thought a lot about A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle as I read about the Society. To me, the dystopias which portray “perfect” societies where everyone is the same and everthing is “fair” are far more frightening than those that are more post-Apocalyptic. So just like Camazotz, the Society chilled me, and I hoped that Cassia would be strong enough to see that the world she lived in looked perfect on the outside, but was far from it.

I cannot wait to read the second book in this series. Just one more to add to my to-read shelf!

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Delirium

Delirium, by Lauren Oliver

Publisher: Harper
Pages: 441 (ARC)
Reading Level: 14 and up
Enjoyment Level: Medium/High

In honor of Delirium's release, and the Lauren Oliver event this week at Blue Willow Bookshop, it's time to read and review the book. I enjoyed Before I Fall, and I really looked forward to Delirium. WARNING: spoilers may be contained in this review!

From GoodReads:

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love - the deliria - blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

I've classified this as literary fiction for teens. It definitely has the feel of literary fiction, which I don't normally like, but it has the twist of also being written for teens. Somehow, that balances out the pretense of lit fic somehow.

I'll try not to get into too much detail, since this book has just come out. I can say that I liked the characters in this quite a bit. I liked that Lena's transformation happened slowly. It happened naturally, with the seeds of ideas and love growing, instead of just springing up out of nowhere.

Lena's relationship with Alex worked for me, as did her relationship with her best friend, Hana. The characters meshed so well together, and it helped the pacing along - if they hadn't been so interesting, I might've taken much longer to read the book... The pacing jives with the pacing one might find in a literary fiction novel, so the characters saved me from being bored.

As much as I'm glad this is going to be a trilogy, I have to admit that I'm disappointed in the ending. I found it to be too fraught with drama. I realize that the ending is the impetus for the next two books, but it felt like the author forced Delirium to have this ending simply because it tied up the mentions of Romeo and Juliet. It could just as easily have gone a different way and still give the right punch to the storyline.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the series, because, despite the ending, I really did enjoy the story. Lena is a great character, full of fire, and I want to see where she goes from here.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fantasy Friday: The Lost Saint

The Lost Saint, by Bree Despain

Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: 461
Reading Level: 12 and up
Enjoyment Level: Very High

The non-stop sequel to The Dark Divine delivers an even hotter romance and more thrilling action than Bree Despain's first novel. Grace Divine made the ultimate sacrifice to cure Daniel Kalbi. She gave her soul to the wolf to save him and lost her beloved mother. When Grace receives a haunting phone call from Jude, she knows what she must do. She must become a Hound of Heaven. Desperate to find Jude, Grace befriends Talbot - a newcomer to town who promises her that he can help her be a hero. But as the two grow closer, the wolf grows in Grace, and her relationship with Daniel begins to crumble. Unaware of the dark path she is walking, Grace becomes prideful in her new abilities - not realizing that an old enemy has returned and deadly trap is about to be sprung.

I started reading this book with a nervous twitch in my stomach. I knew something bad or difficult was going to happen and I didn't know if I could handle it. I had fallen in love with these people through the first book, but with my nervous twitch in place I started reading. Since this is the second book, I knew the main characters really well. Grace is a good, strong female lead even while making mistakes; maybe even because of her mistakes. Her feelings and frustrations were readily accessible and believable. I was right there with her even through the times I wanted to choke her and scream at her when she made bad decisions! Luckily, the screaming was only in my head.

Daniel was just as compelling and frustrating. You know what he feels for Grace and all that he would do for her. Knowing all that, I was screaming at him a lot, too. He was also really believable and solid.

Both of them had to deal with the decisions made at the end of the first book, and I think that they did it very realistically. Ms. Despain made it easy to be there with Grace as she dealt with her depressive mother and absent father. Although some of her choices were not the best, I believe she was doing her best.

The other characters, new and old, did nothing but help the story along at a frustrating (in a good way), but workable pace. I never thought to myself "oh my gosh this makes no sense", or "could we move along here?”

The wayward brother Jude - the main driving force for Grace is an enigma. Is he more wolf? more human? Ms. Despain does a really good job of keeping you guessing the whole time. There was no point in the book where I thought I had it figured out before Grace did.

New and old characters work together to bring frustration, chaos, hope, love, and a completely crazy ending to the readers!

Thank you Ms. Despain. I was there, nervous, the entire time. If you loved the first book I have a feeling you will agree with me. I loved this one and can't wait for the next one.


We have two ARC copies of The Lost Saint to giveaway, and each one has a little bottle of blue nail polish specially designed for The Lost Saint.

To enter:

1) be a blog follower
2) leave a comment on this blog entry
3) tweet, FB, or blog about this contest (include links in your blog comment)

The deadline to enter is February 11, 2011. Winners will be chosen and announced the following Wednesday. Good luck!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: The False Princess

The False Princess, by Eilis O'Neal

Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: 336
Reading Level: 12 and up
Enjoyment Level: Very high

It’s books like The False Princess that help me remember how much I love a straight fantasy story. I’ve seen so many urban and realistic fantasy recently that sometimes I forget that high, epic, and classic fantasy were all favorites of mine in junior high and high school.

From GoodReads:

Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court. But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection. Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.

Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks. But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins - long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control - she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.

Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever.

I loved the characters in this. Sinda is likeable, and I found it very easy to empathize with her. She made sense to me, and her reactions to her situation felt natural and very understandable. I felt awful when she was ejected from the life she’d always known, and I cheered when she finally realized what she was meant to do.

The other characters were fun, and they complemented her well. I love Keirnan! What a great, heroic, sweet, but still somewhat frustrating guy. He made it easy to like him and made it easy to root for him with Sinda.

I found the plot a lot less predictable than I thought, which is always a good thing. I thought I had it pretty much figured out until the author threw in the kicker… I won’t tell you what it is, since this is recently published – just don’t get too caught up in thinking you know what’s going on.

This is a great book to read when you need something light, but it’s also deep enough to give you something to sink your reading teeth into. I love the fantasy elements, as well as the mystery and the adventure. And the romance doesn’t hurt, either.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Monday, January 10, 2011

MiddleGrade Monday: Tortilla Sun

Tortilla Sun, by Jennifer Cervantes

Publisher: Chronicle Books
Pages: 218
Reading Level: MiddleGrade
Enjoyment Level: Medium

MiddleGrade isn’t usually my thing, but Jennifer was nice enough to chat with my on the podcast for an episode of Writer’s Desk (check it our HERE). I like to make sure that I get reviews for authors who appear on the show…

From GoodReads:

A tender, magical story about 12 year old Izzy Roybal who is sent to spend the summer in her nana’s New Mexico village where she is soon caught up in the foreign world of her own culture, from patron saints and soulful food to the curious and magical blessings Nana gives her tortillas. In Nana’s village she meets Mateo, the adventurous, treasure seeking thirteen year old boy who lives on the other side of the bolted door in Izzy’s bedroom and six year old Maggie who is raising her cat, Frida, as a dog and sees marshmallow ghosts float out windows. When the wind begins to whisper to Izzy, she is soon led on an adventure to learn about her father’s mysterious death, who she really is, and to connect the hidden pieces of her past.

Although I liked the story, and I loved the setting details, the pacing is a little slow for me. I found myself putting the book down very easily, which isn’t just because I don’t usually do middlegrade books – there are quite a few MGs that I enjoy. I just found that Tortilla Sun wasn’t what I expected in the pacing department.

The characters are very well-done, though. I found Izzy’s journey to be natural and without contrivances to weigh her down. The mystery surrounding Izzy’s father and her mother’s past were both great incentives for her to search out answers.

I can say that the best part of the book was how well the culture was woven in to the storyline. The New Mexico setting and the town Izzy visits are vivid and bright. Definitely not over-the-top with ethnic and cultural references. It just blended so well with Izzy’s journey. And it made me hungry for homemade tortillas.

This is a good one for classrooms and school libraries. I can see a bright future for the author and I am very interested to see what she comes out with next.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate