Monday, January 30, 2012

Charming Canucks: Interview and Giveaway with Eileen Cook

I sometimes feel as if Canadian YA authors aren’t as well known as their American counterparts. Charming Canucks therefore is a new feature I’ve created that will be posted every other month in an effort to spotlight more Canadian YA authors and their books. I’d love it if you could leave some comments on these posts, and hope you enjoy the upcoming interviews and giveaways. 
Today, I'd like to welcome Eileen Cook, the first author to be featured as part of Charming Canucks.

A bit about Eileen (as found on Goodreads): Eileen Cook spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. You can read more about her, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.
Unraveling Isobel, your latest book, was released on January 3 by Simon Pulse. Give three reasons why everyone should read it.
1) It's a fun mix of creepy and funny
2) Who doesn't love a ghost story?
3) My mom says it is awesome and you wouldn't call my mom a liar would you? 

If you had to pick one character from among all those you have created, which one would be your favourite? (I know I'm being evil ;) My personal favourite is Hailey because she's so neurotic). 
Oh evil question. I'm glad you like neurotic, I think all my heroines are a bit bent in that direction (this may say a lot about me). Of course I love all my characters for different reasons, but I tend to be most in love with one that is in the book I am currently writing. I think it is because I am in her head at the time, it's like being in a really intense love relationship. At the moment I'm finishing up a book with a character named Sadie. She's a teen age con artist. I adore her.

You’re known for writing light-hearted, humorous YA contemporaries. Is there another genre you’d love to try your hand at someday? Is there a genre you could never see yourself writing?
If you saw my bookshelves you would think I must have reader ADD. I read everything, historicals, thrillers, mysteries, non-fiction, science fiction, paranormal, YA, adult... you name it and there is likely something on my shelf that fits. I would love to try writing in every genre, the problem I have is that I have a hard time not being funny. Even when I'm trying really hard to be serious, it can come out as funny so my chances of writing a very serious literary novel are slim. I'd try writing any genre, I really enjoy the storytelling process, which is a good thing because writing 300 or so pages takes a lot of time. 

What is your writing process like? Are you a pantser or a planner?
I am a panster by nature, but have developed plotting skills. I have about a zillion books about writing. I am fascinated by all the different ways writers approach their craft. I really enjoy a book called Save the Cat. It is about how to write screenplays, but is really helpful for organizing a book. Now when I start a book I use the structure in that book to lay out the key story points. However, my panster nature is still there - I leave lots of room for things to develop as the story comes along. 

Describe your writing space.
My office used to be the sun porch and it has been closed in. I have lots of windows so I can look out into the back yard (this lets me keep an eye on my dogs who are doing their best to dig as many holes as possible). I have a couple chairs in the office so I have space to sit and read (or knit ). One of my favorite things in my office is the old typewriter that used to belong to my grandfather. When I was a kid I would play writer in his office when visiting. The typewriter is from the late 1920's and weighs at least fifty pounds. I need to keep my desk fairly clean when I am writing or else I can be easily distracted. 

Do you have any writing projects currently planned? If so, can you give a hint of what to expect.
I do! Right now I'm calling the book Shady Sadie, but I'm leaving myself open to changing the title. It's the story of Sadie, a teenage con artist, who when she discovers that she looks like the age enhanced photo of a missing child, decides to pull the ultimate con … until she begins to suspect she might actually be the missing kid. 
This book is scheduled to come out in December. 

Quick Questions:

What's the best thing about living in Vancouver?
The ocean. I love being around water.

You go on a cross-country trip across Canada. What is the one place you have to visit and why?
Just one place? I want to go to Montreal, I've never been. 

What's your favourite book by a Canadian author and why?
One of the best things about being a writer is I sometimes get a sneak peek at books that aren't out yet. There are two new YA's coming in 2012 by Canadian writers that I give a big thumbs up to – The Right and the Real by Joelle Anthony and Never Enough by Denise Jaden. 

A huge thank you to Eileen for taking the time to answer my questions! 

Eileen can be found on: [her blog] [her website] [Twitter] [Facebook] [Goodreads]
Click here to find out more about Eileen's books!
For this giveaway, one person will get the chance to win one copy of any of Eileen's YA books. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Review: The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

From Goodreads: St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue. An evil presence is growing within Europe's royal bloodlines - and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina's strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources ... including two young men - George Alexandrovich, the tsar's standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina's help to safeguard Russia, even if he's repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn. The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges was just such an odd mixture of history, fantasy and paranormal! Set in Russia during the rule of Alexander III, Bridges captures the lifestyle of the rich, but then enmeshes the historical reality with creatures like faeries, vampires, revenants and more. These fantasy and paranormal creatures seem to be discussed randomly early on in mini info dumps. Later in the book, they more or less took precedence – I’m still not fully sure what they were all doing because nothing was really explained; it was so very vague – and the story simply became a blend of fantasy and paranormal that just happened to be set in a historical setting. This was kind of disappointing because I expected something with more “historical” to it. (Although maybe that’s a good thing because as a member of the aristocracy, Katerina wouldn’t be doing much then other than attending balls …)

The romance was also disappointing. It’s not a love triangle like the summary suggests so that was good, but I don’t know … I just wasn’t feeling it. Part of that I think can be attributed to the time period – since there wasn’t a huge amount of private, personal interaction, the switch in feelings from dislike to like from both parties felt kind of sudden.

As well, most of the characters felt very flat. Just as how there were way too many paranormal creatures – none of whom were explored in depth, there were also too many secondary characters. I know there were a lot of aristrocrats, but all the same/similar names and finding out how Katerina was related to everybody just confused me!

Katerina herself was nothing special. While I did like that she was proactive and wanted to be a doctor rather than just aiming to get married, I found her situation a little unbelievable. Assuming you’re a duchess in 1888, why in the world would want to give up your easy, luxurious life to have the unglamorous job of a doctor?

A story that I found weird, but one that didn’t completely bore me; The Gathering Storm was released by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on January 10, 2012.

Comments About the Cover: The clothes the model is wearing immediately tells you that the book is set in Russia, which was one of the reasons why I requested The Gathering Storm.

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Random House) for free via NetGalley.    

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

From Goodreads: Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction. As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions. They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

My Rating: 4 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky was a story that I thought started slowly because it put me smack into the middle of a world I barely comprehended, and used terms which I didn’t understand. As the story progressed however and I started to grasp everything, I ended up getting sucked into the book and falling in love with it.

Basically, the Dwellers have taken shelter permanently from the Aether storms in domed buildings and have become very technologically advanced. Never being able to venture outside I suppose has its perks: the Dwellers have managed to eradicate disease so that they can live up to over a hundred, figured out how to create designer babies, and built virtual environments to avoid boredom.

On the other hand, you have the Outsiders who have learned to live with the Aether storms and developed mutations in the process. Seers have better vision than most; Audiles have sensitive hearing, and Scires have a heightened sense of smell. It all sounds kind of sci-fi-ish, but the Marked’s (i.e. those who have enhanced senses) powers also have a fantasy element to them. Furthermore, Rossi doesn’t go into a huge amount of explanation about her world – so for example, I still don’t know what the Aether is. Still, she makes it work; and over time, I sort of forgot that Under the Never Sky was inconsistent on the science-y details.

I really liked both Aria and Perry, and so it was nice that Under the Never Sky alternated between their perspectives to provide more insight into their character. When Aria is thrown out of Reverie, she has no idea what will become of her. Luckily, Perry has been seeking the Dweller he saved to help him find his nephew. He needs Aria, and she’s smart enough to understand that she needs him to learn how to survive on her own. Theirs is a mutually beneficial arrangement that gradually and unexpectedly blossoms into a romance as the two learn to see beyond their prejudices about ‘Moles’ and ‘Savages’ to the actual person underneath. (Seriously though, what was up with Perry smelling violets? As much as I liked the romance, that part grossed me out.)

The secondary characters were also great; and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Roar and Cinder in the sequel. As well, I’m hoping that Olivia will grace us with her presence in it since I’d like to see how she interacts with Perry, Aria and Roar.  

Under the Never Sky was released by HarperTeen on January 3, 2012.

Comments About the Cover: If there are Aether storms, why does the outside world look very serene? Why is Aria confidently out walking, dressed in leather? If you haven’t figured it out, the cover doesn’t match the story at all.  

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) for free via NetGalley. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Strange Chemistry's First Two Titles

Strange Chemistry - the YA imprint of Angry Robot - has finally revealed its first two titles!

Shift by Kim Curran, the first of two books in a new YA SF thriller series, is about an average, 16-year-old loser, Scott Tyler, meeting the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones and learning that he's not quite so average after all. He's a 'Shifter'. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he's ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world quickly starts to unravel around him he realizes that each time uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.

Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings is about Julie,  an apprentice witch – or so she believes. When a dark power comes stalking out of the past to haunt her and her mother, Julie learns that she is far more than just a witch. With the help of her best friend Marcus and a rather unusual Great Dane, Julie has to race against time to ensure she can defeat the bad guy, save her mother and avoid being grounded – again!

More information can be found at and

Angry Robot is a genre publisher that brings readers the best in new SF, F and WTF?! Strange Chemistry is Angry Robot’s YA imprint. All titles are released as paperbacks and in all major eBook formats. Distribution is through Random House (North America) and GBS (UK). Angry Robot is part of the Osprey Group.

How awesome do those books sound?! I can't wait to see what decisions Scott decides to undo in Shift since everyone has thought about making a different choice at some point in their lives. Sean Cummings is a Canadian author so Poltergeeks is perfect because I'm trying to read and review more books by Canadian authors this year.     

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

From Goodreads: Flipped is a romance told in two voices. The first time Juli Baker saw Bryce Loski, she flipped. The first time Bryce saw Juli, he ran. That’s pretty much the pattern for these two neighbors until the eighth grade, when, just as Juli is realizing Bryce isn’t as wonderful as she thought, Bryce is starting to see that Juli is pretty amazing. How these two teens manage to see beyond the surface of things and come together makes for a comic and poignant romance.

My Rating: 5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen was first recommended to me by Small Review, and after reading Rummanah’s review (she blogs over at Books in the Spotlight), I bumped it up in my TBR pile. I’m so glad I did because I absolutely adored it!

Told in a “he said, she said” style, I loved Bryce’s and Juli’s voices. Beginning with the perspective of Bryce, I immediately agreed with him because Juli seemed kind of loud and annoying. When you read the story through her eyes however, you realize that Juli is actually really smart and thoughtful and not at all how Bryce portrays her. It’s funny how the same event or thing can be interpreted so differently by different people.

A heartwarming tale about growing up, Flipped encourages you to look beyond surface appearances. This may even be the first time you cry over a tree … 

Flipped was released in December 2008 by Knopf Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: Even though the chick is cute, the cover doesn’t make me want to pick the book up.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Character Interview: Daisy Brooks (and Giveaway)

Today, I'd like to welcome Daisy Brooks, the main character from Danielle Weiler's Friendship on Fire to my blog.
Daisy Brooks’s senior year is not off to a great start. Her first assembly as school captain is slightly ruined by her new bright orange hairdo – thanks to her father’s inability to choose correct permanent hair dye. The local Blonde Brigade is already giving her a hard time (and affectionately dubbed her ‘ranga’) and her teachers have done the unthinkable and handed out assignments on the first day back. The one bright spot in Daisy’s first day back is the appearance of a private school boy hottie. Oh, and her best friend and vice-captain, Roman, who she can count on to hold her temper and have her back. But the winds of change are sweeping through Daisy’s small town of Twin Rocks. Turns out the private school hottie is new in town and fast friends with her brothers. His name is Nate and he turns Daisy’s legs to jelly. But her totally platonic best friend, always reliable Roman, is starting to act strange. This is Daisy’s senior year. She’ll learn hard truths and lose small battles on the path to adulthood . . . but, hey, nobody said it was going to be easy.

You're very close with your family, but as the youngest of four kids, you get teased a lot by your older brothers. Now it's your turn to reciprocate; tell me something about Josh, Treston and Shane that they'd be embarrassed by if others were to find out.
Treston used to have giant posters of all his favourite soccer stars on his wall – Ronaldinho, Beckham, Rooney … that is, until Josh told him he was gay. Shane once spat in a burger of a girl who cheated on him in high school. If you ask him outright, he’d deny it. But I saw it. Josh dated the same girl twice and didn’t recognise her the second time. She was pretty mad at him, but she soon forgave him …

You managed to get your driver's license in spite of the fact that you're not a great driver. Has your driving gotten any better or are you still getting into mishaps?
Hey, hey, hey, I am a good driver! I just don’t do well on big hills and poorly placed letterboxes, OK? Look, I’ve been doing really well. I avoid reverse parking like the plague but other than that I’ve only kissed the back of someone’s car once. And it was Roman’s. And he wasn’t happy.

In class, you're frequently daydreaming about going to the beach. Assuming you're not allowed to live in Australia, where would you like to live and why? Where can you never see yourself living and why?       
Well I’d visit Hawaii and see if it’s really as sunny and beachy as everyone says it is and if it does live up to its reputation, I might consider moving there. But I do love Europe and all of its history, too. I’d never live in the Middle East: too much sand and not enough water to show for it!

You have a diary in which you write down your thoughts and poems. When (and why) did you start keeping a diary and can you share one of your early poems with us?
I started a diary when I was 7 years old. I was given one with a giant clown on it by my dad – I think to keep me out of mischief on a family holiday – and I’ve been writing them ever since. I think I’m onto my 9th but I haven’t written in a while (busy uni life. Blame Roman!)
Sure I can share something from when I was younger … I think I was 14 at the time.

Beach Man
I sit on the beach
Watching the sunset
I spot a man
Whom I’ve never met

His shoulders hunched
Eyes lapping the air
His face is jagged
With rough, wild hair

He picks up a stick
And throws it hard
The ocean moans
Its waters scarred

He takes a seat
In the soft cream sand
His loyal dog
Softly licks his hand

The man’s small dog
Feels his sorrow
I might come back
Again tomorrow

So I turn and leave
The pair of them
They are special friends
A heart and a gem.

Now that Year Twelve is over and you're going off to university, what do you think you'll miss most about high school?
Having school as a safety net. It really is. It protects you from the big bad world. But at the same time, I’m glad to be leaving because of, you know, all that stuff. So the change won’t be so hard anymore. I want to learn about stuff I am interested in. YAY no more maths. And I get to hang out with my favourite person still.

Thanks, Daisy, for taking the time to answer my questions! 

Friendship on Fire can be bought from: [Amazon] [The Book Depository]  
For those of you interested in reading Friendship on Fire, Danielle has generously offered to give away two e-copies to readers.
So, read the rules below and then fill out this FORM
  1. You do not have to be a follower to enter.
  2. You must be over the age of  13.
  3. This giveaway will end on Tuesday, January 31 at 11:59 PM.
  4. Make sure your entries are tallied correctly (or else you won't win).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Friendship on Fire by Danielle Weiler

From Goodreads: Daisy Brooks's senior year is not off to a great start. Her first assembly as school captain is slightly ruined by her new bright orange hairdo – thanks to her father’s inability to choose correct permanent hair dye. The local Blonde Brigade is already giving her a hard time (and affectionately dubbed her ‘ranga’) and her teachers have done the unthinkable and handed out assignments on the first day back. The one bright spot in Daisy’s first day back is the appearance of a private school boy hottie. Oh, and her best friend and vice-captain, Roman, who she can count on to hold her temper and have her back. But the winds of change are sweeping through Daisy’s small town of Twin Rocks. Turns out the private school hottie is new in town and fast friends with her brothers. His name is Nate and he turns Daisy’s legs to jelly. But her totally platonic best friend, always reliable Roman, is starting to act strange. This is Daisy’s senior year. She’ll learn hard truths and lose small battles on the path to adulthood ... but, hey, nobody said it was going to be easy. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: Friendship on Fire by Danielle Weiler is like the Aussie version of Miranda Kenneally's Catching Jordan, minus the football. Although Weiler’s book was released earlier, since I read Catching Jordan first and just before reading Friendship on Fire, it was hard not to notice the similarities in plot.

However, while Catching Jordan has Jordan slowly counting down the days until her trip to Alabama, Friendship on Fire really has no goal per se because it’s just a story chronicling Daisy’s Year 12. What makes Friendship on Fire meaningful is that it reminds the reader of their own high school years. Most of us had/have very boring, ordinary lives, and the drama in high school came from arguing with friends, falling in love, sucking at driving lessons, etc. These events wouldn’t be particularly memorable to others but they’re important to us, and I think that’s what Friendship on Fire emphasizes.

Just as I found the story to be realistic, I also thought that Daisy acted like a typical teen. Sometimes she acted wise, but at other times she was sort of naïve and immature. There were times when I liked her, and there were times when I wanted to strangle her because she refused to listen to anybody.

Although I sometimes questioned Daisy’s parents’ decisions, I liked that rather than trying to control their daughter, they allowed her the freedom to make her own choices and mistakes. At the same time, it wasn’t as if there was no parental (or sibling) involvement at all; Daisy actually had a very close family that spent time with each other, and her parents and older brothers were there for her when she needed them to be.

A story that teens and adults can easily relate to, Friendship on Fire was released in March 2011 by Sid Harta Publishers. 

Comments About the Cover: In my mind, Daisy’s hair would be more orange – sort of like Anne of Green Gables'.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Author Interview: Sherry Gammon (and Giveaway)

Today, I'd like to welcome Sherry Gammon, the author of Unlovable to my blog.

A bit about Sherry (as found on Goodreads): Sherry has been writing for several years. Her work has been in several newspapers, and an educational magazine. She and her husband, along with their children and a couple of crazy dogs, call Upstate New York home. 

How did you come up with the idea of Unlovable?
Unlovable was first written as a fantasy story, with shape-shifters and Changelings. Me and my awesome instincts … NOT … decided that the fantasy novel was dying off so I converted Unlovable into a contemporary novel.

Which character from Unlovable are you most like?
None really. Each main character has some of me in them. I found that if I gave the characters some of my traits, I could relate to them better and “get inside their head” easier. Poor Maggie got my hair!!!

You get to go on a date with either Seth, Cole or Booker. Who do you pick and why? 
Booker! I love tall, dark, and handsome (my Hubby is all of these) and I LOVE funny! Plus I love his protective/vulnerable side.

If there's one thing that you hope readers take away from Unlovable, what would it be? 
NEVER EVER give up. Life is hard at times, but you will never be given more than you can handle, although some days it feels like it. Just hang on, or make the changes that will make it better.

I know the next book in the series (Unbelievable) is going to involve Cole, but can you tell us a little more about what to expect from it?
Cole gets pulled into the Dreser world in a big way when Delilah, the Dreser brother’s sister, comes into town to get revenge for the family. Cole also finds love in a very unexpected woman. Booker's over-protective nature goes into overdrive…and there just may be a wedding!

A huge thank you to Sherry for taking the time to answer my questions! 

Sherry can be found on: [her website] [Twitter] [Facebook] [Goodreads]
Unlovable can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [The Book Depository] 

For those of you interested in reading Unlovable, Sherry has generously offered to give away a paperback copy to US readers and an e-copy for international readers.

So, read the rules below and then fill out the US FORM if you have a US mailing address and the INTERNATIONAL FORM if you live anywhere else. 
  1. You do not have to be a follower to enter.
  2. You must be over the age of  13.
  3. This giveaway will end on Friday, January 27 at 11:59 PM.
  4. Make sure your entries are tallied correctly (or else you won't win).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: Unlovable by Sherry Gammon

From Goodreads: Port Fare, New York, has fallen into the clutches of true evil. The Dreser brothers have arrived with a scheme to increase drug sales in the area by whatever means possible. Seth Prescott is part of MET (Mobile Enforcement Teams) a branch of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). He's been assigned to work undercover at Port Fare High, and things aren't going very well, until senior Maggie Brown enters the equation. He's harbored a secret crush on her from day one, and now that she is in the center of the case, he's trying to stay clear and objective while walking the line between business and unrequited love. Maggie is truly the poster child for Heroin Chic, complete with jutting bones and dark-ringed eyes, but is she an addict, or is there another reason for her appearance? She struggles with her feelings for Seth, fearing he is just another person who will eventually let her down, as everyone in her life has done thus far. Maggie has spent her life caring for her alcoholic mother. A task that has left her heavily burdened and alone. Before long, her mother's health takes a turn for the worst, sending Maggie's life into a tale-spin. While Seth works relentlessly to inject fear into the dealers and flush them out into the open, Maggie fights to stay alive as the hunt turns deadly. 
My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Unlovable by Sherry Gammon was a book that started off slowly. But, I soon found myself captivated by the story because although the plot is kind of a little too perfect, Unlovable has characters that are easy to care about and is well-written.

The main character, Maggie, has grown up in relative poverty with an alcoholic and verbally abusive mother. Despite this, Maggie remains a generous and caring person. She even continues to care for her mother in the hopes that her mother will reward her with some attention and affection! Still, Mrs. Brown’s horrible words do have an effect on Maggie, making her believe that she is unworthy of being loved when she catches the interest of Seth.

There are also some occasional chapters from the perspective of Seth and the villains in the story. Bill was bad, but he was nothing compared to his brother whose behaviour suggests that he has antisocial personality disorder. Normally, I don’t find villains very terrifying but Alan scared me because there are actually people like him out and about in the world. Hopefully, we never have to encounter them!

My favourite part of Unlovable was the romance. I thought it was realistically portrayed and found it sweet how Seth got Maggie to open up and let him into her life. Unlike Maggie, you know that Seth is an undercover cop and so as you’re waiting for things to blow up in his face, you can only hope that Maggie’s trust in Seth and their love is strong enough to withstand the doubts and obstacles.

The first in a trilogy, I was pleasantly surprised by how good Gammon’s Unlovable was. What’s nice for older YA readers is that Seth is twenty-one so it doesn’t feel as inappropriate to crush on him (not that age would stop me anyway) :) Even better, the next two books in the series are told from Seth’s friends’ POVs; and I know Cole and Booker are older than him. The two were well-developed secondary characters in Unlovable so I’m looking forward to reading their stories in Unbelievable and Unbearable.

Unlovable was released in January 2011 by Wordpainting Unlimited Inc.  

Comments About the Cover: I think the cover is very pretty; and I like how the colours, the background and the pose of the girl all help to contribute to a feeling of loneliness, which goes nicely with the title.

This ebook was received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Introducing My Reading Buddy: Stephanie

Last year, I managed to read slightly over 100 books so one of my reading goals this year is to reach that target again. Well, who better to motivate me than a reading buddy?

Stephanie (aka StephTheBookworm) was recently looking for someone to help motivate her to reach her goal of reading 100 books and so we’ve partnered up to engage in a little friendly competition. Basically, we’ll be sending weekly emails to each other, letting the other person know how many books and how many pages we’ve read during the week and in total. The loser at the end of the year buys the winner a book.

Anyway, I thought it’d be nice to learn a little more about Steph and so we created a questionnaire together. My answers can be found on her blog and you can check out her answers below:
What is your work/school situation?
I graduated with my Bachelor's degree in English Literature in May, and now I'm in graduate school pursuing my Master's degree in Library Science. I currently work at my local library as a library clerk, which I love, but am just waiting to get my degree so I can be an actual librarian!

What do you like to do outside of reading?
Most of my time is spent reading, but there also some TV shows I really love, like Dexter, American Horror Story, Revenge, Glee, Desperate Housewives, Once Upon a Time, New Girl, and others, so I love DVRing those and watching them every week! I also like spending time with my friends and family, my boyfriend, Charles, who I live with, and our adopted dog, Dakota! My friends and I love playing a lot of board and card games and having random dance parties.
How long have you been book blogging?
I started in September 2009.
What's been your most exciting or rewarding blogging moment or experience?
My most exciting experience was going to BEA in May. I finally got to meet some of my blogger friends in real life, and some amazing authors, like Chuck Palahniuk and Beth Hoffman, who I had dinner with! It was so cool to be around so many book lovers, and all in one place! The most rewarding is definitely when an author e-mails me after I review their book and expresses gratitude and excitement. I've loved getting to know so many authors and have learned that they are some of the most compassionate and gracious people around. The same actually goes for book bloggers as well - what a passionate and kind community of people, one that I am so proud to be a part of!

How would your friends describe you? How would you describe yourself?
I just have a really small group of three friends who I spend a lot of time with, and they would describe me as a goof. I'll do anything to make them laugh, and we have tons of fun together. I would describe myself as a complete introvert, though. When I'm not with my friends, I'm extremely quiet and shy, somewhat awkward, but always observing everything around me.

What genre do you normally read?
I read basically everything! I am a very eclectic reader, reading both YA and adult, suspense, chick-lit, contemporary, mysteries ... pretty much everything! This means my TBR list is absolutely insane because I want to read every and any thing!

What one book are you most looking forward to in 2012?
I haven't been able to find any information about this, but I am really hoping my favorite author, Jen Lancaster, comes out with a new book this year!
Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite book?
I have so many favorites. To name a few authors: Jen Lancaster, Chuck Palahniuk, Meg Cabot, Beth Hoffman, Kristina Riggle. To name a few books: The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary, Bitter is the New Black, by Jen Lancaster, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty... both lists could go on and on!

If you got to pick one guy to be your fictional boyfriend, who would it be?
Marcus Flutie, hands down! (from the Jessica Darling series)

If you got to pick one fictional girl to be your best friend, who would it be?
I think I'd go with Mia from the Princess Diaries, another one of my favorite series of all time! She's so witty and incredibly down to earth, especially considering she's a princess!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Review: My Royal Pain Quest by Laura Lond

From Goodreads: How far would a villain go to help a friend? Lord Arkus of Blackriver Castle thinks doing three heroic deeds is a bit too far. Not only it’s plain detestable, it can ruin his reputation and get him in trouble with the Villains League. On the other hand, it’s not like he’s got friends to spare. And losing the League’s membership isn’t the end of the world, one can always work independently. 

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: In My Royal Pain Quest, the sequel to My Sparkling Misfortune, Lord Arkus is back, determined to find a way to awaken Jarvi. A book of fables may provide the answer, but is Arkus willing to spend the time and effort to go on a quest that might just prove to be entirely useless?

In My Sparkling Misfortune, Arkus was a proud villain who slowly became more heroic/less villainous (depending on how you want to see it) thanks to the efforts of Jarvi. Here, Jarvi’s presence is initially noticeably absent, but it’s quickly filled up by the additions of Cassandra, a girl who’s more than she seems to be - I guessed her secret halfway through the book but keep in mind that the book’s target audience is MG readers - and the Swirg named Reggie. It’s not all new characters though; Prince Kellemar also appears in My Royal Pain Quest – and perhaps will be seen by Arkus in a new light.

An amusing sequel to one of my favourite books I read last year, My Royal Pain Quest was published in November 2011.  

Comments About the Cover: It’s nice that the covers for the series match. For some reason though, my copy has the cover of My Sparkling Misfortune but with the title saying “My Royal Pain Quest.” 

This ebook was received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Review: Nightshade by Maryrose Wood

From Back Cover: Sixteen-year-old Jessamine Luxton is heartbroken. Her true love, Weed, the strange and intriguing young man who came into her life so suddenly, has disappeared. Jessamine suspects that her own father, Thomas, may have been involved. Thomas was obsessed with poisons and discovering Weed's secret understanding of dangerous plants. This suspicion and her own growing expertise with poisons have changed her. She is no longer innocent. So when Jessamine learns that Weed is alive and in danger, she will do whatever it takes to be reunited with him, including killing whoever gets in her way.

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Maryrose Wood's Nightshade, the second book in The Poison Diaries series, picks up where The Poison Diaries leaves off. As a result, Jessamine and Weed barely have much page time together. It’s not that I think their romance is epic or anything, but I feel like things are more interesting when they’re together than apart.

In Nightshade, Jessamine discovers the truth about what her father has been up to and asks Oleander to reunite her with Weed. In exchange, she makes a promise to him to avenge her mother’s death. When Jessamine is forced to go on the run, she therefore becomes even more open to Oleander’s influence. This, when combined with the courage laudanum gives her, causes her to commit more terrible acts. In the meantime, (the sometimes awkward) transitions to Weed’s narrative allows the reader to learn that he is doing his best to find Jessamine.

Like The Poison Diaries, Nightshade places a large emphasis on plants, and it’s for this reason that I’ll probably read the final book in the trilogy. I didn’t like the darker, gloomy feel of Nightshade, but the idea of plants being able to communicate with Weed and what they have to say to him remains appealing to me. Wood clearly knows much about plants; and in this installment, she chooses to focus more on those that heal rather than harm. 

Nightshade was released by HarperCollins in October 2011. 

Comments About the Cover: I’m ambivalent about it, but I love the look of the title because tiny plants are either making up the letters or coming out of them.

This book was received from the publisher (HarperCollins) in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Giveaway: Audiobook of Marissa Meyer's Cinder

I reviewed Cinder by Marissa Meyer recently and thought it was a really creative re-telling of Cinderella. Today, I've got an audiobook copy of it up for grabs thanks to Esther from Macmillan Audio! 

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl ...

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that’s enthralling.

Here's a sample clip from the audiobook!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Busting the Newbie Blues (2)

Small Review is once again hosting Bustingthe Newbie Blues, an event meant to help put new YA book bloggers on the radar and get old and new bloggers to interact and share their experiences about what it's like or was like to be a new blogger. I participated in it last year and many of the blogs that I follow and comment on regularly are ones that I found through Busting the Newbie Blues. After blogging for over a year, I’m really excited to be filling out the Established Blogger Questionnaire, and am looking forward to discovering some new blogs. The event is running during the entire month of January, and you can find more the information here. 

When did you start your blog? 
I started my blog near the end of August 2010.

Do you ever still feel like a newbie?
Yes! This usually occurs when I’d like to request an ARC or am sending an email asking an author for an interview/guest post.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? Did you make any mistakes new bloggers can learn from?
The biggest challenge that I’ve faced so far is finding the time to post. When I have school, sometimes even finding the time to read can be challenging; and when I’m on holiday, procrastination kicks in and books that have been read but are waiting to be reviewed kind of pile up. I have no idea how bloggers schedule posts! Someone needs to teach me their tricks.
I still post whenever I want but try to do so now on a regular basis. As a newbie blogger, that's something I didn't do.

What do you find most discouraging about being a new blogger? How did you deal with this?
I think the most discouraging thing about being a new blogger was the lack of comments on my posts. When I started blogging, I kind of dove into it and had no clue what I was doing or how big the YA blogging community was. I just really wanted to share my thoughts on books I’d read and naively figured I’d get a lot of people telling me what they thought about it too. 
I continued to post semi-regularly however and left comments on other people’s blogs and soon enough, people started leaving comments back on my blog.
What do you find most encouraging?
How welcoming the YA blogging community is! Whenever I have a question, I’ve always been able to find someone who’s willing to take the time to offer an answer.

If you could go back in time and speak with your newbie self, what five bits of wisdom would you tell yourself? 
1) Comment, comment, comment! It’s a great way to get people to stop by your blog and start following it.
2) You don’t have to post everyday but do it regularly.
3) If you need advice, it’s okay to ask. Established book bloggers don’t bite and are more than happy to help.
4) Don’t feel like you have to review every book you read. Read books occasionally for fun.
5) Use social media like Twitter to connect with authors, publishers and other bloggers.

What do you like best about the blogs you read? Have you tried to replicate this in your blog?
I love blogs that are funny, post insightful reviews and/or generate discussion. I don’t think I’m really funny and would need to find time to write a post that’s discussion-worthy, but I do my best to post honest, thoughtful reviews.

What do you dislike about blogs you’ve seen? Do you try to avoid this?
One thing I really dislike on a blog are captcha codes and so I don’t have them on mine. I don’t have a huge amount of time for commenting but when I see an interesting post on my Google Reader, I’ll sometimes try to leave a comment. If there’s a captcha code and I don’t know about it, my comment doesn’t get published because I’ve closed the tab on my browser and moved onto another blog.

How did you bring your blog to the attention of so many people?
I tried to find bloggers that had similar tastes in books as me, followed them, and left meaningful comments on their blogs. They would then usually reciprocate.
Another way to get publicity for your blog is through contests. This can become expensive though and doesn’t really translate into people actively following your blog.

When and how did you get your first ARC (or first few ARCs)? 
I got my first few ARCs by winning contests held by bloggers and through Goodreads’ First Reads. 

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Review: My Beating Teenage Heart by C.K. Kelly Martin

From Inside Jacket: Ashlyn Baptiste is falling. One moment she was nothing - no memories, no self - and then suddenly, she's plummeting through a sea of stars. Is she in a coma? She doesn't remember dying, and she has no memories of the life she left behind. All she knows is that she's trapped in a consciousness without a body and she's spending every moment watching a stranger. Breckon Cody's on the edge. He's being ripped apart by grief so intense it literally hurts to breathe. On the surface, Breckon is trying to hold it together for his family and his girlfriend, but underneath he's barely hanging on. Even though she didn't know him in life, Ashlyn sees Breckon's pain, and she's determined to find a way help him. As her own distressing memories emerge from the darkness, she struggles to communicate with the boy who can't see her, but whose life is suddenly intertwined with hers. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I’ve read a few novels dealing with the themes of grief and loss, but C.K. Kelly Martin’s My Beating Teenage Heart stands out for its lovely prose and way of getting the reader engaged into the story.

The book opens with a nameless being who simply exists among the stars before she's sucked back to the world of the living. Who is she? What has happened to her? Those answers will be revealed in time since Ashlyn is just as lost in the dark as the reader. Not a ghost but more like a consciousness, she’s also unable to help Breckon, the boy she has become connected to somehow.

Breckon’s past is perhaps only slightly less mysterious than Ashlyn’s. His alternating point of view informs the reader that he blames himself for his sister’s death – how she dies is unknown at first – and shows that he’s clearly in deep pain and suffering. Martin does a great job of contrasting Breckon with Ashlyn – one would do anything to live again and the other couldn’t care less.

Much like Ashlyn, the reader can only be a helpless bystander as Breckon rejects the emotional support offered by those close to him (even as they try to come to terms with Skylar’s death) and attempts to forget about reality through a variety of means. However, this in a way also distances Breckon from the reader who may have never experienced such a tragic loss.

Although the ending was a little disappointing because it was kind of neat and the reason for the connection between Breckon and Ashlyn wasn’t as significant as I thought it would be; I liked where Martin chose to end My Beating Teenage Heart. It seems like a logical point at which to conclude Breckon’s and Ashlyn’s story lines, but still leaves the reader with hope that the main characters will be okay.

A book that takes a profound look at life and death, My Beating Teenage Heart was released in September 2011 by Random House Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: I like it. The colours that are used match the sombre tone of the novel, and the faint outline of a girl in the background indicates the presence of a ghost (even though Ashlyn isn’t technically one). Since the book is told from two POVs, it's also nice that you can't tell whether the hands making the heart belong to the girl or to someone else.
This book was received from the author in exchange for an honest review. 
original image from