Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Author Interview: Vanessa Barger (and Giveaway)

As part of Decadent Publishing's YA Blog Stomp, Vanessa Barger, the author of Steaming, is here today to answer some of my questions. 

A bit about Vanessa (as quoted from Goodreads): Vanessa is a Young Adult author who teaches high schoolers all about technology education (and yearbook!) in rural Virginia along the Chesapeake Bay. She is the owner slave to one cat, Molly, who looks a little like a cow when she gets a haircut, and writes in her free time. Vanessa is actively involved in the YA Fiction Fanatics critique group, which is dedicated to helping its members produce the best MG and YA novels they can write. This past summer she finally bit the bullet and also joined the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). 

I haven't read many steampunk novels, but I've enjoyed what I've read. What made you decide to write a story within the YA steampunk genre?
Steampunk is a great genre because there are so many possibilities. I love history, and the combination of Victoriana and technology is really inspiring. I also like it because of the aesthetics. If you ever look up steampunk on the web, you get an amazing array of costuming ideas, gadgets and gizmos. All of them are brass and a mixture of modern sensibility and Victorian England and the US. It’s really anything you want it to be, and adding magic in just feels natural. 

Steaming also contains deities from Norse and Greek mythologies. Is there a particular type of mythology you especially love and which anthropomorphic god or goddess is your favourite?
I love most mythologies. If I have to pick some, it would be Celtic, Norse, and Greek. I also love Indian and Mayan, but they weren't as easy to add in ;)  As for which god or goddess … it would be a tie between the Celtic god and goddess Cernunos and Morrigan. 

As a Tinker, Cornelius' idol is the Duke of Windsor. Who is/are your idols as an author and why?
Oooo ... I adore Shakespeare. Like, if he were living, I'd be a groupie. My other big favorites are Bill Bryson, Katie MacAlister, Jane Austen and Carrie Ryan. :) 

In Steaming, Cornelius manages to surprise people a few times. What is one thing about you that would surprise others?
I'm not sure. I suppose that I am way more talkative than I think, and that I adore Renaissance faires and that I have this weird obsession about the shapes of trees. Lol.  

Will there be a sequel to Steaming and if so, can you tell me a little about it?
Steaming does have a sequel in the planning stages involving Cornelius and Isadora, and what has happened to Lord Stevens. 

Are you working on anything else at the moment?
Right now, I've just finished a paranormal thriller called "Shame the Devil" and am shopping it around. I've also got about seven stories started while I decide what to work on next!

A huge thanks to Vanessa for taking the time to answer my questions! Decadent Publishing's YA Blog Stomp continues tomorrow at Coffee Time Romance.


Decadent Publishing has also generously offered to give away an ebook of Steaming. This giveaway is open to everyone only for the day so just leave a meaningful comment and your email address to enter. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: Steaming by Vanessa Barger

From Goodreads: My name is Cornelius Latimer, and I have fallen in love. The object of my affection isn’t tall and blonde with all the right curves. It isn’t even human. My love belches steam and breathes fire. My world runs on steam and hard metal, and I am a master of both. My Uncle, Rufus Harrison, has funded my expeditions. He’s gifted me with a lab containing all the parts and space I could possibly need. For weeks I have been toiling over my journals, crafting my biggest and best creation yet. It’s heady, this feeling of power. But I made a fatal error. I told a friend about my machine. And now someone who should not know, does. I should tear everything apart, but I can’t. Love does strange things to people.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Steaming by Vanessa Barger is a fast-paced and entertaining story revolving around nineteen-year-old Cornelius Latimer, an inventor who was always more interested in fooling around with machines than girls. That is, until his eye is caught by the beautiful Temperance at a ball. But, there is more to Temperance than meets the eye and her secret will strain Cornelius’ friendship with his best friend, make him to come face-to-face with the Time Keeper and get him charged with treason. Will Cornelius be able to clear his name and get credit for the airship he invented?

Steaming was fun to read, and though I knew that it was a steampunk novel, I wasn’t expecting there to be elements of mythology. It was a nice surprise to have the Norse gods Odin and Tyr and the Greek goddess Athena as characters, especially since they were incorporated into the story fairly well.

Barger’s characters were also well-written. Cornelius was easy to relate to and I liked Bea, who later becomes his romantic interest. After fancying himself in love, Cornelius learns from his mistake and his relationship with Bea begins as friends. In addition, despite the story not featuring her much, I found Isadora intriguing and would love to know more about her relationship with her father and Bea as well as what she has been up to after helping Cornelius escape from the Time Keeper. The ending of Steaming suggests that there will be a sequel so I’m looking forward to having some of those questions answered while tagging along with Cornelius on his next adventure.

Steaming was released by Decadent Publishing in March 2011. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s easy to tell right away that Steaming falls within the steampunk genre because of the huge gear behind the title and the picture of London in the background. The use of brown and orange as colours also give the cover an olden day feel. What I don’t like is the huge face of the guy I presume is Cornelius since he doesn’t look very Victorian-like to me, and his face distracts the eye from the rest of the cover.

In exchange for an honest review, this ebook was received from Decadent Publishing as part of their YA Blog Stomp event. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: Supernaturally by Kiersten White

From Back Cover: It's been six months since Evie fled the International Paranormal Containment Agency with her shape-shifter boyfriend, Lend, and she finally has the normal life she always dreamed of. But when her faerie ex-boyfriend shows up hinting of a battle brewing between the faerie courts over Evie herself, she realizes that she hasn't left her no-so-normal past far enough behind.

My Rating: 4.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: One of my favourite reads from last year was Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy. So, I was super excited to receive an ARC of Supernaturally, Paranormalcy’s sequel, in the mail.

The pacing of Supernaturally is slower than Paranormalcy, and it has less action. Instead, this is a book that’s more focused on character development, with Evie trying to figure out who she is (literally) and where she belongs. While I didn’t love Supernaturally as much as Paranormalcy because Evie repeatedly keeps secrets from those she cares about, – Lend and her relationship in particular suffer (I wanted more kisses!) – in no way does Supernaturally fall prey to the sequel syndrome.

White successfully brings back Evie’s fresh and distinctive voice, and though Evie is often insecure (which isn’t surprising considering what she discovered in Paranormalcy), she continues to remain loveable (for the most part) and hilarious.

As well, the secondary characters remain well-rounded and have their own backstories. There isn’t much of Lend or Reth, but readers meet new paranormal creatures, learn more about Arianna and are introduced to Jack, whose presence thankfully doesn’t create a love triangle situation. Rather, Jack is more like a brother whose antics are amusing to hear about (or read in this case) but annoying to deal with. Considering how I thought of Jack, I was really surprised by what he reveals to Evie and his actions at the end. It’s going to be a long wait now to find out how this fun trilogy will wrap up in Endlessly.

Supernaturally will be released by HarperTeen on July 26, 2011. 

Comments About the Cover: Supernaturally’s cover is as great as Paranormalcy’s, and once again I love the dress that the model portraying Evie is wearing. The cover’s darker feel also reflects Evie’s thoughts and emotions. While she was very bubbly in Paranormalcy, she’s less confident of her relationships and future in Supernaturally.

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

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

From Back Cover: Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf - her wolf - watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn't know why. Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace ... until now. For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it's spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human - and Grace must fight to keep him - even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With the hype around the recently released Forever and Maggie Stiefvater’s trip to Ontario, I figured I’d see what all the fuss is about by reading Shiver. Shiver though was just … okay. While the writing style was good and I liked the mythology around Stiefvater’s werewolves, the plot and the characters didn’t really captivate me. 

The main goal of Sam and Grace in Shiver was to find a cure for Sam so that he could stop changing into a wolf and be with Grace. Their attraction and claims of love were too sudden for my tastes, and I found it strange that Grace seemed to take most things about Sam in stride. For example, if I found a naked and bleeding guy outside my house who I thought was a werewolf, rather than bringing him inside the house, I’d freak out about it first and then call an ambulance.

In terms of the characters, the secondary characters in Shiver other than Beck and Isabel didn’t really appear interesting. Part of the problem is that Grace and Sam seem to often be in their own little bubble at Grace’s house because her parents are never around. This gives the two plenty of time together, but since I didn’t care for the romance, I just wanted Sam and Grace to go do their own thing or have someone disrupt their state of blissfulness.

Even as an individual character though, I wasn’t a fan of Grace. She lost my respect right from the start when I learned that while the wolves were biting her years ago, she didn’t fight and just lay there. Why the heck would you not fight for your life?! It would have been great if my opinion of her had changed, but I closed the book feeling like I still barely knew her. All I can tell you about Grace is that she is a good cook, seems pretty independent and would be much better than me in an emergency. Oh yeah, she also loves Sam who is a fictional guy I would normally crush on because he is good looking, reads, plays the guitar and is very romantic. In this case, however, I didn’t.

Although there will be those who love Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, it didn't meet my expectations. The weak plot, instant romance and lacklustre characters left me disappointed.

Shiver was released by Scholastic Press in August 2009.

Comments About the Cover: I don't normally like illustrated covers but I like Shiver's. The trees and the wolf in blue really remind me of winter.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

From Goodreads: Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby. But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood. 

My Rating: 4 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: At first, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma seemed like a contemporary novel about two sisters, and I found it slightly hard to get into it because the narrator, Chloe, kept talking about her older sister Ruby. But then an unexpected twist occurred, the novel no longer fell within the contemporary genre, and things became interesting. Chloe starts discovering some hidden secrets, and at the heart of it all is Ruby.

The pacing of Imaginary Girls is slow, which makes it creepier and gives you time to enjoy Suma’s writing. She manages to create a surreal world that draws the reader in and blends the normal with the supernatural effortlessly. In this reality, there are no room for questions since anything is possible. It was only after I was done reading that I realized the supernatural elements were never explained in depth, and breaking down the story detracts from its enjoyment.

Heavily driven by its characters, the star of Imaginary Girls is Ruby, the charismatic and pretty older sister who creates her own reality. Suma purposely makes the reader form no attachments to Ruby so that she seems more sinister, and as such, it’s hard for me to figure out how I feel about her. On the one hand, Ruby is pretty much a bitch whose bad side you don’t want to get on, – look at what happened to Owen! – but on the other, her love for Chloe is obvious. Ruby will do anything for her younger sister. Likewise, it’s hard to form an emotional connection with Chloe. Not  only is her presence dwarfed by Ruby’s, but she’s also an unreliable narrator. You end the story having absolutely no idea whether Chloe is actually telling the truth about what happened or simply imagining things.

A mesmerizingly eerie read, Imaginary Girls was released in June 2011 by Dutton Juvenile. 

Comments About the Cover: I love it. The drowning is such a central part of the storyline and the bright blue, red and white quickly catch your eye. It’s hard to tell whether the girl is still struggling or has finally exhausted herself trying to regain control of the situation.

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Nightshade, Epic Fail and Possess

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

It's been awhile since I did a WoW so here are some upcoming titles I'm super excited about.

Title: Wolfsbane
Author: Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Philomel
Date of Release: July 26, 2011 

Goodreads Description: This thrilling sequel to the much-talked-about Nightshade begins just where it ended-Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemy, and she's certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer-one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack-and the man-she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.

Why am I waiting? I loved Nightshade and can't wait to get back to the world Cremer has created. July 26 promises to be a good day for sequels since Kiersten White's Supernaturally comes out that day too.  

Title: Epic Fail 
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date of Release: August 2, 2011

Goodreads Description: At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point: As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school - not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects. As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list. When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long. 

Why am I waiting? Sometimes you just want a fun and light read, and this one seems like a good bet to fulfill that wish. 

Title: Possess 
Author: Gretchen McNeil
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Date of Release: August 23, 2011 

Goodreads Description: Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from. Terrified to tell people about her new power, Bridget confides in a local priest who enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession. But just as she is starting to come to terms with her new power, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the demons' plan before someone close to her winds up dead – or worse, the human vessel of a demon king.

Why am I waiting? I still haven't read many books featuring demons so Possess will help change that. Also, it doesn't hurt that the cover is gorgeous and yet kind of creepy. I'll probably be reading this one in the daylight just in case it becomes scary :)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Review: Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

From Inside Jacket: When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty - waiting for her father's return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceañera

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Bettina Restrepo’s Illegal is the touching story of one illegal immigrant girl’s journey from Mexico to Texas in search of her father to bring him back home and reunite her family.  

I really admired Nora’s determination to find her father and stand up for herself when she sensed she was being taken advantage of. Occasionally though, I felt she was a bit naïve because it seemed like she thought that she and her mother could easily find her father; and that once he was found, all their problems would be solved. However, this also made Nora very relatable because even as you’re growing up, sometimes you can’t help but wish for life to be simple.

While Restrepo does touch upon the hardships faced by many immigrants, I thought it was portrayed somewhat lightly. Although Nora and her mother faced a gruelling trip crossing the border, – I would have expected nothing less since they are illegals – once they arrived in Texas, they were relatively lucky, securing fake papers and decent paying jobs in a short amount of time. This is not the case for many immigrants. The situation of Arturo, Nora’s father, was portrayed more realistically, and it really makes you think about all the sacrifices illegals must make for the chance of an improved life for themselves and their family.

A solid debut that captures the hopes of those who move to a new country and the obstacles they experience while settling, Illegal was released by Katherine Tegen Books in March 2011.

Comments About the Cover: It matches the tone of the book very well. When I look at the cover, I see a girl standing in an empty field, which portrays the poverty of Cedula, Mexico. She’s looking though at some tall buildings in the distance that she believes her father has helped build; and to me, that represents her dreams of a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Review: Solid by Shelley Workinger

From Goodreads: Teens who discover they were secretly genetically altered before birth are brought together at a classified site where they forge new friendships, find love, develop "super-abilities," and even unearth a conspiracy.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Solid by Shelley Workinger was a quick read with a good cast of characters and an interesting plot.

As someone who is in the science stream, Workinger’s explanation for her characters’ superpowers made sense without making me annoyed for being too simplistic. At the same time, those who know absolutely nothing about genetics will still be able to understand what has transpired without feeling like they’re being overloaded with scientific information.

Workinger’s characters – even Miranda once you get to know her – were likeable enough, but I never got fully attached to them. I think part of the reason may be because as a reader, you don’t know exactly what they’re capable of since Clio, the main character, and her friends are still trying to figure it out themselves. So, they pretty much acted like typical teens (except sometimes the dialogue made them seem older) when I was expecting them to do amazing things.

This also led to the expectation that there would be a lot of action. However, Solid focused more on character development, with Clio discovering things about herself and making new friends with whom she felt comfortable with. Even when there could have been the potential for some action, the conflict was resolved a little too easily.

Despite its issues, I still liked Solid. I think if it had been longer, some of my expectations could have been met; and hopefully that’s going to be the case in Settling, the sequel to Solid.

Solid was released in July 2010 by CreateSpace.

Comments About the Cover: I like it. The bright chromosome caught my eye and the way the purple is used also makes the font stand out.

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

Monday, July 04, 2011


The winner of my signed copy of Delirium is #41 - Ariel from The Librarian's Bookshelf. She has already responded and I've shipped the book to her. Congratulations, Ariel!
The winner of my Canada Day Blog Hop Giveaway is #139 - Danya from A Tapestry of Words. I'll be sending you an email shortly, and you'll have 48 hours to respond back or a new winner will be picked.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives - and the way they understand each other so completely - has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

My Rating: 5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: When Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma was made available to me, I chose to ignore it because I didn’t like the cover. It’s a good thing then that Missie from The Unread Reader chose to review it because I totally would have overlooked an amazing book. The main theme in Forbidden is incest, but Suzuma has created a masterful love story revolving around a taboo love. Her characters have chemistry and it becomes hard to remember that Lochan and Maya are siblings.

Right from the start, it was easy for me to like Lochan and sympathize with him. Though he is good looking, he is painfully shy around strangers; and as the eldest at home, is responsible for taking care of his younger siblings. It’s not hard to understand why Lochan would fall for Maya, the one person he can truly be himself with.

It was a little harder for me to see why Maya would love Lochan back as more than a brother because unlike Lochan, she is sociable and has friends. Sure, she can never be entirely honest about her life at home, but it can still be possible for her to date someone else. But, then there wouldn’t be a story.

As I already mentioned, Lochan and Maya have incredible chemistry. However, my favourite parts of the book were when they were interacting with their brothers and sister. Suzuma did a wonderful job creating this complex family and making me feel like an insider. I wanted to strangle Kit at times for being mean to Lochan who is trying his best to keep it together for his siblings, and yet I understood that Kit as the middle child felt like he had no clear role. I felt sad for Tiffin and Willa who were still young but wise about so many things, and I loved it when the entire family came together to do things like play a game.

A brilliant book that will make you smile and also break your heart, Forbidden was released on June 28, 2011 by Simon and Schuster. 

Comments About the Cover: I’m still not a fan of the cover but I like that the heart is made out of barbed wire and that the background is red – the colour of love.

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Simon and Schuster) for free via Galley Grab.