Google+ YA Romantics: August 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to the Books Giveaway Hop!

This hop is hosted by I Am a Reader, Not A Writer and Buried in Books

Yes, today is Freebie Friday, and I'm giving away amazing stuff, but I'm also part of the Back to Books Giveaway Hop

I'm really excited about the prize choices -- three great brand new YA releases to choose from:

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Click on the covers to get to Goodreads.

Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

Defiance by C. J. Redwine

The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

To enter, just use the Rafflecopter below!  

Fine print: Open internationally. Entries accepted until midnight on September 7. Winning entry will be verified, then announced on the Rafflecopter the morning of September 8. International winners may receive their book from The Book Depository.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Freebie Friday 14

Happy Friday. Happy Last-Day-of-August! Happy Labor Day weekend here in the U.S. 

I hope everyone has a fun weekend planned, whether it's action-packed or just relaxing. I'm going to try to find balance between the two!

What do I have up for grabs today? Such good stuff! 

The winner can choose one of these (all ARCs) Open internationally :)
Entries accepted until 9 am Saturday morning -- September 1.

Smashed by Lisa Luedeke
Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr
Fathomless by Jackson Pearce
Throne of Glass by Sarah Mass

Hopefully that's something for everyone!
To enter, just leave me a comment. Tell me a bookish trend you'd love to see more of OR one you're getting tired of...
Please -- no bashing of specific books. Thanks :)

Your comment is what enters you. If you're not sure I know how to find you, please also leave an email addy in the Google doc. If you have an email address linked to your blog or commenting profile, you're good.

AND... my post for the Back the the Books Giveaway Hop goes up later tonight. Be sure to stop by and enter to win Defiance, The Lost Girl or Nerve!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Defiance

Review of

by C.J. Redwine

To be published by Balzer + Bray
on August 28, 2012

Source: bought

My summary: 
Rachel is devastated when her father, a missing courier for the cruel Commander, is declared dead. Angry and grieving, Rachel insists that her father was in possession of a valuable package and she's the only one who can find it. Logan, Rachel's father's trusted apprentice, has vowed to protect Rachel no matter what. In a strange world where monsters lurk and no one can truly be trusted, can Rachel and Logan find anything but heartbreak?

My take:
Defiance is an interesting story that's both dystopic (a walled community ruled by a cruel despot who has promised to protect the residents from a monster) and post-apocalyptic, with some fantasy elements. 

For me, one of the strengths of Defiance was the way that the story set up a big ol' tangle of interpersonal conflicts. Rachel doesn't want to be dependent on Logan, because she thinks doesn't return her romantic feelings. Logan feels responsible for Rachel and is trying to keep his feelings for her in check. The Commander wants the package and needs Rachel alive, but realizes he can use Logan to manipulate her. This is the kind of juicy-good stuff I love in a book, and it kept me on the edge of my seat as I read.

The book's writing style was also a strength -- clean and crisp, with short chapters that alternated Rachel's POV with Logan's. I know that some readers aren't a fan of the dual POV, but since these two characters are separated for some of the book, this narrative choice was practical and added suspense.

For those of you who like action and fight scenes, there were some great ones. Plus, some plot twists that zigged when I was expecting them to zag. I also thought Rachel and Logan were an interesting couple. I liked the fact that she's more the brawn in the relationship and he's the brains. She has more of the warrior spirit -- in the Department of Kickbutt Heroines, they don't make them any tougher and fiercer than Rachel -- while Logan invents gadgets that are half MacGyver, half Q from James Bond. 

The book's monster (a beast called The Cursed One that was released from the bowels of the earth as humans drilled for fuel) reminded me of that weird black cloudmonster from the TV show LOST

I found the Commander a much more scary and convincing villain and wished he'd been present in more of the book. 

I also wanted to understand the story world a lot better. Does Defiance take place in the future or the past or was this alternate history? I called the book post-apocalyptic because it seemed to me that the appearance of monsters sent the whole society (or world?) plunging into backwardness -- wearing cloaks and oppressing women and throwing people in dungeons -- but I wasn't sure. I got glimpses of other groups, both harmful and helpful (Rowansmark and the Tree People) but I never quite understood who they were and how they fit in. I'm assuming that perhaps some of these questions will be answered in a future book. 

All in all, this was an enjoyable read. If you love action-packed, suspenseful stories with kickbutt heroines, you'll love this book!

Have you read this one? Tell me what you think in comments!

AND... I'll be offering this up as a prize choice in my Back to The Books Giveaway!  Check back tomorrow to enter!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday 3: Impostor by Jill Hathaway


Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

And speaking of Jills, my WoW pick was written by one.

Most of you guys know how much I love mysteries. And 90s references. And body switching stories. And friends with chemistry stories.

So when I found a book that had ALL those things in one, I was beyond excited.  And when I find a book that seems tailor-made for me, I'm always scared I'll be disappointed.

I wasn't. I LOVED Slide by Jill Hathaway!

So it already seems like I've been waiting forever for the next book in that series:

Impostor by Jill Hathaway
Balzer + Bray
Expected Publication March 2013

If you haven't read Slide, you can read me rave about it here. Everyone thinks Vee is narcoleptic, but actually she slides into other people's consciousness. In Slide, she used that power to catch a killer.

Can you read the tagline on top of that cover of Impostor: What if a Killer Were In Control of You?

Eeeep. Here's the synopsis:

Vee Bell’s gift (or curse) of “sliding”—slipping into the mind of another person and experiencing life, briefly, through his or her eyes—has been somewhat under control since she unwillingly witnessed the horrific deaths of her classmates six months ago. But just as things are getting back to normal, Vee has a very bizarre experience: she loses consciousness and finds herself in a deserted area, at the edge of a cliff, with the broken body of the boy who took advantage of her on the rocks below. As Vee finds herself in stranger and stranger situations with no memory of getting there, she begins to suspect that someone she knows has the ability to slide—and that this “slider” is using Vee to exact revenge on his or her enemies.
 I'm scared already!

I can't wait!!!!

What book are you counting the days for? Please tell me -- or leave me a link -- in comments and I'll visit you back.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Today's topic? Spill your deepest, darkest bookish secrets!

1. I have never participated in Top Ten Tuesday because making "Top" lists totally stresses me out and I could never get to ten. Top Five, maybe. But confession is good for the soul and I've been dying to get these deep, dark secrets off my chest. Here goes...

2. A bad ending can completely ruin a book for me, so sometimes I peek ahead at a book's ending. Spoilers rarely bother me either, though I don't put them in my posts.

3. Very often, when I sit down to write a review, I can't remember the main character's name. I try to tell myself that this is because I review YA and a lot of YA is written in the first person, but it is equally possible that I'm just losing my mind.

4. I can usually tell if I'll like a book or not by the first chapter. Sometimes even the first page.

5. I have a ton of swaggy bookmarks, but I never use them. Instead, I use the most appalling things as bookmarks. Pens. My phone. The remote control. Once, I was standing in line reading at the post office and someone tapped me on the shoulder. I'd been using my driver's license as a bookmark, and it fell out on the floor.

6. I am a nice person but sometimes a tiny bit of snark finds its way into my Top Secret Reviewing Notebook. Once I get something off my chest, I can write a fair and balanced review. Or decide not to finish the book.
Oh, you want some examples? Okay. Maybe just a couple:
"Reading this book is like buying a ticket for a roller coaster and finding yourself on a hayride."
"This couple generates as much heat as a pair of granny panties."

7. I suffer from AASS (that's Acute Author-Induced Stammering Syndrome) I have never met an author and had one coherent thing to say. I met Gretchen McNeil and said something like "Dolls are scary." I met Gabrielle Zevin and I think I told her, "So many bloggers are named Jen." I'm afraid to tweet authors in case I say something completely weird.

See, I'll never make it to ten on a top ten list. But since I've had such a great time reading other bloggers' posts, I thought  it was only fair to come clean myself..


YA Hot Off the Presses: New Releases August 28-Sept 3

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Hot Off The Presses highlights great new YA releases for the coming week.

New feature: link your review -- from Goodreads or your blog -- of any of these titles. The link widget is at the bottom of the post!

What's coming out during the week of August 28-September 3? Um, a LOT of books. You ready??

Click on these cover images to get to Goodreads!

Every Day by David Levithan Speechless by Hannah Harrington Defiance by CJ Redwine

Every Day by David Levithan  What did I think of it? Click here.

Speechless by Hannah Harrington Did I love this author's sophomore book as much as I loved Saving June?  Find out here!

Defiance by C.J. Redwine  I'm reading it now -- stop back later this week to win a copy!

The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmen If I Lie by Corinne Jackson pic name

The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel   Read my take here.

The Lost Girl by Sanju Mandanna   I need this book immediately!! Desperately!! If you reviewed it, please link up below...

If I Lie by Corinne Jackson  Reading this as part of a new review series I'll be running!

But wait ... there are even more August 28-September 3 Releases!

Spark (Elemental #2) by Brigid Kemmerer  I reviewed it here!

Iron Legends by Julie Kagawa (Harlequin Teen)

The Blood Keeper (Blood Journals #2) by Tessa Gratton  (Random House BFYR)

Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer  (Egmont)

Vanquished (Crusade #3) by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie (Simon Pulse)

Erasing Time by C.J. Hill  (Katherine Tegan Books)

Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon (HarperTeen)

Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh (Atheneum)

Starling by Leslie Livingston  (HarperTeen)

A Certain October by Angela Johnson (Simon & Schuster)

The Dark Light by Sara Walsh (Simon Pulse)

Embers and Echoes (Wildefire #2) by Karsten Knight (Simon & Schuster)

Unwholly (Unwind #2) by Neil Shusterman (Simon and Schuster)

Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett (Harlequin Teen)

Inbetween (Kissed by Death #1) by Tara Fuller (Entangled)

Fifteen Love by Nicole Leigh Shepherd (Razorbill)

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron (Scholastic)

Undead by Kirsty McKay (Chicken House)

Did I forget anything? I hope not. But if so, please let me know in comments!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Something Strange and Deadly

YA book review
Review of
Something Strange and Deadly
by Susan Dennard

Published by HarperTeen
on July 24, 2012

Source: won the ARC in an Epic Reads contest.

My summary: It's 1876 in Philadelphia and Eleanor Fitt has a lot on her mind. Eleanor's father's death has plunged the Fitts into dire financial straits and Eleanor's mother is shoving her daughter onto the marriage market. Eleanor's brother, a scholar of rare artifacts, has gone missing.  Oh, and one more little thing. Corpses are rising from their graves all over town. When a zombie shows up with a cryptic message from Eleanor's brother, she seeks the help of the Spirit Hunters, an unconventional trio hired to protect the city from the undead.

My take: Overall, I really enjoyed Something Strange and Deadly. My regular blog readers know that I'm not very fond of zombies. And while I love books set in the Victorian era and like the idea of steampunk, I must confess that extensive descriptions of gadgets and how they work can make my eyes glaze over. 

But neither the zombie action nor the steampunk gadgetry overpower this story. In fact, I'd say that the first three-quarters of Something Strange and Deadly reads more like historical fiction: marriageable daughter, meddling mother, confining corsets, etc. In fact, in my reviewing notes, I wrote that I sort of wished this book could be a little more dark and suspenseful. Yes, you read that correctly:  I, Jen, wished that this book had more zombie action. We'll get back to that later...

I loved the setting of the book, loved the idea of steampunk set in the United States rather than Victorian London, loved the way the 1876 Centennial Exposition was cleverly woven into the plot. Joseph and Jie, two of the Spirit Hunters, were really interesting characters, and I'd like to see more of them.

There's a rather half-hearted love triangle as Eleanor divides her attention between Clarence, the man her mother wants her to marry, and Daniel, one of the Spirit Hunters. But I liked the fact that Eleanor was more preoccupied with walking corpses than stolen kisses. Eleanor is determined to find out what happened to her brother Elijah. The answer was, for me, fairly predictable. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for figuring everything out. Then something completely unexpected happened.

The last quarter of Something Strange and Deadly became very dark in tone. All of a sudden, there was this whoa, did that really happen kind of stuff. I mean, I remember a scene like that in a David Fincher movie on cable, but I was not expecting it here. (I realize some of you are probably thinking, "Well, Jen, you got what you wished for." Yep. I did!)

I have to love an author who can surprise me like that, so I do think I'll read book two in this series, A Darkness Strange and Lovely. Will it be too dark for me? I'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, YA readers who love history, alternate history, American history, and unconventional characters should definitely try this book! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Extra! Extra! 19

Extra! Extra!

Extra! Extra! is my weekly Sunday post featuring brand new additions to my TBR pile as well as a summary of what's coming up on the blog.

This Sunday I'm linking up to Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and also Sundays in Bed With hosted by Kate at Midnight Book Girl.

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New books!
Both of these will be up for grabs soon -- I'm participating in the Back to the Books giveaway hop, September 1-7.  Hope you'll come back and enter!
Sorry the photo is a little dark. They are....

Defiance by C.J. Redwine -- this is the book I'm in bed with, in case you were wondering!

Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

What reviews and special features were on the blog this week?

Monday I interviewed YA author Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Thursday I reviewed Spark by Brigid Kemmerer. Did I think this fire-themed YA was hot stuff? Click here and find out.

Saturday I reviewed Every Day by David Levithan. Regular readers know I love body-switching stories. Was this one the exception or the rule?

Veronica was the lucky winner of the box of middle grade books and ARCs in my Back to School Giveaway!

Latest Freebie Friday winners:
Jennifer V. from A New Layer of Reality chose False Memory by Dan Krokos
Sara from Forever 17 Books chose The Thing About the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt


A review of Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard. I'm anti-zombie and still on the fence about steampunk. What did I think of this zombie steampunk? You might be surprised!

Plus Heather @ Flyleaf Review and Heidi @ Bunbury In the Stacks and I are reading:

Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan -- a generation-spanning tale of selkie magic and revenge! Can't wait!

Plus the usual fun: Hot Off the Presses on Tuesday,Waiting on Wednesday and the fabulous Freebie Friday! I hope you'll try to stop by :)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Every Day by David Levithan


Welcome back to Standalone Saturday, a feature in which I highlight a book that does not have a sequel or a prequel.

REVISED 11/30/12 Now that statement must be corrected. Every Day now has a novella prequel called Six Earlier Days. Check it out here!

Today's pick:

Every Day
by David Levithan
To be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
On August 28, 2012

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley. Here's my FTC disclosure statement.

My summary:

"I am a drifter and as lonely as that can be, it is also incredibly freeing."

Every day, "A" wakes up in a new sixteen year-old body. Every day, A has to navigate a new life, be a different person, try to fit in just enough but not too much. Because within 24 hours, A will be someone completely different. Then one day, A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Rhiannon, Justin's girlfriend. Rhiannon and A have a perfect day together, and Rhiannon says she wishes every day could be like that.
"We'd only get tired of it," I tell her. "It's best to have it just once."
But A isn't being entirely honest. For the first time, A wishes for forever.

My take: Every Day was profound, funny, thought-provoking, touching. Because A wakes up in a new body each day, the reader watches A live a wide range of human experience: male, female, attracted to boys/girls, rich, poor, black, white, Asian, overweight, happy, suicidal...  But A is deeply lonely. There is no point getting attached to friends, to family, to a place, to a life. The next day, A will be somewhere else and someone else.

Every Day is a book that subtly reminds the reader that each day is something to be treasured. It's easy to forget that. Every Day is also about the universality of love. Unless I missed something, we don't know A's gender. All we see is that A's connection to Rhiannon goes beyond the corporeal.

A book with these sort of themes could easily come off preachy or sappy. Or both. But Every Day is neither. In fact, there's a wacky and hilarious subplot involving a guy whose body A inhabited -- a guy who's onto A and out to expose the whole body-stealing thing. Every Day also gets huge bonus points for the following funny stuff: a joke based on "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams, Rhiannon's gentle mocking of the "weepy gang boys" in The Outsiders, and the discussion of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

As I got close to the end of Every Day, I began to have a feeling about how the story was going to wind up. At first I had to be dragged along, kicking and screaming, but as I clicked through the last few pages, I changed my mind. Just like everything else about this book, the ending felt absolutely right. HIghly recommended!

So dawn goes into day. Nothing gold can stay.
-- Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?
--Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Tell me in comments about a book that really moved you! Since I became a mom, I always cry uncontrollably at the end of Charlotte's Web!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Freebie Friday 13

Happy Friday -- can you believe this is the next-to-last weekend of the summer -- at least here in the US...

And Freebie Friday is back!  If you're new, here's how it works: if you see a book that interests you, leave me a comment.  (If you don't have an email linked to the profile you comment with, then please also leave your email in the Google Doc.) 

That's it! I'll accept entries until tomorrow (Saturday) morning at 9 am EST. Then will pick a winner who gets to choose one book or ARC from the stack. I'll mail it out right away :)

Open internationally, because I love my international followers! 

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard, which I'll be reviewing next week (ARC)

False Memory by Dan Krokos (ARC)

Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan 

The Thing About the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt

The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin

Your comment can be about anything. Tell me what you're reading, or what you are going to do the last two weeks of summer, or what you're looking forward to this fall!
This Freebie Friday is over, but please check back on future Fridays. If you don't want to miss one, use the box in the top right sidebar and subscribe by email.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Spark by Brigid Kemmerer

YA Review Spark by Brigid Kemmerer
Review of
Spark (Elemental #2)
by Brigid Kemmerer
To be published by KTeen
on August 28, 2012

Source: e-ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.  Read my review policy/disclosure here.

Series report: there are several pages of review and recap near the beginning of the book. No need to re-read!

Series summary: The Elemental series follows the four Merrick brothers: Michael, his twin brothers Gabriel and Nick, and their little brother Chris. Each of them has a special gift that allows them to control one of the elements: earth, fire, air, and water. Storm, book one in the series, featured Chris, who is able to control water. Spark, book two, is Gabe's story.

My thoughts on Storm: Overall, I liked it. If you want to check out the review of someone who LOVED it, my friend Kristin from Growing Up YA wrote this rave review of Storm. Complete with drooling :) 

My favorite thing about Storm was the way the set-up reminded me a little of the Outsiders by S.E. Hinton -- though with paranormal elements and amped-up romance. The Merrick boys are orphaned, and they're kept in line by their super-responsible oldest brother, Michael. He reminded me a lot of Darry, the oldest brother in the Outsiders. Like Darry, Michael has given up his carefree youth to look after his brothers and keep his family together. His brothers sometimes appreciate this, but more often than not they get in trouble, often as a result of not being able to control their special abilities.

So while I liked the Elementals concept, there was a love triangle in Storm I wasn't crazy about, and I thought the plot of Storm relied a little too much on violence. There were a whole lot of scenes of people beating each other up, guys attacking the main character, Becca, the brothers fighting with each other, and so on. Looking at the reviews on Goodreads, I can see that this wasn't an issue for most readers, but for me it got to be a bit much. Still, I was intrigued enough that I wanted to read on in the series.

My thoughts on Spark:
In Storm, Gabe was not the most sympathetic character -- and that's putting it nicely. He was particularly hard on Becca, Chris' love interest, in ways that were really unfair. In Spark, we find out more about how Gabe's parents' death affected him and about the enormous burden of guilt that he feels. Gabe excels in sports, and he's really struggling in school. In Storm, he manages by getting his twin, Nick, to take his place during tests. In Spark, there are two small problem with that: 1) Gabe and Nick are feuding and 2) Gabe's new math teacher is wise to the trick.

So Gabe needs a tutor. Enter Layne, the smart girl who wears glasses and turtlenecks. She's suspicious of Gabe, and rightly so. Layne has problems at home, she has a deaf younger brother who's being bullied, she's wearing those turtlenecks to hide something, and she's not taking any of Gabe's crap. I loved Layne, loved Simon, her brother and -- what can I say -- I'm a total sucker for those bad boy/good girl romances. Gabe and Layne sloooowly circle around each other as he tries to get her to trust him. 

In Storm, the author had a lot of worldbuilding to squeeze in, but in this book I felt that all that paid off as she could focus more on character development, romance and suspense.  Spark seemed much more tightly plotted (including a suspenseful arson subplot) than Storm. My only quibble with Spark was that it magically made one of Layne's problems disappear in a way that seemed unnecessary. Can't say more without spoilers! 

If you liked Storm, I think you'll like Spark. If you had mixed feelings about Storm, I still think you'll like Spark

Please leave me a comment!  Have you read Storm or Spark? Or the Outsiders?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday 2: All the Rage

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

My pick this week is:


Don't worry, that's not the real cover. Since I couldn't find any cover image, it's a mock-up made by me. I'm sure the real book designers will do a fantastic job.

I have been a huge fan of Courtney Summers since her first book came out. This one will be released in 2013 from St. Martin's Press.  Can't wait! Here's the blurb. 

A 17-year-old girl’s attempt to blackmail her rich classmates results in her waking up on a dirt road with no money, no memory of how she got there and a semi-erased message she left for herself the only clue as to why. When she tries to piece together the evening before and all the events leading up to it, a dark and sinister game is revealed.

 LOVE Courtney Summers and love all things dark and sinister, so I'm super excited for this one. I'm sure you'll want to:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

YA Hot Off the Presses: New Releases August 21-27

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Hot Off The Presses highlights great new YA releases for the coming week.

What's coming out during the week of August 21-27?

Click on these cover images to get to Goodreads!

The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors Smashed by Lisa Luedeke The Raft by S.A. Bodeen

The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors What did Cristina at Princess of Storyland think of this? Click here.

Smashed by Lisa Luedeke  (Margaret K. McElderry) Look for this one in a future Freebie Friday!

The Raft by S.A. Bodeen (Feiwel and Friends)

Here are some of the other new releases this week:

The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin (Razorbill) -- click the title to read my review!

Pizza, Love and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams (Henry Holt)

Such Wicked Intent (Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #2) by Kenneth Oppel (Simon and Schuster)

The Rise of Nine (Lorien Legacies #3) by Pittacus Lore

Over You by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Heaven (Halo #3) by Alexandra Adornetto

Two Or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates

Life Happens Next by Terry Trueman

Anything I missed? And what are you reading??

Monday, August 20, 2012

Author Interview: Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Alyssa B. Sheinmel's new book, The Stone Girl, will be published by Knopf Books For Young Readers on August 28. A couple of weeks ago, I posted my review of The Stone Girl. Today, as part of a blog tour, Alyssa is also stopping by to answer a few questions about the book, fairy tales, sisters, and more!

Jen: The Stone Girl chronicles a high school senior’s struggle with an eating disorder. You write in the book’s introduction: “the deeper [Sethie] falls into her disorder, the smaller her world becomes.” Sethie is on the verge of having her horizons expand as she heads off to college. Yet in the book, we see both her world and her body steadily shrinking. Can you discuss that dynamic? 

ABS: Through sheer force of will, Sethie can make her inner-world smaller even as the world around her is expanding; she can meet new people, make new friends, and still force her private world to shrink. 

There are plenty of theories as to why eating disorders work this way.  Some experts theorize that eating disorders can be an attempt to keep from growing up – literally, in some cases, trying to reverse puberty, because the body becomes more childlike as the anorexic loses weight. That’s not exactly what Sethie’s doing; though she is at once desperate to begin and terrified to face the next phase in her life, to move out of her mother’s house, to leave Shaw behind, to begin attending the college she always dreamt of attending.

And then, of course, there is the control factor, the generally-accepted notion that eating disorders are about control more than anything else.  Sethie’s eating disorder can go on no matter what else is happening in her life.  It’s familiar, it can be relied upon.  Sethie can’t control whether she gets into Barnard, which dorm she’ll live in, whether her mother will ever finish filling out the FAFSA forms. But she can make her eating disorder stay exactly the same, no matter what other changes she’s facing.

Jen: In your introduction, you also say you “infused a little bit of magic into Sethie’s world.” It seems to me that all your books have magic or fairy tale elements. The Beautiful Between describes high school as a kingdom, The Lucky Kind refers to a sort of magic love bond that holds true through difficult times, and The Stone Girl is, in part, a story about transformation. When you were working on each book, did you have specific fairy tales or magical themes in mind?

ABS: Magic seems to find its way into each of my stories.  I have always loved fairy tales; I love the delicious Disney versions that I grew up with, the darker Grimm tales I read later, the fantasy worlds of The Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials.  When I wrote The Beautiful Between, fairy tales – Rapunzel in particular – were foremost in my mind.  Writing The Lucky Kind, magic found its way in, even though I hadn’t originally intended it to be a part of the story.

When I wrote The Stone Girl I made a conscious choice to include little bits of magic as another way to illuminate Sethie’s world.  Connelly, the protagonist in The Beautiful Between, created a fantasy world for herself to protect herself from the loneliness of losing her father.  The magic in Sethie’s story is a bit more subtle: Sethie fixates on her best friend’s defined collarbones, and in her mind, they glow when Janey is excited.  Sethie longs to be closer to her distant boyfriend Shaw, but his skin is always ice cold, making Sethie shiver.  Sethie finds a friend in Ben, who reminds her of an unlikely hero in a fairy tale, the giant who saves the day.

Jen: Yes! That's exactly how I saw Ben.  I was glad that he didn't just swoop in and save Sethie, fairy tale hero style, but I loved the way he helped her see the world a little differently.

You end each of your three books with an Ernest Hemingway quote. On your blog bio you say that you try to read a little Hemingway every day. Can you talk a little bit about how his writing inspires you?

ABS: There’s a quote that I keep on the bulletin board above my desk, from one of my favorite writers, Joan Didion, about Ernest Hemingway’s writing: “There was just something magnetic to me in the arrangement of those sentences.”  Leave it to Joan Didion to say it so brilliantly.  Magnetic is the perfect word for the way I feel about Ernest Hemingway’s writing.  I’m drawn to it: his metaphors seem to crackle and pop off the page; his imagery brings to life places I’ve never been, foods I’ve never eaten, wines I’ve never drunk.  There’s just something magical to me about his prose.

Jen: Your older sister, Courtney Sheinmel, is a middle grade author. What is it like having another writer in the family? Have the two of you ever thought of collaborating on a book?

ABS: Courtney and I grew up in a house where books were paramount.  Our parents always encouraged us to read, never refused us a book when we wanted it, and always supplied us with notebooks in which to write down our own stories. I think Courtney and I both wanted to be writers from the minute we figured out it was an actual job, and not just something fun to do when we were bored.

I have to admit, though, I think I would be a terrible collaborator!  I don’t like to talk about my writing while I’m in the middle of a project, which is kind of a prerequisite for working on a book with someone else.  I think I would probably be a nightmare to collaborate with!

Jen: Can you tell us about a project that you’re working on – or thinking about – right now?

ABS: I usually have a few works-in-progress. I don’t like to talk about the books that I’m working on while I’m working on them – I’m scared I might jinx myself.  With every book I try to do something that I didn’t do before; with The Lucky Kind, I tried to write in a voice completely different form the voice I’d written in for The Beautiful Between. The Stone Girl is my first novel in the third person, and I tried to add a little more magic to it than had been in either of my previous books. Next, I’m going to try to experiment with more magic, to play in different settings and create very different characters.  Most of all, I just want to write a better book than the books I’ve written before.

Jen: Well, I can't wait to read it!  Thanks so much for stopping by!

Here are all the details on Alyssa's blog tour:

8/1— Introduction
8/2—Emily’s Crammed Bookshelf Interview & review
8/3—Literary Rambles Guest post & giveaway
8/6—YA Romantics Review
8/7—The Book Addict’s Guide Interview
8/8—Book Club Chic Review
8/9—A Tale of Two Bookies Guest post
8/12—The Teen Book Guru Interview
8/13—The Teen Book Guru Review
8/14—Itching for Books Guest post
8/15—Random Acts of Reading Guest post
8/16—The Children’s Book Review Guest post & giveaway
8/17—Isabel Bandeira Mini-interview & guest post
8/20—YA Romantics Interview
8/21—Taking It One Book at a Time Interview
8/22—Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers Review & giveaway
8/23—Confessions of a Bookaholic Guest post & giveaway
8/24—The Compulsive Reader Guest post & giveaway
8/27—Almost Grown Up Interview
8/29—Letter Blocks Interview
9/1—Distraction No. 99 Guest post
9/2—Literary Escapism Guest post (for School’s In)
9/3—Dear Teen Me Guest post

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book Blogger Confessions 1: Classic or Cheesetastic?

I'm joining Book Blogger Confessions hosted by Karen at For What It's Worth Reviews, Tiger at All Consuming Media and Midnyte Reader.

This is today's question:

Have you ever loved a book that you know is not a great literary gem? Maybe it's filled with spelling errors, tired cliches, and is utterly cheestastic but you loved it anyway.

How do you handle that as a blogger who is used to critical thinking and analysis? Do you pretend you never read the book - never to be reviewed or added to your Goodreads shelf?
Do you write a review but maybe apologize and make excuses as to why you enjoyed it or are you bold and proud of any book you enjoyed?

Conversely - have you read a classic, that is considered a literary gem but you just didn't get it? Are you embarrassed to admit that or do you review it anyway?

My answer: YES to both!

I'm not a literary critic or a professional reviewer. Yes, I was an English major in college, but it's been a while since I wrote an essay.

I review YA, and in my opinion, reading YA is an emotional experience as well as a literary one. Thus, while my reviews take into account the quality of a book's writing, that is probably not be the deciding factor in whether or not I enjoy a book.

If I think that a book is beautifully written, I usually point that out in my review. Like I did here. And here.

If a book is not working for me, I try to figure out why. Once in a while, the answer is "bad writing." More often, the problem is in the plotting, or the pacing, or the tone. If I can't connect to any of the characters, I get bored and don't really care what happens.

I'm not embarrassed to say that I have found some classics and so-called "literary gems" incredibly boring.

But there are lots of classics that I've happily read and re-read. A few of my favorites are House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Washington Square by Henry James, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser.

Finally, my review -- any review -- is only one opinion. Others may disagree, and that's great. I love reading a book and then finding out that someone else has a completely different take on it. That's one of the things I love about blogging.

What do you think about this topic? Tell me in comments!

Extra! Extra! 18

Extra! Extra!

Extra! Extra! is my weekly Sunday post featuring brand new additions to my TBR pile as well as a summary of what's coming up on the blog.

This Sunday I'm linking up to Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and also Sundays in Bed With hosted by Kate at Midnight Book Girl. Kate is having a giveaway associated with Sundays in Bed. Join us and have a chance to win Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater!

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I'm back online again and happy to be here! Blogging on my phone with limited internet was a real challenge.

What book am I in bed with today?

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard. Click on the cover to go to Goodreads and check it out. I'm not the hugest fan of zombies or steampunk, but I do love alternate histories. I'm enjoying it so far. I have a hunch about who the nefarious necromancer is. We'll see if I'm right...

What's new on the blog?

I extended my Back to School giveaway for one more day. If you haven't entered to win a box of great, brand-new or yet-to-be-pubbed middle grade ARCs and books, including the Spindlers by Lauren Oliver, just click here. I reviewed all the books I'm giving away, so scroll backwards from that post to read them :)

I reviewed Speechless by Hannah Harrington yesterday. Click the highlighted text to check that out.

Congratulations to my amazing blogger friend Jen M from Some Like It Paranormal. As you may know, Jen loves Adrian from the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series more than anyone I know.

She and Monica from Cover Analysis  helped Anna Tee from Bursting Bookshelf lead #TeamIvashkov to a nail-bitingly close victory in the YA Sisterhood Crush Tourney. I raise my cherry slushy in a toast to these great Adrian advocates! I love both Will and Adrian, but I'm a sucker for a guy with a sense of humor, so I had to give my vote to Adrian.

What's coming up for next week? So glad you asked!

Monday I'm participating in Book Blogger Confessions, hosted by Karen at For What It's Worth. The topic is: are you embarrassed to admit on your blog that you love a cheesetastic book or hate a literary gem?  Find out my take tomorrow!

Monday I'm also interviewing YA author Alyssa B. Sheinmel, author of the upcoming YA novel The Stone Girl.

Tuesday is Hot off the Presses!

Thursday I review Spark by Brigid Kemmerer (with a recap of Storm, book one in the Elementals series)

Friday: Freebie Friday will be back -- yay!

Saturday: a review of Every Day by David Levithan.

I'm excited --  hope you'll stop by!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Speechless by Hannah Harrington


Welcome back to Standalone Saturday, in which I feature a book that does NOT have a sequel or a prequel.

Review of
by Hannah Harrington
To be published by Harlequin Teen
on August 28, 2012

Source: ARC from the publisher at BEA (Book Expo America.)  Read my review policy/disclosure here.

My summary:  Chelsea loves hanging around with her best friend Kristen. sneaking out behind her parents' backs to go to parties, laughing at those not lucky enough to be part of the in-crowd. Then one night, Chelsea finds out a secret. She could keep it to herself, but she can't resist spreading it around. Something terrible happens as a result. Hoping to gain some clarity, Chelsea takes a vow of silence. But she'll have to do more than that to make things right.

My thoughts: I loved Hannah Harrington's debut novel, Saving June, and so was super-excited to read this. (If you missed my review of Saving June, you can find it here.) Speechless cements my opinion that Hannah Harrington is a great new YA contemporary writer.

Hannah Harrington excels at writing female characters with an edge. Harper in Saving June tended toward the snarky and prickly. As Speechless opens, Chelsea is a little shallow. I'm full of admiration when an author takes a fairly unlikable character, then completely turns my opinion around. Chelsea isn't a horrible person, but she's one of those girls who is willing to do whatever it takes to stay popular. One night, she's been drinking and she's surrounded by her friends. She sees something she knows is gossip-worthy, and blurts it out to the group.
I don't know what I expected to happen when I told everyone. I guess I thought It'd be a funny story, or at least a memorable one. It'd be the kind of thing where later, every so often someone could bring it up by saying, "Hey, remember when Chelsea--"
The consequences of Chelsea's actions are horrible, and she does what she can to make things right. But she also remembers an article she read about a monk who took a vow of silence. So she decides to do the same.

Chelsea then discovers that listening can be more powerful than talking, that her so-called friends never really had her back, and that she's a stronger person than she knows. While I can't say there's anything surprising about most of this, I found the story gripping and emotionally moving. The writing is good, everything feels realistic, and even though I had a strong feeling about how things were going to turn out, I was seriously invested in this story until the very last page.

All the characters in Speechless had some surprises in store for me. By far my favorite was Asha the math nerd. I was a general nerd in high school, but without those math skills that would have come in handy later on! Sam is one of those where-were-the-boys-like-this-in-my-high-school guys, with his 90s movie references and general adorableness.

I definitely recommend Speechless and can't wait to read whatever Hannah Harrington writes next!
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