Thursday, March 31, 2011

REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: Chasing AllieCat by Rebecca Fjelland Davis


by Rebecca Fjelland Davis
Released on 02.01.2011
277 pages
Flux Books
Source: Copy from author via Teen {Book} Scene


Sadie Lester has been dumped with relatives for the summer. Boredom seems inevitable in her small Minnesota town until she meets Allie—a spiky-haired off-road biker with incredible grace and speed. Training for the upcoming bike race, Allie leads Sadie and cute fellow cyclist Joe up and down Mount Kato—an exhilarating rush that pushes their limits. The fun ends abruptly when they stray off the trail and find a priest, badly beaten and near death. After calling for help, Allie mysteriously disappears from their lives.

Just like the trash littering the beautiful river bluffs, there's something foul afoot. Creepy rednecks are prowling the woods, the same ones who ran Sadie and Allie off the road one night. It's not until the day of the big race that Sadie finally learns the startling truth about Allie, her connection to the priest, and what drove her into hiding (from GoodReads).


REVIEW: I can sum up Chasing AllieCat in three words: exciting, mysterious, and completely believable.  Rebecca Fjelland Davis has taken a dull summer out in the boons and made it a life-changing experience for three teenagers.

Sadie is a fantastic narrator.  The entire story is told from her first-person perspective, and we, the readers, do not lack for any visual descriptions or her opinions on what his happening - we are always in the know, although we don't know anything until Sadie does.  One of the chief reasons that I like Sadie so much is because she is a laid back, take-people-as-they-are person.  That doesn't mean that she doesn't have her opinions on people or doesn't gripe when she has to deal with them, but she accepts it, moves on and works past it.  I particularly like that she always was offended and stuck up for Allie when she thought Joe was making very un-PC remarks about her, particularly since it is evident from the get-go that she is attracted to him!  Like I said, she is easy going on people, but she sticks to her own opinions and is loyal to the people who have shown trust in her.  I like a character who isn't wishy-washy or a fair-weathered friend.

Allie is a prickly type of friendly from the get-go.  She is uncompromising and tough, but not necessarily a bully, although sometimes she can come off that way, particularly with Joe.  She genuinely wants to see people be their best and live the best way possible, which can cause her to be abrasive to people who are not up to code.  Joe, on the other, hand, is a nice guy, although not my type of guy.  In an odd twist, he is the nephew of Allie's aunt-by-marriage.  Like Sadie, he has been sent to live with relatives for the summer.  In his case, it's to escape the aftermath of a personal tragedy.  While I never bought the 'tough-guy' persona that he is originally present to us with, I did appreciate that his overall kindness and that he was working though some demons of his own.  This is a summer of growth and healing for him, and riding through the fear helps him as much as it does Sadie and Allie.

All three characters have an absolute passion for mountain biking and all three also shoulder tough burdens.  You get the idea from the beginning that Allie in particular comes from a sad and troubled background, but I had no clue just how bad it was until the end when the cause for her disappearance is revealed.  Davis wrote an exceptional plot in this book, and specifically with Allie's story, I think her skill really shines.  Throughout the book, we are given just enough clues and incidents that lead us to believe that certain possibilities were afoot, but you aren't sure which one it is until the end.  She also has a remarkable balance between this being a book about friendship and coming-of-age, and also being about Very Serious Subject Matter.  As the latter is never revealed until towards the end, I won't share that with you, but it's a tough thing to bear, and Davis uses very clear language when it's discussed, leaving us in no doubt of the reasons behind Allie's disappearance.  

I really enjoyed this book.  Although I had a little trouble getting into it at the very beginning, that quickly passed, and then I didn't want to put it down.  Davis' characters are distinct, her writing simple, vivid and descriptive, the plot fast-paced, and the mystery of Allie keeps your attention.  There is one, tiny aspect of the plot that I struggled with, but I will say it doesn't hinder my appreciation of the book or my recommendation of it.  Chasing AllieCat is a solid read, a great book about three unlikely comrades who share a summer that teaches them about what living is, and that fear is something to be conquered, not accepted.

FTC: I received this book from the author to read and give my honest opinion. In no way was I compensated for my review.



FAVORITE QUOTE: 

"She slid around the corner of the door like an alley cat, silent and graceful.  When she was riding her bike, her catlike movements flowed smooth as silk; that ability to land, tire-side down.  The alley cat.  On her feet, her AllieCatness seemed more unnatural, but I hadn't seen her walking around off her bike too many times...


Watching her grace in that moment . . .  I was aware again of how much I wished I were her, inside her perfect body with her fearless heart."


GIVEAWAY TIME!!

Rebecca Fjelland Davis was kind enough to provide copies of the book for the tour, so I am going to spread the wealth with a little giveaway.  If you would like to enter for a chance to win my SIGNED copy of Chasing AllieCat, please answer the following question below:

"Who is the bravest character you've ever read and why?"


Giveaway Rules:
****please answer the question above in the comments section
****please leave a valid email address with your comment
****giveaway is INTERNATIONAL
****giveaway ends on Saturday, April 9, 2011 at Midnight, E.S.T.
****Following is NOT required (but appreciated), and winner will be chosen by random.org

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

REVIEW: Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow

Broken
by Susan J. Bigelow
Released on 01.25.2011
264 pages
Candlemark and Gleam
Source: Copy from publisher/Teen {Book}Scene


Can a shattered superhero help save humanity's hope for a better world?

Broken figured she was done with heroics when she lost the ability to fly and fled the confinement of the Extrahuman Union. But then the world started to fall apart around her, and the mysterious Michael Forward entered her life, dangling the possibility of redemption and rebirth.

Michael Forward can see the future, but all he wants is to escape the destiny he has struggled against all his life. When the moment comes, though, he finds he can't refuse. Now he needs the help of a homeless ex-superhero to save a baby who may be the key to humanity's freedom.  

Monica had a good life with her large family, until two strangers and a baby showed up at her door. Now her family is gone, her life is in ruins, and she's on the run from the law.

In a time of spreading darkness, when paranoia and oppression have overtaken the world, three unlikely allies struggle to preserve a small ray of hope for a better, brighter future.

Broken is a story about the perils of being different, destiny's heavy burdens, and hope's persistence. It's a story of friendship, redemption and sacrifice in the face of a world gone mad.

Ultimately, it's a story about how sometimes, things thought lost forever may be found again.(from publisher).


REVIEW: You know, it's all about the classics nowadays.  We saw the resurgence of the vamps, then the weres, and even the zombies saw a little action recently.  So, it makes sense that the creme de la creme of supes should reemerge in literature . .  thank you, Susan Bigelow for bringing back actual superheroes in a fantastic way.  Broken is such an invigorating breath of fresh air.  If you are looking for a post-war, dystopian-type read with interesting characters possessing a supernatural twist, this one is for you. 

The book was a bit confusing at the very beginning - you are thrown into a paranoid world full of Unions, suspicions and violence.  The details are a little sketchy, but essentially two warring alien races introduced themselves somewhere in the mid-part of this century.  The human race allies itself to one.  In the midst of that war, war also broke out on Earth.  NYC in particular got the holy hell bombed out of it, and now Australia occupies the seat of power for the Earth and its planetary colonies in space.  It sounds like a lot, but the history is built up through out the book, and you quickly catch on through the alternating third-person limited points-of-view of Michael and Broken.  Like the synopsis says, Broken is a has-been superhero who's lost her ability to fly.  Flying defined Broken back in the day, and without it, she doesn't feel that she is anything much worth loving.  Michael is a prescient - someone who can look people dead in the face and see their possible futures.  He has inherited a mission of sorts - to get a baby who holds the future peace of the world or its destruction in his tiny hands to a safe place to be raised.  And he needs Broken to help, but she's turned into a homeless alcoholic.  Michael has a hook, though, and it's not one that Broken can say no to.  Seriously, could you say no to your heart's dearest desire?

I may have to change my tune now about plot driven books because this ride was awesome.  Not that the characters were lacking, because they weren't - in fact, I should say that Broken is a great example of balancing good plot with solid characterization.  Michael is this baby brother-like kid forced into the role of reluctant hero, and wow, could you feel his apprehension about having to do all this.  He nearly broke my heart sometimes.  Broken was one of the saddest, most pathetic creatures I've ever read (she and Tom Mackee from The Piper's Son would have some fabulous conversations), and Monica . .  she was the wild card, the one who got thrown into this mess after she loses her family.  Although not as significant as Broken and Michael, she adds a very human, very poignant touch of being caught up in everything and just trying to deal. 

The writing is tight, simple and its simplicity works well against the gritty landscape of this world, and it moves the story along at a great pace.  There's a lot that happens in this book, so I think it's a huge testament to the plot that it never felt lacking or lagging in any areas for me.  Biegelow also keeps you guessing about many things and reveals them slowly through flashbacks and chance encounters.  In fact, you don't even really know Broken and Michael's ages until you are well into the book.  About the only thing I could have asked for was a clearer explanation about what happened on Planet We're Screwed a bit earlier in the book - but, hey, it's speculative fiction!  What's the point in reading if you aren't paying attention and figuring things out for yourself?

This is a book I would suggest for older YA readers - there are a few sexual encounters, some language,and a good age range amongst the three main characters.  In general, there is a very mature, older feel to this book.  In fact, I see a great crossover potential.  It deals a lot with ideas we can all relate to: that life is about choices, that you have to put your faith in doing the right thing, no matter how hard it is, and that there are things far greater than yourself in this world.  Sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous and always immersed in the what-ifs, Broken is a great book about deciding what your future is and making the choices and taking the actions to get there.

Monday, March 28, 2011

REVIEW + GIVEAWAY of The Long Weekend & AUTHOR SCRAPBOOK with Savita Kalhan


The Long Weekend
by Savita Kalhan
Released on 10.02.2008 (U.K.)
180 pages
Andersen Press
Source: Book from Author via blog tour organized by Melissa @ i swim for oceans

Sam knows that he and his friend Lloyd made a colossal mistake when they accepted the ride home. They have ended up in a dark mansion in the middle of nowhere with man who means to harm them. But Sam doesn't know how to get them out. They were trapped, then separated. Now they are alone. Will either of them get out alive? This gripping and hypnotic thriller will have you reading late into the night (from GoodReads).


REVIEW: If this book is ever made into a movie, they are going to have to bring Alfred Hitchcock back from dead.  I don't know of single other director who could possibly do the freak-out, scare factor justice.

I usually am underwhelmed by any book publicized to be a 'thriller'; they typically fail to give me that oh-my-gaaawd-look-over-my-shoulder thrill.  You can probably tell that I am leading up to this, but let me just declare that The Long Weekend delivers.  Paranormal baddies can't compare to the true, entirely possible, everyday evil that drives down our streets and exists in this book. 

First, you simply aren't ready for it.  The opening reads like an MG book.  It's thoroughly enjoyable, but its wording and the two 11-year old characters both are firmly in the junior high boys' world of sports, music and simply hanging out.  Then, their parents are late picking them up one evening, and they are stuck waiting in the rain for one set or the other.  And finally a car pulls up, and the both get in, each thinking it's the other's dad.  I mean, would your 11-year old know better?  You know he would, you think he would, and then you hope he would; but. . .  does he?

What ensues is a parent's worse nightmare and one that kids may not know enough to have.  Kalhan skillfully balances our horror at the boys' situation with the wonderful, rational, determined and loyal Sam.  The story is told through a his third-person limited perspective, and his denial, terror, and assessment of the situation becomes your own.  His fear and emotions are so en pointe that we never are bothered with checking behind our back for our safety; we are too busy worried about what is going to jump in front of Sam (and us).  His entirely believable voice adds an additional level of fright because he sounds exactly like an 11-year old in an impossible situation - it adds an even more potent dose of realism, and the irony is that I don't think this is a book I would suggest for 11-year olds!  It's that frighteningly real.  It's that scary.  Despite the younger tone and the age of the characters, this is a book I would suggest for YA audiences and older.

This is a wonderfully written, stand alone book.  Kalhan makes sure that we leave this story with a resolution, and I was greatly impressed that she kept me guessing what would happen with the boys right until the end.  If you are looking for a keep-you-up-all-night thriller with very real characters and a plot that can happen in everyday life, then The Long Weekend is for you. 

**Unfortunately, this book currently is not available in the U.S. for purchase (although it can be ordered for Kindle and from Book Depository), but please read on to get the details on how you can win a SIGNED copy through my INTERNATIONAL giveaway!

FTC: I received this book from the author to read and give my honest opinion. In no way was I compensated for my review.

Scrapbook Time with the Author!

I am so excited to be hosting Savita Kalhan here today!  In lieu of the traditional author interview, Savita has put together a wonderful scrapbook post of her widely traveled life!  I hope you enjoy!  Details on the INTERNATIONAL giveaway are at the end!

I’m doing a scrapbook of my life on your blog today, and as I’ve never done anything like this before, I’m really excited about it! Don’t worry, I’ll try and keep it short and sweet, so I’m choosing a few moments of my life to share with everyone.

You can probably all tell that I’m Indian. Well, I was born in India, in my grandparent’s house in a small village called Kartarpur, which is in the state of Punjab. I was only there for about 11 months before we uprooted and came to live in the UK. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but it was a huge move for my parents. 


Here’s a picture of me and my mum!
 I’ve got lots of sisters and brothers – four sisters and two brothers, so we had a busy household, and being the eldest, I had quite a short childhood because I had to grow up fast. There were tough times and good times too.


Here’s an old photograph of me with my sisters when we were very young. Next to it, there is a picture of us about 35 years later! I’m the second from the left in both.

                
I got some space when I went to university. I chose Aberystwyth University, in Wales because on my open day visit it was a gorgeous day, blue sky, sun blazing, and the Halls of Residence, where I would live, were directly on the seafront. Little did I know that it wasn’t like that for most of the year! There were raging storms, days and nights when the wind and the rain battered the windows while the sea raged and hurled huge stones and rocks at the buildings. I still loved it there! Alexandra Hall, where I lived is the building right on the far side of the seafront.

I graduated in Politics and Philosophy, started a Masters in the Political Philosophy of John Paul Sartre, and stayed in Aberystwyth. That’s when I started dabbling in Batik. I taught myself and managed to turn it into a business. I had exhibitions and taught in schools, and even taught groups of Art teachers.
Here’s a stand that I had at the Ideal Home Exhibition. 

Then, somehow or other, came several years of living in the Middle East where I taught English. It was a huge adjustment, and made me realise how hard it must have been for my parents when they left India. But gradually I got used to it, made friends, joined a beach club, because we were so close to the Red Sea, and started playing tennis.

This is a picture of the original design for the world that an architect friend of mine drew up for me!
This was also the time when I started writing. It was very hard to get books there, so I used to have to almost smuggle in large quantities! I was reading tons of crime and tons of epic fantasy then. Imagine how it felt when after all that effort, some of them weren’t worth the effort it took to get them there. My friend and I decided that we would write a fantasy epic together. The plan was that I would start it off, so I thought about it for a while, got a plan together in my head, and set pen to paper. I finished the first chapter, gave it to her to read, and waited for her to write the next. Of course, that never happened! I ended up writing the whole trilogy myself, but she did read every word!

By the late nineties I was back living in the UK with my husband and my baby boy, who was 11 months then! I carried on trying to write, but wasn’t really very focused until my son started school. That’s when I found myself turning back to the fantasy trilogy. I rewrote it, but left the last couple of chapters of the third book unfinished, fully intending to return to them. Instead I found myself writing lots of different things; from books for young readers, to middle grade, to more contemporary fiction, books with an edge to them, for teens and young adults

One day a flyer was sent round the local schools warning that a large flashy car had been seen cruising outside the schools and that the driver had tried to snatch children. I didn’t think that with all the talks and lectures that kids get at school that it could happen easily. Kids are pretty aware, but we all know that it does still happen. A scenario came to my mind where something like that could happen with terrifying ease.  That’s when I wrote The Long Weekend.

As you can see, I’ve done lots of different things before I became a writer, and the journey was long and meandering. At times it was very difficult too. Now I actually feel like a writer, but for a long time, when I was unpublished, it was hard because of the struggle to carry on, to persevere come what may, and also because, in my experience, people never really took an unpublished writer seriously.

I try to keep my website up to date with all my news and events. So please have a look around, and say HI! on my message board. Let me what you think of The Long Weekend!  You can also find me tweeting on random things over on Twitter or come and join me on Facebook.

Thanks so much for inviting me here today, Linds. I’ve had fun! 

Thank you, Savita!  It was great having you and learning more about the author behind The Long Weekend!

GIVEAWAY TIME with Savita!!
For the international GIVEAWAY competition for a SIGNED copy of The Long Weekend, I’d like your followers (and non-followers :) to answer a question:

 "What book do you wish you had written and why?"

 Answer in the comments section please! I’m looking forward to reading their responses.

Giveaway Rules with Linds:
****please answer Savita's question above in the comments section
****please leave a valid email address with your comment
****giveaway is INTERNATIONAL
****giveaway ends on Monday, April 4, 2011 at Midnight, E.S.T.
****Following is NOT required (but appreciated), and winner will be chosen by random.org

Good luck!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In My Mailbox (18)


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme started by The Story Siren with inspiration from Pop Culture Junkie.

This is a great event where we share all the great books we've picked up to read for the week! Please join us in getting to know one another and sharing great reads!  Here's what I got this week . . .

For Review:

by Franny Billingsley

Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.

Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know (thank you, Dial Books/Penguin).


by R.A. McDonald

Ada hasn't grown up in a house with a white picket fence. Instead she was cast off and absorbed into the foster care system, quickly putting up a shield of hostility. Always knowledgeable of the sicknesses of those around her and never getting hurt just seemed like facts of life. Finally on her last strike of trouble, an estranged aunt comes to the rescue, giving Ada the knowledge of how to use her healing power. Now Ada, who up to this point has shunned the world, all of the sudden has the power to heal it.

This book delves into the psychology and growth of a teenage girl coming to grips with the knowledge that there are some good people out there; some people worth healing.  Along with action and adventure, Ada, Legend of a Healer also brings to light numerous philosophical issues. Like many middle and high school girls, Ada is introduced to society's harsh realities at a young age, so she's built a wall of anger to strengthen her self reliance, to survive. Despite the pressure and demands, Ada refuses to sacrifice her self-worth, and in this she discovers that a strong will overcomes all obstacles (thank you, House of Lore Publishing).
by Susan J. Bigelow

In a post-war future world where First Contact has been made, humans are colonizing the stars, and the nations of Earth have been united under a central government, Extrahumans are required by law to belong to the Union. When a young man with visions of the future sets out on a mission to define the course of human history, he encounters a devastated former hero, a fascist dictatorship bent on world domination, and the realities of living in a society where affiliation is everything (thank you, Candlemark & Gleam).  Be sure to check back here on Tuesday for my review!



From the library:

by Mike A. Lancaster

Kyle Straker volunteered to be hypnotized at the annual community talent show, expecting the same old lame amateur acts. But when he wakes up, his world will never be the same. Televisions and computers no longer work, but a strange language streams across their screens. Everyone’s behaving oddly. It’s as if Kyle doesn’t exit.

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

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


The Vespertine
by Saundra Mitchell

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

That's it from me this week. What did you get in your mailbox?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Blogger Hop and Follow Friday!


The hop is hosted by Crazy-for-Books. Check out Jennifer's blog to sign up and start hopping!  

This week's question:

 "If you could physically put yourself into a book or series…which one would it be and why?"

OMG, fantastic question!  Um, I would have to say the NIGHT HUNTRESS series by Jeaniene Frost.  I'd looooooove to be a kick-ass chick amongst all those hottie vamps!  And Vlad and I could FINALLY meet!  Ahhh, chills!



 
Also, today is Follow Friday with Rachel's blog, Parajunkee's ViewThis week's question:


"Inspired by the inane twitter trend of #100factsaboutme, give us five BOOK RELATED silly facts about you."  

I don't know if mine are silly, but here they are:

1) My husband is not allowed to look through my books, especially not my paranormal or PNR ones.  If he does, inevitable snickering ensues, and I take it, ahem, a little personally.  He had a field day with Love In the Time of Dragons by Katie MacAlister.


2) I was a struggling reader when I was little.  I sobbed during a kindergarten test because I couldn't figure out the connection between 'bat', 'hat', 'at'.  Then something clicked in third grade and I became one of the top readers in the class.  


3) My TBR list from NetGalley is getting a little out of control.  And I don't have the time to read most of them before their release.  Which is the whole point **smacks forehead**.


4) I had an obsession with the name Karen from the Baby-Sitter-Little Sister series by Ann. M. Martin when I was little.  I thought Karen was the be-all and end-all, and anytime I played make-believe, I or my doll was named Karen.


5) Besides being a huge supporter of literacy and reading education in general, I am a HUGE supporter of financial literacy.  My philosophy is simple: if you don't own your finances, they own you.  I think this is especially important for women.  Did you know that 80% of men die married, while 80% of women die single. 75% of women living in poverty today were not poor before they were widowed.  If you want to bone up your own personal financial literacy, please check out On My Own Two Feet: a modern girl’s guide to personal finance by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar.  It takes you from the basics of saving and understanding credit to investing, and it's super easy to read!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Thursday Literary News Roundup (17)

The Thursday Literary News Roundup



Blog Posts of Note:

Turns out that the brother of one of the lovely ladies at The Lit Express is a total techie.  His guest post, "The eBook Revolution", really illuminated for me just what we are and are not buying when 'purchasing' e-books.  Extremely informative, and I recommend that you check it out.

Another great guest post on Kody Keplinger's blog: "Phoebe North on Sex Positive YA"

A guest post on the Wall Street Journal's blog Speakeasy by Nickel Plated author Aric Davis caught my eye.  If you were on Twitter yesterday, you may have noticed it also ruffled some feathers, but here it is: "Sex? Violence? An Author Tests the Boundaries in YA fiction." 

Great post from the Librarian in Black: "CIL 2011: eBooks and Their Growing Value for Libraries (PART 1)"
 

I LOVE it when I see my fellow bloggers love a book as much as I do!  Savy from Books with Bite, Audrey from Holes in My Brain, and Melissa from i swim for oceans all read and reviewed the absolutely amazing Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar in the last week.  Especially impressive was Melissa's assessment: "Remember how I said contemporary fiction wasn't my thing? After reading Raw Blue, I can honestly say that this is the epitome of what the genre should be. I've read a lot of books, but Raw Blue is in a league of its own. Raw and real, Kirsty Eagar bottled heartache and let it spill over into the pages of her book, letting the words spin a story that's mesmerizing, heartbreaking and wholeheartedly touching."  Want to learn more about this wonderful work that NEEDS to be published in the U.S.?  Click on the Raw Blue button in my right column.





Positive review from Maxine from My Love Affair with Books on a new on an August 2011 release titled Populazzi by Elise Allen, ". .  .just how many of us would not be ready to put everything we care for at risk to become a Populazzi? This book  not only explores the school hierarchy but also the imperfections hidden beneath the perfect and glamorous exterior of the popular group."



Lindsi from Books, Sweets and Other Treats reviewed the upcoming A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan: "There is a mystery to be solved, a new world to explore, and a devastating love story that I couldn't look away from. If you decide to read this, I recommend a box of tissues to go with the story. "


o is the book worth it? Are you kidding me? This book is worth every single breath of air. You just have to pick it up. Pain, happiness, sorrow, and hardship, in a world where the human race is burning out - The Dark and Hollow Places is definitely stunning."




Tara at Hobbitsies gave a great review for The Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan: "Overall, I thought The Long Weekend was a very powerful book. It was shocking, upsetting, and absolutely engaging. I had to know the outcome of Sam and Lloyd’s weekend, no matter what. I absolutely recommend picking up The Long Weekend. It’s so unlike anything I’ve read before."  This book is not released in the U.S. yet, but Tara and the rest of the stops on the blog tour for it are holding giveaways, as well - check out the whole tour schedule at  i swim for oceans for your chance to win a copy!



Articles to Read:

Very nice article from the Illawarra Mercury in Australia on the growing popularity of romance readers, from young adult to adult paranormal: "Finding love between the covers".

Well, hello, this is seven shades of awesome!  From The Star-Tribune out of Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN, "The story of style".  Here's an excerpt: "As part of the new program sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS), Riley and other designers are teaching a group of girls about the local fashion scene. The goal of the project is to preserve stories about the community, said Aleah Vinnick, young adult audience specialist for the MNHS. Through intergenerational learning, Vinnick hopes the young participants will be "inspired by designers' work to create a new history."

From GalleyCat, "Mass Market Paperback Sales Plunged Nearly 31% in January".

YALSA is calling for ideas!  They are "seeking proposals for programs for continuing education sessions for ALA’s 2012 Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA, June 22 – 26, 2012."  Got a creative idea?  Take the survey and help them out!

Ohhhh, Bloomsbury has acquired worldwide, English language rights to a very timely novel.  In Darkness by Nick Lake "tells the story of Shorty, a boy trapped in a collapsed building in Port au Prince in Haiti. Enveloped in darkness Shorty relives the brief life that brought him at the age of 14 to be in the hospital with a gunshot wound. Woven with his story is that of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the revolutionary black leader of Haiti in the 1790's who led the slave revolt. Despite being centuries apart their two lives will become irrevocably entwined."  It sounds fascinating, and it will be published in January 2012.

The shortlist for the 23rd annual Lambda Literary Awards, including the nominees for its LGBT Children’s/Young Adult category - here's the list:
Christian, the Hugging Lion, by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell, illustrated by Amy June Bates, Simon & Schuster
God Loves Hair, by Vivek Shraya, llustrated by Juliana Neufeld,  Vivek Shraya 
Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde, Random House Books for Children
Love Drugged, by James Klise, Flux
Wildthorn, by Jane Eagland, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Amanda Hocking has been in the news a lot lately.  The LA Times says she might be working on a new four-book series, but she also might be looking to take a more traditional route to publishing it: "Self-publishing phenom Amanda Hocking said to be looking for traditional deal"

Neil Shusterman, YA Author of the upcoming Bruiser, spent the day with middle-school students Wilsonville Spokesman, :"Learning the art of writing from an expert".

Did you miss out on the Breathless tour?  Here's GalleyCat with a great interview: "Five YA Authors in One Interview"

Blahblah, here some legality items concerning the digital publishing/sales world/ereaders:
From The New York Times: "Judge Rejects Google’s Deal to Digitize Books" (love the tongue-in-cheek opening line)
Form Business Insider: "Barnes and Noble's Imploding Business Scares Off All Buyers".
From AfterDawn.com: "Microsoft sues Barnes & Noble, Foxconn over alleged patent violations"
From PCWorld: "If Android Violates Patents, Shouldn't Microsoft Sue Google?"

Hey, college kids!  The New York Times is holding its 2011 Modern Love College Essay Contest - Deadline is March 31, 2011!  Check it out!

From The Bold Type blog on Forbes.com: "The Top Selling Female E-book Authors". 

Okay, I find this somewhat blasphemous, but also fascinating.  From the Huffington Post: "Book Art: Coolest Book Sculptures By Artist Brian Dettmer"

Did you see this?  Insert tongue into cheek and don't choke: "The Electronic Publishing Bingo Card: Because someone had to do it, and why not me."


Buzz: Books and Otherwise

From the LA Times, Suzanne Collins has given an official thumbs up to J. Law: "Suzanne Collins on Jennifer Lawrence: 'powerful, vulnerable, beautiful, unforgiving and brave'

From MTV: "Summit Entertainment's Post-'Twilight' Plans Are 'Divergent'.  I am sending up a tiny prayer to the book-to-movie adaptation gods that Divergent turns out a little better than Twilight.  Please?  Sorry, Twihards.

From CinemaBlend.com: "Pettyfer And Lawrence Out, Julianne Moore In For The Seventh Son" (aka The Last Apprentice).

Excited for Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini?  Check out this just released video!







That's it for this week, kids! More news and fun stuff to come next week!

If you have any thoughts or suggestions for The Thursday Literary New Roundup, feel free to comment or email me at bibliophile.brouhaha@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (17)



"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. I highly encourage you to get to know your fellow bloggers and see what's new and upcoming in the book world!

Here's what I'm waiting on:


Releases on 05.10.2011

Synopsis from GoodReads:

When 17-year-old Jamie arrives on the idyllic New England island of Little Bly to work as a summer au pair, she is stunned to learn of the horror that precedes her. Seeking the truth surrounding a young couple's tragic deaths, Jamie discovers that she herself looks shockingly like the dead girl—and that she has a disturbing ability to sense the two ghosts. Why is Jamie's connection to the couple so intense? What really happened last summer at Little Bly? As the secrets of the house wrap tighter and tighter around her, Jamie must navigate the increasingly blurred divide between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Brilliantly plotted, with startling twists, here is a thrilling page-turner from the award-winning Adele Griffin.

So, what are you waiting on?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

REVIEW: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


by Ruta Sepetys
Releases on 03.22.2011
352 pages
Philomel Books
Source: ARC won through LibraryThing

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously—and at great risk—documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart (from GoodReads).

REVIEW:
"One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic."
-widely attributed to Joseph Stalin

Say what you want to about Stalin: evil, antichrist, dictator, etc.  You'd be right, but he also knew human nature in all its callousness.  He knew.  Here's the thing. . . even before reading this book, I knew that he was responsible for the murder of some twenty-million people.  20,000,000!  How does one even comprehend such a number?  I clearly remember thinking in high school, "How?  What deaths?  Does this have something to do with the Holocaust?"  Somehow, after the Victorian period and Russian Revolution, but before WWII, the USSR just appeared.  It just happened.  I can't make sense of how I did this (and I loved history class), but I think I somehow just attributed all those deaths to the Holocaust because they seemed to happen at the same time, but I couldn't figure out exactly where they fit in and why.

And, of course, there were no stories, no actual, personal memoirs to tell me differently.  No versions of Schindler's List or Elie Wiesel's Night existed about the plight of these European nations, ones which we in the United Stated don't know nearly as much about as we do France, Spain, Germany and Italy.  Twenty million was just a statistic to me - a wholly regrettable, but forgettable, number, because there was no narrative.  Until now.

Between Shades of Gray is beautiful book about human endurance and the will to survive.  Lina, her younger brother, Jonas, and her beautiful, courageous, hopeful, and selfless mother, Elena, are one of the most wonderful families that I've read about in so, so long, and it's due to this that they were able to cope as they did.  Lina's coming-of-age into young adulthood is wretchedly overshadowed by the need to survive.  Her thriving talent becomes her lifeline, her tool that keeps her going because people must know what happened.  The descriptions are well-detailed and harrowing.  Sepetys' writing is simple and lets the plain, but evil reality of Lina's situation shine through.  The documented difference between 'before' and 'after' are particularly well done.  It's woven throughout the story, and not only are we sadly treated to glimpses of Lina's life before she was taken, but the political climate is illustrated, as well.  The wonderful lyrical quality in the story's tone contrasts with the ugliness that surrounds Lina.  There is no need to embellish what happens in this book - the facts stand clear on their own.   It's amazing how simple prose can lovingly and horrifically convey both the desperate circumstances Lina faces and the character of the various and varied people in this book.   

Between Shades of Gray is a completely appropriate name for this book, as it not only names the color palette Lina has to work with, but also the spectrum of moral choices that everyone has to make in it.  It's a very excellent example of how different people will do different things given the same set of circumstances, about how you can't always assume there is a clear-cut 'right' choice.  Variables are important and can sway a person one way or another. . . I'd like to think of myself as a noble creature, one who would say, "Death, be damned," and who would do what is without reproach.  I'd like to think that, but most of us aren't heroes, and we make the choices we can lay our heads down on at night, and I'd likely be one of them.  The characters in this book are no exception.  However, acts of humanity sometimes do creep up when they are needed most.  There is community between these pages, and between the most unlikely of characters.

I have a lot of experience with Holocaust literature, and while Between Shades of Gray isn't a part of that specific group, it is a contemporary of it.  Many of the things that happen in this book are similar to things that have happened in pieces of Holocaust literature and will provoke similar reactions from you.  What makes this book special is that it is among the first, perhaps the first, to shed light on a very little known chapter in history.  You won't regret reading Lina's story, and by doing so, you will help give voice to those formerly silenced.  I highly recommend it. 

I highly suggest that you watch this beautifully made video that explains the history and background of Between Shades of Gray.  The research and heart that the author put into this story is evident.  While I did not cry while I read, I teared up quite a bit listening to Ruta speak of her passion for this subject.  Please watch - it will give you a far richer understanding of previously unheard voices in history. . .


Ruta Sepetys discusses her upcoming novel, Between Shades of Gray from Penguin Young Readers Group on Vimeo.


QUOTES:
(please note that these quotes are from an ARC and may be changed in a final copy - page numbers are not provided for this reason)

"'Twenty minutes,' the officer barked.  He threw his burning cigarette onto our clean living room floor and ground it into the wood with his boot.

We were about to become cigarettes."

"I shut the bathroom door and caught sight of my face in the mirror.  I had no idea how quickly it was to change, to fade.  If I had, I would have stared at my reflection, memorizing it.  It was the last time I would look into a real mirror for more than a decade."

"My breathing slowed.  I shaded her thick chestnut hair resting in a smooth curve against her face, a large bruise blazing across her cheek.  I paused, looking over my shoulder to make certain I was alone.  I drew her eye makeup, smudged by tears.  In her watery eyes I drew the reflection of the commander, standing in front of her, his fist clenched.  I continued to sketch, exhaled, and shook out my hands."

Monday, March 21, 2011

REVIEW: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither
(The Chemical Garden Trilogy #1)

by Lauren DeStefano
Releases on 03.22.2011
356 pages
Simon and Schuster
Source: ARC from fellow blogger

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

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

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

REVIEW: This book has a lot of hype, and I was extremely excited to read it for a few different reasons: 1) I love a good dystopian book; 2) I love a good 'issues' book, particularly if it affects young women.  Doesn't matter if it's fiction or nonfiction, I love reading about 'issues'; 3) anything that smacks of FDLS interests me - that whole concept fascinates me in a heebie-jeebie kind of way.  
 
First off, Lauren DeStefano is a beautiful writer.  That's the best part about Wither.  Her descriptions are wonderful, and I never had any issues picturing what she was describing.  The first chapter?  I thought it was one of the most captivating intros I've recently read, and my personal opinion is that it was the most exciting part of the book.  As for her characters, each is distinct and interesting, from the quietly headstrong Rhine, to the complex Jenna, to the child-bride Cecily.  Housemaster Vaughn is a creepy, creepy old man, and his son Linden, aka, the Governor, is both pathetic and good-natured.  In particular, Rhine, the protagonist and first-person narrator, has a very clear voice.  I found that her intelligence and vulnerability made her a very 'real' character.  At first, she quickly assesses her situation and is fiercely determined to escape from her pretty cage, but as time goes on, she occasionally finds herself slipping under the spell of her prison's charms and the kindness of Linden.  As much as I think any of us would sympathize with her plight, I think we equally would find common ground with her as she starts to acknowledge her growing affection for various people in the house.  With there being three different wives, the reader is treated to an excellent lesson on perspective, about how one's background can help determine how a person approaches various hardships.  Straight up, if I were in Rhine's place and had to live as she and her brother did day-to-day and knew I only had four years to live, I would think, "Sweeeeet!  Hey, can we get my bro a job here or something?"  Would I play happy little wife in a gilded cage to spend the remaining years of my life in comfort and to secure my brother's comfort, as well?  In our current 2011 world?  Hell no.  In Rhine's post-apocalyptic world?  You better believe it.  Does that sound crazy?  Let me know what you think after you read.  My personal opinion is that necessity and comfort are the mothers of persuasion.

The setting is fascinating, and it's also where the trilogy gets its name.  Rhine lives in world that seems half real, half illusion.  We don't get this sense of artificial living when she reflects on her former life with her brother in their home, but in her new life as a beautiful trophy wife (and prisoner), everything seems made up of holograms or doesn't quite seem authentic to her.  She notes it when things seem 'off' - it's subtle and the plot quickly moves on to other things, but it's certainly mentioned enough times that I think that authentic living vs manufactured living is going to become even more important as we read on in the series.

The story flows very well.  There is great style and consistency in DeStefano's writing, and I was pleased with her natural talent, especially since Wither is her first book.  With that being said, the flow is of a softly moving stream, not a swiftly moving river.  I didn't feel like any parts lagged, but nor did I feel a sense of urgency, either.  After all, we are not dealing with characters who have very long to live, according to the synopsis.  The book takes place in just under a year, but that's a precious amount of time considering 16-year old Rhine only has until age 20 to live.  I just felt that I very comfortably drifted from one section of the book into the next.  Obviously, this is part of a trilogy, and I look forward to reading what happens in the next two books as there certainly are some unanswered questions and unfinished plot lines. However, this book could so easily have been a stand-alone story or maybe a two-parter.  Had it been, I think I would have found it a more fastly paced story and read it with a greater sense of urgency. 

Here's the odd thing that occurred to me while reading: if I had only until age 20 to live, I would not be having any children, and supposedly, the whole premise of kidnapping girls is to have multiple wives so you can have many children so the human race can keep on keepin' on.  I realize that girls in Rhine's place do not have a choice in the matter, but even if I was a guy, and knew I was going to die at 25, I still don't think having children would be on my brain.  Even if Linden hypothetically had a child at 13 or 14, he would be dead by the time the kid was 11 or 12.  Who am I to leave a child in such a world without me?  The book does a good job of making sure that we know what happens to such children, but I still didn't understand the idea of perpetuating that.  It seems kind of sick and cruel to have children when you know you won't live long enough to raise them or for them to really remember you. 

Obviously, the book raises a lot of questions, and I can't discuss them all here - I would be spoiling some things for you if I did.  I hope that the series moves on, we have more insight, more answers and more urgency.  I am not sold on the premise, and given the ending, I am not really sure where the trilogy is going, but I am invested and intrigued enough to want to read more.  The ending is not exactly a cliffhanger.  I actually felt like it could have ended right there had some questions been answered beforehand.  It would have been ambiguous, but it would have been a completed story.  While I had some issues with the plot, DeStefano's writing is eloquent, her characters are interesting, and I overall enjoyed reading Wither.  I am looking forward to seeing what happens to Rhine and Co. in book two.

QUOTES:
(please note that these quotes are from an ARC and may be changed in a final copy - page numbers are not provided for this reason)
"I wait.  They keep us in the dark for so long that we lose sense of our eyelids.  We sleep huddled together like rats, staring out, and dream of our bodies swaying."
- what an opening, right?!

"And, of course, I think of my twin brother, Rowan.  Without each other, we are only half of a whole.  I can hardly stand the thought of him all alone in that basement at night.  Will he search through the scarlet district for my face in a brothel?  Will he use one of the delivery trucks for his job to look for my body on roadsides?  Of all the things he could ever do, of all the places he could ever search, I am certain he will never find this mansion. . . "

"The man in white says, 'What fate has brought together, let no man tear asunder.'
Fate, I think, is a thief."

"I compare my blood sibling, Rowan, to Jenna and Cecily, who have become my sisters.  And, in this blurry, somewhat inebriated state, I can almost see what Gabriel meant when he asked What has the free world got that you can't get here?
Almost."