Archive | April, 2011

Words of Love Book Signing: With Sarah MacLean, Kieran Kramer, and Maya Rodale

29 Apr

WORD: Romance Signing 8

Back when I first started blogging, I kept coming across Sarah MacLean‘s name on a lot of other book blogs. The more time I spent on Goodreads, the more I noticed her books popping up on friends’ TBR lists. After reading so many rave reviews, I finally broke down and read her first adult romance “Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake” and promptly fell in love.

I hadn’t read any romance since I was a teenager. And even then, V.C. Andrews’ novels– what I mostly read- are more akin to  psychological terrorism than romance. (Not sure what I mean? Read My Sweet Audrina. It’s still giving me nightmares 10 years later).  After reading 2 of Sarah’s novels, I went on a bit of a romance kick. So I was completely overjoyed to hear she would be in Brooklyn the night after her newest book’s (“Eleven Scandals…”) release, with 2 other celebrated Regency romance novelists Kieran Kramer, and Maya Rodale.

WORD: Romance Signing 9

I had never been to WORD in Greenpoint, Brooklyn before. But I’ll definitely be going back! It’s an incredibly cute little bookstore, and only about 15 minutes from my apartment. They host a lot of great events too, so next time an author I like is making an appearance, I won’t miss it!

The ladies of WORD had set up all kinds of fancy treats for the night’s guests. Champagne, scones, and clotted cream (which I had never tried!) were a total hit.

WORD: Romance Signing 7

After a short time, a Q&A with all 3 authors began. I wish someone would have videotaped it! Sarah, Maya, and Kieran had the best chemistry of any group of authors I’ve ever encountered. They answered questions submitted over email, and told stories about deadlines, coming up with titles, and what lies in their future. Kieran especially had some crazy stories, about her time working for the CIA, and what a Scotsman *really* wears under his kilt! The entire audience was laughing throughout the night.

WORD: Romance Signing 6

I was especially excited to learn that Sarah’s next series, a quartet, is about 4 scandalous men who start England’s first casino. Luckily, book one is out this December!

After the Q&A, the authors signed books and spoke to fans upstairs:

WORD: Romance Signing 5

I’m so glad I got a chance to meet and talk with all three of these amazing women. Hearing the back stories behind the books, and the writing process was great! I feel like I learned a lot about what it takes to write a GOOD romance novel. Sarah, Maya and Kieran were so nice too! 

After getting my books signed and having a little chat, I got my photo taken with each author. Please pardon the crazy hair: next time it’s grossly humid, and I’m rushing to a book signing, I will look in a mirror before putting my hair in a bun! ; )

WORD: Romance Signing 4
Me and Sarah.

WORD: Romance Signing 3
Me and Maya.

WORD: Romance Signing 2
Kieran and I.

My review of Eleven Scandals… should be up sometime in the next week. And I can’t wait to read Maya and Kieran’s newest books too. Thanks to all 3 author and WORD for such an amazing event!

WORD: Romance Signing 1

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Review: Possession by Elana Johnson

25 Apr

Possession

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.
But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashed Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous: everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.
This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.” –Description Via Amazon

Possession is a book that plays with your emotions. Like the dizzying after effects of the mind control techniques used on the citizens of the Goodgrounds, I was left confused, wondering if I loved or hated how the story ends.

While the book has the potential to leave you sad, or maybe even angry by the time you finish, it’s by no means a bad story. In fact, it’s great! And probably one of the more thought provoking, sci-fi tinted YA dystopians I’ve ever read.

Possession has more in common with psychological thrillers, and adult suspense novels than most of the new crop of redundant YA dystopian novels currently available. (Yes I laugh at wussy dystopian novels where lack of love, or an arranged marriage is the worst thing to happen to its characters.)

There were definitely a few times I was confused and had to re-read a multiple paragraphs. Things are not what they seem. It’s very easy to be mixed up by some of the terminology of Goodies, Baddies, Goodgrounds, Badlands, Greenies, and Thinkers. But by the end of the book they all made sense, and you understand why the different factions exist, and why you can’t always trust what you just read to be true.

I’ve seen other reviewers complain of insta-love (something I also loathe), but in this case, I disagree. Vi and Jag are strong willed, independent main characters, and it’s easy to see why they’d quickly bond with each other when thrown into an impossible situation. Their love causes great conflicts, yet they aren’t afraid to make hard decisions to protect each other, and the people they care about.

The story progresses at an incredibly fast pace, with non-stop action that left me feeling anxious and wanting to read faster to find out what happened next. And once I did? Wow… Possession is a book made to be re-read a second time after you figure out all of its secrets. Now that I know— I’m hoping for a sequel.

4/5 Stars
Possession will be released June 7, 2011 by Simon Pulse.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC of Possession! For more about author Elana Johnson, see my post about having lunch with her during her recent visit to NYC.

Review: Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

20 Apr

Shade

Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan’s band playing a critical gig and Aura’s plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend’s life. She never thought it would be his last.
Logan’s sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He’s gone.
Well, sort of.
Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan’s violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.
It doesn’t help that Aura’s new friend Zachary is so understanding—and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.
As Aura’s relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura’s heart…and clues to the secret of the Shift. –Via Goodreads.

Shade, the first novel in a trilogy, reminded me a lot of a TV pilot. You get a glimpse into Aura’s ghostly world, the main conflicts are tied up, but enough unanswered questions remain to tease you of what’s to come in the series.

I loved the unique take on ghosts, and that only those sixteen years old or under can see them. In a way, it made the concept scarier, yet also sad since only the youngest people in the book can see their friends and family who have passed on.

Shade is also one of the rare books where a love triangle actually serves a purpose. Instead of Aura being too indecisive to choose between two boys, she’s torn between her ghostly former boyfriend, and moving on with her life and her new crush.

Aura is a strong, likable main character, and it’s easy to relate to her feelings of confusion and uncertainty about the role she plays in the post-shift world. I empathized with her heartbreak over the loss of her boyfriend, who was dead, but not really “gone” from her life, while still understanding her attraction to Zach.

Shade is a fast, fun read, with engaging characters and an action driven plot that propels you through the story. There is enough mystery, hint of conspiracy, and spookiness to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

As soon as I finished Shade (which I read in about five hours), I immediately moved on to the e-arc of Shift. I’m so curious about what’s next in Aura’s life, and dying to know more about what caused the original Shift in the world.

Keep an eye out for my Shift review soon!

4/5 Stars

Shade is available now from Simon Pulse. Shift (Shade, Book 2)will be released May 3, 2011

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

19 Apr

Enclave

New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20’s. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.

Enclave is one of the more frightening YA dystopian novels I’ve read. Like the upcoming Blood Red Road, it presents a stark view of a future world where everyday is a battle to survive.

Raised underground, and trained to be a huntress her whole life, Deuce is a nearly fearless warrior. Her life changes the day she comes of age, is given her new name, and paired up with the quiet but vicious hunter Fade. Deuce and Fade fall into an easy partnership, based on respect of each other’s fighting abilities. After encountering freaks ( absolutely terrifying zombie-like beings who definitely gave me nightmares) who have appeared to genetically evolved, they know their lives must change.

Once they realize they both are questioning the enclave’s elders, who have ignored their warnings of a new breed of freaks, a friendship develops. Together, after discovering more truths about their underground world, they’re banished topside, and leave in search of a better life.

Enclave is unique in that it shows a true breakdown of society as we know it, where humans band together and live the most basic lives, only concerned with eating, breathing, and breeding.

The story might have had a more profound impact on me since I live in New York City, and see how eerily plausible it would be for society to crumble. If the city was mostly evacuated, those that remained could easily begin living in the subway system, or fall into roaming gangs who terrorize what’s left of Manhattan.

Really the scariest thing about this book is how easily this horrible life could all become a reality. The plagues, starvation, in-fighting, and lack of information…maybe not the cannibalistic freaks, but then again, who knows what 100 years of inbreeding and starvation could do to the human race.

I’d recommend Enclave to anyone in search of a fast, enthralling read showing the grittier and gorier side of post-apocalyptic life. Aguirre never shies away from showing the nastier side of survival, but still lets her characters carry a hope in their hearts that there is indeed a better place out there in the world.

Deuce and Fade aren’t perfect, but they are refreshingly real, and incredibly strong characters both physically and mentally. Odds are, that like me, you’ll be left anxious for the second installment of their story.

4/5 Stars

Enclave the first book of the Razorland trilogy, is available now from Feiwel and Friends.

Review: CHIME by Franny Billingsley

18 Apr

CHIME

Since her stepmother’s recent death, 17-year-old Briony Larkin knows that if she can keep two secrets–that she is a witch and that she is responsible for the accident that left Rose, her identical twin, mentally compromised–and remember to hate herself always, no other harm will befall her family in their Swampsea parsonage at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The arrival of Mr. Clayborne, a city engineer, and his university-dropout son, Eldric, makes Briony’s task difficult. Clayborne’s plan to drain the swamp has made the Old Ones unhappy, particularly the Boggy Mun, who has plagued the village’s children with swamp cough in retaliation. When Rose’s lingering illness turns into a cough, Briony knows that she must do whatever it takes, even revealing her secrets, to save her sister.

While thwarting the advances of an arsenic-addicted suitor, Briony must also deny her feelings for Eldric, even as he helps her solve the puzzle that has become her life. Exploring the powers of guilt and redemption, Billingsley (The Folk Keeper, 1999) has crafted a dark, chilling yet stunning world. Briony’s many mysteries and occasional sardonic wit make her a force to be reckoned with.
–Via Booklist/Amazon.com


Writing about Chime is rather hard for me, because it’s one of those books I loved so much, I feel like no review will ever do it justice. I bought Chime on release day, and devoured it. I was three hours late to a friend’s party because I just had to finish it before leaving.

For the past few weeks, every time someone I follow on twitter asked “what should I read next” I’ve suggested Chime. I’m so glad to see that it looks like word has spread, and more and more bloggers are reviewing it. It is, in my opinion, the best book of 2011 thus far.

Chime is one of the most magical and romantic stories I’ve read in a long time. It is reminiscent of a fairy tale, but with none of the fluff. Because if you can say one thing about Chime, it’s that it doesn’t shy away from the darker side of life. Death, loss, and lies abound.

It’s hard to share my feelings without giving away all the books secrets. Needless to say, there are plenty of plot twists, mysteries, and even a bit of unreliable narration to keep it interesting.

Briony is a self-described “wicked girl”. She’s beautiful, and broken, and believes herself to be an evil witch, who must hide her secret at the cost of her life.

“Don’t let my face fool you; it tells the worst lies. A girl can have the face of an angel but have a horrid sort of heart.”

Briony has been torturing herself and silently suffering since the death of her stepmother. A stepmother who as the only person alive who knew Briony was a witch, drilled many “rules” into her head.

“Let’s review the rules, Briony: What, above all, mustn’t you forget? You mustn’t forget to hate yourself.”

Briony is so obviously damaged by stepmother’s rules,thinly veiled emotional abuse, and her guilt over “harming” her mentally handicapped twin sister Rose, that much of the book is her inner thoughts and asides about how evil she is, and why she shouldn’t enjoy life. In many books, this would get rather annoying, but Briony speaks in such a way that you wish with all your heart that her life could change, that she could be happy.

Not everything about her life is doom and gloom, however. Much of Briony’s social commentary about her fellow villagers, and their backwards ways had me laughing out loud. Just as funny: Rose’s unrestrained discussions of who she does not like, or what she does not want to do. Rose is a spitfire of a girl, and much smarter than many townsfolk give her credit for.

The setting of Chime was gorgeously creepy and atmospheric. You can easily visualize the isolation of her small village, surrounded by mysterious swamps overrun with faery folk called the “old ones”. As one of the few people who can see the old ones (due to being a witch), Briony has the run of the swamps. Like Briony, I was a wood-running wild child, who grew up playing in the forest, dunes, and marshlands around my house. Chime perfectly captures the twin feelings of delight and terror you get from running through a forbidden playland that you both love and fear.

Briony’s interactions with Eldric, in and out of the swamp, are one of the only true things in her life. They become best friends, bonding over their shared love of being bad. (This book had me screaming “YES! Finally a truly “naughty” love interest.) They form a fraternity “Bad Boy-ificus” to celebrating mischief, and together they laugh over the Latin language, and learn useful skills like boxing, with hilarious results. Eldric is drawn to Briony, who, like the swamps she lives in, finds her wild and beautiful. Their romance is slow and unsure, and full of sweetness.

In getting to know Eldric, Briony uncovers the horrible truth about her past, and discovers who she really is. Which brings me to the heart of Chime: It could easily be called a mystery, fantasy, or hysterical romance. But at its core, Chime is a story about guilt, forgiveness, and falling in love with yourself. Chime is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. From the magical language, the historical details, to the mythology— it all rings perfect.

5/5 STARS

Chime, published by Dial books, is available now.
Worth Noting: Chime took six years for Franny Billingsley to write. She has said she’s at work on more books set in the Chime universe. I will be pre-ordering them as soon as they are officially announced, even if I have to wait another decade. : )

Meeting Author Elana Johnson

15 Apr

Possession by Elana Johnson

Yesterday, along with some fellow book bloggers, I had the pleasure of having lunch with visiting author Elana Johnson, and the ladies of Simon & Schuster’s marketing department. We met in midtown Manhattan at Bill’s Bar & Burger for lunch, and to chat about Elana’s upcoming dystopian YA novel, Possession
.

Possession has been on my Goodreads TBR list for ages, so I was totally excited to meet Elana and learn more about her book. The seven of us sampled milkshakes and appetizers (the toasted marshmallow milkshake is to die for! I’m not even a big milkshake fan, but I want another asap!) while we discussed Possession, Elana’s writing habits, upcoming events like BEA, and some of our favorite 2011 reads.

Everyone was so nice, and I’m so happy I was able to catch Elana while she was in town:
Eland Johnson
Elana and I with Possession!

Elana Johnson 2
Damaris from Good Choice Reading,  Me, Elana, and JL from An Avid Reader’s Musings.

When I left, I passed by ice skaters at Rockefeller Center. It was 60 degrees yesterday!
April Skaters!

We had talked about The Strand at lunch too, so that led to me stopping by once again on my way home.
Strand

I’m reading Possession
now, and am already totally sucked in to Vi’s world after just a few pages! Hopefully I’ll have a review up sometime next week. : )

Thanks again to Simon & Schuster and Elana for the amazing lunch, and Possession ARC!

Review: Sleight: Book One of the AVRA-K by Jennifer Sommersby

15 Apr

Sleight

“Her mom is dead.
Ghosts follow her around.
Her best friend is an elephant.
And she’s about to meet the biggest game changer of all: a boy. With a secret.

When circus-dwelling Gemma Flannery learns she will be attending public school for the first time in her seventeen years, little does she know that fitting in with her 12th-grade classmates will be the least of her concerns. A pro at hiding her knack for seeing the dead (“shades”), Gemma is grieving the recent suicide of her mentally ill mother, a process eased by the introduction of her first real love interest, the charming and painfully handsome Henry Dmitri, who is harboring his own collection of dangerous secrets. Together, they will be presented with a frightening challenge: to assume their roles as heirs to a 3000-year-old magical text, the AVRAKEDAVRA, a book the über-rich, sleight-of-being master Lucian Dmitri would do anything to get his hands on. As each terrifying layer in her new reality melts away, Gemma unearths truths that her quiet, nomadic life with the Cinzio Traveling Players is not at all what she’d always cherished. Gemma and Henry must rely on each other to stop Lucian’s diabolical plotting that will bring the world to its tired, scab-riddled knees, and are sent on the flight of their young lives, to save themselves, their families, and the world from the darkest kind of destruction.
Let the chase begin” –Via Amazon

Sleight is the first self-published book I’ve ever read. It would have completely escaped my attention, had I not seen two fellow book bloggers discussing it’s awesome-ness on Twitter late one night. After reading a few reviews on Goodreads, I immediately downloaded it from Amazon to see for myself.

The story itself is one of the more original plots of any YA novel I’ve read lately. Gemma is part of an extended circus family, but just happens to have a “crazy” mother, and the ability to see shades. She’s denied her ability her whole life, but finally starts to accept it once her already weird life gets even weirder after the circus camps out in a small Washington town. High school is twice as complicated as usual when Gemma has to deal with ghostly shades seeking her attention, on top of the normal drama of teen life.

Everything changes once Gemma meets Henri Dimitri, the son of Lucian, the man who has sponsored the circus. Their friendship develops naturally, before blossoming into something more. Henri at times seems like a total goody-two-shoes (his flaws appear late in the story), but their story is romantic, and—-my favorite kind of YA novel relationship—-realistic. Their interactions via email and chat conversations were adorable. Both characters blossom and come into their own as they learn more about each other, their past, their true identities, and their joint destinies.

I LOVED the circus setting of the story. I’ve always enjoyed the magical feeling of circuses and carnivals, and have a special place in my heart for stories set in such locations since I have family members who grew up working there.
Sleight features an incredibly strong sense of place, leaving you feeling like you are right there at the show with Gemma’s extended circus family.

Her circus family, and their entire cast of secondary characters were well-developed and entertaining. You truly feel for Gemma as she’s betrayed by those close to her, and faces losses she never imagined she’d be able to survive. She grows quite a bit as a character, from denying her “abilities” to fully embracing them, and accepting who she truly is.

What I didn’t like: The story, while amazingly high quality and well written, with a great plot, could use one last round with an editor. The beginning seemed to be full of over-long sentences with lots of run ons, that distracted me enough just to take me out of the story. That ended after a few chapters, but later scenes seemed to drag at times, as if they were allowed to continue just a bit too long. The climax of the story just *happens* making me wonder if the book should have ended one chapter earlier, or one chapter later.

I thought Lucian, while slightly scary, and very powerful in the Gemma and Henri’s immediate world, wasn’t “all powerful” enough to be the world-changing villain he was portrayed to be. He was an expert manipulator, murderer, and control freak, but I was confused as to why the consequences of his actions were supposed to have any impact on humanity as a whole. While surely dangerous, Lucian is no Lord Voldemort, or Hitler—-someone his “world philosophies” supposedly influenced (I promise that reference will make sense once you read the book).

The “magic” in the book wasn’t explained as well as I would have liked. I never really saw anyone do anything I’d actually consider that magical. Whether that be in the Harry Potter, or David Copperfield sense. “Weird” things just happened, paranormal activity (ghosts, mind reading, psychic ability) abounds and is portrayed as being almost commonplace amongst the cast of characters, but most of Lucian’s evil doing could be attributed to his massive wealth controlling people, and his murderous ways striking fear into their hearts.

I’m hoping in the next book, thankfully out this fall, more of Lucian’s history and importance will be explained. I’d like more background on the AVRA-K book and how exactly it works as well. The story also ends abruptly after an extended chase, so I’m anxious to see what happens next. Overall, I feel like Sleight is a book I loved, but not enough to see through its (few) imperfections. The series has a LOT of potential, so I’d still recommend it for a very unique reading experience, enchanting world building, and interesting characters.

3.5 out of 5 Stars
Sleight is available now, on Amazon for $2.99.

My Ever-Growing TBR Pile

11 Apr

April TBR Pile
In the past week, I’ve been super busy working. I had 3 different photo shoots, and now that it’s getting warmer, have started shooting street style again. Even when I’m not posting everyday, I’m still reading, and filling up my little “review notes” notebook! This is just a glimpse of books/reviews to come– it doesn’t include my digital tbr books! ❤

Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

1 Apr

warmbodiesuk

R is a young man with an existential crisis–he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams. His ability to connect with the outside world is limited to a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing.
After experiencing a teenage boy’s memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship with the victim’s human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His choice to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.

In a post apocalyptic world overrun with zombies, time passes nearly unnoticed. R is a zombie, who has no idea how he died, who he was in his former life, or what happened to the world around him. His only clue to his identity is the business-y attire he’s been wearing ever since he woke up as a zombie. He bides his time between meals with repetitive behaviors like endlessly riding escalators, and staring off into space. Until one day, on a routine hunt for “food”, he meets Julie. After eating her boyfriend Perry’s brain, R re-lives flashes of Perry’s life, and becomes enamored with Julie. He saves her life, and brings her back to live with him in a makeshift colony of zombies at the local airport.

Warm Bodies was nothing like I expected. At its core, it’s the story of a young man having an existential crisis, who rediscovers hope, love, and what it means to be human. Reading this book is akin to going on a journey of self discovery, and makes you wonder how far you would go to keep faith in yourself, and humanity at large at the end of the world.

It’s a beautifully written story, told from the perspective of a vastly intelligent narrator, who has lost the capacity for complex speech. R has many deep thoughts, but finds it difficult to do much more than grunt out the most basic sentences. He can no longer read or write, making his re-birth in a changed world even more confusing than ever. Through Julie, R rediscovers his will to live, and begins yearning for his lost humanity.

Despite his appetite for human flesh, it’s easy to feel sympathetic towards R. The narration is entertaining with R’s biting social commentary about both zombie, and human society .

While Julie might still be human, her life isn’t that different from R’s. The remaining humans live in converted stadiums, in cramped quarters. Many have lost the will to carry on, and find living such a stunted life meaningless.

Together, R and Julie change each other’s lives, causing a chain reaction that has lasting implications in the world around them.

I liked Warm Bodies because it is a great humanity tale about persevering when you’d much rather give up. And yes, there is some romance, but much like the slightly similarly themed “survival at all costs” Hunger Games trilogy, there is a lot more to this story.

4/5 Stars. Warm Bodies will be released in the US April 26th.

Learn more about Isaac and Warm Bodies at his website.
Or you can watch his homemade book trailer:

Disclosure: I purchased a used UK copy of Warm Bodies from Amazon.

My Favorite Book Signing

1 Apr

Charlaine Harris Signing 13

Yesterday, the story of my favorite book signing I’ve ever attended was featured on Once Upon a Twilight. I picked Charlaine Harris’s 2010 appearance in NYC, because not only is Charlaine a great author to see “live”, but her signings attract all kinds of super devoted fans.

I <3 Bill Compton
A Bill Compton lover at the signing.

 

You can see the my story and photos here.

Every week, a new blogger’s signing story is shared in a column called “Once Upon a Signing”. It’s a cute feature, so be sure to check it out!