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Insurgent Release Day: Veronica Roth in NYC!

24 May

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One of my favorite YA authors, Veronica Roth *finally* made it to NYC earlier this month to promote the release of her new book Insurgent. Book 2 in the Divergent trilogy. If you’ve been living under a rock, and somehow haven’t ready Divergent yet— go buy it asap! It is one of the best, most absorbing dystopian novels I’ve ever read. It *gasp* may even be better than The Hunger Games!

It’s hard to really review Insurgent without spoiling major plot elements from both it, and its predecessor. But suffice to say, it was even better than book 1. Veronica Roth really understands the motivations and psychology behind ALL of her characters, something I find some authors to really struggle with. Every single person in her books if a fully fleshed-out, realistic character. And she also gave the reasonings and rationale behind the basis for every faction.

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Quite a few people turned out for the release day signing, at Barnes and Noble Tribeca. Veronica read from one of the earlier scenes in Insurgent, then did a short Q&A with the audience before beginning the signing.

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Getting excited about an audience question

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About to sign

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Veronica meeting her fans!

If you get a chance to catch Veronica on her tour–take it! I hear she may be at BEA 2012 too. Her interaction with the audience was candid, informative, and brutally honest about all things Tris, Divergent, and even a little about her personal struggles as an author, and human being.

I gave Insurgent 5/5 STARS. And Veronica 5 stars as well. 😉

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Holly Black, Cassie Clare, and Lauren DeStefano at Books of Wonder:

4 May

Last night, I went to another amazing book signing at Books of Wonder in NYC. I almost skipped it to go see Charlaine Harris at a nearby Barnes and Noble. But once I realized how many of my friends were coming to town for the BOW event, coupled with having met Charlaine last year, I decided this was the signing for me.

I am so glad I picked this event! When I arrived just after 5pm, the store was already packed with fans decked out in character t-shirts and hand-written runes on their bodies. I met up with some fellow bloggers: Damaris and Wanda from Good Choice Reading, Jena from Shortie Says, and JL from An Avid Reader’s Musings.They were kind enough to save me a spot, and together we waited for the main event.

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Damaris and JL.

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A decked out audience member.

While we hung out, I spotted a few more bloggers in the audience! Mitali from Alley Of Books/The Teen Author Carnival, and Vania from VLC Productions –who makes awesome book trailers, including The City of Fallen Angels trailer! It was so great to finally meet some bloggers I’ve been conversing with on twitter for the past few months.

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Half of the huge crowd!

After a short wait, Lauren, Cassie and Holly came out and began the event!
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After they were introduced, each author read a passage from their current works. Cassie read the prologue to Clockwork Prince, Holly read “smut” from Red Glove (my favorite!) and Lauren, a debut author told the audience a bit more about Wither.

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Next up, question time! The audience had a lot of good questions for the authors last night. Some a bit silly (lots of cat questions for Cassie), but there was a lot of interesting commentary about movie news, sequels, and the writing process in general.

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During a second, lightning round of super fast questioning, I asked Holly about the possible Curse Workers tv show news, and whether or not the series was indeed a trilogy, or would there be more books? Holly said the tv show was a possibility, but mostly unsure. And that she had three books planned for the Curse Workers series, but it seemed to me that she thought maybe there would be more! Which I hope is true, as it’s one of my favorite current series.

Finally, it was time for the signing to begin!
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A fan’s books, waiting to be signed.

Each author had brought “gifts” to give away to their fans. Holly had Curse Workers postcards (from the old blog ads back when White Cat was first released), “Worker” bracelets for each type, and an excerpt from Black Heart. Cassie had an excerpt, as did Lauren (from Wither #2), who also had candy!

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Dream Worker bracelet.

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The signing area.

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Another fan, in line.

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Lauren DeStefano, who was insanely nice!

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Holly Black

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Signing Red Glove.

I met Holly during the Teen Author Festival, so I had all of my books signed back then. Holly was nice enough to sign a postcard for me, and give me the Black Heart excerpt that I so badly wanted. When I asked for a Worker bracelet, I kind of just reached into the pile and grabbed a black one. Which of course, ended up being Death Worker! Holly said she was surprised I’d pick that one, “knowing the what it meant”, and all of the problems associated with it. I joked with her saying it was ok, I’ve got ten fingers and ten toes! Not sure if I’d actually pick that ability if the choice was real though. ; )

Cassie was fun to talk to as well. I told her I read City of Bones when it first came out, and had yet to finish the rest of the series. She was surprised to see I had an old ARC of City of Glass (a leftover relic from my magazine editor days). I was in line with Jena, whom she recognized from her twitter icon! I thought that was cute.

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Cassie says Hi!

When we we leaving the store, Jena spotted Josh, who played Jace in the book trailer!
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After the signing, a few of us went out for dinner, margaritas, and more book chatter. The whole night felt like a “practice round” for BEA in a few weeks. I am so glad I went to the Books of Wonder signing, and got to see some old friends, and meet so many fun new bloggers!

Thanks to Cassie, Lauren, Holly, Simon & Schuster, and Books of Wonder for such a great event!

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See more photos at my Flickr album.

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: 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.

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
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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:
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Elana and I with Possession!

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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: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

1 Apr

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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.

Review Teaser: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

17 Mar

Blood Red Road

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Since it won’t be released until June, I’m going to hold off posting a more in-depth review of this book for another month or so. I’ve decided to do a smaller, teaser review first. The story was really just too good not to start hyping this book now!

Blood Red Roadis the most unique dystopian novel I’ve ever read. The story centers around Saba, an 18-year-old girl who embarks on an epic journey to rescue her twin brother Lugh after he’s kidnapped by mysterious horseman.
Written in a bare bones style, in Saba’s own dialect (Saba cannot read or write), the book manages to convey more intense emotion with its sparsely written prose than books with five times as many words.

Unlike so many recently published YA dystopian novels, in Blood Red Road, the dangers faced are real. Step out of line in this world, and you won’t be forced into an arranged marriage, or have the government remove your ability to feel love. You will starve, die of thirst, be imprisoned and forced into slavery, or drugged so heavily you barely remember your own name.

Real, world changing consequences result from actions and bad decisions. Loved ones are murdered, characters are beaten and abused, and life as it was previously known ends. Yet there is also a bright, uplifting side to the book.
Even when Saba has lost nearly everything near and dear to her heart, she still finds hope, and the ability to carry on living.

At its core, Blood Red Road is a fast paced story about love, loss, and friendship in a world where just staying alive seems nearly impossible. The story mixes the best elements of Mad Max, The Hunger Games, Gladiator, and Clint Eastwood westerns. Blood Red Road is the first in a trilogy, and film rights have been optioned by Ridley Scott. I’m already dying to read the next book, and can’t wait until this series becomes a movie.

Disclosure: I received a review copy via Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab program.