Friday, August 31, 2012

Let’s Talk…on Issue Books!


Click here to see Let's Talk!

I'm so excited that Melissa at i swim for oceans likes discussion posts because sometimes I get chatty and have things to say. What's up, Melissa?? Let's Talk. 

This week's question:

Do you like issue books?
Why or why not?


I read to escape. I never really wanted to spend much time reading about things that happen in real life because real life is hard. And it can be in your face and unrelenting. So I've always turned my nose up at the dreaded issue books - YUCK!
While I know Melissa thrives on Issue Books, I am just the opposite - I have always run as far and as hard as I could in the opposite direction...until fairly recently. I've never been the biggest fan of the contemporary genre...until fairly recently. You guys know this. To me, issues and contemporary just always seemed to go hand-in-hand, which is why I always STAYED AWAY. Far, far away…

…with one exception: ELLEN HOPKINS.

I've loved Ellen’s books since I read my first one. They are raw and gritty, and they are sometimes painful to read. They are emotional and come from some place inside of Ellen that – I don’t even know. She is an incredible talent and I have the utmost respect for her as a writer. Her books are powerful enough to change the lives of people, which is huge. Before I ever began reading YA contemporary, I started reading Ellen Hopkins. (
Sidenote: they are verse novels, which I have come to love intensely.)



Crank, Glass, Fallout by Ellen Hopkins

The thing is that lately, as I've started reading some YA contemporary, I've realized that if you throw a few issues in there and add some romance, I can hang with it. I even LOVE it. I typically don't want all issues, but if you have some regular people trying to have a relationship, they are bound to have at least some issues. Heck, we all do!

I say all the time: issue contemps + romance contemps = happy Asheley!

Some of my favorites:



Easy by Tammara Webber
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry



Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

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Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire is a little bit of a different beast. It’s more of an issues book than a romance book – IN MY OPINION – but still enjoyable, as long as you read it with the right mindset. The writing is fantastic and the author did a great job with these trainwrecks of characters. It ain’t called Beautiful Disaster for nothing, people.





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What are your favorite Issue Books??

Can you recommend some Issue Books
 for ME to read?? 



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

…on Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier


Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Series: Sevenwaters #1
Book Published by Tor Books
Publish Date: May 5, 2000
400 Pages
Source:  Library

Lord Colum of Sevenwaters is blessed with six sons: Liam, a natural leader; Diarmid, with his passion for adventure; twins Cormack and Conor, each with a different calling; rebellious Finbar, grown old before his time by his gift of the Sight; and the young, compassionate Padriac.

But it is Sorcha, the seventh child and only daughter, who alone is destined to defend her family and protect her land from the Britons and the clan known as Northwoods. For her father has been bewitched, and her brothers bound by a spell that only Sorcha can lift.

To reclaim the lives of her brothers, Sorcha leaves the only safe place she has ever known, and embarks on a journey filled with pain, loss, and terror.

When she is kidnapped by enemy forces and taken to a foreign land, it seems that there will be no way for her to break the spell that condemns all that she loves. But magic knows no boundaries, and Sorcha will have to choose between the life she has always known and a love that comes only once.
(summary excerpt from Goodreads)

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

My Thoughts:  I've seen Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier around the bloggy world lotsa times. Some of my most trusted reading friends have recommended it and almost pushed it, which I love. When Lauren at Love is not a triangle decided to read it after we both read an amazing review on Heidi's blog, I grabbed a copy from my local library too. There's nothing like reading and discussing with friends, you guys! 

The first thing you need to know is this:
In case anyone forgot, I LOVE FANTASY. 
  
If you want to see me fangirl over a book quickly, hand me a fantasy book. I read to escape, and the best way for me to escape is with a fantasy book. Daughter of the Forest has the basic components of fantasy that I love - complete with Fair Folk, which are the fairies of the forest. There are daggers and weapons, there is good vs. evil, and there is some magic. There is a quest, or in this case, a task - and it was super difficult this time! Oh! and the characters are just incredible.

What makes the fantasy genre a bonus for me is that several of my reading friends also love love love fantasy. So if I choose one of these books to read, chances are I'll have someone to talk, gush, rave, or CAPSLOCK with over how incredible it probably is. This is really the best part of reading in general with any genre, but fantasy tends to bring out the very best in some of us.

(Sidenote: sometimes really good contemporaries do the same thing.)

The second thing you need to know is this:
  This book is a fairy-tale re-telling. Double-win for me! 
Daughter of the Forest is a re-telling of the famous Brothers Grimm fairy-tale The Six Swans, which I have always loved. I have distinct memories of reading Grimm's fairy-tales, loving this story, and staring at the illustrations in my book. (I also had a book by Hans Christian Anderson with a story included called The Wild Swans - Daughter of the Forest is similar to this story, but I personally think it is a more accurate re-telling of The Six Swans by The Brothers Grimm.) At any rate, I love both stories and read them over and over as a child.

Juliet Marillier is amazing in that she stays pretty true to the story of The Six Swans without veering out too far, yet Daughter of the Forest still has its own distinct voice. It's obvious to me that the story is being re-told, but it isn't being 'ripped-off.' I absolutely loved it. This particular fairy-tale is one of my favorites by The Brothers Grimm and it was so comforting to me to read something that had a twinge of familiarity and was reminiscent of my childhood.

The third thing you need to know is this:
 These characters are all AMAZING.
 
But Sorcha is an incredibly strong and awesome female lead. 
Daughter of the Forest has a lot of characters, each with their own unique personality and voice. Despite the large number, I never felt like I was confused about who was who, even when reading about Sorcha's six older brothers. Juliet Marillier paid particular attention to give each of her characters - both primary and secondary - defining characteristics that made them stand out from one another. I love that I felt like they were real people. I was emotional over several things that happened to several of them at different times. I love it when an author makes me identify and connect with the entire cast of the book - the good guys and the bad guys. I didn't necessarily like each character, but I think they are all well-written.  

Sorcha - Sorcha is the one that stole the show, in my opinion. When her brothers fell victim to a spell that made turned them into swans, Sorcha was the only person that could break the spell and set them free. She could only do this, however, if she remained entirely and completely mute for the duration of the task, and the task took her a long time. And it was extremely difficult! During her time of silence, Sorcha was accused of a plethora of untruths - some quite condemning, embarrassing, and life-threatening - and she managed to keep her head high. She was attacked physically, verbally, and emotionally - still she toiled on. Sorcha maintained that no matter what, she and her brothers were a group of seven - a family - and they would remain that way. She was written with such a strong spirit and sense of character, and yet sometimes she was the not-yet-matured adolescent-turned-teenager that supported her young age.

Sorcha's story is amazing. It's filled with hard work, with hope, with despair and heartache, with pain, and with happiness. Sorcha made me feel nearly every emotion while I was reading Daughter of the Forest. She did have a weakness, though, and it was that she allowed herself to FEEL THINGS for someone while she was working to save her brothers. As she felt things, so did I, and I knew that as Sorcha would eventually have to choose her brothers or the man she loves, my heart could potentially be broken. Is there ever really a winner when you have to make a choice like that?

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Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier is a beautiful fantasy story that doubles as a fairy-tale re-telling, which made my heart pitter-patter all the way throughout, albeit for different reasons from chapter to chapter. The emotions I felt while reading this book were big and intense, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. There is such joy and such pain sometimes in reading big epic high fantasy stories, and such was my experience with this book. I loved every second of it.

While I loved the setting so much and could visualize it in a very sensory way - sounds, smells, the way everything looked - and I loved the lore that Marillier weaved into the Fair Folk and the belief system of the people of these regions, I have to admit that the characters and their interactions and relationships were my favorite part of the story. I loved Sorcha intensely, and that love fanned out to each of her brothers equally. Such care was given to creating seven siblings that were believably so entwined and close-knit that they would truly do anything for one another - even work hard, painful laborous tasks in complete silence for years in order to break an evil spell set by an evil woman. The relationship between Sorcha and her brothers was everything wonderful that you can imagine.

There was so much more to this story than just Sorcha's relationships with her brothers. Sorcha had a romance that was wonderful and I loved it so much. She had great friendships that were wonderful and emotional and I loved them too. She had hard times with cruel villains that I despised, and this is a classic part of reading fantasy. There was also so much 'real life' in Daughter of the Forest - little pieces of life lessons thrown in here or there. Sometimes they were obviously written in and sometimes you had to think awhile before you grasped what those lessons were, but there was so much in this book that rings true to life - families sometimes change, sometimes people you love leave you, friends come and go, you do what you have to do to survive - things like that. This book is full of everything.

The end of the book has some good resolution and I'm completely satisfied to sit on it for awhile before I start book two. I love it when I LOVE the end of a book SO MUCH and just want to bask in it for awhile before I hop right into the next section of the story. While the ending is a good, clean one without cliffhangers, there are still questions that are unanswered - which are always good starting points for the next book in the series or companion set. I'm honestly really excited to start it, but it'll be a little while. I'm just loving the time I'm spending thinking back on the details of Daughter of the Forest. I recommend this book wholeheartedly to fans of fantasy, period.

**My words are not fitting for this book. There are others who have written far more convincing and appropriate reviews: 

Daughter of the Forest will appeal to fans of:

High/Epic Fantasy & Historical
 Fairy-Tale Re-Tellings!
Amazing Female Leading Character 
Great Storytelling - Coming-of-Age, Travels, Romance, Heartache
Great Settings 
Romance - slowly developing, no triangle
Good vs. Evil
A quest/task! 
Award-Winning Books - ALA Alex Award 2001
 
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
is currently available for purchase.

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What are your favorite types of books to discuss
with reading friends?


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ten Bookish Confessions!


Click HERE to check out Top Ten Tuesday
at The Broke and the Bookish

Ten Bookish Confessions
(In no particular order. This blog post includes some snark!)



1. I actually like YA Contemporary. WHAT?
Before this year, I didn't like YA Contemporary at all. But I was open to becoming a more well-rounded reader, so I challenged myself to read more contemps in 2012. I've tripled (I think) my goal for 2012 so far, and I don't plan to stop reading YA contemps just because my goal is met. I'm loving what I'm reading!
I can't even believe it. 

Truthfully, it took co-hosting a Contemporary Month and some awesome blogging buddies being supportive and suggesting great titles to get me hooked on the genre. Otherwise, I'd probably still hate it. Now I love it! 

2. I actually like Love Triangles
There are a lot of you guys out there that can't stand them. And it's okay. But I actually don't mind a fun, well-executed love triangle. I've read a ton of them that had me in knots until the end of the book or series. And I've read some where my heart was broken along with the guy (it's always the guy, right?) that wasn't chosen in the end. 

Ultimately, I really don't mind them at all if they're written well. 
And I'll tell you if a triangle exists in a book & if I think it is done well. 

3. I love Series more than Standalones
Oh! the satisfaction of knowing that a story lasts beyond the pages of just one book! Especially when the series is already established or finished when I start it! All of my favorite series have been nearly finished or completed when I began them so I never felt a long wait between those books AT ALL. The series that I'm working on now are MOSTLY established or finished. The series that I want to read that have cliffhangers - I usually wait until they're nearly finished/completed before I even start. (I'm looking at you, Lauren Oliver and Cassandra Clare)

4. I DO judge books by their covers
HEY! At least I'm being honest about it. And yet it backfires on me often.
When this happens, I usually am able to own it. 


I've been known to pick up a book just because of the cover. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. Likewise, I've read books that I've LOVED with covers that are not good at all. 

What can I say? I'm a cover girl. First impressions matter, you guys. 
But they're not always 100% accurate. 

5. I can hear books cry out when pages are dog-eared.
This is TRUTH

The worst part about this? In my family, I'm the ONLY person that doesn't dog-ear pages. The other four don't mind it at all. They'll turn down that corner - I swear it - just to make me cringe.

Yes, it's melodramatic for me to say this, but I think I can actually hear the book crying when this happens. 


6. I get annoyed with people that don't use the library.
I'm almost sorry if that's you!  :) 

Let me take it a step further - I get severely annoyed by people who have children in their charge that don't take them to libraries. As adults, we have a choice. But kids depend on big people to get them there. THE LIBRARY IS THERE FOR THE USING. So let's use it! 

The most empowering thing I've EVER done for my children is get them their own library cards. True, it doesn't cost anything. But they gain everything! Independence and thousands of stories at their disposal... Freedom to browse and choose which stories come home and which ones stay this time - knowing that they'll be back to make an exchange and next time they'll swap for something that just might be even more exciting...

I just don't understand people that say they 'don't have time' to expose young people to something like that. And I know TONS of them in real life. 


7. I have very little tolerance for people that do not read
"I just don't have any time to read." Really? REALLY? 
But you enjoyed watching Honey Boo Boo the other night, didn't you? 
No further comment.  

I can understand not having MUCH time to read...
...or not being able to read as much as you'd like...

If I couldn't read, my family would HATE me. 
I'd be worthless to myself, my friends and family, and probably society.

The amount of time that I read varies depending on how busy life is for me. 
But I seriously doubt I will ever say that I don't have time to read. 
Reading is too easy these days with audio, phone apps, ereaders, print books, reading on computers...

8. If my library books are late,
I AM NOT driving all the way across town
just to turn them in before a fine is due
.
 

I let the fine accrue until I'm going back to that side of town.
It's a long way for me and gas is expensive...
...more expensive than the fines, usually. 

PLUS - the money from fines goes back to the library. It's all good. 

9. I can't read only one book at a time. 
I get too bored with just one. I have to be reading multiple books at the same time. 
It's weird. It's quirky. But it's the way I do things. 

10. I don't read series books back-to-back. 
Okay, in extremely rare circumstances I've read series books back-to-back.
But I don't like it and I don't want to!

I get bored with a series and it makes me sad when that happens. 
So my personal policy for myself is no back-to-back series reading.
It's just another quirky reading thing that I do!

IT'S REALLY HARD STOPPING HERE.
I COULD CONFESS TO MY BOOKISH 'THINGS' ALL DAY LONG.
 

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Do YOU have any bookish confessions? 


Friday, August 24, 2012

Let’s Talk...on Three of My Favorite Book Series


Click here to see Let's Talk!

I'm so excited that Melissa at i swim for oceans likes discussion posts because sometimes I get chatty and have things to say. What's up, Melissa?? Let's Talk. 

This week's question:

What are your top three favorite book series and why?

Oh good grief! Only three?


The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa
The Iron King
Winter's Passage
The Iron Daughter
The Iron Queen
Summer's Crossing
The Iron Knight
If you know anything about me at all, you know that Julie Kagawa is on my instant-read list. Meaning: if she writes it, I will read it, period. That is because of this series. I fell so hard for the world she created, the Nevernever, and the characters she put there. I have to admit that I’m a little nervous about the upcoming spinoff series, but I am die-hard fangirl #1 about the original Iron Fey series.
Prince Ash forever, you guys.


The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and The Answer
Monsters of Men
Since I read this series the first time, I knew – I knew – that I would love it forever. I have never before read a series that gripped my heart so tightly and refused to let go throughout every single scene. Every word is placed perfectly and every scene has a purpose. This story is so brilliantly executed and the characters are so three-dimensional, so incredibly developed, that you think of them as if they are real people. In fact, you can’t tell exactly what your feelings are for the villain,
even when you know might be unredeemable.

Patrick Ness is the king of manipulating emotions, but he does it in the most perfect of ways with this series. Although I can’t quite put my finger on it to tell you exactly how, I was a different person after I read these books. I cannot wait to re-read them, and then re-read them again.


His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
The Golden Compass
The Subtle Knife
The Amber Spyglass
I’m not sure this series requires any explanation. The worlds that Philip Pullman created in this series are beyond anything my imagination could ever dream. With perfect examples of alternate universes and parallel worlds, I can get lost in these books quicker than any other books I know. I adore these characters, I adore the lands, I adore the story, and I don’t really know what else to say about these books. They fascinate me, they captivate me,
and they are the very reason that I love to read.

Also: I want a friend like Iorek Byrnison the bear.

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The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne 
Hounded
Hexed
Hammered
Tricked (not pictured)
Trapped (not pictured) 
I know we’re only supposed to give three favorite series (which is hard enough) but I can’t stand to finish this blog post without giving a shout-out to the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. Why? Because I’ve only read the first book, Hounded, so far. BUT…I loved it enough that I’m pretty certain it will be on my most-loved-series list pretty soon. This is possibly the best Urban Fantasy series I’ve read – and certainly the most fun. I don’t really think it fair to give it a Top 3 spot based on just the first book, but you guys can certainly be on the lookout for this one in my highlights as I read further into these books. The first one was ridiculously enjoyable and I recommend it to EVERYONE.

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What about you guys?

What are your favorite series? 


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review | Inbetween by Tara Fuller


Inbetween by Tara Fuller
Series: Kissed by Death #1
Published by Entangled Teen
Publish Date: August 28, 2012
400 Pages
Source:  Publisher

Find It:  Goodreads / Amazon

Since the car crash that took her father’s life three years ago, Emma’s life has been a freaky — and unending — lesson in caution. Surviving “accidents” has taken priority over being a normal seventeen-year-old, so Emma spends her days taking pictures of life instead of living it. Falling in love with a boy was never part of the plan. Falling for a reaper who makes her chest ache and her head spin? Not an option.

It’s not easy being dead, especially for a reaper in love with a girl fate has put on his list not once, but twice. Finn’s fellow reapers give him hell about spending time with Emma, but Finn couldn’t let her die before, and he’s not about to let her die now. He will protect the girl he loves from the evil he accidentally unleashed, even if it means sacrificing the only thing he has left…his soul.
(Goodreads)


Inbetween by Tara Fuller


My Thoughts:  What a fun book! I want to read it again right now. Right now!

1. The Characters
Oh, I love these characters! Both the main cast and the supporting cast are so great. They are fun, lovable, and developed well. I was so invested in their story.  


  • Emma. Survived the car accident that took the life of her father. Now feels like she is going crazy because she has recurring nightmares. Weird things happen to her and it is way too often that she barely escapes dangerous and deadly situations. 
  • Finn. Reaper that saved Emma's life. Finn is drawn to Emma in a very strong way and even though it is strictly forbidden, he becomes emotionally attached to her. He spends his time - when he isn't reaping (aka collecting souls) - guarding her from another being that is trying to kill her. 
  • Maeve. The Villain.  Maeve is a soul stuck in the Inbetween with a chip on her shoulder. She wants revenge for something that happened a long time ago and she'll do anything to get what she wants. 
2. The Story. Finn is assigned to reap Emma's soul after she is involved in a car accident. When he gets to the scene, he feels a connection with her that keeps him from being able to do his job - it turns out that Finn remembers her soul from its past life, before she was Emma. Finn's friends - reapers Anaya and Easton - try to warn him that he is going to get into big trouble by saving/ protecting her. Finn knows that he is breaking big rules, but he can't help himself. At first, Emma doesn't realize that Finn barely leaves her side; she doesn't realize that Finn is the reason that she barely escapes death over and over and over. Eventually, Finn reveals himself to her and their relationship is born.

The story is told in alternating points-of-view (by Finn & Emma), which works so well for this book. It is important to see things from the eyes of both Emma and Finn because they belong to two very different worlds and their lives are so very different. The plot moves at a great pace and the story is a fun YA paranormal romance

3. The Reapers & The Inbetween. The reapers are alerted to deaths as they occur. In groups of three, they go to the scenes, collecting souls to deliver to the places they will spend their eternities. Anaya, Easton, and Finn typically work together. Anaya collects souls that are bound for heaven, Easton collects souls that are bound for hell, and Finn collects souls that are bound for the Inbetween. The Inbetween is where souls go when they have yet to declare themselves a good fit for either heaven or hell, for lack of a better description - it's just a place in-between. There is further description of the Inbetween in the book, and it is an interesting take on reaping, angels/demons, or heaven/hell. 

4. The Romance. It's obvious from the summary that there is a romance, and it is sweet. There is no love triangle and it is a pretty nice slow-burn. Forbidden love stories are sometimes some of the best ones, you guys.


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Inbetween by Tara Fuller is enjoyable from cover-to-cover. I found myself cheering for Finn and Emma even though I knew they aren't supposed to be together. The romance is forbidden and sweet, and I love the great lengths that Finn will go in order to protect Emma. He risks everything for the person he loves.

One of my favorite things about Inbetween is the story of Finn's life before he died. He was raised on a peach farm in the Southern US but left in his late teens to join the military, where he died in WWII. Even though Finn was no longer living, he still was haunted by memories of his life and he still grieved for the family he left behind. In this way, Finn is very much like a 'regular' guy and I love this about his character. Another thing I loved about Inbetween is the way that Emma experiences her life - she grieves for the father she lost in the car accident, which is a very normal thing. She also has some reservations about her mother having an active social/dating life after losing her father, which is also a very normal thing. Emma feels very self-conscious about her nightmares and the odd things that happen to her because of Maeve - as a result, she becomes very introverted. This is also something that I think is very normal. Basically, I love that even though this is a paranormal book, the main characters were created to be as normal as possible. It's a great mix of real and unreal.

The other characters - besides Finn and Emma - are all so important to the story. There are no fluffy characters and because of this, they are all fully realized. They each stand well on their own and tell their own parts of the story, and I love them all. I am excited to see them again in the next book of this series.

Inbetween has great pacing, a fun plot, and fantastic characterization. There is no cliffhanger and the ending is open for the author to continue the story for this group of characters. This is a fun, easy read - honestly, I am already less-than-patient for the next book. I recommend Inbetween to readers that enjoy fun YA paranormal romance stories.

Inbetween will appeal to fans of:

YA Paranormal Romance
Great Characterization
Romance: slowly developing with no love triangle
Stories with: reapers, reincarnation
No cliffhanger

Inbetween 
by Tara Fuller
will be available for purchase on August 28, 2012.


**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you Entangled Teen! 


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The Kissed by Death Series: 

  






Monday, August 20, 2012

My Thoughts On: Semi-Charmed Life by Nora Zelevansky


Semi-Charmed Life by Nora Zelevansky
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: July 3, 2012
336 Pages
Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

In Nora Zelevansky’s hilarious debut, Semi-Charmed Life, an Upper West Side naïf, Beatrice Bernstein, gets swept up in the seemingly magical life of socialite Veruca Pfeffernoose, while ghost writing her blog. Veruca’s glitteringly opulent world soon seduces Beatrice away from her own insular, arty family with a promise of fancy parties, travel outside Manhattan (for once) and one desperately cute guy. But when her new glitzy lifestyle starts to take on dark undertones, Beatrice has to decide who she is—once and for all. With her own magical touch, Zelevansky deftly explores the world of rarified Manhattan in this sparkling modern fairy tale of first love, finding one’s voice and growing up. –(summary from Goodreads)


Semi-Charmed Life by Nora Zelevansky


My Thoughts:  Semi-Charmed Life is a story of bigger-than-life CHARACTERS that live a bigger-than-life LIFE. What we have here is a story that is a little bit magic and a little bit reality television of the celebrity-lifestyle type. 

1. The Characters. Beatrice Bernstein is entering into her senior year of college. Feeling completely suffocated by her parents, she decides to move on-campus for the year to experience more of the college life and to be able to breathe a little bit. To her dismay, she is stuck inside a crappy, nasty efficiency-sized room in the dark basement instead of a regular apartment on a regular floor, like everyone else. Not long after arriving at the school, Bea happens upon Veruca Pfeffernoose, a celebrity it-girl, who happens to be living in the same building! Apparently V-Pfeff will be attending classes at the same school...WHO'D HAVE FIGURED?

Bea's best friend Dolly also lives in the building. Dolly is a great best friend but can be a little bit whiny at times and I found myself a little bit annoyed with her. Veruca has several key players in her entourage, and they are colorful figures with wildly differing personalities - much like you would expect to see on real-life celebrity gossip shows or reality television. They were sometimes cranky and sometimes over-the-top, but always-always interesting to read. Fun, fun characterization in this book. 

2. The Story. Veruca knows Bea because she is one of 'the Bernsteins' of the art community (the Bernsteins are sort of well-known). V-Pfeff befriends her, finds out she is living in the yucky basement room, and comes up with a solution to get Bea out of that filthy, disgusting place:  Bea can move into V-Pfeff's apartment and ghost-write her blog! Reluctant at first, Bea decides to take her up on the offer and is soon swept up in the glamorous lifestyle of manicures, paparazzi, expensive food and vacations, and entertaining V-Pfeff's good ole'
 boy Southern boyfriend, who doesn't care for all of the money and fame. At first, Bea keeps up and remains immune to it all but soon even she begins to enjoy the lifestyle. 

Bea begins to enjoy spending time with Ben, Veruca's boyfriend. After all, he is the most like her and throughout everything, he keeps her grounded and reminds her what is truly important. Soon Bea's relationship with her family and friends begins to suffer, and she becomes concerned with her growing feelings for Veruca's boyfriend. Bea worries that she is changing - the very core of who she is could be changing - and she isn't sure she likes it. 

3. The Magic. This story is certainly and without a doubt one that I would call a YA romance. It's contemporary, for sure. But there is a little something in there too that hints at magic. I never could exactly put my finger on what it was, but it is definitely there. For example, while Veruca's apartment is on the third floor (if I remember correctly), looking out of the apartment windows offers an amazing view that only a high-rise apartment would be able to afford. And despite the fact that it is a small apartment - the same size as all the rest of them - Bea finds herself getting lost easily and requires assistance finding her way to and from the various rooms in the apartment. She even has to mark the path to her bedroom on the walls so she can find her way without calling out for the staff every time she comes and goes. 

4. The Romance. Veruca calls Ben her permanent boy toy, but right away Bea notices that he is cute and crush-worthy. In fact, she had already seen him a couple of times in the building and she had been thinking of him before she realizes he was taken. As Ben wasn't really V-Pfeff's type and didn't really enjoy all of her social functions, part of Bea's paid job was to keep him company. This means they spent a lot of time together...which means that they became friends...which of course means that eventually there will be THE FEELINGS. 

When Bea began to realize that she had feelings for Ben, she immediately decided that she'd change her behavior around him to prevent any type of relationship issues - she didn't want to come between Ben and Veruca. (Honorable, Bea!) However, there was some confusion and there were some mixed signals and it is possible that Ben may have been feeling the same things that Bea was feelings. Oh boy!

OH BOTHER. Whatever will these two do about THE FEELINGS?? 


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Semi-Charmed Life is a fun debut story about a girl making her own path in a big city. Where she'd been sheltered and suffocated for her entire life, Bea finally decided to spread her wings a bit and live a little. It was so nice to see her become her own person. The people that moved in and out of her life as she made her way through the city/world were colorful and charming and really just a pleasure to read. They completely reminded me of E! Entertainment Television (an American TV Channel) and their reality programming.

There are some elements of magic and romance and even a tiny hint of mystery that go along with the coming-of-age tale that make Semi-Charmed Life fun. The beginning of the book was a little slow-paced for me - most likely because I had a hard time following along with the expensive name brands and types of food and places in New York that were mentioned frequently. However, about one-quarter of the way into the book something fun is revealed that completely picked the story up and moved it at a much more manageable and quicker pace for me. From there on, it was charming as heck and I thought it was delightful and fun to read.

Semi-Charmed Life is a book that I recommend for people who love to read YA Contemporary Romances and don't mind a hint of magical realism thrown in. I recommend this book for people who enjoy great settings - in particular, those who enjoy or are interested in New York City - and also those who enjoy glitz and glamour.

Semi-Charmed Life will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary Romance/New Adult
(with an element of magic)
Fun Characterization
(main character shows development!)
Romance: possible triangle
Standalone

Semi-Charmed Life 
by Nora Zelevansky
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you St. Martin's and NetGalley! 



Thursday, August 16, 2012

BLOG TOUR! Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman: Guest Post + GIVEAWAY!


HEY YOU GUYS!
Today is my stop on the
BEAUTIFUL LIES
by Jessica Warman Blog Tour
!
I loved this book! 


Rachel and Alice are an extremely rare kind of identical twins-so identical that even their aunt and uncle, whom they've lived with since their parents passed away, can't tell them apart. But the sisters are connected in a way that goes well beyond their surfaces: when one experiences pain, the other exhibits the exact same signs of distress. So when one twin mysteriously disappears, the other immediately knows something is wrong-especially when she starts experiencing serious physical traumas, despite the fact that nobody has touched her. As the search commences to find her sister, the twin left behind must rely on their intense bond to uncover the truth. But is there anyone around her she can trust, when everyone could be a suspect? And ultimately, can she even trust herself? 

(You can read my thoughts on BEAUTIFUL LIES Here)

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I'm so excited to welcome Jessica Warman to the blog today! 
After looking through all of Ms. Warman's books,
I saw that they seemed to be largely issue-driven.
I asked her what drew her to write issues into her stories. 

While it’s true that my books are always issue-driven (mental illness, eating disorders), I don’t start writing a book by thinking “what issue will I discuss next?” For me, it’s more the idea that everyone is dealing with their own private battles – their own issues – which is something that, I think, becomes very easy to forget when we’re interacting with others on a day-to-day basis. Everyone, no matter how kind or caring they might be, tends to primarily think of themselves as the center of the universe. This isn’t necessarily a selfish thing; it’s just how we’re wired. As individuals, our only frame of reference is ourselves and what happens to us within our own lives. For example, say you’re driving fast down a two-lane road and you’re in a big hurry because you’re late for something very important, but the car in front of you is going painfully slow, and it’s making you crazy. Everyone’s immediate response is to react to how the situation is affecting them: (Why doesn’t this person go faster?! Don’t they understand I have someplace important to be?) The idea that the other driver might be going slow for a very good reason, if it occurs to us at all, tends to be an afterthought.

My point, I suppose, is that I like to create characters who appear one way to others – for example, Alice in BEAUTIFUL LIES or Liz in BETWEEN – and strip away those perceptions in order to examine what has made them the way they are. To label someone as “crazy,” “bitchy,” etc. is almost always inaccurate. As a writer, I want to examine these characters in ways that other people haven’t, or can’t. To put it abstractly, I want to dig into why the other car is driving so slowly – because more often than not, they’re not doing it because they want to piss off whoever is behind them. Everybody has their own private issues, their own personal battle they’re fighting on a daily basis, and that’s what I’m interested in doing – forcing the reader to put their assumptions aside in an effort to understand that how we perceive others is often painfully self-centered.

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I was completely captivated by Beautiful Lies. The mystery was so well-written and mind-blowing - I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I read it! I loved the characters - all of them. This was my first book by this author, but it will not be my last.  

Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by the blog, Jessica Warman!

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GIVEAWAY!
Thanks to the generosity of 

Bloomsbury/Walker Publishing & Jessica Warman,
I am able to offer this copy of 
BEAUTIFUL LIES
 to ONE LUCKY WINNER!

(US Only) ** Ends Thursday 8/23**

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck! 


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Thoughts On: Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman



Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman
Published by Walker Children’s
Publish Date: August 7, 2012
422 Pages
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Rachel and Alice are an extremely rare kind of identical twins-so identical that even their aunt and uncle, whom they've lived with since their parents passed away, can't tell them apart. But the sisters are connected in a way that goes well beyond their surfaces: when one experiences pain, the other exhibits the exact same signs of distress. So when one twin mysteriously disappears, the other immediately knows something is wrong-especially when she starts experiencing serious physical traumas, despite the fact that nobody has touched her. As the search commences to find her sister, the twin left behind must rely on their intense bond to uncover the truth. But is there anyone around her she can trust, when everyone could be a suspect? And ultimately, can she even trust herself? –(summary excerpt from Goodreads)

Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman


My Thoughts: YOU GUYS! I was so excited to read Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman! Why, you ask? I'll get to that in a minute. But before I do, let me tell you that I don't know of many stories with a mystery/thriller element that I've enjoyed as much as this one. 

1. The Characters. Alice and Rachel are 18-year-old identical twins that have a bond that the vast majority of people will never understand. They moved in with their aunt and uncle after losing their parents at a young age. Although the girls are identical in looks, they are different in personality. Lately, Alice has taken to a 'wilder' lifestyle than Rachel, and it has led to a bit of a personality change. Alice also likes to draw and is very artsy. Rachel, on the other hand, is much more laid-back, academic, and well-liked in general.

Aside from the twins, there is a nice-sized cast of characters. They each have their own personalities and quirks, and they each have their own place in the story. The twins' family and friends are all unique and play pivotal roles in each girl's life. After the disappearance, the investigators working on the case and the neighbors helping out have unique characteristics and quirks that also make them stand out against one another. The cast in general is just fabulous, in my opinion. 


2. The Story. Alice and Rachel are attending a community carnival with their friends one evening when Alice vanishes. Rachel knows instantly that something is wrong because of this strange and powerful twin connection the two have, and she is immediately uneasy and afraid for her sister. Rachel's friends and family do not understand why she is so upset about Alice - this isn't the first time Alice has disappeared. In fact, they are all inclined to believe that she has run away because of her sketchy behavior in the past. Still, Rachel just knows that her twin is in danger - she is certain - but she knows that if she explains how she knows, no one will believe her.

See, since the girls were young girls, whatever has happened to one of them has happened to the other one. If one choked on food, they both had trouble breathing. If one was bitten by a dog, they both had bite marks. When Rachel's head begins bleeding and she begins to see bruises on her body, it confirms her suspicions about Alice being in serious danger. 

The entire story - from start to finish - is a guessing game. I constantly was guessing where I thought Alice was and then changing my answers. As more of the story is revealed (!!!!) it became both harder to make my guesses, and more fun (kind of like a literary game of Clue, if you will).

3. The Story. This is my first Jessica Warman story, and - after glancing around at them - it seems like this author tends to write more suspenseful, mystery, thriller stories. This has probably been my favorite book like this so far. The plot was exciting and compelling, and the pacing was great. There were times when I was either holding my breath or my heart was beating out of my chest - sometimes both. 

Sometimes with stories like this, I can predict the ending - I can honestly say that with Beautiful Lies, I had no idea how the story would end up. I loved that. It was absolutely thrilling and creepy, but one heck of a ride. There were twists and turns everywhere. Everywhere. And the twist at the ending - WOW. I just loved it. 


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I love what Jessica Warman has done with Beautiful Lies. She's taken a story that has realistic, contemporary tendencies and given it some incredible suspense and mystery. There's also a definite creepiness to it that I oddly found charming - it drove me to want to read harder, as if I could help find the missing girl that way.

I loved these characters. I loved the twins - equally, of course - and I loved the entire supporting cast, good guys and bad guys. They each brought something to the table, be it significant or insignificant. I was able to connect with each character that was written. The only thing I would change in terms of characters is that I would throw more of this one supporting character in the story - TJ, and only because I liked him so much. He is mentioned a few times and then has a bit of a small role in the ending. This isn't a complaint about the story or characterization at all - simply an observation about one of the characters. Great, great cast. 

Beautiful Lies is just mind-bending and mind-blowing. My mind worked here and there to try and piece the clues that were weaved into the story and throw together the mystery before it was too late for these sisters to be reunited. I felt invested in the rescue. I'm not sure if my connection to these girls is stronger because I am a mother of identical twins girls that are just like them or not, but it was a strong connection and the two were well-written. And I will say that as I was reading, every time I guessed and felt like AHA! I'VE FIGURED IT OUT! - I was wrong. So wrong! I loved that the author took me on an adventure with this book. 
If you are a fan of suspenseful, thrilling mystery stories that incorporate a nice thick thread of contemporary into the mix, Beautiful Lies just might be the book for you. Don't expect to pick it up and have everything figured out a few chapters in, halfway in, or even two-thirds in...because the twists keep coming right up until the end. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will eagerly seek out more books by Jessica Warman - and probably bite my fingernails as I read through them, just as I did with this one. 

Beautiful Lies will appeal to fans of:

YA Mystery & Suspense
(with an element of Contemporary)
Great Characterization
Twists & Turns EVERYWHERE,
(particularly the end!)
Standalone!

Beautiful Lies 
by Jessica Warman
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you Walker Childens and NetGalley! 

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Watch for my stop on the
Beautiful Lies Blog Tour
where I will have a Guest Post from Author Jessica Warman
and a Giveaway of the book! 



…on Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire


Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Series: Beautiful #1
Published by Atria Books
Publish Date: July 12, 2012
(first published May 26, 2011)
276 Pages
Source:  NetGalley

The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.
(summary from Goodreads)


Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

My Thoughts
:  
Wow, what a sassy little book! I chose to read Beautiful Disaster because it was getting all kinds of mixed reviews. I sat down and inhaled it. And then I tweeted to another reading friend that it was a very entertaining trainwreck, and I stand by that.

The first thing you need to know is this:
Mixed reviews add fuel to my fire. 
If there is anything that will make Asheley pick up a book, let it have mixed reviews. Beautiful Disaster seemed to be getting mixed reviews lately, so I literally threw everything down and started the book right away. And I can totally understand why everyone feels all-over-the-place about this one.

I went into it thinking that the main male character, Travis, was this big abusive dude that was horrible and awful and that I would hate him. I had this idea that he picked on poor, innocent, sweet Abby and that I would maybe-probably find her to be a weak character. BOY WAS I WRONG. Preconceived ideas, be darned. This book is a wonderful example of how everyone can have different perceptions of the same thing.

I will say that I inhaled Beautiful Disaster, and for good reason. And as soon as I finished the book, even before I turned off the my Kindle, I tweeted a reading friend that it was the most entertaining trainwreck I had ever read.

The second thing you need to know is this:
Abby Abernathy is NOT a good girl. 
Travis isn't as bad as some people think, either. At least not in my opinion.
Abby is impulsive and wild and reckless. Sure, she thinks about what she does. She just doesn't think well or clearly or enough. Abby always seems to be able to justify her worst behaviors to herself. She takes shots of alcohol on her birthday because she's getting paid per shot and she needs the money. (!!!) She has a fake ID because she has some things going on in her life that make her need a fake ID. (Oh, these things!) She has unprotected sex because she just cannot wait. (!!!)

Abby! Have you ever heard of alcohol poisoning, prison, or ALL THE THINGS that can happen when you have unprotected sex with a womanizing man like Travis? YES. Yes you have. Everybody has. So stop acting like that!

Case in point: Abby is reckless, a trainwreck. 

Travis uses women, big-time. He doesn't do commitment, doesn't take phone numbers. He doesn't always get the names of the women he sleeps with. And there are many, so many. Travis is hot, so very handsome. Tattoos, muscles everywhere. Everyone knows who he is - the big man on campus.

Travis is not only well-known for his looks and reputation with women - he's also well-known in an underground fighting ring on the campus. Travis pays his bills by beating the crap out of anyone who dares to challenge him to a fight. People come out in droves to secret locations to see the fights and they bet money on Travis because he always wins. Travis is very cocky and people are actually a little afraid of him.

Travis! Don't you know it's wrong to use women the way you do? YES. Don't you know it's awful to beat the crap out of people for no reason? YES. Don't you realize that having the I'm-the-Boss attitude makes you look weak? Apparently not. 

Case in point: Travis is a well-known guy, a womanizer, a fighter.
People try to stay on the right side of his temper or pay the price.
And women fall all over him only to be disappointed when he isn't interested,
 even though they know he won't be.  

Despite everyone's opinions of Abby, she irked me. Abby made bad decisions. Very bad! She was not weak. She just acted wildly inappropriate on every level. Abby gives good college-aged girls a bad name. And despite everyone's opinions of Travis, I didn't dislike him as much as everyone made me think I would. YES, Travis is a raging alpha-male. And YES, Travis acts inappropriately. Travis needs some serious help. The difference that I saw in these two is that Abby did not try to be better. Travis tried to be better over and over, he just kept failing at it. There is a realization in Travis that he isn't okay, that his behavior isn't good or safe. I never saw that in Abby. With Travis, he just did not make the extra step and seek out help for his unsafe behaviors - he viewed Abby as the one who could help him when she was clearly as unstable as he was.

For more in-depth information on exactly the things Abby and Travis do, there are tons of reviews everywhere. And they're very opinionated and in-depth. There are equal parts FOR and AGAINST this book. So find them and read them. 
The third thing you need to know is this:
I was able to read this book without TAKING ON
the issues inside of it. Does that make sense? Probably not.
Let me explain. 
 
When I chose to read Beautiful Disaster, I sort of knew what I was getting into. I read it because it was controversial. I knew that there were issues of a possibly heavy-handed male being in a relationship with a female, so I knew that this would be an issues-contemp. If you pair a good issues-contemp with a good romance, those are my favorite kinds of contemporaries.
Here's the thing, friends. That's exactly what Beautiful Disaster is: issues-contemp + romance-contemp. And if you go into the book expecting exactly that, that's what you get. If you go into the book expecting to fall in love with Travis - well, you might, cause some are. But you also may be disappointed. 
I was able to separate myself/how I feel about the issues inside of the story from the actual story, and because of that I think I enjoyed it much more. Was it a trainwreck? Heck yes. Was it entertaining? Absolutely! Like I said before, it was the most entertaining trainwreck I've ever read. 

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Guys, this book is called BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. Don't go into it expecting the most awesome romantic love story ever with fluffy clouds, butterflies, rainbows, and unicorns. This relationship is troubled. Abby and Travis should not be together! But they are and it is a disaster. Is it a beautiful disaster? I'm not really sure, but it is one heck of a story and the author wrote it like a champ. 

These characters are just nutty. They both have issues like crazy. They both start out the story with so much potential and by the end of the story...well, they're pretty much the same. If either of them made any forward progress, maybe Travis made a little bit of forward development. Certainly Abby did not. But that is the story! THAT is the STORY - that these two are so absolutely not good for each other and still they end up together anyway.

To make it clear: Abby and Travis are not two characters that I love. I'm not sure if I even like them. I know I don't really like Abby. I do, however, like their story. 

There are a few secondary characters in the story that stand out. Shepley is Travis' best friend, cousin, and roommate. If there is a reason that Travis is still standing and functioning, it is probably most due to Shep. He is the most rational and level-headed - and NICE - of the group of four friends. Travis' family - his brothers and his father - are wonderful, in my opinion. I loved them like crazy and want MORE of them. I want more of them in the next book, set to be from Travis' point-of-view (I think) or I want spin-offs! One character that I did not care for at all - probably the least in the entire book - is America. As Abby's best friend, I would have expected more from her. While she did support Abby unconditionally...well, that's exactly it. She supported Abby unconditionally. Good friends need to step in and tell you when you are drinking WAY too much and making BAD BAD choices in your life or are they really your friends? (Hmmm. Some food for thought there.)

Beautiful Disaster has a bazillion MATURE themes in it. That means that it isn't something I'm recommending for my younger blog readers. Got it, you guys? This isn't a young adult book so use some common sense and good judgment! I do recommend it to older and more mature readers that enjoy the new adult contemporary titles and contemporary romance, particularly those that are issue-heavy. 
I gambled on this book and it paid off well for me, and this is because I was able to see the story for exactly what I felt like it was. I went into it expecting a disaster so I wasn't surprised when I got one. I will absolutely read the next book when it comes out, as soon as I can. Even though Abby and Travis are a disaster, I loved reading about them because I think this author is onto something very interesting and I'm anxious to see what she does with the next book. 

Beautiful Disaster will appeal to fans of:

New Adult Contemporary 
Romance with Issues
(romance-contemp + issues-contemp)

This book has mature themes!
Use some good judgment, young readers. Seriously.

Beautiful Disaster 
by Jamie McGuire
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you Atria and NetGalley! 

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Have you read BEAUTIFUL DISASTER yet?

If you have, what did you think?
If you haven't, do you plan to?


 
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