Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Thoughts On: Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara
Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Publish Date: October 16, 2012
352 Pages
Source:  Publisher

Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn't survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.

Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.
–(summary excerpt from Goodreads)

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

My Thoughts: I wasn't sure what to expect when I grabbed Lovely, Dark and Deep out of my pile and decided to read it. The press release told me that Debut Author Amy McNamara is a writer with a special interest/degree in poetry, so I expected some nice language. What I got: some really, really nice language and a story that I loved.

I fell in love with this book within the first few pages.
I am a sucker for someone who writes beautifully.


From the summary, we learn that Wren Wells has suffered a major loss: her boyfriend Patrick. The two were involved in a car accident - he died, she survived. As a result, Wren walked away from everything and pretty much never looked back. She hasn't yet had closure with Patrick's death, with his family, with what happened. She hasn't had closure with the details of the accident, which haven't been made public. Wren has moved from her big-city life with her mom way up to Maine to live in her father's secluded home. With her father working odd hours as an artist - and traveling frequently - it is super easy for Wren to lose herself in her grief. Become silent. Let the silence drown her and bury her. For Wren, losing herself this way - running away from everyone - is the only way she can cope with things. Oddly enough, it isn't actually coping. Basically, Wren is a hot mess and everyone knows it but her.

Then Cal Owen accidentally enters the picture. This annoys Wren in massive ways. How dare Cal come up into her life and threaten her solitary ways, her grieving process, the way she buries herself in silence?! How dare he actually take an interest in her? Call her on the phone? Come by and see her? Make her feel things? After all, Wren doesn't deserve to feel things after what she's done to Patrick, right? 

Wren wrestles back and forth with her grief and guilt over Patrick's death and the new and confusing feelings she has for this guy, Cal. When she finds out that he has a struggle, a secret, an issue of his own - things change a little bit and Wren begins to have not only feelings but an odd interest in him. Out of this interest and these feelings grows the chemistry that is spoken of in the summary. And it is intense and lovely.


There is so much I could say about Lovely, Dark and Deep. Right away, the language and writing style stood out to me. Amy McNamara uses not only full sentences to make her points, but phrases too, which I love for this particular character. Wren Wells is a young girl that has spent a part of her grieving process sort-of selectively mute, choosing to remain quiet and not talk. Wren's words are sometimes choppy at best, and her thought processes are choppy much of the time. Despite choppy thoughts, the language in this book is easy and flows so well. Since I speak and write much the same way, I very much enjoyed this change in pace from most of the rest of the YA market.

Wren Wells is a tricky character but I find that I fell for her and wanted her to overcome her tragedy in the biggest way. Grief is such a personal thing, and everyone is different in how they handle it. Wren's grief is thick and obvious and reading it is like trying to get through quicksand at times - at times, it was so sad. But...that is what I loved about this book:  the author's ability to make me feel what Wren was feeling. When she was down, I knew it. When she was confused, I knew it. When she was feeling hopeful, I was feeling hopeful too and I was cheering for her. In the beginning of the book, Wren was nearly hopeless and in what seems to be some of the deepest stages of mourning. But over the course of the book, Wren has some character growth and progression. By the end - while not fully recovered - Wren's progress is remarkable, and this is positive and hopeful and left me wondering about her even after I closed the book.

Cal Owen is a different young man, and his story is so very interesting. The summary states that he is dealing with his own problems, and these are revealed to us a little at the time. By the time I realized the full extent of his issues, I had fallen for Cal as a character and was invested in his chunk of the story as much as I was in Wren's. Cal approached things and handled things so differently than Wren, which sometimes caused some tension, but it made the story so life-like and real. Real people are just that way, you guys!

I love the way Wren and Cal complemented each other and were written with that great chemistry. These were two characters that kept me, the reader, at arm's length at times when they were acting individually, but eventually there was hope to be found in the way they resolved their stories. I enjoyed them so much together because there was so much hope there, when they were together. I only wished this book was a little longer so I could know a little more from this resolution, particularly from Cal's story. 

I assume the secondary characters were placed to move Wren and Cal along in their story and they did this well. They added to the story, but only some of them really stand out to me. There are some changes that have to be made by the people that surround Wren so that Wren can come out of her deep grieving cycle or depression, and it takes like Cal and one or two others to help her along with this. Ultimately, this book is one that could absolutely be true to the lives of each of us - these could be people we know. I think it is profoundly written without unnecessary dialogue, with an ease of language, with descriptive phrases. I absolutely loved this book and had a hard time putting it down to do things I needed to do in my life, like eat. And drive. Simply stated, I want more books written this beautifully on my shelves. 

I recommend Lovely, Dark and Deep to fans of YA contemporary with romance and beautiful, poetic language. Additionally, people who have had a hard time grieving the loss of someone may find some comfort in this book, even though I do not think this is an extremely heavy-issues book. It is just purely lovely and a wonderful debut.

Lovely, Dark and Deep will appeal to fans of:

Beautiful, Poetic Language
Romance: Slowly developing, No triangle
Great Setting - Wooded, Secluded Maine
YA Contemporary with Issues: Grief

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara
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 Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing!


Is Lovely, Dark and Deep on your TBR? 

What are some of your favorite
 "beautiful language" books?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review | Rootless by Chris Howard

Rootless by Chris Howard
Series: Rootless #1
Published by Scholastic
Publish Date: November 1, 2012
336 Pages
Source:  Publisher 

17-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan's never seen a real tree—they were destroyed more than a century ago—his father used to tell him stories about the Old World. But that was before his father was taken . . .

Everything changes when Banyan meets a woman with a strange tattoo—a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can't escape the locusts—the locusts that now feed on human flesh.

But Banyan isn't the only one looking for the trees, and he's running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he's forced to make an uneasy alliance with Alpha, an alluring, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might only be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.
(summary excerpt from Goodreads)

Rootless by Chris Howard

My Thoughts:  Earlier this fall, I listed Rootless by Chris Howard as my most anticipated book to read this fall. I just finished reading it. YOU GUYS. I cannot stress to you exactly how ON THE MONEY I was in terms of making Rootless my most anticipated. Y'ALL. I'm not even being overly melodramatic. I'm completely being my real self right now. There is no blog post that is long enough for me to get how wordy I want to get. I will try and contain myself.

1. The Set-Up. Something like a hundred years ago or maybe a little more, The Darkness came. There was twenty years of night. After this, the sun came back, but the moon was all wonky and took up much more space in the sky (see there on the cover?). It made the ocean tides different and messed up all kinds of stuff on the earth. Now nothing is the same.

Locusts came and ate everything, including the trees and crops. Everything is dusty. The dust is in the air, in the sky, all over everything. It gets in eyes and mouths.

Because there are no trees, everything is made of metal. And plastic. Even the houses are made of metal. So we have towns that are devoid of trees, grass, crops, plants. They're basically shantytowns. The only trees are the steel and plastic trees, and these are the trees that Banyan builds.

2. Characters. Banyan is a tree builder. He builds the best trees in the steel cities. He builds these forests out of scrap metal, plastic, and lights. He loves making these fake forests look like they are changing seasons. He wants them to look believable, like trees really used to look... Banyan is young and alone since his father is gone, struggling to survive. He gets a job working for Frost, who is a very bad man - quite the opposite of Banyan, actually.

Frost has some people living in his house, interesting people: a wife, her daughter, his son. There are other characters, including a beautiful pirate girl called Alpha. Pirates! All of the characters are important to the development of the story and very interesting. I enjoyed reading even the bad guys.

3. The Quest. Banyan learns information from the people living with the bad guy, Frost. Some of this information includes possible clues to the location of the last real, live trees in the world. When Banyan sees a picture with even more information in it, he becomes hungry, thirsty, ill with need to get to this place. It's quite possible that the place with the trees holds something else very important to Banyan as well, and he intends on seeking it out at all costs...

I LOVE A QUEST IN A STORY. Because if it is a good one, THINGS happen. And oh my stars! do things happen on this journey, you guys.

4. 'The Forty.' The forty is the only real road west. In lots of places, it is still solid and sticky in the heat - but not everywhere. Mostly, it's just dusty. The dust is so thick it covers your windshield and slows you down. This is particularly dangerous when there are dangers out there like pirates and locusts and poachers.

I love that The Forty is written into the story - like America's Interstate-40, I can only presume, which I'm actually basically sitting beside. I get very nerdy over things like the fact that Banyan and I travel the same roads, you guys. I am not joking. 
5. Pirates. Yes, there are Pirates in this story. They're girl pirates. They are tough. They are awesome. They live in the Old Orleans area. They wear tall rubber boots (because of the swampy area of Orleans, which was completely new to Banyan) and they wear weapons. They completely freak Banyan out and hold him prisoner at first - when they realize he is a tree builder, they commission him for a job...

(I love the beautiful and dangerous pirate. The one they call Alpha. A lot.)

6. GenTech. One of the bad guys in the story that isn't actually a person: GenTech is a corporation that is monopolizing the food industry in this starving, dusty, and desolate world. After the locusts, pretty much nothing will grow. GenTech finds a way to make one particular kind of corn grow that the locusts cannot eat. The problem is that they ration it for unreasonably high prices and won't allow anyone else to grow it. If they find any 'bootleggers' growing it, they kill them. The GenTech cornfields are a huge chunk of the landscape, which stand between the steel cities - where Banyan and Frost live - and the supposed location of the last remaining trees. This means Banyan and his group need to cross thru the corn fields. Crossing thru these fields means potential battles with the deadly, man-eating locusts. And the GenTech staff. And poachers. And whatever else may be hiding out there.

I could go on and on talking about Rootless by Chris Howard. I loved every detail. And all of the details fit together somehow, even when I didn't realize they would. I was absolutely amazed at how intricate and complex the plot was, and yet it stayed adventurous and fun and action-packed and awesome at the same time. 
(In case you don't want to
scroll up to look, here ya go.)

Okay, so you guys know that I am a cover girl, and I was completely mesmerized by this cover when I saw it for the first time. LOOK AT IT. And then the summary hooked me. Then, I saw someone tweet about how cool Chris Howard's interactive website is, so I went to it. I ended up playing around on it for a couple of hours. Once again, I'm not joking. See, there are seven clues hidden on the website. When you find them, you uncover these details about the book. So I sat and looked and played for quite a long time. The cover looks great, the summary is great, the website is cool - so the book must be great too, right?

Y'all, I sat down to read the book and fell immediately into Banyan's world. Dusty and metallic. I could almost taste dust in my mouth and was practically wiping it out of my eyes. I loved it. Not too far into the book - when Banyan saw the picture I mention up above - I had the death-grip on my Kindle and began with the holding-of-my-breath. It was completely exhausting and awesome. Once Banyan left to search for the trees, I could barely move. I kept shifting positions to read. I couldn't recline - I had to sit straight up, still clutching the Kindle with the white-knuckled death-grip.

What I'm trying to say is this: I had a really good time reading this book. Rootless is an adventure story with some crazy twists. A lot of twists, actually. Tons of action. A great male leading character. A mean bad guy and a bad corporation. Locusts, pirates, poachers, stuff like that. People chasing people. A big moon that made the ocean wild and crazy. Some weapons, some fighting, and some people die for their causes. There is a lot of hope and there is a little bit of romance. 

The world-building is great. The language and imagery are vivid and so easy to visualize. I practically watched a movie of this book in my head while I read it. The characters are colorful. The plot - just, wow. The plot is fast-paced and action-packed. There are even what I call "important things" or social and environmental issues tucked away inside of all of the fun of this book, but it was never too heavy for me.

I want everyone I know to read this book so we can talk about it. I want all of you that I don't know to read this book and then talk to me about it. Then tell other people about it. I've been waiting for what seems like forever for this story, and I'm so happy it delivered. Rootless by Chris Howard is a strong start, a great start, a fun start to what I expect will be an awesome trilogy. I recommend Rootless for fans of adventure stories, dystopian stories, and YA male leads. And everyone else too.


Rootless will appeal to fans of:

Male Leading Characters
Great World-Building
Awesome Plot - Action Everywhere
Fun, Colorful Characters


Rootless by Chris Howard
will be available for purchase on November 1, 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 Scholastic and NetGalley!


A couple of other things: 

1. For my audiobook loving friends: the audiobook edition of Rootless is being read by Nick Podehl. Which means I'm doing an audiobook re-read ASAP. WAY TO GO Scholastic and Chris Howard for getting my favorite reader for your audio! 

Listen to Chapter One HERE. (Rootless marks the first time I've EVER listened to part of a book as a sample. EVER.)
2. Chris Howard is interactive! We love that, don't we? 

3. Would it be completely weird for me to admit to you that I read this entire book with this accent in my head? (See this short video below. Seriously, watch it. It's only 1:40.) That accent, Rootless. It's how I read it. 


Is ROOTLESS on your wish-list?
Cause it should be.

Find Rootless and The Rift: 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Could this be my first Reading Slump?

Everybody has them, I've heard. I just never have before:
he dreaded READING SLUMP. 

I've been asked before if I've ever read a book I didn't like. 
I've been asked if I've ever read a bad book. 
I've been asked before if I ever do negative reviews on my blog. 
And I've answered all of those questions. 

Here's the deal: I'm very good at picking out what I think I'll like to read. If I don't think I'll enjoy it, why the heck would I want to waste my time on it? Life is too dang short, friends! It just is. So I don't waste my time choosing books that I think I'll not-enjoy. I also don't accept books for review that I don't think I'll be able to enjoy. I just don't. I don't see the point. It isn't fair to me and it isn't fair to the author. Do I write negative reviews on my blog? Well, sure...if I read a book that I think deserves one. But that is so very rare that I can understand why one might think I don't ever do it.

My point is this: This week, for probably the first time ever, I read two books back-to-back that I didn't like. Well, I didn't really care for one and I pretty much hated the other. WHAT IS THIS BUSINESS? Is this a real, live, honest-to-goodness reading slump?


I read Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall and I didn't really like it. There were things I did like about it, but the 
main reason I didn't like it was because of the main character. I blogged about it HERE. And it is not what I would consider a positive review. Y'all can go back and see my thoughts and all that if you want to. This was book number one in my so-called Reading Slump.

Then, for a reason that I have yet to understand, I decided that I would try another Sarah Dessen book. Now, back in the summer, I read a Dessen book (Just Listen) during my Contemporary Month and it didn't capture me the way it apparently did the rest of the Sarah Dessen army. The honest reason for this was because I misjudged the cover and I was expected it to be much less issues-heavy. I explained my feelings in my blog post HERE. I decided that I wouldn't give up on Sarah Dessen, however, because she is a local author and I think it is important for me to support her.

I wanted to read a Dessen book on my Kindle. I checked the library. The only one they had available in ebook was Lock and Key. The stuff on Goodreads about this one wasn't stellar, but I wasn't completely scared off by the summary.* So I checked it out and I read it trudged through it. 

You guys, Lock and Key was a punch in my gut from the beginning. And then two-thirds through it, it was just kicking me when I was down. It was too personal to me. I've tried to blog about it, but I can't at this point and I'm not sure that I will be able to. And I don't mind that. So let's just say I didn't like that book. I may decide to read another Dessen book, but if I do - it will be a good long while from now. This was book number two of my so-called Reading Slump.

*Sidenote: I would like to say that I NEVER would have read Lock and Key had I known about the stuff in the second part of the book, which wasn't really in the summary. THIS is the reason that I like to know about potential triggers in issues books. 


So, what is the point of this blog post

What is your definition of a Reading Slump exactly?
How many books do you have to read in a row to be considered in a slump? I've read two back-to-back and I feel pretty slumpy right about now. 
Sidenote: I'm also reading an adult fiction book that is pretty doggone incredible. And thank goodness for that. Because I would probably give up on reading entirely. (Ok, that was a joke.) But seriously, this one book is saving me right now from being extra pout-y and probably hating the world. 
What are some of the Best Books you guys have read lately?
I have a ton of review books that I need to read and some great books that have been sitting on my shelves for a long time. Chances are that some of these are ones that you might suggest. So, suggest away. GO! Help a gal out! Get me out of this slump before I start crying and can't stop...

Friday, October 19, 2012

…on Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins
Publish Date: March 2, 2010
470 Pages

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High--from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death--and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.
–(summary from Goodreads)

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

My Thoughts:  This is a classic example of Asheley getting burned by judging a book by its cover. This is a pretty cover. I didn't care for this book very much. Very simple. Sometimes it happens this way. I accept this.

I read this book super-slowly. I took my time. I thought FOR SURE that as much as I detested this main character - and as much as everyone else liked this book - surely she'd turn herself around. After I finished the book, I thought on it long and hard. I even thought about it while I ran, which is a pretty big deal because that is MY TIME. Still, I can only come up with the conclusion that I just didn't click with this one.

The Good:
I love the structure of this story. It felt like reading a version of
 Groundhog Day mixed with The Butterfly Effect.*
The summary told me Sam Kingston had only one day to live, but when I looked at the size of the book - I was pretty skeptical of that ONE DAY taking up almost 500 pages. Turns out, she lives that one day over and over and over. Kind of like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. It takes Sam a couple of days, but she eventually figures out that if she changes things, things change. Kind of like Ashton Kutcher in The Butterfly Effect.

THIS - the genius of the actual story - is what kept me reading. It wasn't Sam Kingston. AT ALL. Nope. (You can visualize me shaking my head no as I type the word "nope" because that's what actually happened.)

To be fair, I will add that I liked the way Lauren Oliver writes, so that is a "Good" too. She has an effortless way to her words and it is nice. It's easy to read. There is a flow and an elegance that needed to be there for me to balance out the disdain I felt for the majority of the characters in this story. I think that somehow this author is able to be inside the head of this group of young people, at this point in their lives, and it comes across in the words that they say.

*I had to Google the Ashton Kutcher movie. I didn't remember the title. Ha!

The Bad & The Ugly:
1. I did not like Sam Kingston. I did not like her friends either. 
So why is this a big deal? Lots of other readers didn't like Sam either. 

Sam Kingston is a mean girl. Like, a REAL mean girl. She is one of the worst kind. She consciously makes the choice to be this way because she thinks it is cool. Because it makes her popular. Because she runs with a small crowd of people that are the exact same way and she is scared - petrified - of losing her popularity status.

Sam Kingston is also a follower. She doesn't have the guts to stand out among others and stand up to the bullies - so she just becomes one of them. She sees exactly when her actions/the actions of her friends hurt people, and she does absolutely nothing about it. (She considers it a few times, but doesn't act on it.) She even goes as far as to keep on being mean, watching the torment and agony of the the less-popular and younger people. As she walks away, we get a small glimmer of an afterthought from Sam, but it quickly fades. Because of this, to me: Sam herself is a bully. I cannot stand bullies. 

Lots of stories these days are about mean girls and bullies and I don't go all nutso about it in my blog posts. I don't call them out as bad characters. So why am I picking on Sam Kingston? Because she gets the chance to redeem herself. SHE GETS THE CHANCE TO REDEEM HERSELF! How many of us would give just about anything to GO BACK IN TIME and redo a certain event in which we've said something we shouldn't, acted inappropriately, been mean to someone, whatever? I shake my head at Sam Kingston. And her awful friends, who are worse than she is. I'm gonna stop there before I get all preachy.

Basically, my feelings for Sam never changed for the positive, and that is unfortunate. I still don't like her. 

2. I cannot get behind the promiscuity in this book.
I could not see that it had anything to do with the story.

In an effort not to be spoilerish, I won't say too much about this. But it got old to me very quickly.

I'm not talking about an undertone of sex. And yet I'm also not talking about the actual having-of-sex. So what, then?

These four girls and a couple of guys talked about having sex the entire way through the book. They talked about it. So much talking. Just like immature high school people. Why is this? Because on the ONE DAY Sam keeps re-living, they talked about it A TON. So as a reader, I kept having to read about it a ton. This is probably not a big deal to most people - I'll give you that. But like I mentioned earlier, Sam is a weak girl. And her reasoning for everything was, well, weak. Including her reasoning for talking about sex, potentially having sex, everything.

Just, NO.

I'm not talking about deciding in general what you want to do or how you feel about this subject and sticking to your guns about it - like Katsa in Graceling or other characters (so no hate mail/comments, please). I'm talking about Sam's reasons, which she actually openly admits to, which made me do things like face-palm and head-desk and sigh openly. Y'all, I can't even. 

3. The Ending. WHAT.
I do not know what to say about this. 


Perhaps I went into Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver with expectations that were too high? There were certainly good things about this book. The format and structure were brilliant and I enjoyed the idea that if I kept reading, maybe the main character would find a way to redeem herself to me in the end. The author certainly has a way of speaking to us, as readers, and I loved reading the words on the page, even if the characters were not speaking to me at all in word or in action. There is something shiny and bright in this story, a nugget of super-coolness - it just wasn't Sam Kingston.

The problem with this, for me, is that there was so much of Sam Kingston in this story. Of course there was! It was her one day that we had to read over and over and over. It was her dialogue and inner thoughts that we kept having to read over and over and over. She was the one that kept making the same decisions, or what I would call mistakes at times. She was the one that kept making me cringe with her words and actions. It was her friends, her in-crowd, and her behavior that I loathed so deeply to my core. It was her weakness in everything that I just couldn't get behind. 

I think that this was the reason that this book was such a downer for me and such a great book to everyone else. I have not read the thoughts of anyone else, but it is clear that I am in the vast minority as far as enjoying this one. I had such high hopes for my first Lauren Oliver experience, but sadly this one just fell short (I blame Sam Kingston, not Lauren Oliver). 

Will I continue to read this author? Heck yes. I am really excited about reading the Delirium books, but I'm not planning on reading any of them until they're all out. I've heard their cliffhanger status is pretty major with them and I. Do. Not. Like. Cliffhangers. I'm very excited about the rest of her books too. There is a reason she is so widely loved and so widely regarded, and just because I couldn't get behind this character - well, it doesn't dampen my excitement to continue reading her work. I just wish I would've had a different experience with Before I Fall. I really wanted to like this one more than I did. I tried. I did everything I could: I read it slowly, I thought about it for a long time after I read it. But in the end, I stand behind the way I feel. 

If Lauren Oliver set out to write Sam Kingston the way I have portrayed her - mean and weak - which she maybe/possibly did, then she did an amazing and brilliant job of it, because I totally buy into it. I'm not sure if she meant for Sam to have redeemed herself in the end? I'm unsure if Sam actually DID redeem herself in the eyes of other readers? To me, she did not. I'm curious about what everyone else thinks, without spoiling anything

I recommend this book to fans of standalones, Lauren Oliver, and YA-contemporaries-that-aren't-quite-contemporary. 

Before I Fall will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary-ish/Fantasy
The movie Groundhog Day
Romance: slow developing, no triangle

Before I Fall 
by Lauren Oliver
is currently available for purchase. 

Have you read BEFORE I FALL?
What did you think?
I think I'm in the minority on this one.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Thoughts On: Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover

Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover
Series: Slammed #2
Published by Atria Books
Publish Date: August 10, 2012
(first published February 25, 2012)
320 Pages
Source:  NetGalley

Hardships and heartache brought them together…now it will tear them apart.

Layken and Will have proved their love can get them through anything; until someone from Will’s past re-emerges, leaving Layken questioning the very foundation on which their relationship was built. Will is forced to face the ultimate challenge…how to prove his love for a girl who refuses to stop ‘carving pumpkins.’
(summary from Goodreads)

Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover

My Thoughts:  Okay, so I read and fell pretty hard for the first book in this little duet not too long ago. So hard, in fact, that within seconds of finishing Slammed, I started Point of Retreat. I can think of two instances (only two!) in my life as a reader where I have actually started the next book right away (here and here) and in each of these circumstances, it paid off for me big time. Point of Retreat was a nail-biting roller coaster of a good time and fantastic, just as I expected. I read it in one sitting. 

(You can read my thoughts on Slammed HERE.
Please do, actually.)


Point of Retreat starts out pretty soon after Slammed ends, when this non-traditional-yet-loving family is settling down and finding a routine that works out for them. Will and Caulder (brothers) live close to Lake and Kel (brother and sister). They have great friends and pretty good neighbors. Things are looking up...

...until they aren't. Somebody shows up - somebody from Will's past. This is where things start to go sour. Why? Because of Lake. It's always the girl acting all weird and crazy and maybe a little jealous, right? She can't quite wrap her head around this person from Will's past and the fact that Will has this amazing love for HER and only HER. Will does everything he can to show her his love and affection for her - Will style, which is swoonworthy and amazing, OF COURSE. 

Then THE THING happens. Now, you guys, we had A THING in the first book. But there's another THING in this book. And good gracious - start with the nail-biting...because that's what I did from the time it happened until the end. 

Y'all know I'm not giving too much away. I'm not spoiling TWO books here - because I want you to read them both. 


First of all, HELLO WILL'S POINT OF VIEW! How are ya? I love you, Will's point of view! It's so great to get into Will's head throughout this part of the story for two reasons: 1) Lake is a girl. Meaning, she has girl thoughts and good gracious, don't we all (or most of us) know them already? It's GOOD to know the thoughts of the Good Guy, the one we love to pieces. 2) Will is, in my opinion, the driving force of this book. So naturally I want to know what HE is thinking rather than Lake. There are a couple of times I'd probably want to thump Lake if I could get into her head in this book. (Yes, I'm serious.) 

Having Will's point of view is extremely important. He is reflective back to the first book at times, which is great. Slammed was Lake's story to tell, so it is nice to see what Will was thinking back then. But this time, this time, Will has to work so hard to prove his love for her and there is a ton he says in dialogue, but there is so much time that he spends alone with his thoughts. All we have to go on during these times is what he is thinking. Also, if we have Lake's point of view for this book, with her being upset at Will so much, it wouldn't be pretty at all. (Truthfully, Lake, you kind of got on my nerves a little too much during this book. It's cool, though. I forgive you.)

Point of Retreat wasn't quite as heart-grabbing as Slammed; I would instead call it heart-stopping. Where Slammed grabbed me by the heart and threw me down and MADE me keep reading to find out what would happen with these two because of THE THING - Point of Retreat had me glued to my seat, unable to breathe, biting my nails, sometimes yelling at Lake, wondering if the two would pull through together because of THE THING. So many things going on!! Such is life, you guys. Point of Retreat is yet another Colleen Hoover book about actual real life and man, she does it so well. How the heck does she do that? 

These characters are still so incredible. They are full - they're funny, they're emotional, they are flawed, they are real. There is the addition of a couple of new people to this story that are so perfect for this non-traditional family. The secondary characters are just as full and wonderful and lovable. All of the key players are perfectly placed and written. And this story is a good one, just as with Slammed. At the place I am in my life, there are several parts in this story that I laughed-out-loud hard when I read, just because of how accurate these parts are. 

Oh, yes! I nearly forgot: There is still some slam poetry in Point of Retreat, just not as much. The Avett Brothers are still a presence, just not as large. The things that make up and formed the relationship between Will and Lake are still part of this second book but because of the progression of their relationship and the way life twists and turns, some of these things have taken a back seat to the demands and THINGS at hand. Again, such is life. 

Bottom line, the Slammed duet is so great. Such great, incredible, fun, wonderful stories. Colleen Hoover tells us great stories. I love her for that. She gives great details, she makes her characters real, she makes them have true-to-life issues. Ms. Hoover writes characters that are like people I could know, and I think that is the best thing of all, because characterization is so very important to me. These books, both of them, even with their THINGS, are a breath of fresh air in a market saturated with book clones and crap. Will, the character, is one of the best things out in YA/NA today. I want to read more books by this author as soon as possible. More than that, though, I want everyone else to read these two books that are already out

I recommend Point of Retreat to everyone that has read Slammed, first of all. I also recommend it to everyone who is a fan of New Adult contemporary, or even YA contemporary romance, particularly those with incredible male leading characters. 

Point of Retreat will appeal to fans of:

Male Leading Character/Point-of-View - HOORAY!
*Great, great male characters that break the mold
for what NA/YA normally throws out there.*

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

Great characterization, main and secondary cast

Point of Retreat 
by Colleen Hoover
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!

What are some of your favorite books with
a Male Lead/Point-of-View? 

Have you read SLAMMED yet?
I've asked before, I know.
If not, are these books on your wish list?

Friday, October 12, 2012

…on Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Burned by Ellen Hopkins
Series: Burned #1
Published by Margaret K. Elderberry Books/ Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: March 28, 2006
532 Pages
Source:  Library

It all started with a dream. Nothing exceptional, just a typical fantasy about a boy, the kind of dream that most teen girls experience. But Pattyn Von Stratten is not like most teen girls. Raised in a religious -- yet abusive -- family, a simple dream may not be exactly a sin, but it could be the first step toward hell and eternal damnation.

This dream is a first step for Pattyn. But is it to hell or to a better life? For the first time Pattyn starts asking questions. Questions seemingly without answers -- about God, a woman's role, sex, love -- mostly love. What is it? Where is it? Will she ever experience it? Is she deserving of it?

It's with a real boy that Pattyn gets into real trouble. After Pattyn's father catches her in a compromising position, events spiral out of control until Pattyn ends up suspended from school and sent to live with an aunt she doesn't know.

Pattyn is supposed to find salvation and redemption during her exile to the wilds of rural Nevada. Yet what she finds instead is love and acceptance. And for the first time she feels worthy of both -- until she realizes her old demons will not let her go. Pattyn begins down a path that will lead her to a hell -- a hell that may not be the one she learned about in sacrament meetings, but it is hell all the same.(summary from Goodreads)

Burned by Ellen Hopkins

My Thoughts:  Even though you all know me as the one that has been absolutely fearful of issue contemporary books for so long, that has never applied to the books of the amazing Ellen Hopkins. I've been a hardcore fan of hers since I read my first Hopkins book and I don't see that changing any time soon.

With the possibility of actually laying eyes on Ellen Hopkins looming in my very near future, I picked up Burned and decided to read it. I had heard it would be controversial. Good gracious, you guys. Burned was exactly what I expected it to be. Hardcore and then some. I ate it up and loved it. And I can't wait for Burned #2 to come out in Fall 2013.

The first thing you need to know is this:
I freaking love Ellen Hopkins. Why?
Because she has the guts to write what she wants to.
We have this girl - Pattyn - who is raised in the strictest of the strict super-religious families. Her father is the worst of the worst and her mother basically takes everything her father dishes out. Meaning: her father is an abusive alcoholic and her mother turns an eye on the abuse and even takes some of it herself. They are a part of a strict church in their area of Nevada, and the church is aware of the problem. The church is aware of the problem, you guys. In this case, the church is aware of the problem - and they do nothing to help. By nothing, I mean they continue to instruct Pattyn on the proper way for a female to act, like only learning to drive if her future husband thinks she should know, only having money if her husband gives her some, and having as many babies as her husband can give her. Are y'all catching what I'm saying? It's not a pretty situation.*

So, as Pattyn gets older, she starts to notice boys. Some of the boys are nice-looking. And Pattyn starts to have THE FEELINGS. You know the ones I'm talking about. In this family/church community, these feelings are dirty, wrong, disgusting, sinful sinful sinful. Pattyn shouldn't be thinking about boys, much less talking to them or smiling at them, or meeting up with them in the fields way out beyond her house. Certainly not kissing them. Or doing anything else with them. Cause that would be wrong, wrong, wrong. Bad Pattyn!

Poor Pattyn is confused, really. Because none of the other kids act like this stuff is really all that wrong. Kissing? Really? Everyone does it! The books Pattyn is reading (snuck to her by her librarian, who believes she should be exposed to all types of literature and have a free mind) embrace and encourage love and romance. So what's the big deal? When Pattyn genuinely asks an innocent question to her youth leader, it sets big things in motion - eventually Pattyn ends up removed from her home and living with her Aunt J on a ranch many miles away (as if that's punishment) and left to fend for herself experience life outside the confines of such a strict environment. In other words, Pattyn can breathe for the first time, and maybe also live without fear. It's sort of wonderful. 

Pattyn ends up loving it out there with her Aunt J. She feels accepted and loved for the first time in her life, and she may even find love too.

The second thing you need to know is this:
Hmm, Ellen Hopkins isn't going to let us off that easily.
She's gonna TELL US that story. She won't spare the details.
At the end, we may even be all clinchy and exhausted. 
I don't really need to tell you all about Ellen Hopkins and how she writes and how she has been inspired and such. Hopkins writes from a place of experience (like in Crank) and she holds nothing back. She tackles stuff I wouldn't even imagine would be in a YA book. She's been challenged and banned like crazy, but people relate to her, and she just keeps on writing.   

When you start to read Burned, you are immediately in Pattyn's head. You get her thoughts, her innocence, and the sincere curiosity of all things that accompany someone that is her age. Pattyn isn't wrong for being young and innocent and not knowing things. She isn't wrong for asking questions - but she is made to feel this way by people she should be able to trust. She struggles in her thoughts, in her actions, and this is made clear in her secret journal, which is shared with us. Pattyn has very valid feelings and is a super solid character. Unfortunately, her family members are all solid characters too, which make it hard to read at times. Well, maybe not as hard to read as angering. Hopkins made me have this wonderful righteous anger at several times throughout the book, and sometimes it feels so good to get stirred up like that. No other writer makes me feel quite the same way. 

Why spend my time angry or upset when I'm reading a book? I hope for the best for Pattyn because Ellen Hopkins made me feel so connected to her and attached to her. And the story isn't angering the entire way through - only when certain characters are on the pages or are doing certain things. There is plenty of this novel that is redeeming, that is hopeful. It IS a roller coaster, though. Such is a Hopkins book or series. I love it. 

The third thing you need to know is this: 
Verse Novel! YAY!!
(And Ellen Hopkins has the PRETTIEST verse. Seriously.)
Y'all know I love the verse. It clears away all of the extra words and says LET'S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS.

In Burned, there are no wasted words. There is certainly beautiful language, but every word is in its place, in its time. There is no fluffy language, no filler. No clouds or unicorns or whipped cream with cherries. There is a straight story with straight emotions and that is all. No un-needed details. No unnecessary dialogue or description. The words on the page are the words you need to know. Period.

To take it a step further, I've read verse (and loved it) that was fairly standard in form. But Ellen Hopkins takes it further by making it LOOK different on every page. Every page has a header - or title, maybe? - as if every single page is its own little teeny tiny poem. And every page has an arrangement. For a person that LOVES detailing, like me, this is awesome. Not necessary, just awesome.

Burned by Ellen Hopkins is another of her verse novels that I absolutely loved. As expected, I had strong reactions to it, and my reactions were all over the place. I felt anger that ranged from righteous anger to a desire to fling my book across the room to a desire to punch her father, but I also felt happiness and hope mixed up in there. Ellen Hopkins always makes me feel all types of feelings that I expect to feel and sometimes emotions I don't quite expect to feel when I read her books, and this is just another of the things I love about her as an author. She challenges me as a reader. 

*Burned is, I would assume, controversial. I haven't read any other thoughts on it yet (except for one blog post that was positive) but I can imagine that people will feel all over the place on this one. Anytime you have a religious community that is portrayed in a negative way, people can tend to become upset. In this book, the religious community portrayed by Hopkins is presumably fictional but based on a real group out in Nevada. There are indeed overly strict religious groups and families in this world and in this country; this is fact. This girl, this character, was treated poorly and unable to reach out to her church family and this is unfortunate. This is not an attack on a particular group, these are details that appear in this book and they are quite effective in making the story what it is. This was one of the tougher parts to read for me because I know plenty about strict religious "stuff" and don't like it at all. I do think it was done brilliantly, though. The marriage of the religious dynamic and the family dynamic (the church + the family and how the father used the church to justify his behaviors) was great in this story and I am jumpy-up-and-down to read the next book when it comes out later in 2013. 

These characters are amazing. They are full and deep and remarkable. You can get a sense of who each of them are even with the sparse language and minimal words. This is a testament to how talented this author is, that she is able to choose her words well and set her story well and develop her characters on such few words and short lines. I know exactly all about Pattyn, Aunt J, Ethan, Pattyn's father (horrid man), her mother (doormat), and the younger sisters Pattyn left behind when she went to her aunt's ranch. Unfortunately, I can tell you all about the people of the church as well. The setting - also amazing. I could visualize it probably even better than if the book was regular prose. 

If you are a fan of verse novels, or if you are a fan of Ellen Hopkins, this is an incredible book. It's a toss-up between Burned and Triangles for which is my favorite. I loved this one that much. This story just really got to me and took me on a ride, which I totally expected and loved. I was, as I mentioned above, all clinchy and exhausted when I was finished with it, and it was glorious. 

I recommend Burned for fans of verse, Ellen Hopkins, YA contemporary with issues, or books with great settings. There IS plenty of alcoholism and abuse in it, though, so if these issues may be triggers for you, you might want to seek out other verse or Ellen Hopkins or issues books. 

Burned will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary with Issues
Books with Fantastic Settings
Romance: slow developing, no triangle
Fantastic Characterization

**Young Readers! Use your head!
Make sure you're mature enough for this one!**

by Ellen Hopkins
is currently available for purchase. 

Have you read BURNED or
other Ellen Hopkins books?
What did you think?

I've probably asked before, but what are some of your favorite
verse novels? I'm always looking for more!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Thoughts On: Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Ironskin by Tina Connolly
Series: Ironskin #1
Published by Tor Books
Publish Date: October 2, 2012
304 Pages

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.
–(summary from Goodreads)

Ironskin by Tina Connolly

My Thoughts
:  Very interesting book with a very beautiful cover. (The cover/dress/mask is actually part of the book. YAY!!) 

To set this book up, five-ish years ago, there was a Great War between humans and fey, a nasty war, and the fey have left some of the surviving humans with awful scars and curses. These humans are now outcasts and must wear iron masks or ironskins to cover their scars because, well, iron is a barrier to the fey, right? These masks not only hide the unsightly scars but protect everyone else from the fey curses that sort of leak out from the war wounds the fey inflicted.

If it sounds crazy, it's because it is. And brilliant. And I loved it.

Jane Eliot fought in the war and has terrible facial scarring. She is also cursed with rage - an orange, burning rage. She wears an iron mask over part of her face to protect those around her from this rage - without her iron mask in place, others can feel the rage inside of her. The iron is cold and heavy and constantly there, forever a reminder that she is not beautiful, not worthy, not like everyone else. Jane hates it, but she also finds comfort in it and hides behind it. With few options in her current condition, Jane takes a job as governess to five-year-old Dorie - born during the Great War - thinking that Dorie is scarred like her and that she can help her. Dorie is not scarred, however - she has has a curse that is far different than Jane's and isn't visible to the naked eye. Dorie's curse is so like the fey that at first, Jane isn't really sure Dorie is entirely human. If others find out Dorie's fey curse - or talent, if you will - Dorie and her father could be killed. 


Ironskin is awesome. First of all, I love all things fey. They can be such nasty little creatures, and these guys are just awful. Even though the fey don't make a huge appearance in the story, the havoc they wreak and the effect they have on the community and the people living there is felt on every page. These people are terrified of them and it comes through the pages. I love that this Ms. Connolly put the fey in the story in a unique way and yet included part of the fey mythology that we all know and love, with the iron and the magic and all. 

The world-building? It's there and interesting. The idea of masks and gloves and ironskins in general is a great idea, particularly after war between humans and fey. Fans of fey know all about iron, but wearing it in a steampunk-y way and then weaving that into a fashionable society is a pretty cool way to go about telling Jane's story. The characterization is fun too. I really, really like Jane Eliot - like, I want to know Jane Eliot. She seems like a strong gal - she would obviously have to be strong to have to deal with all the crap she's been through, but she keeps on going and getting better and better and I just thought her to be marvelously cast. The secondary cast was fun and charming and there are dwarves. Dwarves, you guys.

There is also a romance but it is very light and doesn't overpower the story at all.

This is kind of big and has not much to do with the book, but more with how re-tellings are often perceived:  

When stories are re-tellings, it bothers me a bit when people judge the book based on the original story. Ironskin is supposedly a paranormal steampunk re-telling of Jane Eyre, which is really rather awesome. I applaud Ms. Connelly for taking that on as a project. And I loved this story. But it is not the original Jane Eyre and does not claim to be. It has comparisons that I could pick out easily and I loved that so much. But what I loved even more than the similarities were the way Ironskin stands out. It is loosely based on Jane Eyre. If you go in expecting a Bronte story, you won't get one. You're getting a Tina Connolly story, and if you are open to that, you will probably like it a lot.
Ironskin got better and better the further into the story I read. I'm curious to see where the story will go next and I'm eager to find out. I recommend this book for people that love re-tellings, as long as you are able to keep an open mind and separate the original from the new and fresh (Don't compare books too much! It irks me!). I also recommend this one for people who like paranormal/fey stories and a little steampunk. Nice job, debut author!

Ironskin will appeal to fans of:

YA Paranormal with FEY!!

Romance lite: no triangle

by Tina Connolly
is currently available for purchase.


Thanks to the generosity of Tor Publishing and Tina Connolly,
I am able to offer one copy of IRONSKIN for GIVEAWAY!
(US/Canada Only) * (Ends Oct. 17)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!