Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Thoughts On: Lullaby by Amanda Hocking + GIVEAWAY!


Lullaby by Amanda Hocking
Series: Watersong #2
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Publish Date: November 27, 2012
290 Pages
Source:  Publisher for Review

Harper only wanted a safe, normal life. But when her younger sister Gemma runs off with a dangerous clique of beautiful girls, Penn, Thea, and Lexi, everything changes. Vowing to get her sister back no matter what the cost, Harper must face dangers unlike any she's ever experienced. Fortunately, she has Daniel by her side, a gorgeous guy who's devoted to helping her find her sister—and who's immune to the girls' dark powers.

While Harper searches for her sister, Gemma struggles to adjust to her new life. Gemma's powers are growing by the day, and the longer she lives with her new "sisters," the harder it is to resist entering their magical world. It's a realm both dark and beautiful, and where she's plagued by strange hungers and unspeakable needs. Just as she's drifting far away from her old life, Harper and Daniel find her...but no one can deny how much she's changed. All she wants is to return to her family and the mortal world, but how can she do that when she's become something else entirely—and will they still love her once they learn the truth?
–(summary excerpt from Goodreads)

Lullaby by Amanda Hocking

My Thoughts
:  If I were not already a bit of a fangirl for this author's books, I would absolutely be lured in by the loveliness surrounding her words (aka: this cover). I loved Wake. I loved Lullaby just as much - maybe even more. No second book syndrome here AT ALL.

(Read my thoughts on Wake HERE.)

1. The Characters. It's the good guys vs. the bad sirens again - Gemma, Harper, Alex, and Daniel return in this second installment in the Watersong series and they're even better than they were in the last book. In Lullaby, Gemma has left home and the others are trying to find her. Alone with the sirens, Gemma is struggling to cope with her new life with these new gals. The siren life that Penn, Thea, and Lexi lead is strange, odd, and repulsive - every instinct Gemma has screams at her to leave and go back home! but she stays because the girls have threatened to kill Alex and Harper if she does. They do some horrible things and Gemma spends so much time fighting urges to be just like they are. She is strong, but is she as strong as she needs to be or will she cave and be more like the sirens? The longer she stays with them, the harder it becomes to stay true to herself.  


I liked Daniel before and I like him even more as a character now. I read his backstory in Hocking's short story Forgotten Lyrics and I just think he is a supercool dude with a potential to be even bigger in the story than he is now.

(Read my thoughts on Forgotten Lyrics HERE.)

2. The Sirens. Penn, Thea, and Lexi are still around. They're still pretty vicious. They forced Gemma's hand and left me reeling at the end of Wake. In Lullaby, I watched Gemma grow stronger as she fought back against them with the help of her sister and friends. By the end of the book, there was a shift between the sirens and the humans, and I loved the way it ended - as far as the siren aspect of the story went.

I have a feeling that things will be very interesting for these three in the next book.

3. The Story. I feel like Wake sort of set the stage for the series in its first half and then picked up with action in its second half. I think Lullaby was much more balanced in terms of the actual story. Lullaby begins just a day after Wake ends. The story picks right up and doesn't really let go - there is consistency of plot and I never felt a lull in pacing. I'm so fully invested in this series, you guys - particularly now with Daniel being such a big player in this second book (and apparently even more so in the third book - look at the cover!).

4. The Romance. I called Wake a romance-lite, because of the slow relationship that built between Gemma and Alex. I am ready to throw that label out the window because it is pretty clear that Gemma and Alex full-on love each other. It's not a gross/inappropriate kind of love, either, because they spend a portion of the book apart and trying to find their way back together...it's very sweet. And then that ending! Oh, Amanda Hocking!

I have my eye on Harper and Daniel, though. For Wake and now Lullaby, Harper has acted like she doesn't have time to date. She's pretended like she isn't interested in Daniel, when it is pretty obvious to everyone (including Daniel) that she is. There is never anyone else, so there are no love triangles involved, but this is the slowest of slow-building relationships. I'm hoping for big things for these two, like hearts and stars and little birdies flying overhead.

5. The Cover
Once again, St. Martin's + Amanda Hocking = WIN for beautiful cover. Seriously,  Hocking's design team is a winner.

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Lullaby by Amanda Hocking continues a fantastic series that I'm really loving. Every time I read a book by this author I'm always surprised at the new and fun stuff she throws into the story. As with all of her previous work, Lullaby is fresh and not predictable and this is one of the reasons that I get fangirl-y and squeally when Amanda Hocking's books make it to my shelves. Plus HELLO they are such beautiful things sitting up there on my shelves.

Gemma was a likeable character in the first book; I liked her even better in the second book. I actually find myself surprised that Harper stood out just as much to me in Lullaby! Harper showed such determination and ferocity in her love for her sister that I can't help but like her more as a character, plus she didn't back down when it was time to fight the sirens. I like girls that do the right thing even when they are afraid. 
I think in terms of character development, Alex stood out the most. He was nerdy and a little insecure in Wake. In Lullaby he took charge and wouldn't take no for an answer when he was searching for Gemma, even when he kept suggesting things that were considered kind of crazy. And Daniel - I'm not really sure if he shows development as a character or if his character has become more important over the past two books/short story.  Either way, I like that he is being featured more and that I know more about him after reading the short Forgotten Lyrics.

In all fairness, I'm expecting big things from all four of these characters in the next half of the series. BUT...with an ending like this one, there surely will be some big things coming from the sirens as well. The world according to Penn, Thea, and Lexi potentially has been rocked by this band of friends, and once again I find myself practically holding my breath to see what Amanda Hocking has done with the next part of her story.

Halfway through the Watersong series, I am in love with these characters and this story. I don't feel like I have any clue at all what is coming next, which is so awesome considering that the young adult market can often be recycled and repackaged. I kind of love that the villians of these books are beautiful females that are vicious sirens, because really, aren't some girls like that in real life? And seriously, DANIEL - everybody needs to have their eyes on him because LOOK WHO MADE THE COVER OF BOOK NUMBER THREE!! Also, I say it every time I read a Hocking book, YAY for the few-month-only wait-time in between these new releases!

I recommend Lullaby to fans of Wake and other books by Amanda Hocking. I also think fans of YA romance  and books about the ocean will like this one. I'm all over this series.

Lullaby will appeal to fans of:

YA Paranormal/Fantasy
Great Characters
Romance: no triangles!
Sirens!
Short wait between each book in this series! YAY! 

Lullaby by Amanda Hocking
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!

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Oh look at you on the cover of book #3, DANIEL!
Also, that is PENN. Yes, the mean siren.!WHAT?!
Hurry, April 2013. Please.

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And now for the Giveaway!
So you can begin the Watersong series...
ONE FINISHED COPY of WAKE ~
is available for giveaway!
Available Worldwide!
Thank you, St. Martin's Griffin!  

*Ends 12/7* *Open Worldwide*



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 25, 2012

…on Bossypants by Tina Fey {Audiobook & Print}


Bossypants by Tina Fey
Published by Reagan Arthur Books/ Little, Brown & Company
Publish Date: April 5, 2011
288 Pages
Source:  Print – Library, Audio – Library

Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.
–(summary excerpt from Goodreads)

Bossypants by Tina Fey

My Thoughts:  I've wanted to read this book for a long time. My first attempt to read the print version was a failure. I just couldn't get into it. BUMMER, DUDE. Since I'm always awesome (y'all can laugh at that), I decided not to give up on Tina Fey. Here is that story.

The first thing you need to know is this:
I allowed myself to break one of my own quirky rules.  
I checked out the Bossypants audiobook from the library and the print copy of Bossypants and read/listened simultaneously. 

"But Asheley! Isn't that what you always do for audiobooks?"  YES IT IS, and thank you for noticing! But the oddball thing about this is that since I didn't make it through the print version on the first go, I listened to the audiobook for my first reading. WHAT?! I know. Settle down, friends.

This is only the second time in the history of my world EVER that I've done this. It felt a little weird and clunky for me, but it was completely and totally the right decision.
Why? Because I actually made it through the book this time, and quite easily. That was my goal, after all. So YAY for me! 

The second thing you need to know is this:
Tina Fey has A LOT of really big fans.
On the scale of really big Tina Fey fans...well, I'm not really on that scale...
Now before you all go yelling and screaming at me about how awesome and wonderfully funny Tina Fey is, hear me when I say: I KNOW. That's why I wanted to read this book. What I mean is that I don't follow her every move and I do not think that her show 30 Rock is funny.

- HOWEVER -

I am a HUGE, RAGING, CANNOT-GET-ENOUGH fan of Saturday Night Live. As in, I've watched it for as many years as some of you have been reading. I'm not kidding. When I was a Senior in High School, my senior project in English was a bunch of literature-stuff made into SNL sketches that were popular at that time. I'M A FAN, you guys. Since Tina Fey is such a big deal to that show (HELLO, BUTT-KICKING FEMALE PLAYER/WRITER), I wanted to read this book. 

She really is insanely funny on SNL. I just can't dig the 30 Rock sitcom. Sorry to all you superfans out there. 

The third thing you need to know is this:
I loved the heck out of this audiobook, even on the first read.
Hearing this audiobook as a first-read was absolutely the right decision for me in this instance. As always, I had the print copy always at my side while I was listening because that is how I do audiobooks. Where I could not make myself get through the print copy of this book on the first go-round, hearing Tina Fey read it to me was like hearing five-plus hours of really great comedy. 

Tina Fey is a funny person already, but when she is narrating her own words - well, she doesn't have to interpret the story of someone else, which is basically what an audiobook narrator does every time they read. She knows where her own jokes are, where to put the emphasis in her lines, where to pause, where to get a little loud, where to do voice impressions, etc. She basically narrated her own book perfectly. In fact, I think she would do well to read other audiobooks (as if she isn't busy enough with all she has going on already). 

I found myself laughing out loud as I did things around my house or drove around in my car or shopped at Target. I didn't even mind that one time when someone stopped me at Target (with my earbuds in - RUDE!) to ask me what I was listening to that was so funny - I had the opportunity to tell them about this book and the audiobook (and seriously, I don't think this lady had ever heard of an audiobook before, which is a story for another time, folks). 

***********************************************************

To wrap this thing up, Bossypants by Tina Fey is a win. I'm so glad I hung out on the wait-list at the library for BOTH the print copy and the audio copy AGAIN. I'm also glad that I let loose a little bit and decided to listen for the first read because had I not, I'd have missed out on some serious funny times. Tina Fey is hilarious, even when she is writing stuff that is not supposed to be funny. She's just one of those lucky people that is funny all the time, and I think that is so awesome. How generous of her to share that with the rest of the world. 

The slowest parts of the book to me are the parts in the beginning - the parts of her childhood and schooltime and college. (Obviously, since I couldn't get through them in print...) However, listening to her read them to me made them go a little quicker and I still found them humorous. In all honesty, the book kicked up for me when Tina began talking about her job with Saturday Night Live and the transition over to 30 Rock. I loved these parts because I am ridiculously fascinated with every aspect of SNL and I loved hearing of all of the actors/musicians/politicians she worked with over her years there. I loved hearing of her interaction with Lorne Michaels, Executive Producer of SNL. I loved hearing her tell of her moments - both awkward and momentous - of starting up 30 Rock, even though I do not particularly love that TV show. She made every part funny and exciting for me to hear/read.

There are other things about the book that I love. These are sprinkled throughout, perfectly placed. Tina includes her thoughts on the use of photoshop in media (laughed out loud), beauty rituals of women (laughed out loud), working mothers vs. stay at home mothers (laughed out loud and read twice), and breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding babies (laughed out loud). There are a bazillion more hilarious parts, but this blog post would be too long if I listed them all. 

THE BEST PART BY FAR to me was hearing Tina Fey talk about the time she spent impersonating Sarah Palin on SNL. I loved hearing about her excitement about it and her nervousness while doing it. (Apparently famous people get nervous too? Who would've thought?) The audiobook included the sound recording of the first Tina-as-Sarah-Palin sketch; I remember watching that on TV and laughing so hard because Tina did such a great impression of Palin. This time, hearing the audiobook, I laughed out loud all over again. The print copy of the book included the script of this same sketch with Tina's notes scribbled in the margins, the deleted lines marked through, and added lines written in. (Reading and listening meant that I was privy to BOTH of these gems. My SNL-loving heart geeked out so hard.)

Bossypants by Tina Fey audio is also read by Tina Fey and is published by Hachette Audio. It is 5 hours, 35 minutes, Unabridged. If you haven't figured it out by now, the narration is top-notch and hilarious. NO OTHER PERSON could've done a better job at reading this particular book than its own author, and I would not hesitate to listen to another audiobook read by Tina Fey in the future. 

I recommend Bossypants to people who enjoy non-fiction/biographies/memoirs, funny books, and fans of Tina Fey or Saturday Night Live. It is not a very long book - a quick read - and the audio is also pretty short. I cannot imagine any disappointment with this one, you guys. 

***********************************************************

Bossypants will appeal to fans of:

Biographies/Memoirs
Comedy
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock

Bossypants 
by Tina Fey
is currently available for purchase.

****************************************************************

Have you read/heard BOSSYPANTS?
What did you think? Or is it on your to-read list?

Also, do you have a favorite memoir?
Recommend some! I love them.



Friday, November 23, 2012

My Thoughts On: Toxic by Jus Accardo {No Spoilers}


Toxic by Jus Accardo
Series: Denazen #2
Published by Entangled Teen
Publish Date: October 16, 2012
400 Pages
Source: Publisher

When a Six saved Kale's life the night of Sumrun, she warned there would be consequences. A trade-off. Something taken for the life they gained. But Dez never imagined she'd lose the one thing she'd give anything to keep... And as if it's not enough Dez finds her immunity to Kale fading, the Six brought in to help Kale learn to control his killer touch starts drooling on him the moment they meet. Worse than that? Jade can touch Kale. But bimbo Barbie is the least of Dez's problems.

After Dez and Kale got away at Sumrun, her father lost not only his most powerful weapon but an important piece of the Supremacy project. Forced by Denazen to remedy the situation, he poisons Dez and offers her a choice--surrender to Denazen for the cure...or die. Determined to find a solution that doesn't involve being bagged and tagged--or losing someone she loves--Dez keeps the poison a secret. But when a rash of Denazen attacks hit a little too close to home, Dez is convinced there's a traitor among them. Jade.
 


Sacrifices, broken promises, and secrets. Dez will have to lay it all on the line if there's any hope of proving Jade's guilt before they all end up Residents of Denazen. Or worse, dead...
 
–(summary from Goodreads) 

Toxic by Jus Accardo

My Thoughts
:  I feel like I waited forever for this sequel to Touch, which I loved a ton.

A recap, in case you aren't familiar with Touch: The Denazen Corporation has been collecting special young people for ages. Called Sixes, these people have abilities that allow them to do things like manipulate objects, mask their identities, control elements, and even kill people. Kale has perhaps the deadliest and most sought-after ability of all - he can kill people with just the barest touch of his skin. After escaping, he is found by Dez and the two are on the run for the most of the first book. Interestingly enough, Dez is the only person that can actually touch Kale's skin without being killed. The two have a romance filled with great chemistry, and the end is action-packed and super exciting.

In Toxic, Dez and Kale are back. Kale still has his scarily accurate ability - his touch turns people into ash within seconds, disintegrating them. Dez is coming to terms with her new-found ability and it is becoming stronger - kind of. The two are now living with a group of other Sixes in a place that is supposed to be safe from the bad guys. They're finding more Sixes all the time and bringing them to the safe place to keep them from being recruited/captured by Denazen.

A few interesting things happen to make this story progress:

1. Dez loses her ability to touch Kale, making her just like everyone else and making Kale a danger to her.
2. Jade arrives. Jade's special ability sort-of cancels out Kale's ability. Now she is the only one that can touch him without any dangerous affects or death.

CUE THE DRAMA. 

While all of this is happening, Denazen is still out there trying to capture Kale because he is still absolutely vital to their operation. They are still a dangerous criminal organization and they need Kale to do their dirty work. So once again, they'll stop at nothing to re-capture Kale and imprison him put him back to work for them.

 ***************************************************

I loved Touch. I liked Toxic. Why? I am absolutely invested in Kale staying away from Denazen. They're an awful group of people, headed by an awful boss, and I just don't want him going back there. I also really like the romance between Dez and Kale because the two have tons of chemistry on the pages. (It was so well-written in Touch that I really wanted it to keep going that way in Toxic.) I like Kale and Dez being on the run and fighting the Denazen bad guys. I like the stolen moments between the two, although they are not as plentiful in Toxic as I want. 

There are some extra story lines that run parallel to these that I mention above that I feel are a little bit less interesting to me. Several new characters arrive in Toxic - all for different reasons. Some bring drama, some bring deadly motive, some bring betrayal. All of these things are fun to read in books, but in this particular instance, I feel like there is a lot going on a any given time. 

I love Kale as a character. I love his deadly touch and his chemistry with Dez. He is a charming character and he has an interesting past. I think I could actually stand to read more about him because I find him that fun to read. In fact, I wouldn't mind more on Kale's past - perhaps more on the time he spent at Denazen before he escaped and was found by Dez. As it stands now, Kale doesn't like to talk about his past.

I like Dez as a character - less now than I did in the first book, which breaks my heart a little bit. I miss the butt-kicking, smart-mouthed snark that Dez had in Touch. I am pretty sure that Jade was meant to be a character that isn't well-liked by the reading masses, but I disliked her so very much. The two girls were just like any two jealous girls you would know in school: catty, mean, name-calling, spying, etc. I have high hopes for a big bounce-back for Dez and her self-control, self-esteem, and controlling her mouth in the next book. 

I recommend Touch and Toxic for fans of YA supernatural/paranormal romance. Despite my feelings about Jade's character, I would recommending giving these books a try because they are quite fun to read.  

****************************************************************
Toxic will appeal to fans of:

YA Supernatural/Paranormal Romance
Romance: Carried over from previous book, No Triangle
(despite the appearance of one)

Toxic by Jus Accardo
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 Entangled Teen!

****************************************************************

Untouched by Jus Accardo
Series: Denazen #1.5
Published by Entangled Teen
Publish Date: March 27, 2012
ebook, approximately 82 pages
Source: Bought

Right after I finished Toxic, I immediately bought Untouched and read it. I should have read this before I read Toxic. Oh, well. 

Untouched is a very short story that accomplishes two things. First, it is from Kale's point of view, which is nice. In this series we don't get very much from his point of view and since he is such a colorful character with an interesting past, it is nice to be inside of his head for a change. I enjoyed this part of the relatively short story. The second accomplishment of this story is that we are introduced to Kiernan. Kiernan is one of the characters from Toxic - while not a major character, she does have a pretty big role in the story.

Untouched
is the story of how Kale and Dez meet Kiernan, and how she comes to trust them and live with the Sixes. 

****************************************************************

Have you read TOUCH, UNTOUCHED, or TOXIC?

What did you think?




Monday, November 19, 2012

My Thoughts On: Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt


Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Publish Date: January 13, 2013
240 Pages
Source:  NetGalley

Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna's new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can't know.

Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer.
–(summary excerpt from Goodreads)

Uses For Boys
by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

My Thoughts:  Uses For Boys caught my eye with merely half-a-glance with that beautiful, beautiful cover and interesting summaryI read it super-quick because I just couldn't put it down.** The story gripped me and held me tight, not wanting to let me go. Since I finished it a few weeks ago, I've really struggled with exactly what I wanted to say about it. I want people to know how great it is, and well-written.

*****************************************************

Uses For Boys begins when Anna is a very young girl, living with her mother. From a very young age, Anna's mother leaves her alone for periods of time while she is out looking for men - men to make her feel complete, to round out her family. At first, Anna's mother leaves for only a few hours, but this soon progresses to her staying out overnight, leaving Anna completely alone. Before long, Anna becomes accustomed to being home alone for several nights at a time. She only sees her mother when she briefly stops home to change clothes, re-pack her suitcase, and give Anna money to buy groceries. Anna never has a good, healthy, consistent male role model/father figure to look up to. Worse still, even though Anna has a mother present, she is unable to look up to her or build a relationship with her because of her mother's near-constant absence.

Let's rewind a bit -- In her mother's absence, Anna still goes to school like other kids. Friendships come and go, just as with other kids. And just like with other girls, Anna discovers boys. At first, one boy gives her attention and they have a brief boyfriend-girlfriend 'relationship.' After that relationship ends, there are others. Anna finds that she is able to get the attention she desperately craves in the boys she easily finds anywhere she looks. These relationships are not healthy - certainly not - but Anna has no idea what a healthy relationship looks like. But then Sam comes along. Sam, like a starry sky and a breath of fresh air. Sam is different and this changes Anna's life. 

Sam is a normal boy from a normal family. He knows love and respect from his own family, so he knows how to show these things to other people. He knows acceptance from other people, so he knows how to give it away. Sam is not any of the things that every single person in Anna's life has ever been to her. Anna learns the meaning of family, and this begins to change everything about Anna for the better, and it is awesome.

*****************************************************

Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt hooked me right away. It was not the easiest book I've ever read, but it is captivating and there is excellence and beauty in the story. This is the story of a young girl with an undesirable beginning and adolescence - but the feeling of hope at the end is so big it left me feeling good and happy and complete. 

As I was reading, I couldn't help but become emotionally invested in some of these characters. I was more than unhappy with the choices Anna's mother made with regard to taking care of her daughter - leaving her alone, etc. - because this obviously translated to some of the behaviors Anna picked up on as she grew into a young adult, having to learn to live on her own. Anna had no well-rounded family or even single-parent role model to pattern her behavior after, so she acted poorly. Anna wavered back and forth between not trusting and trusting too easily. Her decisions were just...not good. She made a lot of unhealthy, undesirable choices and my heart broke for her as she had to face the consequences of these choices time and time again. There were also times when I was angry at her because, well, she knew better! At some point, however, there is a time when you realize you are making decisions that aren't so great (read: BAD) and learn from them and clean up your behavior a little bit. Anna had a couple of close calls and ended up being a very lucky girl more than once. 

When Sam entered the story, it was like the sun finally coming out on an overcast day. He was written as such a great guy - not perfect, but sort of an all-around guy-next-door. Coming from a stable family, he really couldn't relate to Anna on many levels at all, but he liked her and he was able to see the positive in her - and she had never ever experienced anyone that saw good things in her before. Not only could Sam see good things in her, but his family could, and they were encouraging to her and this transformed her. I'm not saying that once Anna found Sam, life was perfect and everything is happily ever after. But the transformation in Anna's character was wonderful, such a hopeful, positive development, that when I closed the book, I smiled and was happy. 

Uses For Boys has a writing style that I love. The author writes in short chapters, short sentences, short thoughts. I love this because I feel like this structure of the story matched Anna's thoughts and movements and feelings - choppy and detached from emotion, as if she were moving through life without any meaning (until she met Sam). The story is one that is believable and most likely all-too-true in many instances, which makes it so heartbreaking. I wanted a better life for Anna, but I also wanted better lives for all of the negative influences that would breeze in and out of her life.
This book is thought-provoking while telling its story. I know that my words will not do the book justice. I know that some will read this and think that this book isn't for them. I am so glad that I took a chance on Uses For Boys because I loved it and I loved the ending. 
I recommend Uses For Boys to readers who love YA contemporary with issues. There are scenes involving mature content, so younger readers - be smart when choosing this one! 

****************************************************************

Uses For Boys will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary, Issues-Heavy
Coming-of-Age Stories
Romance - Slowly Developing, No Triangle

Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
will be available for purchase on January 15, 2013.

**Young Readers!
You need to make sure you're mature enough for this one!**


**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!

****************************************************************

Is USES FOR BOYS on your to-read list? 

**Seriously, I read almost half of the book in my car in the garage, ready to run a few errands...but I just couldn't stop reading long enough to crank up the car and do what I needed to do. So I just sat there, outside, in the car. And read. Until I finished the book. And it was good.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

...on Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan {No Spoilers}


Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Series: Sky Chasers #2
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: July 17, 2012
309 Pages
Source:  Print - Publisher, Audio - Library

Waverly and Kieran are finally reunited on the Empyrean. Kieran has led the boys safely up to this point, and now that the girls are back, their mission seems slightly less impossible: to chase down the New Horizon, and save their parents from the enemy ship. But nothing is truly as it seems…Kieran’s leadership methods have raised Seth’s hackles— and Waverly’s suspicions. Is this really her fiancĂ©? The handsome, loving boy she was torn from just a short time before? More and more, she finds her thoughts aligned with Seth’s. But if Seth is Kieran’s Enemy No. 1, what does that make her?

In one night, a strange explosion rocks the Empyrean—shooting them off course and delaying their pursuit of the New Horizon—and Seth is mysteriously released from the brig. Seth is the most obvious suspect for the explosion, and Waverly the most obvious suspect for releasing him. As the tension reaches a boiling point, will Seth be able to find the true culprit before Kieran locks them both away—or worse? Will Waverly follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? With the balance of power precarious and the clock ticking, every decision counts… every step brings them closer to a new beginning, or a sudden end...
–(summary from Goodreads)

Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan

My Thoughts: Spark is the second book in Amy Kathleen Ryan's Sky Chasers series. I read and blogged about the first book, Glow, not too long ago. I liked Glow and by the end of the book, I really had no idea where this author was going with the plot and I had no idea where the loyalties were among the characters. When I picked up Spark - having no idea what to expect - crazy things got crazier.

The first thing you need to know is this:
Spark picks up pretty soon after the first book ends.
Which is good because THINGS are happening at the end of Glow.  
Stuff happened in Glow that was all kinds of crazy. And by the end of glow, THINGS were still happening. I was like WHAT!?!? I like it when a book leaves me with feelings like that. I was really glad that I already had Spark in hand and was ready to just go with it. 

If you'll remember, in Glow, the New Horizon attacks the Empyrean: most of the adults were killed and the young Empyrean girls were taken as hostages. The young boys were left on the Empyrean to run the ship, pretty much alone. The New Horizon crew lies to the girls, making them believe they were rescuing them from a damaged Empyrean, when really they had some pretty awful plans for them. As the younger girls begin to believe the New Horizon crew, the older girls plan for an escape. 
(You can read my thoughts on Glow HERE. Please do!)

The second thing you need to know is this:
I thought the characters kept me on my toes in Glow,
but that was only because I hadn't read Spark yet.   
The first book is alternating POV's between Waverly and Kieran - but in Spark, a third point-of-view is added to the mix, and I can say with certainty that it is my favorite of the three: Seth. Good gracious, these three are a volatile bunch!

Kieran had already taken a leadership role of the Empyrean in the first book after things took a turn for the bad - but now, he's gone too far. 
Kieran has taken his "role" too seriously and has become more like a dictator or cult leader than a captain. In fact, he is calling himself Captain of the Empyrean without holding elections - going as far as to make up new rules, hold people as prisoners without trial, etc. and it is starting to make the crew members and passengers nervous and angry. People are starting to question his authority. Ex-girlfriend/hero, Waverly becomes ostracized when she stands up to Kieran as he begins to turn people against her. After rescuing the young girls from the New Horizon but leaving the adults behind as hostages (not a spoiler), Waverly has her own feelings of guilt and self-doubt to deal with...she certainly doesn't need Kieran making things worse for her. Her main goal is to catch up with the New Horizon and rescue those she left behind. Kieran is doing everything he can to keep her from her goal because 1) he knows she can accomplish it because she is strong and 2) he wants to be the hero himself. 

In the beginning of the book, Seth is being held in the Empyrean's prison for trying to overthrow Kieran (without a fair trial, mind you) but someone - no one knows who - has opened his cell door and released him. As bad and dangerous things start happening around the ship - a young boy dies from being poisoned, someone tampers with the ship's surveillance system - the blame is immediately thrown on the escaped Seth. Seth happens upon evidence that there is a saboteur on board the Empyrean. He tries to alert Kieran and his commanding officers but Kieran lies to the ship, telling them that Seth is the saboteur and that Waverly has been helping him. 

While all of this is going on, the leader of the New Horizon has been trying to establish contact with 
Kieran to negotiate a peace treaty for when they finally arrive on the New Earth - so Kieran is overwhelmed with responsibility. Will he crack under all of the pressure? Does the Empyrean finally hold elections or does Kieran continue to act as a dictator? What happens to Seth and Waverly? Who is really the Saboteur? OH IT IS SO EXCITING. 

The third thing you need to know is this: 
Spark was filled with action and plot twists
and the ending was another WHAT!?!?
Spark is basically a race through space with one ship chasing another to take back what is theirs, all the while dealing with corruption and fighting among passengers and crew members. It describes some of the scientific effects of zero-gravity on the body, on the engine of the ship, and the mental wear-down of this sort of mission on the crew members. It also talks of power struggles, negotiations, and fighting for what is right. There is mention of the reproductive issues and even religious issues that were discussed in Glow, although these don't seem to be as heavy as they were in the first book.

What I loved about Spark was that once it gets going, it keeps going. The plot never slows or lets up. The people on board the Empyrean just can't seem to catch a break. They're doing the best they can but WOW things just keep happening to slam them. Hard. Still, they are super courageous and when it is time to make tough decisions and fight, they always meet obstacles head on. The Empyrean is a group of people that is at odds with others and among themselves. They have all of emotional issues to deal with after losing people they love and disagreeing with the people around them over some issue (usually a governing issue) but then they still have to band together for their common goal. There are loads of meaty subjects in this book, but they're housed under a fast-paced, action-packed story with great characters and an ending that left me ready to read a third book that isn't even out yet. 

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I have to be honest and admit that Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan was a little bit slow at the beginning. I had a hard time getting into it - not sure if I had trouble connecting with the beginning of the story or if I had a particularly crazy moment in my life when I was trying to read. To help with this, I checked the audiobook out of my library's Overdrive system and restarted the book, which was completely the right way to go for me. After a few chapters of listening while I read, I was hooked on the story and found that it was intense, with plenty of action and pages that I couldn't turn fast enough. The characters are so well-developed and the story is complex and well-crafted. I was a little bit annoyed with a few repeated phrases, but this didn't matter that much to me. I'm so glad I pushed through the first one or two chapters and kept going because Spark was an awesome science-fiction/dystopian adventure story and I love those.

I am impressed with the way Spark progressed in terms of action and plot and pacing. For me, I thought the plot was better and more complex, and the pacing was quicker and more even-paced, than it was in Glow - but I've enjoyed both books very much. Like I said, once I got past the first part of the story, I couldn't stop reading/listening. I HAD to know what was going on, mainly with Seth and everything that was being thrown against him, even as he was a good guy that was trying to help everyone. These characters are so unique and so different, but they come together so well to create this story and the themes and craziness on the inside of it. I really want them to get along and find some common ground and live in peace, but I will admit that reading about them the way they are is a lot of fun. (I also wouldn't mind if Waverly played kissy-face with one of the boys. I'm just sayin.)

I am fully invested in this series and I am thinking that the next book will be great. Flame (Book Three) is scheduled for release in June of 2013, and there are several story lines that should be wrapped up and questions that should be answered. I am completely eager to see how Ms. Ryan finishes this trilogy. I liked it when I began it, but the further I read into it, the more I like it and I am really eager to get to the last book to see how everything works out for the passengers and crew of the Empyrean. I know how I want it to work out, but I'll have to wait and see what actually happens...

As for the audiobook: Spark: A Sky Chasers Novel, Book 2 is published by Macmillan Audio. It is 11 hours, 12 minutes long, Unabridged. It is narrated by Ilyana Kadushin and Matthew Brown. These readers did a pretty good job with this audiobook. I was fortunate to be able to check it out from my library and listen along with reading the print for an hour or two to kickstart the book for me. 

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Spark will appeal to fans of:

Science-Fiction, Dystopian
Action-Driven Plot
Romance, although it still isn't HUGE in the plot:
Still not a triangle, as Waverly isn't interested in a relationship.
An unsurprising cliffhanger!

Spark 
by Amy Kathleen Ryan
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! 

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Is this series on your to-read list?

It absolutely picked up with this book
and I'm eager for the final book in a few months!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Thoughts On: Forgotten Lyrics by Amanda Hocking


Forgotten Lyrics by Amanda Hocking
Series: Watersong #0.5
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin Publish Date: October 30, 2012
60 Pages/ebook
Source:  Author’s Website

Aggie is a mythological creature on a secret mission.  Lydia is a young woman from a magical family with no real powers of her own. And Daniel is a high school boy who’s made it his duty to protect his deeply troubled older brother.  Then one fateful night, their lives collide in a terrifying accident that changes them all forever. And beneath the surface, the ripple effects of the accident will have more impact than anyone could ever guess...changing not only their future, but the fate of an entire town. –(summary from Author’s Website)

Forgotten Lyrics by Amanda Hocking

My Thoughts:  I have been an Amanda Hocking fangirl since I have read the Trylle Trilogy and now since I have read Wake from this Watersong series. (I need to go and read her older stuff and I will, I promise.)

(You can read my thoughts on Wake HERE,
which includes a sample of the audio version.)

In Wake, Daniel lives alone on a boat down on the water. While initially it appeared that he was nothing but an annoyance to main character Gemma's older sister Harper, the handsome Daniel proved himself to be a worthy friend and maybe-more by the end of the book. He also was a huge help to Gemma and Harper with some sticky situations and will hopefully return in the next book in a big role. I liked Daniel as a character. I enjoyed getting to know him in Wake and literally found myself wondering about why he lived on a boat, alone, down by the docks. When I saw that he was a major character in Forgotten Lyrics, I was pretty excited.

Forgotten Lyrics actually tells the story of how Daniel came to live in the tiny waterside town of Capri, which is the setting of Wake and presumably more of the Watersong series:

Daniel has underone a tragic and traumatic circumstance and as a result, he has crossed paths with some other very interesting people. There is Aggie - sister to sirens Penn and Thea - and I loved her. The story of the sirens is so fascinating in Wake, but I wish I could have spent a little more time with Aggie as her story is quite brief. Lydia is a wonderful character - in fact, I am hopeful that she will be a character in upcoming installments of this series because I believe she has a great story that is yet to be told. Lydia lives with her grandmother, Delia, who acts as some sort of bridge between humans and non-humans. In Forgotten Lyrics, Delia works to assist Aggie with an urgent request (related to Daniel) as the siren is supernaturally drawn to her location because of her special skills and abilities. 
Lydia has been watching her grandmother work in situations similar to this for years and is a great assistant to her. She plans on becoming a real apprentice one day after she finishes college. However, Lydia doubts that she will be as competent in the job as Delia because she doesn't have that uncanny ability to sense supernatural things like Delia does. Her desire is there, though, and I think that this is what will make Lydia's story great if Hocking chooses to tell it - particularly since there is so much siren-type activity in the area surrounding Capri. 
Fans of Amanda Hocking's work will likely enjoy this short short-story/novella. It did not take me long to read it at all. Forgotten Lyrics takes place before Wake, but it does not matter which you read first! For only a couple more days, Amanda Hocking has this story available to read on her website for free (HERE) but of course it is available for purchase for e-readers if you prefer.


I AM SO READY FOR LULLABY TO BE RELEASED!


 

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Forgotten Lyrics will appeal to fans of:

YA Paranormal/Fantasy
Sirens! (not mermaids.)
Short Stories/Novellas
First book in the series is already out.
Second book comes out in two weeks! YAY! 

Forgotten Lyrics by Amanda Hocking
is currently available for purchase.
(or free on the author's website for a few more days)

**I read this copy of Forgotten Lyrics from Amanda Hocking's website, as it is currently posted there for free! I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you Amanda Hocking and St. Martin's!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

…on Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
Series: White Rabbit Chronicles #1

Published by Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: September 25, 2012
404 PagesSource:  Library 

She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.

Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.

Her father was right. The monsters are real….

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies….
 –(summary excerpt from Goodreads)

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

My Thoughts:  Ali Bell lost both of her parents and her sister pretty early in the book after a tragic accident. Then she witnesses something crazy: the monsters that her father talked about all the time are actually real. They exist. And she can see them and smell them. And she isn't the only one.

The first thing you need to know is this:
Alice in Zombieland doesn't seem to be a re-telling. 
I'm sure I'm not alone, but when I first saw this title and cover, I assumed that this book would be a re-telling of the classic Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll with a neat-o zombie twist. I mean, the cover even says "Off with their heads." I believe I was mistaken. Aside from a snarky main character named Alice, a few mentions of a white rabbit, and a clever title, this book really doesn't remind me of Alice in Wonderland at all. Does this bother me? No, not really. Is the cover/title combo misleading? Ultimately, a little bit. It doesn't matter, though. I still liked the book.

The second thing you need to know is this:
These zombies are unlike any I have ever experienced. 

Gena Showalter took the liberty of twisting up zombie lore a bit until she had something original, or at least it was completely original to me. These zombies are different from all of the others out there because they are not undead humans - they're actually infected spirits that have risen from human bodies. They don't use their teeth to bite into flesh - they use their spirit form to actually enter the human body of their victims and feast on the spirit of the victim, which results in the spread of their infection. Whether or not the victim is administered the antidote for the infection within the specified time after the bite determines whether or not the victim will turn into a zombie. (Yes, I did just say that there is an antidote!) Weird, wild stuff, you guys.

While they are different, the zombies do have some of the regular similarities as others: they smell bad, they have decomposed flesh, they are sensitive to light and therefore come out at night, things like that.

It took me a little while to get these zombies figured out. They were explained little by little over pretty much the entire book. So...even close to the end, I was still learning about these creatures.

The third thing you need to know is this:
Despite a few tiny kinks, I really liked this story.
Okay, so the zombie lore is different - I've mentioned that. And I feel like there are a couple of questions that I still have - nothing too big and only a detail or two, but they're still there. In spite of this, I enjoyed Alice in Zombieland. It was pretty fast-paced and had fun characters. I also like that this author gives us plenty to look forward to in the next book while still wrapping the story up well. I wouldn't say that there are lots of loose ends that need to be tied up, but that I have a great idea of what to potentially expect from book two.

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Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter is a book that I have been having a fit to get my hands on for the longest time. It is my first book by Gena Showalter and I will absolutely be continuing with this series when the next book comes out. I don't really understand why it is written with all of the references to Alice in Wonderland, as I didn't see it as a re-telling, but HEY IT ISN'T MY STORY so I'm totally fine to just go with it. 

Ali was an interesting girl. There were some times when she seemed to be strong and brave, and there were other times when she seemed meek and mild. Ali lived an extremely sheltered life - like, to the extreme - before she lost her parents and her life changed so traumatically, so it wasn't a shock to me that she would have conflicting moments of weakness/strength. But I have to admit that I had a hard time really figuring her out... She would do things that would frustrate me a little bit. And of course there are things about her that I don't understand just yet with regard to her special zombie-hunting skills - I just need to find out more about her in the next book. Cole, Ali's crush/trainer/maybe-boyfriend, was the stereotypical YA broody mysterious guy with a tattoo. Or two. And scars. From fights. He and Ali played this game of "Are we or aren't we?" with regard to their relationship status that lasted for a while. I think Ali and Cole have the potential to be a great couple. Yes, I said potential. I have my eye on these two. 

Ultimately, I think that Ali and Cole were a little hard for me to get close to as a reader, but they were certainly fun. Their romance was built on an instant attraction and odd visions that they both experience, but of course over time their attraction becomes more. I like them together, although I think they could be better together if I had a better sense of the both of them as individual characters. 

Alice in Zombieland is not a story that will stand out to me for world-building, setting, or super-thorough character development - although these characters are fun, original, and colorful and I enjoyed reading them a lot. The story will stand out to me because it is original, it has great pacing, and it has tons of action. I wouldn't mind seeing more romance built into the next book because I like it when romance and action are combined if they are done well. I recommend this book for paranormal romance readers that don't mind fresh, new lore being introduced into their typical zombie stories. 

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Alice in Zombieland will appeal to fans of:

YA Paranormal Romance
Zombies
Romance: Instant-attraction,
but took forever for them to make it official.

Alice in Zombieland 
by Gena Showalter
is currently available for purchase.

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Have you read ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND?
What did you think? Or is it on your to-read list?

Also, do you have a favorite zombie book?
Recommend some!

 
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