Monday, August 30, 2010

Unralveled Contest

YA author Gena Showalter and some of her YA friends are hosting a blog scavenger hunt in anticipation of the release of UNRAVELED (the sequel to INTERTWINED). The contest runs Monday, August 30th to Thursday, September 2nd. The hunt participants includes authors Rachel Caine, PC Cast, Marley Gibson, Rosemary Clement-Moore and Tina Ferraro, as well as Gena, natch, and The Knight Agency blog. Three grand prize winners will each win a $100 Visa gift card, plus Gena's giving away signed copies of UNRAVELED to five lucky runner-ups! All you have to do is find all eight letters, unscramble them and email the word to Contests(AT)KnightAgency.netTo find out where the letters are hiding in the great internet universe, click here for a contest road map and rules. 

Gena Showalter’s YA series, Intertwined, about sixteen-year-old Aden Stone, a paranormal magnet who has, well had, four souls trapped in his head, continues this fall with the release of UNRAVELED (Harlequin, September 2010). Now, Aden is down to three souls bossing him around, but along the way he’s picked up the title of Vampire King to add to his ever-growing list of worries (which includes a prophecy that says he’ll bite the dust after a knife through the heart).

Get to searching the blogs and unraveling the clues! Happy scavenging!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Contemps

I recently came across The Contemps blog and found the concept noteworthy. The members describe themselves as such:
We're the Contemps, a group of YA authors with contemporary novels releasing over the course of a year. We are passionate about realistic fiction because these are the books that remind us we're not alone in this real world. Our mission is simple - to spotlight contemporary fiction for young adults through blog posts, author events, and (over)sharing from our teen years. From the Contemps blog
With the recent rise in popularity of paranormal, fantasy, dystopia novels it's interesting and nice to see a group dedicated to realistic fiction for teens. Although I am a huge, huge fan of dystopias (now as an adult), when I was a teen I read almost exclusively realistic YA. And my return to YA as an adult was largely due to reading Looking for Alaska by John Green. As a teen I simply couldn't relate to characters in the fantasy and sci-fi novels that my friends loved; I needed characters that I could really see myself knowing and possibly being. I wanted to escape into a world that was similar to mine, not a fantastical one of dragons, vampires, or other mythical creatures or realms. As an adult I think my reading tastes are much more varied, but I still love a realistic YA novel that draws me back to being in junior high and reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the third or fourth time.

So I will be participating in their challenge to read at least 18 of the 21 members' 21 novels. See my challenges page for updates on what my progress and links to my reviews. Check out their site to join in on the challenge and/or spread the word!

Friday, August 27, 2010


Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, 2010

As you all probably already know I've been super, super excited for Mockingjay to come out. I re-read Hunger Games and Catching Fire last month to refresh my memory on everything that has happened and to remember where Collins left off. I finished the book Wednesday night, but have wait until now to write the review because I had no idea what I wanted to say; I didn't want to just ramble away about how it's amazing or I loved/hated the ending. So here's my attempt to do more than that without giving anything away.
My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.
Let's just get the initial "I loved it" out of the way; it was an amazing end to an amazing trilogy. Collins created the same page-turning excitement in the final installment as she did in the first two. The plot twists are unexpected and keep you reading, and the build-up to the end is, as always, amazing. Katniss is still just as amazing, interesting, stubborn, difficult as she was in the first two. The love triangle continues on with added twists. And all I will say about the ending is that I thought I worked perfectly with the direction of the last book and the trilogy overall.

I must say although I completely and totally love the whole trilogy, I definitely feel that the first book (Hunger Games) was by far the best. The Games, the suspense, the romance, everything comes together so very well in this first book. The second book (Catching Fire) is wonderful and just as interesting as the first, but there's so much going on. The Games, the possible rebellion, trying to figure out whose side everyone is on made the book a bit overwhelming at times for me. But this works since that's exactly how Katniss is feeling, but I wasn't as "into" the book as I was the first (I did still read the entire thing in one sitting, so obviously I was "into" the book). I most certainly liked Mockingjay more than Catching Fire. The book didn't feel like Collins was just trying to tie everything up in a nice little bow at the end; there were still twists and turns right up to the end.

Katniss has become one of my all-time favorite characters. Right from the beginning I have loved her; I know she can be a bit annoying, difficult, selfish, but I think she's fascinating. In Mockingjay, she's finally allowing all that has happened to sink in, she's become a more broken character. Everything has caught up to her and like most people it's getting to her. She isn't necessarily a more likable character, but I felt even more on her side.

I can finally breathe a sign of relief that the fate of Panem has been determined -- at least for now. I think I need to go begin re-reading right now to truly soak in all that happened now that the "what's going to happen, who's going to die, who's Katniss end up with" is gone.

Get it immediately and begin reading

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Post Mockingjay Midnight Release Party

I can't believe it has come and gone. I have Mockingjay in my possession and have read it. The trilogy is finally over.

A recap of Monday night and the wee hours of Tuesday morning:
A group of my Hunger Games obsessed friends decided to have a bit of a pre-party before Powells' midnight release party. We met up at one of the girls' apartments conveniently located only six blocks from the bookstore a few hours before the release to have snacks, drink wine, and read the last few chapters of Catching Fire aloud and discuss who would die first and whether or not Katniss would be killed off in the end. Around 9:30pm we meandered the six blocks to Powells and got in the long line that rapped around the building. There were kids dressed in awesome costumes and many people dressed like Capitol people, Hunger Games trivia, crosswords, and plant recognition games. I did terrible on the plant recognition, but pretty good on the trivia and scored a temporary tattoo. A few minutes after midnight we were allowed into the store to find a giant cornucopia filled with books! Got my copy, a commemorative stamp, bookmark, and pin. All in all the event was pretty excellent. Check out Powells' Blog for more pictures (better pictures)!

 Powells' Cornucopia of books!

So many Mockingjay copies!

My super cool temporary tattoo, which is on my ankle (still holding up pretty well after two days)

After leaving the bookstore I had lofty plans to stay up reading all night, but after being awake since 6:30am I didn't last long. But I did get to spend all day Tuesday reading. And that is how I've spent the last few days.

Review tomorrow or later this evening after I've had a bit a time to process all the excitement and how the book ended!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mockingjay Tonight!

The time has final come (well almost) to find out what happens to Katniss, Peeta, Gale and all the other residents of Panem. Mockingjay (the third and final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy) goes on sale tonight at midnight if you are so lucky to have a bookstore doing a midnight release in your area, otherwise you will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

Lucky me, my favorite bookstore, Powell's, is holding a midnight release party! If you're in the Portland area check out their website for more details on tonight's festivities. So I will have my very own copy of Mockingjay in about 10 hours. And let me tell you I am dying with excitement; it's like Christmas morning. I will most certainly be staying up all night/morning reading!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thoughts on Paranormal YA and Paranormalcy Anticipation

You won't hear me gush about Twilight or the like. It's not that I don't like vampires, just haven't found a YA vamp book/series that I really love. (I do admit that I'm reading the Sookie Stackhouse books -- total guilty pleasure and do watch True Blood, but they are definitely adult books) However I have found several werewolf, witch, and faerie books that I will gush over. So maybe paranormal is growing on me, maybe. What I like about the paranormal books I do enjoy is that they feature strong, smart, independent characters (especially female characters). The girls may fall in love with other-worldly creatures, but they are not helpless -- or they are the other-worldly creatures themselves. What really irks me about a lot of paranormal YA is that the girls are completely helpless without their other-worldly love interests. (Note: I also see a similar problem in YA romance as a whole) I'm sure you've all read this argument before, but I felt the need to share my thoughts on the subject since I'm planning on reading several paranormal books in the upcoming months. One being Paranormalcy by Kiersten White, which launches the end of this month.

After reading about Paranormalcy I became super excited about it. I absolutely love the whole premise of a strong female character "bagging and tagging paranormals," no ridiculous weak female love story here (does little happy dance).  
Sixteen-year-old Evie's job is bagging and tagging paranormals. Possessing the strange ability to see through their glamours, she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. But when someone--or something--starts taking out the vamps, werewolves, and other odd beasties she's worked hard to help become productive members of society, she's got to figure it out before they all disappear and the world becomes utterly normal. From
And to add to my anticipation HarperTeen has posted the first NINE CHAPTERS on their website! Check it out here. I will definitely be reading it this afternoon and the likely dying with anticipation and excitement until the 31st when the book will be released.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith
Deborah Heiligman
Henry Holt, 2008
Non-fiction, Biography
Teen friendly version of Charles Darwin's life -- sounds great to me. I don't know too much about Darwin's life beyond The Origin of Species, so I thought Charles and Emma would be a perfect way to be introduced to his life without having to read some super boring or overly technical account of his life. Although I thought the book was excellent and very interesting, I'm not sure if the target teen audience would agree.

Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, his revolutionary tract on evolution and the fundamental ideas involved, in 1859. Nearly 150 years later, the theory of evolution continues to create tension between the scientific and religious communities. Challenges about teaching the theory of evolution in schools occur annually all over the country. This same debate raged within Darwin himself, and played an important part in his marriage: his wife, Emma, was quite religious, and her faith gave Charles a lot to think about as he worked on a theory that continues to spark intense debates.

Deborah Heiligman's new biography of Charles Darwin is a thought-provoking account of the man behind evolutionary theory: how his personal life affected his work and vice versa. The end result is an engaging exploration of history, science, and religion for young readers.

Let me start by saying that I did really like this book; it was extremely interesting to learn about Darwin's personal life and conflicts. Heiligman is an excellent writer and has created a thought-provoking take on Darwin's life. The only reason I am not jumping up and down with enthusiasm over this book is because I'm not sure that the younger end of the teen spectrum would be all that interested in Charles' relationship with Emma and his life with his children. The intended audience is 13 and up, which I'm not sure if I really agree with. I think older teens will find the story interesting and get a lot out of it as far as relationships, religion, and science go. But the younger teens (13-15) might have difficulty with the book. Maybe I'm simply not giving teens enough credit, as far as this one goes.

Setting my age group issues aside, this book is really well-thought out and so well-written. I never would have thought to use Charles' relationship (and issues) with Emma as a backdrop to discuss the play between science and religion. This concept works very well; the story of Charles' life and influential works all fit into an easy to follow and entertaining book. By pulling humorous bits from Charles' life (like his marry/not marry list), Heiligman prevents the book from being too stuffy and makes Charles a more normal person, rather than a great scientific figure. This is what really makes the book good and what will make it interesting to the older teens.

I haven't read much non-fiction recently and this one served as an excellent re-introduction to the genre. Although I do think it will be difficult to find others so well written and thought-provoking. 

Add to your to-read pile

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Restoring Harmony

Restoring Harmony
Joelle Anthony
Putnam Juvenile, 2010 

I have been looking forward to this book since Publisher's Weekly ran an article early this year about upcoming YA dystopia titles. Restoring Harmony is not mentioned in the article, but did appear in the accompanying list of upcoming titles (this list seems to have disappeared from their site). After reading a few short descriptions of the book, I got super excited -- not only does it take place in Portland where I live, but it discusses what may happen when we run out of oil, plus there's a bit of romance as well.

The year is 2041, and sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the US, Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse—one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities.

Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they’re financially ruined and practically starving. What should’ve been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission. And when Molly witnesses something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn’t, Molly’s only way home may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there’s a handsome stranger who’s willing to help.
From Goodreads website

Unlike many of the other dystopias I've read recently this one is extremely plausible and realistic. Only being about thirty years in the future rather than hundreds helps with realism and believability, but the events leading up to the current situation are highly plausible and even likely. There's no crazy natural disasters or bizarre epidemics -- the world runs out of oil, pollution is at an all time high, and the world economies collapse. All of which are completely possible. Plus all of this background information is introduced and discussed easily and naturally throughout the story. There's no confusion about why the world is as it is; everything is explained and accounted for.

Besides just really liking the whole premise of the book, I really loved Molly. She's an excellent female character; she's strong, smart, and has a huge heart. Molly makes mistakes and freaks out just like normal teenagers. Everything doesn't go perfectly, but she finds a way to make things work and help her family.

I loved this book; a definite must read for any dystopia lover.
Add to the top of your to-read pile

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Caragh O'Brien
Roaring Brook Press, March 2010

I have been super excited to read Birthmarked all summer and it most certainly lived up to my expectations.

After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.

Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.

There's a lot going on in this book; many mysteries all playing together, but it works wonderfully. O'Brien weaves everything together to create an interesting and beautifully writen story. Even though there's a lot happening and you're trying to figure out what's really happening in Gaia's world right along with her, you're never overwhelmed with events, characters, or background information. Each element works together quite nicely.

I loved Gaia from the very beginning. She's smart, strong, brave, and realistic. I think she is one of my new favorite female characters in YA. Gaia must face many very difficult choices and she does what she feels is best or whatever it is she has to do to survive. She's not perfect, she's not this amazing heroine - she's realistic and believable, which is what made me love her so much.

The concept of Birthmarked is super interesting. There are a million YA dystopias out right now, but I can't think of any quite like this one. Telling the story from the viewpoint of a teenage midwife is very intriguing and unique. The story is more than just a genetic dystopia or a story of the ideal society being less than ideal because O'Brien is able to weave together these stories and those of a young girl finding herself and questioning the world around her.

Interesting blog post by the cover designer on the process of creating the cover art and the overall process of book design: The Hows and Whys of Cover Design. I'm not sure how I feel about the final cover choice; I saw an ARC with one of the earlier designs (one with girl's face on front and back covers) and thought it was intriguing, but assumed the book was Sci-fi. The final cover is interesting, but I don't think it will appeal extremely well to its intended audience.

I'm excited to hear that the story will continue in a trilogy format. The book ended nicely and could totally be a stand alone novel, but I'm so attached to Gaia that I have to know what will happen to her next.

Add to the top of you to-read pile