Monday, January 30, 2012

Giveaway: DEAD TO YOU by Lisa McMann ARC

Because I love Lisa McMann and her books so much (I've been lucky enough to meet her several times and she is just the nicest, most genuine, and fun person!), and I have an extra ARC of her newest YA book, DEAD TO YOU, which releases February 7th, I decided to celebrate her newest book birthday by holding a giveaway!
You can win an ARC of DEAD TO YOU by entering on the form below. 
Contest will be open until 12:01am on Tuesday, February 7th DEAD TO YOU's birthday.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week #46

In My Mailbox is a posting idea run by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've gotten that week to help publicize as many titles as possible. It's a little preview on what book reviews to anticipate along with a way to build excitement about new titles coming out. All titles link to goodreads so you can add books to your "to-read" list.

The biggest news is that I finally broke down and got an ereader this weekend and a new Nook means NetGalley! It was so fun to see the books I could preview (especially because I now get to check them out first to see if they'll work for my students before buying for my classroom). This is going to be great for travel!


For Review (egalley edition)



GODDESS INTERRUPTED (sequel to THE GODDESS TEST) by Aimee Carter
Really liked the first one, so excited to see what happens now. Coming in March. 





I AM (NOT) THE WALRUS by Ed Briant
Sounds like this one could have lots of boy appeal. Coming in July.






THE PRINCESSES OF IOWA by M. Molly Backes
Sounds like a great contemp. Coming in May.





NEW GIRL by Paige Harbison
Sounds like an intriguing story. Releases January 31st.








For Review (Middle Grades edition)




SCARY SCHOOL by Derek the Ghost





ON THE BRIGHT SIDE by S.R. Johannes

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week #45

In My Mailbox is a posting idea run by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've gotten that week to help publicize as many titles as possible. It's a little preview on what book reviews to anticipate along with a way to build excitement about new titles coming out. All titles link to goodreads so you can add books to your "to-read" list.

For Review



FRESHMAN YEAR & OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS by Meredith Zeitlin
Thanks to G.P. Putnam's Sons (a division of Penguin Young Readers Group)!





Bought


THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green 
My super-awesome Wisconsin Bloggers/Librarians/Writers Book Club's January pick. I told you they are awesome! And, have you seen goodreads? I don't think I've ever seen a book with a higher average rating. Can't wait to get to it, but hope my high expectations can be met!




RED GLOVE (The Curse Workers Book 2) by Holly Black
I was intrigued, but a little confused by WHITE CAT (although, I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be because Cassel is), but the I got an ARC of BLACK HEART at the NCTE Convention, and I keep hearing how amazing the series is, so I want to finish it now that I can read all three in a row.

Friday, January 20, 2012

SHOOTING STARS by Allison Rushby

Title: SHOOTING STARS
Author: Allison Rushby
Publisher: Walker & Company (a Bloomsbury imprint)
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Number of Pages: 272
Source of Book: ARC from NCTE
Meet Josephine Foster, or Zo Jo as she’s called in the biz. The best pint-sized photographer of them all, Jo doesn’t mind doing what it takes to get that perfect shot, until she’s sent on an undercover assignment to shoot Ned Hartnett—teen superstar and the only celebrity who’s ever been kind to her—at an exclusive rehabilitation retreat in Boston. The money will be enough to pay for Jo’s dream: real photography classes, and maybe even quitting her paparazzi gig for good. Everyone wants to know what Ned’s in for. But Jo certainly doesn’t know what she’s in for: falling in love with Ned was never supposed to be part of her assignment.
SHOOTING STARS was pretty much what I expected: a quick, cute, light read. At first, I was worried it might end up being a really predictable formula (star in hiding, etc. type of story), but it was actually really refreshing with some fun twists and inspiring coming-of-age revelations for the main character. It was an easy read, but also had a plot that made me want to keep going to find out what was going to happen - in fact I read it in one day.

This book has a sweet romance (but not overly romance story-ish) and fun characters. Jo is fantastic - she's tough and smart and scrappy. She is pretty much on her own as her dad is overseas doing his paparazzi thing. It's also an interesting insight into the behind-the-scenes world of the paparazzi and celebrities - in fact, I wondered as I was reading it if the author had actually done research with actual paps or gone on jobs with them. Although I don't have any inside knowledge, it seemed possible that it was very realistic.

The depth of this story comes from the rehab retreat Jo goes to for a big job in search of Ned. While there, she has group sessions and individual counseling, and it's intriguing to see why each teen is there and how they interact with each other. It leads to comments and conversations about their own lives, what they're unhappy with, what they would choose to change in their lives if they could, why we protect those we love, how we protect ourselves and our emotions from others, and that we all have our own issues to work through in our own lives. This is the environment in which Jo is able to find the integrity of her own character and learn what she needs to do to stand up for herself and what she wants.

This will be a great book for my middle schoolers - it's all completely appropriate content-wise - and it's an approachable book what with the celebrity aspect and has good messages about doing what you can to make things happen for yourself, to do what you really want in your heart, and to go for your dreams. I book-talked this one today, and it was immediately snapped up by a student.  If you're in the mood for a fun, light read, I highly recommend you pick this one up on February 28th.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

CLOCKWORK PRINCE by Cassandra Clare

Title: CLOCKWORK PRINCE (Book 2 in THE INFERNAL DEVICES series)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (a Simon & Schuster imprint)
Release Date: December 6, 2011
Number of Pages: 502
Source of Book: ARC requested from publisher at NCTE Convention
     In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa's powers for his own dark ends.
     With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister's war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move and that one of their own has betrayed them.
     Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will; the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?
     As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.
I have to be honest. After reading THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS trilogy and loving it so much, I was a little bit underwhelmed by CLOCKWORK ANGEL (the first book in this prequel steampunk series). I still really wanted to read CLOCKWORK PRINCE, but wasn't sure that I would love it, but...I did - way more than I expected to. I think this one was right back up to the quality that I like in Cassandra Clare's writing and storytelling and characters. This second book was much better than the first in my opinion. I think that might be partly because I'm not the biggest steampunk fan, and perhaps the first one had a little bit more of the automatons than this second one did, so I felt like it was back to the heart of the storytelling I love.

Once again, I was swept up into the world of the Shadowhunters and all of the excitement and emotion and suspense and action they have in their world. I like Tessa quite a bit as a character and I enjoy reading things from her perspective. And then there's the whole Will and Jem triangle that Tessa has to contend with and figure out, but she does it in her own way and with her own strength of character and integrity. There is a lot of emotional depth to the characters' interactions, and I truly appreciate how the Shadowhunters at the Academy take in outsiders and orphans and really become family for each other. It's what adds heart to these stories which has worlds of demons, but I do have to say, it was heart-breaking to me as well (but I won't give away why!). Once again, Magnus was my favorite character in the book - and I'm so glad he is who he is because then he gets to be in this series and the present-day Mortal Instruments series. But Will steals the show in this story, and the depth at which we get to know him as his backstory is revealed, was the highlight of this book for me.

These characters kick butt and the pacing of these books is masterful as it makes me want to keep reading to find out what twist will come next. I'm as completely hooked on this series now as I am on The Mortal Instruments, and of course, in true Cassie Clare fashion, was left completely hanging at the end of the book and am now desperately waiting the next one, CLOCKWORK PRINCESS, on November 1st.

Monday, January 16, 2012

EMBRACE by Jessica Shirvington

Title:  EMBRACE (The Violet Eden Chapters Book 1)
Author:  Jessica Shirvington
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 367
Source of Book:  ARC from publisher at NCTE Convention
I slowly opened my eyes. The sun speared its first bright rays of golden orange into the sky and I leapt from the cliff, with the sorrowful knowledge that no matter what the outcome, at least part of me would die that day...

Violet Eden is dreading her seventeenth birthday dinner. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. The one bright spot is that Lincoln will be there. Sexy, mature and aloof, he is Violet’s idea of perfection. But why does he seem so reluctant to be anything more than a friend?

After he gives her the world’s most incredible kiss – and then abandons her on her front doorstep – Violet is determined to get some answers. But nothing could have prepared her for Lincoln’s explanation: he is Grigori – part angel and part human – and Violet is his eternal partner.

Without warning, Violet’s world is turned upside down. She never believed in God, let alone angels. But there’s no denying the strange changes in her body ... and her feelings for Lincoln. Suddenly, she can’t stand to be around him. Luckily, Phoenix, an exiled angel, has come into her life. He’s intense and enigmatic, but at least he never lied to her.

As Violet gets caught up in an ancient battle between dark and light, she must choose her path. The wrong choice could cost not only her life, but her eternity...

You know that kind of book...the one when you start reading that book, you're immediately swept into the fantasy world created? The one where you're connecting with the characters - laughing and cringing and reacting with them? The one where you stay up too late reading, no matter what you have going on the next day, because you can't wait to find out where the story is going? The one where you find yourself frantically turning the pages, but then realizing you want to reread sections and slow yourself down so you make sure you actually process the story because you're going to need to understand it later? The one where you finish it, but just want to read it all over again because it was so, so good and you were so engrossed in it? Yeah...all of that was EMBRACE for me. I should have known, when the Sourcebooks rep told Sarah and I at NCTE that this was her favorite book they had there and we would love it, that I really would, but I was still surprised by how much I liked it. I was completely immersed in this all-consuming read.

I've read quite a few angels/fallen angels stories over the last several years, and I've liked some of them more than others, but this one blows all the rest of them away for me. The writing of this debut book is in first person, past tense in a straight-forward style and is engaging as it propels the story forward. It's one of those that's almost hard to explain what it was the grabbed me because I enjoyed it so much. Let's start with the characters though. Violet is a teenager with determination and spunk and sass and heart, I mean, this girl can kick some serious butt! She's a really likeable, believeable character, but she's also a little lost because she's been kind of alone her whole life since her mother died at her birth. Her dad has never really recovered, so she relies on her only best friend (who is a trip), and her "trainer" Lincoln to keep her going. She has strength within herself that she has yet to fully realize, and once she turns seventeen and learns about the world she's destined to be a part of without ever knowing it, everything changes for her. She is a Grigori, but she's different than all the others. Her inner strength and will is what makes her so powerful in the end, but she has to work to get there. She's written in a way that I just really connected with, especially her strength and determination to do things her own way on her own terms.

Then there are the boys. Girls are going to be swooning over these two. We have Lincoln, who Violet's in love with but doesn't show the same interest back at her, and when she find out why, it changes everything between them. Then there's Phoenix, who shows up in her life, and has secrets that he's not willing to reveal, but she is drawn to him and the way that he is there for her and takes care of her. Violet doesn't know it at first, but she's going to need both of these guys on her side to help get her through what's coming next and the decision she has to make of whether to embrace her Grigori side or not. The choice is hers, but she needs the guidance and support from both of these important guys in her life in order to help her make the life-changing decision. And, yes, there are some steamy, heated scenes with both of the guys (but not too graphic), and yes, it's triangle-ish, but not in the overdone, forced way that I sometimes don't like in young adult books - it seems realistic for the situation Violet is in and for the way her feelings are swirling. I have a feeling this will definitely spark a "Team" debate among the masses once they get their hands on this book. However, each of the guys seems more layered than they originally appear, and I can only guess we'll be discovering more and more depth about each of them throughout the rest of the series.

The storyline is fast-paced and full of action and decisions to be made and life or death situations and excitement. The world of the angels and Grigori is well-rounded and fully explained throughout the book, and it's a fresh take on some of the same backstories that we've heard before. I fully enjoyed reading this book and discovering this world that Violet has been destined to be a part of. It's detailed and complicated and we get to know and understand it just as Violet does as we take this journey to realization with her. She's not perfect though, and there are things that happen that we, as readers, will probably think she should have realized, but we aren't living with her demons and secrets and youthful outlook and angst and hope. There is quite a lot going on in this book, but ultimately it's about Violet learning about this world and figuring out how she feels about being a part of it or not and what's most important to her in her life. She has to learn to make decisions based on what she needs and wants and what's right for her, but also how it impacts those around her. It's about Violet's journey to self-realization and it's full of emotion, but also deals with the struggle between light and dark and whether or not it's a clear line between the two. Light wouldn't be needed if there was no dark, but are light and dark so clearly identified? This is the stage for the entire story. Because of this, everything is complicated in this book - there are no clear distinctions on what is the right thing to do, and that makes it all the more intriguing.

I'm sure there are going to be people who don't connect with this book like I did, or who pick apart some things that I overlooked because I was so engaged in it, but that's how it is with every book. Different ones connect with different people, and I was definitely absorbed in this one. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I picked it up at just the right time when I needed to decompress from the last book I had read. I know I'm going to be desperately waiting to get my hands on book 2, ENTICED, and book 3, EMBLAZE, which, thankfully, Sourcebooks will be releasing in six month intervals so we won't have to wait so long to find out what will happen with Violet's journey next! Enjoy this read this spring!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week #44

In My Mailbox is a posting idea run by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've gotten that week to help publicize as many titles as possible. It's a little preview on what book reviews to anticipate along with a way to build excitement about new titles coming out. All titles link to goodreads so you can add books to your "to-read" list.

I took a few weeks off over the holidays and debated whether I wanted to continue doing IMMs, but then I got some books that I'm really excited about and wanted to share the titles with all of you!

For Review
Thanks so much to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers!



THE STORM MAKERS by Jennifer L. Smith (ARC-April release)
I am excited to read this one because it's a middle grades title, but from the author of THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT, a January release that I loved!






BELLES by Jen Calonita (ARC-April release)
Sounds like a cute contemporary from the author of THE SECRETS OF MY HOLLYWOOD LIFE.





REVIVED by Cat Patrick (ARC-May release)
Super-excited to read the second book from the author of FORGOTTEN, one of the Best I Read 2011! If you haven't read it yet, you definitely should!






Bought


A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis
Book #2 in the ACROSS THE UNIVERSE series, which I really enjoyed last year.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

CATCHING JORDAN by Miranda Kenneally

Title: CATCHING JORDAN
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: December 1, 2011
Number of Pages: 281
Source of Book: Requested from publisher at NCTE because I loved the cover and premise and really wanted to read it.
What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though - she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team... and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.
CATCHING JORDAN is a cute contemporary romance with a unique twist. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book, and Jordan is a refreshing character who tells it like it is and doesn't put up with crap from the boys who she is surrounded by as she is the quarterback of the football team. It's a unique setup for some high school drama, and drama definitely ensues with football and relationships and friendships and family, but it all seemed very realistic. Jordan's relationship with her mom and brother and guys on the football team was fun to read, but there is strain with her dad, who happens to be a pro football player, but doesn't seem to want her to play. Then there is the fact that Jordan's only friends seem to be the guys on the team, as the cheerleaders are pretty nasty to her and she feels like she doesn't have anything in common with other girls. The thing that was interesting about Jordan was how much she seems to be in control of everything, and is honest in her narration, but isn't able to see what's really in front of her. Of course, that seems to be pretty typical for teens as they are pretty much focused on themselves in their own little world. But, as Jordan grows throughout the book and starts to realize more of what's around her, I began to like her even more. She started to realize what was really important to her and what she needed to be able to live with herself and as herself. This led her to start advocating for herself more and to her making decisions that were right for her.

As much as I enjoyed it, I had a little bit of an issue with this book because of Jordan. It's mostly a personal preference type of thing, I think, but I had a hard time believing that this girl, who had never even kissed a boy before Ty showed up, was willing to sleep with him so quickly after they got together. I was fine with the insta-attraction (I get the crush thing) and even the love triangle element and her being clueless to part of it, but this one thing stuck with me. In her narration she gives all the guys on the team a hard time for sleeping around, and doesn't want to get a reputation, which I completely understand, but I guess it just seemed a little bit out of character for her to go so far so quickly. It could just be me, and the fact that I'm a teacher, but I didn't see any realistic, emotional consequences to that choice. But, they did at least use protection.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, fun, straight-forward contemporary read. I especially liked the added element of the creative writing that Jordan comes to discover she enjoys. As she starts journaling to get her feelings out since she can't talk to anyone about them (can totally relate to that!), Miranda made the choice to include some of the poems Jordan has written in between chapters. It was a unique and interesting choice by the author to allow the reader to get more insight into Jordan's feelings even as she was unable to tell them to use herself. I also have to add that I loved the secondary characters. The guys on the team who are her best friends are so hilarious with how they treat her, especially when she wants to talk relationships, and how protective they are of her. And I especially liked her older brother and what a great relationship they had. The ending was just perfect for this type of book with all of the elements - her dad, her choice of college, her boy situation, and her friendships - coming together as I had hoped they would.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

FRACTURE by Megan Miranda

Title:  FRACTURE
Author:  Megan Miranda
Publisher:  Walker & Co. (a Bloomsbury imprint)
Release Date:  January 17, 2012
Number of Pages:  272
Source of Book:  ARC from NCTE Convention 

Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine-despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?

Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?

For fans of best-sellers like Before I Fall and If I Stay, this is a fascinating and heart-rending story about love and friendship and the fine line between life and death.
I should have heeded the advice of the note from the editor in the beginning of the advanced copy of this book - "Do you have some free time?...you are not going to be able to stop until you've finished it."  Reading this book was a roller-coaster of emotions all in one day. That's because the way the tension was built and the suspense kept me turning pages until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore-and then picked it right back up again the next morning-finishing it in less than 24 hours. This book made me want to laugh, cry, scream, weep, cheer, yell, cringe, and, most of all, hope. Hope for Delaney to be all right in the end. Hope for Decker to admit to what he felt. Hope for her mom to figure out how to talk to her. Hope for Troy to be a good guy in the end. Hope for lives to be saved. It was a book that dealt with death, but left me with a feeling of hope.

This debut book is written in an approachable, straight-forward style, but in a really engaging way that drew me into the story even more. There is tension and suspense and truth and honesty and realness. There is also a main character who reaches in and grabs you. Delaney's struggles with how people see her after her traumatic brain injury gave me a sense (even if I hadn't read it in the author bio later) that the author had close knowledge of what someone who has dealt with that would be feeling and thinking. How does one go back to being normal when the brain no longer is? How does one go back to being normal after living when she should have died?

Delaney is a smart character, and I really liked that about her. There is something really refreshing about her voice and attitude that drew me to her. She's the type of character who isn't always completely reliable because she's so messed up from what happened to her, and she doesn't know what's going on with her own head, so she's freaked. She's also honest with herself, even if not always with those around her. How can she be honest though, when those around her can't even be honest with her? And how can she act how she was before, when she doesn't even recognize some of the things going on in her head? It wasn't only Delaney who was affected by the accident and her unexpected recovery, but all of those who know her and were involved. And then there's Decker. I held out hope for him throughout. Interestingly, the very last book I read also dealt with a teen girl figuring out that her lifelong friend, who is a boy, is actually in love with her. Both of them felt true to how they would react and work through these realizations.

My heart broke for Decker throughout this book, but still hoped he would get through to Delaney. But she's broken after the accident, and it takes many realizations about life and what's important for her to heal. "What would you do if you had one day left to live?" Don't wait, go do it because you never know when that last day will be. It's a hopeful message to go after what you want, do the right thing, and share your feelings with the right people. Delaney starts to come to this realization of what's most important in the last third of the book, after witnessing another death and figuring some things out about Troy. There were some deep thoughts and ways Delaney was trying to work out what's right and wrong when it comes to expected and unexpected death that made me think and feel deeply as I read them.

This book is full of suspense and emotion and heartache and fear and sadness and hope. However, it is a short book, and I think more development could have been done with many aspects of it and because I would have enjoyed getting more detail on some things and spending more time with these characters. There are quite a few smaller plotlines within the larger book, and some of them are not as fully realized as they could have been. It left me a little bit lost on some of them feeling like I wasn't getting the whole story. That being said, I do think because of the brevity of it, I will be able to get many of my students to read it, which is always a good thing. I definitely recommend reading this one on January 17th!

CLARITY by Kim Harrington

Title:  CLARITY
Author:  Kim Harrington
Publisher:  Point (a Scholastic imprint)
Release Date:  March 1, 2011
Number of Pages:  242
Source of Book:  ARC from my bookseller friend
When you can see things others can't, where do you look for the truth?
This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats.
Clarity "Clare" Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It's a gift.
And a curse.
When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare's ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case - but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare's brother - who has supernatural gifts of his own - becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?
I had heard so many positive reviews of this book that I was eagerly anticipating reading it, and it didn't let me down. Once I looked at the first page to see how it sounded - I was gone for the next two days reading it every chance I got. "You don't want to kill me," I said. "Of course I don't, Clare. But I have to." And a paragraph later, "...On my right was the crumpled body of a guy I hadn't fully realized the depths of my feelings for until I saw a bullet rip into him." OK - I was hooked - there was no chance I was putting this book down.

Clarity (Clare) Fern is a psychic from a family of psychics, and not the kind you normally think of as the scammers, but the real kind. She, her mother, and her older brother all have different psychic abilities, and they use them to entertain the tourists in their Cape Cod town. I loved Clare - she is full of snark and sass and wit in a Veronica Mars type way - and I totally want to be her friend. She doesn't take any crap from anyone, and is fiercely loyal to her family. She's been hurt, but she still has hope for finding a good guy (and there are a few to go around apparently!) Plus, she's just really likeable the way she's written. This book, and her character, reminded me of other favorite mystery books THE LIAR SOCIETY and DEATH BY BIKINI, all with kick butt, tell-it-like-it-is girls who are smart, but vulnerable and whose mysteries are sometimes usurped by their teen relationships with family and boys.

The secondary cast of characters in this book was fun, as many small town novels tend to be, and I enjoyed seeing Clarity struggle with the boys she was surrounded with. Although it was a little predicatble in the end (as I did guess earlier on who might be the culprit), it still kept me guessing throughout and I was never quite sure if my guess would turn out to be right or not. The mystery kept me on my toes, and Clare's realtionships kept me turning pages to find out what would happen next.

CLARITY was a fun, light read, even though there were some serious elements with the mystery, the murder, and the people trying to figure everything out, and I would definitely recommend it to students who are looking for a mystery, and even to students who maybe need to be exposed to a mystery book. It's got a great main character, an interesting mystery, and lots of snark and sass and laugh out loud comebacks, with a touch of vulnerability. I also appreciated the underlying story of not judging people before you know them and know the truth, and Clare's battles to stand up for herself and be confident even when others are doubting her.

I'll be eagerly waiting on the sequel, PERCEPTION, coming March 1st, to find out what Clare decides to do and what happens to her next.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows

Title: INCARNATE
Author:  Jodi Meadows
Publisher: Katharine Tegen Books (a HarperCollins imprint)
Release Date:  January 31, 2012
Number of Pages:  384
Source of Book:  Won ARC contest from the wonderful Beth @ A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust

NEWSOUL
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.


NOSOUL
Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?


HEART
Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?


Jodi Meadows expertly weaves soul-deep romance, fantasy, and danger into an extraordinary tale of new life.

This book is a little bit of a struggle for me to write about because I liked it, but I never fully connected with it as much as I wanted to, but I can’t pinpoint exactly why. There is a dystopic feel to this fantasy book, and it has a really intriguing premise, but there was just something about it that was a little bit off to me. It has elements of mystery, suspense, beliefs, finding strength, bravery, romance, religion, political intrigue, soulmates, and battles with fantasy creatures. The unique premise dealing with reincarnation and souls being reborn was engaging, but I’m not sure the world was fully realized for me. The plot pacing kept me turning pages and I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen next, but some of the big reveals and surprises still left me a little bit confused. Maybe that was a piece of it-I still wasn’t sure what exactly was going on by the end. Because I was left confused, and some of it seemed weirdly out of place, it was a difficult read for me; although, I loved the premise and the whole idea of what was going on with the reincarnated souls. 

I liked the characters for the most part: Ana as a “newsoul” discovering things about the world while surrounded by others who had been there before, and Sam being thousands of years old and discovering a new person for the first time. I liked their interactions and the development of their relationship and the reveals of their feelings for each other. But, it was always tempered with a niggling thought in the back of my mind that it was a little bit uncomfortable because of the emphasis on him being so old and her being so young. I guess that was what bothered me the most about this book because I wanted to like them together, but I felt like I also shouldn’t, so it made it difficult to fully get lost in the story. And I really wanted more from some of the secondary characters too because I liked the little bits I got to know about them. I’m glad I read it and I want to know what happens next because I really liked the way that Ana and Sam supported each other and the strength of their relationship by the end, but it’s the other elements of the story that make me question if I’ll read the next book or not. I've seen other reviewers who have really liked it, so maybe I just didn't "get" this particular book, or read it at the wrong time (too many dystopians in a row can do that to a reader!) Overall, I'd say check this one out from the library.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year Release Day!

Some awesome books are officially hitting the shelves today (all of which I was lucky enough to read early), and I want to share a link to each review I wrote because all are books you should read!

Happy (new year) release day to...

UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi
a gets-under-your-skin dystopian debut

CINDER by Marissa Meyer
an engaging dystopic retelling of Cinderella by a debut author

THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT by Jennifer E. Smith
a sweet it-happened-one-night romance that I couldn't put down until I had finished the whole book

BLOODROSE (the final book in the NIGHTSHADE trilogy) by Andrea Cremer
a bittersweet finale to a wonderful series
 
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