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Monday, August 27, 2012

Reasons to Read: Every Day by David Levithan + Giveaway

Reasons to Read (R2R) is a new feature at The Hiding Spot. This weekly post will give readers reasons to read (or pre-order, if the case may be) a specific title I've read and loved.   A giveaway of the weekly title may also occur.

Every Day by David Levithan
August 28,, 2012/Alfred A. Knopf/Random House
  1. A, the novel's main character, doesn't have a gender, as every day brings a new body (sometimes female, sometimes male). A is always A, but has access to the individual's thoughts as well. This added incredible depth to the ideas discussed in the novel.
  2. There's a love story, made unique by the fact that A is without gender. A loves, period. Love is not defined by gender.
  3. At one point, A is in the body of a girl that is severely depressed and self-harms. A feels the depression and must fight it: depression is due to chemical and physical imbalances. Not all depression can be willed away with positive thoughts and chocolate. As someone who has struggled with depression, I was impressed and appreciative of this distinction.
  4. A only has one day in a body and will never land in the same body twice, which begs the question: How large (or small) of an effect can one day have on an individual's life? 
  5. A falls in love with Rhiannon when he spends the day in her boyfriend's body. Rhiannon's boyfriend doesn't treat her well, but she insists her loves her deep down. I could definitely identify with Rhiannon and felt for her, especially after knowing how her boyfriend truly feels for her, courtesy of A's access to his thoughts.
  6. A experiences all walks of life... each new day offers an incredible look into something completely different from the day before.
  7. Levithan's writing is, as always, fantastic... Every Day has a plot that sounds impossible, but he somehow pulls it off.
More about Every Day:
Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl. 

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

Win an ARC of Every Day by filling out the form below! 
Don't forget to comment and let me know whether I should keep Reasons to Read as a weekly feature!

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Ghost Flower by Michele Jaffe

Eve, a runaway, finds a new job at a coffee shop on the outskirts of Tuscon. When she's approached by two wealthy teens who claim she bears an uncanny resemblance to their missing cousin Aurora, her life takes a turn for the dark and mysterious. Drawn into a scheme to win Aurora's inheritance, Eve finds herself impersonating the girl, who disappeared three years ago on the night her best friend Elizabeth died. But when Liza's ghost begins to haunt Eve, doing harm to the people close to her under the guise of "protecting" her, Eve finds herself in a nightmare maze of lies and deception that leads her to question even her own identity. She realizes her only chance is to uncover the truth about what happened the night Liza died, and to find Liza's killer - before she's next.

Ghost Flower is yet another Michele Jaffe novel packed with secrets, lies, and drama. I've read most of Jaffe's books, from various genres and subgenres, and I'm always impressed by her storytelling abilities, but it's the thrillers, like Rosebush and Ghost Flower, that I find most impressive. 

Usually, I find mysteries all too predictable, but that's never the case with Jaffe's novels. Even if I think I've got the twist figured out, I'm never completely sure. And half the time I'm only partially correct and Jaffe has something else up her sleeve.

I appreciate the fact that the main focus of Ghost Flower is the mystery, not the romance  or any other less important plot lines. Those other aspects are there - and they're very well done - but the story line doesn't meander pointlessly. I can't say I've read very many YA mysteries that keep focus as well as Jaffe's novels.

Ghost Flower had an almost cinematic quality. I could easily see it being made into a film. In fact, since it's a relatively quick read, I actually felt like I'd just spent the last few hours watching a movie. The characters were clearly formed in my head and I found myself rewinding and rewatching my mental images to search for clues as the mystery slowly unraveled.

Fans of psychological thrillers will quickly become fans of Ghost Flower, but I urge everyone with a few extra hours to pick up one of Jaffe's novels. 

Razorbill, April 2012, Paperback, ISBN: 9781595143969, 358 pages.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue? 
Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them... 
Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth. 
But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.

I have very mixed feelings regarding Amy Kathleen Ryan's Glow. On one hand, it does have a very interesting premise. Interesting enough that I wanted to keep reading and see what would happen next... even though I often found it thoroughly creepy and I didn't particularly like any of the characters.

As I read, I kept hoping for a moment when I would feel a spark with a character... any character. It never happened for me. All of the characters felt one dimensional and I didn't feel any passion behind their actions. At times, I felt like scenes were supposed to be intense - they were written with lots of exclamation points and the wording seemed to be carefully selected - but they just weren't. Yes, Glow is set on a space ship and all the rest, but I excepted it to feel more realistic than it did and ended up disappointed.

Also, there were a lot of events and details that just didn't add up for me. There is a battle for power occurring between Keiran and Seth, two of the oldest boys and both potential matches for Waverly, the eldest girl. Keiran and Waverly are supposed to be in love, though Seth loves Waverly and Waverly is obviously drawn to Seth. Or that's what the reader is told anyway. I never felt like these emotions were ever shown, only told. 

While Waverly and the girls are being kept prisoner aboard the sister ship, Seth and Keiran both have their time in charge of the Empyrean and keep the other boy locked in a cell. I didn't understand how all of the others boys were so weak that they'd blindly follow either boy, no questions asked. I guess it could happen, but it didn't feel real to me. Neither boy had much basis for his arguments and neither seemed all that close to the other boys, so why were they so loyal and willing to accept whatever they were told? 

Aboard the sister ship, Waverly and the girls are being kept captive. This is confusing in multiple ways... The girls were repeatedly told they were being rescued from a doomed ship, only to find themselves being carefully watched by armed gunmen in their classroom? The girls knew they were prisoners, but those aboard the ship kept insisting they were rescues... why keep insisting that? I didn't understand the rationale. Unless the population of the Empyrean's sister ship is is composed of idiots. Which might very well be true. Amanda, one of the women that became friendly with Waverly, seems completely naive and immature... much younger, in fact, than the sixteen year old Waverly, despite the fact that she's supposed to be at least near middle aged. The only person aboard that ship that seemed to have common sense was Anne Mather, the crazy pastor and captain of the ship. 

Still, the premise of Glow is intriguing. It reminded me of the Across the Universe trilogy, but without parents. And with a much bigger emphasis on reproduction and repopulating the new world. The entire novel definitely has a sinister feel, which I appreciated.

While I finished Glow and plan to read the next installment, Spark, the plot holes and inconsistencies within the first novel were distracting and took away from the story. I'm really hoping these aspects were resolved in the second novel so I can better focus on the novel's positive aspects and leave the distractions behind.

St. Martin's Griffin, September 2011, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780312590567, 307 pages.

Check out the book trailer for Glow below:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: In Honor by Jessi Kirby

A devastating loss leads to an unexpected road trip in this novel from the author of Moonglass, whose voice Sarah Dessen says “is fresh and wise, all at once.” 
Hours after her brother’s military funeral, Honor opens the last letter Finn ever sent. In her grief, she interprets his note as a final request and spontaneously decides to go to California to fulfill it. 
Honor gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen Rusty in ages, but it’s obvious he is as arrogant and stubborn as ever—not to mention drop-dead gorgeous. Despite Honor’s better judgment, the two set off together on a voyage from Texas to California. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn’s memory—but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?

Jessi Kirby's sophomore novel, In Honor, is a quick, satisfying read, but it isn't without depth. I actually ended up enjoying it more than Kirby's first novel, Moonglass. Like her first novel, In Honor is contemporary YA, but I think I felt more kinship with Honor than with any of the characters in Moonglass

Honor is close to leaving home for college when her brother, serving overseas in the military, dies. Honor and her brother, Finn, are incredibly close and his death hits her hard. Finn is more than a brother to Honor, he's one of her best friends, her confidante, and he helped raise her after the loss of their parents. I'm very close to my brother, so Honor's pain resonated with me. In addition to Finn's death being a terrible thing all on its own, Honor is dealing with the confusion and anger she feels over Finn joining the military in the first place. 

In Finn's last letter to Honor, he sends tickets to the concert of one of her favorite performers and jokes that she should tell her about him. Honor takes this flip comment seriously and embarks on a road trip to tell celebrity idol about Finn, her real life idol. Along for the ride is Rusty, Finn's estranged best friend.

Rusty is an interesting character. It's clear from the start that he's a good guy, but he's dealing with some pretty intense demons... and he isn't doing it in a healthy way. He's the quintessential tortured bad boy with a heart of gold. Perhaps a bit cliche, but also familiar.

There weren't any crazy plot twists within In Honor's pages, but it was  well told story about a girl dealing with intense grief and finding herself after her pillar of stability is lost. Featuring a road trip, a good looking guy, a colorful cast of characters, and neatly wrapped up ending, In Honor is definitely worth a read.

Simon & Schuster BFYR, May 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9781442433137, 240 pages.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

{Blog Tour} The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls Illustrator Interview + Giveaway

I'm so pumped to be participating in the blog tour for Claire Legrand's debut novel The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls! Today, Claire is taking over the blog and interviewing Sarah Watt's, the illustrator of her novel.

The Interview:
Sarah. SARAH. How are you so awesome? That’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever I think about you. That, and how magical your brain is. Tell me: What is your policy for people taking up residence in your brain? Are there rooms for rent? Is there a secret handshake to get in? Must I perform a Herculean task to impress the implacable gatekeeper who may or may not have a weakness for blanketed bat babies? 
Claire, YOU are amazing. I feel so darn honored to work on your first book!! I wouldn't trade the opportunity for a life time supply of pudding snacks. So, because of that, you have free rent (with rent control) to a luxury room in my brain. With, like massages and whatnot. And those bats are the best thing I've seen all month. Seriously!! Some of my friends actually researched as much as they could on how to get me a pet bat. But the reality is, he would probably poop all over the house. So the fantasy is that I have a pet bat and he flies and delivers creepy letters to people that are mean, and then he returns to me every morning to go to sleep. 
You are basically an artistic wizard. A wizardly artist. TAKE YOUR PICK. I mean, y’all, take a few minutes to poke around Sarah’s website and you’ll see what I mean. What is a typical day like for you, Sarah Watts, artist extraordinaire? What projects are you working on right now? 
If I was a wizard I would make Slim Jims healthy, haha. So, a typical day for me is never really consistent. I quit my day job last year to full time self-employed since things were picking up to stop the double life (working full-time while you frantically do your passion on the side.)  
It was tough at first. Since taking the jump, I quickly learned that I had to deal with the fact that my process is very organic. I no longer had someone telling me what I had to get done, but instead it was me! And I can be very scatterbrained with ideas and excitement. I am sure other creative types can relate. So I learned that, for me, I have to stay busy to function to my fullest potential. I think better with deadlines, little timeframes, and a busy schedule. It keeps me on top of things. I work best in the morning, and at night. I try to finish at a reasonable time so I can hang with my husband. I go sit outside for a little bit each day to get sunlight(to offset the vampire lighting I typically get). I make a loose itinerary for each day on a piece of note paper, but by no means do I stick with things hourly, or in sequence. I just do the best that I can. 
I also seem to have two personalities, where I feel super optimistic and social, and then I have sort of a dark cynical joke-making side. Do I sound crazy yet? Haha. So I had to find a good balance for these two moods. I made a little blog where I can be dark and funny using unedited little drawings (Sandie Willow). This has done wonders for me. Now I have a way to express any mood, which helps me embrace it all and make good work. Creative types can be moody little creatures. We feel a lot, it can't be helped. Recognizing it and embracing it is the best thing we can do. 
Currently, I am working on 3 books, two of which are my first picture books. I am also working on Halloween aprons, magnets, embroidery kits, and some fabric designs. I am super excited about the Hallo aprons! Most of it will be available early next year. am also selling art prints, mostly through Scoutmob. This has really picked up for me, so I am working on new prints to keep it fresh. I am a hybrid illustrator and surface designer. So my goals are to not only illustrate books, but to also make beautiful work for home goods and products that everyone can enjoy. My background is in textile design, so I have a big passion for that. Wallpaper, couches. One day, one day. 
So, pretty much your illustrations for CAVENDISH are the best thing ever. I remember the first time I saw the finished cover, I burst into tears. It was EXACTLY what I had always envisioned for CAVENDISH. Tell us a little about how you got started working on CAVENDISH. How did you catch Simon & Schuster’s attention? 
I'd like to think that I did something awesome to catch the attention of Simon and Schuster. Like build a mechanical whale that floats over their building, and I project my portfolio onto his belly. But, I'm pretty sure Lucy Ruth Cummins found me online, and let me incubate on her desk until the right story came along for me to illustrate. Which was yours! And it was a wonderful mix of worlds. :D I was so excited that Simon and Schuster contacted me too, since they were on my “badass people to work with” list. Typically if I want a client I will send them samples or prototypes.Or I meet with them in person with my portfolio. I did this last May and it did wonders! It is also great to get to meet them personally and even concept together. 
What were some of your first impressions of CAVENDISH when you initially read the manuscript? Did you jot down notes as you read or create an “inspiration board” with images that helped you get started? 
Right when I read The Cavendish Home for Boy and Girls in the proposal email, I thought, “Oh yeah, please be a spooky story.” Then I was like, “Yes! A spooky story!! With a really cool story line!” Haha. I just love this story so much. Haunted house stories were a main source of entertainment when I was a kid, so I really connected with Cavendish. The idea of such magical and creepy things coming from a place in the neighborhood that no one really knows about. That is where good stories come from. People speculating and innovating from their backyard, no matter where they are. I really identified with this story. And it was bizarre how natural it felt to draw the images for it!! It was awesome. As I was reading the manuscript, I highlight sentences or phrases that strike images in my mind. Then when I actually go to sketch the drawings, I would sometimes go on blogs and find old photos and stuff to get inspired. Most of the work I do comes out of my head. I usually only look at photos to remember how something functions, so I don't go draw a bike with no chain or something, haha. Looking at your Tumblr was a big help for me working on CAVENDISH! It was nice to get into your visual head a little bit and start creating tones from that and my own visions. 
Did you listen to any particular music for inspiration while working on CAVENDISH?
While working on Cavendish, I mostly listened to Dead Man's Bones (Ryan Gosling's side project, hawt) and a bunch of goth music, along with some Clint Mansell. I work well to darker music, even when I am working on adorable stuff like kid's clothes. The grit of it inspires me, same with folk music and fantasy stuff. I also jammed to a lot of Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, and Murder by Death. Each of them are mostly story telling with sad undertones, which for me is rich for spooky drawin'. When I work, I have to work to music. I need to sink into my fantasy brain so full imagination can take flight. If I can hear the TV, or people, I get really distracted by reality. Haha! 

Who is your favorite character from CAVENDISH and why? And what is your favorite scene? (No spoilers! But feel free to be as tease-y as you want. ;) )
I like Victoria the best. I identified with her on the over-achieving perfectionist side. I also love her snobby wittiness. Her stubbornness and justified side is something that I envy in people, so I liked that about her too. I was raised to see things from every point of view and consider that in making decisions, so anytime I meet someone who is very decisive, I tend to gravitate towards them. Plus, you can see her sensitive side every once in a while, which makes her a really great character. 
My favorite scene is when Victoria finally gets to go discover the home. It's amazing, and the home in general and all of its magic is so rich and inventive. Oh yeah!! I wish I could go into detail, because this part of the story made me want to draw a lot more interiors! Oh, oh, and my other favorite part is when the wind is blowing and Victoria is walking down the eerie street! I also loved the descriptions and character of Mr. Tibbalt. And, I looove the relationship between Lawrence and Victoria. It was so fun for me! I also loved Lawrence's house scene, and the piano scene. And, the first encounter with Mr. Alice and Miss Cavendish. Okay, seriously I'm done. ;) 
What was the most challenging part of working on CAVENDISH? And was it harder to create the cover or the illustrations? 
The most challenging side was figuring out how to make the best, most striking images for the interior, using only one shade: black. There is so much to work from in this story, and visual simplicity with a lot of rich content is hard with one color, but an exciting challenge. The cover was tough too, but it was more instinctual since the challenge of a more symbolic image for a story really gets me going. Also, for covers, there is more input from the team so it feels like you have cheerleaders and great ideas from that. Which, speaking of that, Lucy Ruth Cummins was amazing to work with! I was also thrilled to get to do the lettering for the cover. It made my day. 
Y’all, I’ve been lucky enough to meet Sarah in person and peruse not only her art, but also her textiles. (Yeah, she does textiles too! I’m telling you: WIZARD.) And it is ALL AMAZING. Sarah, what do you use as inspiration when working? Do you often go traipsing around graveyards? Set out on long drives in the middle of the night? Peruse antique stores? What gets your artist brain going? 
All of the above. 
You make me feel so cool Claire! Haha. I was thrilled to get to meet you. I felt like I was meeting someone famous. So for fun, yes, I love all of the above. Antiquing and thrifting is where I get most of my visual inspiration. Thrift stores were a big part of my life growing up, and now they really inspire my aesthetic. There is something about a found treasure that is just too good!! I also tend to find a lot of really strange characters, like badly painted figurines and stuff that are so rich with narrative. And I love fabric stores!! I go to a lot of them and just sort of rub the fabric on my face until I'm escorted out. 
I also try to go on a lot of little trips, since the only way I know how to take a break from work is to leave it physically. I looove the forest, woods, mountains, the beach. I also like to see a lot of live shows. Concerts and whatnot. Music is endlessly inspiring. And of course, I read now. I didn't read much growing up and I feel like I missed out. To intake rather than output is very good for the brain, especially good storytelling. I like getting lost in someone's world. And, about graveyards, I actually live next door to one! I always go over there and draw. I also come up with Sandie Willow names from the headstones. ;) I call my family for good inspiration too. They run into interested people and are filled with crazy things to tell me. My grandmother is a wise woman, and she gets me all gushy and mushy. Lastly, I like having girls’ nights. I have a lot of gritty, hard-working girl friends here that really inspire me.
Describe your general aesthetic in five words. 
Heart-felt, humorous, authentic, striking, timeless 
On your blog, you say that you “will not rest until a shark eats [you] or [you are] abducted by aliens.” Well, which is it? Let’s “would you rather” this. Eaten by a shark? Or abducted by aliens? (Let’s say the aliens are hostile.) 
I am going to go with aliens. Because, being abducted means that I still have the opportunity to convince these jerks that I may be of use to them. “I can wash your dishes, I can babysit your kids, I can wash your car,” you know, things like that. If I get eaten by a shark, that would suck. I am afraid of deep ocean and big creatures in it, so I have already been able to build the horror up for that scenario in my head. Getting chewed up while drowning sounds terrible. And if I die in either situation, I guess I can still come back as a ghost and haunt annoying people. So that would be cool. 
A closing note: I just want to say that it is amazing that not only did I get to work on your book Claire, but I also got to make a new friend. You are very inspiring and I will always be one of your fans. ;) Thank you so much for interviewing me. I am also thankful to Sara from The Hiding Spot for hosting my interview. You rock! Thank you to Lucy Ruth Cummins for hiring me for this job and being an awesome Art Director!
Author Bio:
Claire Legrand is a Texan living in New York City. She used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now a full-time writer, Claire can often be found typing with purpose on her keyboard or spontaneously embarking upon adventures to lands unknown. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is her first novel, due out August 28 from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. Her second novel, The Year of Shadows, a ghost story for middle grade readers, comes out August 2013. Her third novel, Winterspell, a young adult re-telling of The Nutcracker, comes out Fall 2014.
Check out the rest of the CAVENDISH Blog Tour here!
To win a hardcover copy of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, fill out the form below! Contest is U.S./Canada only. Ends September 13th.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Reasons to Read: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle + Giveaway

Reasons to Read (R2R) is a new feature at The Hiding Spot. This weekly post will give readers reasons to read (or pre-order, if the case may be) a specific title I've read and loved.   A giveaway of the weekly title may also occur.

The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle
September 25, 2012/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  1. The Hallowed Ones features a look at Amish life. I haven't read any other YA books that focus on this, so it was entirely new to me.
  2. There is discussion of religion and individual beliefs, but it's not overbearing. I actually enjoyed it a lot, which was unexpected.
  3. Katie, the MC, is a bit of a rebel, but maybe not in the way you might think. She's actually a "good girl,", but she's a very free thinker. She questions things instead of blindly accepting them, something not exactly encouraged in her community.
  4. There's a touch of romance. I love that Katie and her love interest are very different in many ways, but similar at their core.
  5. The monsters in the novel were unique. I've heard them referred to as vampires, and I suppose that they are a version of vamps, but I feel like they need their own name.
  6. This book is intense. The themes, the gory murder scenes, the decisions made by the characters. Whoa.
  7. There's a woman from the outside world that ends up taking shelter with the Amish as all hell breaks loose outside. The comparison of how she reacts to the situation and her views about life in general versus the way Katie's community reacts and thinks is fascinating. 
More about The Hallowed Ones:
Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.

Win an ARC of The Hallowed Ones by filling out the form below! 
Don't forget to comment and let me know whether I should keep Reasons to Read as a weekly feature!

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Review: When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

In this intensely romantic, modern recounting of the greatest love story ever told, Romeo’s original intended—Juliet’s cousin Rosaline—tells her side of the tale. What’s in a name, Shakespeare? I’ll tell you: Everything. 
Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her—and when he finally does, it’s perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose’s best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy...and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn’t even stand a chance. 
Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet’s instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob’s heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends….

I love the premise of this novel. I've adored Romeo and Juliet since junior high, but I've never thought it was the greatest love story of all time. I mean, it's horrible and sad, there is no happy ending... but I think that's partially why I liked it. For anyone who actually paid attention as they read the story, it can serve as a cautionary tale: love isn't everything. And sometimes wild, crazy love isn't all that great... sometimes it gets you killed. Sure, this is obviously a worse case scenario, but still. Rebecca Serle's retelling of this classic, from Rosaline's point-of-view, the girl left in the dust when Juliet enters Romeo's life, is entirely too reminiscent of some of the logic that I remember happening in my high school years.

Rosaline and Rob (the Romeo of the story) have been neighbors and best friends for years, but, in the last few years, things have changed. Rosaline and Rob teeter on the edge of something more than friends and Rosaline feels that he might be the one. Rob finally asks Rosaline on a real date, they kiss, and things are progressing just as Rosaline had hoped... better even. That is, until Juliet, Rosaline's cousin, moves back to town, riding waves of drama. Overnight, Rob and Rosaline, which took years to happen, has been replaced by Rob and Juliet. Rosaline is shocked and heartbroken, but there's nothing she can do except watch tragedy unfold.

Take away the drama and Juliet's instability and the basis of When You Were Mine will speak to many readers. High school love is a special kind of love. Many are feeling love, or what they think is love, for the first time. It's overwhelming and exciting and terrifying... That's exactly what Rosaline is experiencing. Now take that and add a old family scandal, a cousin bent on revenge, and a very public diss from the boy you truly feel is the one. Poor Rosaline.

It's obvious from the start that Juliet isn't exactly stable, but, as the novel progresses, Juliet shows herself to be more than just your average emotional teen. She's dealing with some sort of deeper issue, perhaps very intense depression or bi-polar disorder, and she's bent on taking others down with her. This is very different from Shakespeare's Juliet, but I think readers will recognize her nonetheless. Even with her destructive ways, it's hard not to feel for Juliet. She needs help - professional help - and nobody is there to notice that.

Another aspect of this book I particularly like, is that I felt that Serle called Romeo (Rob) out. One day he's completely in love with Rosaline, a girl who's always been there for him, and the next he's head over heels for Juliet, a girl he barely knows and is Rosaline's cousin? He's obviously not the stand-up guy Rosaline thought he was. Regardless of the other drama and the tragedy that ensues, Rosaline was better off without a fickle guy like Rob. 

I highly recommend When You Were Mine to both fans of retellings and those who are looking for an intense contemporary read. And don't worry, Rosaline isn't left all alone. Not only does she find some inner strength she didn't know she had, she finds a guy who's much more deserving than her past Romeo.

Simon Pulse, May 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9781442433137, 334 pages.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—  
The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.  
And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Susan Dennard's Something Strange and Deadly has catapulted itself onto my 2012 list of favorites. With a hint of romance, creepy zombies, voodoo, steampunk inventions, and unique, memorable characters, how could you not fall in love with this book?

One of the most defining aspects of Something Strange and Deadly was the main characters. Eleanor herself is full of spunk and sass, but then we add the three spirit-hunters to the mix and things really start getting interesting. They introduce Eleanor to whole world she wasn't aware existed and it's obvious that she'll never be the same again. 

The setting, 1876 Philadelphia, was perfect. Eleanor's adventures occur during the Centennial Exhibition - an exciting time in it's own right, but downright craziness with zombies flash mobbing the exhibits unexpectedly. I never felt that there was a dull moment in this book... Eleanor and the Spirit-Hunters were either fighting off zombies or trying to figure out why the zombies were attacking in the first place. There wasn't much time to take tea and relax, they had a city to save.

There is a touch of romance within Something Strange and Deadly's pages as well. It definitely isn't the focal point, but I found myself focusing on it... Daniel and Eleanor are both incredibly stubborn and come from entirely different worlds, so there conversation is never boring and always entertaining. I look forward to seeing if Dennard develops there relationship into something more than friends with possibility of more... I'd be interested in seeing how they handle the more.

This first installment ended on an interesting note, so I'm a bit anxious to get my hands on book two. Eleanor quickly became one of my favorite heroines and I will faithfully follow her into her next adventure... and I wouldn't mind seeing all the Spirit-Hunters again either!

HarperTeen, July 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780062083265, 388 pages.

Check out the book trailer for Something Strange and Deadly below:

52 Days of 52 Reasons to Love Jessica Brody and Her Books & A Giveaway

I'm a huge fan of Jessica Brody and her novels, so I'm thrilled to be participating in this blog tour promoting her newest book, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father - out now!

1 of the 52 Reasons to Love Jessica Brody and Her Books…. for 51 other reasons, visit Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile (August 17th), Novel Novice (August 19th) and Lili’s Reflections (August 20th), and stay tuned for more! 

 Jessica co-wrote the song "Hypnosis" with Tommy Fields.

(It's available on Itunes if you want to check it out.) 
Annnd, as I learned from another of the blogs participating in this tour (my fab friend Erica's blog, The Book Cellar), Jessica also produces and directs her own book trailers! I love all of them, but this one miiiight be my favorite. Check it out:

Curious as to how this trailer was put together? Check out the Making Of video here!

 About 52 Reasons to Hate My Father (FSG, July 2012) 
Being America’s favorite heiress is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. Lexington Larrabee has never to work a day in her life. After all, she’s the heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Larrabee Media empire. And heiresses are not supposed to work. But then again, they’re not supposed to crash brand new Mercedes convertibles into convenience stores on Sunset Blvd either. Which is why, on Lexi’s eighteenth birthday, her ever-absent, tycoon father decides to take a more proactive approach to her wayward life. Every week for the next year, she will have to take on a different low-wage job if she ever wants to receive her beloved trust fund. But if there’s anything worse than working as a maid, a dishwasher, and a fast-food restaurant employee, it’s dealing with Luke, the arrogant, albeit moderately attractive, college intern her father has assigned to keep tabs on her. In a hilarious “comedy of heiress” about family, forgiveness, good intentions, and best of all, second chances, Lexi learns that love can be unconditional, money can be immaterial, and, regardless of age, everyone needs a little saving. And although she might have 52 reasons to hate her father, she only needs one reason to love him. 

Interested in reading 52 Reasons to Hate My Father? Check out and excerpt here to get your fix, then cross your fingers and enter to win your own copy below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway