Friday, July 29, 2011

ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton

I know, I know. Three reviews in two days. I promise I'll slow down after this.

The Blurb:


First there are the nightmares.


Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.

Then come the memories.


when Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie's power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie's memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt.


Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for their secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.

The Afterglow:


AAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!

I. Love. This. Book.

I haven't been this excited since the seventh Harry Potter book came out! (And that's saying something!) It seriously may be my new favorite book. Oh my gosh. Not only is the plot interesting and original, the writing is vivid and descriptive and I felt as if I was watching a movie. I wouldn't be surprised if this does turn into a movie someday. The characters were gripping and realistic, and I found myself attached to them almost from the very beginning.

This book is action packed. There's not a moment of it that is dull. Not only are the scenes full of adrenaline, they are easy to envision. I found myself taking notes for the battle scenes in my own books, but I don't think I could ever match ANGELFIRE.

The love story----Oh. My. Gosh. I felt as if my heart was going to break in almost every chapter. Can I please have Will to myself? Please please please?! That would be the best present ever. I think I love him--no, I know I love him.

So, that's all I'm going to say about it....I don't want to spoil everything, and if I keep typing much longer I will. If you love action-packed YA fantasy, and even if you don't, pick this book up. Tomorrow if possible.

When WINGS OF THE WICKED comes out next year, you will find me at the store the next day. I guarantee it.

♥tg

BEAUTY by Robin McKinley

The Blurb:


A strange imprisonment.


Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?"

The Afterglow:


When I went to Borders yesterday to take advantage of the liquidation sale, I saw this book sitting on the shelf and immediately picked it up. It had been recommended to me before, and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite story ever told. My favorite version is the French tale, and I knew this book was a retelling of that.

What I didn't know was how much I would enjoy it.

Not only did it beautifully retell the story I know and love so well, it went into far more detail than I was used to, and I loved it! I loved learning more about the enchantments and the Beasts' family history from McKinley's point of view, and I loved the twists she added to the story. For example, in the original tale Beauty's sisters are vain and selfish, while in BEAUTY they are kind and selfless.

The twist I loved the most was the fact the Beauty herself is not beautiful. She is very plain looking at the beginning of the book, and is constantly avoiding her reflection in the mirror. I have always felt a kinship with Beauty, but I couldn't get over the fact that she was so beautiful and I didn't see myself that way. Reading this book from her point of view, I could relate to all of her insecurities, and it made me fall in love with the story all over again.

♥tg

Thursday, July 28, 2011

SONG IN THE SILENCE by Elizabeth Kerner

The Blurb:

Lanen Kaelar has dreamed of dragons all her life. But not just dreaming, for Lanen believes in dragons. 

Her family mocks her that dragons are just a silly myth. A legend. But Lanen knows better. And she means to prove it. One day she sets out on a dangerous voyage to the remote West to find the land of the True Dragons.

What she discovers is a land of real dragons more beautiful—and surprising—than any dream she could have imagined.

The Afterglow:

So the little blurb I found doesn't do this book justice.

I just finished reading this book for the second time, because I love it so much! The characters are so believable and the story is captivating. Not only is it a wonderful epic fantasy, it's an absolutely enchanting love story. At first when the romance started to reveal itself, I was wondering how the author was going to pull it off, and was completely blown away by the end! The descriptions are amazing and I was completely drawn into Kerner's world.

SONG IN THE SILENCE is full of twists and turns that will keep your eyes on the page. From a strong female main character who breaks all the stereotypes to a villain that is absolutely vile and disgusting (and I LOVE it!) to a wonderful wonderful world of dragons---I just looove this story! If you're an epic fantasy fan, you should definitely pick this up!

♥tg

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White

Find it on goodreads

FIRST LINE: "Oh, bleep. I was going to die."


THE BLURB: 
Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.
But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.
So much for normal.

THE AFTERGLOW:

Middle books in trilogies, in my experience, are a crapshoot. Typically, they have problems with pacing and character arcs and leave you feeling like you just read a patch between Book 1 and Book 3.

Not this book! It did surprise me by the pacing, which was different from Book 1 (Paranormalcy), but really it fit Evie's predicament. Sort of like the 5th Harry Potter, Evie is dealing with a lot of crap, and hence has a lot of introspection. But the delightful dialogue that made me fall in love with the characters the first time around was back in full force.

There were even a couple new characters to love or hate. Jack falls distinctly in the, well, actually I couldn't figure it out which category to put him in even at the end. White did an amazing job fleshing out his character and making him a truly sympathetic being. The many unexpected twists kept me on my toes and turning the pages. There were several laugh-out-loud or giddy-in-love-with-Lend moments that made my husband wish I wasn't reading in bed next to him.

And the ending! THE ENDING!! It's probably the best pay-off I've ever experienced in a middle book. I was expecting some kind of cliff hanger, and dreading it. And in a way, there is a lot left in the air, but Evie has such an amazing arc in this book, you hardly notice the details about faeries and vampires that hang ominously in mid-air at the end. Of course I still want Book 3  (Endlessly), like, yesterday! But I'm not shaking my fist at the author for leaving me hanging (Suzanne Collins! *shakes fist*).

Just like Paranormalcy, Supernaturally is a sweet, scary read - the perfect blend of adorable and kick-ass. I recommend it to all ages 13+.

Courtesy her awesome publishers:




Seriously, just click on the link to read SEVENTY pages of either book! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner

Find it on goodreads
FIRST LINE: "He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air."


THE BLURB: 
Imagine waking up one day in total darkness, unsure of where you are and unable to remember anything about yourself except your first name. You're in a bizarre place devoid of adults called the Glade. The Glade is an enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. And no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids -- the Runners -- venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. So far, no one has figured it out. And not all of the Runners return from their daily exertions, victims of the maniacal Grievers, part animal, part mechanical killing machines. 


Thomas is the newest arrival to the Glade in this Truman-meets-Lord of the Flies tale. A motley crew of half a dozen kids is all he has to guide him in this strange world. As soon as he arrives, unusual things begin to happen, and the others grow suspicious of him. Though the Maze seems somehow familiar to Thomas, he's unable to make sense of the place, despite his extraordinary abilities as a Runner. What is this place, and does Thomas hold the key to finding a way out? 
In The Maze Runner, Dashner has crafted a creative and engaging novel that's both mysterious and thought provoking.

THE AFTERGLOW 


I just finished this book. Like two seconds ago. So these are my raw thoughts about the story:

It's epic and tragic and masterfully crafted. I couldn't help thinking while I read that this is what life is like. You're born into a world you know nothing about with no memory of what may have been before, and thrown into the challenges right in front of you with nothing but your own talents and the people around you to help or hinder you. That's what Thomas experiences when he wakes up in the Box, the lift that takes him to the Glade. He doesn't know where he came from or exactly what he's meant to do. He just knows it's important and that he needs to do it.

I'm reminded of the way Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card made me feel. There's this sort of triumph in the occasional successes of the Gladers, but there's also this feeling of darkness and the constant nagging feeling that these are children and they shouldn't be dealing with this. Like I recommend Ender's Game to anyone who asks, I'm gonna recommend The Maze Runner just as wholeheartedly. It's uncomfortable but insightful in so many ways. And compelling as all get-out!

James Dashner is a genius storyteller. Every revelation feels weighty and important, and there's never an unwanted lull in the action. Just like Thomas, you get a moment to catch your breath, and then all hell breaks loose. Oh, and you are not gonna want to miss the Epilogue. They should rename it the epic-logue just for this book.

I realize I'm late to the party, and all y'all probably already know this... but if you haven't picked up The Maze Runner, you're missing something.

I'm off to check out The Scorch Trials, and giggle at all of you who have been waiting forever for Book 3, The Death Cure, because I'm not gonna have to wait nearly as long. Buwahahaha! Admittedly, that was substantially more obnoxious than a giggle. I apologize.

Have you read James Dashner's work? How did it make you feel?

Monday, July 25, 2011

TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES by Denise Grover Swank

“It all started when I saw myself dead.”

For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She’s had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone’s toilet’s overflowed, but she’s never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn’t enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect.

Rose realizes she’s wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. She’s well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won’t help with number fifteen– do more with a man. Joe’s new to town, but it doesn’t take a vision for Rose to realize he’s got plenty secrets of his own.

Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they’ll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn’t her biggest worry after all.

The Afterglow

My first thought when I finished this book was, "I'm glad it says "A Rose Gardner Mystery" on the front, because that makes me think there might be more!"

Denise Grover Swank has really set the standard high for herself with her debut novel! I was hooked right from the beginning; who wouldn't be? Seeing a vision of yourself dead is enough to get anyone's attention. But Swank didn't stop there. The action picked up quickly and never slowed down. I found myself reading at the weirdest times, like while I washed dishes or folded laundry.

One of my favorite things was how down-to-earth the main character, Rose, is. She seems like someone I could just call up and hang out with. But at the same time, she has quite a unique past, and it plays an intriguing part in the story.

A fabulous debut, and I hope to see more from this author!

Friday, July 22, 2011

BUMPED by Megan McCafferty: Sophia's Afterglow

Synopsis (truncated):

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.

The Afterglow:

This is the only book of 2011 that I read in ONE NIGHT - during a head cold, to boot(ies).  And it's one of the books I glow about as a writer, more than a reader.

There have been mixed reviews and I saw why instantly: BUMPED started as a riff of M.T. Anderson's FEED, a dystopian pregnant with future-teenslang.  (yeah I had to throw that in there...won't be the last).  But once I adjusted to the language, the pages just about turned themselves faster and faster - giving credence to the writing tip that a good ending can save an otherwise lacking inception.

The second writing lesson I gobbled up like pickles and ice cream (it's getting worse, but that's because I've been up all night reading this book): expert reversals.  By the end, McCafferty hit a reversal with every chapter, reminding me of the Audrey Hepburn movie Charade, famous for an every-15-minute name-changing Cary Grant.  By the end, you're left wondering, "So is it, or not?!?"  Which means only one thing: must get sequel!  THIS is a true example of plot craft.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

REMEMBER ME by Sophie Kinsella


The Blurb:

When twenty-eight-year-old Lexi Smart wakes up in a London hospital, she’s in for a big surprise. Her teeth are perfect. Her body is toned. Her handbag is Vuitton. Having survived a car accident—in a Mercedes no less—Lexi has lost a big chunk of her memory, three years to be exact, and she’s about to find out just how much things have changed.

Somehow Lexi went from a twenty-five-year-old working girl to a corporate big shot with a sleek new loft, a personal assistant, a carb-free diet, and a set of glamorous new friends. And who is this gorgeous husband—who also happens to be a multimillionaire? With her mind still stuck three years in reverse, Lexi greets this brave new world determined to be the person she…well, seems to be. That is, until an adorably disheveled architect drops the biggest bombshell of all.

Suddenly Lexi is scrambling to catch her balance. Her new life, it turns out, comes complete with secrets, schemes, and intrigue. How on earth did all this happen? Will she ever remember? And what will happen when she does?


The Afterglow:

This was the first book I read of Sophie Kinsella's and it will certainly NOT be the last. I loved Lexi, she was relateable in so many ways. With her recent loss of memory she sets out to live a life she isn't sure she was meant to live, peeling away the secrets one onion layer at a time.

The twists and turns will leave you wondering what Lexi will do next and how one copes with memory loss until you're able to finally call some place home. It really makes you appreciate the things you have and how lucky you are to have your memory in tact and your secrets safely hidden in a box next to the shoes in your closet.

It's a perfect beach read for this nice summer weather!

Friday, July 15, 2011

AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale

This book has been out since 2007, but it is still amazing and needs to be read. Maybe it is because it is currently being made into a movie—which you can check out at Shannon's blog--but I want to read it again and again :)

Synopsis

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.
Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen—or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

The Afterglow

This book is HILARIOUS! I laugh every time I read it. It is the perfect blend of humor and romance. If you are a Jane Austen fan you will appreciate all the references to her books woven seamlessly into the story.

If you have ever wanted to don a gown and step into an Austen story—this book is for you.

I knew I would love this book the second I read the dedication:

For: Colin Firth

You’re a really great guy, but I’m married,

so I think we should just be friends.

I won't give it away, but it has the most delicious ending :)

Shannon also has a new book coming out in January 2012—Midnight in Austenland. I’m so excited :)

-Angie Cothran

Thursday, July 14, 2011

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to wake on a new planet, three hundred years in the future.

Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into a brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone--one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship--tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

The Afterglow

OH. MY. GOODNESS.

Y'all, it took me entirely too long to pick this one up. I had a baby, and then I kinda forgot about all these awesome books I meant to read.

I finished ATU in a couple days. If life hadn't gotten in the way, I would have finished it in a few hours.

IT IS THAT GOOD.

The characters are just so tangible. There wasn't a character Revis didn't flesh out or that felt flat to me. And the tension! Trying to close this book was so hard, it might as well have been superglued to my hands.

If you haven't read it, I recommend you do so immediately. Love, love, love.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

OPEN WOUNDS by Joe Lunievicz

(click to enlarge)

I just finished reading Open Wounds the other day. I've been aching to talk about it ever since, but with the holiday and other blogging things scheduled, I had to bite my tongue and wait. Before I get to my thoughts let me give you the jacket copy:

Cid Wymann, a scrappy kid fighting to survive a harsh upbringing in Queens, NY, is a almost a prisoner in his own home. His only escape is sneaking to Times Square to see Errol Flynn movies full of swordplay and duels. He s determined to become a great fencer, but after his family disintegrates, Cid spends five years at an orphanage until his injured war-veteran cousin Lefty arrives from England to claim him. Lefty teaches Cid about acting and stage combat, especially fencing, and introduces him to Nikolai Varvarinski, a brilliant drunken Russian fencing master who trains Cid. By 16, Cid learns to channel his aggression through the harsh discipline of the blade, eventually taking on enemies old and new as he perfects his skills. Evocative of The Book Thief with a dash of Gangs of New York, Open Wounds is the page-turning story of a lost boy's quest to become a man.

So, if that doesn't get you excited ...

Anyway, I found out about Joe and Open Wounds when I interviewed Andrew Smith a few months ago. I asked him something like "who is the best writer you've discovered in just the past year?" He answered, without hesitation, Joe Lunievicz. Andrew said:

Joe Lunievicz. Seriously. Joe contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in reading his forthcoming debut, Open Wounds. I totally love that book. It’s heroic, moving, and exciting. I can’t wait to see it in print.

Now that time has come (Open Wounds was released on May 25th) and I have to say I couldn't agree more. If you know me well, you know that I have a sort of long-standing inside joke that I sometimes leave in blog comments, for no one's amusement but my own. If one of my lovely female friends reviews a book that sounds a little too girly for me, I'll ask in the comments whether it has any sword fights. I'm sure no one gets it, or they just think I'm being a dick, but the point I'm trying to make is: I'm a man, I love reading great books full of beautiful writing, but I also need a little action from time to time (when I'm reading, sheesh).

It's a stupid joke, I know, but I'm a stupid guy, and the point is that I care about YA books that will appeal to boys, young men, and grown men who are still teenagers, mentally and emotionally. Anyway, before I go on about myself for any longer, my point is that this book is just that.

Yes, I realize the obvious thing is that much of the plot is based around fencing, which obviously means the book is FULL of sword fights. And that's great, it certainly appealed to me when I first heard about the book, because even though I use the comment as a joke/metaphor for what I care about in books, I DO actually love swords, and I even was in the fencing club for two years in high school. I know, nerd alert, but I'm not ashamed.

Yet, after reading Open Wounds, I discovered that it is so much more than a great manly action book full of duels, honor, and great sword fights. It is a devastatingly human tale of suffering, loss, doubt, pain, fear, and ultimately: redemption.

I could go on for a long time about what makes this book so incredible, but this is only a blog post, so I'll just point out the two biggest things for me.

First was the setting. This is a historical YA novel, that takes place in NYC (specifically Queens, in the 1930s, and then Manhattan, in the 1940s) and the way that Joe portrayed this place absolutely made it come alive. I've read some articles about how much work Joe did researching the little things (like the New York Subway system as it existed at the time), and it probably helps that Joe lives in NYC, but even that doesn't explain the vibrancy with which he breathes life into this setting. You'll notice what I mean immediately if you decide to read this book.

The seconds was the characters. There are several beautifully flawed characters in this novel, and what makes them great is that not a single one of them is perfect. They all make mistakes and they all pay for them, but there is one character in particular whose story is so heart-rendingly poignant that it will leave you gasping. I'm not going to go into who or why, because to do so would be to ruin it for you all, but I will say that there was something so realistic, so authentic and so disturbingly believable about this character that I don't know if I've ever read a more compelling portrayal of a human being.

And now we come to the point where I've gone on for far too long. Before I let you go, though, let me point you to a few excellent resources regarding Joe and his debut novel:

Joe's blog section of his website, where he talks about and shows photos of the book production/manufacturing process (I wanted to discuss the amazing design of this book and its cover, but I ran out of room).

Joe's website, with a few quotes of what people are saying about Open Wounds.

A guest post by Joe, for Cheryl Rainfield, author of Scars, where he talks a bit about Open Wounds and great first lines.

Open Wounds Facebook Fan Page.

And here are some places you can get Open Wounds:

IndieBound
GoodReads
Powells
Amazon

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

EDGES by Lena Roy

EDGES is a beautifully written Young Adult novel with themes that will hit home with every reader.

Luke is a teenage boy whose father has spiraled into alcoholism after the death of Luke's mother. Unable to tolerate the drinking, ranting, vomiting, and general ugliness of it any more, Luke relocates from New York City to Moab, Utah to work at a youth hostel there.

Ava is a recovering alcoholic at only nineteen years of age. Though her parents are kind people, the relationship between Ava and her mom and dad is strained at best. Now that her parents have left town to seek their own adventure out west, Ava must not only support herself, she must also defeat her addiction.

With a touch of magic woven into a tale of brokenness and redemption, EDGES is one that will leave you feeling full of hope.

Like the sound of it? You can enter to win a signed copy here!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

FROZEN FURY by Angela J. Townsend

Get it now
Kidnapped by a band of deranged mountain men in the Alaskan wilderness, Amber Hatchet is driven by one harrowing thought: these monsters might have her eleven-year-old son. But her attempts to escape lead to the unearthing of deadly secrets, ones better left buried. Amber's only hope lies with her husband, Jack Hatchet, confident Manhattan attorney and swindler extraordinaire. Problem is, Jack cares more about protecting his shady backroom deals than the life of his wife. In fact, he'd prefer her dead, rather than alive.


THE AFTERGLOW:


I love this author. Her gift for descriptions always leaves me in awe. Frozen Fury had me reading all day. I couldn't break at the end of a chapter because there was always the hint of something that begged to be revealed on the next page. Amber is easy for any mother to relate to. From the moment things start to go wrong, she thinks constantly of her son, where he is, and how he's doing. Jack, on the other hand, is one of those characters you just want to strangle. I don't want to give away the whole story (it's very twisty), but I will say that there's an incredible emotional pay-off for the reader that makes all the very realistic, gritty, horrible stuff meaningful. 


There's real evil represented by the bad guys in this novel. But wherever there's real evil, there's also real hope, kindness, and courage. I was very impressed by this book, by the way it made me feel, and the themes (darkness vs. light, cruelty vs. mercy) it explores. 


And if you're a woman, you'll love Mitch. That's all I'll say about that. :)


Read my interview with the author on my blog.


Find it on:
Goodreads
Smashwords
Amazon Kindle