Saturday, September 5, 2015

Abbreviations #14: The Novellas

Over the past few years, novellas that are part and parcel of my favorite series have been released. They've been gathering dust on my Kindle, since it's never felt particularly necessary to read them right away. In an attempt to whittle down the unread items on my Kindle, I decided to binge read a bunch of them over the past few weeks. Here are my mini-reviews for them!

Crossing the Line book cover
Crossing the Line by Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits #1.1
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

I've always been partial to a sweet love story. I honestly barely remembered Lila from Pushing the Limits, since I read it so long ago. But that definitely didn't deter me from enjoying this novella! Reading about Lincoln and Lila was delightful, particularly because it developed in such a cute way (the letters!) and I could sense their chemistry from the first time they encounter each other. It's short, sweet and absolutely lovely; I delight in thinking about what the future was like for them. 

VERDICT: Worth a read!

The First Star to Fall book cover
The First Star to Fall by Diana Peterfreund
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #1.5
Publisher: Noise Court Press
Publication Date: June 29, 2013
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

Having read Across a Star-Swept Sea and fallen in love with Persis Blake, it was nice to see her in action again. It was interesting to see the origins of our Wild Poppy, even though it was extremely heart-breaking to see what happened to make her decide to embrace the role. It's a tragedy, true, but it also marks a turning point for Persis, which is always nice to see. It's not necessary to read this one prior to the full-length novel, but it does add an additional dimension to Persis.

VERDICT: A good in-between books story.

Fracture Me book cover
Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi
Series: Shatter Me #2.5
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: December 17, 2013
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

Honestly, I could have done without reading this. I enjoyed the Shatter Me series as a whole, but I came to care less and less about Adam as it progressed. It was definitely nice to get more Kenji (who happens to be my favorite character in the entire series!) in this, as well as to see what goes in between books. 

VERDICT: Not very necessary at all.

Glitches book cover
Glitches by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #0.5
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: January 18, 2012
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

I adore Cinder, and I love Iko, so this short story about Cinder's early days with her adoptive family and the start of her relationship with Iko was fun to read. It was pretty cool to get to see what happened before the events in Cinder, though I certainly think this is just a good addition as opposed to something necessary to read to further your experience of the series.

VERDICT: Not quite necessary, but still interesting for fans of the series.

The Witch of Duva book cover
The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #0.5
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

Fascinating, eerie, atmospheric - this story reads like a fairy tale, and a very cautionary one indeed. Bardugo again succeeds in using vivid imagery to tell her story, with just the right amount of whimsy to make it feel like an old legend and a simple, well-placed plot. I was extremely caught up in learning what would happen in this story, and it shocked me to see the turn of events. While it's not necessary to read this to read the series, it's still worth reading.

VERDICT: Worth a read as a separate story in the same world!

This Night So Dark book cover
This Night So Dark by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Series: Starbound #1.5
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

Tarver Merendsen is totally my type, and has been since I first encountered him in These Broken Stars. It was really intriguing to learn about something that had happened to him prior to him meeting Lilac, the series of events that led to him getting a commendation. I certainly had lots of warm and fuzzy feelings reading this one (particularly because one of my favorite couples is still front and center), and consider it a fun addition to the series!

VERDICT: A fun addition to an awesome series!

Red at Night book cover
Red at Night by Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin Special Releases
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

I really enjoyed reading stories from Katie McGarry, and Red at Night is no exception. McGarry still manages to some dimension to both characters, making Stella and Jonah individuals with stories that popped off the page. It was sweet to read about the beginning and progression of their relationship; I couldn't stop myself from wanting them to overcome everything that stood between them so they could be together. It was, altogether, a nice diversion for the hour I read it. If you're a McGarry fan, you'll definitely enjoy encountering her familiar writing style in this sweet short story.

VERDICT: Entertaining read!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tonight the Streets Are Ours Blog Tour (Q&A + Giveaway)

I'm so excited to be a part of the blog tour for Tonight The Streets Are Ours! My review will go up next week, but I can tell you all that I'm seriously impressed by Leila's storytelling and characterization. Plus, I adore Leila. She's one of the sweetest, smartest people in publishing I've ever had the fortune of meeting and talking to.

I really like the concept of this tour, too, because we get to do a Q&A with Leila - and she gets to do one with us! First, check out the five questions I asked Leila to answer:

Alexa Loves Books (ALB): Hi Leila! I'm so happy that you're dropping by the blog today to answer a few questions. First up, I love a good road trip! If you were planning one of your own, where would you go? What would you do along the way? And who would you go with?

Leila Sales (LS): There are so many parts of the world I want to explore. Show me any place with beautiful architecture and intriguing history, and I'm in. Right now, I'm considering a road trip around the south: Nashville, Charleston, Atlanta, some adorable small towns. I'd also love to see more of California. I grew up outside of Boston and now I live in New York City, so I know the northeast much better than I know the rest of the country.

On my road trip, I'd take with me my writing partner, Rebecca Serle. She and I once did a road trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, when I was researching Past Perfect. We never ran out of things to talk about or 90s boy band songs to listen to.

ALB: You've just decided to stay up all night, and you've decided you want to throw a party. What would your theme be? Feel free to share the dress code, entertainment, and plans for refreshments and giveaways if you're so inclined.

LS: Theming parties is one of my greatest joys in life. Like one time, I threw a blender party, and I got four blenders, and instructed everyone to bring fruits, juices, ice cream - anything that could be blended - and then we just threw things in random combinations into the blenders and drank them. I woke up the next day and my entire apartment was sticky. 

For my 20th birthday party, I took over an entire floor of my college dorm. The theme was "frivolity" so the playlist was all pop music, the drinks were all bright colors, the food was all brownies and cookies, and I wore a pink dress, pink sneakers, and giant pink plastic hoop earrings.

For my 29th birthday party, my theme was "Friendship is Magic" and everyone was supposed to dress in a way somehow inspired by My Little Ponies.

These are just examples. I could keep going. There is no party that's too intensely planned for.

ALB: Leila, I officially want to be invited to one of your theme parties because they sound awesome! Ahem, moving on to the next question... It's always fun to meet someone famous! What's the craziest celebrity/author encounter you've had so far?

LS: When I met Zilpha Keatly Snyder at ALA a few years back, I bawled like a baby. Her books really helped me get through middle school, and it's impossible to thank someone enough for that.

The first author I ever met was Dave Barry. I was fourteen years old and super nervous, and I practiced what I was going to say to him for about an hour. And still my words did not come out right. I've met him at other signings a couple of times since then, and I just try to act normal. That's usually my goal when I'm around celebrities: just act normal.

Also, I once got a book signed by J.K. Rowling! (ALB: Me too!) I wanted to ask her, "How do you do it?" but then I realized that was not an actual question - or at least, not a question with an answer - so I said nothing.

ALB: Don't worry - I was exactly the same way when I met J.K. Rowling! Okay, nowadays, everyone is connected through social media. What is your favorite form of social media and why?

LS: I like Facebook a lot. In 2004, I wrote this piece for my college newspaper in which I described Facebook as "the greatest thing since Karl Marx". Weirdly, I was kidding at the time, but in the past 11 years, it's actually turned out to be kind of true?

I like Twitter alright. (Follow me at @LeilaSalesBooks!) It's good for procrastinating. (Not like I need much help procrastinating.) The downside is that Twitter gives me a lot of FOMO. (ALB: Fear of Missing Out, if you didn't know what that meant.)

And I just got into this new app (because I am soooo cutting-edge). It's called Cymbal, and it's like Instagram for songs. My username on Cymbal is prettytothink -- come join me there and let's listen to music together.

ALB: I'll have to check out Cymbal! Okay, last question. Living in NYC these past few years has been a total dream, and I've gotten to see some awesome sights and attend great events. What are things you'd personally recommend to people visiting NYC?

LS: Food stuff, obviously. Get ice cream at Ample Hills, cookies at Levain Bakery, and pizza at Forcella or Roberta's or any other amazing pizza place here. Go to a show. There are great bands playing every night, and you can find out about them on Oh My Rockness. Go to a dance party. Those you can find on You Don't Have 2 Settle. See a play. There's some great stuff on Broadway right now (I loved Hamilton and Something Rotten!), but there's always good shows off-Broadway too. Hit up some extremely themed bars, like Camp (where you can roast your own s'mores), Full Circle (where you can play skee-ball), the Royal Palms (where you can play shuffleboard), Union Hall (where you can play bocce). 

And just, like, explore and see where the day/night takes you. My most memorable NYC experiences are usually those where I just said yes to whatever opportunities came my way.

And now, here are the five questions Leila asked me to answer:

LS: Living in New York, I bet you get to go to a lot of book events. (And sometimes I get to see you at them!) About how many would you say you get to go to each year? What are some of your favorite book event memories?

ALB: Oh, I adore this question! I'm a very, very lucky girl because book events happen all the time in the city. This year alone, I've been to 16 events so far, with a few more coming up through the rest of the year. And that's not even counting BEA and ApollyCon, two conventions I was very fortunate to attend! Honestly, I love going to book events because I always enjoy getting to meet and talk to my favorite authors. That's the thing all of them have in common - I genuinely adore the author I went to see, and I walk away with the special memory of meeting them, chatting, perhaps taking a photo and grabbing a signed book. 

But hands down, one of my favorite book event memories this year was getting the chance to moderate a Barnes and Noble event for one of my favorite authors ever, Sarah J. Maas! I was so nervous, but it was so easy to chat with Sarah and I was so happy to be able to do something like this to support her book.

LS: One of the big issues in Tonight The Streets Are Ours is how we curate and manage our online appearances (sometimes to make ourselves look cooler/prettier/happier than we are in real life). Would you say that your persona on your blog is any different from your persona in the real world?

ALB: This is another excellent question! I think about this exact thing every so often, whether it's individual retrospection or in conversation with someone else. Truthfully, with my blog (and Twitter and Instagram and YouTube), what you see is what you get. I'm really a positive person, and I get along with people in real life as well as I do online. And my tendency to babble always manifests itself one way or another! I've had people tell me that I am exactly the same, online and in person.

But, in all honesty, I do think that what I present online is only one part of who I am. It's obviously biased towards the positive, where I focus on the things that make me happy or excite me. I very rarely talk about the hard, sad stuff that happens in real life. Most of that stuff revolves around more personal matters, which is why I'm very private about it, though on occasion I'll make allusions to it. There are just some things I'd rather keep off the Internet.

LS: What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone thinking of starting their own blog?

ALB: Just one piece of advice? That's such a challenge because there are so many things I'd like to say to someone who wants to start a blog. I guess, if I were going to choose just one of those things, I'd tell them to think about the type of blog they want to run. I'm not referring to content or subject matter, though it would be great if you could have a basic idea of those things too. What I'm talking about is your approach to it. Are you blogging as a hobby? Are you blogging as a professional? That demarcation will determine your approach and presentation, and is a good place to start.

LS: What's one thing you wish all your readers knew?

ALB: I've shared a lot about myself, so I'm pretty sure most of my readers know a lot about me! But I guess I wish my readers knew that I love talking about books. And when I say talking, I mean engaging in seriously lengthy discussions, whether of the analytical or fangirl variety. I can talk about books and authors all day, every day. It also makes my day whenever someone tells me that they've read a book because of my recommendation - and that they loved it!

LS: What's the hardest part about being a blogger?

There are two things that I think are difficult about being a blogger. First, I think it's hard to avoid putting pressure on yourself, particularly if you're Type A like I am. I obviously always want to do the best job possible, which means consistent and well-written content, and constant audience growth. I often have to remind myself that perfection isn't necessary, that I have a lot to be proud of and that it's okay to make mistakes. Second, I think it's hard to decide where your boundaries lie. It's important to know what you're willing to share and what you want to keep private, especially when you talk about people in your real life (which I do). I try to be considerate of their feelings, and I also try to recognize when something shouldn't be shared anywhere online.

Tonight The Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales
Publisher: Farrar, Strous & Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Extras: Leila's Website || Leila's Twitter

Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she's tired of being loyal to people who don't appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom. 

Arden finds comfort in a blog she stumbles upon called "Tonight the Streets Are Ours," the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.

During one crazy night out in NYC filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn't exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn't exactly who she thought she was, either.

And check out this awesome thing happening on September 19! Starting at sundown, and going as late as you want, do something fun, make a record of it, and share it with the world. Using the hashtag #TonightheStreetsAreOurs, Instagram or tweet whatever happens in your night. If you're going to a party, aimlessly driving around with friends, or watching a movie alone in your PJs, we want to hear about it. Whatever you're doing with your night, wherever you live, however old you are: you're invited! Leila will be livestreaming her own nighttime adventures, which you can join her on remotely HERE. Plus, there are multiple chances to win a signed copy of the book, so be sure to check that out!

Speaking of giveaways, the lovely team over at Macmillan were kind enough to offer a copy for my readers. This giveaway is open through September 18, and it is open to residents of US/CN only. More terms and conditions, as well as how to enter, are included in the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget to check out the other stops on this tour:
September 1- Reader of Fictions
September 2- Forever Young Adult
September 3- Ticket to Anywhere
September 4- Alexa Loves Books
September 5- The Book Cellar
September 6- The Irish Banana
September 8-Supernatural Snark
September 9- The Compulsive Reader
September 10- Miss Print
September 11- Book Rock Betty
September 12-Reading Teen
September 13- Ageless Pages Reviews
September 14-Perpetual Page Turner
September 15- Books and Whimsy
September 16- Fierce Reads (formerly known as Mac Teen Books!)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ash & Bramble - Sarah Prineas

Ash & Bramble book cover
Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Source/Format: Edelweiss || e-galley
[I received this from the publisher. This in no way affects the content of my review.]

Pin has no recollection of who she is or how she got to the Godmother’s fortress. She only knows that she is a Seamstress, working day in and out to make ball gowns fit for fairy tales. But she longs to forsake her backbreaking servitude and dares to escape with the brave young Shoemaker.

Pin isn’t free for long before she’s captured again and forced to live the new life the Godmother chooses for her—a fairy tale story, complete with a charming prince—instead of finding her own happily ever after.

While I was reading Ash & Bramble, I described it as odd. I couldn't put my finger on the main pulse of the story right away, and yet, I felt compelled to keep on reading. It was, I think, sheer curiosity and a drive to figure out where Prineas was going with her plot that had me turning the pages. Admittedly, the story is incredibly clever. Prineas plays with characters. tropes and elements from various beloved fairy tales. She turns them inside out and upside down, shaping them into a story of her own making, and I admired her ability to do so.

However, I have a few reservations. First, there's a disconnect in the pacing of the first and second parts. It eventually makes sense to the reader, but it made things confusing for a while. Second, as with most fairy tales, there was a romance. But the romance just didn't work for me, as I didn't feel like there was a strong foundation for it. Also, there's a weird sort of love shape that does come into play, though I have no issues with that because it does make sense in context. Third, and most significant of all, I just didn't really like main character Pin. She was fascinating at the start, but as the novel went one, my interest in her waned. For all that Pin had cleverness and determination and bravery, she didn't always act like she did. The lack of consistency in who she was, in hindsight, makes sense when set against this particular story, but that didn't stop it from being grating.

Still, my fascination with how this story cleverly woven together kept me going until the end. That certainly speaks to the author's writing style and her ability to spin a good yarn. I couldn't put Ash & Bramble down, but because of my reservations, I hesitate to give it a general recommendation. Perhaps, if you find the summary interesting, you should try it for yourself and see if you feel the same odd compulsion to read this story after a chapter or two.

Who is your favorite fairy tale character?

I honestly have a major soft spot for Rapunzel. The poor girl is taken away from her parents by a witch, and shut up in her tower for majority of her life. It is only when she is discovered by a prince that she discovers there is more to life than the square feet she occupies up in her room, and she plots an escape with him. The romantic in me just can't get over that - how these two meet, and it changes her whole life forever because she wants it to. Even though they both encounter a lot of trouble along the way, they do find their happily ever after together eventually. (Plus, let's face it, I'm a sucker for the Disney adaptation of this fairy tale - Rapunzel is one of my top three princesses.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything book cover
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Source/Format: Borrowed from a friend (Thanks Shifa!) || ARC

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I have to say, in spite of my reservations, I liked Everything, Everything a lot. It was charming and funny, smart and witty, endearing and full of surprises. I was delighted by the opportunity to get to know Maddy, both through her experiences and her internal monologues. I soaked up each and every word, particularly in her conversations with Olly. I dallied over the illustrations and other extras, charmed by their execution and integration into the narrative. Reading Everything, Everything was so easy from start to finish, helped by the short chapters and the various material integrated into its telling. 

And yet, there are reservations that prevent me from giving it a full five stars. I felt like I didn't particularly get to know Olly all that well, since we simply witness what Maddy knows of him and their interactions. That was a shame, because I liked Olly and would have loved to get more of him. Plus, it would have certainly helped me feel more invested in their relationship and how it changes both of their lives in remarkable ways. But the biggest reservation of all is a personal one, and it is simply that I was able to guess something about the story right away. While it didn't make me dislike the story, it certainly didn't help me love it more either.

Still, there's something irresistible about the way Everything, Everything unfolds. I never quite guessed how exactly things would play out, as what I did predict was something more general in nature. And Maddy, as I've mentioned, was a sheer delight to really get to know and is someone I think I could be friends with if we ever met in real life. While there are things about this novel that are less than ideal, I still really liked my reading experience with it overall, and feel confident that other readers will feel the same way.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Vengeance Road - Erin Bowman

Vengeance Road book cover
Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Source/Format: BEA 2015 || ARC
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.]

When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there's room for love in a heart so full of hate.

I am loving Western YAs. It's really fun to read these historical young adult novels set in a time that was simpler, yet still filled with the potential for adventure. Between highway robberies, pioneering and the gold rush, just to name a few, there is certainly a lot of material for writers to draw inspiration from. Vengeance Road, the latest standalone novel from author Erin Bowman, is the story of Kate Thompson, a girl hellbent on revenge and answers when it comes to her father's murder. Weaving in elements of gold rush lore and actual history, Bowman successfully crafts a compelling tale.

I didn't always see eye to eye with Kate. Her sorrow and anger drove her to leave her home in pursuit of these Rose Riders. Her need for vengeance was her main pursuit, which often involved her making unlikable, reckless choices that endangers her lives and the lives of the people she encountered along the way. The desperation she felt at losing the only family she had, the only home she'd known was understandable. Kate might not have been likable at times, but somehow, she grew on me. Perhaps it was the loneliness she felt, or the independence she strove to have; perhaps it was her dogged determination, or her loyalty to the people she cared for. Whatever it was, by the end of the novel, I had come to care deeply for Kate.

Kate's adventure involves hijinks and subterfuge, injury and death, horseback riding and camping under the stars; it also involves striking up relationships, friendly or otherwise, with other people - like Will and Jesse, Liluye, and Waylan Rose. Bowman maintains a clever balance between action and exposition, deftly switching back and forth in a way that kept the reader engaged and wondering what could possibly happen next. I was easily swept up in Kate's journey on the road to vengeance, and couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

In spite of the abrupt beginning, clunky compared to what followed, I really liked this book. Bowman weaves fact into her fiction so well, shaping Kate's story in words that come alive off of the page. If you're interested in reading another western YA, look no further than Vengeance Road.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...