Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Next on A Week with Carolrhoda Lab . . .

A review of THE KNIFE AND THE BUTTERFLY by Ashley Hope Perez! This one totally threw me into speechlessness at the end! Stay tuned for that tomorrow (3/1)!

A Week with Carolrhoda Lab Continues with Elizabeth Dingmann, Epic Lab Promoter

I've been working with Elizabeth since I started hoarding Carolrhoda Lab books and she's such a gem to interact with. Always sweet and attentive and super on top of everything, I'm always glad to help her promote something just based on her attitude alone. So of course she gets a spot this week to talk about her part behind the curtain and to throw some leads out to you all!

Promoting the experiment

When I first started working at Lerner Publishing Group, back before Carolrhoda Lab existed, we only published one YA novel a season—just two a year. Some of them were wonderful, and I truly loved helping to promote them. But we heard over and over again from our customers that people didn’t associate us with YA, and that made it difficult for us to figure out what our space was in the YA world. We worked hard to help these books get some attention, but they were such a small portion of our publishing program that it was very much a challenge.

So when Andrew Karre came on board as the Editorial Director of Carolrhoda Books and started talking about creating a YA imprint, our marketing and publicity team took full advantage of the opportunity to develop a brand for ourselves surrounding Andrew’s image of an imprint dedicated to publishing provocative, boundary-pushing fiction. When we launched Carolrhoda Lab in Fall 2010, we were able to create that space we had been looking for—a space where we could establish ourselves as publishers of distinctive YA. We’ve been pleased by the recognition we’ve received so far, and we were particularly honored when Blythe Woolston won the William C. Morris YA Debut Award for The Freak Observer, which we published in our inaugural season. We think we’re off to a great start—and trust me when I say there’s a lot more excitement to come in the future.

When it comes to YA, one of the most useful promotional tools is the modern-day word of mouth created by social media. The YA authors we work with are among the most savvy social media users I know, and we make a point of using our own @CarolrhodaLab Twitter handle to amplify our author’s voices. We also have some exciting developments in the works on Facebook, so be sure to keep an eye on starting in March for giveaways and exclusive excerpts from our upcoming releases!

Thanks so much, Elizabeth! Now to tempt you all with some pretty books, here's a look at some of Carolrhoda Lab's backlist. Look at what you're missing! Stop it and go get them!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

And the winner is . . . + Up Next on A Week with Carolrhoda Lab!

The winner of an ARC of PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White is . . .


Congratulations! I've already sent the email off so be sure to reply! And a big thanks to everyone who entered!

Coming up tomorrow evening on A Week with Carolrhoda Lab, a guest spot with publicist du jour, Elizabeth Dingmann! And a few shameless review links to Carolrhoda Lab's older titles that I've featured. I gotta be just a little shameless. Just a smidge. No more.

A Week with Carolrhoda Lab Review: Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

Published June 2, 2011.

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right? (

ULTRAVIOLET threw me a bit for a loop because it's not what I was expecting out of Carolrhoda Lab. See, CL puts out mainly very gritty contemporaries. Ilsa Bick's DRAW THE DARK had a hint of something nominally paranormal but it could have rightly been psychological. Here it actually takes that leap and I was insanely surprised by it. I didn't think it was going to go there. And I really didn't mind.

As the reader you're in Alison's head the entire time and really it's not a bad place to be. She's not crazy. She's just SUPER sensitive because of her synesthesia. A synesthete is someone that processes letters and numbers as colors and/or feelings. Those symbols might even have particular moods and noises usually carry with them their own shapes. Yes, this is a real issue. Look it up. I don't know whether to call it a disorder or problem or just a quirk. It really just seems like a different way for a very few people to process information. But it was alive in ULTRAVIOLET. I've read one other book where the MC was a synesthete and it fell completely flat. Here, with Alison, I was able to see what she saw. When she reacted so did I. I could see the shapes the noises around her made and I could feel what she felt at the mention of a name. The writing was exquisite in its ability to do that. Alison's synesthesia was so realistic that it in and of itself was its own character.

In context of the greater plot is was all encompassing. It's because of this issue that Alison believes she disintegrated a girl that she was less than thrilled about. Now reading this, and knowing CL's deal with what they published, I absolutely did NOT see it going where it went. I don't want to go into detail because that would spoil it but it totally swept the rug right out from underneath my feet. But the thing is, it was written so well and, really, so scientifically, that I believed it. Within the story and the imprint itself, I bought it. I still feel it a little odd for CL but if this is what they're gearing towards, the little toe dip in the pool, I'll take it. It was pretty awesome.

Alison as a character is someone you can't help but root for. Here's a chick that's basically nothing more than hypersensitive stuffed in a psych ward against her will because people believe she's crazy and a threat to herself and others. Being in her head you know this isn't the case. Sure, you share her blackouts of past events but given everything you can see her sanity and it's angering because she just can't express that without it being flipped around on her. There are times when I wanted her to just come out with it and tell her doctor what was going on. It would have made things so much better! Someone would have understood and someone did. But that was wrenched away from Alison and I couldn't help but feel wrecked when it happened. Her one lifeline gone and she was convinced she'd never see him again.

While the spin ULTRAVIOLET took isn't necessarily something I'd normally be in to and threw me off totally, it was still a phenomenally written book. When I say you feel everything Alison goes through, you really FEEL it. It just can't be helped. Anderson really has a grasp on synesthesia and was able to write it in such a way that it was both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. My understanding is this is the first in a series so I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment. There are relationships established in this book that I really want to see morph in the next. It'll be interesting to see how those dynamics changed from one to the other. Overall well worth the read and definitely a kick to the teeth at the end! Totally didn't see it coming!

Ban Factor: High - Between the psychology and the older man/younger girl potential relationship, the banners would be twitching.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Last Call for Booksahol! + My Next Carolrhoda Lab Review!

Just a friendly reminder that tonight's the last night to enter my giveaway for an ARC of PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White! So be sure to get your entries in by midnight, EST, for your chance to win!

And then just to let you all know my Week with Carolrhoda Lab will continue tomorrow (2/28) with a review of ULTRAVIOLET by RJ Anderson! It totally turned me ass over tea kettle and I DID NOT expect it to end like that. Look for it tomorrow evening (after I get my work and work out on)!

A Week with Carolrhoda Lab Review: Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick

Published February 1, 2011.

There are stories where the girl gets her prince, and they live happily ever after. (This is not one of those stories.)

Jenna Lord's first sixteen years were not exactly a fairytale. Her father is a controlling psycho and her mother is a drunk. She used to count on her older brother—until he shipped off to Iraq. And then, of course, there was the time she almost died in a fire.

There are stories where the monster gets the girl, and we all shed tears for his innocent victim. (This is not one of those stories either.)

Mitch Anderson is many things: A dedicated teacher and coach. A caring husband. A man with a certain...magnetism.

And there are stories where it's hard to be sure who's a prince and who's a monster, who is a victim and who should live happily ever after. (These are the most interesting stories of all.) (

I've been sitting on reviewing DROWNING INSTINCT for about two months now, doing the Homer Simpson "I wanna" dance waiting for Carolrhoda Lab's special week so I can finally put it up. And now I'm faced with what to say. What can I say other than Ilsa's done it yet again? She's ripped my heart out, stomped on it, sewed it back together and gently placed it back in my chest. I cried like a freaking baby at the end of DROWNING INSTINCT. It's hard to see such a sad character lose a rare piece of happiness in her life.

DROWNING INSTINCT was also the book that made me realize that I needed to step away from these kind of contemporaries for a while. It's so real and honest and gritty that it hurts me to read. As much as I shy away from the prospect of loinfruit, to see a child hurting kills me. Ilsa killed me with Jenna. She was so wounded and so alone and when she finally found the support she needed it was wrenched away from her again. And the story leaves you hanging. Kind of. You know what happens but you really DON'T. You can kinda tell how Jenna's going to do but you don't REALLY know and it's a killer. Is she okay, Ilsa? Please tell me.

Like DRAW THE DARK the story is a bit drawn out and slow at points but that's really the only nominally negative thing I can say about DROWNING INSTINCT and Ilsa's writing in general. She gets so thoroughly into her characters' heads its scary, like she could be automatic writing with a ghost or something. Or she trances out and channels the characters living inside of her. When she's writing she's not Ilsa, she's Jenna and that's why it feels so realistic. That's why every pang and pain and piece of anger jumps off of the page, grabs you by the collar and shakes you until you feel it too. It can't be helped. The story won't let you walk away without feeling something.

Jenna isn't just your average overcoming, strong heroine. She's life. She's reality. She's a piece of soul torn and put through the wringer. It's like you can hear her whispering the story in your ear. As she's talking into that recorder the cop gave her, it's like she's sitting right next to you and she's looking you dead in the eye while she's telling it. She isn't just a character that's been through some terrible crap. She hit the delete button at the end of the story and you don't even know if there's hope. But you pray there is. Because you're looking at her and you have to hope. You have to carry on her hope.

Before I completely jump off the cliff of nonsensical fangirling praise, I'm ending this here. DROWNING INSTINCT is as gritty at they come. It's realistic, poignant and will punch you in the gut by the end of the book. You will feel everything Jenna does. You will go through all of her ups and downs with her, even when you think you probably shouldn't. You still will. And then you'll get to the end and try to will more pages to appear because it can't end there. It just can't.

Ban Factor: High - Student/teacher relationship? I can hear the banner squeals already.

A Week with Carolrhoda Lab Begins with Andrew Karre, Mad Scientist!

So begins my week featuring the awesomely epic imprint, Carolrhoda Lab! I first stumbled upon Carolrhoda Lab two years ago through a well-placed advertisement on the Publisher's Weekly site. The imprint was but a mere infant then, relatively unknown but damn I loved their font. Kinda creepy and since I'm a touch on the morbid side, I gravitated. They gladly sent me some of their titles and thus began my love of not only Carolrhoda Lab but Ilsa Bick (DRAW THE DARK), Blythe Woolston (THE FREAK OBSERVER) and Steve Brezenoff (THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1).

Carolrhoda Lab and it's authors have never ceased to amaze me with the unabashedly amazing stuff they put out. They're stories that hit you in places no other book can and they're continuously good. Carolrhoda Lab, and its editorial director Andrew Karre, has so successfully carved out a niche that, really, he (and they) should be bowed to. Andrew has his finger on the pulse of exactly what it is he's looking for and he snatches it up every time. I've reviewed nearly every title on the CL list and they're all mind-blowingly phenomenal. How Andrew manages to hit them out of the park every time is most likely a secret he's keeping closely guarded. As long as he keeps going what he's doing, I'm okay with that.

From here I hand over the reigns to him so he can wax scientific about just what Carolrhoda Lab is all about. I hope this little event on my little blog opens up the world of Carolrhoda Lab to more people and helps get the word out about these awesome books even more. All this week look for CL reviews, an awesome giveaway and another awesome guest post from Elizabeth Dingmann, publicist extraordinaire!

What we put in the test tubes: the science of Carolrhoda Lab

Carolrhoda Lab is two experiments at once, as far as I’m concerned. On the individual book level, it has been my goal from day one to create editorial spaces where the author and I can test the fundamental YA hypothesis: this is a book that will appeal to people who are interested in the teenage condition (notice that the fundamental YA hypothesis is not “this book is for teens”). Our testing instruments are questions like how does the book fit into (or, better still, disrupt) the world of teen fiction as we know it now? What part will this book play in the larger drama that is contemporary adolescence? What light does this shed on the teenage experience? And so on. Under this kind of testing, there are really only two unacceptable indicators and they involve phrases like “reading level” and “teen-appropriate subject matter.” Not only do I believe these issues are irrelevant to young adult fiction, but I find them deeply boring (and they smell bad if you leave them open in the lab too long). Aside from that bit of unabashed subjectivity, we are very scientifically rigorous. Like any good lab, we are always retesting our assumptions with each new specimen. I’m very fortunate to have fearless experimenters like Steve Brezenoff and Blythe Woolston and tinkerers like Ashley Hope PĂ©rez and R.J. Anderson who like to mix combustibles.

The second, larger experiment takes place on the imprint level, and the hypothesis in that case is that an imprint can forge a coherent identity based on no more than a commitment to exploring every nook and cranny of teenage existence, one book at a time—even if this leads to books that are superficially wildly different. I take the “lab” in our name very seriously on a personal level. I am disposed to approaching YA as a genre, and I’ve thought that way ever since I helped launch Flux in my previous editorial incarnation. However, Lab means I have to test that hypothesis too, and I’m as proud to have published books that challenge that hypothesis (Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s No Crystal Stair is a perfect example) as I am to have published books that affirm it (like Ilsa J. Bick’s Drowning Instinct). You might say that the only unacceptable indicators in this experiment are repetition and thoughtless trend following. This is an ongoing experiment, but data is trending in a good direction.

These are the things we think about when we think about Carolrhoda Lab books (we also think about things like trim size, dot gain, epub3, the serial comma, the viability of the second person, whether we could ever publish a vampire novel, book trailers, Facebook, what the hell is Pinterest, etc. but I won’t bore you). In the end, though, it’s probably all beside the point for readers. The process is a curiosity. The “science” is, I hope, in service of the stories, and we want those to last.

Thanks, Andrew! Be sure to follow Andrew Karre on Twitter!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Things I've Learned from Books + 140

When pretty colors start being more than just pretty colors, it may be time for you to get your head examined. It might not be anything but, you know, better to be safe than insane.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

And the winner is . . .

The winner of an ARC of PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow is . . .

Jackie G!!!

Congratulations! I'll be sending out the email shortly. And a huge thanks to everyone who entered!

80s Awesomeness! ~ 149

Are you gagging yet? You should be. For some god horrible reason the Bedazzler was huge. Was that jean jacket just not flamboyant enough? Bedazzle it! What CAN'T you put plastic rhinestones on? How people didn't go blind between light refracting off of all the glitter and day-glo, I have no idea.

Freaky Friday :|: 149

Title: April Fools
Author: Richie Tankersley Cusick
Published: March 15, 1991
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Pages: 224

It's April Fools' Day. Frank thinks he's king of the fools. So when he and his friends get cut up by a hotshot driver, it's fair game. But things start to go wrong. Someone saw what happened that night, and wants to join in the fun. But April Fools' Day is over and these jokes are for real. (

I'm having a hard time processing that blurb. When I see cut up I think physically but in this case it's by a "hot shot driver." So it was an April Fools joke with a car? Am I reading that wrong? I don't know. I think it might be good but my brain doesn't want to translate the blurb for some reason.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gift by Andrea J. Buchanan

Pub date: March 27, 2012.

High school sophomore Daisy Jones is just trying to get by unnoticed. It doesn't help that she's the new girl at school, lives in a trailer park, and doesn't even own a cell phone. But there's a good reason for all that: Daisy has a secret, unpredictable power-one only her best friend, Danielle, knows about. Despite her "gift" (or is it a curse?), Daisy's doing a good job of fitting in-and a cute senior named Kevin even seems interested in her! But when Daisy tries to help Vivi, a mysterious classmate in a crisis, she soon discovers that her new friend has a secret of her own. Now Daisy and her friends must deal with chilling dreams and messages from the beyond. Can Daisy channel the power she's always tried to hide-before it's too late? (

Daisy's got an issue that I can somewhat, nominally, empathize with: she kills technology. She doesn't have a TV, computer, cell phone, nothing too technologically current because she'd just drive it crazy. I feel that. With the trail of computer deaths in my wake, and the shrapnel of other miscellaneous freakazoid technological malfunctions I've had to deal with, I immediately connected with Daisy. I understood her. Of course she's an extreme but such is the way of books. A boring blue screen of death on a PC is nothing compared to spastic fire alarms or igniting a computer lab.

I didn't really love GIFT but I didn't not like it either. It was okay. I was entertained enough but at various points in the story I felt a little put out by it, like it was a chore to read. It dragged a bit with the dreams the girls were having, what Vivi's deal was, Daisy trying to deal with her issue (considering she'd been dealing with it her entire life her "dealing with it" now seemed kind of forced). But it was interesting nonetheless and I kept reading until the end so I could see what would happen. The pieces laid themselves out for the ending pretty early on but there is a twist in there that I kind of didn't see coming so I enjoyed that. It's always nice to be at least a little bit surprised by a story.

I liked reading Daisy's humanity, especially towards the end. She is a very strong-willed character but she has flaws and I loved seeing them. It grounded out what is rightly a fantastical story into something a bit more realistic, considering. She rationalizes, she reasons, at times she caves to temptation. I really liked that. I felt like I could relate to that, unlike some other YA heroines that seemingly stand strong the entire time. I need humanness.

Vivi and Danielle I felt were a little underdeveloped. They were just kind of there floating along in Daisy's plot while things kept happening. Not that they weren't involved but as characters I just felt their existence was to serve Daisy. Kevin was the same way except his entire being I felt was a contrivance. He just felt like he was shoved into the plot because that might have been what was "supposed" to have happen. Daisy needed a love interest and someone else to connect to. Kevin served that purpose and that was pretty much it. He provided information when it was required, he supported Daisy when she needed it and he was the perfect level of weirdness to complement hers. It just felt too easy. Their personalities were okay. I didn't dislike them. They were just really plot-serving.

The story itself was okay. The whole reincarnation/past lives things interests me by default and I liked the way the past was brought into the present in this one. It used people and manipulated them and it really took the wind out of its implied sails but again, it made it more real, for what that's worth in a paranormal story. I didn't find the set-up or execution floofy but I did think, in the end, Daisy's powers were pretty irrelevant to it all. It was a means to be used but I don't think it deserved the emphasis that it did. I felt the past life issue was so much more relevant and should have been brought to the surface more than Daisy's electrical abilities. It wasn't bad but I wasn't crazy about it either.

Like I said overall it was okay. I wasn't thrilled with it but it wasn't terrible. A decent read if you don't have much else to do. It does stand out a bit from the rest just because of Daisy's ability and the past life thing which I did really like. And the plot isn't crazy centric on the love interest, another plus. And there's only one, love interest that is. Even bigger plus. Ultimately this one didn't leave much of a mark with me but I'm sure others will find the awesomeness that dwells within and give it the love it deserves. There's nothing all that wrong with it. It just ultimately wasn't for me.

Last call for booksahol!

Just a quick reminder to you all that my giveaway for PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow ends tonight at midnight, EST! So get your entries in by then!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Look What I Can Do!

Yes, I'll be deviating one because I'm short on things to post about at the moment and two because I'm super excited I was able to do this. Eeeee!

Okay. I know I don't talk about my personal life on here really much at all so first I'll say that I love doing yoga. I've been doing it off and on for quite a few years now and just fairly recently I found a really good yoga community to get involved in. Their classes are phenomenal and are totally worth the money (I'll just say it's not cheap). While it's not uncommon for me to feel like I'm going to die at the end of class (the classes I take are the advanced classes, power, bendy twisty types) it's a really good going to die feeling. I'm super sore pretty much constantly but it's a good sore. I feel exercised and stretched and flexed and I generally feel good.

Before I started attending the place I currently go to my goal pose was crow. Considering I have weak little flimsy arms filled with pain, an arm balance was a pretty big deal for me. Once I started going to this place and really getting involved, I finally got into crow. This is what I can do -

Not as prettily but I can do it and hold it and get all excited.

Tonight I went to class and we went into twisted scissor. Yet another arm balance, this one filled with doom. But what happens? I get into it not on one side but on two! Eeeeee! Again, it's not very pretty or delicate-looking but I got into it and I didn't catch myself with my face. I didn't even fall! And I got into it!

I tried looking for twisted scissor and this was the closest thing I could come too. The only difference between what I did and this video (aside from the grace) is my legs were crossed so my feet were out in opposite directions from this video. Other than that I did it! Hooray!

That is all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And the winner is . . .

The winner of a copy of DEAD OF NIGHT by Jonathan Maberry is . . .


Congratulations! I've already sent the email so get back to me ASAP! And a huge thank you to everyone who entered!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Night School by Mari Mancusi

Published January 4, 2011.

Vampires, Slayers and…FAIRIES? Sunny and Rayne McDonald are about to get SCHOOLED.

After their parents’ shocking revelation about their fae heritage and an attack on their lives, the McDonald twins find themselves on the run—forced to hide out at Riverdale Academy , a boarding school for vampire slayers, deep in the Swiss Alps. With no cells, no internet, and no way to contact their vampire boyfriends—the twins are on their own.

Being a vampire stuck in a school full of slayers isn’t easy. Especially with no blood substitute stocked on campus. Soon Rayne finds herself succumbing to her bloodlust and losing control—especially around the arrogant, but devastatingly handsome Corbin Billingsworth the Third—who isn’t sure whether he wants to kiss her…or kill her.

But when Sunny starts acting strange, Rayne realizes Riverdale Academy may be hiding some deadly secrets of its own—leading to a showdown in Fairyland that may cost the twins their lives.

I've read this series in what is probably the most schizophrenic way possible, and mostly not on purpose. The first three I read out of order simply because I didn't know their order and apparently my ability to Google failed me. I skipped the fourth one because it was a Sunny POV and she's not my favorite head to dwell in. BUT based on the excerpt at the end of NIGHT SCHOOL I may be willing to pick up the next one. She appears to have matured and her voice doesn't sound so insipid anymore. And because I adore Mari, and we do have that Lost Boys bond, I may just do it for her.

Anyway NIGHT SCHOOL was a great addition to the whole BLOOD COVEN series and even though I didn't read BAD BLOOD I didn't feel like I was missing out on much. There were some allusions to events in that book at the beginning that I was a little lost on but they didn't play too much of a role in the bigger plot so they were easy to get over. Rayne is still Rayne, Sunny is still Sunny and the shenanigans are still shenanigans. And I'm glad.

Overall the plot is pretty silly but it's silly in the way that Supernatural is silly. Yeah, there are some serious moments but they're surrounded by sometimes absolutely outrageous things that even the characters are going WTF? You know, like when Sam and Dean came in contact with the faeries in Season 6 and Dean was all like, nipples?

Yeah, it's like that. It's a silly story but it knows its silly and that's why its so great. Rayne and Sunny get their butts handed to them by faeries and the faeries are so freaking ridiculous that you can't help but laugh. And Rayne's inability to get Apple Pancake's (Apple Cider? Crisp?) name right just tickled me the right way every time. If NIGHT SCHOOL were trying to take itself seriously it'd completely lose its charm. It strikes a good balance between the insanity and the serious just enough to get its point across but keep it a totally entertaining read at the same time. Rayne's need to feed? Serious. Disney World? Not so much. Read it to get what I'm talking about.

Oh, did I mention it mocks TWILIGHT? Yeah, it does that too. You'll have to read it to pick up the references. I won't spoil that fun for you! A giggle-filled word search!

There are just so many things right with Mari's work that it's hard to pick up on anything that's wrong. If you haven't read any of the BLOOD COVEN books yet, I highly recommend you do. Don't judge them by their covers and think they blend in with your Blue Bloods or Coffin Kisses or whatever else is out there. BLOOD COVEN, and its latest release, NIGHT SCHOOL, stand so far out from the rest that their covers should light up and poof out pink sparkles. Because it would make Rayne go insane and I like it when she gets cranky about pink and glitter. It amuses me. I'll even tell you to read the Sunny POV stories too, just to get the whole story. I'm seriously considering going back to read BAD BLOOD just to fill myself in. Really, Sunny isn't THAT bad. Most of the time.

Giveaway Reminder!

Today's the last day to enter to win a copy of DEAD OF NIGHT by Jonathan Maberry! This book is epic so you definitely don't want to miss your chance. Get those entries in by midnight, EST!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Added to the Pile + 103

I've got a mighty haul this week. Well, it's big for me. Still small peanuts for some others but it's still all adding to my already overgrown pile. Not like I'm complaining. Much. I'm just waiting for more hours to be added to the day.

Thanks to a super gracious book faery I received the following -

She loves me so. We are evil twins after all.

And then from Macmillan I received -

Carolrhoda Lab sent over the following so I can share the awesomeness it's undoubtedly going to be for their special week -

I stumbled upon some NetGalley titles this week too. There are definitely some good ones out there!

From Open Road Media -

THE INVITATION by Diane Hoh (because they're bringing back the cheese and I love it so)

From Macmillan -

And last but not least, from Penguin -

Things I've Learned from Books + 139

Maybe Disney didn't have it so lollipops and rainbow farts away from reality after all . . .

Saturday, February 18, 2012

80s Awesomeness! ~ 148

Yes. Cruel Summer? Absolutely. Venus? You got it. They're the other Bangles. Or Go Gos. All part of the naughty, naughty girl bands of the 80s. Kind of makes the boy bands of the 90s look like a pile of prudes.

Or judging by the video, the female Dexy's Midnight Runners. Whatever.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Freaky Friday :|: 148

Title: Teacher's Pet
Author: Richie Tankersley Cusick
Published: 1994
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Kate gets more than she bargained for when she goes on a week-long writing conference. First her teacher goes missing then someone tries to frighten her in the woods and someone, who isn't afraid to kill, doesn't like Kate being the teacher's pet. (

It's one thing to be smart. It's quite another to be a brown-noser. This is what it gets you. I get it. It's a cautionary tale.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright by Justine Saracen

Pub date: March 13, 2012.

Author website.

Twelve years of terror end with a world in flames. Behind filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl’s stirring footage of a million joyous patriots, the horror of Nazi Germany slowly unfolds. It engulfs Katja Sommer, a “good German” with dangerous desires; Frederica Brandt, a traitor to her homeland; Rudi Lamm, a homosexual camp survivor and forced soldier for Hitler; and Peter Arnhelm, a half-Jewish smuggler on the run. Under the scrutiny of the familiar monsters of the Third Reich, their enablers, and their hangers-on, these four struggle for life and for each other. Love does not conquer all, but it’s far better than going to hell alone. (

First off, let me say that TYGER, TYGER, BURNING BRIGHT is NOT Nazi propaganda (I'm looking at YOU, Photobucket!). It's a book about German citizens, four in particular who are gay, fighting the regime from the inside. Two end up in camps with one signing up for the SS in order to get out, one goes into hiding in plain sight and the fourth bides her time working for the Ministry of Propaganda in order to smuggle confidential information out of the country to the Allies.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm a total sucker for World War II era books. I love them. In order for me not to love it it's need to tank pretty badly. And aside from some pretty mechanical writing, TYGER, TYGER was a pretty good story. What I especially liked reading was the war from a perspective other than the Americans or British. Seeing it from behind enemy lines, from traitorous people working against the fascist regime, it gives that whole era yet another dimension that one wouldn't get from just reading it through a single set of eyes.

The story, for the most part, is through Katja's eyes, alternating to Frederica, Rudi and Peter for short amounts of time but you end up feeling for them all. Irrespective of the style of writing, when the camps come into play and two of the characters end up with first hand accounts, nothing is glossed over. To see what the Germans did to their own people is horrifying and TYGER, TYGER didn't cut corners with that. In fact that's when I felt the book was being the most detailed and gritty: when it was describing the horror around the characters. Their lives were a little dry and at times emotionless but when the outside came in, it came with a force that knocked everything else away. It was just so powerful that I was literally taken aback when reading certain parts of the story.

I also liked how this could have really happened. Real people were used, like Goebbels and Riefenstahl and the things that happened in their lives happened in this book. It rooted the more dramatic aspects, like the level to which Frederica gets, into greater reality. While it probably didn't happen, it felt like it could have reading the story.

Because of the mechanical writing it did feel like it was missing something. I think at times it could have been a passion. Yes the events that were recounted hit deeply and I could feel what the characters were going through but at times it felt more like a statement than a story. Good, yes, but a bit too technical. But really that would probably be my only complaint about TYGER, TYGER. Everything else hits home quite well.

If you're a World War II reader like I am, you'll want to add TYGER, TYGER, BURNING BRIGHT to your list of reading material. For it's single fault, it provides a great story through relatively unfamiliar eyes and I think it's because of that that makes the story feel somehow fresher than a lot of other WWII fiction out there. At least to this American.

Ban Factor: High - I think the homosexuality and lesbianism would set the banners in a tizzy as it is.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Was My High School a Freak?

Something has been really standing out to me in my reading and it's probably one of the dumbest things to notice too because it's so irrelevant to the plot at hand. Class schedules. And I'm not talking about an individual character's class schedule but just the schedule in general. Namely the number of classes per day, usually 8 or 9.

This was not my high school experience. I haven't had this many classes a day since I was in middle school. As an incoming freshman, that was the first year (1997, hi and welcome to me dating myself) my school system starting using block scheduling, aka torture if you despise the class. The board's theory was that it was a means to get students used to the longer classes one would see in college (irrespective of the fact that not everyone was college-bound). So instead
of 8 classes a day at 45 minutes (or so) each, I had 4 classes a day at 84 minutes each. Do you have ANY idea what chemistry was like for me??? The days were then split between A days and B days with rotating lunch schedules and what not. So while I didn't have to deal with hated classes on a daily basis, I had to sit through nearly an hour and a half of them EACH when they did come up. Like I said, torture.

So back to class schedules, this leaves me wondering if this is something that never picked up on a greater school scale. The block scheduling was something that lasted throughout my high school years. Whether they're still going with it I have no idea. I'm assuming so. But considering I keep coming across books where students have the typical 8 class days, I'm starting to think my high school experience in that realm was atypical. And I didn't go to a special school or anything. Regular public school for me.

Yeah, totally asinine I know but it's been niggling. Has anyone else known the joys of block scheduling in high school or am I the loner at the lunch table?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lovely TV!

Since I always talk about my love for books here (it being a book blog and all), I figured on this Valentine's Day I'd mix it up a bit and talk a bit about the shows that I love. Or at least like enough to watch. I don't have cable so I'm not crazy up to speed about what's on but from what I do know is available, I'd rather shove pins into my eyes than watch most of it. But outside of all of that TV hate, a few shows have weaseled their way into my life and are nesting comfortably in my cockle area. These are those shows. You may or may not pick up on a theme.

Thanks to a very adamant friend INSISTED I watch Supernatural, I finally became hooked. Thanks to this friend I owned the first three seasons, and with her bringing the fourth season on vacation with us, thus introducing me to Castiel, I promptly bought my own copy, along with the fifth and dove right in. Yeah, I was a late bloomer. Really late since I really picked it up at the start of season 6. And while the show's totally shitting the bed lately and REALLY needs to be canceled to save the vestiges of its dignity that remain, I still can't help but love Sam and Dean. And the dead characters past that the show insisted on snuffing (Gabriel, Castiel, Bobby, Rufus). Crowley's cool too although he's not dead. Just absent. I'm still going to buy season 7 when it comes out on DVD simply to complete my collection. I'm praying to whatever god exists that it ends after that.

I'm not in love with Once Upon A Time but I like it enough to sit down, pull it up online and watch it every week. I want to see how long they're going to drag the story out and how much worse the queen's acting can get (because let's face it, she's a pretty big overactor). Still, I like the storyline and I'm REALLY rooting for Snow and Charming to finally get back together for real. Because I can be a sap.

Another show I'm not totally in love with but I like it more than Once Upon A Time, Grimm reminds me of Supernatural with a police procedural mom. It has a kind of quirk to it that Once doesn't but that monster of the week feel that Supernatural did in its early days. Plus Monroe is the saving grace of that show. If it weren't for him I don't know if I'd watch it. But as long as he's there, I'll keep tuning in. Or logging on, as it were.

The only non-paranormal show I watch, I can't help but love Bones. There is not a single character in this show that I don't like and for the love of god will Brennan and Booth get together already? Jeez! I find myself never getting tired of the set-up or the shit that constantly seems to happen to these guys. I keep tuning in and salivating for more. I'm pretty sure I cried through most of the season 6 episodes. I think Angela's pregnancy hormones were projected onto me.

My most recent obsession, the UK version of Being Human has burrowed under my skin and will not come out. Why not the US version? Probably because I watched the UK version first and nothing quite beats British humor. It can't be translated, it can't be replicated and instead of recreating the series the US should have just broadcasted this version here. I'd be okay with that. I'm not even through the second season yet and I'm twitching to watch more. Thankfully (or not) UK series are short so I don't have many episodes to get through but still. I know what I'm doing this holiday weekend. I've already cheated a bit and looked ahead to see when Herrick is coming back. I love him.

I've been an addict since it was released in 2010. Zombies? Yes. AMC? Yes. Sexyshirt that played Jamie in Love Actually? Yes. I'm there. I really don't know how to carry on talking about The Walking Dead without totally fangirling it. But I love it so. It's such a great story, the characters are insane and I can't take my eyes off of the TV. More watching to do this weekend, I have the latest episode in the boiler.

At the behest of many people, I finally started watching True Blood and yes, hooked, if only for the Eric Northman sexy times (because Bill's far too brooding and I HATE the way he says Sookie . . . Sookeh) and Pam. Total girl crush on Pam. Sookie is a basketcase that I'm hoping gets hit by a car but everyone else is pretty cool. I still haven't seen the fourth season because I was catching up on the first three while it was airing. When I was finally able to watch season 4, it was done and unavailable because HBO is evil. I'm waiting for the DVD release date so I can order and devour it and then watch season 5 as it plays thanks to soldier boy's cable. Yeah, he likes it too. Hates most of the cast but loves the show. I still don't understand but at least I have a True Blood buddy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

YAckers Review: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Published October 4th, 2011.

Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family. But after she’s convicted of murder, she awakens to a nightmarish new life. She finds herself lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes—criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime—is a sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red for the crime of murder. The victim, says the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a fierce and forbidden love.

A powerful reimagining of
The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke is a timely fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of the not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated, and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith and love. (

This book is meant to incite rage in its readers, whether it's of the feral intolerant side that foams at the mouth when Christianity is questioned or the blaspheming side that has nightmares about such a world as showcased in WHEN SHE WOKE existing. Only Laura and myself waxed poetic about abortion this month. Or maybe we took a cheese grater to it. Either way our feelings were similar, getting all riled up in the right spots and finding the Where's Waldo Dickhead in the Chromed oblivion but we ultimately liked it. For all the anger it induced, it was written phenomenally and without a hint of preaching. How's that for authorial self-control? Read our thoughts at the official Keeper of the Book's place this month, A Jane of All Reads.

Ban Factor: High - Abortion. That word alone would have the banner running with matches blazing.

YAckers Review: Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

Published October 4, 2011.

Author website.

Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.

Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.

Ultimately it ended up being a lovely story but it just felt something was missing. And really I think it was. The characters just weren't built up enough and the story didn't reach it's full potential. But it was still nice. I enjoyed reading it and so did my fellow YAckers. But I think our mindset was so fixed on YA that we kept forgetting this was a middle grade story. Read our thoughts over at our substitute Keeper of the Book's place, Laura at A Jane of All Reads.

Ban Factor: Medium - It's got magic in it but it's almost as light and fluffy as Cinderella so it would depend on how smart the reading banner was. Which is an oxymoron.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White + Giveaway

Published September 1, 2010.

Author website.

Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal. (

I'm seriously kicking myself for waiting so long to pick up PARANORMALCY. The voice is epic; like the author crawled inside my head and kidnapped my seventeen-year-old self and put it on the page. It rings true and normal to Evie, not over the top at all in any way (like intelligence or snark or whatever). It just fits to a T. Love it.

Evie is the kind of chick that we need more of in the YA world. She can hold her own in a nominally normal way (she doesn't have super human strength and actually depends a lot on a taser, a pink one at that) and she calls it like she sees it. When Reth goes all super creeper she lays the smack down on him as best she can. She's not all like "OMG he's sooooo hot. Isn't it romantic when he watches me sleep without me knowing and kidnaps me to places unknown?" He's a creep, she calls it and she does her best to stay away from him. I felt bad for her when the shoe dropped because her world as she knew it came crumbling down in so many ways. The pseudo-family she built up for herself, gone. The only home she ever really knew, gone. All she ever wanted to do was be normal and she tried despite it all but in the end it never worked.

Lend is a great character. Totally the kind of guy I can get behind and root for. No stalker tendencies for him. He just is. Like Evie, he just wants to be normal. He wants to be with someone for whom he doesn't have to pretend around. Someone that can see him. Enter Evie and her x-ray eyes and bam! We have a couple. Through Lend Evie can be the semi-normal chick she so strived for and Lend can just be himself. They really do compliment each other.

I'm not the biggest fan of The Chosen One syndrome because it stands out so much but when its done well, I'll take it. Evie's story is done well. She's an odd ball, a non-entity entity that no one can explain and the story takes a while to build up to it but once it gets there, when everything unravels it seems to fit. I'm not left going WTF? but yes, I believe that. So Evie gets a pass for being the super awesome prophecy child.

The whole world White built is like that, believable. A pseudo-government agency that monitors paranormal life all over the world? Sounds like The X-Files with Sam and Dean heading up the presidency. I believed it. With Evie underground we were behind the curtain, seeing things that no other non-paranormal would get to see. Step out from that and Evie gets to see the life that the rest of us are privy too. She comes behind our curtain. But the shades don't stay drawn for long. Eventually the curtain just gets ripped right down.

The ending offers resolution for this particular story but it leaves things open for the coming books. At least it wasn't done cheaply. Yeah, I want to know more about Evie's weaknesses because those, her real ones, don't come out until the end. It made her even more relatable and I want to see more of that. Not to mention what happened with the faeries and the people she knew at the Center. But the immediate arc is resolved and while it left me wanting more, I didn't feel deprived or gypped out of a good ending. I got it and I loved it.

PARANORMALCY is a great book for anyone looking to get away from your standard YA paranormal fare as of late. With a snarky, sharp voice and a heroine to stand next to and fight the battle with, it's an excellent fresh breath in an otherwise smog-ridden landscape. I can't wait to read SUPERNATURALLY.

Ban Factor: High - Werewolves and vampies and big bad faeries. Eeeeeeeeeeee!

Giveaway time!!!

Want my ARC? Then just fill out the form below for your chance to win!
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