Category Archives: Contests

Book Reviews
March 4, 2014 posted by Nichole

Half Bad (Half Life Trilogy #1) – Sally Green

18079804A stunning, magical debut. An international sensation.

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

 

Half Bad is one of those books that just pops out of nowhere and slaps you in the face with how good it is. I picked this one up because it was about witches, and who doesn’t love witches? I was amazed at how raw and powerful the storyline was. I was so intrigued and mind blown over the twists and turns that Sally Green provided. I felt like I was constantly being knocked off my feet. Whenever I picked myself back up again, I was instantly knocked back down.

When I first started Half Bad, I didn’t like it. That didn’t last long; it only lasted about 20 pages. The problem was that it’s written in second person point of view for the first two chapters, and I cannot stand having the word “you” thrown around that much. My preference is first person. I can handle third person POV, but do NOT stick me with second person POV. I actually almost DNF’d it right away because of that. So if you have that same problem starting out don’t freak out. Stick with it and it WILL get better!

What I absolutely loved about Half Bad was all of the messages thrown around. I loved how Half Bad really twisted around the common definitions for black and white. White magic is often depicted as “good” while black is “bad.” This book really makes you think about those concepts since the “white” witches were very hostile, abusive, aggressive, and dangerous. The “black” witches weren’t the best witches, either, but I did see more good come from them than the white witches. I think that’s a great concept for people to think about. It’s difficult to just place people in certain categories, and I felt that Half Bad did a really great job challenging those beliefs.

While Half Bad is about witches and is obviously a paranormal read, Contemporary lovers are going to absolutely adore this one. It’s actually pretty low key on the paranormal aspects. It focuses a lot more on Nathan’s trauma and trying to work around his personal scars. My heart broke for Nathan so many times. It was difficult for me at times to watch this little boy grow up in a semi normal life and then watch three years of his life be full or torture and abuse. Once Nathan is captured, he is never the same. I thought that Half Bad did a good job of showcasing trauma, depression, and mental illness. It seems weird to me that so much could be going on in one book. I really think that this is a book that could suit lovers of all genres.

As far as romances go, Half Bad doesn’t really have any. Nathan has a crush on a girl from the very beginning of the book but that is so low key to the rest of the story. I feel like that relationship will probably grow a little more as the series continues. So people need to be aware that this is not a book to fall head over heels in love with a romance story. That aspect doesn’t really exist in this one. I actually found it a little creepy that Nathan was so hung up on his crush because he went for years without even seeing her. Seeing as they hadn’t seen each other since Nathan was 14, I felt that it was a little weird he was so hung up on her at 16 and 17.

On to a more negative note, the last 100 pages of Half Bad were very difficult to get through. It started to read more as an adult novel than a YA book. It also got reallllllly boring and weird. I obviously wasn’t going to DNF it when I had invested over 300 pages into the book, but if it had started out that way I never would have finished it. It concerns me a little bit about the second book. It’s rare that such a good book loses it’s heat toward the end….so….we’ll see.

Before I reached those last 100 pages, I was comparing Half Bad to the Harry Potter series. That’s how good it was. It obviously wasn’t AS GOOD as HP, but it’s been a long time since I’ve found such a good paranormal/witch book. However, I do wish that there would have been more magic and paranormal aspects to the book. Don’t go into this book thinking that it’s full of witches and magic. It’s not. While the majority of the characters are witches, I can’t really think of any magic that happened in the book. I can think of the “gifts” that some of the witches had, but this is not a book filled with wands, spells, and magic cauldrons.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It was originally a 5 star book for me, but those last 100 pages bumped it down to a 4. I would still recommend it, not only because it’s a great book but because it has also been optioned for film by Fox 2000. I will be reading the second book when it comes out, and I can’t wait to watch the movie. Fingers crossed that it happens!

 

Half Bad is out in stores today. Go buy your copy!

 

Pages: 416

Publication Date: March 4th, 2014

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Rating: : ★★★★☆

 

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Blog Tour
February 26, 2014 posted by Nichole

Blog Tour: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith & Giveaway

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unnamedSixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the storyof how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin’s hormones are totally oblivious; they don’t care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He’s stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it’s up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

 

 

 

Blog Tour Schedule:

February 3rd – The Midnight Garden
February 3rd – The Story Siren
February 4th – Good Choice Reading
February 4th – Bookish
February 5th – I Read Banned Books
February 5th – Jenna Does Books
February 6th – Bibliophilia, Please
February 6th – Escaping One Book At A Time
February 7th – Scott Reads It
February 7th – Live to Read
February 10th – Alice Marvels
February 10th – The Society
February 11th – Lexi Swoons
February 11th – A Reader of Fictions
February 12th – Roof Beam Reader
February 12th – Forever Young Adult
February 13th – The Compulsive Reader
February 13th – Books and Bling
February 14th – Book Chic Club
February 14th – The QQQE
February 17th – JeanBookNerd
February 17th – Ticket to Anywhere
February 18th – Sleep Eat Read Books
February 18th – Read Now Sleep Later
February 19th – Anna Reads
February 19th – Word Spelunking
February 20th – Books With Bite
February 20th – What A Nerd Girl Says
February 21st – Wastepaper Prose
February 21st – LRB – Guest
February 24th – We Are Word Nerds
February 24th Cabin Goddess
February 25th – Ex Libris
February 25th – Cari’s Book Blog
February 25th – A Good Addiction
February 26th – YA Reads
February 26th – The Young Folks
February 27th – Novel Thoughts
February 27th – Fangirlish
February 28th – Once Upon a Twilight
February 28th – Naughty Book Kitties
About the Author:
unnamed (1)Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several Young Adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger (Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness—an Amazon “Best of the Year”) and The Marbury Lens (A YALSA BFYA, and Starred reviews and Best of the Year in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist).
He is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. Grasshopper Jungle, coming February 11, 2014, is his seventh novel. He lives in Southern California.

 

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Blog Tour
February 7, 2014 posted by Nichole

2014 YA Heartbreakers: Katie Cotugno

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Hey, everyone! Welcome back to day 6 of the 2014 YA Heartbreakers! You may have noticed that we don’t have a post every single day between now and Valentines Day. We ended up with a lot of reviews this month…so hopefully you enjoy what we do have for this event. Today we are hosting Katie Cotugno, author of How to Love. I adore books that feature teenage pregnancy. I don’t promote it, but I LOVE the books and movies dedicated to it. That being said, I HAD to feature Katie Cotugno for this event. I just had to. I hope you all enjoy the interview that she has prepared for today!
6921953Katie Cotugno went to Catholic school for thirteen years which makes her, as an adult, both extremely superstitious and prone to crushes on boys wearing blazers. She routinely finds herself talking about the romantic endeavors of characters on TV shows as if they actually exist in the world.

Katie is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared in The Broadkill Review, The Apalachee Review, and Argestes, as well as on Nerve.com. Her first novel, HOW TO LOVE, is due out from Balzer + Bray on October 1st, 2013.

The great loves of Katie’s life include child’s pose, her little sister, and mozzarella and honey sandwiches. She lives in Boston (and in sin) with her boyfriend, Tom.

Can you tell us about your book, HOW TO LOVE, in 15 words or less? A big, tough, messy romance about a couple falling in love twice, three years apart.
Are you currently working on anything else? I am! My second book, tentatively titled 99 DAYS, is about a girl who comes back to17332564 her hometown in the Adirondack mountains the summer before college to face the mess–and the boy–she left behind a year before.
Who is your favorite YA couple from a different series/book that’s not yours? I love Macy and Wes from Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever–they’re so real and achy and great. I can recite whole paragraphs of that book from memory. 
What was the most heartbreaking scene in HOW TO LOVE? I think the roughest scene to write was the scene near the end of the Before section, when Reena spies Sawyer leaving town and can’t bring herself to stop him, or even let him know that she’s there. She knows she’s pregnant, she knows she’s stuck, and all she can do is watch her future crumble right in front of her face. 
What genres do you typically read when you’re not writing? Do you stick with contemporary for the feels or do you read more paranormal types for the thrills? I’ve read some totally rad paranormal, but I do tend to stick more with contemporary as a reader–I love reading about characters facing some of the same challenges I faced as a teen, or that I’m still facing now–and I love a good, grounded romance. 

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Blog Tour
February 5, 2014 posted by Nichole

2014 YA Heartbreakers Day 5: Kasie West

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Hey, everyone! Welcome back to Day 5 of the 2014 YA Heartbreakers. Today I am so excited to be hosting Kasie West, author of Pivot Point and The Distance Between Us. I just received my ARC of Split Second, and I AM SO EXCITED to do a Kasie West book binge. If you’re looking for the perfect Valentines Day author, Kasie should be at the top of your list!

5027236I write YA. I eat Junior Mints. Sometimes I go crazy and do both at the same time. My novels, published through Harper Teen are: PIVOT POINT, its sequel SPLIT SECOND (Feb 2014), and THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US (a contemporary novel). I also have two more contemporaries, ON THE FENCE coming out July 1, 2014, and THE FILL-IN BOYFRIEND coming out the summer of 2015. My agent is the talented and funny Michelle Wolfson.

 

My top 5 books to read during the month of February

February is the month of romance (or so St. Valentine tells me….or is it Cupid?) so it is no surprise that my top five picks to read this month are contemporary romance.

1. THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER by Sarah Dessen

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This book was my introduction to YA contemporary romance. And what an introduction it was. It is amazing. Macy and Wes are the cutest couple ever. It features one of my favorite types of romance too—the slow build. The “I’m going to get to know you through the cutest game of question and answer ever” type! If you don’t get that reference, read this book. Even after now having read many many more contemporaries, it still holds the top spot for me. (This may have something to do with the magic of first-loves but think it’s much more than that)

2. FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

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This book. This book. I wish that was all I had to say about it and it would convince you of how awesome it is. I love it so much. Levi and Cath are another example of the slow build type of romance. They get to know each other through the course of the book and as they do I so do I. And the more I get to know them the more I need them to be together. This book features some swoony scenes where she is reading to him that I love so very much. Because come on, what book lover doesn’t swoon when couples are reading books to each other?

3. ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins

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Foreign country, cute accent, witty banter. I adore this book. I think I read the whole thing with a cheesy smile on my face. Anna and St. Clair are the cutest couple ever. I loved how they were with each other.

4. AMY AND ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR by Morgan Matson

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This is a super cute romance that features the couple—Megan and Joe. Just kidding, as you might suspect from the title. This is a story about Amy and Roger. And lest you think I’ve been a broken record about my slow building romance preference, this has another type of romance I like—the “you bug me so bad and I want to murder you but as I get to know you I realize I may have misjudged you” romance. So maybe they didn’t want to murder each other at first, but they definitely weren’t fans of one another. And that slowly changes as (which the title also suggests) they are forced to travel many miles together in a car. It’s quite epic.

5. EXILE by Kevin Emerson

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So you might kill me because this doesn’t come out until April and really you can’t read it this month. BUT, you can read it next February. Read it before then though, you’re going to want to. It is amazing. Summer and Caleb are adorable. He’s the misunderstood rock star, she’s a ready-to-quit band manager. There’s music and mystery and of course, romance. I love this book.

6. THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US by…oh wait, I’m done with my list? Now I’m just shamelessly self promoting??

I hope you all have a fabulous February filled with lots of romantic reads. And I guess it doesn’t hurt to have some romance in real life too.

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Author Interviews
February 4, 2014 posted by Nichole

2014 YA Hearbreakers Day 4: Katie McGarry

ya valentinesHey everyone! Welcome back to day 4 of the 2014 YA Heartbreakers! Today we are featuring Katie McGarry, author of the Pushing the Limits series. We reviewed Pushing the Limits in 2012 and featured it as our Book of the Month in July, 2012. This is a hugely popular series that I always hear people talking about. If you’re looking for the perfect Valentines Day read, this is definitely a book for you. Read below for a interview with Katie McGarry!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKATIE MCGARRY was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, and reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie would love to hear from her readers. Contact her via her website, katielmcgarry.com, follow her on Twitter @KatieMcGarry, or become a fan on Facebook and Goodreads.

All of your books are contemporary and have powerful romances. How difficult is it to create a believable romance between two fictional characters?

The romance is my favorite part of writing. I love the interactions between the characters and the sparks that are created. Sometimes what’s difficult for me is when I have to introduce conflict to propel the story along. When I have characters like Echo, Noah, Beth, Ryan, Isaiah, and Rachel who already have hurts before the story begins, I have to fight the urge to write happy scene after happy scene. What keeps the reader turning the pages is the conflict and plot.

Who is your favorite YA couple from a different series/book that’s not yours?

I love Ali and Cole from the Alice in Zombieland series.

Who is your favorite couple from one of your own books?

10194514That’s a tough question as it’s like asking which one of my children I love more.

Echo and Noah have a special place in my heart because they were my first published novel.

Beth and Ryan have sentimental value to me as it’s loosely (extremely loosely) based on the first several months of my relationship with my husband.

Isaiah and Rachel just make me happy. Unbelievably happy and I just wanted to squish them together like two cuddly bunnies.

I felt very raw writing Take Me On (May 2014) because the couple, West and Haley, share some of my very deep hurts.

Because of all that, it’s hard to choose.

Do you have any Valentines Day or February traditions?

My husband and I will go out to dinner, but we have a lot of birthdays in that month so we spend most of our time focusing on those. 

What is the most heartbreaking scene that you have personally written?

When Noah has to talk to his brothers at the end of Pushing the Limits—that scene tore my heart out.

I can’t talk about it much, but there is a scene in my upcoming novel, Take Me On, that caused me to weep and just broke me for a 17233800couple of days.

What is the last book that made you cry?

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

What are you currently working on?

I’m finishing up revisions for Take Me On which will be released in May 2014.

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Author Interviews
February 3, 2014 posted by Nichole

2014 YA Heartbreakers Day 3: Katie Sise

ya valentinesHey everyone! Welcome back to day 3 of the 2014 YA Heartbreakers. Today we are hosting Katie Sise, author of The Boyfriend App. I have heard SO MANY good things and feels about The Boyfriend App. Very fitting for Valentines Day! Read below for an interview with Katie.

 

portrait2Katharine’s first novel, The Boyfriend App, was published by HarperCollins Balzer + Bray on April 30, 2013. The Boyfriend App tells the story of a girl who, in order to win a scholarship offered by a secretly-evil global computing corporation, invents an app that makes any boy fall madly in love with her, with chaotic results. The Boyfriend App has received rave reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, and VOYA.

Katharine has a BA in Film, Television and Theater from The University of Notre Dame. She lives in New York City with her family.

 

Can you tell us about your book, THE BOYFRIEND APP, in 10 words or less?
App gets a girl any guy she wants….chaos!
Will there be a companion novel to The Boyfriend App or are you working on anything else atm?
Yes! THE PRETTY APP is coming out next year. I’m very excited. It’s a companion novel told from Blake’s perspective. Since Blake is 9780062195265-198x300the “mean girl” in The Boyfriend App, this one was very interesting to write!
As a contemporary author how important do you think romance is in a YA book?
I gravitate toward books with a romance element, so for me, it’s important. And I love writing romance. But there are certainly incredible YA books out there without it.
Who is your favorite YA couple from a different series/book that’s not yours? 
There are too many! But right now I’m reading The Eve Trilogy by Anna Carey, and I love Eve and Caleb. And who didn’t fall in love with Eleanor and Park this year?
Do you have any Valentines Day/February traditions?
I always call my dad, my mom, and my siblings, and send them cards. We had so much fun on Valentine’s day growing up. And now I celebrate with my husband and my family, too, usually with cards and small gifts.
What YA book would you LOVE to see transformed into a movie?
EVERY DAY by David Levithan
What is the most heartbreaking book that you have read?
NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro

Giveaway:

I have 5 signed stickers to give away to U.S winners. Leave a comment with your email for a chance to win!

Blog Tour
February 2, 2014 posted by Nichole

2014 YA Heartbreakers Day 2: Liz Coley

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Hi everyone! Welcome back to the second day of the 2014 YA Heartbreakers! Today I am very excited to introduce you to Liz Coley, author of Pretty Girl 13. I have to be honest and admit that I still have not read this book. I own it. I can’t wait to read it. But….I have not read it. Today I am featuring Liz Coley for a few different reasons. 1) I have heard a lot of comments and read a lot of reviews that detail how heartbreaking Liz’s writing style is. 2) I just know how heartbreaking this book is going to be. The description and the cover just kill me. I really can’t wait to read it. 3) Finally, I have mad respect for anyone who can write books about kidnapping and psychological damage. I love those types of books, but OMG….they KILL me. The waterworks start up and I just become a total mess. I don’t know how Liz was able to write such a book….but that alone makes her a heartbreaker in my eyes.

4750818Liz Coley writes fiction for teens and for the teen in you.

Her first published work was science fiction short stories, published in Cosmos magazine and several anthologies.

Self-published YA novel Out of Xibalba features a contemporary teenager thrown back to ancient Mayan times.
The story starts when the world ends.

Pretty Girl-13 from HarperCollins will be released in at least ten languages on five continents, in print, ebook, and audiobook.
There are secrets you can’t even tell yourself. 

Liz lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, her teenaged daughter, 18-year-old Tiger the cat, and kittens Pippin and Merry. When she’s not involved in writing-related activities, she can be found sewing, baking, shooting photos, playing tennis, and singing.

Liz loves reading aloud.

The Most Important Book Ever – Jennie by Paul Gallico

To my series of essays about the most influential books in my life, I must add a fifth, which recently came to my attention in a funny way. My agent and I were talking about introducing a pair of kittens to my old cat, and she mentioned that our grown cat could teach the kittens how to be cats. In the same breath as she began to ask, “Have you ever read….” I interrupted with, “Yes! I loved that book610718 so much.” What we were both talking about was Jennie, a novel for children, written in the fifties by Paul Gallico. I first read it about age ten on a trip to visit family in England. I was permanently marked by the reading, more than I appreciated. Many years later when it was out of print, I ordered it from a rare book shop in England for thirty pounds so my kids could enjoy it. I must have lent it to a scoundrel, because when we moved, to my dismay, it was no longer among the books on my shelves. After the recent conversation with my agent, I hopped onto Amazon, which had now been selling used books for several years, and found a copy for six dollars plus shipping. This is a book I must own forever, no matter how many times I have to re-buy it. It’s a heartbreaker in a very special way.

A couple of weeks ago, an author friend quizzed me about my favorite Star Trek and Star Trek Next Generation episodes. The original series episode that immediately leapt to mind (Tribbles aside) was “The Paradise Syndrome,” in which Kirk loses his memory and lives a peaceful, happy life for months with Miramanee, a pseudo-native-American on an unspoiled planet in the path of an asteroid. They fall in love, they marry, and they almost have a child before tragedy strikes and the ship returns for Kirk. My favorite Next Generation episode was “The Inner Light,” in which Picard falls into a coma on board and mentally awakes on the planet Kataan, where people insist he is a man named Kamin. As Picard lives for years on this planet, he falls in love with the woman who calls herself his wife, fathers a girl, watches her grow to adulthood, and learns to play the Ressikan flute. Inevitably, he awakens on board from his 25-minute coma to find the terrible and beautiful memories of the past forty years were caused by a special mental probe of sorts from an extinct people. He retains the ability to play the flute. Every time I hear that piping theme, I cry for the world and the love he knew both for a lifetime and for only twenty-five minutes.

13450398What do these stories have to do with Jennie? In that novel, a young boy named Peter, much neglected by his busy parents, darts away from nanny in front of a carriage and is run over. He awakens as a white kitten, immediately to be tossed out of his London townhouse and onto the cruel streets of London. Adopted by a sweet, knowledgeable tabby named Jennie, he learns how to survive as a homeless stray, travels to Glasgow and back, and blossoms into a big, strong cat under her intense loving care. Eventually he challenges a bully tom cat to a death fight to save Jennie from being “claimed” by him. I won’t spoil the ending. Suffice it to say, this story about someone who escaped a mundane, troubled life and lived an entire lifetime as another before returning. The poignancy of all three of these stories hits the same achy spot in my heart, but I had no idea until I reread it, that for ten-year-old-me, Jennie had been the foundation, the model, the prototype, even the archetype for this kind of heartbreaking, bittersweet story.

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