Friday, June 28, 2013

Novella Review: Magic Dreams by Ilona Andrews (Salute Your Shorts, #4)

Salute Your Shorts is a weekly (ish) feature hosted by Heidi at Bunbury in the Stacks. It highlights and reviews short stories and novellas, both of which don't receive too much attention in the blogosphere. 

Title: Magic Dreams (Kate Daniels, #4.5)

Author: Ilona Andrews

Rating: 5 Stars

I'll admit it: I was not a huge fan of Jim or Dali before Magic Dreams. I thought they were both interesting and endearing characters in their own right and while I sensed chemistry between them, I wasn't too bothered with them as a couple. After all, with Kate and Curran taking center stage, how could your thoughts stray to anyone who wasn't the Beast Lord and his Consort? ;) With Magic Dreams, however, Ilona Andrews gives us an opportunity to see a couple that is completely different to both Kate and Curran or Andrea and Raphael and I loved Dali and Jim all the more for their unique-ness.

While both Kate and Andrea tend to be kick-ass heroines, fighting their way out of tough situations and only complementing the supreme prowess of their partners, Dali's strength lies in her intelligence. After all, she is a half-blind white tiger. Thus, her vulnerability is instantly palpable, making her an endearing character that simply continues to grow on you as the novella wears on. With Magic Dreams, it is up to Dali and her strong magical abilities to save the day - or more accurately, Jim, the jaguar alpha of her pack who she's in love with.

Magic Dreams had its fair share of action, along with a healthy dose of Indonesian mythology thrown in, but what made it the best of all the Kate Daniels novellas for me was simply Dali and Jim. Firstly, their relationship is so different from that of anyother Ilona Andrews romance, which I adored, and their conversations kept me grinning like a fool. Plus, it's always fun when mothers decide to butt into their daughter's love lives and I loved seeing Dali's mother play such an amusing role in this one. Jim, too, is such a different type of hero; equally as attractive as Curran and Raphael, but perhaps less obvious about his feelings.

It was this unlikely romance that utterly won me over, as well as the manner in which Jim tried to convince Dali that she was perfect, exactly the way she was, with or without beauty and fighting prowess. It's nice to know that nerdy girls can get the crazy hot guys too! ;) If nothing else, Magic Dreams has made me want the untitled, unplanned, and oh-so-far-away novel all about Jim and Dali - why can't it just release now? I'm convinced I'll never get tired of Ilona Andrews and I can only hope that they never get tired of making money, because their books to me are like chocolate for desert; rare, deserved, and incredibly worth the wait.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Title: The Mockingbirds (The Mockingbirds, #1) 

Author: Daisy Whitney

Rating: 2 Stars/DNF

Here's the thing about Daisy Whitney's The Mockingbirds - if you aren't invested in the characters and if you aren't a fan of the way this issue is handled, you'll likely not enjoy this book. Now, that isn't to say it's a bad book - at all. In fact, I'm more than a little thrilled that Whitney wrote a book about date rape, set in a boarding school, all with a secret society who takes matters into their own hands. From the surface, it sounds fantastic. When you dig a little deeper and really stop to think about this, though. I can't say I was wholly sold on the idea.

Alex, our protagonist, really is one of those characters you connect with from the beginning itself. Her horror at waking up in a strange boy's bed, at not remembered what happened to her the night before, at realizing she was raped while passed out and's all so frightening and real. Whitney does an amazing job of giving us a character who can't remember her rape, whose act of rape seems almost ambiguous but truly isn't. Yet, though these events are shockingly realistic, Alex herself and her dialogue and conversations with others, from her best friends to her older sister, felt very flat. For me, the main issue stemmed from the fact that the surrounding facts behind this story didn't feel real at all. I was unable to buy into the fact that all the teachers and adults at the prestigious academy Alex attends believe that because they teach highly intelligent and motivated students, bad things cannot happen. I'm sorry, but not even one teacher thought, "Huh, you know, there might be just ONE kid who gets bullied in this school..."?

The Mockingbirds requires this type of suspension of belief, for without the lack of adults in this story, how would we have a secret society on our hands? And still, this society disappoints. The Mockingbirds only operate if/when they've been asked to, which means they don't help people unless they want help. Which I think is ridiculous. If a member of this club saw someone being bullied, they wouldn't be able to actively help them unless that person themselves asked for help. In one way, I almost admire this concept - I love the fact that people have to want to stand up for themselves to be helped and I also love the idea that teens can find strength after horrible events such as rape and bullying without having to rely on adults. Yet, this book was hardly written in that manner; instead, it blatantly forces you to suspend your belief to enjoy it, which is something I find very difficult to do as a reader.

Additionally, the secondary characters in this novel were very flat. Not only did the dialogue seem forced in some parts, but the friendships in this also seemed highly superficial and a bit too perfect. I do think Whitney did an amazing job of portraying the horror and fear that a victim of rape feels - especially the acknowledgment that they suddenly are a victim - but truly, I can't say I enjoyed this book. I went into The Mockingbirds looking for a book that was more about coping with rape than dealing out punishments; a book that was more introspective than a mock trial by teens. I'm sure the idea of The Mockingbirds appeals to many readers and doubtless this book has - and will - resonate with many readers, but my idea of an issue book isn't this. If you go into The Mockingbirds with the right mindset, though, Whitney doesn't fail; on the other hand, she may sometimes disappoint.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook

Title: Heart of Steel (Iron Seas, #2)

Author: Meljean Brook

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Heart of Steel is yet another solid installment by Meljean Brook. From the beginning itself, I knew I was going to love this tale. Archemides Fox, the wily adventurer we met in The Iron Duke, had already captured my attention and the sparks between him and Yasmeen, the headstrong and fierce captain of an airship, promised to be good. And they were. Archemides and Yasmeen are the type of couple who balance one another out perfectly and everything, from their banter to their swash-buckling adventures, was utterly entertaining. Brook writes romances that seem flawed from first glance, full of power imbalances and seemingly impossible personal hurdles, but she makes them work and, best of all, her romances always end with both characters on equal ground - a feat that is, unfortunately, all too rare in romantic fiction these days.

And yet, while Brook constructs plausible romances, her strength lies in her world-building and the slow build-up of her characters. Once again, the world Brook has created stuns us in its scope. Where The Iron Duke revealed one aspect of this universe, Brook only continues to peel back its layers, its history, and its unrelenting secrets. Heart of Steel, as the second novel in this series, contains far less info-dumping that its predecessor did, but thankfully the world-building is just as prevalent. As far as the plot goes, Heart of Steel is more reliant on character development than The Iron Duke was, though both novels contain very well flesh-out characters. As always, these imaginary people come to life, full of their passions and fears and strange dreams.

Yasmeen is a confident heroine, ruled only by her fear to be caged. If Eowyn were given the chance to escape Rohan on an airship, then she'd probably become Yasmeen. Only Yasmeen is far more concerned about money and her ruthlessness and rough past have made her encase her heart in steel. (Hence the title of this novel!) While Yasmeen slowly reveals parts of her past, however, incurring depth over time, Archimedes Fox is a far more transparent character. Fox, sadly, does not have the level of depth that Yasmeen does. Although he manages to capture hearts with his charm, adventurous spirit, and deep understanding of Yasmeen - actually letting her be herself and loving her for that instead of confining her - his narration is sadly composed of many cheesy lines and odes to having his heart broken.

Nevertheless, the worst part of Heart of Steel is undoubtedly its cover and when that's the worst you can say about a book, you know it can't be that bad at all. While I did enjoy The Iron Duke better by the end, despite my rough start with that installment, Heart of Steel is un-put-down-able from the beginning and well-worth the time. Even with that cover making you want to flinch.

Summer Series Reading Challenge: 1

Title: Tethered (Iron Seas, #2.5) 

Author: Meljean Brook

Rating: 3.5 Stars

In many ways, Tethered is a stronger novel than Heart of Steel; there are certainly elements in it that I wish were present in the full-length novel itself. For one, what this novella does a remarkable job of is capturing the tortured essence of Archimedes Fox - a side to him we unfortunately didn't see very much of before. Tethered not only delves deeper into the complex relationship between Yasmeen and Archimedes, one that balances precariously on equality, love, and uncertainty, but also deeper into the hearts of both Yasmeen and Archimedes individually. And, honestly, for me, seeing a side of Archimedes that wasn't entirely understanding and perfect was refreshing. I've yearned for more from his character and was finally given it. Even Yasmeen, who has always seem so well-fleshed-out to me managed to become a character with even more layers to her. Not only do these two make a stunning couple in their deep-seating understanding of each other, but the manner in which they work through their hurdles and respect each other is nothing short of beautiful. Truly, the relationship between Yasmeen and Archimedes only gets better, finally exploring all lingering uncertainties between the two and tackling on problems - together. If there are any flaws with Tethered, it is that the ending is too rushed, flipping quickly through scenes that cause a disconnect between the slow build-up of the plot in the beginning. Nevertheless, despite that, this is yet another entertaining and utterly satisfying installment from Brook. Fans of Archimedes and Yasmeen will not want to miss this one for sure.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Just Another...Book Crush (#5): Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Just Another...Book Crush! is a monthly feature where I invite an author whose book I've recently reviewed and loved to write a guest post and share their three latest book crushes. It's a feature I'm starting mostly because I'm often very shy to approach authors, especially ones I admire, and also because I love reading guest posts since, more often than not, they convince me to pick up a book even when the reviewer cannot. 

Charm & Strange is a debut I've been dying to get my hands on since I first heard about it and despite my high expectations, it didn't disappoint in the least. In fact, I am more than a little bit in awe of Stephanie Kuehn and cannot wait to see what she has up her sleeve for the future. Just take my word for it - this is an author who is going on your auto-buy list for sure and I'm so excited to have her on the blog today!
When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars... Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself. He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost. He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable. Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present. Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.
While I was writing Charm & Strange, I knew I had to be mindful of how I handled the secondary characters in the book. Not only is it a very short novel, but there are dual timelines running throughout the story. This meant I had two casts of characters to manage simultaneously and not a lot of space with which to do that. Clearly, having well-developed secondary characters is important in any story, but for one with this structure, it felt especially crucial that all the characters be distinctive in order for the reader to hold onto who they were as the story shifts through time.

Some specific approaches that I found helpful:

1. If the story is written in the first person, every character that is introduced should have some sort of conflict with the narrator. This conflict can be internal, external, real, imagined, one-sided or reciprocal, but it needs to live and breathe on the page (and it should also be relevant to the story). Having conflict creates both tension and suspense, and it also helps to define secondary characters in ways that are compelling and memorable. Relationships without conflict are easily forgotten.

2. Whenever possible, transform new characters into old characters. I think it’s true that sometimes characters end up in a story simply for plot-related reasons. However, any time one of these roles can be filled by someone who’s already been introduced to the story, doing this will eliminate the distracting mental space and page time it takes to become acquainted with a brand new character. It will also add depth to the character that already exists.

3. This is specific to working with two timelines, but having a sense of dualism between the timelines can be grounding. In Charm & Strange, there’s a triad (the narrator plus two others--one male and one female) in each narrative arc. This triad is symbolic to the story, but its presence also gives added weight and significance to these relationships.

4. Use a secondary character’s backstory to demonstrate something about the main character. Teddy in Charm & Strange is a good example of this. He’s not an important character plot-wise, however he’s mentioned multiple times throughout the book. It’s less what he does, than how the narrator thinks about him that is important. It’s through Win’s resentment of Teddy’s normality (and his apparent anxiety disorder) that we learn more about Win’s own dysfunction. 

Obviously, these are just a few of many, many strategies that can be used to make secondary characters complex and interesting, given the constraints of a small novel and a particular structure. If you have any of your own tips or approaches that you’ve found helpful, please let me know! I’d love to hear them.

Just Another...Book Crush!

These are three very short novels that pack a lot of story and character depth into their pages and prose. Give them a try! 

1. Echo by Kate Morgenroth
2. Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston
3. The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier

Stephanie, thanks so much for stopping by today! I absolutely loved this post, mostly because the secondary characters in this book really are written just the way you advised and it worked so well. Also: I really need to give these short novels a try! I'm so glad that Charm & Strange is finally out, so I hope everyone falls in love with it the way I did! :)

In case you missed it, you can find my review of Charm & Strange HERE.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Series Challenge Kick-Off!

Summer Series Challenge! 
I don't have the time to participate in many reading challenges throughout the year, but summer is my one free time. (Forgetting, of course, my internship and volunteering and what-not...) I have a ton of series I want to tackle, so I'm shooting for at least HALF of these to be completed. Or started. You know how it is.

Series I Want to Finish: 
Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson, #7) by Patricia Briggs
Riveted (Iron Seas, #3) by Meljean Brook
Doublebind, Killbox, Aftermath, Endgame (Sirantha Jax #3-6) by Ann Aguirre
Child of the Prophecy, Heir to Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters, Flame of Sevenwaters (Sevenwaters, #3-6) by Juliet Marillier
The Chocolate Rose (Amour et Chocolat, #3) by Laura Florand

Series I Want to Start & Finish: 
Griffin Mage Trilogy by Rachel Neumeir
Alanna Quartet by Tamora Pierce
Ashbury/Brookfield Series by Jaclyn Moriarty
Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
Ultraviolet Duology by R. J. Anderson
Light Duology by Laura Whitcomb
Ship Breaker Duology by Paolo Bacigalupi

Series I Want to Start:
October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
Jenna Fox Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson
Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K. Host
Women of the Underworld Series by Kelley Armstrong
Monstrumologist Quartet by Rick Yancey
Maze Runner Series by James Dashner
Spiritwalker Trilogy by Kate Elliott
Wildwood Duology by Juliet Marillier
Fairyland Series by Catherynne M. Valente
Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness
Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

It's quite evident that this is an ambitious list. I doubt I'll get to all of these, let alone half, but I want to try. I've mostly put duologies and trilogies up for myself and I know that the series and quartets up here are ones I am dying to get to. And regarding the series I want to start...I just want to start those. I'll hopefully finish those up eventually, but just a start seems good for now. It's also startling that I have so many books to read and this isn't even counting my ARCs or the stand-alones I am DYING to get to. Well, it's called summer for a reason, right? ;) What books are on your summer reading list this year? Even though mine is long, there is always room for more, so I'd love to hear what you're planning to read this summer - let me know in the comments below! :)

Fun Fact: It's my last day of school today, hence the reason summer starts for me only NOW. Exams = Over! :D

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: The Moon & More by Sarah Dessen

Title: The Moon and More

Author: Sarah Dessen

Rating: 3.5 Stars

The Moon and More has a lot to love, but it's very different from a typical Dessen novel. I think, by now, we've all come to expect a certain type of book when we hear the name Sarah Dessen. Obviously contemporary with a heavy dose of character development, beautiful settings, and swoon. Not to mention rich secondary characters and always, always, always growth, if not self-discovery. And it's a formula that works, every time. While I am thrilled that Dessen chose to veer off from her usual this time around, I can't say I wholly enjoyed it. Nevertheless, this is perfect for those who are looking for highly realistic young-adult-on-the-cusp-of-new-adult reads.

Emaline is an easy character to love; motivated, kind, and with a readable narration. While she lives by the beach, helping a family business, making out with her boyfriend Luke, and generally enjoyed life in a small town, she yearns for more. Emaline was conceived when her mother was only a young teen and, consequently, her family is a little different from most. While she has her mother, she also has her dad - who married her mother when Emaline was only three - and two step-sisters. And then, of course, is her father whose contact with her is still recent but already unreliable for he was unable to pay for Emaline's tuition into Columbia and refused to attend her graduation. Needless to say, the relationship between them is strained at best. In the midst of all this, though, Emaline's relationship with Luke isn't heading in the direction she planned and now her father is driving down for the summer as well. All in all, this isn't shaping up to be the summer Emaline imagined...not at all.

As always, Dessen excels in building family relationships. Emaline's relationship with her mother is deep and touching, the kind of bond that takes years to build but is so effectively conveyed by Dessen's writing. Furthermore, Emaline's blooming friendship with her half-brother, Benji, is simply adorable, especially as she helps him to cope with his parents - her father's - divorce. In particular, though, Emaline's relationship with her father is most intriguing. It ends on a very realistic note, bittersweet because of the sad admission that people don't always change and yet the hopeful thought that something strong still does exist between them. And their journey there, their awkward encounters through the summer and the curveball they constantly seem to throw at Emaline, are all so richly explored. Classic Dessen: she never disappoints.

And yet, her most compelling point, the romance, seriously fell flat. For one, it should be known that Emaline and Luke are together only for a short time before they break up and Emaline winds up dating Theo, a NYC student in Colby to film a documentary on Clyde Conaway, a local resident and past artist of great merit. On one hand, I really did like Theo - he was different, cute in a nerdy way and very insecure about himself, unable to really believe that the gorgeous Emaline would date him. At the same time, though, he's quite irritating, a pushover when it comes to listening to his boss and ambitious in a round-about manner. Personally, I was impressed that Dessen created an unlikable love interest. I mean, let's face it: most romances in life don't work out and even if they do, not all of them make you swoon. And yet, I will admit that this set-up didn't make for an interesting read. For one, the plot was slow - as is always with case with Dessen's novels but where the romance picks up when the plot lags, here the romance only slowed it down further - and secondly, Theo was just not a character I could get behind. As readers, we don't really know much about Theo beyond what we see on the surface and he remains that way, oscillating between extremes (insecurity and ambition) and generally failing to charm the crowd.

In addition, there was a lack of depth regarding the secondary characters. Dessen can write beautiful sibling relationships, as she proved with this installment, but I felt as if the bonds between step-sisters was forsaken in this novel in favor of the half-brother relationship Emaline sustained with Benji. Sadly, I know Dessen can write multiple sibling relationships well, as in Just Listen, but that aspect was ignored with her latest. Another issue was the fact that Emaline's father got a lot of limelight and thought in this, but not so much her dad. Cashore's Fire explores a similar father/dad situation, but both these figures are fully realized and their relationship with Fire is as well. The Moon and More lacks that clarity.

Nevertheless, despite the flaws this book had, its messages and themes were incredible. Emaline not only comes into her own, realizing what she wants from life, but she also comes to realize that change and disappointment go hand-in-hand with every walk of life. In this summer leading up to her first year as a college student, she grows immensely and in important ways, which was a nice change from the naive heroines whose growth seems so obvious. All in all, despite my qualms with this one, The Moon and More is a solid read and a Dessen novel I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Only, really, The Truth About Forever and Just Listen are her best and probably will always remain that way.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

One Year Blogoversary Giveaway!

One. Year. Holy. Crap. 

Can you believe it? I can't. In all honesty, this has been the hardest year of my life. Junior Year in America is no walk in the park. I've had Major Life Changing Exams every month and have been taking ridiculously hard classes I now regret taking and in the midst of all that I've been blogging. Seriously, it's thanks to you all that I am sane and even made it through the year. Every comment, every conversation, every kind word - it all made my day and, really, my year. I can't wait to have many, many more blogoversaries in the future and make even more amazing friends.

If you want to get to the giveaway, just scroll below. Otherwise, stick around while I embarrass the heck out of you and thank all of you amazing people (in no particular order) for making my past year online absolutely amazing! :D

HUGE thank you's to...

Inge for encouraging me to start my own blog. I wouldn't be here without you! Also, thank you for your loooong e-mails that make my day and your fabulous Tom Felton GIFs that bring a smile to my face every time! ;)

Aneeqah for being the very person person to comment on my blog and one of my most faithful followers still.

Sam, Rachel, Olivia, Jenny, Wendy, Rey, Melissa, Asheley, TanjaHeather and Amanda for their wonderful comments!

Steph Su for encouraging me to read Jessica Darling - which I then proceeded to absolutely LOVE. Also, thanks to Sarah for forcing me to read that series as well, not to mention many others. I also love your podcasts. A lot.

Jasprit for all our crazy read-alongs, your sweet comments and your continued friendship.

Lauren for our great e-mail conversations and ongoing discussions. I would have probably gone crazy if I couldn't shoot an e-mail to you, Lauren, while reading CP2. ;)

Heidi for the numerous recommendations, beautiful reviews that I always look forward to, fantastic read-alongs, and wonderful conversations. You're amazing. I hope you know that.

Maja for my staggering TBR-Pile, for introducing me to every UF Series I currently read, for oozing passion in your reviews so I'm convinced to pick them up, and for all our great book discussions. I love your writing style and I really hope you'll write a book one day. I'll buy it. Promise.

Mandee for being one of the nicest people in the world. Seriously, Mandee has a heart made of gold and she is generous beyond words. Thank you, dear, for not only our book swap (and all the other books you've sent me), but for our conversations and your lovely comments.

Savindi for all of our long e-mails on everything from One Republic and The Script to David Gandy. Also, thanks for letting me know about all the giveaways out there (and helping me win) and for your insight on college and books, especially The Raven Boys

Flannery & Catie from The Readventurer for being incredibly awesome in their own right. Flann for sending me The Bitter Kingdom (I know you said it wasn't a big deal, but it TOTALLY WAS for me) and for tweeting me and writing me the sweetest comments; Catie for all the fabulous reviews that have pointed me towards some amazing books and for our Blue Sword read-along - thanks to you I wasn't the only one who disliked that one. Also, thanks for giving me the opportunity to guest post on your blog, ladies! :D

And last, but never least, Kailia, my long-lost-twin-sister. We're both Indian. We both love Kristin Cashore. And pretty much every other book we both enjoy is the same too. Nearly all our ratings match up and basically, you're just fantastic. Thanks for all the amazing twitter conversations. You inspire me to blog since you actually read my blog, so I always know that at least one person is reading my posts every day. Congrats on graduating and I can't wait to meet you this summer!(:

If I forgot anyone, please forgive me and shoot me an e-mail. I will reply with an ode to how incredible you are and what an idiot I am for forgetting you. Also, I'd like to thank ALL of my followers, readers, commentors, and subscribers - you're all fantastic and that feeling of happiness that comes from seeing that someone else is reading my blog or from finding a comment from someone new or from just seeing my page view increase never ceases to make me happiest. All of you have supported me this year, so thank you! :)

International Giveaway! 
Enough sentimentality, let me let you all win some books! I'm giving away ONE book from the following list - a list of my most anticipated reads for the upcoming year - to one lucky winner INTERNATIONALLY. If I reach 1000 followers (at least 750 on Bloglovin'), I will give away THREE books to three respective winners. I don't expect to reach that many followers, hence the reason I'm being so generous, but if you like my blog then do spread the word. Also, sorry for the continued terrible button and header. I need to change those this summer...

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, June 16, 2013

AudioBook Review: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: A Northern Light 

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Read By: Hope Davis

Rating: 5 Stars

A Northern Light is one of those books you come across every few years; the type of novel that buries itself in your heart from the first page and simply lingers in your thoughts for days, weeks, and even months afterward. Although I've probably read at least two books and three novellas since I set this story down, it has still been in the forefront of my thoughts. I will likely tell my parents to yell at Jennifer Donnelly if they want someone to blame for my bad grades and sleepless nights. After all, how could I have done anything with my life until I knew what happened in Mattie's? And now how can I possible continue do anything without her voice by my side? It's the cruelest kind of paradox, one that only arrives when you love a protagonist as much as this one. Without a doubt, A Northern Light is very possibly the best book I've read - and will read - this year.

Prior to having read A Northern Light, the only Donnelly novel I'd read was Revolution, which made me sit up till 3 AM wracked with sobs while I finished the book. Now, let me tell you, that was not a fun reading experience. I had swollen cheeks, red eyes, and an aching heart by the end of it. Needless to say, I more-or-less swore off of Donnelly after that. Any author whose words had that type of power over me was dangerous. Quite thankfully, though, a lovely review convinced me to pick this one up and I'm so very glad I did. A Northern Light is a quiet, unassuming sort of tale, one that is filled with courage and strength and hope instead of despair and death and loss. It isn't always a happy story, but it is a truthful one; it never glosses over the harsh realities of life, especially for women of the time, and it faithfully empowers women in a manner that is never overbearing, merely subtle.

Donnelly's A Northern Light is told cleverly with two timelines neatly converging into one, creating an ending that is both satisfying and powerful. When the novel begins, the body of a drowned woman, Grace Brown, is found near the inn where Mattie works. Shortly before leaving for her boat ride, Grace gave Mattie a bundle of letters to burn, but just hours later, Grace herself is found dead. Mattie, suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her death, begins to read the letters Grace gave her. As the contents of these letters are slowly revealed, so is Mattie. For every present-day chapter there are even more chapters from the past, not only detailing Mattie's journey but also showing who she really is.

Mattie's story takes place in the early 1900s, a time when women were expected to run a household and raise a family. Mattie, however, yearns to attend college, despite the fact that her mother recently died and her father needs her help on their farm. Although there are many other responsibilities Mattie has, from the beginning itself it is hard not to root for her. After all, this is a protagonist whose love for language pushes her to learn a new word from the dictionary everyday. And though I regard A Northern Light to be a tale that empowers women and celebrates feminism, Mattie herself is no Alice Paul. Instead, what makes her such an endearing and unforgettable protagonist are, first and foremost, her passions and secondly, her own inner battles. While society pushes Mattie towards a life of love and comfort in a house with children, her own heart begins to push her that way too, which makes the decision to chase her dream that much more difficult.

All the more, Mattie is not a perfect character. Although one of her best friends is an African American boy who is on his way to Columbia, Mattie doesn’t always treat her own family properly. In fact, these family dynamics are what make the novel so fascinating, what make us keep flipping these pages frantically. Will Mattie convince her father to allow her to go to college? Can the inspirational teacher Mattie had help her in this endeavor? Is Mattie really going to be tied down to her small town by a promise she once made to her dying mother? In such a subtle manner, Donnelly uses Mattie’s life to build her era. Instead of paragraphs of bland information, Mattie’s society is build around her and stems from her perceptions, making this the best kind of historical fiction there is – the kind that doesn’t feel like fiction at all.

In all honesty, though, I can keep prattling on about this book for days if you’d allow me. Mattie is such a vivacious, strong, and courageous character that her story captures you from the beginning. You yearn for her to fulfill her dreams, for her to realize her true calling in life and pursue it despite what others may say. You begin to pray that she will somehow escape her small town and farm life. You keep the book aside and tie your hands behind your back because you don’t want to know what happens even though you really do, but you’re so very scared of the outcome. You begin to hope feverishly that her love for her family will not cause her to disregard her love for words; that she will finally gain the opportunity to do what she wants to do. It’s a beautiful book, the kind you’ll always carry around with you – in your heart.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Series Review: Amour et Chocolat by Laura Florand (#1 & 2)

I recently discovered this series, full of Paris and chocolate and sexy French men. What's not to love? I simply adored the first book and the second wasn't too bad either, so I cannot wait to continue this series and share my love of it with others! Bon Apetit! 

Title: The Chocolate Thief (Amour et Chocolat, #1) 

Author: Laura Florand 

Rating: 4 Stars

HOLY HOTNESS. I picked up The Chocolate Thief while taking a quick study break, but I didn't set it back down until I had devoured the entire novel. Frankly speaking, I am surprised no one has tried this combination before: chocolate and romance, all set against the backdrop of Paris? What's NOT to love? Although its cover just screams chick-lit, The Chocolate Thief is quite thankfully a little more sensual and deeper than that. While it may lack the depth most readers - including myself - crave, Sylvain it captured me heart and soul. (And made my parents turn their nose up and the number of chocolate wrappers strewn around my bed, not to mention the discarded textbooks on my desk, but no matter. Sylvain Marquis is worth it. *melts*) 

What makes The Chocolate Thief so unique and different from all other romances out there is, quite simply, the presence of chocolate. Cade Corey heads out to Paris to fulfill a childhood dream of introducing a sophisticated European line of chocolate into her multimillionaire dollar family-owned company. Corey Bars are all the rage in America, but in Paris, Cade is unable to find a single chocolatier willing to join her on her venture and have their name stamped on her chocolates. Sylvain Marquis, rated the best chocolatier in Paris, is the first person Cade approaches - and is rudely refused by. But neither Sylvain nor Cade can get each other out of their head and their accidental meetings only increase the unspoken sexual tension between them. Until, that is, Cade breaks into Sylvain's store and, overnight, becomes the chocolate thief...and potentially the thief of his heart as well. 

Where do I start with this romantic masterpiece? For one, there is something so beautiful about the French language and culture. I may sit bored out of my mind in French class every week, but that can be blamed on my ninety+ instructor and her strange immunity to old-age ailments that keeps her hired. Yet, French truly is the language of romance and the city is bursting with life - all of which is so palpably felt through this love story. We witness the unfolding of this romance through the alternating third-person perspectives of both Sylvain and Cade which enables us to witness their misunderstanding and understand both their point of views. Although Sylvain comes across as a rude snob at first, we see his hidden layers and insecurities as the novel wears on. Cade, too, becomes much more self-actualized from the corporate businesswoman she appears to be as she embarks on a subtle, but significant, journey of self-realization. Moreover, I found myself appreciating the attention given to Cade's wealthy status. Granted, there could have been a more in-depth analysis of so much in the lives of these two, but it maintained a steady balance between romance and depth which worked out surprisingly well.

And yet, perhaps the reason I am so forgiving of the minimal depth in this novel is because the sexual tension fries your brain. I never thought it was possible to become so hot and bothered by reading about the process of making chocolate, but with Sylvain Marquis (and his hands!) making the chocolate, it is guaranteed. Furthermore, the biting remarks and witty banter between these two only added to the aura of the novel, making it melt my heart and turn my feet to jelly. It may not seem like the type of novel capable of such feats, but it is. Unfortunately, after the first-half, the novel seemed to lose a bit of its charm with the back-and-forth insecurities of both Cade and Sylvain, neither of them knowing how to define their relationship or its future. Nevertheless, despite that small qualm, The Chocolate Thief is one of the most gripping, witty, and steamy romantic novels I have read in a really long time. It ends wrapped up quite nicely and the uncovering of the true Sylvain and Cade beneath their sexy personas is deftly written. Not only do these characters mold their way into your heart, but antics of the thievery in this book will keep you grinning and swooning in equal parts. If there is but one major flaw with the novel, it lies in its ability to make you crave chocolate, Paris, and a smoldering chocolatier of your own. Anyone know where I can order one?

Title: The Chocolate Kiss (Amour et Chocolat, #2) 

Author: Laura Florand 

Rating: 3 Stars

I sat up till 1 AM with The Chocolate Kiss, waiting for the moment when the magic of The Chocolate Thief would be re-captured, but to no avail. I fell asleep with my lights on, dreaming of witches and chocolates and pastries and Sylvain Marquis...not Philippe Lyonnais. Needless to say, that would make him rather upset, I imagine, but he had tough competition. As a companion novel to The Chocolate Thief, this installment of cute chick-lit romance is adorable and charming, but it failed to make me swoon and sigh the way its predecessor did. And yet, these few hours spent delightfully in Paris, in the safe alcove of Île Saint-Louis is worth it. 

The Chocolate Kiss reminds me a little bit of my favorite movie "You've Got Mail" - only not quite as good. Magalie and her two aunts are the owners of La Maison des Sorcieres, a chocolate store known for its vivid decorations, warm atmosphere, and magic hot chocolate that can grant wishes and change people. When Philippe Lyonnais, undoubtedly the best pastry chef in Paris, decides to move in close-by, Magalie refuses to stand for it. While her encounter with Philippe fails to get him to move elsewhere, it does make him insta-charmed by her and begins a feud between the two, with Philippe enticing Magalie to try his pastries and vice versa. And yet, Magalie's seemingly childish insistence to stay away from Philippe when he so obviously is smitten by her hides a darker truth of her past - one that only the most faithful chocolate kiss can help heal. 

Like its predecessor, The Chocolate Kiss starts out promising enough, introducing us to Magalie and Philippe, both strong and independent characters in their own right. Although their initial feud begins when Philippe takes great offense that Magalie could possibly refuse one of his famous pastries, it soon develops into a war neither of them want to be the first to succumb to. And yet, as their sexual tension builds, they so badly do. Increasingly entertaining though it may have been, this "war" between Magalie and Philippe is carried on for too long until eventually, the reader is simply yelling at these two to give in already because how many times has this same scene of offer-and-refusal occurred? Once this aspect of the novel is finally complete, though, well over half-way through the book, the story takes on a much more serious note, exploring Magalie's insecurities and past troubles. It was this part of the story that captured me - the gentle and caring way that Philippe convinced Magalie that he was there to stay, the understanding gestures that signified he loved her despite her flaws, and especially the depth given to Magalie and Philippe's romance. While The Chocolate Thief dealt more with an issue of Cade and what she wanted from life, lending to a slightly lighter dilemma, this novel goes on a darker path, but finishes out just as strong. 

And yet, The Chocolate Kiss was missing a few vital ingredients. For one, the dialogue at times could be rather head-ache-inducing. Although all the talk of princesses in towers and beasts and princes and witches and paupers was charming, it grated on me after awhile and, frankly, I didn't need those metaphors beat over my head paragraph-after-paragraph. Additionally, Philippe is a much more dominating male figure than Sylvain is, which may please some readers but it made me wince and squirm - not in a good way. With The Chocolate Thief, Florand was able to create an important balance, showing us how flummoxed Sylvain could be when an idea backfired on him, making him come across as a jerk when really he had well-meaning intentions. In this manner, through his eyes, we fell in love with him and actively wanted him for Cade. The Chocolate Kiss doesn't give us nearly as many moments into Philippe's head - and it should. From Magalie's perspective, he comes across as a complete arrogant jerk at times, which makes it difficult to like him. Even though we do eventually learn that his actions were well-meant, they were too dominating for me to fall for him in the swoon-worthy manner chick-lit novels like this one promise. Nevertheless, The Chocolate Kiss was worth the stress-free hours I spent with it, despite my growling stomach by the end. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

Title: When You Were Here

Author: Daisy Whitney

Rating: 4 Stars

As far as Young Adult - and New Adult - is concerned, When You Were Here has so much to offer. Whitney has broken free of the constraints these two genres seem to impale and created a novel that, really, has so much to love. From the beginning itself, the grief of Danny, our narrator, is so palpable. Not only has Danny's mother recently passed away after a long, five-year battle with cancer, but his father was killed in a car crash years back and he is now alone. With graduation looming around the corner, Danny is reminded of his mother - and her loss - even more, especially as his graduation was what she lived for. And ultimately couldn't see. Now, Danny is simply seeking answers, both of his mother's life and his own. Quite simply, Danny cannot understand how his mother, who was dying, could be so happy when he, well and truly alive, cannot be.

And this is such a beautiful idea to explore. I feel as if life is always throwing us curves, testing us to our limits, and this question, this unattainable answer of happiness, is forever crossing our minds. Or at least mind, at any rate. As such, to see Danny attempt to answer this in his own way, on a trip to Tokyo, the city he loves, was a truly beautiful journey. Danny is grieving, he is sarcastic, he is in pain, and yet he is curious and his love for Tokyo and its culture and lifestyle is so palpable. Everything about the setting of this novel, including the people Danny meets there who soon become his friends, are so vividly written and portrayed. Whitney's characters are fleshed out and solid, the type of people who have flaws and are still loved. And they all have their back stories, their pasts, their problems. And they're all still sticking it out, each day at a time.

For me, this is where my issues with this novel begin to emerge. While I appreciate the efforts Whitney took in creating such stark and realistic characters, I do feel as if our exposure to them was too minimal. Danny's sister, for instance, who is adopted shares a gripping story of her own growth and acceptance into finding herself in her Chinese roots. Clearly, while this is important to Danny, that importance is never felt to the reader for her screen time is so short. Even the characters who did play a greater role, such as Kana, the Japanese girl Danny befriends, remain static upon the page because, despite their depth and impact on Danny, their influence is never fully felt emotionally.

And yet, When You Were Here does have its emotional moments. Danny himself undergoes a slow, creeping growth that, though concluding in a neat epiphany, was very well-written. Holland, though, had the story that drew me in the deepest. Danny has had a massive crush on Holland, his neighbor and the daughter of his mother's best friend, ever since he was young. With carefully timed flashbacks and present-day scenes, their love story is built up, from its nascence to its sudden end. Surprisingly, though, the romance is subtle, never resorting to meaningless drama and proving to be rather poignant overall. Even the sex scenes - the few of them that lie in this book - are awkward and realistic, making me adore this novel for the places it was willing to go and the boundaries it was willing to climb over.

Still, the fact remains that, in the end, When You Were Here didn't do a whole lot for me. It was a quick and memorable read, one that managed to pack a punch in its short pages, but sadly not enough of a punch. Whitney's novel has been compared to Forman's Where She Went and while I believe that fans of Forman will find much to love in Whitney's latest, the two novels are vastly dissimilar. Where Forman's work is marketed as a romance, proving to be an in-depth analysis on a young man as he comes to terms with himself and his life, Whitney's novel is really about a young man...and so many more people too. Danny's story was not the all-consuming emotional investment I expected it to be. Granted, it's a lovely book, full of tales that will likely influence many readers, but it didn't do much for me simply because I wanted more from it. And the fault most definitely lies with me - I am not an easy reader to please. On that count, When You Were Here is a beautiful edition to your shelves (LOOK at that cover!) and a touching novel with unforgettable characters. Just don't expect too much from it and it will likely deliver the full impact you want it to.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mini-Reviews: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey & Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Title: The 5th Wave

Author: Rick Yancey

Rating: DNF/2 Stars

I didn't finish The 5th Wave, but not for lack of trying, mind you. I picked this book up with great excitement, determined to love it, and while the initial chapters were delightfully creepy, as were the opening and closing lines of the consequent chapters, the middle was disastrously boring. And I hear this gets better, but I can't read this anymore. And I honestly feel terrible for saying that, especially when I make a conscious effort to read at least half of a novel before I DNF, but after a hundred pages, I simply could not turn another page.

First and foremost, if you haven't read The 5th Wave already, then please go sample the first few chapters. If the writing style works for you, then, by all means, run out and buy this book. I guarantee you will love it. On the other hand, if, like me, you're struggling to keep reading, then do yourself a favor and drop the book at once. For me, Yancey's writing style was far too tedious for me to keep up with. And I don't mean tedious in the Dickensonian sense where he writes and writes and writes. It is tedious merely because the bulk of it is composed of flashbacks when all you're truly wondering is what is going on right now. Furthermore, there is just so much extraneous information. I feel as if Yancey was trying so desperately to help us build a bond with Cassie, the main character, but all that information didn't solidify anything. Instead, what really made me like Cassie were the one-liners on morality and how humanity had changed so much since the alien invasion. And, this is a little late, but if you didn't know, this book is about an alien invasion. Actually, I lied. It's about survival and humanity - which is far more interesting - but the way this book is written just makes it come across as dull.

And, really, that is my only complaint. Okay, scratch that, it's not. I didn't actually get to the romance aspect of this novel, but I know I wouldn't have liked it because I predicted it from the start and I (a) hate when I predict events in a book and (b) it was a very cliched, coincidentally convenient, and over-done romance trope. As a character, Cassie has little to offer and the detailed re-telling of her past life did little to move me. While I cannot deny that Yancey is bursting with creativity, his idea for an alien invasion one that is absolutely stunning, it is also poorly executed. I love that there is no black and white in this book, that so much of its strength lies in that exploration of the gray area that reveals the stubbornness but also the cruelty of humanity, but without a solid story to fall back on, the philosophy in this novel was lost on me. While I won't be continuing this series, I am still excited to pick up Yancey's debut trilogy in this hopes I have more success with it than I did this latest installment.

Title: Fall for Anything

Author: Courtney Summers

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Please, please don't make me talk about this one. I can't. Fall for Anything is the type of contemporary grief novel I have been clamoring for; the type of book that is a mere snippet of time. It sucks you in from the first page and leaves you just as easily suspended at the last. Fall for Anything unflinchingly leaves no answers. It explores suicide in a manner that is painfully striking; one that reminds us all that there is no answer to this type of death. And even more startling than that, there is many a time no answer to life or the actions we take. Each of the characters in this book are boldly drawn, in lines that leave them full and developed, but obscure like a stranger we may meet as well. We see them, we feel them, we watch their transformations and even understand some of their actions, but not all of them. Never all of them.

Fall for Anything almost seems like a photograph, achingly familiar and not at the same time. Eddie, with all her real, honest, and life-like characteristics is almost painful to read about, her narration ringing true with the parts of our own selves we find hard to label and distinguish. Even the glimpses of grief that reverberated within the other characters in this novel were striking. Fall for Anything is not the fist-in-the-mouth type of read that Summers usually delivers, but this quieter, more achier kind of novel with the whispers of the past and echoes of unanswered questions is gripping in its own light. Fall for Anything is not for everyone and the lack of answers will likely frustrate many, but for those who hunt for ambiguous endings, even in the dark, this will leave you hollow.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

Title: The Iron Duke (Iron Seas, #1)

Author: Meljean Brook

Rating: 4 Stars

First and foremost, I have a confession to make: I only read half of this book via audio book before switching to a physical copy. Now, to quickly clarify, the audio for The Iron Duke is phenomenal. Its narrator is engaging, builds the atmosphere of this world perfectly, and manages to touch upon a few different voices as well. Yet, for a reader like me who is recently immersing herself in the world of audio books, this was tough to follow, full of intricate world-building details that I would have loved to pore over and think about with a physical book but had to struggle to comprehend with an audio book. Thus, I wouldn't recommend the audio version of this unless you are used to audio books of all genres and varieties.

Now, that being said, it's safe to say I'm practically in love with this Kraken-invested world and sexy book that just oozes with intelligence, politics, and murder. Seriously, Meljean Brook might as well have written this just for me. Not only is The Iron Duke an excellent example of real steampunk, complete with gadgets and rich in world-building, but it is also a steamy romance that managed to capture my heart, despite its unsteady beginning. I'd much rather avoid going into the intricate details of the world, mostly because I don't want to have to take the time to describe it and partly because discovering it is what makes this novel such a delight, but I will say that our world isn't the same. The Horde is a deadly group that was destroyed by the Iron Duke years ago, but not before they controlled the emotions of the people and raped many women, giving them bastard children. Mina Wentworth, female detective and kick-ass heroine extraordinaire, is one of these children and cannot escape her features or the sneers that follow her. When a man falls from an airship, only to lie dead in the mansion of the Iron Duke, Mina slowly uncovers the beginnings of a conspiracy - one that spell the return of the Horde.

When Rhys, the Iron Duke and hero of the world, first sees Mina, he instantly wants to possess her. As an alpha male with a capital A, it seemed as if Rhys and I were doomed to clash, but thankfully, Mina saves the day - on more than one occasion. Mina can hardly believe that Rhys genuinely wants her, a woman who is rejected by all of society, but instead of falling into his bed, she keeps her distance and isn't afraid to get out her pistol when she needs to. Folks, I effing love Mina. If I had to pick one heroine to make my sister, I'd pick Mina. Not only is she strong and fearless, but her quick mind and sharp wit make her banter with Rhys a delight, not to mention their discussion of politics. In solving the murder mystery at hand, Mina doesn't disappoint, keeping her mind focused on her mission despite the steamy romance that brews on the side. Admittedly, after his initial appearances, Rhys had a long way to win my heart, but he quickly came to admire Mina and fall for her mind, not just her body. Although he could be pushy initially, he quickly understood that the key to Mina's heart was not forcing her and he listened when she said no - all factors that slowly, slowly made me fall for him as our hero. Additionally, though Rhys's PoV is sparse, it appears at the perfect times, giving us an ideal insight into his actions and good intentions. As a self-made hero, one who emerged from the ashes of slavery, Rhys still doesn't have a good excuse for being an ass in the beginning of this novel, but as he grows and changes, so do our feelings for him.

Not to be outdone, though, the secondary characters in this novel are just as entertaining. In fact, I am itching to get my hands on the sequel because of my love for two of them, not to mention their swash-buckling pirate adventures, complete with zombies. Honestly, The Iron Duke has everything you can think of - and more. It has my favorite kind of slow, steady, and steamy romance, all pushed into a wide backseat to give room for the adventure at hand. Although the beginning of this novel can be tough to get into at first, mostly because of the thorough immersion into a new world, it is utterly worth it since, before long, it's practically impossible to think that Mina's world is not as real as your own. And Mina! Mina, Mina, Mina. Just read this book for her. Very rarely do I come across kick-ass heroines whose strengths lie in their inner courage, outward strength, and sharp mind, but Mina hits all those boxes and creates more of her own. If Meljean Brook's other novels are anything like this one, then it's safe to say she's made a fan out of me.

Title: Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City (Iron Seas, #1.5) 

Author: Meljean Brook

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Gosh, this had me squealing like the fan girl I seem to have become overnight. Or rather over just a few daylight hours of reading. No matter. Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City is a novella, though not too short thankfully, that details the marriage of Mina and Rhys alongside the everyday troubles they face. Honestly, I love reading about the long haul to make a marriage work just as much as I love reading about the journey to finding "The One" and although this book doesn't necessarily outline problems in Mina's marriage - because it's kind of perfect and lovely, really - it does address the issue of Rhys's constant worry over Mina and protectiveness. What I loved about it, in particular, is that Rhys never contains Mina. Not only does he allow her to keep her position - and her title of Inspector Wentworth - but he respects and takes pride in her occupation. Gone is the Rhys who, for a short while, reminded me of Christian Grey. No, this Rhys is kind and caring and understanding and he allows - and loves - that his wife is fiercely independent. We also get to see more of Anne, the small tinker girl Mina befriends, in this novel and I really loved how everything came together, both with the murder mystery and with them as a family. All in all, not a necessary novella, but an engaging and entertaining one that all fans of Mina and Rhys will want to get their hands on.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Showcase Sunday (#25)

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Vicki at Books, Biscuits and Tea. Its aim is to showcase our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders this week.

For Review: 
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A huge thanks to Bloomsbury USA for sending this to me in the mail this week! I can't wait to start and have heard some fantastic things about it! :)
Elizabeth Wein. Enough said. ;)
I recently read - and enjoyed - Whitney's When You Were Here, so I'm looking forward to this one. Even though the romance-centric cover isn't my favorite, the book sounds adorable!
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Doller proved to be an author to watch out for with her debut last year and with all the raving reviews of this novel, I'm confident I'll love it. I definitely cannot wait to get to this one.
Sales was an author I initially dismissed - until I read her debut and wound up loving it. I'm very excited to read this one as well and hope it surprises me in a similar - and good - way. :)
Torn by David Massey
I feel like this is one that has fallen under the radar, but it's out in August and I can't wait to read it. I love war stories and since this is written by an Australian author, I'm very excited to read it. Also, the cover is gorgeous, so a HUGE thank you to Scholastic for sending me this in the mail! (It just came yesterday, as a matter of fact!)

Flannery from The Readventurer is my guardian angel. Even though she doesn't know it yet. Seriously. Flann sent me Life in Outer Space as part of the blog tour we were part of, but she also sent me an ARC of The Bitter Kingdom that I have been dying for. So yes, she's my guardian angel. Or just an angel - that works too. THANKS FLANN! :D
If you're a fan of nerdy romances and romantic comedies, you will LOVE this. It's fantastic, so a huge thank you to Mandee at Vegan YA Nerds for allowing me to be part of the blog tour for this one! :)
Um, the best trilogy conclusion ever? I think yes. Also, one word: HECTOR!

I've been dying to read this ever since the cover was revealed, but the fact that it is Australian made it so hard to find. I was lucky enough to snag a copy from my librarian who ordered two my accident and now I can't wait to read it. Although it has received mixed reviews so far - mostly good - I have a feeling I'll love this one. At least, I hope so!

I read Held's debut, Silver, last year and really enjoyed it. It was, after all, about werewolves. I had no idea there was a sequel, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover this in my library's e-library catalog. I hope it's as good as the first book is. 
My first Whitney novel and while I enjoyed this, I wasn't blown away. I love the cover, but am glad I didn't invest in it after all. Still, a solid read. 
I picked up Grimspace, the first book in this series, awhile back and finally read it recently. I loved it, but this one wasn't as impressive. I'll hopefully check out Book 3 soon and enjoy it a bit more.
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The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
I'm not a Dessen fan and, having only read two of her books, I can say that - for me at least - her characters need to be similar to me in some way for me to like them. I tried Dessen for years and never enjoyed her works, but I've discovered a couple that I love and I hope this will be one of them too. It sounds great!
Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder
I haven't read anything by this author who is so, so famous, so I really just must. I'm hoping I like it!
The Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett
A novel that isn't very well-known, but one that sounds really good - though scary. I'm looking forward to this.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King
I've been meaning to read this book for months - it's been #1 on my TBR List - but I'm finally only getting to it now. I hope it's as good as the hype promises!
I recently finished this one and though I liked it, I wasn't impressed.
I'm hoping this novel by Howell is more of what the hype promises!
Wiess is both an author that is popular and not. Either people seem to have read all her books or have no idea who she is. I'm very curious to give her novels a try, though, especially with their gorgeous covers!
Foxlee is the author of The Midnight Dress which is releasing later this year. I'm very excited about it, but I decided to give her a debut a shot first. Especially since Markus Zusak blurbed it and his work is pure perfection.
I really love the cover of this one and though it is rather unknown, being an Aussie title, it sounds really good. Very excited about this one.
A verse novel set in WWII. I'm usually not one for verse novels, but I saw this on a recent CEFS podcast and couldn't resist giving it a try. Seriously, these ladies have yet to lead me astray!
Another verse novel, but this is about India. How could I resist a book about my own country? Especially with so few of them out there in YA.

I really enjoy Kleypas, especially her historical romances, and her audio books are narrated extremely well. Smooth Talking Stranger is the first contemporary Kleypas I listened to and I continue to be impressed. Very highly recommended for romance fans.
I think this is the best book I've read all year. I loved it and the narrator was amazing. Honestly, listening to this is an incredible experience. Very, very, very highly recommended. (And a HUGE thank you to Sarah @ CEFS for writing an incredible review that finally forced me pick this one up!)

Phew, what a haul! Now that summer is near - which means my school is ALMOST over - I have more time to spend in the library. I'll be going in another week or two to get another huge haul, so I can't wait! :) What did you get this week? Link me up! :D

Also, don't forget to enter my giveaway for a hardcover of Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn!