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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing September 30-October 6

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing in the current month so we can all check them out!
NEW October giveaway! This month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.) Enter by linking your reviews or commenting on other people's linked reviews. 

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA. Please let me know about books I might have missed. Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Queen of Zombie Hearts Paris Mysteries Girl on a Wire Lies We Tell Ourselves
The Queen of Zombie Hearts (White Rabbit Chronicles #3) by Gena Showalter (Harlequin)
The Paris Mysteries (Confessions #3) by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Little, Brown)
Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond (Skyscape)
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley (Harlequin)

Beauty of the Broken Invisible Sacrifice
Beauty of the Broken by Tawni Walters (Simon Pulse)
Invisible (Twixt #2) by Dawn Metcalf (Harlequin)
Sacrifice (Elemental #5) by Brigid Kemmerer (Kensington)

Wicked Path Witchrise Perfectly Good White Boy
Wicked Path (Daath Chronicles #2) by Eliza Tilton (Curiosity Quills)
Witchrise (Tudor Witch Trilogy #3) by Victoria Lamb (Harlequin)
Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian (Carolrhoda)

Schizo Belzhar My Brother's Keeper
Schizo by Nic Sheff (Philomel)
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer (Dutton)
My Brother's Keeper by Tom and Tony Bradman

Party Games Complete Nothing Famous Last Words
Party Games by R.L. Stine (St. Martin's Griffin)
Complete Nothing (True Love #2) by Kieran Scott (Simon & Schuster)
Famous Last Words by Katie Alender (Point)

Unmarked Winterspell Love is the Drug
Unmarked (Legion #2) by Kami Garcia (Little, Brown)
Winterspell by Claire LeGrand (Simon & Schuster)
Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Scholastic)

Dead Zone Fire Fall The Only Thing to Fear
Dead Zone (Blackout #2) by Robison Wells (Harper)
Fire Fall (Dark Star #3) by Bethany Frenette (Disney-Hyperion)
The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond (Scholastic)
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Mini-Reviews: Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez and The Fall by Bethany Griffin

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October is the month for scary books, and I'm happy about that! I recently read two books designed to get your heart pounding. Both were by authors whose work I've enjoyed. One was pitched as a thriller, and the other is a retelling of an Edgar Allan Poe short story...

Kiss Kill Vanish
by Jessica Martinez

To be published 
on October 7, 2014
by Katherine Tegen Books 

Source: e-ARC from the publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind. She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real. She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.
My take:  I'm a big fan of Jessica Martinez. I loved her first book, Virtuosity. But I felt that Kiss Kill Vanish was a book which, like its main character, seemed to be suffering from an identity crisis. The synopsis leads you to believe that this book is a fast-paced, dark thriller. I'd call it a contemplative, noir-ish story of girl who learns some pretty tough truths about just about everyone in her life. I loved the writing and the atmospheric setting(s) but found the pace slow and the main character a little frustrating.

I think that my annoyance with Valentina (a.k.a. "Jane") stems from the fact that virtually none of the juicy stuff described in the synopsis is actually in the book. That's all backstory, as the book begins with Jane having fled her old life. She's now hiding out in Montreal, working as an artist's model, moping around because she needs money. Finally, something pretty dramatic happened, and I was like, hey, this book is taking off! But ... no. The pace slowed down again, to include more moping and some sneaking around. The romantic aspect of the book was ... complicated. There three guys, all of whom Jane seems to have varying attachments to, two of whom are brothers and all of whom are somewhat sketchy. The ending, which moved the action from wintry Montreal to sunny Miami, was definitely suspenseful, but again, because this was my first ever real-time glimpse of Valentina's family, it was hard for me to feel fully invested in what was happening.

In sum: loved the writing and the general atmosphere, but I wished I'd felt more of sense of thriller-ish urgency and/or an emotional attachment to the main character and her story.

The Fall
by Bethany Griffin

To be published on
October 7, 2014
by Greenwillow Books

Source: e-ARC from the publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: Madeline Usher is doomed. She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin. Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house. In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down?

My take:  I loved Bethany Griffin's Masque of the Red Death duology, and was very excited to read this.  In those books, Griffin proves that she's a master of creating a creepy, atmospheric mood, and The Fall followed in that pattern.

I'd say the synopsis above really sums up The Fall very nicely: spooky, cursed house; weird, cursed family, and a story that's told in fits and starts. A back-and-forth in time storytelling technique is not my favorite, but in this book, I think it worked. We're given brief glimpses of Madeline at eleven, at nine, at eighteen, at fifteen, at ten, at twelve, and so on, plus a few excerpts from a relative's diary. At first I wasn't sure about all the jumping around, but gradually I began to see that each snippet of her memory serves as a piece to a puzzle, until the reader has a fuller picture of the horror that is poor Madeline's life. The little mini-memories slowly build up a terrifying sense of dread and foreboding, and the reader slowly gets a sense of the history of the house and the Usher family.

I loved how different The Fall was. It isn't a character-driven book (unless you consider the house a major character, which is arguable) and it isn't really a Gothic romance, but if you love books that combine skillful storytelling with a high creep factor, you should definitely give it a try!

Saturday, September 27, 2014


A lot of us who've been blogging for years groan at the idea of tag posts, but I think the TBR Tag is actually kind of fun. Sabrina @ I Heart YA Fiction is the one who tagged me, and this tag was created by  Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books and Dana @ Dana Square. It's a fun way to get a peek at other readers' TBR piles and what exactly is on them!

Here goes... get ready for a peek into my crazy...

How Do You Keep Track of Your TBR?
So believe it or not, I have multiple TBR piles. First, my review pile, which is actually a running list, complete with coffee stains:

It's a word document listing all my review books in order of publication. Italics are for physical ARCs and regular text means it's an e-book on my kindle. If I need to post my review on Edelweiss or Netgalley, I put that in yellow to remind me. I cross the book out when I've read it and delete it from the list after I've reviewed it. When the list gets too messy (like now!) I reprint it. 

Then, there is my Kindle TBR. It looks like this:

Making these Kindle folders has been SO helpful to me. When I download a review copy, I put it into the folder and then after I've read an e-ARC, I move it into the Netgalley/Edelweiss folder. At a glance I can see what e-books I need to review each month. It really helps keep me sane.

Then there's my Goodreads TBR, which is more spontaneous -- when I see something that might interest me, I put it on the list. I may never read all these. Not even sure what's on there. Whatever!

Finally, there is the black hole. I'm kidding. Kind of. It is dark down there... This is a shelf under my night stand where I stack books that I intend to get to. As soon as I can. Someday. Maybe? 

Is my TBR mostly print or e-book?
Hmmm. Interesting question and the answer varies. Right now my review list is 28 e-books and 19 physical ARCs. The black hole is all physical copies. I have two non-review TBR e-books on my Kindle right now.

How do I determine which book to read next?
I read review books pretty much in order. I feel that if I request a review book, I'm obligated to at least give it a try in a timely fashion. I do regularly squeeze in non-review books just for fun.

What book has been on my TBR the longest?
There are some non-YA books I've been meaning to read forever: Villette by Charlotte Bronte. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx. The book that has been in the Black Hole the longest might by Tiger Lily by Jodi Lyn Anderson.  But whatever the opposite of a hoarder is, that's me. Every year I clean out the Black Hole and donate a bunch of the books in there.

A book I've recently added?
Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas, the second Veronica Mars book. But I'm doing that on audio!

A book on my TBR because of the cover?

The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver. If you read my post on YA head covers, you will know why...

A book you never plan on reading?
I'm pretty open-minded. I don't have a never-will-I-ever shelf on Goodreads, though an author who is publicly rude to reviewers or fans will get pushed waaay to the bottom of my pile.

Unpublished books on the TBR?
Tons. I just set up my 2015 shelves on Goodreads. And I have 2016 too :)

Book on my TBR that everyone recommends?
Hmm. If everyone is recommending something I usually read it right away. But I still haven't read Tiger Lily by Jodi Lyn Anderson. And my friend Steph @ The Fake Steph Dot Com has been nagging me forever to read the Secret Society Girl books. 

Number of Books on my TBR:
422 on Goodreads + 47 review books + about 25 in the black hole. Totally do-able!

I'm tagging my friend Lauren @ Love is Not a Triangle because I think she'll find this fun and also Steph @ The Fake Steph Dot Com because she's always adding to my TBR. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Freebie Friday: Winterkill and Vault of Dreamers

Happy Friday!  

Today I have two creepy choices for my Freebie Friday winner. This one will be US only, sorry.

One of these books is sort of historical horror, the other is futuristic sci-fi.

Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman -- you can read my review here.
Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien -- you can read my review here.

And DON'T FORGET that there is still this weekend to enter to win this Darkest Minds telekinesis prize pack!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Compare and Contrast: Wildlife by Fiona Wood and Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Welcome to Compare and Contrast, a periodic blog feature in which I jointly review two books that share a similar element.  Today's books feature characters whose boyfriends have tragically died -- and who have been sent to rusticate in the outdoors. What interested me most about comparing these two books is that, despite this common thread, they were not the slightest bit similar. One is a down-to-earth contemporary, the other more measured, with elements of magical realism. Both were good, each was completely different.

by Fiona Wood
Published in the U.S. on September 16, 2014
by Little, Brown

Source: e-ARC via NetGalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: During a semester in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sib expects the tough outdoor education program and the horrors of dorm life, but friendship drama and an unexpected romance with popular Ben Capaldi? That will take some navigating. New girl Lou has zero interest in fitting in, or joining in. Still reeling from a loss that occurred almost a year ago, she just wants to be left alone. But as she witnesses a betrayal unfolding around Sib and her best friend Holly, Lou can't help but be drawn back into the land of the living.
My take: First off, Australian readers have already had the pleasure of discovering both Wildlife and its 2010 companion book, Six Impossible Things. That's lucky for them, because I had to wait until now to discover Fiona Wood, a talented new Aussie author.

As always, I read the synopsis weeks before starting the actual book, and it took me a while to realize that this book did not feature an unreliable narrator, but was in fact told from the point of view of two different girls. (Dumb, right? But in my defense, the chapters in the e-ARC aren't headed with the girls' names or anything. However, I finally figured out that the chapters with the dates are journal entries written by Lou. Problem solved.)

Wildlife is a brash, funny, earthy book that, to me, really reflected the way the teenage years feel: exhilarating, confusing, mortifying, painful. Sibylla is unsure of herself, and allows herself to be guided by the sometimes dubious wisdom of her best friend, Holly. Lou, who's attending the same outdoor eduction program, is prickly and standoffish, still mourning the loss of her boyfriend in an accident (this isn't revealed in the synopsis but it is revealed in the beginning of the book.) The way the two girls' stories intertwined felt both artful and natural.

Wildlife touches on so many teen issues: first love, sex, friends and frenemies, feeling lost and beginning to find yourself. If you love contemporary YA, Wildlife is a must-read.

by Meg Wolitzer
To be published by Dutton
on September 30, 2014

Source: ARC sent from publisher for review

Synopsis: If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks. She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English. But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead. Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.
My take: Belzhar would have been exactly the kind of story I'd have adored as a teenager.  It has so many elements of my favorite books. First, it's a boarding school story, and I love those. The story features a life-changing (and somewhat mysterious) teacher, and who doesn't wish for those? The life-changing teacher has the students in her class read Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar, a book about a gifted, troubled young woman. Even the magical realism -- something I'm not always wholeheartedly a fan of -- worked for me in this book.

What didn't entirely work for me was (click for BIG spoiler)

Still, I do recommend this one if you are a fan of classic YA like A Separate Peace, as I think that Belzhar has that same sort of timeless, poignant feel.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Just Finished Reading ... Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Love is the Drug
by Alaya Dawn Johnson
To be published by Arthur A. Levine
on September 30, 2014

Source: e-ARC from the publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC's elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night. Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus--something about her parents' top secret scientific work--something she shouldn't know. The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.
My take: I didn't read Alaya Dawn Johnson's debut YA book,  The Summer Prince, but after reading Love is the Drug, I'm going to remedy that as soon as possible. I think she's a fantastic writer.

So I'll start with the things I loved about this book. The writing was great. Bird was such a complex and compelling character once I got to know her. Bird's parents are government scientists, and Bird's mother has carefully charted an upwardly mobile path for her daughter -- exclusive D.C. prep school, straightened hair, appropriate boyfriend. Bird's relationship with her mother was so well-drawn, so perfect in its portrayal of the complicated tangle of love, dis/approval and weighty expectations that characterizes most parent-child relationships. As a parent, I always appreciate when adult characters in YA are three-dimensional. Yes, Bird's mother is tightly wound, even scarily controlling, but the book also shows the fear and vulnerability underneath. In many ways, I'd call this a classic coming-of-age story, as Bird struggles to take control herself, to chart her own destiny.

However, this book was pitched as a thriller, breathlessly described on Goodreads as The Pelican Brief meets the Andromeda Strain. I'm a fan of both Grisham and Crichton, but to me, this was a totally different kind of book -- more literary and not so fast-paced. Mass market thrillers work when their concept is easily grasped: what if dinosaur DNA were discovered and extracted and new dinosaurs were cloned for a theme park? What if Supreme Court justices were being murdered in order to swing the vote on a case? Good, page-turning fun.

Love is the Drug can't be easily boiled down to a tagline. The story starts at a party, a gathering that begins with a bunch of under-the-influence teenagers and ends up with Bird in the hospital. She spends a long time trying to get answers about what happened to her. At the same time, the country is grappling with a deadly flu epidemic. Cities are quarantined, people are dying. Bird thinks she can get answers about the party from a fellow student slash conspiracy theorist slash small-time drug dealer named Coffee. But he's gone into hiding.

The whole "virus as a conspiracy" part of the story got confusing for me. There's the insinuation that Bird "saw something" or "knew something" and I kept (morbidly) wondering why, if that were the case, Bird didn't get murdered. I mean, what better opportunity to get rid of an inconvenient person than during a deadly epidemic? (Yes, that's the way my twisted mind works. My husband says he sleeps with one eye open.) I typically find these sorts of conspiracy books kind of bloodless because there's often no identifiable villain, just a "vast multinational conspiracy". This book does offer one, but he came off as too bland for me, just showing up to act mysterious and make vague threats. (There is a cool twist at the end with him, though.)

There is also a love triangle of sorts. But I would like to argue that this is the acceptable kind of love triangle, not the kind just written to manufacture drama. As Bird decides between the two boys, one "appropriate" as defined by her mother and one completely inappropriate, she begins to come into her own.

For me, Love is the Drug wasn't a perfect book, but still an interesting and engaging one.  My favorite aspect of the book was by far the mother-daughter relationship and to me, the conspiracy stuff didn't add much to the story. But I'm now a fan of Alaya Dawn Johnson and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing September 23-29

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing in the current month so we can all check them out!
LAST WEEK to enter the September giveaway! This month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.) Enter by linking your reviews or commenting on other people's linked reviews. 

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA. Please let me know about books I might have missed. Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Survival Colony Nine Salt & Storm Messenger of Fear
Survival Colony 9 by Joshua David Bellin (Margaret McElderry)
Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper (Little, Brown)
Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant

In a Handful of Dust Lark Rising Afterworlds
In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis (Katherine Tegen)
Lark Rising (Guardians of Tarnec #1) by Sandra Waugh (Random House)
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (Simon & Schuster)

Remember Me On a Clear Day Tabula Rasa
Remember Me (Find Me #2) by Romily Bernard (Harper)
On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers (Crown)
Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin (Egmont)

Adrenaline Crush Skink -- No Surrender The Bodies We Wear
Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton (FSG)
Skink -- No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf)
The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts (Knopf)

Firebug Unmade The Prophecy
Firebug by Lish McBride (Henry Holt)
Unmade (Lynburn Legacy #3) by Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)
Reign: The Prophecy by Lily Blake (Poppy)

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