February 28, 2013

The Holders by Julianna Scott (Review + Giveaway)

Release Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Pages: 320
Series: The Holders
Review Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
17-year-old Becca spent her whole life protecting her brother from, well, everything. The abandonment of their father, the so called 'experts' who insist that voices in his head are unnatural and must be dealt with, and the constant threat of being taken away to some hospital and studied like an animal. When two representatives appear claiming to have the answers to Ryland's perceived problem, Becca doesn't buy it for one second. That is until they seem to know things about Ryland and about Becca and Ryland's family, that forces Becca to concede that there may be more to these people than meets the eye. Though still highly skeptical, Becca agrees to do what's best for Ryland.

What they find at St. Brigid's is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together the information of their family's heritage, their estranged Father, and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they've been waiting for. However, they are all--especially Becca--in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.

She meets Alex, a Holder who is fiercely loyal to their race, and for some reason, Becca and Ryland. There's an attraction between Becca and Alex that can't be denied, but her true nature seems destined to keep them apart. However, certain destinies may not be as clear cut as everyone has always believed them to be.

Becca is lost, but found at the same time. Can she bring herself to leave Ryland now that he's settled and can clearly see his future? Will she be able to put the the feelings she has for Alex aside and head back to the US? And can Becca and Ryland ever forgive their father for what he's done?

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed ‘The Holders’. The plot kept me interested, and I loved Becca’s narrative voice. It was a book where you aren't wholly surprised by anything that happens, and yet the whole book is still so entertaining. What’s most interesting, to me at least, is that ‘The Holders’ had an insta-love element to it, which I would normally despise, and in this case I couldn’t get enough of Becca and Alex. Without giving too much away, their relationship is based on a bonding element to do with Holder powers. Normally this would have me all up in arms about free will/choice, but somehow I loved their romance and the way it was presented. Maybe this is because Alex is such a sweet love interest: he’s a very caring guy who is so kind to Becca. There’s an instant camaraderie between the two characters, and that easy rapport made me love their relationship. Even beyond anything romantic you could tell that the characters were such good friends.

‘The Holders’ features a very cool X-Men like element where the Holders have power, but they also have a powerful enemy who believes humans to be inferior. This enemy wants to ‘collect’ Holder powers and take them for himself. But despite what some reviewers on Goodreads have stated this didn't feel like a rip-off at all. There are so many books, TV shows, and movies about a school for ‘gifted’ students, and while there was definitely an X-Men vibe to this book, it was just that: a vibe, and not at all a direct copy. While the themes and some of the plot fit in well with other stories of the genre, there is such a uniqueness to the characters and their story.

What else can I say about this book? I just wholeheartedly enjoyed it. The characters, including the side characters, were great, and I loved reading about their abilities. The Holder mythology was incredibly interesting, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out in the next book. Every element of 'The Holders' kept me reading until the very end; it was one of those books that you just can’t set down.

The Cover:
I like that it's relevant to the book, and I think it's pretty memorable.


Find The Holders by Julianna Scott on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.


See the details for the tour-wide giveaway below and enter the Rafflecopter to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can find the full blog tour schedule HERE.

February 27, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (12)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature upcoming book releases that they're looking forward to.

This week I'm eagerly anticipating...

How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True
by Sarah Strohmeyer

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 23, 2013

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
From Sarah Strohmeyer, author of Smart Girls Get What They Want, comes this romantic comedy about one girl's summer job from hell. Think The Devil Wears Prada set in Disney World.

When cousins Zoe and Jess land summer internships at the Fairyland Kingdom theme park, they are sure they've hit the jackpot. With perks like hot Abercrombie-like Prince Charmings and a chance to win the coveted $25,000 Dream & Do grant, what more could a girl want?

Once Zoe arrives, however, she's assigned to serve "The Queen"-Fairyland's boss from hell. From spoon-feeding her evil lapdog caviar, to fetching midnight sleeping tonics, Zoe fears she might not have what it takes to survive the summer, much less win the money.

Soon backstabbing interns, a runaway Cinderella, and cutthroat competition make Zoe's job more like a nightmare than a fairy tale. What will happen when Zoe is forced to choose between serving The Queen and saving the prince of her dreams?

Add it on Goodreads.

Smart Girls... was a really great contemp read, so I'm looking forward to reading this next release from Sarah Strohmeyer. I love the idea of a theme park setting, especially one that sounds like the anti-Disney World.

February 25, 2013

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 304
Series: Shades of London
Review Source: ARC for review from Razorbill Canada

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance. But Rory's brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she's become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades—the city's secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it's too late.

In this follow-up to the Edgar Award-nominated The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson adds another layer of spectacularly gruesome details to the streets of London that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

My Thoughts:
‘The Madness Underneath’ is a pretty evocative title, but it became even more perfectly creepy as I delved into the book and found out exactly what it was referring to. I was a huge fan of Maureen Johnson’s ‘The Name of the Star’, so I was eagerly awaiting this sequel. Rory has survived the Ripper that was plaguing modern-day London, but after being through this trauma she can’t tell anyone the truth about it. She’s been sequestered away from the only people who she can talk to about ghosts and her abilities. Of course this is only the beginning and Rory is once again involved in some ghostly occurrences.

In ‘The Madness Underneath’ there are more murders and events that Rory sees a pattern in. What I liked about this book is that the murders were only one part of the plot, and they weren’t a huge spectacle in the same way that the Ripper murders were in the previous book. If you can call ghosts and abilities realistic, then I would say that it all felt realistic, rather than repeating the same type of huge media event like in the first book. Another amazing part of these books is that Maureen Johnson is perfect at writing about London and making you feel like you’re really there. She clearly knows the area and all the little details, and it makes the book feel all the more truthful.

I really enjoy our main character, Rory. She’s quirky and sweet, and I just find her relatable in general. She’s smart but she’s not a keener when it comes to school, she has friends and a cute guy she enjoys making out with but doesn’t know if she actually likes him in a boyfriend type of way... all of these characteristics make her interesting and yet also someone who feels real. She’s not the “special snowflake” heroine that a lot of books present, even though she does have a crazy cool ability. Toward the end of the book I felt like Rory made some decisions that were just ridiculous -- things that I thought she was too smart to do. Upon reflection, though, I think I can excuse her behaviour and possibly even understand it. Rory has been through a lot, and the whole book is really about her trying to reach out and find someone who understands her; when she does make her (pretty stupid) decision, it’s based upon finding this acceptance, which I think makes a lot of sense, even though we as readers are shaking our heads.

I would be remiss not to mention the other Shades (those with the ability to see ghosts), because I love, love, love them. I would have liked to see more of Boo, but I still adored all of the scenes with the trio. I particularly enjoyed all of the Rory/Stephen scenes. I love their banter and how Stephen is so introverted, and yet is willing to share personal things with Rory. All I can really say is that I shipped them in the first book, and I enjoyed their interactions a lot in this volume.

As much as I love this book and this series I almost want to tell you to hold off until Book 3 is published, because this book has an ending that is absolutely insane. I sort of saw it coming right before it happened and I was freaking out, and then I read it and... oh man. I literally had to calm my breathing and tell myself to calm down and remind myself it was a book and not part of my real life. Yes that is how crazy of a reaction I had to it. Just thinking about it now is making me all flail-y. So despite the ending that will make you want to completely badger Maureen Johnson for information on the 3rd book and might put you into therapy, this is definitely a must-read. I loveeee these books, so if you do end up reading ‘The Madness Underneath’ right away, please come join me in freaking out and wanting the 3rd book pronto.

The Cover:
Not my fave, but I like it in that it's unique and atmospheric.


Find The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.

February 22, 2013

The Lives We Lost by Megan Crewe

Release Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 288
Series: Fallen World
Review Source: For review from Hachette Book Group Canada (@HBGCanada)

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
First, the virus took Kaelyn’s friends. Then, her family. Now it’s taken away her home.

But she can't look back—the life she once had is gone forever.

A deadly virus has destroyed Kaelyn’s small island community and spread beyond the quarantine. No one is safe. But when Kaelyn finds samples of a vaccine in her father's abandoned lab, she knows there must be someone, somewhere, who can replicate it. As Kaelyn and her friends head to the mainland, they encounter a world beyond recognition. It’s not only the “friendly flu” that’s a killer—there are people who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the vaccine. How much will Kaelyn risk for an unproven cure, when the search could either destroy those she loves or save the human race?

Megan Crewe's second volume in the Fallen World trilogy is an action-packed journey that explores the resilience of friendship, the ache of lost love, and Kaelyn’s enduring hope in the face of the sacrifices she must make to stay alive.

My Thoughts:
This sequel to ‘The Way We Fall’ starts with the realization that there isn’t any help from the mainland: the disease isn’t just on the island - it has spread everywhere. Talk about a major change from the first book where everything was isolated! I loved how there was this shake up, but it felt natural and it made sense.

Kaelyn is definitely a brave and noble character. She wants to finish her father’s work and provide a cure because otherwise the disease will never stop spreading. Kae is insistent on sharing the cure and saving everyone, not just the people she’s closest to, which I really admire. I was actually in awe of her persistence, because I know I definitely would have given up after fighting so many odds and losing time and time again.

I enjoyed the bit of narration change in this volume. It’s still Kae’s voice, but she’s no longer writing to Leo. Instead we get to experience Leo as a character, and I loved the chemistry between him and Kae, whether you saw it as friendship or something more. ‘The Lives We Lost’ is a real journey book, which is something I definitely enjoy, especially because it took the characters through Canada. I really don’t think there are enough Canadian set books, particularly within YA, and I love how Megan, as a Canadian author, has done this. I enjoyed this book because it was plot-driven, with the journey across the country, and yet there was also huge character development. It felt like the biggest changes happened internally to the characters; they had to learn for themselves what the world was like now and find out what they were capable of.

The one thing I was a little bit frustrated by was that in the end it didn’t really feel like Kaelyn’s quest had gone anywhere. Of course they are in a very different place physically and they are emotionally dealing with the situation, but in regard to their quest they’re in the same place. I also would have liked a better look at just how much the disease spread so quickly; we get told that it’s affected the whole world, and while I can definitely see that happening, it seemed like it had happened quite quickly. It’s not that I found it implausible, I just wish that there had been some way through Kae’s limited perspective to find out how the disease spread to the whole world so quickly if the island was the originator.

These minor complaints aside I can say without a doubt that I enjoy these books and Megan Crewe’s writing. ‘The Lives We Lost’ provides an interesting look into human nature: what people cling to, what they will do to survive, and how society might self-destruct under something like this. I also have to point out that I love titles that are catchy but also make real sense and have importance in the plot, and this is one of those occasions. I think I can say without being spoilery at all, that the title (to me) refers both to the family members and friends that the characters have lost, but also to their former lives... the lives they were living before this disease changed everything. It was just so profound to me when I read the line containing this phrase, so major props to Megan and/or her publisher for coming up with that as the title.

What I find so chilling about these books is that while they follow the same trope of one girl and group of friends setting out to save their society, they contain something that feels like it could happen to us right now. Disease is something that happens, and it’s not something we can necessarily prevent. It’s not a totalitarian ruler setting up or a future with technologies that we can’t really imagine happening... it’s something real and present. This, to me, is extremely fascinating, yet also very scary. If you’re looking for an interesting and high stakes book where you legitimately fear for the characters and can’t imagine what might happen next, then I definitely suggest you pick up ‘The Way We Fall’ and this sequel, ‘The Lives We Lost’.

The Cover:
Like it! The texture is great in person.


Find The Lives We Lost by Megan Crewe on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.

February 21, 2013

While He Was Away: New Cover Reveal

I'm very pleased to take part in Sourcebook's
While He Was Away Walmart-Exclusive Cover Reveal

About the book:
One year--he'll be gone for one year and then we'll be together again and everything will be back to the way it should be.

The day David left, I felt like my heart was breaking. Sure, any long-distance relationship is tough, but David was going to war--to fight, to protect, to put his life in danger. We can get through this, though. We'll talk, we'll email, we won't let anything come between us.

I can be an army girlfriend for one year. But will my sweet, soulful, funny David be the same person when he comes home? Will I? And what if he doesn't come home at all?...

What do you think of the cover??

You can see the original cover here. I liked the old cover, but I definitely think this new one will garner some interest. ;)

I'm also excited to present this great guest post about Karen's inspiration for the book:

How Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere:
Even a Trip to the Grocery Store and a Handful of Long-Lost Photographs
By Karen Schreck

I sometimes wonder what my mother would say if she knew that her story—one of the saddest, sweetest love stories I’ve ever heard—was retold in a new way in my young adult novel, While He Was Away.

Now Sourcebooks Fire is sharing the story yet again, in a second, exclusive edition, released nation-wide at Walmart. The fact that Sourcebooks believed enough in While He Was Away to bring it to life the first time felt like a much-needed confirmation of years of hard work. The fact that they are standing behind my book again in this way . . . well, it feels like a miracle. I’m truly grateful.

I wonder what my mother would say to this incredible news? I like to think she would be grateful too. I like to think she would be happy. She wanted her story heard after all. So much so that it was one of the last things she told me, just before she died.

One rainy night when I was fourteen, right before cancer left her to ill to talk, let alone drive a car, my mother said, “Come with me. We’re going shopping.” We drove to the little local market and wandered up and down the aisles, as she threw in a can of tuna, some dishwashing soap, and other little things we didn’t need. We paid for these little things. She looked anxious and tired, still she hadn’t said a thing; we hadn’t spoken a word.

It was only when we were parked in our driveway again that my mother said, “I was married once before when I was very young. He died a hero in WWII.”

And that was that. Soon after, she died.

I thought about my mother’s mysterious love story for many years. I talked to relatives, found long-lost photographs. The story took seed in me. It flowered into a novel about a young women whose boyfriend leaves for the Iraq War. In her loneliness, she seeks out a grandmother she’s never met, whose first husband died in WWII. She seeks out a character inspired by mother.

A late night drive, a few words spoken in the dark. Even things as simple as this can inspire a novel.

Karen, thank you so much for sharing that with everyone. I love how your mother's story led you to research it and that in turn became something else entirely.

February 20, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (11)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature upcoming book releases that they're looking forward to.

This week I'm eagerly anticipating...

Star Cursed
Cahill Witch Chronicles #2
by Jessica Spotswood

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: June 18, 2013

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate's friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.

Cate doesn't want to be a weapon, and she doesn't want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood's schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she'll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.

In the highly anticipated sequel to Born Wicked, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess's quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England.

Add it on Goodreads.

'Born Wicked' was AMAZING and it had a killer ending, so I am very excited to see where this second installment leads us.

February 19, 2013

Marissa Meyer is coming to Toronto

Marissa Meyer at Indigo Yorkdale
See Indigo Events for full details.

Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder and Scarlet, is coming to Toronto! I am such a huge fan of these books, so I will definitely be making the trip to go see her.

As an added bonus, Raincoast Books is giving their bloggers a chance to win an interview with Marissa, which sounds like an amazing opportunity!

One question I would ask Marissa:
As you get further into the Lunar Chronicles is it harder to pull the stories together and manage different narrators? Whose points of view can readers expect to find in the next book, Cress?

Have you seen Marissa on one of her book tours? Or will you be coming to the event in Toronto? I'm so looking forward to it, and whether or not I get the chance to interview Marissa I will definitely be featuring an event recap on my blog.

#BreathlessReads & Faze Party Recap

When I heard that the #BreathlessReads tour was coming to Toronto I knew I had to go. The event was originally supposed to feature Andrea Cremer, Morgan Rhodes, Jessica Spotswood, & Beth Revis -- however Andrea Cremer had to drop out at the last minute, and the lovely Adrienne Kress kindly stepped in to fill her spot. When I first signed up for the event hosted by Faze Magazine I knew it was a "Faze SuperGirl Event", but I thought that meant it was a big celebration featuring the authors. As the event got closer it was announced that there were three musical artists performing, and that the event was being co-hosted by a Much Music VJ. At this point I wasn't sure what to expect -- I wondered if there would be separate rooms where 1 room would feature the author panel and signings.... and, well, this definitely wasn't the case.

The afternoon didn't start off great. The event was supposed to start at 2, so many people assumed that the doors would open early. Because Avery and I came from out of town we were quite early, in case there had been bad weather or traffic. So we didn't really have much of a choice but to line up early, assuming (perhaps wrongly, but still) that the doors would open beforehand to leave time to get all the people's names checked off, etc. Keep in mind that with the windchill this was -26° weather (-14.8° Fahrenheit) and the line up was outside. No one was being let in, and it was just brutal waiting outside, especially because 2 o'clock came and went and we still weren't being let inside. Finally at about 2:15 they started letting people in in groups of 5 (!) and then 10. Thankfully we were toward the front of the line, but I heard from others that it took half an hour or so to get people inside. I understand there has to be some organization and working with the space you have, but it was just brutal that they kept people waiting outside in that cold.

Once we got inside it was pretty clear that things weren't very organized. There were different make up and nail stations, as well as pizza (which a lot of people never got any of, because it was set out quite randomly, and people seemed to be vultures, scooping up several pieces at a time as soon as it was set out) and drinks. All of this was quite haphazard, and never really explained to anyone. There was a table set up on the side of the room with books for sale, so at least we knew we were probably in the right place. The authors were not mentioned until a long way into the program. We only knew that the authors would eventually make an appearance because the very kind @RazorbillCA folks kept us up to date on Twitter.

Here's what I think: for the regular patrons of Faze Magazine parties this was probably a great event. There were three musical performers throughout the afternoon (Brendn, Jesse Giddings, & Eleven Past One) and all of the younger girls seemed to really enjoy them. This was a case of feeling much to old for the event, which I totally get, as I'm not part of that targeted age group. I guess we might have noticed how their graphic labels it as a "SuperGirl Event" and only a "Host to the Breathless Reads Tour". The music and Faze Magazine was really the main focus of it all, and most of the audience didn't care about the authors at all. From a different perspective all of this is completely understandable, and yet I can't help but feel disappointed that the authors weren't utilized to their full potential.

There were a core group of us who came solely to see authors, and for more than an hour nothing had even been mentioned about them at all. The fact that Penguin was so awesome to feature Adrienne Kress and Morgan Rhodes and to bring Beth Revis and Jessica Spotswood all the way from the States -- and there wasn't even an official panel or Q&A from the audience? It felt like a wasted opportunity that us bloggers were standing around waiting for the authors while the the authors were sitting in the wings waiting for their turn. I'm all about promoting literacy in different types of venues, but this one just didn't seem to work. From what I could tell the crowd was way more focused on, and enthused about, the bands. It was just a very odd and different experience -- definitely not all bad, but not what most of us bloggers were expecting.

The Authors

But what about the good parts?? Well let me share those with you, lest you think I'm completely full of complaints. The best part is that Penguin Canada even set up this opportunity at all, so MANY thanks to them for bringing 4 amazing authors to Toronto. We don't tend to get these big tours up here, so it was a big treat to be able to see these authors at all.

When the authors finally did come down to sign it was a very awesome experience, because there was such a small group of us.

First up was Morgan Rhodes (aka Michelle Rowen), who was kind enough to spend her birthday at this event with us. Thank you, Morgan!

Next was Adrienne Kress, who is super super adorable. I had to include this pic even though it's a bit blurry from the horrible lighting. Can you tell from the dramatic pose that she's an actress as well? ;)

Third was Jessica Spotswood. She was soft spoken, but very sweet and happy to meet with everyone (also how small & perfect is her printing?!).

And last but not least was the very sweet Beth Revis, who complimented my Reading Railroad t-shirt (which I love, but I really need to stop wearing to bookish events, lest people think I don't own any other clothing). I talked to Beth for a few minutes about 'Shades of Earth', which I enjoyed the most out of her Across the Universe trilogy (love that each book got better!). Beth asked if I liked the last chapter, and revealed that her editor initially didn't want it to end like that. I can't say much more without being spoilery, but we had a nice chat about why the ending worked well.

After the authors signed there was another bit in between, and for quite a while we thought that was it. Then they brought Adrienne & Morgan out on stage and asked them a few questions.

Adrienne's favourite book as a teenager was 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', which changed everything for her. It influences her writing, and she believes it influenced her personality as well.

Morgan was asked where she most wanted to go in the world, and what reality TV show she would watch when there (random, I know). Morgan picked Australia and said that she loves reality TV like American Idol.

They were then asked about writing. Adrienne claimed that she is easily distracted by things like TV and twitter, but that the only way to succeed is to keep going -- she then adorably performed a scene from Finding Nemo ("Just keep swimming!"). Morgan's three keys to succeeding as an author are: believe in yourself, write what you want to write, and read a lot.

After these interviews the next musical act came on stage, and it was SO LOUD that we really didn't want to stand through a lot more just to hear a few questions -- so unfortunately we missed Beth and Jessica on stage, along with some author trivia toward the end. I'm looking forward to reading recaps from those few who stayed to the end of the event.

So was this event what I expected? Not really. But was meeting the authors still amazing? Absolutely!!

And was it fun to spend the afternoon laughing and joking with all my blogger pals who I don't get to see very often?? Yes!! In that way we made our own fun, even though much of the event wasn't what we expected it to be.

Pic courtesy of Michele.
L to R: Tiff, Hayley, Ardo, me (apparently unaware of this pic being taken!), Avery, Emilie, Andrea, Meaghan, Wendy, BrennaSiobhan, & Giselle.

Pic courtesy of Liz.
L to R: Liz, me, Avery, Steph (in back), Tiff (in front), Ardo, & Michele.

Thank you SO much to Penguin Canada for bringing these great authors to Toronto, and much thanks to Morgan, Adrienne, Jessica, and Beth for taking part in this rather unique event.


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