Happy New Year!

I don’t actually have a post planned for today because I have been sick all week and haven’t  had the energy to do much more than sleep or read when I wasn’t at work.  So today’s post is kind of a cop out.  I am going to spend the day with my family (both human and four-footed), with a highly anticipated dinner at Weber’s in Ann Arbor to end the year. 

What are your plans to ring in the New Year?  Whatever they are, I wish you a happy and safe New Year!

Review: Melt by Natalie Anderson

 

Title: Melt

Author: Natalie Anderson

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

ISBN: B006O59TDO

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When two frozen hearts collide…

Emma Reed closed her heart to love years ago after a lifetime spent getting kicked around foster homes and bad relationships. Now she’s on a mission to prove she deserves her recent award to paint a mural for a research base in Antarctica. Nothing and no one is going to get in her way.

After months working in recovery zones around the world, Hunter Wilson planned to escape everything this holiday season by rebuilding a lab at the Kiwi Research Base. Alone. No to family, no to fun. It’s isolation not intimacy he’s aching for. But when he sees the determined artist, that ache becomes an urge – after all, shouldn’t someone show her what two people can do with twenty-four hours of brilliant sunlight?

In the coldest place on earth, even the most frozen hearts can melt.

Review:

I saw Melt on Netgalley and had to grab it.  I have enjoyed several Entangled Publishing titles, and while I have some reservations about their pricing structure, I do find their contemporary romances enjoyable.  Melt is under their Entangled Ever Afters imprint, and the novella is about 100 pages.  It’s a fast read, perfect for whiling away a short chunk of time when a longer novel proves too time consuming.  I read this on my first morning of Christmas vacation, in between cleaning the house and doing laundry.

Emma and Hunter are both likeable characters who have mixed emotions about Christmas.  Hunter hates the holiday due to an unfortunate childhood incident, while Emma enjoys spending the day with her Grandma Bee, the foster mother who took her in and provided her with the stable home that she craved.  Both of the protagonists have emotional scars they battle daily, and they struggle to find a sense of normalcy.  Emma spent her early childhood shuttled from one foster home to the next, and she has deep, understandable issues with trust.  Hunter’s parents were not exactly good role models for a normal relationship, and he has learned that life is simpler and safer if he keeps his emotional distance from everyone.

This story worked for me because I totally bought into the protagonists and their resistance to form lasting attachments.  Hunter is a love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of guy, and Emma, having been burned before and never really having experienced a loving relationship, just avoids any kind of emotional attachment at all.  Now that she has been awarded a plum commission to paint a mural at an Antarctic Research Base, she isn’t going to let Hunter and his provocative flirting distract her from the task at hand.  Hunter, on the other hand, is all about having a good time – provided that there are no strings attached. 

It is their constant banter and the back and forth attraction that kept me reading.  I wondered how they would resolve their differences and reconcile what they thought they wanted from each other from what they expected from each other.  They each think they want different things, but as they spend more time together on the frozen ice, their expectations begin to line up ever so slowly.  Then they have an inner struggle to contend with – can they set aside their trust issues and reluctance to open themselves up to heartbreak?  Can they accept the risk of falling in love, and of not having their feelings returned?  That’s what I found so compelling about the read; while at first they seem so different, it wasn’t long before I thought that they were like two pieces to a puzzle and that they needed to be together.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

The BLI Holiday Reading Challenge

Happy New Year 2012 Giveaway Hop! Win A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Here’s your last chance to win a free book in 2011!  I am a Reader, Not a Writer and  Babs Book Bistro are hosting the Happy New Year 2012 Giveaway Hop December 30 to January 3, 2012.   There will be a ton of chances for you to win some new reading material for the long winter.  Just hop on over to I am a Reader, Not a Writer to see the other giveaways!  Click here to see the list of participating blogs.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness has been released in paperback, and to celebrate, the publisher is giving away a copy to one lucky reader! 

Synopsis:

In a sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches became the "it" book of early 2011, bringing Deborah Harkness into the spotlight and galvanizing fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and the descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript deep in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Harkness has created a universe to rival those of Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Kostova, and she adds a scholar’s depth to this riveting story of magic and suspense.

To enter, fill out the form below!

Contest Rules -

You must be 13 or older to enter.

Open to US mailing addresses only

I am not responsible for lost or damaged shipments.

One entry per person.

Contest ends January 3

You must also have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

 

 

Title: Under the Never Sky

Author: Veronica Rossi

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 978-0062072030

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

In her enthralling debut, Veronica Rossi sends readers on an unforgettable adventure set in a world brimming with harshness and beauty.

Review:

I don’t give out many A grades, but Under the Never Sky earned a great big one!  Once I picked this book up, I could not put it back down, and I read it in two sittings.  While I was sick, no less, and when I didn’t even really feel like reading.  That’s how good this post-apocalyptic/ dystopian novel is, and I think that it is strong enough to appeal to both teen and adult readers.  Diving into the story is like jumping into quicksand; sorry, but you aren’t going to be able to crawl back out until after you read the very last page.

I don’t think I can adequately express how much I loved this book, or why I found it so compelling, especially without getting spoilery, so I’ll touch on the aspects that made the biggest impression on me.  About two chapters in, I was engaged in the story, but I was still able to be distracted by the little things in life – like hunger and the need to use the restroom.  That went away about 100 pages in.  I was not moving, not for anything other than the walls collapsing around me.  Even then, the first thing I would grab after Buu is the book.  That baby wasn’t going to leave my sight!

When I first started the book, I did not like Aria.  She has been privileged and pampered her whole life; she has never wanted for anything.  Inside the dome, she has everything she could ever want.  With the impressive technology available to her, she can travel to virtual realms that seem real in every way; touch, taste, smell – there’s an almost infinite amount of virtual reality worlds where she can visit with just a thought, sending a sliver of herself somewhere else whenever the mood strikes her.  Unlike Perry, her reluctant rescuer in the Death Shop, Aria has never suffered from a lack of food or water, and she has never been in mortal danger, conditions that Perry has to live with every day.

Their first encounter outside of the dome is not pleasant.  Aria is not pleasant.  Aria has a smug, elitist attitude that made me want to smack her.  Perry saves her life a number of times, but can Aria even utter the words “thank you” to him?  Nope, instead she berates him and calls him a savage.  Sigh.  I was worried that Aria would grate on my nerves all the way through the book.

Then something wonderful happened, and it’s something that doesn’t happen very often. Halfway through the book, when I thought back on how far Perry and Aria had traveled, on how far I had traveled with them, I realized something – she had changed, and now she seemed like a really good friend.  Almost a BFF kind of friend.  I liked her!  I liked her spunk and her drive and her stubbornness.  She accepted her faults, and she weighed her behavior and her attitude towards the Outside, and she found that Perry wasn’t such a savage after all.  She found that he was noble and brave and that his word meant everything to him.  And to her, because Perry pledged to help her find her missing mother in exchange for her Smarteye.  What a wonderful moment for Aria, and what a wonderful moment for me.  This is why I read in the first place – to get caught up in the trials and the challenges of characters who have somehow come to life for me.  To get sucked so far into a plot that it consumes my every waking thought, and keeps me mulling over the storyline long after I have finished it.

As I approached the end, I felt something else; sadness and regret.  Perry and Aria seemed like a part of me, and I wasn’t ready to let them go.  Their feelings for each other had me convinced that they were meant for each other, despite their great differences.  Perry would be difficult for any woman to live with, because he can actually smell emotions.  He can smell happiness and joy, as well as sorrow and hurt.  He can smell the untruths that hide behind words.  What would that be like?  What would it be like to actually be able to smell what the people around you are feeling, to taste their emotions and instantly know the truth of their actions?  For the magical duration of Under the Never Sky, I could actually do that.

I was lucky enough to read the book back in October, before all of the reviews started bombarding the internet.  I had no preconceived idea of what the book was even about.   All I knew was that it was a post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel written by a debut author.  How wonderful it was for me to become acquainted with the characters and the setting with no expectations. I even kind of dared the book to entertain me.  It did.  In spades.  It also left me excited about reading again, in a way I haven’t felt in a long while.  Now the race is on!  What other gems will I discover as I search for the next almost flawless read?

Grade: A

Review copy provided by {Teen} Book Scene

Interview with Kimberly Reid, Author of My Own Worst Frenemy

Kimberly Reid is the author of My Own Worst Frenemy, the first book in her Langdon Prep series.  This is a fun mystery romp with a feisty heroine who is trying to fit in her new surrounds and stay out of trouble at the same time.  Trouble follows Chanti like moths are drawn to light,  and she is soon scrambling to clear her name and save her reputation.  Kimberly dropped by the virtual offices to discuss her book, and to allow us to get to know her better.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Kimberly Reid] In constant battle w/self because I’m equal parts left & right brain; change-hater/risk-taker; realist/dreamer. Amazingly, I’m quite happy.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your book, My Own Worst Frenemy?

[Kimberly Reid] In My Own Worst Frenemy, fifteen-year-old Chanti Evans is trying to adjust to her ritzy new prep school, which is another world compared to her sketchy Denver neighborhood; turn a crush into something more; and clear her name when she’s arrested for a crime she didn’t commit.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the book?

[Kimberly Reid] The first YA novel I completed and gave to my agent was crime fiction, but it was dark, brooding and not very good. The mechanics were there, but my voice wasn’t – mainly because my voice is not very dark or brooding. My agent didn’t want to pitch that book to publishers and suggested I try again – she really believed I had a YA voice, I just needed to find the true one. I agreed with her when I realized every manuscript I’d ever written for adults had a young adult narrator. I’d been writing YA all along and didn’t know it. I discovered that while I like reading dark and brooding, it probably isn’t meant for me to write it, at least not in YA.

Once I had all that worked out, I needed a concept for a stand-alone novel that I could turn into a series if I had the opportunity. I once attended a writing conference where I learned the trick to keeping a series going is to make the main character a lot like yourself, but more exciting and interesting. It’s easier to grow a character over the long-term if you understood her intimately. Basically it’s taking the writing adage another step — write what you know about yourself. I was watching an episode of Veronica Mars – I love cop shows and mystery/thriller/suspense is my favorite movie genre – when I realized my real-life experience was my concept. From my early grade school years through college, my mother was a police detective. I was fascinated by her work and learned a lot from her. As a kid, I always wanted to solve crimes but I was never that fearless. I realized I could write a character who was. So Chanti is part me and part who I wanted to be as a teen – and as an adult, for that matter.

[Manga Maniac Café] What have you learned about yourself through your characters?

[Kimberly Reid] I’m a born worrier, yet I always try to find humor in the unknown and other dark, scary things.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

[Kimberly Reid] Remembering what everything felt like when I was fifteen. Many things you experience at fifteen you’re doing for the first time. Hormones make emotions more intense. Questioning authority feels scary but right. Realizing for the first time that your parents don’t know all the answers and aren’t perfect (and quite possibly are clueless) is almost magical. Things that don’t faze me now were cataclysmic events back then – and I mean that in a very real, not condescending way. I had to relearn how to process life with a fresh perspective—you know, before time and experience made me jaded and bitter.

Seriously, though – I think I got that young-again part down and I’m having way too much fun with it. Now my challenge is acting my age when I close the laptop. I catch myself talking and writing like a fifteen-year-old even when people are expecting me to sound like a mature, articulate adult. When I tell people I write YA, they ask, “Why? Did you actually like your teen years?” I tell them now I get to make things up and relive those years the way I want.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Kimberly Reid] I had one of those personalized picture books for kids—the main character was a giraffe named Kim who lived at the same street address I did but in a fictional town. The sidekick was named Mik, my name spelled backwards. I was too young to realize my mother had the book made for me – I thought it was just an amazing coincidence. The book that turned me on to writing was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!


You can learn more about Kimberly by visiting her website.

My Own Worst Frenemy is available in both print and eBook.

Thanks to {Teen} Book Scene for making this interview possible!

Waiting on Wednesday–A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I haven’t even finished A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant, and I am already anticipating her next book!

A seductive beauty turns the tables on a gentleman gaming for the guiltiest of pleasures in this rich and sensual Regency romance from beloved newcomer Cecilia Grant.

Lydia Slaughter understands the games men play—both in and out of the bedroom. Not afraid to bend the rules to suit her needs, she fleeces Will Blackshear outright. The Waterloo hero had his own daring agenda for the gaming tables of London’s gentlemen’s clubs. But now he antes up for a wager of wits and desire with Lydia, the streetwise temptress who keeps him at arm’s length.

A kept woman in desperate straits, Lydia has a sharp mind with a head for numbers. She gambles on the sly, hoping to win enough to claim her independence. An alliance with Will at the tables may be a winning proposition for them both. But the arrangement involves dicey odds with rising stakes, sweetened with unspoken promise of fleshly delights. And any sleight of hand could find their hearts betting on something neither can afford to risk: love

In stores May 2012

Review: Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer

 

Title: Rival

Author: Sara Bennett Wealer

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 978-0061827624

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Brooke
I don’t like Kathryn Pease. I could pretend everything’s fine between us. I could be nice to her face, then trash her behind her back. But I think it’s better to be honest. I don’t like Kathryn, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Kathryn
I saw a commercial where singers used their voices to shatter glass, but the whole thing is pretty much a myth. The human voice isn’t that strong.

Human hatred is. Anybody who doubts that should feel the hate waves coming off of Brooke Dempsey. But I don’t shatter; I’m not made of glass. Anyway, the parts that break aren’t on the outside.

Brooke and Kathryn used to be best friends . . . until the night when Brooke ruthlessly turned on Kathryn in front of everyone. Suddenly Kathryn was an outcast and Brooke was Queen B. Now, as they prepare to face off one last time, each girl must come to terms with the fact that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had.

Review:

When Rival first came out, the book flew under my radar.  It wasn’t until reviews started popping up that I realized that it was another contemporary featuring music as a backdrop.  I loved Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez, so I added Rival to my library hold list.  I wanted to revisit the competitive world where gifted musicians put their talent on the line.  This time their instruments were their voices, and the prize was a hefty check to help with college expenses.  For Brooke, the competition is about winning her dad’s attention, and expressing her love for music.  For Kathryn, it means giving her already cash strapped parents a hand with her tuition bills.

Like Virtuosity, the girls must battle with rival singers, and they must also battle with their own inner demons.  Kathryn yearns to be somebody, and when A-lister Brooke befriends her, everything changes for Kathryn.  Unfortunately, her sudden popularity goes right to her head, and Kathryn soon becomes somebody who is very hard to like.  She turns her back on her best friend, starts lying to her parents, and lets her grades plummet.

As Kathryn is drawn further into Brooke’s clique and starts hanging out with Brooke’s other friends, Brooke begins to wrestle with jealousy.  She liked Kathryn when it was just the two of them, talking about music, listening to operas, and going to performances at the local college.  Little by little, Brooke begins to change too.  She allows her envy to eat away at her, and soon, Kathryn and Brooke are mortal enemies, after their emotions flare out of control at a party.  Now Kathryn must deal with bullying as she becomes a social pariah, and Brooke is left with even more feelings of groundlessness.  Her friends don’t understand her, and she knows that they will never get how important music is to her. 

Told through alternating flashbacks to their junior year and their current, intense rivalry now that they are seniors, Sara Bennett Wealer weaves a gripping, compelling look at a friendship gone terribly wrong because of a misunderstanding and the inability of the protagonists, especially Brooke,  to express their feelings.  As Brooke becomes ever more dissatisfied with her friendships, she withdraws more into herself and refuses to confront her feelings.  There’s a lot of angst here – Brooke has so many issues she is trying to deal with, but she can’t open up and confide in anyone, not even Kathryn.  Everyone thinks that she’s one of the golden girls, but her popularity and her status as the Queen B don’t matter to Brooke.  She just wants to lose herself in her music, and she desperately wants to win her father’s approval. 

There were many times that I didn’t particularly like either character, but I did care about them.  They are both flawed, which made them both more relatable.   I kept hoping that they would get over themselves and see what they were throwing away because of their personal ambitions.  I became impatient with both of them, because neither of them seemed to be learning from their mistakes.  Kathryn grew especially trying as she morphed into someone totally opposite of who she had been before she started hanging out with Brooke’s social circle.

If you enjoy emotion-charged contemporaries, Rival is the book for you.  It builds up slowly to a gripping, unflinching look at two friends turned to enemies, exposing their faults and flaws layer by complex layer.  I could not put the book down as they grappled with their inner demons and their sudden and intense dislike for each other.  I bet you won’t be able to put it down either.

Grade: A-

Review borrowed from my local library

Teaser Tuesday–The Book of Wonders and A Lady Awakened

Naturally, I finally get some time away from work to read, and I end up getting sick.  I spent most of the holiday weekend sleeping, though I did occasionally feel like reading in short spurts.  I  polished off Cinder by Marissa Meyer, which is a very compelling retelling of Cinderella.  I enjoyed it very much, and eagerly look forward to the next installment of the series.

Then I picked up The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards, which is a Middle-Grade novel with an Arabian Nights feel.  I liked this from the get-go, and can hardly wait to see what kind of adventures Zardi and Rhidan stumble across.

Ninety days. Blood flowed over Zardi’s teeth as she bit down on her tongue to stop herself crying out. Ninety days until the Hunt.

Oh, my!  I haven’t read anything at all like A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant.  This  is very engrossing, and I am having a hard time putting it down.  I guarantee that you haven’t read a Regency like this before!

In its place welled up that same dismay she’d known on her first viewing, some ten months past, of a naked man.  Whose idea of good design was this? Why those awkward angles, and what could be the necessity for all that hair? 

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!