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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Books That Need More Attention Hop

Hmmm. Not sure what this guy actually thinks about Books That Need More Attention, as he doesn't seem to be encouraging us to read...

In any case, I'm giving away the winner's choice of one of these four 2014 YA contemporaries that I think need more attention. 

Not sure which one to pick? Click on the cover to get to the book's Goodreads page and on the title below to read my review.

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.

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...

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...

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.

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.

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.
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