Google+ YA Romantics: September 2014

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, for this Hop, which is hosted by StuckinBooks, 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.

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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Monday, September 22, 2014

Two Fall Thrillers: Remember Me by Romily Bernard and Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

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If you're a regular reader of the blog, you know that I love mysteries and thrillers. Often, perhaps because of adult squeamishness over the appropriateness of scary, gory books for teens, YA thrillers don't always seem that thrilling to me.  But these two books offer suspense and chills that should please most readers. Also, both of them feature main characters who are the children of criminals.

Remember Me (Find Me #2)
by Romily Bernard
To be published on September 23, 2014
by Harper Teen

Source: eARC from publisher

My review of Find Me
Synopsis from Goodreads: Wick had thought her troubles were over. But she should’ve known better.
Not only is she embroiled in a new murder case, which starts with a body with “Remember Me” carved into it and doesn’t stop there, but she also discovers new evidence surrounding her mother’s suicide…which leads her right back to her imprisoned deadbeat dad. And she has to deal with her flirty new hacker friend, Milo, sniffing around—which her boyfriend, Griff, isn’t too happy about.  The pressure might be too much as secrets—including Wick’s own—climb to the surface.

My take: I really enjoyed Find Me, which came out a year ago, even if I did guess the killer's identity right off. What I love about these books is the whole set-up -- Wick is a teen hacker who is the also child of a jailed drug dealer. In book one, with their father in prison and their mother dead, Wick and her younger sister have been adopted by a nice, middle-class couple. Wick's life should be easier, but instead is drawn into two different problems: the suspicious death of a classmate and a local cop's desire to pump her for information about her father's drug dealing.

Remember Me follows that same pattern. The assistant of a local judge turns up dead, and Wick realizes that the judge had a lot of suspicious secrets, some tied to her own past. The cop, Carson, is still on her case, pressuring her to help him. As if that's not bad enough, someone is sending Wick videos of her mother, who committed suicide.

I really enjoyed Remember Me. It was well-paced and well-plotted, with all the intertwined storylines working together. My favorite part of the story was all the intrigue surrounding Wick and her parents, and her attempts to thwart Carson as he tries to manipulate her. As with the last book, I guessed the killer right off. What I didn't guess was that, as the synopsis suggests, a very bothersome love triangle would develop toward the end -- hit button for spoiler about both these things:

 I can see the triangle creating a lot of angst in the next book, which does not please me, but I think it will also offer some interesting revelations about Wick's family. If you're a fan of thrillers and mysteries and can tolerate a triangle, you might want to check these books out.

Blood of my Blood (Jasper Dent #3)
by Barry Lyga
Published by Little, Brown
on September 9, 2014

Source: bought

My review of I Hunt Killers
My review of Game
Synopsis from Goodreads: Jazz Dent has been shot and left to die in New York City. His girlfriend Connie is in the clutches of Jazz's serial killer father, Billy. And his best friend Howie is bleeding to death on the floor of Jazz's own home in tiny Lobo's Nod. Somehow, these three must rise above the horrors their lives have become and find a way to come together in pursuit of Billy. But then Jazz crosses a line he's never crossed before, and soon the entire country is wondering: "Like father, like son?" Who is the true monster?  The chase is on, and beyond Billy there lurks something much, much worse. Prepare to meet...the Crow King.

My take:  I've enjoyed this trilogy so much, and am happy to say that Blood of My Blood does not disappoint.  Book one, I Hunt Killers, set up such an intriguing premise -- the son of a serial killer is trying to live on the straight and narrow, even help police catch other killers. But ... are criminals made or born? Does Jazz have any hope of a happy, normal life, or is he doomed to follow in his father's murderous footsteps?

I felt that book two, Game, was a bit of a detour, plot- and theme-wise. But Blood of My Blood gave me everything I'd been waiting for -- some information on the triple cliffhanger that ended book two, a showdown between Jazz and Billy, information about Jazz's mother, resolution about a nightmare that had been haunting Jazz, the unmasking of the Crow King and Ugly J -- it was all there.

Jazz, his girlfriend Connie and his best friend Howie make a great team, and this story gave each of them a chance to shine. These books have also been a psychological study of Jazz, and this book took Jazz to the very edge, making me really wonder whether he'd ever be able to pull himself back.  Blood of my Blood was gory, suspenseful and thoroughly satisfying!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Extra! Extra! Great Giveaways :)

Extra! Extra!

Extra! Extra! is my weekend post featuring brand new additions to my TBR pile as well as a summary of what's new on the blog.

This weekend I'm linking to Stacking the Shelves @ Tynga's Reviews or to Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. 


The Good Sister by Jamie Kain (St Martin's, October 7, 2014)
Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho (Viking, October 9, 2014)
Burying Water by K.A. Tucker (Atria, October 7, 2014)
Mortal Gods (Goddess War #2) by Kendare Blake (Tor, October 14, 2014)


I have two amazing ones going on at the moment. One is open internationally!

First, thanks to the amazing people at Disney-Hyperion, I am offering this super-cool Darkest Minds prize pack!

You can enter to win a complete set of the Darkest Minds trilogy, a floating bookcase and this really great tote bag!  Open to US addresses only; enter here.

Win your choice of one of these great fall YA titles; open internationally!

What have you been up to this week? Tell me in comments and I will visit you back!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop - INT!

Welcome to my stop on the Stuck in a Good Book giveway hop!

This is open internationally, and I'm giving my winner a choice of any one of these three HOT fall 2014 books:

Heir of Fire Isla and the Happily Ever After Trial by Fire

The fine print: International winners will receive a paperback from The Book Depository and US winners will win a hardcover from either Barnes and Noble or Amazon. Any winner can choose to receive Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Throne of Glass, or Crown of Midnight instead of one of the three books above.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mini-reviews: Sway by Kat Spears and Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper

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I had a great discussion post planned for today, and then yesterday my internet died. An "outage in my area," whatever that means. A discussion isn't much fun if I'm not online to take part and will instead review two books that didn't end up being exactly what I expected.

by Kat Spears
Published on September 16, 2014
by St. Martin's

Source: ARC giveaway at BEA

Synopsis from Goodreads: Jesse Alderman, or "Sway," as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want---term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions. But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all? A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion---until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.
My take: I went into Sway expecting something completely different. That is probably because my ARC had a cover that looked like the one on the left. And I commend the publisher for changing the cover, because a) the old cover is similar to that of another book with a similar bad-boy-falls-for-good-girl plot and b) the old cover makes the book seem like a cute romance, which it is not. 

But enough about that. 

Once I adjusted to the fact that Sway was about a completely amoral, constantly conniving, frequently offensive main character, I was totally fine with it. In fact, I rather like characters like that and I did like the book. For me, Sway comes about the closest I've seen a book come to feeling like a John Hughes movie -- the perfect blend of poignancy cut with wacky humor, and characters so sharply drawn that they border on caricatures.  The only thing I really wished was that (click button for spoiler):

Salt & Storm 
by Kendall Kulper
To be published by Little, Brown
on September 23, 2014

Source: e-ARC from publisher via Edelweiss

Summary from Goodreads:  Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island's whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she's to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself. Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane--a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.
My take:  I love witch books, and based on the synopsis I was kind of picturing this one as The Witch of Blackbird Pond meets Brides of Rollrock Island.  I also love historical fiction, so I was excited about all the whaling lore. There was whaling lore, and a lot of fascinating historical detail. Clearly, this author did her research, and that attention to detail really shines through. But I will be honest: the first two-thirds of this book were pretty slow for me.  For nearly 300 pages, Avery is going around the island, complaining about how awful her mother is and trying to interpret the dreams of the tattooed harpoon boy mentioned in the synopsis. Interesting enough, but for me that wasn't enough to carry the plot for that long. There is also not much witchcraft (as the synopsis explains) and I was feeling pretty restless.

But then in the last third of the story ... ALL the things happen.  Salt & Storm saves all its revelations and heartbreak and action for the last hundred pages or so. And those pages were really good. And, unlike Sway, I was excited that Salt & Storm didn't hesitate to go for the gutsy ending. (That's what I talked about in the spoiler above, if you're curious.)  So if this one appeals to you, and you're finding the pace a little slow, just be patient.

Have you read either of these? Let's hope I was either able to do a Jesse (bribery and conniving) or an Avery (magical spells) and get my internet working again. I am a day behind on returning comments, but I will get caught up -- I promise :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Just Finished Reading ... Get Even by Gretchen McNeil

Get Even (Don't Get Mad #1)
by Gretchen McNeil
Published by Harper Teen
on September 16, 2014

Source: e-ARC from publisher for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot have nothing in common—at least that’s what they’d like the students and administrators of their elite private school to think. The girls have different goals, different friends, and different lives, but they share one very big secret: They’re all members of Don’t Get Mad, a secret society that anonymously takes revenge on the school’s bullies, mean girls, and tyrannical teachers. When their latest target ends up dead with a blood-soaked “DGM” card in his hands, the girls realize that they’re not as anonymous as they thought—and that someone now wants revenge on them. Soon the clues are piling up, the police are closing in . . . and everyone has something to lose.

My take: I love revenge shows. I love Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family. But I haven't really found a YA book that does a good job with the whole revenge thing. Most YA revenge books fall into the "childish pranks" category rather than the "I will make you sorry you ever lived" category. And PLL-type stories, though fun and addictive on screen, often come off as cartoonish and improbable on the page.

While Get Even and I got off to a bit of a rocky start, I ended up enjoying it overall. The beginning of the book had waaaay too many characters for me. I counted twenty named characters in the first 15% of the book. *head explodes*  But gradually, I came to figure out who everyone was and what they had to do with the story.  I also must confess that I kept getting the four main characters mixed up at first.  I had to make notes: "politician's daughter," "Asian girl not good at math," "actress eating disorder crazy mother," and "computer nerd anxiety."

Get Even features some familiar PLL staples, like hacking into a school video presentation -- remember the PLL fashion show episode? No, not that weird wedding fashion show, but the Rosewood Charity Fashion show, when "A" hacks into the projector and suddenly the screen says "the bitch is dead" with Ali going up in flames. That kind of stuff.

That brings me to one of the things I loved about Get Even: the humor. Like PLL, which often cracks me up out of nowhere, really funny, clever things would just pop up in Get Even when I least expected it. I loved this hilarious character called Ed the Head who was one part Anthony Michael Hall nerd character from John Hughes movies and one part Badger from Firefly. One of the things Ed sells on the black market is junk food, because the school has banned unhealthy food from campus.

All in all, I think Get Even does a good job of capturing that PLL vibe -- a kind of outlandish, sometimes humorous story that taps into our secret fantasies about making mean people pay for what they've done.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing September 16-22

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!
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.

Wildlife Made for You Infinite Sea
Wildlife by Fiona Wood (Little, Brown)
Made For You by Melissa Marr (Harper)
The Infinite Sea (5th Wave #2) by Rick Yancey (Putnam)

Evidence of Things Not Seen Blackbird Falls the Shadow
Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane (FSG)
Blackbird by Anna Carey (Harper)
Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither (Simon & Schuster)

Day 21 Perilous Sea Being Audrey Hepburn
Day 21 (The 100 #2) by Kass Morgan (Little, Brown)
The Perilous Sea (Burning Sky #2) by Sherry Thomas (Balzer + Bray)
Being Audrey Hepburn by Mitchell Kriegman (St. Martin's)

Vault of Dreamers Echoes of Us I'll Give You the Sun
Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien (Roaring Brook)
Echoes of Us (Hybrid Chronicles #3) by Kat Zhang (Harper)
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Dial)

Jackaby Get Even Hunt for Jade Dragon
Jackaby by William Ritter (Algonquin)
Get Even (Don't Get Mad #1) by Gretchen McNeil (Balzer + Bray)
Hunt for Jade Dragon (Michael Vey #4) by Richard Paul Evans (Simon Pulse)

Color Song Ashes to Ashes Sway
Color Song by Victoria Strauss (Skyscape)
Ashes to Ashes (Burn for Burn #3) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Sway by Kat Spears (St. Martin's)

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