Book Review: Scarlet by A.C Gaughen

ScarletRelease Date: February 26, 2013

Publisher: Walker Children’s

Genre: YA Retelling

Source: Purchased (previous library book)

I know I am so late to this Scarlet party, but wow! I was never too obsessed with the story of Robin Hood, but I feel like I learned a WHOLE LOT from this book. I really enjoyed this – way more than I originally thought I would – so gird your loins! Here is your synopsis from Amazon:

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her female identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only Robin and his band know the truth. As Gisbourne closes in, helping the people of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life, but her fierce loyalty to Robin-whose quick smiles have the rare power to unsettle her-keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

1. Scarlet and Robin Hood’s merry men were such great characters.

Scarlet has a lot of secrets. If you pay attention, you can piece them together before she reveals them. I think it’s supposed to be that way. That, plus Robin, Much, and John make for a great time. I am team Rob for life. I have such a huge crush on him! Rob, John, and Much care about Scarlet so much, even though they really try to treat her like one of the boys. It’s so adorable and kind of reminds me of me and my guy friends.

2. The adventure in this book was a bit slow to get started, but once it did…oh boy.

A lot of this book is set up, as with any new series. However, once we start to find out what Scarlet and the boys are up against, it sounds nearly impossible to get out alive. They’re good…but are they that good? That’s what this book sets out to prove. Scarlet is fantastic with her knives, Rob is a former soldier from the Crusades so he is great at fighting, Much has one hand but is very skilled at felling a foe, and John is huge and imposing to any enemy. Together, they seem unconquerable. Even with some romantic upsets, the band never really falls apart. It’s a beautiful tale of friendship and courage, especially considering the foe they’re up against.

3. This really is a feminist tale of strength and courage.

Scarlet poses as a boy named Will Scarlet. She is always getting on the boys for trying to treat her like a girl and protect her like a girl. She is running from her previous, mysterious life and is helping her town with the Hood. She enjoys being a thief because she feels like she is atoning for something she did in her past. I know this sounds vague, but I don’t want to spoil it for you, dear reader! She is constantly being underestimated by the men around her and she is constantly proving them wrong. Even if this book didn’t set out to be a feminist story, it definitely became one in my mind!

4. On Twitter, I called Scarlet a tease, and I got yelled at for it. I guess I kind of deserved it, but this weird love triangle in this book is just…weird. I don’t have a better word!!

John sees Scarlet in a dress, which never happens. She wears her dress – in secret – to church on Sundays. After John sees her in a dress, he starts to flirt with her and try to kiss her. From the beginning, we KNOW Scarlet is in love with Rob. Granted, she doesn’t really know that because she is truly inflicted, but then she starts flirting back with John and kissing him back, too. Then you’re like NOOOO TEAM ROB 5EVERRR and it really upset me because I didn’t want her to do that to herself. Don’t torture yourself, girlfriend! You know what you want. In Scarlet’s defense, though, she thinks Rob hates her so she tries not to think about her love for him. I get it now, I really do. I apologize here for offending anyone by using the word “tease,” I really needed to think a bit more when I said that. I apologize. I needed to read a bit more before I passed judgment! Forgive me!!

OVERALL: 4 stars!!! I really liked this book. It took me a  bit to get into, which made me nervous because all of my blogging buddies were so into it. I was halfway through when it started to get really interesting! I have Lion Heart coming for me in the mail and I just purchased Lady Thief so I’ll be binging the rest of this series as soon as I finish Fairest by Marissa Meyer. (Pick that up too because damn).

Click to Order!

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Rock Star Book Tour Release Day Blitz: A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd!

I am so excited that A COLD LEGACY by Megan Shepherd releases today and that I get to share the news, along with an excerpt from the book!
 
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Megan Shepherd, be sure
to check out all the details below.

If you want to read my review of A Cold Legacy – spoiler alert: I LOVED IT – follow the link!

 
This blast also includes a giveaway for a signed copy of the book and swag courtesy of Megan and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the
Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.
 
 
Title: A
COLD LEGACY
Author:
Megan Shepherd
Pub. Date:
January 27, 2015
Publisher:
Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins
Pages: 400
 
After
killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with
Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote
estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the
mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the
basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s
secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be
present within the manor’s own walls.
Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific
experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where
the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and
promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark
footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.
With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the
Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we
love—even our own humanity. 
A COLD LEGACY excerpt
p.21-24
Montgomery stopped the horses outside a tavern. He came to the carriage door, opening it just a crack to keep the rain from drenching us. “I’m going to ask directions.
We can’t be far now.”
 
We watched him saunter over the muddy street as though he didn’t even feel the bite of
freezing rain. A face appeared in the tavern window. The door opened and he spoke to a woman in a wool dress for a few moments, then stomped back through the mud. “This village is called Quick,” he told us. “The manor’s only five miles from here.”
 
“Did you hear that?” Lucy murmured to Edward, still stroking his hair. “We’re almost there. Just hold on. Everything will be all right once we arrive.”
 
Montgomery’s eyes shifted to me. Neither of us wanted to remind Lucy that the prospect of Edward’s fever breaking—and the Beast’s reappearance—was almost more frightening than the fever itself. Delirious, he was less of a threat.
 
“Let’s go then,” I whispered to Montgomery. “And quickly.”
 
He closed the door and in another moment we were moving again, passing through the rest of Quick. Then all too soon the village was nothing but fading lights. The
storm grew and the road became rougher, and all the while Edward’s eyes rolled back and forth beneath shuttered lids.
 
Thunder struck close by, and Lucy shrieked. Montgomery whipped the horses harder,
pulling us along the uneven road impossibly fast, trying to outrun the storm. I twisted in the seat to look out the back window at the pelting rain. A stone fence ran alongside us.
 
“We must be getting close,” I said.
 
“Not soon enough,” Lucy breathed. “We’re going to crash if he keeps driving like this!”
 
The road widened, straightening, letting us travel even faster. Lightning struck close
by, blinding me. The horses bolted. Lucy screamed and covered her eyes, but I couldn’t tear mine away. The lightning had struck an enormous oak tree, twisted from centuries of wind. The oak took flame, blazing despite the rain. A smoking gash ran down the trunk—the lightning’s death mark. I watched until the rain put out most of the flames, but it still smoldered, billowing hot ash into the night.
 
The horses pawed the earth, and I grabbed the window to steady myself. At this wild speed, just hitting a single rock at the wrong angle would send the carriage shattering to the ground. It was madness to go so fast. Couldn’t Montgomery calm the horses?
 
Just when I feared the carriage would careen out of control, it stopped short, throwing me against the opposite wall. I tangled in Lucy’s limbs as the chains around Edward’s body clinked. Balthazar grunted, jerking awake at last. We scrambled in the bottom of the carriage until the door flew open. Montgomery stood in the pelting rain. I feared he’d say we’d broken another strut or the horses had gone lame or we’d have to spend the night in the harsh storm.
 
But then I saw the lights behind him, and the night took shape into a turreted stone manor with bright lamps blazing and gargoyles on the roof vomiting rain into a stone courtyard.
 
Montgomery’s eyes met mine beneath the low brim of his hat.
 
“We’ve arrived,” he said.
 
 
 
 
 
About Megan:
 
Hello! 
 
I’ve been many things, like a
professional exchange student, park ranger in Montana, and LOST enthusiast, but
what I am now is a writer.
 
I think it’s fair to say I was born into it. I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, raised behind the counter of my parents’ independent bookstore, Highland Books in Brevard. Ah, so many free books. But I never thought being a writer could be a real career. After college I thought I’d end up as a foreign service officer somewhere dashing and exotic, like Canada. I studied French, Spanish, German, and Russian and still speak a few of those. Then I joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Senegal, where I learned a few more languages I’ll never speak again and lived in a mud hut with no electricity or running water. You can probably imagine how that experience went, but if you’re curious, here are the dirty details
 
It wasn’t until a chance aquaintance read something I wrote and said, “have you ever considered being a writer?” that something clicked and I realized it was possible. My husband encouraged me, and I quickly fell head-over-heels in love with writing and children’s literature in particular. I started out writing articles, which have appeared in Faces, Appleseeds, and Calliope magazines, and stories for younger children. I soon realized I wasn’t sweet enough to write fiction for that age and found myself writing young adult literature instead, which doesn’t require nearly as many tender moments and includes a lot more cursing.
 
When I’m not writing, I can usually be found horseback riding, day dreaming at coffee shops, or hiking in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. I love to hear from readers, so please drop me a line!
 
I am represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.
Author Photo by Kristi Hedberg Photography
ACL-twitter-chatDon’t forget to join Megan Shepherd’s Twitter chat tomorrow (hosted by Veronica Rossi *squeal*) from 8-9 pm EST! You can be entered to win one of FIVE sets of the Madman’s Daughter series or one set of the Under the Never Sky series! This giveaway is US only!
Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive a signed copy of A COLD LEGACY and swag! US Only.
Ends on February 6th at Midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ARC Review: Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston

Blues for ZoeyPublisher: Flux Books

Release Date: February 8, 2015

Genre: YA, Romance

Source: e-ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I had a hard time deciding on what to tell you for the genre, really. It’s kind of a romance…but also it’s not. I know that’s confusing, but I don’t want to spoil it for you! Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

Kaz Barrett should be saving for college. Instead, he saves his pay from the Sit ’n’ Spin Laundromat to send his mother to an expensive sleep clinic in New York. She suffers from a rare neurological disorder, and both Kaz and his kid sister worry that one day, maybe tomorrow, their mother will fall asleep and never wake up.

But when pink-haired Zoey walks past the laundromat’s window, Kaz’s ordered life spins out of control. Smart, mysterious, and full of music, Zoey is unlike anyone Kaz has met . . . but there’s another side to her that he can’t quite figure out. When he goes looking for answers, he finds a whirlwind of lies, half-truths, and violence that could cost him everything he’s worked for.

1. This is a book with a diverse main character – which I loved!

I have a problem with some of these “diverse” books in that they play into stereotypical racial profiling and then calls itself a diverse book. The main character, Kaz, is half Japanese (I’m pretty sure he’s Japanese) and half from Barbados (I don’t know what you call those from Barbados!). His race never really gets brought up. I think there are only two places in the book. It’s brought up by Kaz himself when he’s explaining why people are confused by him and once from Zoey when she totally nails it. Other than that, he’s just like any MC which is actually wonderful because it’s not trying to buy into stereotyping its characters. Points for you, Mr. Weston!

2. Zoey really is an enigma. You spend most of the book trying to figure her out.

When we meet Zoey, Kaz thinks she is Jesus. She is walking down the street with her long dreads and she is carrying what looks to be a huge cross (it’s actually an instrument she calls the rood rattler). Not only that, but as Kaz gets to know her, her personality shifts all the time. There is one scene where she cons a cashier at a coffee shop out of $20 and until it is explained, I didn’t even know how it could have happened! Anyway, this book is mostly Kaz’s story but Zoey is a HUGE part of it (I mean, obviously, her name is in the title). Sometimes it felt like Kaz was a supporting character and Zoey was the main character. I spent so much time trying to figure her out.

3. The end will throw you. It really will.

I enjoyed this book well enough. It wasn’t terribly exciting or fast paced, but it was good. However, when everything was explained in the end, I was honestly shocked. I did NOT see that coming! Obviously, I’m not going to tell you what the ending is, because I want you to enjoy this, as well. But seriously…that ending! It was great. I understand why the story is not so fast paced or exciting. All of it was extreme build up. And how wonderfully it was done.

4. Kaz is fantastic. His narration is so wonderful.

I think I updated on Goodreads that I loved Kaz as MC and narrator because it felt like he was just having a conversation with me. Weston has this ability to write teenagers (I work with them every day – I know what they sound like) and it sounded like one of my students was telling me this crazy story that had happened to them. It was great.

OVERALL: three stars! I enjoyed this book, but it definitely was out of my comfort zone. It had a fantastic ending, a pretty decent cast of characters, and a great conversational feel to the narrative which I didn’t know I would enjoy. This book releases on February 8, 2015 so go forth and preorder!

Click to preorder!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Would Recommend to My Seventh Graders

Top Ten TuesdayAgain, thanks to Jamie over at The Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday ideas and graphics! This week was a freebie, so I decided that since I just started teaching middle school English, I would make a list of books I’d recommend for them! They’ve already asked me to make a list of books I’d recommend, so I guess this is a good start!

1. Gracefully GraysonGracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

This book was incredible. Grayson is in 6th grade, and he is figuring out who he is – he feels like he should have been born a girl. Even if someone has never gone through this feeling, everyone can benefit from Grayson’s story. He has to struggle, of course, but she is such a strong heroine and main character that anyone can see how absolutely wonderful she is. This is a book of self discovery, bravery, and growing up.

Harry Potter Collection2. Harry Potter books 1-7 by J.K. Rowling

I MEAN, DUH!! What kind of blogger and book lover and educator would I be if I didn’t recommend every Harry Potter book ever to my students?! I have a Deathly Hallows tattoo on my right wrist and on my car, plus a poster of the Hogwarts crest in my classroom. My kids know I’m an HP freak. I want them to make good life choices and be HP freaks, too.

Iron Trial3. The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

I don’t read much middle grade, but when I do, it’s always compared to old Harry up there. This book was about wizards and magic and a special school, but that’s about where the similarities ended. I was so pleasantly surprised by this book! The school itself is full of demons and dark caves, unlike Hogwarts. Granted, there’s danger there, but it tries to stay hidden. Anyway, this book is fantastic, fast paced, and will jump start any seventh graders imagination and love for reading!

Balance Keepers4. Balance Keepers: The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings

I adored this. I picked up a copy at ALA over the summer and blew through it. After I was done, I lent it to a coworker’s 12 year old son, and he is now obsessed too. This is packed full of action, adventure, magic, and a hidden world under our own. There are magical creatures, alternate universes, and danger around every corner. It was absolutely fantastic!!

Percy Jackson5. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

Seriously, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Riordan’s books. I would recommend every series of his involving mythology (The Kane Chronicles and The Heroes of Olympus). I learned more mythology from Riordan than an actual mythology class! These books are full of action and adventure and, as an added bonus, teaches kids about Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology without kids knowing that they’re learning! It really is a beautiful thing.

Fablehaven6. The Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull

THIS. SERIES. IS. AMAZING. It’s about a brother and sister – Seth and Kendra – who are banished to their grandparents’ house for the summer. Come to find out, their grandparents run a magical creature sanctuary! This whole series is crazy fun. It’s full of all types of mythical creatures like dragons, brownies, witches, a Sphinx…honestly I was super surprised about how much I loved this. I have the whole series on my Kindle. This one is a must read for anyone.

Candy Shop War7. The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull

Yes, more Brandon Mull! This guy has a special talent for middle grade awesome! This one is about a new woman who moves to town, Mrs. White. She makes special candies that give the kids magical powers like jumping to incredible heights. Then things go DOWN and they have to defeat Mrs. White. This book was so awesome and I have zero shame in how much I love it! I’m pretty sure this one is a duology. It has a sequel, called Arcade Catastrophe.

The Alchemyst8. The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott

This series is amazing. There are SIX books of awesome. You may notice the name, Nicholas Flamel, from the first Harry Potter book. Same guy, different concept. This series is based on the actual Nicholas Flamel and his wife who died in 1418. When the graves were uncovered, they were empty. That’s the actual awesome history. This book revolves around a brother and sister who stumble across Flamel (without knowing who he is) and a prophecy that centers around them. What ensues is a magical education, meetings with gods and goddesses, and whole lot of adventure. This is an insane ride for any age, really.

Septimus Heap9. The Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage

This series is incredible! Pretty much all of the books on this list include magic, and this one is no different. Septimus is a seventh son of a seventh son – magical in its own right. He is supposed to be dead…but obviously he isn’t. He goes on a crazy adventure over 7 books that is just…wonderful. That’s really the only word I can use! It’s a fantastic story of magic, love, friendship, decisions, and growing up into your destiny.

The Last Apprentice10. The Last Apprentice series by Joseph DeLaney

This is another series about a seventh son of a seventh son spanning THIRTEEN awesome books! This main character is an apprentice to the Spook, who catches magical beings who threaten the town. They catch ghosts, bind witches, and are all around magical creature vigilantes. This series is incredibly written and steeped in myths and folklore, which is what drew me to the series in the first place! A great read for anyone interested in magical creatures that may or may not exist.

I hope this list helps you identify books for your middle schooler – or even yourself! I love every single series and book on this list and I have zero shame about my love for Middle Grade books! They’re always so fun! Let me know some of your favorite middle grades!

Book Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Rebel BellePublisher: Putnam Juvenile

Release Date: April 8, 2014

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Southern belles

I was a HUGE fan of Rachel Hawkins’s Hex Hall series. I was a little late for the bus on this new series, but as soon as I read the synopsis, I was so in! This definitely went along with my new obsession with Southern gothic/anything Southern related. Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.
Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him–and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.

1. The setting! Oh, Alabama!
As stated in previous reviews, I have never been to the South, so that means anything to do with that region fascinates me. Harper Jane Price is the definition of a Southern belle. She edits curse words out of her own story, she is practicing for Cotillion (or, her coming out as a society woman), she does SO much for her community and school, and has manners almost to a fault. I realize that all of these things are par for the course in the south and – being from Las Vegas – this continues to fascinate and astound me. The south itself seems to be a character, since it’s a driving force behind all of Harper’s actions.
2. It starts with a serious bang!
The book opens the night of Harper’s homecoming and an unfortunate event of forgetting lipgloss. She goes to the bathroom to apply a “horrific” shade of Salmon to her “nekkid” lips and shit. gets. crazy. At first, I thought I would loathe Harper because as she was narrating those first few pages before stuff got weird, I was desperately hoping she’d turn around and change. And oh boy, did she change.
3. The paranormal aspect of this book kind of surprised me.
It’s so rare these days reading a paranormal book that has nothing to do with werewolves and vampires. This book has everything to do with Oracles and those who protect them – Paladins. I love mythology and paranormalcy steeped in history and we come to find out that Harper’s situation with David (more on him later) goes all the way back to the times of Charlemagne. So awesome!
4. There wasn’t a love triangle! I loved, loved, LOVED this!!
We all know my feelings about love triangles. If you’re new here and don’t know, I absolutely loathe love triangles. (My only exception to that in recent memory was in Megan Shepherd’s Madman’s Daughter trilogy). Anyway, Harper has a boyfriend named Ryan and of course he’s perfect, but he’s also kind of…unbelievable in the sense that no one is that perfect, not even in books. At first, our villain is one David Stark. However, this is a case of a misunderstood villain and he ends up being one of my favorite characters in the book. #TeamDavid5ever
5. This was not deeply intellectual.
This was a quick, wild ride. This wasn’t something where I was constantly searching for metaphors or advice about life. The vocabulary was amazing, though. This was exactly what I needed after reading Amy Zhang’s Falling Into Place. Even if you’ve never read Hawkins’s Hex Hall series, you’ll fall in love with the story and the characters.
OVERALL: 5 stars!! I really adored this book and I will most definitely be continuing the series. I strapped myself in for a wild ride and it did not disappoint. I really appreciate Hawkins’s use of southern vernacular and culture to really immerse you into the mind of Harper Price. I would definitely recommend this!! Click the link below to order!

Hey Ya’ll, It’s a Reading Challenge!

flightsoffantasyWell, I’ve never done this before. I’m doing lots of things this year that are out of my comfort zone and I’ve always wanted to do a reading challenge, so here it is! The Flights of Fantasy reading challenge is really right up my alley since I’ve been consciously trying to read more fantasy! This challenge is hosted by Alexa Loves Books and Hello, Chelly! So, here it goes, my very first challenge!

This year, I challenge myself to read 50 fantasy books. My overall goal is 120, so I think that’s a fair guess. This will most likely fluctuate up depending on what awesome books and series I find!

So far, in the realm of fantasy, I’ve read:

  • Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

My next fantasy read will be A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, thanks to some awesome book nerd friends willing to share their copies!

Join me in the challenge! I promise it’ll be fun!

ARC Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen

Release Date: February 10, 2015

Publisher: HarperTeen

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

So I really loved this book. There were a lot of reasons why I loved this book, so for the sake of brevity, I’ll try to keep this as short as possible. I could really go on and on and on. Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

1. I actually liked the romance in this book! I know. Shocking.

If you’ve been reading my reviews for awhile, you know that I am not really one for romance. It kind of makes me feel gaggy and vomitous. However, the romance in this one is kind of small compared to everything else happening! This made me so, so happy. Plus, everyone is not what they seem, so it made for a really fun twist to the romances going on. There is kind of a love triangle, but…well, you’ll just have to see for yourself.

2. I loved the main character!!

I was honestly surprised by Mare. In books like this, oftentimes I am disappointed in the main character for many reasons: no bravery, too much whining, loving every guy that comes into her sight. I know that these MCs are normally teenagers, but when saddled with this responsibility, I think they should be a little bit more grown up. BUT Mare Barrow is the shit. Honestly. She doesn’t do much fighting, but she never annoyed me. I was always nervous that she’d turn around and do something to shatter that, but she never did. YAY!!

3. This world is so crazy, but actually kind of similar to our own.

I’m a middle school teacher, and my kids and I are closing in on reading pieces about Jackie Robinson and studying the 1960s, Civil Rights, and the Holocaust. This world kind of reminded me of the 60s when the whites were above the blacks and there was so much violence. In this world, though, it’s all about the color of your blood – not your skin. If your blood is Silver, you have abilities and you have money and power. If your blood is Red, well suit up for a life of poverty, war, and starvation. The Reds are the serfs and servants of this world, and it is quite sickening, but really cool to imagine – mostly because I don’t have to actually be a part of this world!

4. The world building was impressively strong. I loved it!

I hate when an author is a terrific world builder, then doesn’t follow the world’s rules. In this book, it is deliberate. Mare finds out she has powers, even being a Red (don’t worry, that’s SO not a spoiler). The rest of the world follows the rules, except for Mare, which was an excellent way to show me how rare she is. This was fabulous, surprising, awe-inspiring. I hate writing. I could never actually build a world this intricate. Bravo!

5. The princes. *swoon*

It’s not every day I swoon over a character. In fact, I think the last guy character I swooned over was Four! Anyway, both of these princes – Maven and Cal – are swoon worthy. Cal is the strong soldier who is also kind, but can be kind of a dick when he gets in I’m a prince mode. Maven, though, is kind of in Cal’s shadow (he’s the younger brother) but he is so kind and accepting. I didn’t know which to like more!

6. The overall theme here is anyone can betray anyone, so watch out who you trust.

Trust me when I say, your heart will get shattered. I knew what was coming before it happened, but it still made me feel SO. DEVASTATED!!! Even if you, too, know it’s coming, it’s still so awful. Just…keep this small phrase in mind while you’re reading, yeah? It may help soften the blow, even just a tad.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!!!! I really, really enjoyed this book. I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I used it as a bribe so I would finish grading and lesson planning faster. This was amazing. I loved it. This releases on February 10, 2015 so click the link below to pre-order!!

Click to pre-order!

Book Review: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Falling Into PlacePublisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Genre: Mental health, Contemporary, (kind of) Romance, Frienship

Okay, can we first just talk about how YOUNG Amy Zhang is and how BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN this book is?! When I was her age, I was slinging coffee at Starbucks, not being a brilliant wordsmith. Wow. Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

“On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.” Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? The nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

1. Let’s revisit the writing, shall we?

I would have been impressed with Zhang’s writing had she been a seasoned author. However, I’m doubly impressed because she’s so young. I cannot express how gorgeous the writing is, barring some editorial mess ups. But wow. I can’t say that enough.

2. I didn’t connect with many of the characters.

We are supposed to hate Liz Emerson, the main character. The whole book we’re told, through different points of view, about the awful things Liz has done throughout her short life. I hate Liz. That’s the biggest connection I had to her. The rest of the characters were overwhelmingly meh, other than Liz’s friend, Julia. Julia is a drug addict. From what I can tell, she’s addicted to cocaine. As someone who was also an addict, she was my favorite. I connected with her most of all. She seemed the least stuck up out of the three friends: Liz, Julia, and Kennie. Kennie is really superficial and just like any other high school archetype. I didn’t care for her, either.

3. This is a big look at the mental health of high schoolers.

I have read a ton of books lately about mental health, suicide, and teenagers. This one is about a girl who doesn’t know how to ask for help, even though she tries. She tells her mother she is sick and her mother tells her to take some Tylenol and that she has to get back to a meeting. It is quite sickening, especially when you realize that this is how the situation usually plays out. Even though I hated Liz, she doesn’t deserve to die. Throughout the book, she maintains that everyone is above her and she doesn’t deserve to live. She gives herself a week and can find no redeeming qualities out of life, which was heartbreaking. Maybe books like this will bring more help to those teenagers who are suffering.

4. The points of view occasionally confused me, while also driving me nuts.

There is a mysterious narrator in this book. Mostly, you’re getting a third person omniscient view and you’re reading along then all of a sudden, a sentence starts with, “I…” Wait, WHAT?! It was pretty easy to call, especially if you’re looking for it. You’ll get your answer – if you didn’t find it – in the epilogue, then it all makes sense!

5. There is a tiny bit of romance, and I hate romance, but this was pretty satisfying.

A girl like Liz has to have a boyfriend, right? She totally does…and a lot of other dudes, but her boyfriend is a douchebag. The closest Liz gets to romance is when Liam (UGH I LOVE LIAM, TOO) drives her home from a party next door to his house and she pukes in his car. She realizes too late who deserves her. There really was no romance and it was kind of heartbreaking, but it felt genuine, which I loved!

OVERALL: 4 stars!!! I enjoyed this book way more than I thought I would when I started. The beginning was a little slow, but the more you invest, the more you want to know. This book is about redemption and forgiveness and solid, lasting friendship (which is very difficult to find). I loved the messages here. Bravo! This was written so beautifully and I cannot wait to see what Amy Zhang produces next!

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Q&A With Nick Lake, Author of There Will Be Lies!

TWBL Blog tour bannerHello, all!

Welcome to my very first blog post for a blog tour! This time, we’ll be asking some questions (and getting some answers) from Printz Award winning author, Nick Lake! If you want to see my review for There Will Be Lies, just follow the link. My questions are slightly odd, but those make for the best questions! Here we go!

Just a Broke Bookworm: I noticed heavy amounts of Native American mythology in the novel. How much research went into writing There Will Be Lies and what did you research?

Nick Lake: That’s an interesting one because it wasn’t originally the intention to have that in there. In the first draft it leant much more towards the fairy tale archetypes, the witch, the castle, and Coyote was there as a guide but that was pretty much it. But in subsequent drafts I built in more and more of the Navajo and Apache and Yavapai references and the mythological backstory; it just felt like it brought more resonance of place to the story aside from anything else. Shelby is in Arizona; it makes sense that her Dreaming taps into that Perry Mesa culture, the symbology of elks and Coyote. Plus of course the trickster idea is pretty central to the book, Coyote disrupting Shelby’s life, and so I wanted to put some of Coyote’s stories in there. Really though it was the best kind of research because it was mostly reading folk tales and anthropology. I could do that all day. I also spent a lot of time on google maps working out Shelby and her mom’s journey – it’s a road trip book so that element was important. I’m excited actually because in about two weeks I’m doing a short tour in the states and we’re going to follow the same route, and see the elk rock paintings, and so on.

JaBBW: I snack a lot when I am writing. I can imagine writing this novel took a long time. What kind of snacks did you eat while you were writing?

NL: Nothing at all. But that’s only because I write specifically and only on the train to and from work and I don’t have any snacks with me. I’m a snacking reader though. I get through a lot of chocolate when I’m reading. I used to eat peanut butter M&Ms which I imported from America (we don’t get them here) but since my daughter turned out to be anaphylactically allergic to nuts we have purged them from the house. Selfish of her really.

JaBBW: What inspired you to write this novel?

NL:

Oh… Ok, so the obvious answer is that I encountered a coyote in the grounds of a hotel in Arizona, late at night, and it made a profound impression on me. But it’s also the answer I’ve given in various other places. I think the other answer is that it’s very much a book about parents and children and safety and growing up and a lot of it was inspired by – not too put too fine a point on it – my overwhelming fear about, and desire to protect, my own young children. In particular though I was thinking about a certain kind of news story, and the best case scenario in that kind of story, and I thought, “well I can imagine how the parents would feel on finding this resolution but how would the child feel?” And the whole story pretty much spun from that single question.

This will sound cryptic to anyone who hasn’t read the book but to be any more clear would be a HUGE spoiler. But anyway, yes, it was probably wanting to put the spotlight on the child, in a story that tends to focus on the parents.

JaBBW: I’ve seen a lot of authors display their writing playlists lately. Do you have a playlist for TWBL? If so, what’s on it? If not, what do you listen to when you write?

NL: I don’t have a playlist but I do have a type, or a couple of types, of music that I listen to when I write. It needs to be mostly non-vocal, so I don’t get distracted by lyrics, and it usually falls in that woozy, chopped-and-screwed, echoey space between hip hop, RnB, juke, and dubstep. The Weeknd, the XX, Tinashe, Makonnen, mixes by Shlohmo, A$AP Rocky (which leads to Clams Casino instrumentals), Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, FKA Twigs, Burial, even old DJ Screw stuff, and compilations I’ve made of white label grime from about 2004 like Ruff Sqwad. There is NO link between this music and the books, it wouldn’t serve as a useful soundtrack or anything like that. It just puts me into the right sort of trance, I think.

JaBBW: Do you have any pets? If you have pets, do you read them your books and see what they think? (This might sound like an odd question, but I read to my dog a lot and she loves it – but she used to be a person).

NL: I have a cat, Leo, but I’ve never read to him. To be honest I don’t think he’d sit still. We live in the countryside in England and he is a real outdoor cat. We barely see him, except when he brings us dead things. I know why one would read to a pet though; they do look at you sometimes in that unnerving way that suggests that they have been reincarnated into that body.

JaBBW: What thoughts went through your head when you won the Printz Award for In Darkness, and what did you do immediately after you found out you had won?

NL:

I think I thought it was some kind of joke. I mean, I’m from the UK, I was used to awards having some kind of long list and shortlist and being warned ahead of time. I didn’t know you could win an award over the phone on a cold afternoon (time difference) from a group of people on speakerphone. I truly thought it was my colleagues pulling a prank of some kind. I vividly remember saying, “are you sure you wouldn’t rather give it to X”, with X being the name of a well known author. But they didn’t. It was just a lovely moment, they were so warm and excited and I had been working in England in the cold because the heating in our house was literally installed in Victorian times and there were all these smiling sunshiney American voices on the phone doing something amazing for the book. Nowadays I know more about the process and I’m mostly just in awe of the kind of people who volunteer to read so many books, to put in so much largely unrewarded work in order to try to help put teens in touch with books. Writing a novel is EASY compared with being a Printz judge. Those guys are amazing.

Oh and after? I had a drink. And then my daughter, who was two, called from the living room to say, “Daddy, I’ve done a poo.” Which brought me back to earth with a bump.

I hope you guys learned a lot about Nick Lake and his awesome book, There Will Be Lies, which released on January 6th (if you haven’t gotten it yet, what are you waiting for?! Go, go go). I know you learned a ton about me (like how I think my dog is a human in a dog’s body), but I hoped you learned more about Lake and his wit and sense of humor. Click the link below to order Lake’s book so you can get lost and love it, too!

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Book Review: Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

Blood of My BloodAuthor: Barry Lyga

Release Date: September 9, 2014

Pages: 480

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Serial Killer Mystery

I am giving you this disclaimer now: If you haven’t read I Hunt Killers and Game, I will spoil a lot for you. So, until you read those, DON’T READ THIS. Go finish the first two and come back, okay?!

With that said, here’s your synopsis from Amazon:

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.
1. I. Love. Jasper. Dent.
As a fan of the Dexter book series and show (well…up to season four, anyway), I can honestly tell you that Jasper Dent and his crazy dad (and family) are more fascinating than I ever found Dexter. Ever since book one, Jasper has tried to deny his nature pounded into him by his father. He tries to prove to himself that people are real. People matter. This book is the best look we’ve ever had into Jasper’s mind and the reasons behind his actions. His steady decline is heartbreaking and real and so entirely necessary.
2. Can we talk about Barry Lyga’s writing for a second, here?
Barry Lyga is so impressive. Even when describing a gruesome murder or injury, his words are so captivating that I can’t look away. He’s so descriptive that sometimes it is something I actually wish I could look away from. It’s almost like seeing it in front of your eyes, but in a book, you know? He is scary good, and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to tell this story. Bravo!
3. This is the craziest book of the three, in my humble opinion.
When I first stumbled across I Hunt Killers in the library, I was hooked before I even opened the book. I have a strange obsession with serial killers – fictional or otherwise. Therefore, reading about the son of a notorious serial killer? YEP. So, in this book, we catch up to Jazz as he’s left for dead in a storage unit, Connie in the clutches of Billy Dent, and Howie in the hospital…again. The three friends are not together much through the book, but it’s interesting to see the individual things they struggle with when they’re apart. This was so great.
4. Billy Dent is pure, pure evil…but even he is no match for the Crow King.
We’ve figured out through the second book (I hope, because I had it figured out) that Billy Dent is not the Crow King. We know that he’s playing the game and we know he’s in the Crows, but we know he’s just a player in the game. We meet the Crow King, guys. And he is not who you would ever expect. I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor because that was honestly out of nowhere. Billy Dent is up to his usual hijinks in this book, but don’t you worry. You’ll be satisfied.
5. Poor Jasper.
Throughout this book, Jasper declines rapidly. His mental decline kind of reminded me of Walter White’s declension into Heisenberg in Breaking Bad. Although, Jasper has had issues since he was a small child – what with his crazy dreams/memories – and Walter White chose to become the man he did. Jasper also has a decision though, and he definitely makes that decision he’s been struggling with since I Hunt Killers. This was a great journey to go on. I laughed, I cried, and I was satisfied.
OVERALL: 5 stars!!! I’ve given all three of these books 5 stars, because I love them SO. MUCH. Lyga’s writing is hauntingly beautiful, the story is crazy, and the murders are so in depth that you feel like you’re watching it on a show instead of reading. I loved this so much. This was definitely not the end of a series that disappointed me. If you’ve been following Jasper since day one, you will NOT be disappointed with this conclusion. I loved this so much! Click the link below to order (or go to the library, like I did)!