Saturday, May 28, 2011


Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.
Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.
In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

This is the most difficult book I've had to review in a while. Normally, I either liked it or I didn't. However, in the case of Katie Kacvinsky's debut novel, I had mixed emotions upon finishing it. I've been on a bit of a dystopian kick lately, so it could have been due to the fact that I've been reading so many of them, but I found Awaken hard to get into at first. It has an interesting premise, one that I could definitely see happening with the way the world is going, but there was nothing about it that really grabbed me and held my interest. In fact, I started this book before Wintergirls, but had to take a break because I was 50 pages in and still didn't feel like it was going anywhere.

The action picked up in the last third of the book. I read the last 75 pages faster than I'd read the first 170 (I had the Nook version), and I enjoyed the direction the story took. I just wish it had been that exhilerating the whole way through. I will say though, the blossoming relationship between Maddie and Justin was wonderful to read. The characters were well-developed, and the struggles they faced when trying to decide whether or not to be together were realistic and believable.

Overall, I would recommend this book to those who are just entering a dystopian phase. It's well-crafted and interesting, but falls short if you've been reading other dystopian novels for months. The ending set it up for a sequel, so I'll be interested to see how the second book compares.


Thursday, May 26, 2011


Oh boy...I've been absentee again, haven't I? The good news is: I've finished my reviews for Absolute Forest of Words (check out the blog if you want to see them), I've been spending a lot more time with my lovely fiance as he just started a new job ten minutes away from mine (we carpool and eat lunch together now), and I worked out a major plot point in my WIP. Now if only I could finish the scene...

My goal for this weekend is to get myself in a more writer-friendly environment so that I can produce lots of wordage next week. I've found that I dread closeting myself in my room for hours, since my time with my family is so limited. I'm going to try and work out a system so that I can get writing time AND family time, and maybe not feel so darn guilty.

Anyway, I finished Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson yesterday. Here's the review!

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss-her life-and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend's memory and racked with guilt for not being able to help save her. In her most powerfully moving novel since Speak, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia's struggle, her painful path to recovery, and her desperate attempts to hold on to the most important thing of all-hope.

This is one of those books that leaves you feeling a little hollow when it's over, like all the emotion has been sucked right out of you. It's about eating disorders, and while I've never been a sufferer, I can definitely relate to the self-esteem issues Lia and Cassie had. I struggled with my weight all through high school, after going through a (very) early puberty and being made fun of for my developing body. I didn't want people to laugh, so I retreated into a shell, abandoning sports and clubs and friends for the safety of home and the television. It took college and a major lifestyle change to bring me out of the shell and get rid of 60 pounds of excess weight. I've still got about 20 to go before I reach my goal, but I'm in a much better place now than I ever was in high school.

Anderson's writing style is unique. She has this way of sounding lyrical, yet still somehow capturing the voice of a teenager. It's a skill that I'm insanely jealous of, and hope to someday incorporate into my writing. I was moved to tears many times throughout the course of the novel, not just because of the subject matter, but because the words were so beautiful they took my breath away. It took me all of one day to finish the 278-page novel, simply because I was so captivated by the writing.

I hope that more people will pick up this book and read it. Whether you suffer from an eating disorder yourself, know someone that does, or are just someone who can identify with feelings of self-doubt, it's a truly moving and inspirational read.


Sunday, May 15, 2011


Moonglass by Jessi Kirby: Book Cover

When Anna was little, she and her mother used to search for sea glass, but since they looked at night, they called it moonglass. Now, ten years after her mother's mysterious death, her father is working as head lifeguard on the same beach where her mother grew up and her parents first met and fell in love.
Reluctant to get close to anyone (including her father) and not pleased about having to start at a new school, Anna begins to spend more time alone, running the length of the beach and wondering about who her mother really was. After meeting a lifeguard named Tyler, she slowly lets her guard down and together they start exploring the abandoned houses that dot the beach.
But when learning more about her mother's past leads to a painful discovery, Anna must reconcile her desire for solitude with ultimately accepting the love of her family and friends.

This book was not at all what I thought it was going to be. For some reason, I thought I had read somewhere that it was going to be about mermaids, which wasn't true at all. Mermaids influenced the story, but they weren't a major part of it. That being said, I definitely wasn't disappointed with Kirby's debut.

Anna's story was beautiful, and a perfect read for the beginning of summer. The whole thing centered around Anna's love for the beach, and, being a San Diego native myself, I was sucked in by the descriptions of the ocean. You forget how much you've missed something until it's right there in front of you (figuratively, if not literally).

The characters in the novel were pretty well-developed. At times, they seemed a little flat, but for the most part they were well-rounded three-dimensional characters. I feel like Anna successfully completed her journey as the main character, and there were visible changes in her by the end of the novel. Tyler was the only one who wasn't all that complex (in my opinion), but he was still a likeable guy and a joy to read.

Overall, I enjoyed Moonglass. I would definitely read other books by Jessi Kirby, and I'm hoping that she's got something else in the works. It was refreshing to read a book that's not part of a series for once, but I'm a little sad at the fact that contemporary seems to be the only YA genre that can put out a singleton these days. I'm anxious to see what's in store for this author's career at any rate. Check it out for yourself!


Monday, May 9, 2011


Divergent by Veronica Roth: Book Cover

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

I just found out about Divergent two weeks ago, which isn't surprising considering how out-of-the-loop I am on new releases (this has been a problem since I quit working at Barnes and Noble). When I started researching it, I was under the impression that I'd be getting a Hunger Games clone. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since that book is amazing, but after only a few pages of Divergent, I knew I was greatly mistaken.

While Divergent is also a dystopian novel, it focuses on personality traits and thought rather than just political oppression. People are placed into one of five factions at the age of 16, and each faction values a different quality. Not only did Roth create this unique system, she also created a believable culture for each faction. There is a reason behind the food, clothing, and customs that ties back to the core value of each faction, and it all made sense. I was completely fascinated by it.

The characters themselves also had me enthralled. Tris is a very strong young woman in the same vein as Katniss Everdeen. She doesn't let love cloud her judgment for the entire book, as in Twilight and other books of its genre. She makes decisions for herself, and takes responsibility for her mistakes. She's a true role model for young girls everywhere.

Four was a young man with dimension, adding so much more than eye candy to the story (thank goodness). There were multiple layers to his psyche, and I learned shocking things about him right along with Tris. Even Tris's friends were fully-fleshed supporting characters, a component that's been missing from a lot of the latest young adult literature.

Overall, this book was a fast-paced thrill ride that kept me turning pages long after my lights should have been out. The society was intriguing, and the characters were a breath of fresh air in a genre that has introduced us to so many flat, unrealistic people. I can't wait to see what else Veronica Roth has to offer, and I'm looking forward to reading about Tris's trials in the next installment.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Red Glove

Red Glove (Curse Workers Series #2) by Holly Black: NOOK Book Cover

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.
That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.
When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself?
Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

Red Glove was a wonderful follow-up to White Cat. Sometimes a series can slow severely with the second book, as evidenced in the Twilight Saga, and lose numerous fans. Not so with Holly Black's Curse Worker series. The plot was just as engaging as it was in White Cat, while still building on the original story and bringing in new elements.

I'll admit, at first I almost gave up on Red Glove. I've got so many books on my "to read" list, and many of them have been calling to me in the last few days, but I wanted to read Red Glove while White Cat was still fresh in my mind. It only took 20 pages to suck me back into Cassel's mob world, and I loved every minute I spent there. Black's imagery is amazing, and I found myself noticing the little details in this book (more so than I did in the first). In one passage, Cassel is greeted by Chris (the young man living in Daneca's house) and notices a smudge of blue in his hair. Who would think to add such an insignificant detail? There were many instances of this throughout Red Glove, and these details made me love the story even more.

I think my favorite part of the series is by far the world building. I know everyone has already addressed this numerous times, but I just want to add my two cents. It's flawless. When building a world so similar to the one we live in, it has to be a seamless transition, so that it really feels like this alternate world is really a possibility. There was one passage, during the riot, when Cassel sees a girl's bare hands and comments on how strange it is to see them. I thought it was odd that he was so horrified by bare hands, but then I realized something. If you were living in a society where gloves were as common as t-shirts and pants, it would be bizarre to see someone without them. It would probably be just as shocking as that Erykah Badu video where she strips naked and runs down the street. In that instant, the whole world Black built clicked into place for me. She thought of everything, even the reactions characters would have to certain situations.

Holly Black's attention to detail is what makes the Curse Workers series so incredible. I'm anxiously awaiting the next installment!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I haven't posted in two weeks! While I'd love to say that's due to being busy with writing, it's not entirely true. I have gotten a little farther with my WIP, but certainly not as far as I'd like. It's a good thing I have so many inspiring, positive authors to look to for guidance at times like this. Kiersten White (check her out here) said that you'll know you're a writer when you're ready to make sacrifices for your work. I hadn't been ready to do that previously, but I'm ready to do so now. I'm willing to sacrifice my daily nap (sad face) in order to get more writing done. It's really the only thing I can give up at this point, much to my dismay.

LT Host (check her out here) recently discussed the thing that frustrates her the most about her writing. She said that she has a hard time with volume, that her work often isn't long enough. In response, K Marie Criddle (the sponsor of the lovely giveaway which netted me an awesome new book) said that her biggest problem is how slow she writes. I identify with K Marie, and it was a good feeling to see someone else who struggles with the same thing I do. I'm painfully slow in the beginning, because I know how important beginnings are. I give up on a book if it doesn't hook me in the first third. That being said, I have to mull things over for quite some time before I commit it to the page because I want the beginning to be as perfect as it can be. I feel like this is the main reason I'm not progressing as quickly as I'd like, and I can own up to that. Ultimately, I just have to be accepting of my own writing style and trust that everything will flow the way it's meant to.

In other news, I've been invited to be a guest reviewer on a YA review blog. It's called Absolute Forest of Words, and you can check it out here. I'm so excited to be doing this! It gives me an opportunity to practice reviewing on a site that gets more hits than this one. :P I should be receiving the book (or books...not sure how many I'm getting) in a day or two, and the review will follow shortly afterward.

I'll wrap up with what I'm currently reading. I'm two thirds of the way through Holly Black's Red Glove, which is actually pretty good. I wouldn't say it's one of my favorites, but I'm certainly enjoying it. What are you reading?