Saturday, March 31, 2012

Best of the Bunch Award: March 2012

Best of the Bunch is a monthly meme that was started at Lyrical Reviews and is currently hosted at Always Lost in Stories. It gives bloggers the chance to share their absolute favorite book they read from the past month.

I really really suck at the whole “pick one” thing, so this month it’s a three-way tie for my favorite pick. I know, I know. But hey, more awesome books for you to check out! :D

My first pick is…..

Such a Rush
By Jennifer Echols

Why: Jennifer Echols is one of my favorite authors ever, and Such a Rush was absolutely amazing. Brother drama, fake relationships, sexual tension, and AIRPLANES. Now more than ever, I really want to be a pilot. I LOVE this book. My full review will be up closer to the release date.

My second pick…

Grave Mercy
By Robin LaFevers

Why: This is historical fantasy at its absolute finest. To convince you, here’s part of my review:
A map at the beginning of the book. Traveling primarily on horseback, with stops at inns and taverns along the way (serving wenches!).  A convent of assassin nuns. Swords. Poison. Bows and arrows. Castles. Secret tunnels in the walls of castles. Battles on horseback. Horns as communication in battle (I had SUCH a Lord of the Rings moment at one point *swoon*). ASSASSIN NUNS. Going undercover as a mistress. Court intrigue. Bracelet weapons. Poisoned pearls as decoration in hair. Chess. Did I mention the assassin nuns?

Are you swooning yet?”

You can read my full review here, and you should DEFINITELY pick up a copy of Grave Mercy when it releases on Tuesday!

And my third and final pick…

Saving June
By Hannah Harrington

Why: Grief, music, and a road trip all combine to make Saving June such an emotional, heartwarming, and smile-inducing read. And I have to mention the slow burn romance. Swooooooooonnnnn. I can’t believe I waited so long to read this. What is wrong with me?? My full review will be up soon!

What was your favorite book (or three?) from March? Share in the comments!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Memes #13

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee’s View and Alison Can Read.

Today’s Question: Do you read one book at a time or do you switch back and forth between two or more?

One book at a time! I get so absorbed in a story that it’s really confusing for me to read two books at once. Back before I had St. Clair (my Kindle), I would actually read two books at a time, one on my laptop when I was at home, and one that I could take out and about with me. But now that I can put my ebooks on St. Clair and take them everywhere with me (yay!), I generally just read one book at a time. I don’t even like to start a new book until I’ve written my review for the previous book because I don’t want to get out of that world (although I’ll admit that doesn’t always happen, haha).

TGIF is hosted by Ginger at GReads!

Book Blogger Retreat: If you could gather up a handful of book blogger friends to spend a weekend away talking books, where would you go? Tell us about it.

Oooh, tough question!  If we could really go ANYWHERE, I’d probably say Hawaii, because who wouldn’t love to talk books and swoon over fictional boys while hanging out on the beach with a drink in hand? (And possibly admiring some real boys? ;P)
But really, anywhere near the water would be great. I grew up near the ocean and I really miss it, so that’s always my number one location to go these days.

Happy Friday, everyone! Let me know if you’re a new follower and I’ll come follow you!

This Week on From A to Z:

And don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a copy of Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard! It ends April 1st!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

By: Robin LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Genre/Age: YA Historical Fantasy
Pages: 560
Source: ARC from publisher

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts – and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany – where she finds herself woefully under prepared – not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

On a purely surface level, Grave Mercy hits sooooo many of my buttons (my good buttons, not my bad buttons. And not in a dirty way. Oh, you know what I mean.). Let’s review, shall we?

A map at the beginning of the book. Traveling primarily on horseback, with stops at inns and taverns along the way (serving wenches!).  A convent of assassin nuns. Swords. Poison. Bows and arrows. Castles. Secret tunnels in the walls of castles. Battles on horseback. Horns as communication in battle (I had SUCH a Lord of the Rings moment at one point *swoon*). ASSASSIN NUNS. Going undercover as a mistress. Court intrigue. Bracelet weapons. Poisoned pearls as decoration in hair. Chess. Did I mention the assassin nuns?

Are you swooning yet?

Happily, all of these superficially awesome things combine to make a deeply awesome story. In case you can’t tell (haha, yeah right), I loooooove historical fantasy, and it’s been a long while since I’ve read one that I enjoyed as much as Grave Mercy. The overall feel of it reminded me a bit of Graceling, which was so wonderful.

One of the things I love about historical fantasy is its ability to completely take a reader back in time and suck them into the world, and Robin LaFevers has done this flawlessly. I felt like I was there with Ismae, and definitely wished I could be there in real life. I swear, I was born in the wrong century.

And Ismae herself is BRILLIANT. She went through a lot (understatement!) before ending up at the convent, but she grows into this sassy, resourceful, funny, smart, totally KICKASS creature who can kill a man about a million different ways. Navigating the murky waters of the court of Brittany with her – never sure who should be trusted and who should be of victim of her poisoned hairdo – is SUCH fun. I loved every second of it.

My one teensy weensy thing (I don’t even want to call it a problem) was the romance. And don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike the romance. It was very sweet and lovely and I definitely enjoyed it, it just seemed a little tame and predictable.  For a book about assassin nuns, with two characters as fantastic as Ismae and Duval, I just wanted a little more spice! More suspense, more potential heartbreak, more sex, more intensity, more whatever. But you know, that’s okay. The book was so awesome otherwise, I can pretty much overlook this.

I really can’t recommend Grave Mercy highly enough. If you like historical fantasy, if you like adventure, if you like court intrigue, if you like action of the archery and swords variety, if you like the idea of a convent of female assassins, if you like getting completely sucked into a world... READ THIS BOOK. Or even if you don’t like any of those things, you should still read it. Because it is awesome. I’m SO excited for the rest of this series.

*On a random note, I’ve seen some speculation about how old Duval is (most people seem to think he’s around 30?), but even though it never specifically says, based on my calculations from information we’re given in the book, I think he’s about 24. And Ismae is 17. So there’s not that big of a gap between them. That is all. :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday #43

“Waiting on” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights an upcoming release that we’re eagerly anticipating. Let the salivating commence.

My pick this week:

The Lost Girl
By: Sangu Mandanna
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: August 28, 2012


Eva’s life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination – an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her ‘other’, if she ever died. Eva studies what Amarra does, what she eats, what it’s like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything she’s ever known – the guardians who raised her, the boy she’s forbidden to love – to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

Why I’m Waiting: This reminds me a little of the movie The Island, except that she’s raised to actually take the place of the other person instead of just provide whatever body parts are necessary. And she knows what’s going on. And it sounds SO COOL. I’m interested to find out why this is happening though – I mean, eventually Eva will die and then the world will think that Amarra has died anyway, so why is it so important to make everyone think she’s still alive now? And is Amarra the only one with an “other”? I can’t wait to find out! Oh, and isn't that cover gorgeous?? I love it.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Movie Thoughts: The Hunger Games

THE HUNGER GAMES IS FINALLY HERE! This isn’t going to be an official “review” of the movie, but I just wanted to share my thoughts. It’ll be more like random bullet points of what goes on in my head, similar to what I did for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. :)

FIRST of all, some pre-movie madness, I went to the midnight showing (of course!) and was decorated with a mockingjay glitter tattoo, courtesy of the amazing Penelope from The Reading Fever. I happened to be traveling with my family last week, and so I forced them all to go to the midnight showing and wear tattoos with me. It was awesome. (I’d already forced them to read the books, so it’s not like they weren’t planning to see the movie anyway.)

These tattoos are SO COOL, but it’s actually kind of difficult to get them looking as sharp and amazing as Penelope’s were. I think we did a fairly good job though. And several people at the theater commented on them, which was fun.

Mine was below my collarbone:

And my brother did one on his forearm:

(My parents did them too, but I don’t have pictures.) I think in hindsight I would have chosen a different color glitter, because the gold is too similar to my skin color so you can't see the mockingjay as well. But still. Very cool! Thanks so much for sharing these, Penelope!

But anyway, enough of that, on to the movie!

Here, in no particular order, are my thoughts:

Things I Loved:

- How faithful the movie was to the book. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that Suzanne Collins wrote the screenplay (or at least an early draft of it), but it made me SO HAPPY. As far as book-to-movie adaptations go, this was amazing.

- Liam Hemsworth as Gale. I was actually really surprised by how much he was Gale to me, considering that when the cast was originally announced, I wasn’t particularly pleased with any of the main three. But he has totally won me over. I can’t wait to see more of him in the next movies.

- Peeta’s rock disguise. It was awesome! That’s the kind of thing that you can picture all you want in your head, but actually seeing it on the screen? Fantastic.

- The Gamemakers in their control room. At one point in the book, Katniss has a thought about how she can just picture the Gamemakers in their little air-conditioned room, pushing buttons to send fireballs at her, and I LOVE that we actually get to see this in the movie. It was so fun to get to watch them manipulate the arena.

- Everything else that we see outside of the arena while the Games are going on. With the book, we’re stuck inside Katniss’ narrative, which is awesome, don’t get me wrong. But it’s really fun to be able to see everything else. Haymitch trying to get sponsers, Caesar talking to the audience, District 11 saluting Katniss after Rue’s death, Gale watching from District 12, etc. (Although I wish they would have showed him at some time other than just when Katniss and Peeta are kissing. I think it would have showed his friendship with Katniss a lot better, because now it just looks like he’s jealous – it doesn’t really show the depth of their relationship.)

- Seneca Crane. LOVED him. And I loved his scenes with President Snow, particularly in the rose garden. It’s funny, because Seneca Crane is a character you hardly think about in the book because you’re so focused on Katniss, but I really liked how they portrayed him in the movie.

- The tracker jacker hallucinations. I thought that was so well done, especially combining it with flashbacks from Katniss’ past in District 12 and her father’s death. I even started getting dizzy in the theater.

- EFFIE TRINKET. Oh my god, Elizabeth Banks was FANTASTIC. Effie was PERFECT. And Effie and Haymitch together? Haha, it was just so good.

Things I Didn’t Love So Much:

- Katniss and Peeta’s “on fire” chariot costumes. MORE FIRE PLEASE. That was a little disappointing to me. I also didn’t like that the horses and chariots were exactly the same for each District. That’s part of the costume! It would have made a much bigger impact in distinguishing the Districts if they hadn’t all been black.

- The subtleties and intricacies of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship. There is SO MUCH going on between these two, and that’s nearly impossible to accurately portray in a movie, especially in a short amount of time. Their complicated relationship and how intrinsically it ties in with everything else going on is my favorite thing about these books, and I feel like that didn’t really make the transition into the movie.

- I also really missed the little moments of humor throughout the story. Yeah okay, this is not a funny story, by any means, but there were definitely cute little moments in the book, especially between Peeta and Katniss. My favorite? When Peeta tells Katniss, “Remember, we’re madly in love, so it’s alright to kiss me whenever you want.” <3 I also missed Katniss knocking Peeta out with the medicine so she can go the feast without him following.

- The somewhat anticlimactic ending. I love the ending of the Games in the book, with Katniss screaming and unsure whether or not Peeta will survive, the fact that they won’t let her see him until their reunion on screen, her reaction when she finds out he now has a fake leg, her desperation to make everyone believe she’s in love with him… I think a lot of that was glossed over in the movie. And they were in separate chairs for the interview!! How hard would it be to put them on a couch together??

- The fast pacing. I know that it’s extremely difficult to fit a 374 page book into 2 hours and 20 minutes, and I honestly don’t know what I would have had them do differently, because it’s not like I want them to leave any scenes out, but I just felt like the entire arena section was very rushed. It went from one thing to another so quickly, and I don’t think the same sense of tension and peril was achieved like it was in the book.

- I think the pacing also lessened the impact of Rue’s death a little bit. I mean, I was crying, for sure, but for people who haven’t read the books… I don’t know. We didn’t really get to see the two of them develop a relationship. They don’t talk about their districts or do any of that bonding. It’s like, “Oh, we’re together, let’s go blow up supplies!” Again, I totally understand that they have to fit everything in, but that has consequences.

- And with the blowing up of the supplies, I don’t think they fully explained why that was so important. That the Careers were completely reliant on that food source and that unless they were forced to fend for themselves a little more, the game was kind of at a stalemate.

- I guess what I’m trying to say is that for someone who has read the books and already understands everything, the movie is an awesome visual supplement. But for people who haven’t read the books, I feel like a lot is left out or isn’t fully explained or would be confusing and unclear. I’m not sure how successful the movie is as just a movie. You know?

BUT, all that said, I did really love it overall, and I can’t wait to see it again, and I REALLY can’t wait for the future movies. This is definitely one of my favorite book-to-movie adaptations in recent years.

 It’s been a few days since I’ve seen it, and I’m sure there’s a lot of other stuff I wanted to say but can’t remember (I should have written this up right after seeing the movie!), but that’s it for now! :)

Have you seen The Hunger Games? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

In My Mailbox #34 Birthday Edition!

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren that gives bloggers the opportunity to showcase the books they’ve received that week. You can learn more about it here.

This is my Birthday Edition IMM! It’s a couple of weeks late because I’ve been out of town, but I still wanted to share the goodies:

Non-Birthday Items:

I went to see The Vow a couple of weeks ago, and what did I find on a table in the lobby of the theater? HUNGER GAMES POSTERS! They had two different prints, so I took a couple of each. Fun fun fun.

I also received some  gorgeous bookmarks to celebrate next month’s release of Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin. Thanks, Bethany! I’ll probably be hosting a giveaway for these soon, so keep an eye out for that.


First, the books:

The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (my review)

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get my hands on a copy of The One That I Want! I ADORE Jennifer Echols, and I’m loving this so far.
Wanderlove is brilliant, gorgeous, stunning, lovely, one of my favorite books ever! And I love having my own shiny hardcover copy. If you want your own, enter my giveaway here!

These next two items aren’t technically book-related, but I’m excited enough about them that I’m including them anyway.

First, if you watch Doctor Who, you’ll recognize my new buddy:

I have an Adipose!! SO CUTE. My brother gave me this because we've watched Doctor Who together and I’ve been talking about wanting an Adipose ever since they first appeared. *squish*


Well, sort of. It’s actually a remote control, so you can program it with different devices and then depending on what motion you do with the wand, it can turn different things on or off. SO COOL, RIGHT?!? Pretending I go to Hogwarts just got REAL. :D

Okie dokes, that’s it for my amazingly random mailbox this week, what did you get?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic

By: Megan Bostic
Publisher: HMH Children’s Books
Release Date: January 17, 2012
Genre/Age: YA Contemporary
Pages: 204
Source: Library

“I had the dream again. The one where I’m running. I don’t know what from or where to, but I’m scared, terrified really.”

Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. But in the short time he has left there’s one thing he can do: He can try to help the people he loves live – even though he never will.

It’s probably hopeless.

But he has to try.

I love tearjerkers, and I wanted to love this book, but for some reason I just wasn't connecting. We're thrown so quickly into Austin's quest to make everyone else's life better, and I felt like I didn't really get to know him at all. Everything just felt very rushed, and I wasn't invested enough to actually be upset when the story reached the inevitable conclusion. I cry at everything (seriously, everything), but I didn’t feel the urge even once.

In addition, every single situation Austin was trying to "fix" was completely clichéd. The gay friend, the rape victim, the mom who stopped living after her son’s death, the friend in an abusive relationship, the estranged mother and daughter… I know listing them out like this makes it feel very dry, but that’s pretty much how it felt in the story to me. Don’t get me wrong, I think these are all extremely serious and important issues to deal with and address, I just didn’t feel like Never Eighteen really addressed them effectively. It was trying to do much. And it seemed presumptuous for Austin to even be interfering in these people's lives in the first place. 

I also had trouble understanding why he and Kaylee supposedly loved each other. I saw no evidence (other than the fact that she was willing to drive him around for two whole days while he made her wait in the car and gave her no explanation as to what he was doing). And then when they finally did admit their feelings to each other 
(VERY SMALL SPOILER!!) they’re laying on a football field and end up having sex right then and there. Dude, I get that you’re dying and time’s limited, but a football field? Really? You couldn’t even wait to get inside somewhere? It felt so rushed. (END SPOILER!)

I really hate writing such a negative review, but Never Eighteen just completely missed the mark for me. I know a lot of people who loved it, but I wouldn’t personally recommend it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday #42

“Waiting on” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights an upcoming release that we’re eagerly anticipating. Let the salivating commence.

My pick this week:

Venom (Dark Waters 1)
By: Fiona Paul
Publisher: Philomel
Release Date: October 3, 2012


Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, access to the best balls, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancé, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

But when Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman – practically in her own backyard – she’s drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans, and killers. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin… and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as  the city of Venice itself.

Why I’m Waiting: Murder and secret societies in Renaissance Venice?? I really don’t need to know more. This sounds AWESOME.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: The International Kissing Club by Ivy Adams

By: Ivy Adams
Publisher: Walker & Company
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Genre/Age: YA Contemporary
Pages: 400
Source: ARC from NetGalley and Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Piper, Cassidy, Mei, and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives. And they’ve always agreed on one goal: to get out of tiny Paris, Texas, and see the world. The school’s foreign exchange program seems like the perfect escape: Piper will go to the original Paris; Mei will go to China; Cassidy will go to Australia; and Izzy, unable to afford the program, will stay at home. To add spice to their semester away, and to stay connected to their best friends, the girls start The International Kissing Club, a Facebook page where they can anonymously update one another and brag about all the amazing guys they’re meeting. After all, these girls are traveling abroad: amazing guys abound at every turn! But sometimes fun, flirty vacation flings turn into more serious romances, and sometimes you don’t return from abroad the same person you were. Will the girls’ relationships – and their friendships – be able to survive?

The International Kissing Club is a lot like what it sounds: light, frothy fun. Four girls make a pact to each try to kiss as many boys as they can during their study abroad semesters… and what do you expect? The result is a lot of kissing, a little heartbreak, and some good old-fashioned high school drama and angst. All in all, a pretty enjoyable read, though I would have appreciated a little more substance.

The chapters alternate point-of-view between Piper, Cassidy, Izzy, and Mei, which is a little confusing to follow at first, while they’re all four still in Texas. I kept getting their stories mixed up (which was the one with the single mom? Whose dad is the football coach?), but once they split up and each started their adventure it became a lot easier to keep track of things.

I really enjoyed each girl’s unique story and the personal growth and realizations they went through because of it, but I wish a little more time could have been spent with each one. There are four different stories to tell in this one novel, which is a LOT, and even at 400 pages, I felt like a lot of story progression and development was left out. We would meet up with a character only to find that a month had passed since we last spoke with her (for lack of better phrasing), and there was a lot of telling instead of showing. I also found it hard to believe that none of the girls made friends with anyone other than their respective guys. I’ve studied abroad, and it’s pretty difficult to not meet ANYBODY.

Partly because of this, I felt like all the relationships moved very fast. I kept thinking “Stop kissing so quickly! You just met!” And while many times this was because the characters had, in fact, just met (or practically just met), it was also because we had often missed a whole chunk of their relationship, which would have been the chunk with all those little moments leading up to the kissing. For this reason, Izzy’s was my favorite storyline, by far. Even though she was the one stuck in Texas I was always excited when we got another ‘Izzy’ chapter, and her romance was the one I could most relate to: slow-building, sweet, and unexpected (to her, at least).

Ivy Adams is actually the pseudonym for a trio of writers, and I have to give them credit for making the story flow as well as it did. It could have easily felt disjointed, given the three authors and the four different narrators, but I didn’t even know Ivy Adams wasn’t one person until I read it at the back of the book when I was finished.

Though at times it can be a bit cheesy and juvenile (but you already knew that from the title, right? :P), The International Kissing Club was nevertheless a cute, fun read. It wouldn’t be my go-to book for an in-depth love story, but if you adore stories about international adventures and you’re in the mood for a light contemporary, this might be just the book for you.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Memes #12

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee’s View and Alison Can Read.

Today’s Question: What is the best book you’ve read in the last month? What is the worst book you’ve read in the last month?

Ooh, best book is really hard. I don’t think I can pick just one, but Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (review), My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick (review), and Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (review coming soon!) were all fantastic.

Worst book? Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic. Maybe I was expecting too much, but I was really disappointed by it. You can read my thoughts here.

TGIF is hosted by Ginger at GReads!

Social Networking: Do you use Twitter or Facebook to promote your blog? How has it benefited your book blogging experience? If not, how do your promote your blog? Share your twitter handle and/or Facebook link!

I don’t use Facebook, but I do love Twitter! I found it’s an awesome way to not only let my followers know when I’ve posted something new, but also to communicate with other bloggers and authors in a quick and easy way about both bookish and other random things. I absolutely love the network of author and blogger friends I’ve made through 140 character conversations! :P

You can find me on Twitter here. :)

Happy Friday, everyone! Let me know if you’re a new follower (either here or on Twitter) and I’ll come follow you!

This Week on From A to Z:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday #41

“Waiting on” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights an upcoming release that we’re eagerly anticipating. Let the salivating commence.

My pick this week:

Gravity (The Taking 1)
By: Melissa West
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Release Date: October 16, 2012


In the future, only one rule will matter: Don’t. Ever. Peek.

Seventeen-year-old Ari Alexander just broke that rule and saw the last person she expected hovering above her bed – arrogant Jackson Locke, the most popular boy in her school. She expects instant execution or some kind of freak alien punishment, but instead, Jackson issues a challenge: help him, or everyone on Earth will die.

Ari knows she should report him, but everything about Jackson makes her question what she’s been taught about his kind. And against her instincts, she’s falling for him. But Ari isn’t just any girl, and Jackson wants more than her attention. She’s a military legacy who’s been trained by her father and exposed to war strategies and societal information no one can know – especially an alien spy, like Jackson. Giving Jackson the information he needs will betray her father and her country, but keeping silent will start a war.

Why I’m Waiting: So, I’ll admit, I don’t fully understand the whole “don’t ever peek” thing (don’t peek at what?), but this book sounds cool enough otherwise that I’m willing to overlook that for now. I don’t read many alien books but I’m always intrigued by them, and this one sounds like it could be really cool. And look at the gorgeous cover!

Okay, I actually just went back and read some of the reviews on Goodreads, and apparently Earth is being forced to host these aliens, and each human is assigned an “Ancient” who comes into their room at night and makes “the connection,” which basically sucks vitamins and nutrients and other things they need to survive. Um, ick. But anyway, that’s where the whole “don’t ever peek” thing comes in, because you’re not supposed to see your assigned Ancient. But Ari does, and etc etc. I think that could have been explained a lot better in the blurb, actually. But hey, sounds awesome!

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

300 Follower Birthday Giveaway!

Today is a very exciting day for me, for the following reasons:
                1. It’s my birthday!
                2. It is also the book birthday for Kirsten Hubbard’s second novel, Wanderlove, which also happens to be one of my favorite books EVER! (Read my review here!)
                3. From A to Z reached 300 followers a few days ago!

In light of all of this, I thought it was appropriate to celebrate with a giveaway! (And confetti! And lots of exclamation points!)

The giveaway prize is a finished copy of Wanderlove, because I looooove this book and want to share it with all of you. Also, since Wanderlove is about journeys and travel, the giveaway is international! (As long as the Book Depository ships to your country.)

Following is greatly appreciated but not required, and I really hope that you’ll check this book out even if you don’t win. Here are Kirsten's five reasons why you should. Good luck, everyone! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (plus giveaway info!)

By: Kirsten Hubbard
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Genre/Age: YA Contemporary
Pages: 352
Source: ARC from NetGalley and Random House Children’s Books

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America – the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria’s a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan’s a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they’ve got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can’t run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry to this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.

Okay, here’s where I feel like an idiot, because even though I’d seen everyone raving about this book, I had Wanderlove in my possession for SIX MONTHS before I read it. Six. Months. And now that I’ve read it, I can see that this is totally unforgiveable, because you guys, this book is AMAZING. Amaaaaaaaazing.

Wanderlove is escapist fiction in the absolute best sense of the word. Kirsten Hubbard transports the reader so completely into backpacker Central America, it’s incredible. I’ve been lucky enough to both live and travel in the Caribbean and Central America at various times in my life, and everything is portrayed perfectly. The mentality and atmosphere of the Caribbean, the heat and discomfort of traveling by bus, the children playing soccer, the food, the gorgeous beaches, the little critters in the hostel, the cold outdoor showers… I got so nostalgic while reading, I looked up plane tickets almost immediately after I finished (once I was done grinning like a fool, that is). Kirsten Hubbard is an avid backpacker herself, and it definitely comes across in her realistic and affectionate portrayal of Guatemala and Belize.

Bria is such a unique and fun character in the world of YA contemps and I absolutely loved her voice. Wanderlove is both a physical journey through Central America as well as an emotional one, and I love how Bria developed as a character throughout the story. Both she and Rowan have a lot they need to work through, and watching them do this as they traverse mountains and beaches and villages is a special joy.

And speaking of Rowan, I want to apologize in advance for this next paragraph, but I just need to take a minute to be a total girl. Holy. Crap. This boy is so damn attractive. Quickened pulse? Check. I don’t know what it is exactly, but something about him just works for me. He has that dangerous edge to him because of his shady past, but he’s working hard to move past that which is so endearing to me. He’s also incredibly smart and well-traveled, reads all the time, and he’s a dive instructor. This is like my perfect guy, people. I’m still fanning myself. Kirsten, if you come across a boy like Rowan in your future travels, feel free to send him my way. ;)

And the romance! This is slow burn romance at its best. Totally swoonworthy. This is the kind of love story where you can feel their connection from the start, and even though you’re kind of dying for them to just make out already, you don’t actually want it to happen because you know that the slow-building tension and the little moments along the way (late night conversations while sharing a hammock are my favorite) are just going to make it so much better when it finally does happen. And hoo boy, Kirsten makes it happen. I’m still swooning.

If you can’t tell already, I am freaking IN LOVE with this book. I decided to start reading it around 1 am one night before I went to sleep (yeah, I’m a night owl), and I seriously didn’t sleep all night because I just couldn’t put it down. Eight in the morning rolled around and I could be found lying there clutching the book to my chest and grinning and sighing with happiness. I was pretty nonfunctional the next day, I can tell you that. But it was so worth it.

Whether or not you’re interested in traveling yourself, I guarantee you will enjoy Bria’s journey, bugs and all. And Wanderlove has gorgeous illustrations that are not only completely relevant to the story, but are drawn by the author herself! So. Cool. This book has a permanent place on my favorites shelf and I seriously can’t recommend it enough. Thank you so much, Kirsten Hubbard, for such a fantastic and heartwarming story!

And just as a final comment (I’m stopping soon, I promise! :P), Wanderlove happens to come out on my birthday, and I am so happy to be sharing March 13th with this beautiful beautiful book. And in the tradition of hobbits (because hobbits are awesome!), I want to give YOU a gift on my birthday! Well, one of you. I’d love to actually buy everyone a copy, but alas, my pockets are not that deep.

Giveaway details can be found here. And in honor of the nature of the book the giveaway is international! Go forth and enter! In the meantime, I think I’m going to reread Wanderlove. :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cover Reveal: My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century

Today I’m excited to be participating in the cover reveal for Rachel Harris’ debut novel, My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century! I also have a short excerpt to share with you, as well as links to preorder the novel and connect with Rachel Harris online.

 My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century
Entangled Publishing
September 11, 2012

On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing lone wolf Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family’s trip to Florence, Italy, is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits… right into Renaissance Firenze.

Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat joins up with her ancestors, the sweet Alessandra and protective Cipriano, and soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But when the much older Niccolo starts sniffing around, Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic amore.

Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?

 Preorder the novel:

Find Rachel Harris:


Alessandra jerks back like I just suggested she prance around the square naked or something. “No! I believe I understand your meaning, and Lorenzo is certainly not my suitor. He is like a brother to me—the three of us grew up together.”
She resumes walking and I fall in step beside her, understanding there has to be more to the story. And as we near the end of the row, I finally ask, “If you’re not into the guy, then what’s the problem?”
At that same moment, a rich, deep chuckle hits my ears. My stomach involuntarily clenches and my gaze sharpens on the back of this mysterious Lorenzo.
Alessandra sighs. “That is the problem.” She places her hand on my arm and solemnly looks me in the eyes. “You must be careful. Lorenzo is beautiful, and it is not uncommon for a girl to walk away from meeting him with a piece of her heart left behind. But he is just eighteen, and not yet ready for marriage.”
I roll my eyes and laugh, then realize she’s serious. “Yeah, I assure you, there’s no danger on my end. I’m not exactly looking for marriage myself.” Because that would be crazy-town.
Alessandra wrinkles her nose as if she doesn’t believe me, but she removes her hand. We close the distance and Cipriano flashes me an open, honest to goodness, lighthearted smile.
“Lorenzo, this is the cousin I was telling you about.”
Slowly the guy turns and I fall head first into the richest chocolate-brown eyes I’ve ever seen. He blinks and long, luscious lashes feather across his bronzed cheeks. I can feel myself gawking, but I physically can’t drag my eyes away. Lorenzo doesn’t smirk or act all conceited, either. He simply stares back, his eyes casually skimming over me, causing my skin to warm and break out in a whole body tingle.
Time seems to stop, and the sounds of the market mute. Alessandra was right. This boy is beautiful.
And he’s looking at me.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In My Mailbox #34

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren that gives bloggers the opportunity to showcase the books they’ve received that week. You can learn more about it here.

Nothing in my actual mailbox this week, but I got several goodies from NetGalley. Many thanks to Macmillan, Random House, and Penguin!

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
Of Poseidon by Anna Banks
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Romeo Redeemed by Stacey Jay
The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland

It's been a very blue-grey week on From A to Z! :) What's in your mailbox? Leave a link and I'll come check it out!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Memes #11

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee’s View and Alison Can Read.

Today’s Question: Have you ever looked at a book’s cover and thought “This is going to be horrible” but were instead pleasantly surprised? Show us the cover and tell us about the book.

I don’t know that I’ve ever thought that before reading a book, but there are a lot of books that I think deserve more accurate covers. I feel like so many YA novels have such teeny bopper covers (maybe that’s not exactly the right word, but you know what I mean), and it really sells the actual content of the book short.

The Boys Next Door by Jennifer Echols is just one example. You guys, I am IN LOVE with this book. For real. And I don’t hate the design, I just think the cartoonish cover makes the book look fluffier than it is. It doesn’t fully describe the awesomeness that is inside.

There are many other examples but I’ll stop for now. (And yes, I am aware that the cover design for the bind-up of The Boys Next Door and its sequel was changed partly because of this reason. Yay!)

TGIF is hosted by Ginger at GReads!

Promote an Author: Is there a particular author you wish got more recognition? Pick on author and tell us why we should read their work.

Vivian Vande Velde! I feel like nobody has ever heard of her, which is RIDICULOUS because I adore her books and she definitely deserves more recognition. Her books are usually all-out fantasy or have some element of fantasy to them, and they’re funny, which I love.

One of my favorites is Heir Apparent (which apparently is aimed at slightly younger readers but I totally DO NOT CARE because you guys, this book is AWESOME). It’s about a girl who gets stuck inside a virtual reality game and the only way to get out (and save her life) is to win the game, but she keeps dying and the game keeps starting over and over and over. Very clever writing and lots and lots of laughs.

My other favorite is Companions of the Night which is actually one of my favorite books of all time. It’s about vampires, but it’s not the same tired vampire story that I see so much of these days. It’s beautiful. I always recommend it when someone says they’re looking for a good vampire novel.

One of my best friends has been lucky enough to meet Vivian several times, and she’s been kind enough to get me signed copies of a few of her books (the two mentioned above, among others), which I will treasure for ever and ever.

Go check this author out, everyone! You won’t regret it, I promise. :) (Also, does she not have the coolest name ever??)

Find Vivian Vande Velde:

Happy Friday, everyone! Let me know if you’re a new follower and I’ll come follow you!

This Week on From A to Z:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Vanish by Sophie Jordan

By: Sophie Jordan
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Genre/Age: YA Paranormal/Fantasy
Pages: 304
Source: ARC from NetGalley and HarperCollins

To save the life of the boy she loves, Jacinda did the unthinkable: she betrayed the most closely-guarded secret of her kind. Now she must return to the protection of her pride knowing she might never see Will again – and worse, that because his mind has been shaded, Will’s memories of that fateful night and why she had to flee are gone.

Back home, Jacinda is greeted with hostility and must work to prove her loyalty for both her sake and her family’s. Among the few who will even talk to her are Cassian, the pride’s heir apparent who has always wanted her, and her sister, Tamra, who has been forever changed by a twist of fate. Jacinda knows that she should forget Will and move on – that if he managed to remember and keep his promise to find her, it would only endanger them both. Yet she clings to the hope that someday they will be together again. When the chance arrives to follow her heart, will she risk everything for love?

In bestselling author Sophie Jordan’s dramatic follow-up to Firelight, forbidden love burns brighter than ever.

Vanish picks up right where Firelight left off and the reader is immediately swept into the action. Overall I think this is a stronger novel than Firelight, and I really enjoyed visiting with Jacinda and everyone again.

I think my favorite thing was getting to see more of the draki’s home and lifestyle. We just get a little glimpse of it in Firelight so I was really looking forward to going back. Their misty mountaintop home is so vivid and wonderfully described and I felt like I was right there with them. We also get to see more of the draki’s traditions and customs which was very cool.

I definitely enjoyed seeing Jacinda’s growing relationship with Cassian, but I was also frustrated by her constant teenage angst and whining. Throughout the entire book she kept going back and forth about whether or not she could manage to forget Will and live contentedly with the draki. She must have changed her mind about five thousand times and it got old fast. I found myself just rolling my eyes after a while. I actually really love Cassian as a character and I thought he deserved better than the way Jacinda treated him.

Vanish ends on a cliffhanger, of course, and I’m eager to see where the third novel goes. I think the way everything is left at the end of Vanish is fantastic and it really sets up some great possibilities for the next book. Looking forward to more from Sophie Jordan!
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