Thursday, March 13, 2014

Brad About Books: Nil by Lynne Matson

Read on September 29, 2013
NIL
Published: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (Macmillan)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 384 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

How do you escape from an island that doesn't exist?


On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that she has to find a way to beat the clock, and quickly.


Nil is a thrilling, heart-pounding read that had me tangled up in the race against the clock of surviving this deadly island - it's unlike anything I've ever read!

Nil starts off with a bang and the action never stops. Right from page one, Matson throws us into turmoil right alongside the characters, and each page has something to offer that will either having your heart racing or have you looking over your shoulder (or both!), and I really loved that she managed to capture the feeling of fear in Nil. This island is a true nightmare and with all the secrets that are revealed about the island, I would hate to be stuck on it - but it was a blast to read about. The clock is ticking for our characters, and Matson does an exceptional job at keeping the energy going throughout Nil.

Speaking of characters, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the inhabitants on Nil! Charley is such an awesome protagonist. I loved her smokey, unclear background - she wakes up not knowing anything about the island, and we get to discover the secrets with her. Not only do we discover secrets about the island, we get to know more about Charley and the other characters throughout Nil, and I thought it was fantastic how no one was truly what they seemed to be. If I had just one complaint about Nil, it would be that I would've liked to have seen a little more character development from the side characters. Other than that, all the characters (or villagers of Nil, I guess you could say) are truly fascinating, and they're definitely one of the best team-effort YA groups I've ever read about!

I'm all for anything thriller/mystery/anything that can keep my eyes glued to the page and have me turning pages as fast as I can, and Nil did just the trick. From its absorbing atmosphere of darkness and peril to the small quirks of the island the reader discovers while sinking deeper into the mystery of the island Nil, Nil is sure to have readers entwined with its stunning mystery and haunting prose. 

Overall, Nil is an epic, fast-paced thriller that is highly intriguing and addicting. Wonderful!

M Y    R A T I N G



Sunday, March 9, 2014

Brad About Books: Half Bad by Sally Green

Read from October 22 to 23, 2013
HALF BAD
Published: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 416 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Series: Half Life, #1


A stunning, magical debut. An international sensation.

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.



BEGIN THE HUNT.


Half Bad is a stunning, captivating tale that caught my attention from page one and held onto me until the epic finale. It's unlike anything I've ever read, and I couldn't have asked for a more action-packed, engrossing tale from this book. Loved it!

I haven't read too many witch stories, but out of all of the ones I have read, Half Bad truly stands out. Nathan's character was fantastic. With the internal struggle of leaning towards his pure side or his dark, twisted side, the reader gets to discover all sides of Nathan in this novel, both good and bad. He transforms so much from the beginning to the end, and to see his character morph and change was awesome. He starts off weak and lonely in the beginning, but Green builds him up in Half Bad and definitely isn't afraid to tear him back down. Nathan is a hero worth rooting for. He goes through so many trials in Half Bad, and I absolutely loved how Sally Green handled his character development.

World-building is so important to me in a novel, and the world of Half Bad is marvelous. The views society has on witches - and the views witches have on society - blends into the storyline perfectly, and it alters the vision that the reader sees of our modern day world. I wasn't ever sure whether I should be rooting for the witches or hating them, and I loved how Green managed to capture that sense in this novel. Half Bad is all about finding your place in the world and figuring out yourself in the loneliness of times, and it truly is a brutal, phenomenal gem that was still on my mind long after I turned the final page. Masterfully plotted and intoxicating, Half Bad is an absolute must-read.

The paranormal genre could be a tad overdone at times, but Half Bad is something unlike anything that's ever been done before, and it will capture you until the very end. From heavy action scenes of daring escapes and finding the people who have abandoned you to scenes of discovering yourself within the darkest of places, Half Bad is everything you could want in a book. I still haven't gotten over this book.

Overall, Half Bad is one of a kind, and it will have you entangled with Nathan's world with its intrigue, mystical beauty, and world of lies and betrayal. Half Bad is astonishingly fantastic!

M Y    R A T I N G



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Q&A with Something Real author, Heather Demetrios



Hey everyone! As part of the Something Real blog tour, today I have Heather Demetrios (author of Something Real) for a question and answer session!

~

Where did the inspiration from SOMETHING REAL come from?

Recently, I’ve realized that all my books tend to be about a teen who’s in a situation that they want to break out of. I didn’t know that was something I was always exploring when I first came up with the idea for the book, though. Bonnie™’s story is basically my gut reaction to reality TV, especially kids being on reality TV. I’d never seen “Jon and Kate Plus 8” before I started doing research for the book, but it was a People magazine cover with Kate and the Gosselin kids that inspired me. I saw the picture and immediately the idea came into my head. I’m basically trying to figure out what it would be like for a kid like that both on and off camera. It’s a “what if” story.


If your time writing SOMETHING REAL was a reality show, what would it be called?

That’s a great question! I think it’d be called “Beat The Trend: Writing the YA Novel.” So, I’d gotten burned before, thinking I was ahead of a YA trend, discovering a whole new thing, only to discover that once the book was ready to go…the first onslaught of them started coming out (angel fantasy). Now I keep on top of what’s selling so I know what’s going on in the publishing world. Needless to say, that book is hidden away, deep in a drawer, which is too bad because it was kinda cool! I was pretty paranoid after that because it sucks to put so much time and so much of yourself into something that won’t sell, not because it’s not good, but because the market just can’t support it. Maybe if you’re not a debut author you can sneak that kinda stuff in, like Holly Black with her recent vampire novel. When I got the idea for SOMETHING REAL, I knew I had to write it quickly. I felt like it was only a matter of time before other writers wanted to write about a teen on reality TV. So far, including my book, I only know of three others and they’re all very different. I’m actually working with A.S. King on my MFA (she’s my faculty advisor), so it’s fun to talk reality TV with her. REALITY BOY is powerful stuff, but very different from my book. I felt the same way when I was writing the first book for my jinni trilogy from HarperCollins, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE. It comes out in October. It’s a YA fantasy about jinn and I was so worried I wasn’t ahead of the curve…but I am, so whew!

Do you have any writing rituals?

I’m actually in this weird place where I’m trying to create some new ones because I have deadlines on top of deadlines and I’m trying to find a way to keep my inner Zen. Right now, I’m trying to write first thing in the morning, right after I wake up (so not successful today…since I’m doing this interview when I should be working on the second book for the trilogy…Ack!). One thing I’ve been doing is playing some music that gets me into the mood of the book before I start writing. For my jinni books, I listen to a lot of Arabic groove stuff or Ravi Shankar. When a book’s really giving me grief, I’ll say a quick prayer before I start writing, like, God please let me be able to pull it off this time! In general, I try to switch up my little rituals, just so things stay fresh. 

What are you working on next?

As I mentioned before, I’ve got the Dark Caravan Cycle jinni trilogy from HarperCollins. It’s about a jinni who’s trafficked to Earth in a bottle and sold to a human master. It’s pretty epic. The first book is set in LA, the second in Morocco, and the third in the jinn realm, Arjinna. It’s about trafficking, race, class, revolution, love, the arms trade…you name it! I’m super excited and can’t for it to be on shelves in October. If you have time, check out the Pinterest boards I made for it – they’re super fun

Next winter, my second book from Macmillan comes out and that book is pretty much my bloody heart on a page. It’s called I’LL MEET YOU THERE and it’s very, very special to me. It’s about a young Marine who loses a leg in Afghanistan and returns home to his crappy town, where he and a girl he went to high school with try to figure out how to get out. It’s a romance, but it’s gritty and deals with some tough stuff, like PTSD and poverty. The setting is a character in and of itself and I love the actual characters, too. Like SOMETHING REAL, they’ve kind of become family to me. 

~

Thank you so much for that awesome Q&A, Heather! (SO excited for I'll Meet You There and Exquisite Captive!) 


Check out Something Real here!:




Winner of the 2012 PEN New England Discovery Award!

There’s nothing real about reality TV.

Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.





Monday, March 3, 2014

Brad About Books: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Read from December 16 to 19, 2013
THE WINNER'S CURSE
Expected Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: FSG (Macmillan)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 355 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Series: The Winner's Trilogy, #1


Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. 

Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.


There are no words to describe how fantastic that The Winner's Curse truly is. From its incredible world-building to the heartbreaking way that Rutkoski crafts together Kestrel and Arin's story in a world full of betrayal and the true price of coming out on top, The Winner's Curse is sure to revolutionize the YA genre. I adored this book. 

If you want to know how much I love The Winner's Curse, it was in the top two of my favorite reads of last year - I loved it that much. And with all the hype surrounding it, it most definitely lives up to all of its praise. The writing style is superb. I'm a huge fan of world-building, and Rutkoski does a phenomenal job of sweeping the reader into this beautiful, dark empire where nothing is as it seems and one act of rebellion can ignite a war. Rutkoski grabbed me from page one and never let me go - this book consumed everything of me while I was reading it and long after I turned the final page. If you're a huge fan of fantasy like I am, to say that The Winner's Curse is a must-read is an absolute understatement. I can't even with this amazingness that is The Winner's Curse.

"The piano, on the other hand, was a network of parts - a ship, with its strings like rigging, its a case a hull, its lifted lid a sail." -The Winner's Curse (This writing style is fantastic. Absolutely stunning.)

I connected to the characters in more of a way than I have with characters in a very long time. Kestrel is a heroine worth rooting for. She's determined and headstrong, and I loved how independent and courageous she was. Even if it meant betraying those she loved, Kestrel would do anything for her country and her heart, and I couldn't ask for her to be anymore amazing. I'm excited to see how her character will develop in the sequel! Arin, on the other hand, was so mysterious and dark - it was interesting to get an insight into his world! (His twisted world, that is) I love it when you just know that a character is up to no good, but you have that spark within you that they could be doing something for the better; Arin was that type of character. Though he and Kestrel never seemed to agree, they balanced each other out so perfectly, and I loved seeing them together throughout the story. Their bonds were definitely tested many times throughout The Winner's Curse, and Marie Rutkoski did an incredible job with these characters. Oh my gosh, THIS BOOK. There are seriously no words. Please, do yourself a favor and pick up this gem. It's a masterpiece. 

The Winner's Curse is impossible to put down. Enthralling and captivating, this novel broke my heart and had me fully engrossed in the story at all times. And with fantastic characters and one of the best world-buildings I've ever come across, it does just the trick. I can't stress enough how powerful and emotional The Winner's Curse is. From the times of secrets and betrayals lingering all around Kestrel's world to the times of silence when its just Kestrel with the only thing she can ever truly love, The Winner's Curse is sure  to have you on the edge of your seat until the explosive, fantastic finale.

Overall, The Winner's Curse is hands down one of my favorite books of all time. Incredibly thought-out and smart in the ways that it portrays society and the true cost of winning, The Winner's Curse is spectacular.

M Y     R A T I N G



Friday, February 21, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Unforgotten by Jessica Brody + Giveaway!


Hey everyone! Today, I have the epic Jessica Brody as part of the Unforgotten blog tour! I ADORE this series so much - with all the twists and turns and betrayal, it's so addictive! I asked Jessica some questions - let's see what she had to say!



1) A bunch of stuff - a lot of epic, insane, crazy stuff - happens to the characters in this sequel; was it harder or easier to write a sequel compared to the first book?

The sequel was crazy hard to write! I thought it was the hardest book of my career...then I wrote book 3. Haha! 

Unremembered had lots of twists and turns and mysteries and surprises and I wanted to make sure the second book followed in its footsteps and kept readers engaged and turning pages. But since most of the big mysteries were already resolved in book 1, I had the challenge of creating more exciting reveals!

Also, when I started writing book 2, I knew exactly what was going to happen at the beginning and at the end (yes, that shocking ending was always my evil plan!) but I had no idea what happened in the middle. Which is probably why I rewrote the first few chapters of Part 2 about ten times before I got it right. 

2) Do you have any writing rituals you always practice?

I have a few! But they’re going to make me seem really weird. Are you sure you want to hear them? REALLY???

Okay, well, I’ve basically created a “routine” for every time I sit down to write. The routine has basically turned me into Pavlov’s Dog, where I’ve actually trained my brain into knowing when it’s writing time. 

I brew myself a cup of coffee (I never drink coffee except when writing, so my brain instantly makes the connection between coffee and work!), I prepare the same kind of toast every time (another sensory trigger for writing), I turn on my noise canceling headphones and blast this waterfall track that basically sounds like someone’s going “SHHHHHHHHHHHHH” into your ears, and finally, I launch Freedom (which shuts down the internet on your computer) for two hours. 

All of those things combined tricks my brain into the “writing zone” and I just go...


3) Five words to describe Unforgotten: go!

Humanity is a choice. 

BOOYAH! That was only four!

4) Where did the inspiration for this series come from, and how did you have to take that inspiration and bend it to form UNFORGOTTEN?

So do you remember the big twist at the end of Unremembered? That basically explains why she really survived the plane crash? Well, for those who haven’t yet read it, we’ll call it “The Topic That Shall Not be Named.” (Because I’d hate to spoil the big reveal for you!)

So a few years back, I had written a manuscript for a sci-fi book that was basically ALL about The Topic That Shall Not be Named. But it never sold. So I was brainstorming ideas for a new sci-fi series and I came across a news article about a teen girl who was the only survivor of a deadly plane crash. This fascinated me. My mind immediately went into overdrive. I started asking questions like, “What if she can’t remember boarding the plane?” “What if she can’t remember anything?” “What if she has like SUPER HUMAN abilities!?” 

And then finally, the question popped into my mind that changed everything:

“What if the real reason she survived the plane crash was... The Topic That Shall Not be Named!”

I scrambled to write my idea down and sent it to my agent. He loved it and the trilogy was born. We sold it a few weeks later. 

But that inspiration really only covered book 1. And I wrote a proposal for three books. So I had to figure out how to make that idea work in an entire series. And since Unremembered became kind of a “discovery” book—the main character discovers who she really is (as does the audience)—then I knew the second book had to be a “struggle” book. Now that she knows who she is, how does she struggle to come to terms with it, and live with it, and figure out where she really belongs. Those were the questions that kept me inspired throughout the writing of the second book. 

And book 3 will be the “resolution” book. Now that she’s discovered who she is and come to terms with it...what will she do about it?

5) What can we expect from book three?

Oh gosh. Book 3. Well, I just finished it. I’m really excited about it. I think (hope) it may be the strongest book of the trilogy. It was definitely the hardest to write! (see question 1). 

But here are three hints about the book 3:

Much of book 3 takes on the research compound where Seraphina was originally created.
There are way more sci-fi world building and cool futuristic stuff (like a TON!) 
Seraphina’s memories will be altered once more…but not in the way you might think. 

6) Are you working on any other projects you can share with us?

Next up, I’ll be working on a contemporary standalone that I’m contracted to write for Macmillan Children’s (my publisher). I can’t really say much about the story, but I can say this: It’s a love story about two teens who meet in a very unconventional way. I’m SUPER excited about it and I can’t wait to start writing!

*Oh and please check out the UNFORGETTABLE FAN challenge that’s currently running on my website! Every fan who completes the challenge gets a prize pack which includes an Unremembered Eternal Knot necklace!



Thanks for hosting me, Brad!

~~~

Thanks so much for that awesome Q&A, Jessica! For those of you who have read Unremembered, you are going to LOVE Unforgotten

Here's a teaser for Unforgotten - a secret!


Be sure to check out these awesome Unremembered and Unforgotten extras!



Want to connect with Jessica?

·         See Jessica Brody on tour!
·         Check out her website!

And now, time for a giveaway! One winner will receive a paperback copy of Unremembered and a hardcover copy of Unforgotten. This giveaway is US/CAN only.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thanks so much for stopping by! Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Brad About Books: Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick

TSARINA
Expected Publication Date: February 27, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 331 pages
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Natalya knows a secret.

A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia's Winter Palace.


It holds a power rooted in the land and stolen from the mystics.


A power that promises a life of love for her and Alexei Romanov.


Power, that, in the right hands, can save her way of life.


But it's not in the right hands.


Tsarina is a fast-paced, marvelously crafted story of the true competition for power and the bonds of love severing eternally. I adored this book. 

Jackson Pearce (writing as J. Nelle Patrick) is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I was very excited to see how she would take on a historical magic novel! And, just as I expected, she did not disappoint. Tsarina is unlike anything I have ever read. Combing Russian fantasy with a world of possibilities inside Natalya's hands, Tsarina is the kind of book that kept me up late into the night, turning pages as fast as I could. I was swept away by Natalya's world and her dilemmas, and believe me, these dilemmas are insane. There is never a dull moment in this novel. From betrayal and backstabbing to torn-apart hearts in a country full of war and desire, Tsarina is ultimately a shining gem that shouldn't be missed!

I've always liked the phrase "a world of possibilities in your hands", but I never thought into what it could truly mean and the price it can cost you - I just loved how Tsarina actually took this idea, spun it around, and created such a beautiful, deceptive world that Natalya must keep a firm grip on. World-building is everything to me in a novel, and Tsarina has a one of a kind, dark, and awesome world. While being heartbreaking and epic all at the same time, Tsarina is also so unique. I can't get over how awesome this book was. Power and control clash together, and Patrick does a remarkable job with combing both love and deception. 

The best part about Tsarina? It's never predictable. If I even guessed for a second the direction it would take, it would completely flip my world upside down. Fast-paced, energetic, and highly addictive, Tsarina is a masterful, remarkable story that is both equally powerful and fantastic. Tsarina is sure to be a big hit! A new favorite of mine, for sure!

Overall, Tsarina is such a fast-paced ride, it's impossible to put down! Phenomenal in every sense of the word - Tsarina is one of the best fantasies I've ever read!

M Y    R A T I N G



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Brad About Books: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Read from June 30 to July 1, 2013
CRESS
Expected Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan)
Format: ARC
Page Count: 560 pages
Source: ALA
Series: The Lunar Chronicles, #3

This review is entirely spoiler free, even if you haven't started this series (which, if you haven't, what are you doing? GET ON THAT.)

Read my reviews for previous novels in this series:

First off, let me say that the Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series ever. Guys, I'm talking near the top of the list. It's insanely fantastic. And Cress? It did not disappoint by any means. Everything I could have wanted from Cress was delivered on a shining platter - I can't rave about this book enough. Cress not only proves that Meyer's is a marvelous storyteller, it also shows how daring and far she took this story to make it her own. Cress is phenomenal in every sense of the word.

I have loved this series since day one, and I was so excited to dive into Cress. Cinder and Scarlet and the rest of the gang are back in this third installment, but of course, we are introduced to our new heroine, Cress. Cress is unlike any kind of protagonist I've ever read about. She's smart, clever, and cunning, yet she is hollow inside. It was so awesome to see the compare and contrast of those elements within Cress, and I absolutely adored her character. In fact, I think she's my favorite out of the three (soon to be four) thus far. I also loved how characters who were somewhat important in Cinder and Scarlet became VERY important in Cress. Each character has a vital role in the series, and Meyer definitely uses all of her characters and puts them to the test. All the characters evolve in one way or another in Cress, and I absolutely fell in love with this book. This is easily one of my favorite books ever

Speaking of putting characters to the test, wow. Marissa Meyer definitely wasn't afraid to have a little fun with her characters! The stakes are raised so high in Cress, and the characters are pushed past their limits - to see some characters either make it or break it was thrilling, and I couldn't put this beast of a book down. The Lunar Chronicles contains my favorite villain ever: Queen Levana. You don't even understand how much I love Queen Levana. She's so wickedly cruel, and Cress shined new light on her... I hate to love her, but I love to hate her! And thank goodness Cress wasn't a damsel in distress like how, in my opinion, the original Rapunzel is. She could do things for herself and speak her mind, and I loved that she wasn't your typical heroine. In fact, she's anything but typical. These characters are truly stunning. Honestly, I just loved everything about this third book. This series keeps getting better and better!

It is completely impossible to put this novel down. Though it looks like a monster, Meyer sweeps the reader up and entangles them in the world of Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, and to see the three heroines all join forces was exceptional. Right from page one, I was sucked into the book, and I couldn't put it down. From its fast-paced climatic moments to its revealing-secrets-cliffhangers that kill me inside, Cress has it all. Absorbing and enthralling, Cress is sure to knock you off your feet. One word: amazing. Another word: phenomenal.

Overall, Cress has still left its mark on me. A one of a kind gem full of action, mystery, and the perfect amount of romance and sci-fi mixed in with it. That ending killed me. I can't wait to see how it all concludes!

M Y    R A T I N G