Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Book Review: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .

Acclaimed author Katie Alender brings heart-stopping suspense to this story of revenge, betrayal, intrigue — and one killer queen.

Best Bits: I have absolutely loved the books by Katie Alender that I've read in the past. Talk about creepy...and somehow I always find myself reading them right before I attempt to sleep (this eventually turns into sleeping with a Disney movie playing). This book is a bit different than her past series, but she still has the ability to write great suspense. I think that these books are a little less intense, but no less fun to read. Things aren't easy for Colette, aside from your typical teen issues she's got some intense family drama...she just didn't realize this drama was connected to Marie Antoinette. Still, I liked the supporting characters a bit more than the main character. I think that's because Colette really didn't seem to grasp what was given to her (i.e. a trip to Paris with her class). We get some pay off for that in the end, but I couldn't help but wondering how long it would last (shame on me, I'm so negative and it's Christmas).

Nit Picks: I think my main issue with this one is probably because I'm old and cranky now. Over the course of the book we see how selfish Colette's friends are. With all this talk lately of "affluenza", all I could think about was how these girls had no idea about what life is like. So, I found it kind of frustrating that Colette worked so hard to maintain these relationships. Sure, there were bright points, but I was still just like "argh, can't you see there are others who would actually support you?!".

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
By Katie Alender
Published by Scholastic 
296 Pages

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (December 15)

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews! It's a way to highlight the books that everyone got throughout the week.

Won from MacTeen Books (a huge thanks!)

Cress by Marissa Meyer

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

Published by Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: February 4, 2014


Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

The spine-tingling horror of Stephen King meets an eerie mystery worthy of Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series in Kate Karyus Quinn's haunting debut.

On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn't know who she is. She doesn't know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.

Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese's fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

 When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies.

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love?

The follow-up to reader favorite Austenland provides the same perfectly plotted pleasures, with a feisty new heroine, plenty of fresh and frightening twists, and the possibility of a romance that might just go beyond the proper bounds of Austen's world. How could it not turn out right in the end?

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

 Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own.

Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (December 11)

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This weekly meme shares the upcoming books that I'm most excited about.

 After the End by Amy Plum

She’s searching for answers to her past. They’re hunting her to save their future.

World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They've survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she's trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

Published by Harper Children's 
Release Date: May 6, 2014

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Giveaway and Spotlight on A Royal Birthday: A False Princess Short Story by Eilis O’Neal

This e-short prequel to The False Princess will appeal to fans of Shannon Hale and Tamora Pierce, giving them a new author to love and a new fantasy world to enter, a world filled with wizardry, mystery, and just the right touch of romance.

This prequel introduces the court of Thorvaldor, Nalia, its princess, who has reached the magical age of sixteen, and her best friend, Kiernan, the earl's son who loves her but feels he is too far below her in rank to dream of making a match with her.

The novel on which this e-short is based has received glowing reviews, been named a YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and made numerous state master lists (Georgia, Rhode Island, Utah, and Maryland)

I really enjoyed The False Princess (you can check out my review here), and I can't wait to read this prequel! It's on sale for 1.99 on Amazon right now. A happy birthday to this short! You can check out more awesome shorts from the publisher (EgmontUSA) on their Facebook page. 

They have graciously offered to let me give away a copy of The False Princess, and if you haven't read it, enter away! The contest is US/CA only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Teaser and Top Ten Tuesday (December 10)

What is teaser tuesday?
It's a meme hosted by Should Be Reading and here are the rules: 

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!  

"So a little misstep is all right. What matters is who shows up when you need them the most." 
-Going Rogue, Page 95 (ARC edition), By Robin Benway

I thought I'd try a Top Ten Tuesday every now and again. They always have great topics, but I'm not always prepared enough to actually write things up! Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week's topic is...

The Top Ten Books on my Winter TBR - 

1. Cress (The Lunar Chronicles 3) by Marissa Meyer. Talk about impatient, I cannot wait to read this book. I absolutely devoured the first two in the series, and they are amazing re-tellings with diverse settings and fabulous heronies. SO good!

Published by Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: February 4, 2014

2. The Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen. Her books always leave me feeling light and satisfied. It's the way that she winds small bits of magic throughout her plots. It adds this extra dimension that I never knew that I wanted (until I read Garden Spells, that is), and I love how it changes the characters. Do they embrace the magic, reject it? How does that impact their life? I'm definitely going to cozy up with the cat and some tea for this one. 

Published by St. Martin's Press
Release Date: January 21, 2014

3. Uninvited by Sophie Jordan. I'm going to start off by saying that it has a gorgeous cover. The plot sounds like it will keep me on the edge of my seat, and I'm totally here for that. Basically, the main character is told that eventually she will kill...ooh, you're interested, right? I first saw this book on Epic Read's weekly video chat, Tea time. If they are interested, the chances of it being a great read are quite high. 

Published by HarperTeen
Release Date: January 28, 2014

4. It Felt Like A Kiss by Sarra Manning. Another fabulous cover! I think this one falls under the New Adult (or Chick Lit) category. I haven't read any NA books yet, but this one sounds so good I can't pass it up. Plus, it sounds like her YA books have a great following. Bring it on!

Published by Corgi (is this not the best name...and also most adorable dog breed?!)

Release Date: February 13, 2014

5. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. A re-telling of Beauty and the Beast that has a lot of action thrown in. Nyx is our heroine, but instead of meeting the beast after her father trespasses, she has known for years that she is going to marry she's been training to kill him! I can't wait!

Published by Balzer and Bray 
Release Date: January 28, 2014

6. Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam. This one involves a computer program that allows people to feel as if they're immersed in another world. One where they can go on adventures, and live virtually. Of course, there are ethical dilemmas, and some romance thrown in for good measure. It sounds like another book that has the suspense and thrills. 

Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: March 18, 2014

7. Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano. This one is a supernatural mystery with the possibility of a romance thrown in. The main character can read people's emotions when she touches them, and the guy in the story is undercover in her school to observe her. Ooo sounds good to me. 

Published by Kathy Dawson Books
Release Date: March 25, 2014 

8. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. So, this one is technically a spring release, but I'm so excited about it that I'm going to put it on this list. The previous two books in this series were great reads, and I'm so impatient for this. What Perkins does well is to create fun and interesting romances. As I get older, I've been getting a bit more skeptical with some YA romance stories (omg am I a romance Scrooge?!), but her books can still hold my attention. Plus, the characters are just so interesting. They're flawed, and it's all about accepting and embracing what makes them imperfect. 

Published by Dutton
Release Date: May 13, 2014

9. Panic by Lauren Oliver. I will read any and all things by this author. She is amazing. This one is based around a game that is played each year by high school seniors. It seems like they partake in this dangerous game for money, but the book blurb doesn't say that explicitly. It also looks like it will be told from two alternating perspectives, which seems like it will add a whole different view of the competition. 

Published by HarperCollins
Release Date: March 4, 2014

10. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han. So, this is another spring release...but I'm counting it. This book is about a girl who is unable to tell boys how she feels about them, and expresses it in letter form. Well, they accidentally get mailed, and suddenly she's being confronted by the guys in her past. It sounds like a good read for anyone who's ever wondered whether speaking up is the right choice. 

Published by Simon and Schuster
Release Date: April 22, 2014

Monday, December 9, 2013

Author Guest Post & Book Review: Third Lie's A Charm by Lisa and Laura Roecker

New friend into old, the bond of the Sisterhood will never grow cold.

Life at Pemberly Brown is a whirlwind for Kate Lowry. Determined to finally destroy the secret society responsible for her best friend Grace’s death, Kate joins the Sisterhood hoping to go all Trojan Horse on their asses. But the night of her initiation another student at Pemberly Brown dies in what looks like tragic accident.

Kate knows better.

Kate and her faithful ginger, Seth Allen, immediately uncover a connection to the boy’s death and the secret societies that rule Pemberly Brown. But it’s not until Kate begins receiving pages from Grace’s old journal that she begins to piece together what really happened the night she died and how it connects to Pemberly Brown’s most recent tragedy.

Meanwhile, Kate’s ex-boyfriend Liam is following her around like an angry guard dog and she’s falling hard for the mysterious Bradley Farrow. Both boys are tied up in the mystery that surrounds Pemberly Brown, but only one of them can truly be trusted.

In this chilling conclusion to The Liar Society series Kate will fight to save her school from the evil that lurks beneath its hallowed halls. But will her quest destroy her or finally lead her to true love? She can only hope her third lie’s the charm.

Best Bits: What I appreciate most about this series is how consistent it has been. Each book has it's own plot and twists, but the overall goal (Kate taking down the societies) still stands. There's a sense of urgency in this book as well. When members of the now defunct Brotherhood start receiving messages challenging them to impossible and dangerous tasks, Kate has another thing to add to her plate. In this book we get a new perspective on the Sisterhood, because Kate has infiltrated their ranks. This gives the reader some idea why girls would want to be a part of the group. They look out for each other, and in a school where money and boys provide trials, it's nice to have a group to support you. As Kate begins to learn about Grace's motives for joining, I think she's able to begin to process her death (which, let's be real, she hasn't been able to do yet).

I also came to the realization that Seth is the Duckie of this series. He grew on me over the series, so much so that I want him to have his own hacker/conspiracy theory story! He's also the only person who consistently supports Kate. Now, this may not always mean he's supporting her in making good decisions, but he's there for her nevertheless. 

Holy crap! The ending. My brain. What?! How!? I still am processing the big reveals that the Roeckers wrote. I found them to be a completely satisfying way to wrap up Kate's story. 

Nit Picks: Although I really enjoyed the ending, I think it crept up on me really quickly. There were a couple of scenes that were building up to the big reveal that I would have loved to spend more time in. Camp Brown, for example, was a fun way for the the readers to get to see the characters off-campus, but it went by too quickly!

Third Lie's A Charm
By Lisa and Laura Roecker
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
288 Pages
Received for Review

Thanks to Laura and Lisa for stopping by! You can check them out at their website, or on Twitter! Now, on to the top five books that influenced them:

Before Lisa and I began writing together, I taught sixth grade language arts and would tear through young adult novels during "monitored reading" when I was supposed to be conferencing with students about their books. I always figured that time was better spent finding books they would love! This was when I read SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. I would pass all the best ones along to Lisa who would tear through at an equally fast rate. SPEAK was the first YA book Lisa read as an adult and she couldn't believe what she was missing! Our books are nothing like SPEAK but that book is such an inspiration because it captures a broken, young adult voice so exquisitely.

BEFORE I FALL. We recommend this book to anyone and everyone because it's one we wish we would have read before or during high school. It holds such an important message about the choices we make and the people we impact without even realizing it. Our favorite section by far is when Sam spends the say with her little sister. I will never forget getting to the end of the book on my Kindle and turning on the read aloud feature (which is very digital sounding and sad) to listen to the end while I was driving (possibly more dangerous than texting while driving) because I couldn't wait to finish. I cried despite the computer voice.

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. This book is achingly beautiful and devastating and hopeful. Jandy Nelson's entire novel is poetic and the journey she takes the reader on is as magical as it is heart-breaking. I read this book with that right-before-you're-going-to-
burst-into-tears-sore-throat  because it's about great love and great loss and how the two dance. We love this book and are inspired by the beautiful writing.

WONDER. I read this book in one sitting. This book has it all. Heart and humor and the absolute perfect middle grade voice. I want to go back to the classroom just so I can read this book aloud and discuss how our differences are what bring us together. I just know my sixth graders would have loved it. I can't wait to share this with my own kids. It's a special, special book.

AHHHH. One more?! This is torture. For me it's a toss up between THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and ELEANOR AND PARK. Both stories capture the young adult voice so incredibly well and are written to perfection. As you can see, we're total suckers for contemporary! By the way, we could name at least 15 more great YAs that have a very special place in our heart.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.

Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She'll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school's security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.

Best Bits: I love a good spy story. This probably has something to do with the prospect of excitement and adventure that I didn't always experience growing up in a small town. Funnily enough, that's sort of how Maggie's story begins, too. She's a safecracking genius, but she's spent the summer in Reykjavik...not doing too much. Of course, when she's sent to New York it means there will be action, and that the Collective (the super secret Robin Hood-type spy group) trusts her to complete a mission. What made the book fun was getting to watch Maggie develop friendships. What starts out as a mission slowly turns into her acknowledgement that she deserves friends (and a romance oh la la). She also experiences some ethical dilemmas. As she learns more about Jesse, she begins to see him less as a mark, and more as a person she can relate to. Her first friend, Roux, was a great character. She's experienced the downside of popularity, and is a social outcast at their prestigious school. I found the situation really realistic. Drama! Should Roux find romance in the follow-up, I hope it's with someone deserving.

Nit Picks: Well, now I'm completely skeptical that Angelo is a killer and not just a forger...but I suppose that's not really a nit pick, that's just a suspicion I will always have. I think my main criticism, which I'm guessing will be focused more on in the second book, is that I wanted to see more of Maggie in action. My favorite scenes in the book involve her spy skills, so I think that a bit more of that would have bumped this one up to five hearts.

Also Known As
By Robin Benway
Published by Bloomsbury
320 Pages

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (December 4)

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This weekly meme shares the upcoming books that I'm most excited about.

 Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington

When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier—especially when Malcolm Astor, fellow artist and scion of one of the school’s original families, starts falling for her. Fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols warns her not to get involved with a “Wicky,” but things are finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy it.

But Liv’s bliss is cut short when she is viciously murdered. In death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that spans 150 years and many, many lives. Gabe, cursed with the ability to see their ghosts, turns out to be Liv’s only link to the world of the living.

Liv must rely on Gabe’s help to prove to Malcolm that she’s still present… lingering with the other spirits. Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham before more lives are lost.

Published by Soho Teen
Release Date: March 11, 2014

Monday, December 2, 2013

Dystopian December

Well, I absolutely love Dystopian reads, even though they usually emotionally destroy me (I'm looking at you, Mockingjay). So, I'm helping to spread the word about Dystopian December. It's starting off with a crazy, insane, awesome contest. So, enter the rafflecopter below, and check out Tina's blog, The Book Landers :)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December Updates (DAC & More)

Well, it's December and I've only read one debut from my original list...oops. Here's an update of what I have read (even though it wasn't in my original post). I only need to read 3 more, so the chances of actually finishing the challenge are fairly decent at this point. Here's what I've read/reviewed so far:

45 Pounds by K.A. Barson
Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black
Level 2 (now called The Memory of After) by Lenore Appelhans
My Sister's Reaper by Dorothy Dreyer
Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland
Poison by Bridget Zinn
Relativity by Cristin Bishara
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

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