Monday, August 27, 2012

Top Ten Bookish Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
You know what time it is? It’s bookish pet peeve time!
1) I hate hate hate stopping a book when I’m in the middle. Even if it’s awful. Even if it’s so awful that it’s killing me. I cannot stop in the middle unless I really don’t think I’ll be able to finish or unless it’s taken me three months to get half-way through or unless boredom has begun to define my reading life. Then I might have enough will-power to put the book down. Maybe.
2) Even if a book jacket is annoying me to pieces, I won’t take it off. You know those certain jackets that just won’t stay on because they’re like three sizes too big for the book? Yeah, those are the ones I’m talking about. Any logical person would just take the stupid thing off so they could read the book without crying out in irritation when the jacket slips off every thirty seconds, but not me. Nope. I opt for crying out in irritation every thirty seconds and jerking the jacket back into place (and in the process giving myself 12,801,982,390,810 paper cuts).
3) This is a past book crime, but one I’ve never confessed, so *deep breath* hear I go: I used to mark out cuss words in books. I’d have my Sharpie at the ready, and whenever I came across a curse word, I’d cross it out. I mean, I was twelve or thirteen at the time, so you can’t blame me. Not exactly something to be ashamed about, I guess, but they were library books. *sheepish grin* Just goes to show that even the most avid of readers don’t follow all the library rules. I feel like such a rebel. ;)
4) This is probably true for most of us, but I can’t have any of my books in any form of bad condition. No bend pages, absolutely no dog-ears, no creases in the cover, no visible wear on the top and bottom of the spine. I just can’t tolerate any visible wear on my books. Library books, on the other hand, are a different story. Sometimes I wince when I see how shabby some of them are. Some honestly need to be put out of their misery. But I can take care of them while they’re in my care for three weeks, right? Nurse them back to health, so to speak…ok, even I’ll admit this is getting a little weird.
5) I’m not thrilled with the idea of loaning out books. I will, on occasion, loan out certain books to very special friends who I know will take care of them, but I’d baulk at the idea of letting just anyone use my bookshelf as their personal library. Call me selfish. I can take it.
6) I like to return library books right after I finish them. I’m not one of these people that like to hold on to the book up until the due date. Why do people do that?! Especially if there’s a waiting list on the book, the thing to do is return it. You’re done with it. Let someone else have a turn now. It’s a basic concept of sharing. You know, the thing they taught us in preschool?
7) I’m a sucker for a good romance. Insta-love or not, I’ll take anything sometimes. I know I’ve ranted on how I hate insta-love, but sometimes it’s done so well that it’s easy to overlook. I guess I’m still trying to shake off all the unrealistic expectations about love that Disney gave me and the rest of the female population. It’s not instant, but sometimes it’s nice to pretend it is. That’s what crappy romances are for.
8) I’m chill with taking library books to bed. This isn’t really a confession as much as something I wanted to address since a lot of people *coughgermaphobicscough* have this…fear…of reading library books when they’re in bed, as if mite are going to crawl out from between the pages and nest under their covers. Or maybe it’s the fact that people (presumably dirty people, of course) have touched the book, and therefore it’s unsafe to handle whilst in bed or eating food. Get. A. Life. I’m completely ok with reading library books anytime, anywhere.    
9) I smell my books. Who doesn’t? Wait, you don’t? Well. You’re missing out. Books young and old have their very own unique scent…though in older books, it’s more of a musty stink, but it’s a smell nonetheless.
10) When I read a book, I read it cover to cover. I’m talking acknowledgements, the dedication page, the research pages (if there are any), the author bio, and sometimes the publication page. What can I say? I like getting to know the book inside out, and as a book blogger, it’s my job to know books inside out. *grin* I absolutely love my job.
What’s your Top Ten Book Confessions? Do you annotate? Do you let library fines build up until you’re wading up to your nose in them? Do you hate a book series but secretly have a fictional crush on the MC? Now’s the time to own up to all those sinful book crimes and pet peeves, so go ahead and ‘fess up in the comments.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Published: July 3rd, 2012 (HarperTeen)
Pages:  292
Rating: 5/5
Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything--her family, her future--to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

From the "New York Times" bestselling author of "Peaches" comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn't grow up. [Description from Goodreads]
I have a confession to make.
From the 2003 movie, Peter Pan
Peter Pan was my very first fictional crush.
I was seven, I think…or maybe six.
I read about him in my little Golden Classics book. I watched his Disney movie (back in the day of VCRs). I think I even dreamt about him once or twice.
He could fly. He was magical. All the girls loved him. The mermaids fawned over him, Wendy flirted shamelessly with him, and Tiger Lily…well, no one really knows what happened between Peter and Tiger Lily.
Want to find out?
I did.
And I loved it. I love this book. Looooove it. It’s beautifully and elegantly written, and takes all the characters in Peter Pan and transforms them into exactly what they are meant to be. Exactly what we picture them to be. As the story comes together, you realize that you couldn’t have envisioned it any other way.
Tiger Lily is pretty much like a prequel to Peter Pan. It’s what happened before Wendy’s parents left for the dinner party, before Peter Pan came through her window, before he lost his shadow. It’s before Tinker Bell was Peter’s sidekick. It’s the beginning.
I was taken by surprised when I realized that Tiger Lily is narrated by Tinker Bell. I hadn’t really researched this book too thoroughly before I read it, but I had heard a bunch of wonderful things about it. I actually liked hearing the story through Tink’s voice. It wasn’t spunky or full of attitude like I expected it to be. At times, she seemed detached or neutral to the goings-on of the story, and I was fine with that. I loved hearing how she felt about Peter, since we never really get that inside scoop.  
From the Disney production of Peter Pan
Jodi portrays Tiger Lily as exactly who I always imagined her to be: a silent girl, in between girlhood and womanhood, in control of her emotions outwardly but always feeling their effects inwardly. Sometime she acts impartial about things she really does care about, because she’s not one for emotion. She speaks little, but every action and word has a purpose. She’s vulnerable but she never shows it.
And she was Peter Pan’s first love.
This story is so full of emotion. There’s a sadness that lingers throughout the whole book- not an overwhelming kind of sadness, but one that reappears here and there as the story goes on. I’ll tell you now- it’s present at the end. There is no “happily ever after,” at least not for Tiger Lily. I think both Tiger Lily and Peter ended up in relatively content situations in the end, but neither was truly happy. It’s one of those sad endings that are acceptable- it isn’t crushing, and it might make you smile a little. It’s a good sad ending.
The romance was so innocent. I love romances like that, but they’re so rare in YA books. Making it any more mature would have ruined the book, so I’m forever grateful to Jodi for weaving such a tender love story. Wendy is not portrayed as a very nice person in this book, so just as a forewarning, if you’re a diehard Wendy+Peter fan, you may not like this book. In fact, you may hate it. I thought I was a Wendy+Peter fan, but after reading Tiger Lily, I guess I’m not. *grin* Because I absolutely love Tiger Lily and Peter together. They’re both so imperfect and vulnerable, and have so much more in common than Wendy and Peter do (no offense, team Wendy fans).
 Through I could probably go on and on and on forever, I’ll wrap it up (for your sake). I adore this marvelously written story. All the characters and happens in the real Peter Pan story match up, so to speak, with the happens of this story. They all come into place. This prequel of Peter Pan is one I’ll never forget, and one I’d like to have on my shelf, because I’m sure I’ll want to pick it up again one of these days. Tales from Neverland have always had that effect on me; apparently they still do. I highly recommend Tiger Lily to anyone who loved Peter Pan and wants a little more.
Quick Content Review: *may contain spoilers*
Language: None (none that I can remember…if there was language, it wasn’t severe in the least)
Violence: Mild (A man drowns. A man is killed by crocodiles. A girl is bullied by her future husband. An attempted murder involving mermaids…never thought I’d say that. None of it was gory.)
Sexual: Mild (Some kissing/cuddling. A man dresses like a woman.)
Other: Some mention of the Indian tribe’s gods. Some superstition throughout the book. An Englishman comes and attempts to convert the tribe to Christianity; sadly, the man is portrayed as a forceful, unaccepting person.

Waiting on Wednesday #6

{Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.}
Here’s what I’m waiting on this Wednesday:

Awesome frosty cover!

My name is Tegan Oglietti, and on the last day of my first lifetime, I was so, so happy.

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027—she’s happiest when playing the guitar, she’s falling in love for the first time, and she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice.

But on what should have been the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies—and wakes up a hundred years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened.

Tegan is the first government guinea pig to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived, which makes her an instant celebrity—even though all she wants to do is try to rebuild some semblance of a normal life. But the future isn’t all she hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future?

Award-winning author Karen Healey has created a haunting, cautionary tale of an inspiring protagonist living in a not-so-distant future that could easily be our own.
[Description from Goodreads]
Anyone else excited for this? I can’t wait…I’ve never heard of a book like this, and it sounds absolutely fantastic!
What are you waiting on this week? Leave me a link in the comments!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shatter Me by Teherah Mafi

Published: November 15th, 2011 (HarperCollins)
Pages: 338
Rating: 4/5
Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war– and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior. [Description from Goodreads]
Juliette is like a leper. Untouched. Unloved. Unnoticed. Until Adam.
{Paperback cover}

Adam changes everything. Adam isn’t afraid of her like her parents were. Adam doesn’t manipulate her power like Warner does. Adam isn’t like everyone else. Adam is a dream resurfaced from her past. And with his help, Juliette can change the cruel world they live in.
Ok, I have to say, when I first read the summary of this book, my first thought was, “A girl whose touch is lethal? There ain’t gonna be too much romance in this book!” But my stars, how wrong I was! The romance was breathtaking! Shatter Me was both poignantly and beautifully written, and definitely one of my top favorites now.
The minute I picked up the book, I loved Teherah’s unique writing style. She likes she loves she adores overusing the strikethrough button, and I don’t blame her- I enjoy it too. *hehehe* At first I thought that maybe it might be distracted, but it actually makes the writing more entertaining and engaging. It’s like you’re reading Juliette’s thoughts and opinions as they change and morph each second, much like we think. We often don’t think a thought without it changing a little as the situation progresses. I love how Teherah uses this as a tool for us to almost feel like we are in Juliette’s mind; like we can see her thought process. If you’re sitting with a “whaaa?” expression on your face right now, I’m sorry for confusing you, but that’s how I interpreted her writing style. I’m sure others have different opinions on the strikethrough style she uses, but interpretations aside, the style has a really cool effect. *grin*
The characters were amazing, though I did have a few qualms about them. Juliette made a great protagonist, but she was very dark and just…sad. Depressing. I got a little weary of her self-pity act after a while. It was like she was beyond the point of believing that someone could ever love her, even after all that Adam had done for her. It was a miracle he stayed around that long when she was so wrapped up in her inward pity-part. I guess Juliette was just different from other dystopian girl characters. Many of them are butt-kick kind of gals, but not Juliette. She’s weak and she shows it. Honestly, that aspect was a refreshing change. Finally, a girl who is dependent on someone else.

{Book 1.5}
Now, Adam, on the other hand…*sigh* Good gracious, the man was HOT. This unspoken competition between YA authors to conjure the perfect dream boat of a guy is quite the challenge, but at the moment, Teherah Mafi gets my vote. Adam was protective and gentle and hot caring and sexy sacrificial. There were some scenes between him and Juliette that just blew. Me. Away. Gosh, what in the world is Teherah doing writing YA fiction? Someone get her writing romance, pronto!    
One of the only things I disliked about Shatter Me was the sickening and somewhat confusing relationship between Juliette and Warner, her captor. It’s clearly painted that he’s a sick, twisted, malicious psychopath, and yet I kept hearing about how she reacted to his touch, and how she was almost attracted to him. What the heck, Juliette?! It was truly awful. Awful enough that, combined with my issue about Juliette, I have to give this book four stars instead of five. *sad face*

{Book 2}
All in all, Shatter Me was a fantastic dystopian read. I’m jumping up and down waiting of book two, Unravel Me. I also can’t wait to check out book 1.5, Destroy Me. As long as Juliette doesn’t make out with Warner again, I’m good. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is hungry for more dystopian/futuristic thrillers, and definitely anyone who loves a good romance. *wink*
Quick Content Review: *may contain spoilers*
Language: Moderate (some swearing, mainly from one insignificant character)
Violence: Moderate (lots of shooting, some torture, some merciless killing)
Sexual: Moderate- Heavy (lots of kissing, sometimes heavy. Two characters don’t have sex, but they come awful close to it.)

Last Kiss in Venice: Legend of the White Snake #1 by Martin Chu Shui

*Note: I ended up not being able to finish this one. I got through about half of it. I’m still posting a review because I received Last Kiss in Venice via review request, but please note that I couldn’t read the whole book.*
Published: July 11th, 2012 (Self-published)
Pages: 189
Format: e-book/PDF (ARC received for an honest review)
Rating: 2/5
Beside a bridge over a canal in Venice, Charlie is spellbound not only by Caitlin’s absolute beauty but also by what seems like a mythical bond between them. The more he knows about her, the more mysterious she becomes. As they finally admit their love to each other in Paris, then move to settle down in Australia together, it looks like the start of Happily Ever After. But neither of them realizes that this is just the start of a heart-wrenching journey.

After a lifetime of searching, Caitlin finally finds her true love, settles down in the beautiful rolling countryside of outback Australia, and starts to raise a family, but her enemy is never far away. She loves Charlie deeply and is certain he is her soul mate, but she knows she can never reveal her secret; he must never know who she really is, and that is her downfall. Information in the hands of her enemy brings her life crashing down around her. To save all she has worked for, she must fight for her love and the right to survive.

“Last Kiss in Venice” is a reinterpretation of one of China’s most famous love stories, ‘Legend of the White Snake’. It is a supernatural love epic that encompasses both eastern and western culture to tell a story of love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, revenge and justice. This cocktail of oriental magic, vampires, and sword fights is a legend not easily forgotten.[Description from Goodreads]
*sigh* Where to begin. Let’s start with what I did like…
Last Kiss in Venice is a retelling of a Chinese legend. I liked the uniqueness that the book takes on in telling that tale. There are too few modern retellings like this, and I would definitely like to see more, especially in the YA department. And…well, honestly, that’s where it stops.
As you can tell, there wasn’t much I truly liked about Last Kiss in Venice. I could name a plethora of things I didn’t like, but because I hate bashing, I’ll give a shortened list. I didn’t like the insta-love. Charlie (the protagonist) arrives in Venice, sees a beautiful girl, and faster than 60-sec microwavable mac-and-cheese, the two fall in love. It’s quite horrific. Possibly the worst case of insta-love I’ve ever seen. To make it all the worst, the couple is married within days of meeting. And as if it can’t become any more unbelievable, they wed in Notre Dame (Caitlin, Charlie’s love, cries and evokes pity from the priest at Notre Dame, who then kindly invites them into the cathedral…yeah right). And don’t even get me started on how pathetic the paranormal aspect of it is. Maybe it’s just because I’m not a big vampire girl. Or maybe I was just laughing too hard at the weapons to pay attention to the vampires (Magic Gun? Magic Dynamite? Can we get any less creative?).
I guess you could just say that the whole thing was unbelievable. It was pathetic. The plot was poorly written, the romance was laughable, the characters felt shallow and were beyond hard to relate to, and the dialogue felt stiff and was difficult to read. The whole thing was difficult to read. I forced myself through half of it before I gave up. The plot and characters aside, the grammar…oh goodness. Let’s just leave it at this: it’s a grammar nazi’s nightmare. If I were a book doctor I’d prescribe a heavy dose of editing.
All in all, I’m really disappointed I didn’t like this book. I truly wanted to, but it couldn’t hold my attention even if it tried. Maybe someday I’ll try to read it again, but for now, back on the shelf it goes.
Quick Content Review: *may contain spoilers*
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Sexual: Mild

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway: The Forsaken by Lisa Stasse

Today I have the pleasure of chatting with the author of the newest (and pretty awesome) YA dystopian thriller, Lisa Stasse! You can find my review of her book The Forsaken here. Now, on to the interview, my dear readers!

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm a digital librarian at UCLA, and I've always wanted to be a writer ever since I was in high school (if not earlier). I've always loved books. I guess that's why I got into the library field! I'm also a photographer, although that's mostly for fun these days. I am a total arty type, so basically I'm obsessed with books and movies and music, and all that good stuff.

2) Artsy people are awesome! Though I might be bias since I consider myself one… *grin* What or who influences you to write? When did you start writing?

I've always written short stories, but THE FORSAKEN is my first novel. I'm influenced by a ton of various writers. From the obvious ones (like Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth) to some less obvious ones (Toni Morrison, Hemingway, and JG Ballard). I'm also really influenced by movies and TV shows (I loved the show LOST, and I also love pretty much anything that JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon does). I'm a total geek when it comes to books and pop culture.

3) Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth are incredible writers, as is Hemingway. I’ve never heard of Toni Morrison or JG Ballard- thanks for mentioning them. I’ll have to check out their work. What’s the hardest thing about writing a dystopian novel?

Trying to do something new, and trying to come up with big plot twists that readers don't see coming! I think I pulled off a pretty big twist in THE FORSAKEN near the end (at least hopefully!) But yeah, it's a pretty crowded market right now for dystopians. I wanted mine to stick out and be more gritty and realistic than some of the others.

THE FORSAKEN takes place only 20-30 years in the future, after a merger of the US, Canada and Mexico (for economic and military reasons). I studied political science in college, and although that kind of merger sounds totally absurd now, it's scarily plausible. Things can change really fast when economies collapse, or wars get started. Europe and Russia are very different now than they were 20 years ago, for example!

Anyway, so I wanted to write something real and raw and heartfelt, but something that would also surprise and entertain readers. I know that some readers are burned out on dystopians right now, but for hardcore fans like myself, there is always room for more. A lot of readers have also been comparing THE FORSAKEN to LOST and THE WIZARD OF OZ and LORD OF THE FLIES as much as THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT, which I think is great. Bringing diverse influences to the table and splicing them together is a good way to come up with fresh dystopian material. It's like genetic engineering to create a new species!

4) I agree! I see that it would be tough trying to create something new that readers haven’t encountered before. I can definitely see bits and pieces of other dystopians in The Forsaken, but at the same time, it has its own unique flair, and I absolutely love that. Tell us a little about what you researched before writing The Forsaken-what was the most interesting/funny/disturbing thing you came across?

Most of my research centered on prison systems and tropical islands (a lot of THE FORSAKEN takes place on a harsh prison island called The Wheel). So I read about prisons in different countries, and the SuperMax prisons in the US. All of this stuff is pretty terrifying. Prisons are really automated these days, and in lots of them, the inmates never get to interface with other prisoners, or even see sunlight. Unsurprisingly, this makes the prisoners go crazy pretty quickly!

Learning about all this stuff was probably the most disturbing part of the research. But of course in THE FORSAKEN, it's even worse, because even though the prisoners are on a tropical island, it's controlled by brutal government machines and wild tribes of kids. So even surviving there for a few weeks is an accomplishment.

Probably the funniest thing I came across in my research is that private companies now build prisons so that the government can farm out their prisoners to them. But after the economy collapsed in 2008, the private prisons are now just sitting there empty and half-built. So there are like crazy prisons sitting totally empty in the desert in Arizona, waiting for inmates that will probably never arrive. It just sounds so surreal. Someone should go out there with a camera and make a documentary about them.

5) I’d love to watch a documentary like that! Which character was the most difficult to create?

Oh, definitely the Monk. He’s the villain. He rules a large tribe on the island, and he has a very mysterious past (to say the least!). He was also the most fun character to come up with! I wanted to create a unique villain--not just the typical dystopian fascist. I think he's a pretty memorable character.

6) I agree- the Monk is a villain not easily forgotten. What message do you want readers to take away from your book?

The main message is something like, "You're stronger than you think, so don't let other people define your life for you. Stand up for yourself. Find the inner leader inside yourself and give her room to express herself. Nothing in life will get handed to you, so be ready to fight for what you believe in!"

7) Awesome! Taking initiative and chasing things you want is a message all teens need to hear. Can you tell us about any future projects? How many books will be in The Forsaken series?

I conceived of THE FORSAKEN as a trilogy, but there might be a fourth book (a prequel) in the works too. I just finished writing Book 2, THE UPRISING, a few weeks ago, and I'm already writing Book 3. I hate it when trilogies get worse and worse with each book, so I've made a promise to myself to make sure that Books 2 and 3 are just as good, if not better, than Book 1!

8) Oooo, I can’t wait! I’m so excited about Book 2, and I’m even more excited now that I know there will be at least one (if not two) more books to look forward to! What’s the best advice you have for aspiring writers/authors?

Read as many great book as you can (from classics like Jane Austen's novels to contemporary fiction to YA to manga to nonfiction) and write something every single day. It can just be a journal entry or a blog post, but the more you write, the better you will get at it! Also, when the time comes, try to find a great agent. I can't stress this enough. A good agent will also help you edit and prepare your material and make it even stronger, before they submit it to publishers. My agent Mollie Glick at Foundry Literary + Media is amazing and has been so helpful and kind to me throughout this entire process. I couldn't have done it without her. She is everything I hoped for in an agent, and more.

9) Great advice! That’s the same thing I hear from other authors: read as much as you can and write as much as you can. Your biography says that you’re a digital librarian. Tell us a little bit more about what that entails and what you do on a day to day basis.

It's a really fun job. Right now I'm working with UCLA's Special Collections (they handle really rare and unique books) to get old documents digitized and posted online so that everyone can access them. My job involves a fair amount of computer work (programming, website design, etc) as well as dealing with librarians and professors at other universities.

10) That’s so cool! I never knew there was such a job. And just for fun…favorite books or movies? I’ve heard that you’ve travelled a lot. Where’s your favorite destination so far?

I love movies as much as I love books! I think my favorite book is probably Pride and Prejudice, but I also love Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games, and Beloved.

In terms of movies, my tastes veer towards kind of dark stuff (sci-fi/thrillers) like The Matrix and Dark City. I love all of Stanley Kubrick's movies too (The Shining is awesome!) I loved Blue Valentine and Drive as well (yes, I have a thing for Ryan Gosling, and I'm not ashamed to admit it, haha!)

As for traveling, I think Hawaii is one of my favorite destinations. I also love the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and of course I absolutely love Seville in Spain, where I lived for a while. I wish I could spend most of my life traveling. I think that's my big dream! To be able to travel the world, and write and take photos, and see all kinds of different places. I can't imagine anything more fun or inspiring.

Thanks, Lisa! This was so much fun!

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Shelby!!!! :)

Find out more about Lisa and The Forsaken:


Official Book Trailer:



Facebook Page:


Give the awesome people at Simon and Schuster a virtual hug, because guess what? They’ve generously set aside not one, but TWO hardback copies of The Forsaken for two oh-so lucky winners! Use the Rafflecopter below to enter the giveaway!

First, some simple rules:

-US residents only.

-The winners will be contacted via email prior to the end of the giveaway.

-Winners must respond within 48 hours with their mailing address which I’ll pass on to Simon and Schuster so they can mail out the books. If I get no response within 48 hours, I’ll choose new winners.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There you are! Good luck!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

TV review: Dance Academy (Season 1)

Genre: Drama, Teen, Australian TV shows, TV-14
Channel: ABC [Australia]
Aired: May 31st, 2010
Rating: 5 stars
Summary: Dance Academy features Tara Webster (Xenia Goodwin), a new student at Australia's National Academy of Dance. The show presents the students at the Academy learning the intricacies of ballet and dance, and is primarily shown from Tara's perspective, along with fellow first year students Kat Karamakov (Alicia Banit), Abigail Armstrong (Dena Kaplan), Sammy Lieberman (Tom Green), Christian Reed (Jordan Rodrigues), and third year student Ethan Karamakov (Tim Pocock).
Tara is what people would call a country gal. When she arrives in Sydney for her dance audition, she does anything but fit in. Upon arrival she’s promptly pointed in the direction of what she thought was the girls’ locker room, but was really the guys’ locker room. There she runs into Christian, whose criminal background as landed him in the Academy as a sort of rehab. Christian, surprised to find a girl stripping down in the guy’s locker room, dubs Tara “Training Bra.” This infamous title followers her throughout season one. Luckily, she makes more friends once she finds her way out of the dressing room (shirt on inside out). These friends include rebel girl Kat Karamakov, awkward Sammy Lieberman, and hottie Ethan Karamakov. She also makes enemies with none other than her snarky roomie, Abigail, whose life revolves around all things dance (and only dance). The series takes us on Tara’s journey as she struggles through the rigorous life at the Academy and all the trials that come along with friends, boys, and life in general.
Dance Academy was just one of those shows I stumbles upon while browsing through the titles on Netflix. Every once in a blue moon, I’ll get the urge to become addicted to a tv show, and when that happens, there’s no way I’ll get much reading done for at least the next week. I wasn’t expecting much out of Dance Academy- in fact, I wasn’t even expecting to like it. But soon I found myself watching one short 20-minute episode after the next, and then I knew I was addicted.
I’m not sure what exactly it was that drew me in. To be honest, I didn’t like Tara at first. It took me the whole season to start tolerating her. The thing that irritated me about her was her talent at looking ridiculous. She wasn’t modest about her feelings- she wore her heart on her sleeve. When Tara developed a crush on Ethan (Sorry, spoiler!), she instantly felt that her friends should know and care, for some reason. It didn’t take long for the whole stinking Academy to find out that first-year Tara Webster was secretly slobbering all over third-year Ethan Karamakov. The way she handled herself in situations was just embarrassing. It was like she had no dignity or pride to uphold at all- she acted like her reputation was something she didn’t care throwing out the window. It wasn’t until towards the end of season one that I started realizing that maybe the way Tara acted wasn’t a bad thing at all. She didn’t care what people thought of her. She didn’t have any secrets- everyone knew everything about what she was feeling all the time, and though people might not care, at least they knew. There weren’t any barriers. They didn’t have to pry to get to know her. She was open and indifferent to people’s opinions and…real.
So, just as a warning, if you start watching Dance Academy, Tara might get on your nerves like she did mine. Or she might now. But if she does, just know that it gets better. She isn’t always that ridiculous. She gains some dignity throughout the season, and you begin to like her openness. It’s refreshing to have a main character like that.
[Some spoilers in the next paragraph]
That was really my only qualm about the show. There are a couple other things I didn’t like, such as the flip-flop way that Tara dates the boys at the Academy (one minutes it’s him…now it’s someone else…then back to the first guy…) and then I wasn’t too thrilled when Sammy questions his sexuality at the end of the season (hope nothing comes of that, or I might consider dropping the show), but nothing too awful enough for me to stop watching.
Now, the things I did like about the show were numerous. I liked the dancing, for one thing. After reading and enjoying Bunheads (see my review here) I started looking for other books/movies that had to do with the ins and outs of the ballet industry. This is just the show for people who want to learn more or like that sort of thing. I also loved the Australian accents. *grin* I loved Ethan and Christian and Kat, and getting to know their backstories and lives. Abigail was a fun character too, even though she was mean (the kind of mean that borders on evil and malicious). I like all the characters’ relationships with each other, and yes, I liked the romance. It was sweet and girly, if sporadic and fickle.
I was so surprised at how much I loved this show. Every night, instead of reading (yeah, I feel the guilt coming on) I would pull out my laptop and watch several episodes of Dance Academy. It still took me awhile to get through season one, though, because there’s a good 26 or so episodes. When I finally finished season one, I thought I had my life back. I thought I could read again at night without the irresistible urge to watch DA. But no. The despicable people at Netflix added season two the day (I’m kid you not- the very day) I finished season one. There my life went, out the window again. So I’m currently struggling to fit in a few episodes of season two each night along with sufficient time to read the books that keep piling up beside my nightstand.
In conclusion, then, I highly recommend Dance Academy. It’s very entertaining and captivating (if you didn’t get the gist from the last paragraph) and perfect for anyone who’s looking for a foreign show, a teen show, or a dance show. Or all three. You pick. *wink*
Quick Content Review: [contains spoilers]
Language: None that I can remember.
Violence: None. (Two boys run from the police after they rob a service station, or “servo,” as they like to call it.)
Sexual: Mild- Moderate [Tara kisses Ethan. Tara kisses Christian. Tara almost kisses Sammy. Somehow, Tara’s not slutty, but she still ends up kissing a good deal of boys. Kat has several boyfriends who kiss her. One tries to take advantage of her before Christian intercedes. Sammy and Abigail date for a while, and want to “take it to the next level.” Sammy consults Christian on “logistics.” (Count on Sammy to make things weird.) Sammy and Abigail end up not doing anything, though (phew). It’s hard to list everything- since this was a teen show, it does focus a lot on dating and such (I guess Australian tv shows aren’t any different than American tv shows). Nothing too bad happens, though. Like I said in the review, Sammy does question his sexuality towards the end of season one, but he ends up dating girls in season two.]

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Published: May 1st, 2012

Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 525
Rating: 5/5
Goodreads: Insurgent
One choice can transform you--or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable--and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

"New York Times" bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian "Divergent" series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature. [Description from Goodreads]
I literally just finished reading Insurgent not even ten minutes ago. Maybe this isn’t the right time to be writing a review, because honestly, I’m still in shock. I don’t know what to say. I just keep thinking, “It’s just so freakin’ brilliant.” So. Brilliant.
I was so geared up to read this book. I had it on hold at the library for three months. I kid you not- THREE WHOLE MONTHS. I was hesitant to buy it because I don’t own Divergent, and nothing irritates me more than owning an incomplete series. So you can guess that I was all over it when I finally got it from the library (why yes, I did sleep with it under my pillow). The first part was a little slow. It felt more like filler content or support for the latter half more than anything else. It wasn’t boring; it just wasn’t as chock-full of the plot twists and non-stop action that Roth likes to fill her books with.
The second half was…gosh. It was marvelous. Intense. Mind-blowing. You never know what Roth will pull out of the bag, and it’s always what you least expect. It’ll always shock you, thrill you, and excite you. Especially when she places the scene that’ll have you on the edge of your seat at THE VERY END OF THE BOOK. Oh yes, don’t deny you didn’t see it coming- Insurgent has that infuriating Roth trademark. The cliffhanger. All I can say is prepare for it. It’s going to kill you just like it killed me.
I know you’ve been wondering, so I’ll just go ahead and satisfy your curiosity: Tobias is still hot and dark and strong and vulnerable and every girl’s dream completely and utterly amazing. Same as ever. Tris is the same stubborn, kick-butt girl we encountered in Divergent- except this time, I feel like we get to see more of her vulnerable, sensitive side. She’s less…gun-happy, for lack of a better word. And if you read Divergent, I’m sure you know why.
In conclusion, I’d like to say that Insurgent was brilliant. There’s no other word to describe it. I might have even liked it better than Divergent. Now I can join to ranks of fans that are waiting eagerly, hungrily to read book three (“Detergent”…or whatever). I can honestly say that this is one of the best book series I’ve ever read. It’s not one you want to miss.
Quick Content Review: *may contain spoilers*
Language: Mild (two or three words, as far I remember)
Violence: Heavy (Pretty much the same amount as there was in Divergent, except I felt like the violence in Insurgent was darker or more intense or something. Like I said in my review of Divergent, Roth doesn’t sugar-coat it; it’s raw. I don’t recommend this book if you can’t stomach heavy violence.
Sexual: Mild- Moderate (Tobias and Tris kiss, sometimes passionately.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday #5

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
There are so many great new titles out there, still waiting to be release, that it’s pretty hard to pick just one. Especially when most of them are wild new dystopians (I think I’m about to go on another one of my dystopian sprees, so expect a lot of reviews of books in that genre). This week, I’ve picked an upcoming dystopian to spotlight: Beta, which release October 16th.
In a world constructed to absolute perfection, imperfection is difficult to understand—and impossible to hide.

Elysia is a clone, created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen year old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of teenaged clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to be created.

Elysia's purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air there induces a strange, euphoric high that only the island's workers—soulless clones like Elysia—are immune to.

At first, Elysia's new life on this island paradise is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne's human residents, the most privileged people in the world who should want for nothing, yearn. And, she comes to realize that beneath its flawless exterior, there is an undercurrent of discontent amongst Demesne's worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care—so why are overpowering sensations clouding Elysia's mind?

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn't the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When Elysia's one chance at happiness is ripped away from her with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she's always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.
[Description from Goodreads]
Sounds like it’s going to be a good one, right? I haven’t read any of Rachel’s other books, but I still can’t wait to get my hands on this one! What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Comment or leave a link below!

The Forsaken by Lisa Stasse

Published: July 10th 2012
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 375
Rating: 5/5
Goodreads page: The Forsaken
As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway. [Description from Goodreads]
Check out the book trailer:
I knew I was going to like this book before I even cracked it open. I heard about it a couple months ago, saw the trailer soon after, and was completely enthralled there on out. Everyone kept saying it was going to be the next Hunger Games (though people say that about books all the time). But after reading it, I have to say that while it is somewhat similar to The Hunger Games (and some other dystopian titles), The Forsaken has its own unique flair.
The book centers around Alenna Shawcross, an ophan. Her parents were taken by the government for traitorous activity when Alenna was young. Now she’s sixteen and on the verge of taking the GPPT- Governement Personality Profile Test- which assesses teens for dormant rebellious or criminal motives. The test searches through the population with a fine-tooth comb, picking out teens with rebellious intentions that haven’t blossomed yet, and shipping them off to a primitive prison island. There’s no escape- countless failed attempts prove this to be true. Even worse is the fact that two tribes of teens war with each other, waging bloody and lethal battles constantly. Even if you manage to survive through these fights, there’s still the chance of getting taken by what the kids call “feelers.” Giant robotic tentacles that come out of nowhere pluck random kids from the villages, never to be seen again. Island Alpha spells certain death, and most kids don’t live past eighteen. Unless you can manage to be the exception. Unless you can survive.
I felt like this book was a brilliant mish-mash of a bunch of other dystopian novels, while also holding true to its own distinctive twist. If The Hunger Games and Gone had a baby, this book would be the result. I read bits and pieces that reminded me of Matched, Divergent, The Maze Runner, and that oh-so popular TV show, “Survivor.” The aspect of the feelers reminded me of that unstoppable machine that the superheroes fight in the movie “The Incredibles.” The Forsaken is like a collage that is bound to please anyone and everyone, especially those who like the previous books I’ve mentioned.
I loved the overall feel of the book. It’s hard to describe, but the theme of the warring tribes gave the book a cannibalistic feel. Not like the eating human flesh kind of cannibalism (ew) but more like living on a primitive island in the Pacific and getting attacked by kids from a deranged cult and just trying to survive. Mentioning kids from a deranged cult, that’s the other tribe. The one Alenna doesn’t pick when she arrives, shocked and stunned, on “the wheel” (the kids’ name for Island Alpha). The kids of this tribe, called “drones” after male worker bees, worship an old, mysterious Monk whose supposed power and miracles draw in numerous kids searching for hope and a way of escape. These drones attack Alenna’s tribe without fear or mercy, slaughtering ruthlessly in the name of their leader. They’ve lost all sense of free-will or thought; while the Monk doesn’t give them physical freedom from the wheel, he does give them freedom from abiding by rules, freedom from decision, freedom from being human. When this sunk in, it really intrigued me and even made me love the book even more.
There was a bit of romance, too, between Alenna and a character named Liam. Liam is the one who devises a plan of escape, Operation Tiger Strike. While I could have gone for a little more romance between the two, I admit that it might have been distracting if there was more. I appreciate that Lisa didn’t focus as much on the romance as much as the adventure, because this is what a lot of dystopian authors do today, and it does get annoying and distracting. Now, there were a couple things I didn’t like, of course, but none of them were big deals. Most of them were just ridiculous aspects like the Jell-O wall that surrounds the island and the way they described the feelers. I’ll admit I kind of laughed at those parts, because they just sounded ridiculous (A wall made of jelly like material? Long tentacles that came from some unseen place in the sky?). But like I said, it wasn’t a big deal and those parts definitely didn’t degrade my opinion of the book in the least.
To conclude this rather lengthy review (this book deserved one of my long rants), I’ll say that The Forsaken is a book you don’t want to miss. It has a great ending; not one of those happily-ever-after endings, but one that possesses enough closure to satisfy readers, has just the right amount of resolution and suspense, and lead into the next book. The plot twist and action had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I never wanted to put it down. This surprisingly excellent debut is one you’ll want to have on your shelf.
Quick Content Review: *may contain spoilers*
Language: Mild- Moderate (several h-words, one of two other cuss words)
Violence: Moderate- Heavy (Two tribes of teens war with each other. Violent attacks ensue- there are brief descriptions of several of them. Mentions of teens getting shot with arrows, pierced with knives, and other bloody encounters. Mention of humans being frozen and dissected in experiments. There’s a lot of gritty content- I don’t recommend this book to the squeamish.)  
Sexual: Mild (a couple kisses; mention of deranged teens hooking up)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday #4...the Fax edition

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s highly anticipated release actually comes out next Monday (August 6th):

One last chance...
For Max, Fang, Angel, Iggy, Nudge, and Gazzy.
Before it all ends.

Are you ready for the final chapter? Are you ready for the ultimate flight? Because THIS IS IT. One last incredible, explosive adventure with an astonishing ending that no one could have seen coming. [Description from Goodreads]
Oh. Mah. Word. Five days, people. Five days. Then it’s all over. Can you believe it?
All I have to say is that Patterson better have Max and Fang kiss up and get back together (Fax FTW!), or someone isn’t going to be happy. Correction. No one will be happy. It’d be awful satisfying if that stupid, irritating, slightly perverted idiot Dylan came into an “accident,” too, but I’m not going to push my luck.
What are you waiting on this week? Leave me a link in the comments and I’ll be sure and check it out!