Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Origins

Title: Origins (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries 1)
Author: L.J. Smith, Kevin Williamson, Julie Plec
Publisher: Harper Teen
Book source: personally owned

Description: Set during the Civil War, against a backdrop of grand estates, unimaginable riches, and deadly secrets, three teenagers in Mystic Falls, Virginia enter a torrid love triangle that will span eternity.

Brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore are inseparable until they meet Katherine, a stunning, mysterious woman who turns their world upside down. Siblings turned rivals, the Salvatores compete for Katherine's affection, only to discover that her sumptuous silk dresses and glittering gems hide a terrible secret: Katherine is a vampire. And she is intent on turning them into vampires so they can live together-forever.

My thoughts: When I first heard about the Stefan's Diaries I got really excited. Stefan is one of my favorite characters from the series. I also liked that Kevin and Julie were involved too. I feel like I've gotten more answers from the show than I did with Smith's original series, even though I did still enjoy it.
In this book we get to see some of the same scenes that have been in the flashback scenes on the show. We get to see how Stefan and Damon were before they were turned into vampires.
If you have enjoyed the show and Smith's original series then you would like this one too. From reading it you can tell that Williamson and Plec were involved. The scenes and language had pretty much the same feel as the show.

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Top Ten Favorite Authors with Daniel Walls

Today I have with me Daniel Walls, author of The Vyne. Check out my review of The Vyne.

I asked Daniel who his Top Ten favorite authors are and this is what he said:

Top Ten Favorite Authors

Michael Crichton
JK Rowling
Arthur C. Clark
JRR Tolkien
Neil Gaiman
Stephen King
Carl Sagan
Orson Scott Card
Dean Koontz

Always interests me to see what authors the authors I read read. Did that make sense? Thank you Daniel for sharing!

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The Weekly Happenings

Hope you guys had a great weekend! Another jam-packed week on the blog coming up. Check it out.

The Week to Come:

Monday: Top Ten Authors with Daniel Walls

We wrap up January with our Month In Review feature

Wednesday: Waiting on Wednesday, Kristen reviews Fallen Angel by Heather Terrell

Thursday: Link a Contest Thursday, Kristen reviews Shades of Atlantis by Carol Oates

Friday: Kristen talks about Love your Library month on The Library Corner, Kristen interviews Carol Oates, April reviews The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

Saturday: Blogger Spotlight

Sunday: In My Mailbox

The Week in Rewind:

Monday: April reviewed The Pace by Shelena Shorts and our giveaway for a copy of Wereling by Steve Feasey began (ends the 4th).

Tuesday: Kristen reviewed The Vyne: The Mystery of the Hidden Ember by Daniel Walls

Wednesday: Waiting on Wednesday post, Kristen reviewed Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Thursday: Link a Contest Thursday, Kristen reviewed Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, Kristen interviewed Stephanie Dray (author of Lily of the Nile), and then Kristen wrapped up her 2011 Comment Challenge

Friday: Kristen reviewed The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, April posted a book recommendation on The Library Corner

Saturday: Blogger Spotlight - E-volving Books

Sunday: In My Mailbox

This fantastic meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

Kristen read this past week:
Fallen Angel by Heather Terrell
Shades of Atlantis by Carol Oates
Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

Kristen is currently reading:
Drought by Pam Bachorz

April Nichole read this past week:

Stefan's Diaries by L.J. Smith

April Nichole is currently reading:
The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

In My Mailbox - January 30th

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.

April Nichole:

For Review:

Getting Even by Reshonda Tate Billingsley (from Night Owl Reviews)
Blaze of Glory (The Laws of Magic #1) by Michael Pryor
Heart of Gold (The Laws of Magic #2) by Michael Pryor

Word of Honour (The Laws of Magic # 3) by Michael Pryor
Tome of Trial (The Laws of Magic # 4) by Michael Pryor


Beastly by Alex Flinn

For Review:

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
Drought by Pam Bachorz

Won (from The Book Smugglers):

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Spotlight - E-volving Books

Today I have a great blogger with me who is all about e-books and how they are changing our reading style! Check her out below.

Name: Deepali (Dee)
Nickname and/or blog name: E-volving Books
Blog URL:

Tell me a bit about yourself.
I am a 20-something blogger from Bangalore, India, addicted to books. I started reading when I was about 5, and since then, have remained addicted throughout my work, my MBA from Purdue, and my married life. It is hard! I tend to substitute reading for sleep, and I still wish my job entailed books in some way.

When and why did you start your blog?
I started blogging in May as a way to share my reading habits and recommendations, after seeing some awesome blogs. Currently, I do adult fantasy, YA, paranormal reading and reviews. Representing Indian authors in fantasy is something I would love to do, once more books in this genre get published.

What is your blog all about? Any cool features you want to share?
My blog is all about fantasy - authors, books, new releases, upcoming releases and hopefully, someday sometime, author interviews. I seem to be tilting more towards the market of e-book readers, and every week I have a post about the Kindle/ebooks/research into eBooks.
I have this divine Wibiya bar at the bottom of my page, which lets you chat with me live! You can also use the bar to follow the blog.

What are some of your favorite genres and/or books currently?
I love fantasy, in most forms - YA, steampunk, graphic novels, historical. Authors I really enjoy are Neil Gaiman for Sandman and his short stories, Patrick Rothfuss' Name of the Wind, and also his Mistborn series, Jim Butcher for the Codex Alera series and anything by Patricia Briggs. Some YA authors I read recently are Sharon Shinn (usually angels), Embers (elementals) by Laura Bickle, Melissa Marr (Ink and Faeries) and Chloe Neill (boarding school and the 'differentially powered' :) ).

How do you find out about the books you read?
Mostly I browse through the books in my library - it is one of the oldest libraries around here, and they do have a fairly diverse collection. The bookstores have never been much help, the chainstore ones have clubbed it with scifi, and allocate an Entire ONE bookshelf to it. The no-brand bookstores with floor to ceiling books have the best collections of both fantasy and graphic novels around here (mail me for recommendations if you happen to be in my city!)

Any tips or advice for those starting or thinking about starting a blog?
Make sure you post often, and join a couple of highly-participated memes. I've also found it helps to comment well on other blogs. The most fun things have been weekend-long events like the Bloggiesta or Read-a-Thon. Those use twitter to make the event very inclusive, and you get to meet folks who are nuts about books from everywhere!!

Thank you Dee for stopping by my blog this weekend!

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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Library Corner

The Library Corner is a new feature we started to talk about really anything book related that we want. Anything that we want to spread the word on.

I'm sorry I didn't get this posted yesterday. I have been opening for a while now at work and I keep having times here and there were it takes a toll on me so when I get off all I want to do is sleep. Today I worked 9 hours without a break. Boo. I'm going simple with a recommendation.

I think that everyone should read The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan. I read this last year through and I loved it. I read this after having read a few in a row that I didn't enjoy. When I finished The Mermaid's Mirror it was refreshing. It was one of those rare moments for me that when I finished I wanted to thank the author for having gotten the story out. (I actually did write her and it felt good and I think she appreciated it.)
I am really hoping for a sequel because I think more can be done with the story. This was the first story that I've read that involved mermaids and I don't know that I had any expectations but I really enjoyed it.
Here is a description: Lena has lived her whole life near the beach — walking for miles up and down the shore and breathing the salty air, swimming in the cold water, and watching the surfers rule the waves — the problem is, she’s spent her whole life just watching.
As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Lena vows she will no longer watch from the sand: she will learn to surf.
But her father — a former surfer himself — refuses to allow her to take lessons. After his near drowning years ago, he can’t bear to let Lena take up the risky sport.
Yet something keeps drawing Lena to the water . . . an ancient, powerful magic. And one morning Lena catches sight of this magic: a beautiful woman — with a silvery tail.
Now nothing can stop Lena from seeking the mermaid, not even the dangerous waves at Magic Crescent Cove.
And soon . . . what she sees in the mermaid’s mirror will change her life forever.

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Review: The Scorch Trials

Author: James Dashner
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Genre: YA Dystopian
Copy provided by: Myself, purchased.
Summary (via Goodreads):

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.

In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety . . . until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim . . . and meal.

The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

Why I read this: I absolutely loved the Maze Runner and had to read the sequel.

Plot: The Scorch Trials starts with a theatrical beginning, one that blew me away with the mind-blowing and gore level I really didn't anticipate. What happens at the beginning of the novel sets the stage for a gruesome addition to the Maze Runner series. There's twists that are added, a new set of characters in the same situation as the boys, as well as some gruesome new ways to die. My favorite of which was the head-eating slime. Definitely a series I can't wait for more of.

Characters: The new female characters are fiercer and you're not quite sure of their background while reading the story - but something fishy is going on. WICKED is as ominous as ever, pulling invisible strings in the background and making you unsure of the main characters as well as the supporting one.

Relatability: Fans of a more horrific dystopian series will enjoy Dashner's The Maze Runner series.

Cover Commentary: Definitely gives you a picture as to what type of scenery you'll see in this book.

Rating: 5/5 Roses

Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

2011 Comment Challenge Wrap-Up

So, one of my goals this year was to comment more on blogs. I do check my reader regularly, I just don't always get around to commenting on their actual blog. So, thank you to MotherReader for hosting this awesome challenge. And look at that awesome button, which contains the headers from all 131 of the participating blogs.

The goal was to comment on five blogs every day for 21 days, giving you a day off if need be. So the goal was 100 comments.

How did I do?
  • I had a total of 118 comments during this time period!
  • I didn't comment every day, but made up for it on other days.
  • I've been making sure to go through my reader and then actually click on a few and comment.
  • I'm feeling a bit better about blogging now that I'm leaving more and more comments. Hopefully I can keep this up all year!
This runs in January every year, so I hope you will join in next time if you didn't this time around. If you did participate, how did you do?

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Interview with Stephanie Dray

Today I have the lovely author Stephanie Dray here with me to answer some questions. I absolutely loved her debut novel, Lily of the Nile, which I reviewed last week. Check out my review of Lily of the Nile.

How did the idea for Lily of the Nile come to you?
Cleopatra and other infamous women in history have always been fascinating to me. When I discovered that Cleopatra had a daughter, one who became a queen in her own right, I was fascinated by how that could have come about. Some stories are so unlikely that the only reasonable explanation is magic, so I ended up envisioning Selene’s religion as an inspiration for her extraordinary life, and the rest, they say, is history...

What drew you to that time of period in history?
But for some bad weather and a very effective propaganda campaign against Cleopatra, she may well have ruled the Western world, and if that had happened, our own world might be a very different place today. The time in which her daughter Selene grew up was a time of great historical change; a time of transition. It’s that kind of conflict that always draws me in like a moth to a flame...

What kind of research did you do for Lily of the Nile?
I spent some time in the library, I read every book I could get my hands on, and I consulted with authorities in the field. I’ve reconstructed Roman feasts; I’ve even tried on a stola and palla to get an idea of what it was like to wear the clothes of the era. The only thing I didn’t do was travel to modern day Algeria and Morocco which is where Selene’s kingdom of Mauretania was located.

What are some of your hobbies besides writing?
I’m a cat enthusiast. I own three...or am owned by them, I’m sure they would say. I spend time teaching my cat Butterscotch to do tricks, including shaking paws and giving a high-five. I used to enjoy online role-playing games, but I’ll admit that my writing doesn’t leave much time for hobbies these days.

How does it feel to have your debut novel finally published and in the hands of readers?
As a writer, I’m supposed to have words to describe every mood and feeling, but having my debut novel in the hands of readers is indescribable. My reviews have been fantastic and I’ve been so touched by them. There’s no feeling in the world like finding your readers and knowing that they loved the glimpse of a foreign world that you’ve given them...

I love to interact with readers; I’m on Facebook but I also tweet!

One last question. What stories can we look forward to from you in the future?
By the end of the year, the sequel, SONG OF THE NILE will hit bookshelves. It will trace the life of Selene as she carves out a new kingdom for herself in North Africa and tries to honor her mother’s legacy.

Thank you so much for having me here. It’s been an honor!


Stephanie Dray is the author of a forthcoming trilogy of historical fiction novels set in the Augustan Age, starting with Lily of the Nile: A Novel of Cleopatra's Daughter. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

She is currently sponsoring the Cleopatra Literary Contest for Young Women, the deadline for which is March 1, 2011, but join her newsletter now for updates and a chance to win a free copy of Lily of the Nile and additional prizes.

Huge thanks to Stephanie for answering my questions. Make sure to check out all the links so you can connect with Stephanie and maybe win some great prizes!

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Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Author: John Green & David Levithan
Publication Date: April 2010
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction w/GLBT themes
Copy provided by: Myself, purchased
Summary (via Goodreads):

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them legions of faithful fans.

Why I read this: Two great authors must equal one great book. :)

Plot: I don't read a lot of books with a GLBT theme, but this one caught my attention. I love the dual characters - both with the same name - and how they end up connecting at a porn shop. Both have some issues - one being moody and looking for love online - and the other caring too much how everyone views him. Definitely a book that is filled with realistic teen drama and hilarious to boot.

Characters: I loved the diversity between the two Wills and Tiny really cracked me up. Definitely a set of character I won't be able to forget.

Relatability: I think everyone has had a friend like one of the characters in these books - so it's easy to relate to.

Cover Commentary: Love it! Makes me think of city-living. :)

Rating: 5/5 Roses

Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.

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Link a Contest Thursday

Rules (or at least STRONG suggestions):
1. Name the item being given away (instead of the blog name)
2. Give the end date in () after the name
3. Make sure to link DIRECTLY to that contest post - if you don't know how to do this - just click on the title of the contest blog and it will give a direct URL you can use.
4. If you want to post a contest you've found, make sure it isn't already posted.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: Blessed

Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Publication Date: January 25th, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Copy provided by: Teen Book Scene
Summary (via Goodreads):

With a wink and a nod to Bram Stoker, New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith unites the casts of Tantalize and Eternal in a delicious dark fantasy her fans will devour.

Quincie P. Morris, teen restaurateuse and neophyte vampire, is in the fight of her life — or undeath. Even as she adjusts to her new appetites, she must clear her best friend and true love, the hybrid werewolf Kieren, of murder charges; thwart the apocalyptic ambitions of Bradley Sanguini, the seductive vampire-chef who "blessed" her; and keep her dead parents’ restaurant up and running. She hires a more homespun chef and adds the preternaturally beautiful Zachary to her wait staff. But with hundreds of new vampires on the rise and Bradley off assuming the powers of Dracula Prime, Zachary soon reveals his true nature — and a flaming sword — and they hit the road to staunch the bloodshed before it’s too late. Even if they save the world, will there be time left to salvage Quincie’s soul?

Why I read this: I really enjoyed reading Tantalize and Eternal and was excited to see that this continued from both of those novels.

Plot: This book pretty much leaves off right after Tantalize and Eternal end. If you remember Zachary from Eternal, he's suddenly with Quincie, the main character from Tantalize as she tries to figure out how to save a ton of people from becoming vampires. Her time is limited and she needs all the help she can get. Most of this book is really about Quincie dealing with being a vampire. She feels detached from her boyfriend's family and he's suddenly out of the picture. A bit of a workaholic, she throws herself into trying to reopen her family restaurant as soon as possible while trying to research how to stop anyone who sampled Bradley's blood from becoming a vampire.

Add in a legend vampire of old, angels, and shifters and there are some serious battles to be fought. For a book nearing 500 pages long, the story flew by fast, filled with action and emotional turmoil. I absolutely loved this book and hope there will be more.

Characters: I really love Quincie. How horrible that a foodie had to turn into a vampire? She struggles, but she's constant in her want to help others from becoming like her.

I can't help but feel sorry for Zachary in this book, who is just torn apart inside. You can tell throughout the book how distraught he is and I think that really captured his soul.

As for Bradley, he is a super creepy vampire and ugh, so evil and wanna-be sexy. I'm so glad that Quincie fights against him, even when he tries to make her do evil things.

Relatability: Fans of the two previous books will really eat this one up. Fans of paranormal YA that want something a little different will dig into this series as well.

Cover Commentary: Beautiful cover. Definitely will buying this.

Rating: 5/5 Roses

Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads

Enter to win an ARC of Blessed or Blessed-themed swag pack, ends today - US only. (Click link to enter.)

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.

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Waiting on Wednesday

How do you like the ominous looking button? Yay or nay?

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. It is to spotlight books that are soon to be released that we wished would be released sooner. Here are our picks.

Kristen's Pick:
Title: In the Shadow of the Lamp
Author: Susanne Dunlap
Expected Publication: April 12, 2011
Description: (from Goodreads) It's 1854 and sixteen-year-old Molly would give anything to change her circumstances as a lowly servant in a posh London house. So when she hears of an opportunity to join the nurses who will be traveling with Florence Nightingale to the Crimea, she jumps at the chance. The work is grueling, the hospital conditions deplorable, and Miss Nightingale a demanding teacher. Before long, the plight of British soldiers becomes more than just a mission of mercy as Molly finds that she's falling in love with both a dashing young doctor and a soldier who has joined the army to be near her. But with the battle raging ever nearer, can Molly keep the two men she cares for from harm? A love story to savor, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes imagining of the woman who became known as "the lady with the lamp."

April's Pick:
Title: Clarity
Author: Kim Harrington
Expected Publication: March 1, 2011
Description: (from Goodreads) When you can see things others can't, where do you look for the truth?

This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats.

Clarity "Clare" Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It's a gift.

And a curse.

When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare's ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case--but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare's brother--who has supernatural gifts of his own--becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: The Vyne: Mystery of the Hidden Ember

Author: Daniel Walls
Publication Date: January 3, 2011
Genre: YA Steampunk
Copy provided by: Teen Book Scene
Summary (via Goodreads):

A chilling, heart-wrenching tale of colliding worlds and forbidden love, The Vyne reinvents steampunk-fantasy for a whole new generation.

Why I read this: It looked like an interesting new YA steampunk novel, a subgenre that I've really been getting into lately.

Plot: Probably the most solid part of the book was the plot. There's a slew of characters you follow throughout the book, but overall it is a love story with the backdrop of a steampunk world that has just been taken over by a man who has his army of cloned forces that hold little human emotion. And it's mainly about a boy named Ash who has special powers, one that finds a girl who calls herself Scar that is not so human and falls in love with her. But she is a wanted criminal to the minds of his small village and he must leave with her in order to save her. Scar is one of those supposedly mindless clones, who has gone rogue and starts to show more and more human emotion as time goes on.

The hunt is on for the pair and what will the evil man behind the human-less yet human-like army that is terrorizing the land. There's a lot more to Ash, to his past, something that may link him to this man as well.

Characters: I think this is where I lost the book a bit. I didn't really like Ash, he's quite different, yet arrogant enough not to want anyone to see he is friends with a younger boy. He falls in love so easily with Scar and she really acts quite suspicious when they first meet. I'm not sure I clicked with his character and actually enjoyed the sections that did not involve him until they finally embarked on the adventure which brought along more colorful characters.

Scar was hard for me to understand as well. She's not human... not really, but she really starts acting it. There's still that offness about her but I felt too quickly she became so human.

I really loved the wife of the crazy guy and wish she had appeared more in the book. I loved the bad guy the most as well - he's just so obsessed with this thing that tells him what to create. He's a really really awesome bad guy. Clever and witty, yet totally obsessed!

Relatability: I think this really would have been a better hit with adults. The romance between Scar and Ash is awkward at best and really doesn't seem to be making an impact on what is happening in the world around them. I'd rather would have liked more about the kingdom and the plotting.

Cover Commentary: Very interesting, definitely helped me envision the evil lair of the madman. If I were evil I would love a lighthouse lair.

Rating: 4/5 Roses

Buy it on Amazon*
Find it on Goodreads

*If you buy this book on Amazon through the link above, I will receive a small portion of the sales.

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