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Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater Audiobook Review & ARC Giveaway

Book: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Scholastic Audio, October 18, 2011

Audiobook Info:  YA Fantasy, Library audiobook,  Audio length: 12 hours 6 minutes, read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham.

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

More Info: Audible | Goodreads | Amazon

In The Scorpio Races, contestants ride on bloodthirsty water horses, and the first to the finish line wins the grand prize.  Sean Kendrick is the rider to beat, but Puck Connelly, the first female rider, keeps Sean on his toes. They both are playing for high stakes in this deadly race.

I had not heard of the Irish myth about the water horses, but because I’ve read all of Stiefvater’s other books I wanted to give this one a try. When I first picked up the book, I couldn’t really get into it and so I put it aside. Later I found the audiobook at the library and thought that might be a better way to experience this book.  The audio narrators are wonderful and their spirited reading kept me listening. The slow paced story does take patience to get through, but the reward is an exciting race with characters you come to care about.

The story takes place in the made-up island of Thisby, and Stiefvater does a wonderful job bringing the island to life. It’s easy to envision the cliffs, the water, the colorful characters, and the mythological horses in Thisby.  The race is all everyone can talk about in the month of November, and the promise of financial riches encourages riders to participate, even though the possibility of dying in the race exists.

The story has a dual narrative with Sean and Puck trading off. Sean is calm and quiet, and is playing to win something of inestimable value to him. Puck is determined and full of life. She’s a reluctant rider, but financial circumstances drive her to compete. The pair becomes fond of each other, which complicates things.

Sean and Puck have a low-key romance built upon their mutual respect for the horses and the island. It reminded me of Peeta and Katniss, where you don’t want either of them to lose the games/race. Theirs is a quiet slow-building romance that’s not the focus of the book, but helped me to get to know the characters better.

Steve West and Fiona Hardingham narrate the audiobook.  The lovely prose and nature of the story lends itself well to the audio format, and the narrators convey the right tone, rhythm, and emotion for the story.  Maggie Stiefvater performs the music in the beginning and end of the audiobook and it is well suited to the story. In addition, the author speaks at the end of the audiobook about the years spent working on this book, and all of the research involved. She even created a stop-motion trailer for the book. Check it out below.

Though I’m not usually a fan of horse stories, The Scorpio Races is a unique read with great world building and characterization, and it is a fantastic audiobook.

GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. Congrats to Brandi who won a copy of The Scorpio Races ARC.

Audiobook Sampler:

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Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Book: Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver, HarperTeen, February 28 2012

Genre/Format: Young Adult, Own hardcover, 375 pages

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

More Info: Goodreads | Amazon

I waited so long for this book! I adored Delirium, and have been pining for the sequel for over a year. The last pages of Delirium left me feeling like I’d been punched in the gut, and it was hard to imagine the direction the sequel would take.  Pandemonium is a new beginning with a new setting and group of characters, and even the main character Lena has grown into a different person.  So even though the story picks up shortly after the events of Delirium, in a lot of ways it’s like it’s starting over.  I couldn’t imagine how I’d enjoy the book without some of the pivotal characters from Delirium. But I was happily surprised to find myself quickly caught up in this wild sequel.

The story alternates a “Then” and “Now” timeline taking us from Lena’s time entering the Wilds and transitioning to current day in New York where she is an undercover resistance operative.  The jumping timeline is a little jarring at first – maybe because there are so many changes to get used to. It is a lot to digest. My curiosity of seeing the “Wilds” as compared to Portland, Maine was satisfied and brought a lot of interesting information about the “uncured.” The New York setting is also an exciting backdrop with familiar landmarks and dangerous situations.

I liked Lena’s new independence now that she’s out of her aunt’s control. The changes in Lena are striking and even though past events haunt her, her strength and resolve carry her through. The Wilds are quite a wake-up call for Lena, and she doesn’t have a lot of time to feel sorry for herself. She has to pull her weight and take charge, even though she’s still heartbroken from leaving her loved ones behind. New characters are also introduced and help move the story in new interesting directions. (How vague is that? This review is tough!)

Pandemonium is a dark and gritty middle installment to the trilogy. Where Delirium was more romantic, Pandemonium is more about the action and rebellion. The book felt like a necessary and natural progression from Delirium. It answers a lot of questions hanging from the first book and sets up the final installment in true Lauren Oliver fashion: with a shocking cliffhanger. I didn’t finish the book feeling like I’d been punched in the gut this time, maybe more like I’d been slapped, and there may have been some cringing and eye-rolling. Regardless, the wait for the final book, Requiem, will be unbearable. I hear that Requiem will be told with two points of view, Lena and another female character. Can’t wait! In the meantime, Lauren Oliver fans, watch for her new middle grade book coming out in September called The Spindlers.

Starters by Lissa Price Review and Giveaway

Book: Starters  by Lissa Price, Delacorte Press, March 13 2012

Genre/Format: YA Dystopia, Received for review, 336 pages

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

More Info: Goodreads | Amazon

Starters is a thrilling Sci-Fi dystopia debut from Lissa Price. The creepy body rental concept and plot twists got me invested in the story from the beginning and kept me up late reading.  It is fast moving and gripping and just the thing to get me excited about dystopia again.

As Starters begins, sixteen-year-old orphan Callie is struggling to survive in a near-future Los Angeles. She lost her parents to the Spore Wars, where the biological attack killed all adults aged 20-60, because there weren’t enough vaccines for them to be protected in an attack. Now Callie, and friend Michael, is responsible for her sickly little brother Tyler. Unclaimed minors like Callie (called Starters) are forbidden to have jobs, while the elderly (called Enders) live a luxury lifestyle, with job security, fancy cars, and mansions. But Starters do have something that Enders want, and that is youth, which is where Prime Destinations comes in.

With nowhere else to turn, Callie signs a contract with the body renting company Prime Destinations, run by the mysterious “Old Man.” This company rents the bodies of desirable Starters for up to a month to Enders seeking to be young again. After the Starter has fulfilled their contract by being rented 3 times, they in turn receive a big sum of money. But things don’t go as planned, and in the middle of a rental, Callie wakes up as herself in unfamiliar surroundings in the middle of a nightclub. She has to fight to keep control of her mind and body from her renter, who is cooking up a dangerous scheme.

The idea of body renting was so disturbing to me, and even though certain dangerous behavior was off limits, you never know what’s really going on.  It’s interesting to see Callie portray someone else with her own body, and befriend other elderly “renters.” She gets an inside look into how renters view the donors and the dangers involved. It’s like an undercover operation for Callie as she gets pulled into a bigger mystery. I liked Callie – she’s resourceful and strong, and it made sense to me that she signed the contract in hopes for a better life for her brother.

There are no lulls in the action in this book. Callie is always on the move, and even though she has some allies it’s hard to know whom she really can trust. There are several jaw-dropping reveals that keep the story interesting. There is not a lot of detail about what led to the current circumstances in the world such as the reasons behind the war, why teens can’t work, etc. But for me, I was entertained just the same with the multi-layered characters, the action and the suspense.

The romance does not play a starring role in this book. There are two potential love interests introduced, but it was not enough of a focus for me to be invested in either character. Am interested to see how the romance develops in the sequel though.

The ending brings a surprising cliffhanger that will leave you clamoring for the sequel. The second and final book in the series, Enders, is due out in December, but in the meantime there are some short stories planned. And there is a prequel called Portrait of a Starter, told from Michael’s POV that is available now. If you are looking for something to read after Divergent or The Hunger Games, give Starters a try.

*****

Giveaway has ended – Congrats to Paige who has won a signed ARC of Starters.


Bookin’ Around WonderCon: Recap & Once Upon a Time Journal Giveaway

This will be my fifth year attending San Diego Comic-Con, but my first visit to WonderCon. When my sister offered me tickets last week to attend WonderCon, I couldn’t resist heading over to Anaheim to check it out. I didn’t know if it would be a mini Comic-Con or what to expect at all. Tickets were still available even during the event, so it was a nice option for locals shut out of Comic-Con tickets. The halls and panels were busy and crowded but not overwhelmingly so. It was a relaxed atmosphere and the smaller scale made for a more personal experience. My main interest was to go to the author panels and signings, but we managed to do some of the TV and movie panels as well.

We got up early Saturday and braved the pouring rain to pick up our badges at the convention center. The convention center seemed to be a similar size to San Diego’s but we found out when we entered that only about a quarter of the convention center was used for WonderCon. The rest of the convention center was used for a girls cheerleading and volleyball competition held at the same time. My husband thought it was strange that all these young girls were cosplaying as Claire from Heroes, but that was not the case. It certainly was amusing to see the cheerleaders walking amongst the stormtroopers, zombies, and superheroes in the convention center halls. It was a piece of cake to pick up the badges and it was easy to find our way around.

Saturday was the day for movie panels, so we mainly stuck to the Ballroom on the third level (about the size of San Diego’s ballroom 20) to check those out. Sunday was the day for TV panels, as well as the YA author panel, and several author signings throughout the day.

Some of the highlights from my visit to WonderCon:

1. Spotlight on Ernest Cline – The author of Ready Player One and screenwriter of Fanboys was on hand to talk about how he got his start in writing. Like a few other authors and filmmakers he started out by working in a video store. Ernie is a very engaging speaker and he talked for an hour about the turbulent making of Fanboys and the writing of Ready Player One. My husband and I both loved that book and it was great to see so many fans of the book in attendance. Ernie talked about his next book, which will be a coming age book about growing up in the 1980′s. Can’t wait to read it! There’s a good recap of the panel here.

2. 20th Century Fox Panel featuring producer Tim Burton’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Ridley Scott’s Promotheus – The Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter panel started with a video explaining why Tim Burton would not be there and showed a bizarre clip of a fake decaying body (Tim Burton) attended by two attractive nurses and by doctor Andrew Weil. We were asked to #PrayforTim when the clip ended. So strange! The trailer looks awesome, and I am more interested in seeing the movie than I had been. The author Seth Grahame Smith moderated the panel and said he was inspired to write the book when on book tour during Lincoln’s 200th birthday he would see a display of Abraham Lincoln bios side by side with a display of Twilight books. Damon Lindelof moderated the Prometheus panel with guests Sir Ridley Scott, Charlize Theron, and Michael Fassbender. This was most likely the most popular panel of the whole Con and the crowd was enthusiastic. I still don’t know that it’s my type of thing, but it was an entertaining panel regardless. Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender acting out the Prometheus trailer was a standout moment.

3. ABC’s Once Upon A Time – For this panel there was a screening of the episode that aired Sunday (Heart of Darkness) followed by a short q&a with series creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horovitz. They said they would love to add the Little Mermaid, Mulan, and Rapunzel to the show at some point. The panel ran a little late and I had to run to attend the…

4. Shivers, Shakes, & Swoon: The Young Adult books we can’t put down panel – This panel was moderated by author Andrea Cremer (Nightshade series) and included Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), Kami Garcia (co-author of the Beautiful Creatures Novels), Gretchen McNeil (Possess), Lissa Price (Starters), Veronica Rossi (Under the Never Sky) & Ann Aguirre (Enclave). Great line-up, right? Andrea was a fabulous moderator and asked about their books and their favorite cosplayer at the Con. The authors took some questions from the audience, and premiered the book trailers for Starters and Under the Never Sky. There were a lot of people coming into the panel late that didn’t look like YA fans, and it turns out they were there for the next panel: Naruto: Shippuden! New YA fans in the making?

4. Author signings- One thing I missed from Comic-Con is group author signings. Because all of the signings were held at the tiny Mysterious Galaxy booth, they could only accommodate two authors at a time. So every hour I would dash back down to the 1st floor exhibit hall from the 3rd floor other end of the convention center, dodging cheerleaders along the way, to get to the MG booth for the next signing. Snuck in some good exercise there! I was disappointed to miss the Gretchen McNeil & Andrea Cremer signing in the morning but was able to pick up signed copies of Possess and Ten later. Yay! Kami Garcia was paired with Ransom Riggs so I got my copies of Beautiful Chaos and Miss Peregrine signed. There was not a rushed feeling at all, and the authors had time to chat and sign. Next I met Veronica Rossi who is really sweet and told me she is working on writing the next book in her series (Under the Never Sky). Finally, I met Lissa Price and Ann Aguirre. Mysterious Galaxy was giving out ARC’s of Ann’s book Outpost with a purchase of Enclave, so I snapped those up. Ann has written a lot of books – very impressive! And Enclave is her first hardcover book. Lissa Price had a big line of Starters fans, and she was ready with swag in hand. She told me she had heard of my blog and I don’t know if that’s true or not but it made me happy.

5-7. Alcatraz, Fringe, and Dr. Horrible – The Alcatraz and Fringe panels featured the cast and writers and took audience questions. I don’t watch either show but the panels were interesting anyway. The Con closed out with a  screening of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I hadn’t seen it before but my daughter is a big fan. It is hilarious!

8. The Exhibit Hall – There were a good mix of exhibitors and no big studio booths at this Con. You could walk around without too much pushing and crowding. Good comics presence and Artists’ Alley. My daughter was happy to find a My Little Pony Doctor Whooves t-shirt. The only bad lines at WonderCon were the food lines, which I avoided altogether.

9. The Sound of My Voice panel – The first 12 minutes of this cult drama about a woman who claims to be a visitor from the year 2054 were screened. If you like cults this may be the movie for you. I’m intrigued by the creepy mystery of it.

10. Cosplay – It’s always a fun part of the experience to see the creative costumes attendees put together! I didn’t have my camera with me, but here’s a gallery of highlights from Comic Vine.

I was not able to attend Friday, and missed a few other big movie panels like Snow White, Spiderman, and Looper, but I’m pretty pleased with what I was able to get to. A great time was had by all at WonderCon, and I would absolutely go again, even if/when the event returns to San Francisco. With tickets to Comic-Con so hard to come by, WonderCon is a nice easy-going alternative.

Giveaway has ended:

The winner of the Once Upon a Time journal is Reut! Congrats!

Top Ten Books I Can’t Wait to Read This Spring

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and features a new top ten list each week.

Happy first day of Spring! It’s Spring Break here and appropriately enough this week’s TTT topic is Top Ten Books On My Spring To-Be-Read list. This Spring I want to read some of the books on my shelves (and kindle) that I haven’t had a chance to check out yet, along with some Spring new releases.

Listed in no particular order, here are are 10 books I can’t wait to read this Spring:

Books I Own:

1. Catching Jordan by Miranda KenneallyI’m not really a football fan, but I like Friday Night Lights, and this looks like a light fun contemporary romance.

2. Article 5 by Kristen Simmons – I think I was burned out on dystopia for a little while but Starters jump-started my interest and I’m ready to tackle this one.

3. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra ClareAfter finally reading Clockwork Angel, I’m going to keep the momentum going and listen to the sequel.

4. Truth by Julia Karr – Liked XVI last year and haven’t had a chance to read the sequel yet. Hope that I’ll be able to get up to speed quickly since it’s been so long since I read the first book.

5. Under the Never Sky by Veronica RossiGot to meet Veronica at WonderCon last weekend, and listening to her speak about the book and seeing the book trailer enhanced my interest in reading it.

New Spring Releases (Apparently I will have a lot of reading to do the first couple weeks of May!)

6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth – The sequel to Divergent, out May 1. I know you all are sick of hearing me talk about this one!

7. Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready  – The final book in the Shade trilogy, out May 1. Have enjoyed the series a lot and can’t wait to see how it all ties together.

8. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson – A Contemporary choice, finally! Loved Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and can’t wait to check out Matson’s follow-up. Out May 8.

9. Until I Die by Amy Plum -The sequel to Die for Me, also out May 8. More romance and revenants in Paris!

10. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore - The companion book to Graceling and Fire, out May 1.The long wait is almost over!

What are your must-read books this Spring?

Author Guest Post: MaryJanice Davidson

Today I’m very pleased to welcome the lovely and talented MaryJanice Davidson to the blog! MaryJanice is the New York Times bestselling author of the Undead series, and today she is here to discuss her thoughts on writing series vs. stand-alone books.

I always wonder how authors decide how long a series should last and how to balance writing several series at once. It also seems difficult to write for yourself vs. the readers. Who better to tackle these questions than someone who has written over 30 books and 6 series? Take it away, MaryJanice!

SERIES VS. STAND-ALONE BOOKS
or
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, ASSHAT?

I’ve been insanely fortunate with my book contracts; I’ve been able to write novellas, single titles, trilogies, and series.  (Wait. What’s plural for “series”?  Serieses?  ‘Cuz I’ve written ‘em.  Don’t me write good?)  And there are challenges with each.   (Like wondering what the plural for series is.)  So when Lucy at the Reading Date asked me what it was like writing a series vs. a stand-alone book, I had to sit down and give it some thought.  And I took it seriously.  I even put down my bagelwich (rare roast beef on a garlic bagel with Dijon and cukes) and everything.  And what I finally realized was, my bagelwich needed more mustard.  And that I don’t like writing a series, except when I do.  And I don’t like writing stand-alone books, except when I do.

Stand-alone books are like a boxing match.  You get in, you get out.  Unless a World Championship Belt or the like is on the line, you probably won’t ever fight that fight again.  So there’s freedom:  since you probably won’t be back, you can take risks.  You can do things you normally wouldn’t do.  And sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. (Among other things, this blog is revealing my total lack of knowledge about all things boxing.  And I’m okay with that.)

The downside of the boxing match is, you really liked that strategy (plot).  You liked some of those moves (characters).  The better the fight, the more you’re bummed you won’t get a chance to do it again.  Because now you’re done.  Fight’s over.  Go home and bleed on your pillowcase for a few hours, then rise refreshed and bruised and aching for a raw-egg smoothie.  (That’s what boxers do the next day, right?  Again: total lack of knowledge here.)

A series, now.  A series is like a marathon you run every year:  you train and train, and eat and eat.  (It’s possible that might be how I train for a marathon, as opposed to, say, a marathon runner.)  You’ve already run this marathon, so you know the best route, the shortcuts, and what happens at the end.  It’s pretty comforting; you know you’ve been here before.  And while you ran this same race last year, and you’ll run it next year, there’s enough variety so you don’t get bored.

Which brings me to the Betsy the vampire queen series, now eleven books strong.  

UNDEAD AND UNFINISHED, the ninth in the series, was me running the same marathon a different way.  Some readers thought picking a new route was a terrific change that made me a better runner.  And some readers thought I must have accidentally run into a garbage truck and hit my head.  Hard.  Certainly, arguments can be made for both!  But whether the new route bought me a win, or sent me to the ER with blood streaming from a head wound, it was better than not even trying to run.  Because after all those marathons, that’s what it had come down to.

When I wrote UNDEAD AND UNWED, I had no way of knowing I’d be accidentally inventing a new romance sub-genre (paranormal chic lit), finding myself on best-seller lists, and changing my family’s standard of living as well as all our lives.  I just had a story stuck in my brain and wanted to get it out.  (“Out, out, damned shoe-loving Minnesotan vampire queen!”)  So I wrote it down.  And my editor really liked it.  And readers did, too, so much that they wanted to see another boxing match, because the last one was pretty fun.

So the boxing match turned into a race.  And when the race was over I was lucky enough to be invited to run another race, and another.  I found I loved racing and for several years/books, that was all that I needed.  But right around the seventh marathon, I realized I was going to have to think up a new route or I wouldn’t be able to run next year.  Taking the route through the swamp wasn’t messy and exciting anymore; it was making me tired.  Same old swamp.  Same old leeches.  Same crocodiles.  Definitely time to try the path that runs through the cemetery, and the car wash.

So I switched.  And I liked it a lot.  So did some of the people who’d been watching me run.  They still liked my races, but they were starting to seem the same every year; only the date was changing.  But now I was running through cemeteries, then getting drenched in car washes.  Car washes!  They couldn’t have predicted that.  They loved that they didn’t predict that.  They promised to follow my marathons even more enthusiastically than they had before.  They couldn’t wait to see how I’d stumble through the cemetery next year!

But some of the people who’d been watching me race didn’t like the new route.  At all.  Quite the opposite:  they liked when I had to flee the occasional giant leathery reptile.  They liked that I had no idea where a crocodile was lurking and could trip over one at any time.  It was something they knew would happen each year, and they looked forward to it.  Watching me zigzag around cemetery headstones not only wasn’t the same, it was downright annoying.  They didn’t sign on to watch me run through cemeteries, dammit.  Bring the crocs back, asshat!

But here’s the thing, and there’s no easy way around it:  while I was happy some people liked the new route and a little bummed some didn’t, it wasn’t about the people watching.  It never had been.  I didn’t start running to be watched; I ran because there was nothing I’d rather do.  So the real question was, did I like the new route?

Oh yes.  And because I did, I had no trouble running the marathon that year.  Far from it: I couldn’t wait.  So I decided to go after a new contract; I wanted the chance to run a minimum of two more races.  If I was still tripping over crocs in the old route, I doubt I’d have been interested in signing a contract to trip over more.

I think that’s how long any series should last:  as long as you want to run.  And then quit with the racing.  Maybe take up boxing again!

For a while.

P.S.  I’m deeply sorry for all the sports metaphors.  I should probably try to get more sleep.  Or work out.  Or something.

*****

Thank you so much for stopping by MaryJanice! I love reading both series and stand-alone books and it’s interesting to read the author’s approach for each type of book. And for the record I also have no idea what the plural for series is. Readers, what are your opinions of series vs. stand-alone books?

To find out more about MaryJanice’s books make sure to visit her website, blog, or FB page.

MaryJanice Davidson hates boxing, racing, or strenuous physical effort of any kind.  Her current release, YOURS MINE AND OURS, about an FBI agent with multiple personality disorder, is available now, followed by UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE in June.  You can get info on upcoming releases, sneak peeks, her backlist, her blog, and/or her FB page at maryjanicedavidson.net.

In My Mailbox (54)

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by The Story Siren where we get to share the books we received over the week for review, purchase, loan or trade.

Over the past week I received:


Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins (kindle purchase)

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (hc purchase – hoping to get this signed at WonderCon later today!)

The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda (LibraryThing Early Reviewers)

Endure by Carrie Jones (NetGalley)

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong (Audible sale purchase)

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Audible sale purchase)

Jaguar Sun by Martha Bourke (blog tour)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (birthday gift)

ALSO, I currently have a giveaway going on now. Enter to win one of three sets of The Dark Divine trilogy here! (US, ends 3/26)

What did you receive in your mailbox this week?

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