Saturday, January 30, 2010

Book Giveaways & Contests

Here are some of the fantastic book contests happening around the blogosphere this week:

Cleverly Inked is hosting a couple of great contests right now.  A 'Give it a Try Giveaway' featuring two signed copies of Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore and a giveaway for a $20 Barnes & Noble gift card.

Check out Cindy Pon's TGIFBM {Thank Goodness It's Free Book(s) Monday} for a chance to win a signed copy of Ash by Melinda Lo; a signed copy of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl; and a signed copy of Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan - ends 1/30.

Enter to win an ARC of The Iron King by Julie Kagawa at the Mundie Moms blog - ends 1/31.

Enter to win The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen & Just Say Yes by Phillipa Ashley at Pipe Dreams & Professions - ends 1/31.

Enter to win a signed copy of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick at The Young Adult Literature Review - ends 2/3.

Enter to win Rising Shadow by Jacquelyn Wheeler at Book Crazy - ends 2/3

Enter to win Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves - Peace Love & Pat book reviews - ends 2/5.

Enter to win a signed copy of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick plus a bookmark & postcard at Stephanie's Blog - ends 2/8.

Enter to win Dream Girl or Dream Life by Lauren Mechling at Presenting Lenore - ends 2/10.

Enter to win The Iron King by Julie Kagawa at Flipping Pages for All Ages - ends 2/12.
Enter to win Wish by Alexandra Bullen at Steph Su Reads - ends 2/12. 

Enter to win The Iron King by Julie Kagawa plus a signed bookmark at Fantastic Book Review - ends 2/12

Enter to win Wish by Alexandra Bullen at The Book Muncher - ends 2/15

Novel Novice is giving away three copies of My Soul to Save (Soul Screamers, book#2) by Rachel Vincent - ends 2/19

Enter to win Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison at Random Chalk Talk - ends 2/25

Steph Su Reads is hosting a Blogoversary Giveaway including the following ARCs - Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan; Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce; Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink; Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien; The Snowball Effect by Holly Hoxter; and a signed copy of Linger by Maggie Stiefvater - ends 2/28

Meg Cabot is giving away ten copies of Forever Princess.  One grand prize winner will also receive Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Glitter Girls and The Great Fake Out - ends 3/25

Enter to win a signed copy of Dark Goddess by Sarwat Chadda by recommending your favorite book on Sarwat Chada's blog -  ends 3/31 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book Review: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate


Title: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove
Author: Lauren Kate
Genre: YA
Publisher: Razorbill 
Paperback:  248 pages
ISBN:  1595142657
Summary:  All it takes is one fatal mistake...
What she wanted:  Natalie Hargrove wants one thing and one thing only - to be her high school's Paletto Princess.  Among the other Southern Belles, a.k.a. Bambies, competing for the crown, she's by far the most beautiful, and the most deserving.  Or so she thinks.
The catch:  Her boyfriend, Mike King, is on the brink of losing Palmetto Prince to Nat's nasty nemesis Justin Balmer.  And let's just say Natalie and Justin have a history so shady it could wither flowers.  Sure, Natalie could share the throne with Justin - over her dead body.
The trick:  So Nat convinces Mike to help her play a naughty little prank on Justin... just to make him look bad.  Little do they know, their plan is about to go terribly, terribly wrong.
The fatal flaw:  Natalie and Mike desperately try to cover up what happened to Justin.  But blackmail and buried desire, dark secrets and even darker deeds slowly begin to tear the apart.  Because as it turns out, fate is the one thing more twisted than Natalie Hargrove.  [Cover image provided by amazon.com & summary taken from the back  of the book.]
Overall rating: 7/10
To buy this book:  Powell's | Amazon | The Book Depository | IndieBound
Add this book to your:  Goodreads | Shelfari | LibraryThing | Visual Bookshelf

Macbeth meets Gossip Girl in this dark tale of ambition gone wrong.  Natalie Hargrove & her mother have climbed the South Carolina social ladder one morally ambiguous step at a time, and as the novel opens they both have their sights set on gold.  As her mother pursues a wealthy man in an effort to secure financial freedom & an elevated social status, Natalie sets her sights on securing the title of Palmetto Princess (essentially the wealthy high school's very celebrated prom queen).  In fact, Natalie has spent the past few years building a foundation of popularity designed to guarantee her the crown, and as the competition nears her ambition becomes obsessively focused on securing both the Palmetto Princess title for herself & the Palmetto Prince title for her popular & malleable boyfriend, Mike King.  Natalie has Lady Macbeth's aggressive determination and a willingness head into murky moral territory to pursue her goals, and she has Macbeth's unquenchable desire for the crown (as well as his paranoia about losing it).  When the prank she devises to remove her boyfriend's competition for Palmetto Prince takes a fatal turn, Natalie's ambitious nature is put to the test.  Although she struggles with some of the dark consequences of her actions, her determination never wavers. 


Mike King plays what could be considered a very watered-down Macbeth.  He too wants the crown & the title, but he does not share even one tenth of Natalie's single-minded determination, and he often hesitates to continue their pursuit once the waters begin to get murky. The Scottish play's violent & bloody elements are replaced by the backstabbing emotional cruelty of a high school with a brutal social hierarchy.   As in Macbeth, the women are often the more aggressive wielders of power here, and their primary weapons are social manipulation & skillfully orchestrated deceitfulness.  True to Macbeth, hallucinations & prophecy both play a roll as the story unfolds.  But all of the Shakespearean parallels aside, readers may find themselves so caught up in the Gossip Girl style drama of the high school scene, that they won't see the end coming.

What I Liked:
  • This is an ambitious book.  A Macbeth-inspired story set against a catty high school backdrop could have been completely predictable or such a literal retelling that it lost its own voice.  As it turns out, Natalie definitely has her own unique (often despicable, occasionally pitiable) voice & the plot does not follow the play so closely that you see everything coming from six miles away.
  • Relying on a relatively unsympathetic protagonist to carry the narrative is always risky.  Not all readers are willing to follow a largely unlikeable character through her rise to & fall from grace, but Natalie's mysterious past will keep readers turning the pages even if they find her reprehensible.
  • Natalie's home life and history add a compelling depth to her character.
  • The quick pace stays consistent throughout the story, making it a fast & entertaining read.
What I Wished:
  • I wanted Mike to have more personality & a larger roll to play.  He felt a bit two dimensional to me.
  • I didn't fully believe some of the descriptions of Natalie's past, given the very young age she must have been at the time.
  • As a fan of Macbeth, I actually wanted the book to parallel the play a little more closely & would have liked it to be a little darker.
  • A few of the sub-plots & lesser characters seemed underdeveloped to the point that they weren't particularly necessary.  The story would have benefited from either developing those elements further or from cutting them out altogether.
This book will appeal to fans of Gossip Girl, Heathers, Cruel Intentions, and contemporary takes on Shakespeare.  If you want to learn more about The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove or about Lauren Kate's other recent release, Fallen, and its upcoming sequel, Torment, please visit her website, blog, and twitter.  

Happy Reading!  :-)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Giveaways & Contests

Lots of fantastic contests & giveaways happening around the blogosphere!  :-)

Enter to win a signed ARC of The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting.

In honor of this lovely new book trailer for The Body Finder, Kimberley Derting is giving away two signed ARCs as well as several gift cards (to the bookseller of your choice) & some fun swag packs!  Enter to win here.  (ends 1/23)

Check out Jen Nadol's online launch party for her debut novel, The Mark!  She is hosting ten days of giveaways from 1/26 - 2/4.  Prizes include signed copies of The Mark, swag packs, an assortment of other YA novels (like Justine Larbalestier's Liar), and $25 gift cards to Bath & Body Works, The Gap, Borders, and American Eagle.  Wow!  Read more about The Mark & join the party here.

Enter to win a copy of Seduced by a Rogue by Amanda Scott at Drey's Library.  (ends 1/25)

Enter to win a copy of The Mark by Jen Nadol, plus a $15 iTunes gift card & lots of Forget-Her-Nots swag at Amy Brecount's website.  (ends 1/30)


Enter to win an ARC of The Mark by Jen Nadol at YA Roundup.

Enter to win a book of your choice from one of the following series: Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampire series, Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries, or Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series at  Lily's Bookshelf.  (ends 1/31)

Enter to win a copy of The Iron King by Julie Kagawa at The Book Resort.  (ends 1/31)

Enter to win a copy of I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder at We Adore a Happy Ending.  (ends 1/31)

Enter to win a bookmark & a signed copy of The Pace by Shelena Shorts at Book Crazy.  (ends 2/2)

Enter to win a copy of Veracity by Laura Bynum at Drey's Library.  (ends 2/3)

Enter to win a signed copy of Marked (book #1 in the House of Night series) by P.C. & Kristin Cast at Wondrous Reads.  (ends 2/4)

All Things Urban Fantasy is having a 300 followers contest & giving away all four Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs (Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, and Bone Called).  If she reaches 400 followers before the contest ends, a second winner will be drawn to win three Alpha and Omega books (Mercy Thompson spinoff series).  (ends 2/28)

HarperTeen recently shared a sneak preview of Kelly Armstrong's The Reckoning (Darkest Powers #3).  If you haven't read Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series yet, now is the perfect time to get started because thanks to HarperTeen you can currently read The Summoning (Darkest Powers #1) online for free!  That free edition may only be available for a limited time, so be sure to check it out soon.

You can also read Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston for free online right now, courtesy of HarperTeen.  Again, the free edition may only be available for a limited time, so be sure to check it out soon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Challenge Crazy!

We have decided to participate in ten awesome reading challenges this year!  Thankfully, several of these challenges will overlap, so we are not actually biting off as much as it may appear at first glance. We'll be tracking our overall progress in our sidebar & adding to our lists for each challenge within this post all year long. List entries in BLUE indicate books we've already read & entries in ORANGE indicate books we intend to read.

If you would like to participate in any of these fun reading challenges, please click on the images or the highlighted links to sign up!  :-)


Challenge: 2010 Reading Challenge: 100+ hosted by J. Kaye's Book Club
Goal: Read 100 or more books this year
Which books qualify: All books of any genre (including children's books, non-fiction, graphic novels, & audio books)
Outlook: I am excited about this challenge as a way to track the books we read this year. Since we read lots picture books with the kids each week, I am very optimistic about successfully completing this challenge.  The toughest part of this challenge will probably be remembering to track our completed books here on the blog. Rather than re-listing the books from our library challenge here, we will just track the non-library books to be added to our complete list:
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate
Fantastic Frogs by Fay Robinson
Hush Little Baby by Sylvia Long
So Many Bunnies : A Bedtime ABC & Counting Book by Rick Walton
Dappled Apples by John Carr
The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate
Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance by Margaret Mahy
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
Before I Fall (ARC) by Lauren Oliver
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
The Pace by Shelena Shorts
Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland
Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund
It's Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder
Eyes Like Stars, Theatre Illuminata, Act I by Lisa Mantchev
Hourglass by Claudia Gray
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Spells by Aprilynne Pike
Sisters Red (ARC) by Jackson Pearce
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Frostbite by Richelle Mead
Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
Blood Promise by Richelle Mead
Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi
The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge
Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev
Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead
White Cat by Holly Black
Shadow Hills (ARC) by Anastasia Hopcus
Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
Siren by Tricia Rayburn
Heist Society by Ally Carter
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Willow by Julia Hoban
Clockwork Angel (ARC) by Cassandra Clare
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
The Agency 2: The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Matched by Ally Condie
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Pegasus by Robin McKinley







Challenge: 2010 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.
Goal: Read at least 12 Young Adult (YA) or Middle Grade (MG) novels by authors making their debut in 2010. This does not have to be their first published novel, but it must be their first novel in the YA or MG genre.
Which books qualify: All YA & MG books by debut authors (eg. novels by "The Tenners" & "Class of 2k10" authors)
Outlook: Superb! There are so many YA debut novels I am excited to read this year!  Books I intend to read for this challenge include:
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
The Naughty List by Suzanne Young
Scones & Sensibility by Lindsay Eland
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell
Shadow Hills (ARC) by Anastasia Hopcus
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Mistwood by Leah Cypess
Siren by Tricia Rayburn
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
Everlasting by Angie Frazier
The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Sea by Heidi R. Kling
Explorer X-Alpha by L.M. Preston
The Mark by Jen Nadol
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins






Challenge: 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog.
Goal: Read a select number of Young Adult (YA) books this year. There are four goal options (The Mini = 12 books, Just My Size = 25 books, Stepping It Up = 50 books, and Super Size Me = 75 books). I am going to aim for Just My Size = 25 YA books.
Which books qualify: All YA books.
Outlook: YA is my favorite genre & there are so many novels I'm determined to read this year, so hopefully I'll be able to get through 25 of them by the end of the year. In addition to the YA novels listed in the Debut Challenge above, I intend to read:
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate
Before I Fall (ARC) by Lauren Oliver
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance by Margaret Mahy
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
The Pace by Shelena Shorts
Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White
Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell
The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
Eyes Like Stars : Theater Illuminata, Act I by Lisa Mantchev
Paper Towns by John Green
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

Hourglass by Claudia Gray
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken 
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Mistwood by Leah Cypess
Spells by Aprilynne Pike

Sisters Red (ARC) by Jackson Pearce
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Frostbite by Richelle Mead
Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
Blood Promise by Richelle Mead
Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev
Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead
White Cat by Holly Black

Shadow Hills (ARC) by Anastasia Hopcus
Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
Siren by Tricia Rayburn
Heist Society by Ally Carter
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Willow by Julia Hoban
Clockwork Angel (ARC) by Cassandra Clare
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
The Agency 2: The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Matched by Ally Condie
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Pegasus by Robin McKinley






Challenge: 1st in a Series Reading Challenge hosted by Royal Reviews
Goal: Read a select number of novels that are the first in a series. There are four goal levels (Curious = 3 books, Fascinated = 6 books, Addicted = 12 books, and Obsessed = 20 books). I am going to aim for Obsessed = 20 first novels.
Which books qualify: Any genre counts, so long as each book is the first in a series.
Outlook: If I manage to meet my YA challenge goals, this one should overlap nicely with that challenge because several of the books I plan to read are debut novels & the first in a new series.
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
The Pace by Shelena Shorts
Eyes Like Stars : Theater Illuminata, Act I by Lisa Mantchev
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting




Pegasus (ARC) by Robin McKinley
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
Sisters Red (ARC) by Jackson Pearce
White Cat by Holly Black
Shadow Hills (ARC) by Anastasia Hopcus
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Siren (ARC) by Tricia Rayburn
Heist Society by Ally Carter
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles



Clockwork Angel (ARC) by Cassandra Clare
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Matched by Ally Condie


Goal: Check out and read books from your local library. There are four levels of participation (The Mini = 25 books, Just My Size = 50 books, Stepping It Up = 75 books, and Super Size Me = 100 books). We are going to aim for the Super Size Me level of 100 library books.
Which books qualify: All books of any genre, so long as they are checked out from your local library.
Outlook: I am optimistic about this challenge. We visit the library once a week & always bring home a hefty bag of books (usually about 90% picture books & juvenile non-fiction books to read together).  The toughest part of this challenge will be remembering to keep track of our library books here on the blog.  We often read and return them before reviewing them or logging them on goodreads or shelfari.  Our list so far:
The Lady & the Lion : A Brothers Grimm Tale retold by Laurel Long & Jacqueline K. Ogburn
The Loathsome Dragon by David Wiesner
Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris
Spooky Riddles by Marc Brown
Ha! Ha! Ha! : 1,000+ Jokes, Riddles, Facts, & More by Lyn Thomas
The Elves and the Shoemaker retold by Jim LaMarche
A Horse Named Seabiscuit by Kathy East Dubowski & Mark Dubowski
Iron Hans : A Grimm's Fairy Tale retold by Stephen Mitchell
Boots and His Brothers : A Norwegian Tale retold by Eric A. Kimmel
Priceless Gifts by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss
Witch Mama by Judith Caseley
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Do Princesses Really Kiss Frogs? by Carmella LaVigna Coyle
The Wriggly, Wriggly Baby by Jessica Clerk
Mr. Tanen's Tie Trouble by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Ugly Bug by Donald Charles
Coyote in Love retold by Mindy Dwyer
The Story of Miss Moppet by Beatrix Potter
Sleeping Beauty by Adele Geras
That's Not My Princess by Fiona Watt
Gertrude, The Bulldog Detective by Eileen Christelow
The Weaving of a Dream by Marilee Heyer
The Three Bears' Halloween by Kathy Duval
Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier



Challenge: 2nd in a Series Reading Challenge hosted by Royal Reviews
Goal: Read a select number of novels that are the second in a series. Again there are four goal levels (Curious = 3 books, Fascinated = 6 books, Addicted = 12 books, and Obsessed = 20 books). I am going to aim for Fascinated = 6 second novels.
Which books qualify: Any genre counts, so long as each book is the second in a series.
Outlook: Again, this one will probably depend on how well I do with my YA goal. A few 2nd novels that I intend to read are:
Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
Spells by Aprilynne Pike
The Broken Lake by Shelena Shorts
Perchance to Dream: Theatre Illuminata, Act II by Lisa Mantchev
Frostbite by Richelle Mead
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
The Agency 2: The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee


Challenge: Finish That Series Challenge hosted by Royal Reviews
Goal: Complete a series of books. In this challenge, you do not count the number of books you read, but instead count the number of series completed. For example, if you have already read the first four books in a series & get around to reading the final book this year, that would count as one. Or if you read all twelve books in a new series this year (even if there is a 13th novel expected next year), that would also count as one. There are four goal levels (Curious = 2 series, Fascinated = 3 series, Addicted = 5 series, and Obsessed = 10 series). I am going to aim for Obsessed = 10 series.
Which books qualify: Any genre counts, so long as you are completing a series (or all the books currently published within a series).
Outlook: I hope this challenge will go well. I just completed one series this weekend, so completing nine more seems a reasonable goal to tackle over the next eleven months.
Harper Connelly series (#4 Grave Secret) by Charlaine Harris
Evernight series (#3 Hourglass) by Claudia Gray
Vampire Academy series (#5 Spirit Bound) by Richelle Mead
Theatre Illuminata series (#2 Perchance to Dream) by Lisa Mantchev
Wings series (#2 Spells) by Aprilynne Pike
The Agency series (#2 The Body at the Tower) by Y.S. Lee
The Iron Fey series (#2 The Iron Daughter) by Julie Kagawa
Mockingjay (#3 The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins


Challenge: Romance Challenge hosted by Royal Reviews
Goal: Read a select number of romance novels. Again there are four goal levels (Curious = 3 books, Fascinated = 6 books, Addicted = 12 books, and Obsessed = 20 books). I am going to aim for Fascinated = 6 romance novels.
Which books qualify: Any romance novels.
Outlook: Excellent! I plan to read at least six romance novels with my fabulous book club peeps over the course of this year.
First Drop of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost
Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost
Gentlemen Prefer Succubi by Jill Myles
Succubi Like it Hot by Jill Myles
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols


Challenge: Fantasy Reading Challenge hosted by Royal Reviews
Goal: Read a select number of fantasy novels. Again there are four participation levels (Curious = 3 books, Fascinated = 6 books, Addicted = 12 books, and Obsessed = 20 books). I am going to aim for Obsessed = 20 fantasy novels.
Which books qualify: Any fantasy novels (including YA fantasy, sci-fi-fantasy, and historical fantasy).
Outlook:  Very good!  I tend to gravitate toward fantasy, so I am optimistic about completing this challenge.
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa 
The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance by Margaret Mahy
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Eyes Like Stars : Theater Illuminata, Act I by Lisa Mantchev
Perchance to Dream : Theatre Illuminata, Act II by Lisa Mantchev
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
Mistwood by Leah Cypess
The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Cambell
Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris



Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
Siren (ARC) by Tricia Rayburn 

Clockwork Angel (ARC) by Cassandra Clare
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Pegasus by Robin McKinley
The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge
White Cat by Holly Black
Shadow Hills (ARC) by Anastasia Hopcus


Challenge: 2010 Social Justice Reading Challenge
Goal: Each month of this challenge will focus on a different social concern - Religious Freedom, Water, Domestic Violence & Child Abuse, Hunger, the AIDS Crisis, Genocide, Poverty, Illiteracy and Education, Modern Day Slavery, Homelessness & Refugees, Women's Rights, and Child Soldiers & Children in War. Participants are encouraged to read a book relevant to each month's topic.
Which books qualify: Any fiction or non-fiction book related to the month's theme. The site hosting this challenge has assembled book suggestion lists relevant to each topic & participants are encouraged to add their own recommendations to those lists.
Outlook: I am really intrigued by this challenge & hope I will be able to keep up with it. I haven't chosen all twelve books in advance, but some possibilities include:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My Forbidden Face by Latifa
Blue Covenant : The Global Water Crisis & the Coming Battle for the Right to Water by Maude Barlow
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Review: Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Title: Rampant
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Genre: YA
Publisher: HarperTeen
Hardcover: 416 pages
ISBN0061490008 
Summary: Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns . . .  Real unicorns are venomous, man-eating monsters with huge fangs and razor-sharp horns. Fortunately, they've been extinct for a hundred and fifty years.
Or not.

Astrid had always scoffed at her eccentric mother's stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend—thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to the prom—Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.
However, at the cloisters all is not what it seems. Outside, the unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from the crumbling, bone-covered walls that vibrate with a terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to—perhaps most dangerously of all—her growing attraction to a handsome art student . . . an attraction that could jeopardize everything. [Cover image & summary from Goodreads.com]
Overall Rating: 8/10
To buy this book: Powell'sAmazon | IndieBound | The Book Depository

I've wanted to read Rampant since I first heard it recommended by the phrase: killer unicorns!   Throw out your images of gentle unicorns that merrily prance & sparkle among rainbows and butterflies, and prepare yourself for the bloodthirsty, venomous beasts of Diana Peterfreund's Rampant.

What I Liked:
  • Astrid is an intelligent, science-minded heroine.
  • She and her fellow warriors (all virgin descendants of Alexander the Great) are flawed & don't have flat, bland personalities.  
  • The group of potential hunters sometimes reminded me of Buffy-esque slayers-in-training.
  • The mystery surrounding the unicorns and their history is interesting, seems plausible,  and leaves a lot to be explored. 
  • [The following is an example of ReaderFAIL on my part, but I've decided to mention it anyway because it does describe something I liked about the book.]  This book is set in modern times.  Right now you are probably thinking: "Thank you, Captain Obvious!  The mention of prom in the book's description made that rather clear."  But as I said before, this book had me at "killer unicorns" so I did not actually read the jacket summary before purchasing it.  What I did see - the cover featuring a young woman with a sword & Tamora Pierce's glowing recommendation on the back of the book - seemed to support my vague assumption that a book about sword-wielding unicorn hunters would be set in a quasi-medieval setting.  So Rampant's present day setting was a surprise to me, and it turned out to be a pleasant one.
What I Wished:
  • I would like to have seen more of the loose ends tied up and more information about the Remedy revealed.  
  • I also wanted more details about the unicorns & their history.  
Who needs vampires, werewolves, and fallen angels when there are deadly unicorns lurking in the woods? I would recommend this book to teens and adults who want to read a fresh take on unicorns and to readers who like coming-of-age adventure stories. Fans of Tamora Pierce, Rick Riordan, and Joss Whedon should pick this one up! To read more about Diana Peterfreund's Rampant and Ascendant (Killer Unicorns, Book#2) or to learn more about her other novels, check out:

Diana Peterfreund's: website | blog | twitter

Side note:  Zombies vs. Unicorns, the upcoming anthology edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier, is now available to pre-order on Amazon.  It is scheduled to be released in September & no detailed author information has been provided yet, but I will be shocked (and disappointed) if Diana Peterfreund is not included in the lineup.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Happy 101 Award


Yesterday, Ivana from Willing to See Less gave us "The Happy 101 Award" and we feel so honored and  grateful for her thoughtfulness.  Willing to See Less is a wonderful book review blog filled with excellent author interviews & insightful reviews, and if you aren't following it already, you definitely should be.  Ivana is incredibly kind and considerate.  In fact, she was our very first commenter here on The Eager Readers.  Our little blog is still very young and there is so much more for us to learn & lots to improve upon, but receiving kudos & encouragement from a blogger we really admire means a lot to us.  Thank you, Ivana!

The rules are:
1. List 10 things that make you happy. 
1. reading with our children
2. reading aloud to each other on long car drives
3. discussing books with other book enthusiasts
4. sunny days spent in the garden
5.  flowers
6. trips to the bookstore (including online shopping sprees)
7. trips to the library
8. children's laughter
9. yummy desserts (cupcakes, cookies, and candies, oh my!)
10. any excuse to sew & assemble costumes

2. Try to do at least one thing on the list today.
We will definitely fit in some reading & laughter today.

3. List 10 bloggers who brighten your day.

4. Those of you to whom I give this award are welcome to link back to my blog and to perpetuate the happy with your own lists and recipients. 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Book Giveaways & Contests

There are lots of awesome new book giveaways & contests around the blogosphere this week!  :)

Enter to win a YA book of your choice + some lovely jewelry inspired by The Dark Divine on Bree Despain's blog. (ends 1/16)

Enter to win signed copies of Chasing Brooklyn, Far From You, and I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.  (ends 1/17)

Enter to win a $50 gift card to Amazon at Quentin Finch: The Bookswoonery Blog.  (ends 1/18)

Enter the Purple New Years Giveaway at YAthenaeum for a chance to win Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves, The Ever Breath by Julianna Baggot, The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate, Wish by Alexandra Bullen, or Wanderlust : A Beautiful Americans Novel by Lucy Silag.  (ends 1/20)

Enter to win Captivate by Carrie Jones or Fallen by Lauren Kate at A Good Addiction.  (ends 1/24)

Enter to win an ARC of The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez on Christina's website. (ends 1/24)

Enter to win Wings by Aprilynne Pike at Wicked Walker Reviews. (ends 1/30)

Enter to win Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl at The Book Resort.  (ends 1/31)

Enter to win The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black on Holly's LiveJournal. (ends 1/31)

Enter to win an ARC of The Mark by Jen Nadol + some swag, including a signed bookmark and notepad at The Book Butterfly (ends 1/30)

Enter to win a copy of Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken at Harmony Book Reviews.  (ends 1/30)

Enter to win Wake, Fade, and Gone by Lisa McMann in the 100 Followers Contest at Love 2 Read for Fun. (ends 2/14)

Enter to win Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, The Dark Divine by Bree Despain, and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl at Cherry Mischievous. (ends 3/19)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Children's Book Review: It's Spring by Samantha Berger and Pamela Chanko

Title: It's Spring!
Authors:  Samantha Berger and Pamela Chanko
Illustrator:  Melissa Sweet
Board Book: 30 pages
Publisher:  Cartwheel (Scholastic)
ISBN:  0439442389
Description:  The robin told the rabbit...The rabbit told the deer...The deer told the duck...Then all the birds began to singTo tell the bears, "Wake up, it's spring!"Samantha Berger and Pamela Chanko's breezy rhyming text and Melissa Sweet's charming watercolor illustrations spread the news that spring is here! This is a board book edition of a book originally published in the Hello Reader line.  [Cover & description from Goodreads.com]



Overall rating: 10/10
One of our favorite board books, It's Spring! is filled with beautiful illustrations and sweet rhyming text.  The story follows several friendly animals as they spread the news of the season across the sunny countryside.  Melissa Sweet's watercolor illustrations are truly lovely and bring this simple poetic story to life.

This book is perfect for very young readers!  The illustrations suit the story perfectly, allowing non-readers to follow along & helping emergent readers decipher the text.  The characters are gleeful & sweet as they cheerfully spread the news of spring, and the board book format makes it durable enough for babies and toddlers to read again and again.  

To buy this book:  The Book Depository | Powell's | Amazon 

Illustrator Link:  Melissa Sweet
Author Links:  Samantha Berger | Pamela Chanko

Happy Reading!  :-)
It's Spring! fan art by 5 year old

Book Review: Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon


    Title:  Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia
    Author: Cindy Pon
    Genre: Young Adult
    Hardcover: 338 pages
    Publisher: Greenwillow Books
    ISBN-10: 0061730211
    Summary:  No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger's subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.  But now, something is after her. Something terrifying—a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn't only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined.  Bravery, intelligence, the will to fight and fight hard . . . she will need all of these things. Just as she will need the new and mysterious power growing within her. She will also need help.  It is Chen Yong who finds her partly submerged and barely breathing at the edge of a deep lake. There is something of unspeakable evil trying to drag her under. On a quest of his own, Chen Yong offers that help . . . and perhaps more.  [Cover photo & description provided by Goodreads.com]

    Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia is an adventure-filled YA fantasy novel of the refreshingly non-Western variety.  Fans of epic adventure stories, independent heroines, and Chinese culture will definitely enjoy this book.


    What I Liked:
    • The Asian-inspired setting and mythology
    • Ai Ling's healthy appetite!  This book had me craving delicious Chinese food every few pages.  I absolutely loved Ai Ling's passion for tasty meals!
    • The courageous heroine who is capable of rescuing herself. 
    • Ai Ling was not a cookie-cutter, generic heroine but a well-developed individual with her own desires, strengths, fears, and flaws.
    • Chen Yong as Ai Ling's steadfast and intelligent companion.  His history is intriguing and the roll he plays in her journey is not what I initially expected it would be, but it was still pleasantly complex.
    • The ending, which surprised me and is not generally the type of conclusion I enjoy.  But in this case, it feels true to the characters and makes me eager to read the second book.
    What I Wished:
    • There were not quite so many 'epic quest' moments and objects (glowing pendant, enchanted dagger, vial of magical tears, etc.).  At times, it seemed that every single person or creature they met along the way either brutally attacked them or conveniently had some significant item to bestow upon them.
    •  The tension didn't lag a bit in the middle.  Most of the time, the encounters with new characters and locations helped to propel the plot forward rather than distracting from the primary focus of their journey, but around the middle of the book the forward momentum seemed to falter a bit.  Thankfully, the main characters are consistently compelling and the story's pace & tension both pick up again in the last few chapters.
    Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix will appeal to fans of adventure stories and to readers with an interest in Eastern culture and courageous heroines.  Reading this book made me want to look for more Asian-inspired fantasy novels, and I look forward to reading the second half of Ai Ling's story in Cindy Pon's next novel.

    Silver Phoenix does have a significant amount of violence & contains several sexual references (including a scene of attempted rape), so I would consider this book YA and not middle-grade.  Readers who enjoyed Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days and anyone who enjoys reading about strong female characters embarking on fantastical quests, will thoroughly enjoy Silver Phoenix.  But I do recommend having an ample supply of noodles and pot stickers on hand before starting to read this book because Ai Ling's passion for delicious Chinese food is highly contagious!  :-)  To read more about Cindy Pon and her upcoming projects, you can visit her website, blog, & twitter.

    Happy Reading!  :-)