Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review: If I Die

The entire school's talking about the gorgeous new math teacher, Mr. Beck. Everyone except Kaylee Cavanaugh. After all, Kaylee's no ordinary high-school junior. She's a banshee—she screams when someone dies.

But the next scream might be for Kaylee.

Yeah—it's a shock to her, too. So to distract herself, Kaylee's going to save every girl in school. Because that hot new teacher is really an incubus who feeds on the desire of unsuspecting students. The only girls immune to his lure are Kaylee and Sabine, her boyfriend's needy ex-girlfriend. Now the unlikely allies have to get rid of Mr. Beck…before he discovers they aren't quite human, either.

But Kaylee's borrowed lifeline is nearing its end. And those who care about her will do anything to save her life.


If I Die is the fifth book in Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers series. And it is, by far, my favorite. I don't really know how to review this book and keep it spoiler-free. But no worries... I'm going to try.

Kaylee and Nash are trying to work things out and get back to where they were. Sabine is still around and still in love with Nash. And poor Tod is still on the fringes, his feelings for Kaylee going unnoticed. Well... only unnoticed by Kaylee. Tod shows up one afternoon to deliver awful news. Kaylee's name is on a reaping list. And since her lifeline is borrowed, she can't trade it again. Which means she'll die. But before that, she makes it her goal to get rid of the new math teacher hottie, an incubus eager to reproduce, who comes on to Kaylee's bestie, Emma.

The plot in If I Die was more intense and complicated than the previous four novels. And it kept me on the edge of my seat, curious as to how Ms. Vincent was going to pull this one off. The main character is supposed to die, but be around to narrate book 6?!

If you haven't picked up this series... Seriously, what are you waiting for? The Soul Screamers is definitely one of my favorite YA series, and I cannot wait for Before I Wake.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review: How to Save a Life

...what it means to be a family and the many roads we can take to become one...

Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?

Mandy Kalinowski knows what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?

How to Save a Life is written in first person narrative, alternating between Jill and Mandy. Jill has recently lost her father, her best friend. And she's a new person. Old Jill is nowhere to be found. She's coping in her own way, and her mother, Robin, is coping in her own way. One way her mother is coping is by taking Mandy in. Mandy is a pregnant teenager who wants to give her child up for adoption. To Robin. So after leaving her mother and Kent, Mandy travels by train to Denver to meet her baby's new family. 

Jill is against the adoption completely. She doesn't want a sister, and she doesn't want to see her mother get hurt should things not go as planned. And Jill has good reasons to not trust Mandy. She's lied about important details like the due date, and she refuses to go through legal channels. Red flag, right?

Mandy frustrated me at first. But I came to realize that it wasn't actually her. It was her mother. Someone we don't even see over the course of the story except in flashbacks and explanations for why Mandy is the way she is. (Her momma needs to be slapped hard.) And that's when I started to like Mandy. Which happened to be about the same time I started disliking Jill. I rarely see myself as characters in books. Sometimes I'll find a character I can identify with through a few commonalities. But with Jill, there were more than just a few. Even when she ticked me off and I wanted to slap her, I could see myself doing the same dumb thing, making the same mistakes. There are so many things I want to say but won't for fear of giving too much away. 

Due to many similarities between myself and Jill, and the similarities with me/my mom and Jill/her dad, it took me a bit longer to finish How to Save a Life than most novels. Sara Zarr's writing is fantastic, and I often found myself overwhelmed to the point where I had to put it down. The story was incredible and beautifully told and so realistic you feel like you're right there. If you loved Sara Zarr's other books, you'll love this one too. It might be my new favorite of hers. And any lover of contemporary YA will enjoy this one. Don't care for contemporaries? This one just might change your mind. I can't wait to see what Sara Zarr comes out with next!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Manga Review: Laddertop

The Laddertop - Gift to Earth's Future

Twenty-five years ago, the alien Givers came to Earth. They gave the human race the greatest technology ever seen— four giant towers known as Ladders that rise 36,000 miles into space and culminate in space stations that power the entire planet. Then, for reasons unknown, the Givers disappeared. Due to the unique alien construction of the Laddertop space stations, only a skilled crew of children can perform the maintenance necessary to keep the stations up and running.

Back on Earth, competition is fierce to enter Laddertop Academy. It is an honor few students will achieve. Robbi and Azure, two eleven-year-old girls who are the best of friends, are candidates for the Academy. They will become entangled in a dangerous mystery that may help them solve the riddle of the Givers...if it doesn’t destroy the Earth first!

Laddertop, volume 1 is the first installment in an American manga trilogy written by Ender's Game author, Orson Scott Card, and his daughter Emily Janice Card. It was illustrated by Honoel Ibardolaza. I was offered the chance to review this manga by its publisher, Tor Seven Seas. And I jumped at the chance.

We are introduced first to Azure and then to her best friend Robbi (short for Roberta). Both are middle school girls who are waiting to hear if they get to go to Laddertop Academy. Laddertop is one of four towers that extend up to outer space and culminate in a space station. And one of the jobs isn't something just anyone can do. These people have to be small enough to fit into the work space. Meaning they hire short middle schoolers for this job. And they are very selective. As suspected both girls are chosen and whisked off to training.

Right from the start I was under the impression that Azure was the heroine. She had the stronger personality. I could not have been more pleased when I found out I was wrong. That girl drove me crazy. Robbi, on the other hand, reminded me of myself. The other kids were fun and interesting, and, like many middle grade books, the adults aren't completely trustworthy.

The story started off slow, and a bit confusing, but it soon picked up and ended on an exciting note. I blame that on this being the first volume, thus needing the setup and world building. I'm excited for volume 2 where the story should be even more interesting and exciting. If you enjoy sci-fi and graphic novels, you won't want to miss this one.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Short Story Review: Forever Summer (and giveaway)

“Relax. I don‟t least not in public.”

With her dreams of a career by the sea shattered, Katya's trying to be happy with two weeks in the Florida Keys. But when her rental ends up infested, she's ready to go home. At least until Jay, the handyman next door, comes to her rescue.

Sweet, talented & sexy, he's all she ever wanted in a man. Too bad he's only hanging out with her because he's such a nice guy.

Or is he?

"Forever Summer" is the fourth story I've read by Seleste deLaney. The first two were paranormal short stories, and then a steampunk novella. "Forever Summer" was the first contemporary story she has published. It is currently available at only one place: 1 Place for Romance.

I really enjoyed this short story. It went back and forth between two points of view: Katya and Jay. Katya is horrified to find the rental house to be infested with bugs and the porch falling in as you walk on it. So she ends up sleeping in her neighbor's hammock. Enter super smexy Jay, who doesn't seem to bothered to find the lovely Katya using his hammock. Jay is the handyman, and while he fixes up Katya's rental, is nice enough to let her bunk with him.

This was a cute, sweet romance set in the lovely Florida Keys. It's fun, but far too short. And definitely not to be missed if you're a fan of romance. By the way, did you know it won the published author short story contest over at 1 Place for Romance?

Want to win an e-copy from me? Leave a comment on this review (must be a follower) and follow Seleste deLaney's blog. Must be 18 or older to enter. Please include your email address in the comments section. Winner drawn Nov 1.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Press Release: The Blacksmith's Daughter

Musa Publishing Launches Euterpe YA Imprint
An Imprint for YA Lovers in all Genres

Musa Publishing is thrilled to announce that its Young Adult Imprint, Euterpe, launches on Friday, October 21, 2011. With the growing demand for YA books, Musa is looking forward to offering diversity in genres for YA lovers from 13 to 113. From Sweet Romances and fantastical fantasies, to Sensational Sci-fi and a few more thrown in for flavor, Musa will offer something for everyone’s reading pleasure.

Come out for the launch, read about the authors, and join in the fun while picking up some new reading material.

The Blacksmith’s Daughter by Arley Cole is the first book in the Euterpe imprint.

She believes she is only a blacksmith’s daughter, but he must discover the truth or risk losing his land—and his life.

Acwellen Lex'Magen rules as liege lord of a small country bounded by forbidding mountains and powerful neighbors. When the neighboring baron, allied with a powerful wizard, attempts to take over his land, first by political, then by covert means, Acwellen finds an ally of his own in Enith Roweson, an unassuming blacksmith who possesses powers he’s only known of in legends. As he attempts to unravel both the plots against him—including the nature of the monsters sent to assassinate him—and the mysterious powers Enith is only beginning to understand she has, he also finds himself falling in love with the blacksmith’s daughter.

Check out this book and other YA books at
Follow the Euterpe Blog at
And Like us on Facebook!/pages/Euterpe-YA-Books/154593351291764

“Hearts set upon song, spirits free from care”~ Hesiod

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If you'd like more information about Musa Publishing, please contact Elspeth McClanahan at or go to our blog

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: The Scorpio Races (and giveaway)

Cappall Uisce
Water Horse
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an arc of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved her previous five novels so I had high expectations for this one. And I wasn't disappointed.

Sean, the returning champion of the Scorpio Races, and his cappall uisce, Corr, return to the beach to train with new racers. Including Puck, and her horse, Dove. Puck intends to race Dove, a horse not much bigger than a pony, against several deadly cappall uisce. They emerge from the sea onto the island of Thisby, hungry for flesh each Autumn. They ravage sheep, dogs, anything they can find, and they return to the sea unless caught to be trained to race. Riders die before the race even begins, and people come from afar to bet on and see this race on the beach of Thisby.

Puck, who's real name is Kate, is one of our main characters. She splits narration with Sean. The two meet and share an instant dislike for each other. Sean doesn't want to see a girl and her horse on the dangerous beach. And Puck doesn't care for this bossy know-it-all. But as time goes by, things change.

Puck is racing to save her family's home - it's just her and her two brothers - and to keep the older one from leaving for the mainland. Sean is racing for the right to buy Corr, his red cappall uisce. But both can't win the races.

I loved this book so much. I almost felt like I was there on Thisby. My favorite part was the festival where the riders announced their decision to race. There were so many incredible aspects to that scene that I loved, but I'll leave those for when you read it. I'm also very much into faery lore. The cappall uisce, which translates to water horse, is a kelpie. Don't get on one's back in the water, or he'll drown you.

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Especially if you like faery. The Scorpio Races ranks in at number two of my favorite Maggie books, topped only by Ballad.

Maggie Stiefvater is doing a book signing in two days time. I plan to go and get a copy signed for myself. I also plan to get a copy for one of you! (If I don't make it to the signing, I will give away an unsigned copy.)

1. Must follow my blog
2. Must be 13 or older.
3. Open International (US cover).
4. Fill out this form.

Good luck! Giveaway ends 10/30, midnight EST. Winner announced on Halloween.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Short Story Review: Dark Beauty

For fifteen-year-old Seeker, Isabelle Crowe, ridding the Houston streets of the undead is an inherited duty, passed down from her Cherokee ancestors. During her first night without her mentor, she encounters Abram, a more experienced Seeker from Chicago looking to avenge his cousin's death. Isabelle quickly learns she must work with Abram to protect her city. With one Seeker already dead, Isabelle's love of the hunt becomes a fight to survive.

"Dark Beauty" is a short story prequel to the novel Dark Seeker by Taryn Browning. Isabelle is a Seeker, trained to hunt vampires. On her first night out alone, she runs into another Seeker. He's in Houston tracking something. Not vampires. Something new. Something worse. Isabelle's not too keen on this new Seeker, but agrees to work with him to destroy this new vampiric race.

"Dark Beauty" was a bit too predictable for my taste. I often felt like I knew what was going to happen before it did. I didn't feel connected to any of the characters. They felt more like stereotypes then actual characters. This could be due to the fact that it was a short story. I plan on reading Dark Seeker and hope I enjoy it more than this short story.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cover Love: Bitterblue

I was so excited to see that Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore finally has a release date. May 1, 2012. As someone who's been waiting over two years for this book, I'm thrilled by the news. I've seen release dates announced. And I've seen those dates come and go. But this time... we have covers! So I'm going to believe that I will be able to hold this book in my hand next May.

This is the US cover for Bitterblue. It fits with the previous two books in The Seven Kingdoms series.

But, as with Graceling and Fire, I love the UK cover better.

Who else is waiting for this book? Which cover do you like better?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (and winner!)

Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.

I was really looking forward to reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It looked funny, and I had read such great things about it, I was sure it would be fantastic. Also, we don't get enough male POV in YA. The main character, Junior, is a teenage boy who lives with his family on a reservation. But he leaves the reservation everyday for school, to go to Reardon where every student is white and many of them are racist.

I was also looking forward to it because it's been challenged so many times, and it's been banned in more than one of those instances. Why was it banned? Partly because of language. Partly because of violence. But mostly because of sexual content. I read a review on Amazon wherein the reviewer gave the book 1 star and called it filth. Another reviewer basically echoed that and said it should not be read by anyone under 18. Junior admits that he masturbates and drops an f-bomb or two. OMG no wonder it's banned! Those are two things teens never do. Apparently, we're supposed to be 18 before we're allowed to read these words.

I'm very much against banning. You don't want your kid to read it, fine. But don't tell me I can't read it. Don't tell other parents that their kids can't read it. That's not cool. So I will stick up for this book. It shouldn't have been banned. It's almost a crime.

That being said... I wasn't a fan of this book. I liked Junior. His life on "the rez" was interesting. I felt bad for what he went through. And knowing this is semi-autobiographical makes it even more interesting. While I enjoyed the characters and the story, I just didn't care for the writing style. It felt like the author was doing his best to sound crass. And the "You know?" added to the end of a sentence on every other page got old. Okay, so maybe it wasn't that often, but it was there enough to irritate me.

One of the things I loved about this book were the cartoons. Junior is a budding cartoonist, so here were multiple cartoons per chapter. Those were funny and entertaining and caused a few laugh out loud moments. My favorite one was where Junior's friend said he loved books so much it gave him a "metaphorical boner". This book also had a few amazing lines. Lines that almost brought tears to my eyes. My favorite: “If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing.”

While I didn't love the book, I think it's one everyone should read. It really makes you think. And I love books like that.

And now... to announce the winner. Congrats to:

Tara (Wild Irish Rose)!

I'll be sending an email shortly. ;)