Category Archives: Books I LOVE

IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS

Blackbirds CoverBook Review: IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS

Author: Cat Winters

Genre: YA Historical/Mystery with a Paranormal twist

Rating: Five out of Five stars

Back of book blurb:

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

Review:

This is one of those books that is so beautifully written you want to go back and immediately reread it. Cat Winters did a spectacular job bringing the haunted feeling of walking around during the Spanish influenza to life. I could actually smell the onions people used to keep the flu away, and feel the gauze suffocating me. The details and historical accuracy really elevated this novel into something otherworldly. I don’t want to give too much away for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but hands down this is one of the most breathtaking reads of the year. If you are in the market for something unlike anything else on the shelves this is the book for you.

Mary Shelley Black is a delightful character full of quirks and spunk. She is such a remarkable young woman who deals with everything that’s thrown at her with courage and bravery, and the mystery surrounding the death of her first love kept me turning the pages well into the early morning hours. I’m not a cryer when it comes to novels, I RARELY tear up, but there were two parts in this book that brought on full-blown ugly crying.

MY GOD YOU NEED TO READ THIS. There are so many things I want to chat about so please go buy a copy and make some tea.

Here’s a taste of the first page to whet your appetite:

Portland, Oregon–October 16, 1918

I stepped inside the railroad car, and three dozen pairs of eyes peered my way. Gauze masks concealed the passengers’ mouths and noses. The train smelled of my own mask’s cotton, boiling onions, and a whiff of something clammy and sour I took to be fear.

Keep moving, I told myself.

My legs shook and threatened to buckle, but I managed to clomp down the aisle in the brown Boy Scout boots I wore in case I ever needed to run at a moment’s notice. The heavy tread drew unwanted glances and at least one raised eyebrow, but nobody uttered a word.

Praise for IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS:

“Winters’s masterful debut novel is an impressively researched marriage of the tragedies of wartime, the 1918 flu epidemic, the contemporaneous Spiritualism craze, and a chilling love story and mystery…Deliciously creepy.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Unconventional and unflinching… More than anything, this is a story of the breaking point between sanity and madness, delivered in a straightforward and welcoming teen voice.”—Booklist, starred review

“Winters deftly combines mystery, ghost story, historical fiction, and romance…the story and setting are atmospheric and eerie.”—School Library Journal, starred review

“Winters strikes just the right balance between history and ghost story, neatly capturing the tenor of the times, as growing scientific inquiry collided with heightened spiritualist curiosity.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Cat Winters’s debut novel is creepy good… Mary Shelley, with her Boy Scout boots and penchant for aviatrix goggles, is just plain awesomely odd.” —The Boston Globe

“Words like ‘unputdownable’ and ‘irresistible’ are simply not enough for Cat Winters’s In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Days after finishing this story, it remains the first thought I have in the morning, and the thing that haunts me until I sleep.”—Lauren DeStefano New York Times bestselling author of The Chemical Garden trilogy

Keep up with Cat Winters on the interwebs:

Twitter

Official Website

Facebook

Goodreads

She’s also hosting an international giveaway on her blog RIGHT NOW through July 2nd, so you miiiiiiiight want to check it out.

Two New Year’s Releases I Adore

Two amazing things are happening on January 1st that I cannot WAIT to share with you guys. First, Justin Levinson is releasing an EP that’s crazy good. His previous album (with The Valcours) was in constant rotation while I was writing and revising my last book so you know it’s good good good. Justin is definitely a wordsmith worth checking out.

Secondly, A.G. Howard’s debut, SPLINTERED, is hitting shelves everywhere. I swear my heart is growing wings and flapping against my ribcage because it’s THAT excited about this novel.

Justin and Anita are so darn awesome both creatively (and personally) that I wanted to do a little review of each of their projects. That way when you’re looking at those holiday gift cards wondering what you should get, these items are already at the top of your list. If this is how the year is going to start, 2013 is going to be AMAZING. Just you wait.

Justin Levinson Take My Time EP CoverArtist: Justin Levinson

EP: Take My Time

Genre: Folk / Folk Rock

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

There are few things I love more than reading and writing. One of those things is baseball, the other is music. I especially have a soft spot in my heart for folk/folk rock, and Vermont based singer/songwriter Justin Levinson’s latest EP, Take My Time is an exceptionally delicious snack to sink your teeth into.

The three song EP consists of ‘Take My Time,’ ‘Give It One More Try,’ and ‘Bid The Rest Goodbye.’ The overall feeling is moody and atmospheric in the very best of ways. It’s full of lyrics with richly imagined themes of coping with life after love and picking up the pieces of a shattered heart and coming out stronger in the end. Exhibit A:

“Cos’ I will just take my time, go round and round on this ferris wheel ride with my stomach in knots like a mime in a box, I keep singing alone through the gloom.”

Justin writes in a universal language that allows listeners to really connect with the songs because at one point in time, we’ve all had our hearts broken. We’ve all dealt with the aftermath of a love gone wrong, we’ve all been confused about whether or not a relationship can be saved, and most importantly, we’ve all found the inner strength to move on and try again.

“It takes everything within, not to go back to where I’ve been. It’s takes everything within cause I get so lonesome, forget what’s right and the facts they get distorted and I think to myself we could give it one more try.”

The song that best shows this graduation from heartbreak to finding your way through the darkness is the title track, ‘Take My Time’. The lyrics are evocative of someone who is determined to make their dreams come true. Whether it’s love, career, or a personal journey, the person in the song is willing to push themselves — even if they’re afraid. That’s something everyone can aspire towards…being brave even when we don’t feel so sure anymore. It’s a pretty great message.

“I keep myself steady though I fear what’s ahead. I’m set in the moment it’s the best way to live.” 

The composition of these songs is SO good my meager words won’t do them justice. There are violins and acoustic guitars and MORE wonderful backing instruments, and Justin’s vocals are the perfect lighthouse to guide you through the storm. If you’re looking for music that’s got smart lyrics, infectious melodies, and atmosphere for days, this EP is so for you. I know I’m going to be listening to it over and over again.

Check out this video of ‘I Was So Wrong’ off his last album, This Side of Me, This Side of You for a hint of what Justin Levinson offers:

I Was So Wrong Official Music Video – Justin Levinson & The Valcours

Here’s where you can keep up with Justin Levinson online: 

Website: JustinLevinson.com

Twitter: @jxlevinson

Facebook: Justin Levinson Music

9781419704284_p0_v1_s260x420Author: A.G. Howard

Book: SPLINTERED

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Book Blurb:

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Praise for Splintered:

“Attention to costume and setting render this a visually rich read…”–Kirkus Reviews

“SPLINTERED is simply a delicious, disturbing, mad, wonderful read. I can’t recommend it highly enough.” –Melissa Marr, New York Times Bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series.

I will *try* to contain myself and not openly gush like the inner fangirl inside of me is dying to do. A.G. Howard is very dear to my little heart for multiple reasons. (One of them being she was in the query trenches with me when we were both looking for literary representation.)

Over the summer I had the privilege of reading SPLINTERED and even if I didn’t know Ms. Howard, I’d be obsessed with this book. It’s unlike any retelling I’ve read because it’s not really a retelling as much as a re-imagining. Howard has completely transformed the Alice In Wonderland story you remember into something much much much darker. If you think you’re getting anywhere CLOSE to the Wonderland you knew, oh my oh my oh my, you are WRONG. So very, very wrong. This book comes alive with new characters. I ADORED the setting, fast-paced plot, and Howard’s beautiful writing style. SPLINTERED has got voice for miles, with unexpected plot twists and turns that will keep you turning pages, and a slew of crazy/mad/wonderful characters that you’ll immediately fall in love with.

This unique take on the sinister side of Wonderland is delightful and I can’t encourage you enough to run to the bookstore on January 1st and buy a copy. TRUST me, you won’t regret it. It’s got action, adventure, mystery, fantasy, and two swoon-worthy guys that you’ll have a tough time choosing between. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, so I’ll leave you with a taste of A.G. Howard’s sweet prose to whet your appetite.

Reading the opening is all you need to get sucked down the rabbit hole:

“I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten; it’s the only way I can stop their whispers. Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.

Some of my victims line the walls in shadow boxes, while others get sorted into mason jars and placed on a bookshelf for later use. Crickets, beetles, spiders…bees and butterflies…” Oh, you want to read more? Oopsie. You’re going to have to grab a copy on January 1st!

Keep up with A.G. Howard online by visiting the following places:

Website: Author A.G. Howard

Twitter: @aghowardwrites

Blog: A Still and Quiet Madness

Facebook: Author AG Howard

Goodreads: A.G. Howard

Summer, summer, summertime reading

You may have noticed that it’s been pretty quiet over here the last few weeks, and I’m really sorry to leave you guys hanging. But there are a few reasons for my neglect silence…

One: I’m getting that old familiar NEED to write my next book. It’s starts out quietly, then all hell breaks loose and all I can think about is my WIP, WIP, WIP, WIP. So yeah, that’s happening and I can’t fight it. Right now I’m plotting and letting the creative process do its thing. Know that I love you, but it’s going to be quieter than normal around here. At least until September-ish.

Two: I’ve been reading like a complete maniac. Like, lockdown, no leaving the house, my eyes are crossing and bleeding from the abuse, I haven’t eaten a decent meal in days, my friends hate me for being aloof, reading. Why? Because I think there’s no better way to know the market than to read everything you can get your grubby little paws on. And let me tell you, I’ve been LOVING this part of my research. Sometimes this writing gig isn’t bad :)

Here are the books I’ve read over the last two weeks (if you’re into summer reading lists):

ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake

STARCROSSED by Josephine Angelini 

DREAMLESS by Josephine Angelini

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor

FALSE MEMORY by Dan Krokos

DIE FOR ME by Amy Plum

UNTIL I DIE by Amy Plum

CARRIER OF THE MARK by Leigh Fallon

GRACELING by Kristin Cashore

FIRE by Kristin Cashore

BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore

PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White

SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White

ENDLESSLY by Kiersten White

POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil

ONCE by Anna Carey

INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher

SAPPHIQUE by Catherine Fisher

THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater

BORN WICKED by Jessica Spotswood 

Aaaaaaand here’s the next batch of books that I’m getting ready to dig into:

WICKED LOVELY by Melissa Marr

CITY of BONES by Cassandra Clare

SOMETHING STRANGE and DEADLY by Susan Dennard

SHADOW and BONE by Leigh Bardugo

THE BODY FINDER by Kimberly Derting

THE FORSAKEN by Lisa M. Stasse

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH by Bethany Griffin

FALLEN by Lauren Kate

THE DEMON KING by Cinda Williams Chima

So what’s on your summer reading list?

(FYI: All the books above are links, so feel free to click on them to read their descriptions.)

Ten Books I can’t get enough of in 2012

I’ve been asked by one of my lovely blog friends for a list of books that I’ve read (and recommend) so far this year. Well, I aim to please – so here’s ten of my favorite reads of 2012. I’m sure this list will continue to expand and grow with all the terrific books coming out the second half of the year.

(Please note some of the books aren’t new releases, they’re just books I’ve read since January and adore! Also, they’re listed in no particular order.)

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS – Rae Carson

I’ll admit to being hesitant at first, since I’m not normally a fan of high fantasy – but this book took me by surprise in the best way. I LOVED it.

FRACTURE – Megan Miranda

This was a fun, fast paced thriller and I can’t recommend it enough. I definitely didn’t see this ending coming, and I’d reread it again in a heartbeat.

FEVER – Lauren Destefano

I know I raved about WITHER in my best books of 2011 and FEVER did not disappoint. It’s amazing. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my agent sister. I can’t WAIT to get my grubby little hands on SEVER, the final book in the Chemical Garden Trilogy. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

CINDER – Marissa Meyer

Again, this was something I was worried might not be my thing – but I was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. I devoured it in one sitting and am anxiously awaiting the next book. Get yourself a copy of this and be amazed by the excellently told story of Cinder.

UNDER THE NEVER SKY – Veronica Rossi

Oh my gosh, where to start? I could gush forever and a day about how much I loved this book. It might be one of my ALL-TIME favorites. Just sayin’.

THE WAKE TRILOGY – Lisa McMann

I started with the first book (WAKE) and immediately bought the second two (FADE and GONE). This is a fast read filled with lots of twists and memorable characters.

TIMEPIECE – Myra McEntire

I just finished this book two days ago and I love it. The ending will make you scream for book three. Thank goodness there’s a continuation because I’m not ready to let go of these characters just yet. If you haven’t read the first book HOURGLASS, do so immediately!!!

THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT – Jennifer E. Smith

I was skeptical that this might be too slow (or too fast) paced because it takes place over 24 hours, but (once again) I was dead wrong. This was definitely a fun read.

STARTERS – Lissa Price

I can’t even begin to describe how awesome this was, if you haven’t gotten a copy yet – drop everything you’re doing and run to your local bookstore. Lissa is another one of my agent sisters, but I’d devour it even if she wasn’t. (What can I say? My agent has fabulous taste :)) If you liked the HUNGER GAMES, you’ll love it. SO GOOD.

EVERNEATH – Brodi Ashton

This is a book GoodReads recommended I try and I’m super glad I did. It’s one of the best mythology retellings I’ve read. It’s fresh and clever and I could go one for days. LOVED IT.

*    *    *

That was hard picking just ten! There are soooooo many other great books I’ve read recently. (One of them being UNRAVELING by Elizabeth Norris, and INSURGENT by Veronica Roth.) If you’d like to see what else I’ve been reading (and suggest your favorite reads to me) friend me on GoodReads by clicking here.

Retellings and the new Sherlock episode

So…I don’t have a cute little quote or saying for you this Monday, instead I’d like to gush about season two of Sherlock. Did you guys see it last night? GAH Benedict Cumberbatch is the PERFECT Sherlock. He plays the character so well, it’s definitely my favorite retelling of the Holmes mysteries. I have been WAITING for season two like a deranged groupie. I LOVE what the writers have done with the series.

This is the exact sort of thing that I really enjoy while reading a retelling of a popular story. It’s that essence of the character brought about in an entirely new (and exciting) way that makes you fall in love with the story all over.

For Sherlock, I love the modern-day setting and the neurotic behavior of this forensic genius. Intelligence definitely is the new sexy.

The first novel that comes to mind that I read recently is CINDER by Marissa Meyer. If you haven’t read that yet, you seriously should add it to the top of your TBR pile. It’s one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read.

Here’s the blurb:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, the ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. .  

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

The second novel that I immediately think of is EVERNEATH by Brodi Ashton. In EVERNEATH Ashton brings a lovely modern twist to the ancient myth of Persephone. (Which happens to be one of my all-time favorite myths.)

Here’s the blurb:

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she’s returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld… this time forever. 

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she’s forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s…

And because I can’t get enough Sherlock, I’m going to leave you with a little video. Enjoy!

Sherlock Season 2, episode 1 clip

 

Book Review: FEVER by Lauren DeStefano

Book Review: FEVER

Author: Lauren DeStefano

Genre: YA Science Fiction (Dystopia) 

Rating: 5 shiny stars out of 5 

Back of book blurb: Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind.

Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago – surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.

The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous – and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion…by any means necessary.

In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price – now that she has more to lose than ever

Review: DeStefano’s Chemical Garden Trilogy keeps getting better and better. I adored the first in the series, WITHER and (like many readers) couldn’t WAIT to get my hands on the second installment. As I’ve mentioned before… sequels scare me – they are the ‘make or break’ part for me in a trilogy. That being said… HOLY MOTHER FEVER IS SO GOOD. Like I need to use all caps good and beg, beg, beg you to get a copy so we can talk about the heart pounding action, the page turning awesome, and OMG why is Vaughn so creepy and I hate his basement and the ending will leaving you screaming MOOOOOOOOOORE. PLEASE GOD WHY DO YOU HATE ME?!!!!! I WANT BOOK THREE RIGHT THIS SECOND.

So yeah, I really liked it. I got it yesterday and gobbled it down in one sitting. I even forgot to make tea it’s THAT good. If you like books that are full of atmosphere, creepy as all hell, and filled with a million wonderful things, then FEVER is so for you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be smashing things in the corner of the room waiting for the final book to come out…next year.

Happy HUNGER GAMES!

So…did you guys see the second trailer that was just released for the Hunger Games? It’s making my heart flutter in anticipation.

Video credit TheHungerGamesMovie youtube channel.

Top Ten Books of 2011

Hey 2012, you look all fancy-like and wonderful – I don’t care what the doomsday-ers say, I see nothing but good things in your future. Seriously, I hope you guys had a great holiday week/weekend! To ease into the shiny new year, I’ve decided to share a top ten list.

Here are my FAVORITE books of 2011 and OMG I’m salivating for MORE, MORE, MORE in 2012. The books are listed in no particular order, because they’re ALL SUPER AWESOME. <3

1. DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

2. WITHER by Lauren DeStefano

3. HOURGLASS by Myra McEntire

4. THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin

5. ALL THESE THINGS I’VE DONE by Gabrielle Zevin

6. ASHES by Ilsa J. Bick

7. AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky

8. LEGEND by Marie Lu

9. MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs

10. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis

Aside from the sequels to the books mentioned above, here are some debuts I’m SUPER EXCITED for in 2012: Apocalypsies FTW!

SPLINTERED by A.G. Howard

STARTERS by Lissa Price

THE VINDICO by Wesley King

FALSE MEMORY by Dan Krokos

INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows

WHAT’S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang

What was YOUR favorite book of 2011?

Countdown: 99 days until THE HUNGER GAMES hits theaters

I’m REALLY looking forward to the movie. I can’t wait to see how the screenwriters and actors and director and everyone else involved are going to bring this story to life. AND OMG THAT MEANS MY BIRTHDAY IS IN 97 DAYSSSSS. AND 2012 is almost here and and and…breathe.

Here’s the official trailer. What do you think? YAY or NAY? And more importantly, TEAM GALE OR TEAM PEETA???!!

All credit belongs to VISOTRAILERS youtube channel.

OMG – A Book-Mas Tree!!!

I posted this on twitter a couple of days ago, but HAD to share it with you! I heart this book tree SO MUCH. Enjoy the photo, my fellow bibliophiles <333333

**I’m not sure where the pic originated from, since it’s been floating around the interwebs – but all credit belongs to the individual who  created it.

Wishing you a very inspiring day! <33333