November 30, 2012

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Release Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 378
Series: n/a
Review Source: Read through Pulse It website

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last...

My Thoughts:
To be honest I feel like this is a great example of an absolutely perfect YA contemp. It involves family, friends, and romance, and it does a good job with each of these aspects. I especially enjoyed Hudson’s relationship with her little brother, Bug. Bug is incredibly cute, and the two have such an affectionate and sweet relationship. Bug is also incredibly precocious, but I liked how while he was that “boy genius” character he was also true to life with naive moments and childlike sensibilities.

This book also has an awesome list of “themes” going for it. It involves cupcakes, a family restaurant, figure skating, hockey (including hockey boys!), and a perfect wintery atmosphere. I really enjoyed the Buffalo, NY area setting, since that’s a place not too far from where I live. I enjoyed recognizing the setting, the weather, and the feel of the town. I also loved the hockey aspect. It was a lot of fun for me to read about since you don’t get to see hockey mentioned very often in YA novels, and it’s the only sport I actually watch.

Hudson, our main character, is a lot of fun. I remember shaking my head and saying “oh Hudson” (with affection) a lot of the time when I was reading the book. She’s a girl you can cheer for even as she makes mistakes and has her priorities all mixed up. She’s frustrating at times, but she has a good heart, and you keep hoping that she will learn from her mistakes.

I mentioned how the book features friends, family, and romance. I love how the romance was a good part of the book, but it wasn’t the whole story. It was swoony and sweet enough to keep romance fans happy, but it doesn’t overpower the plot. Whether you’re a big romance fan or not I think most readers will fall for the sweet and shy Josh.

Conclusion? A lot of fun, and a perfect winter read. I’m a big fan of Sarah Ockler’s, and I definitely recommend this to all contemporary romance fans, especially readers of Sarah Dessen. Also be sure to have your own cupcakes ready because you will definitely want to eat them as you read about Hudson’s baking (there's a new cupcake description with each chapter!).

The Cover:
Cute! Although why the cookie, I'm not sure. *shrugs*


Find Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler on Goodreads, Book Depository, Amazon.

November 28, 2012

Guest Post: Emily Devenport on Female Villains + Giveaway

How Do You Write Convincing Female Villains? Start With The Real-life Examples
by Emily Devenport

When I was a kid, I asked my mother if she believed that evil existed because of an evil force in the universe, a sort of absolute evil. I expected her to think hard about this concept, then give me a lengthy answer outlining possible sources of evil. But her response was fast and simple: “No. Evil is simply the absence of good.”

I felt a bit disappointed. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. If good is compassion, kindness, love, fairness, responsibility, honor, and integrity, the absence of those qualities is pretty scary.

I've known both men and women who fit that definition of evil. Though a person like that often sees him/herself as the hero, they are usually villains. But are male and female villains the same kind? Do they behave the same way and have the same qualities? In fiction, you can make them that way – after all, you're trying to get the reader to suspend disbelief. You don't have to write truth to do that. But if you look at real people, some differences do exist.

For instance, I once worked as a correctional officer for the Arizona State Prison system, and I met many female inmates. Forget about the stuff you see on TV about these gals. They're very different from the male inmates. Though women commit murder, theft, fraud, child abuse, and assault, they're less likely to choose physical aggression as their first weapon. Women rely on psychological warfare much more readily than on physical violence. And this may be the heart of our difference.

Even ethical women resort first to psychology in their daily interactions with people. Women who commit crimes can be brilliant at this – especially if their crime is fraud. Men are just as good at this sort of crime, but when you break down the profile of convicted male offenders versus female offenders, you'll find they trend in different directions, with many more female offenders jailed for fraud and theft. When you look at violent crimes committed by women things get really interesting. Violent women tend to be particular types.

Take serial killers. Men will actively hunt people. Women are more likely to be poisoners. Male serial killers look for strangers on whom to act out their aggression – women poison friends, family, and/or rivals. Oddly, for both male and female serial killers, asserting power seems to be one of the rewards for this kind of violence. But I think the oddest thing about women who poison is that they often love their victims. I suspect that men poison people to assert control, women poison when they fear they're losing control.

You can find female serial killers who have hunted and killed strangers, but almost never as loners. These women usually act in partnerships, often as lures who put people at ease. They usually partner with boyfriends or husbands. In these cases, the motive is sexual, and murder is part of the thrill. There have also been women who teamed up with men to murder people for the purpose of robbing them. In history, some women lured travelers to false inns. While the women served them supper, the male cohorts sneaked up behind the hapless travelers and bashed them over the head.

Maybe the most despised female villain is the Terrible Mother. She abuses and neglects her children, inflicting lifelong scars. She is engaged in relentless torture, focusing all of her rage on victims who can't escape. This villain is ruthlessly self-absorbed, and all too real. Sometimes she kills her victims, or allows someone else (usually a boyfriend) to do so. Terrible Mother can also be a “Ma Barker” type who controls her adult children and sends them out to commit crimes. She may be old and frail, but they fear her. She is a master of psychological warfare.

What fascinates me is that people seem to feel more anger toward the Terrible Mother than they do toward the Terrible Father. Maybe this is because mothers, even though they're not perfect, are almost always nurturing, loving women who try to do what's best for their families. When they do the opposite, this isn't just selfish and cruel, it's the most damaging betrayal anyone can suffer. If mother doesn't love you – who possibly could?

Often, people feel contempt for women who commit violent or non-violent crimes. This is a huge mistake, because you're likely to underestimate someone for whom you feel contempt. Women who commit crimes may have a lot of shortcomings, they may lack most or all of those good qualities I listed at the beginning of this post – but they have spent their lives watching other people with an eye toward exploitation. Assuming that they're not as smart as you because they can't see the line between right and wrong is almost as bad as assuming you're not capable of ever crossing that line yourself. This is precisely the sort of assumption that will get you to do something unwise – and the sort of situation writers love to exploit when they're figuring out ways to challenge their protagonist. After all, it's not what goes right that makes an interesting story, it's what goes wrong. And if your protagonists are going to see things differently at the end of a story, it's sometimes very entertaining when the villains have figured out a way to get them to put their own butts in a sling.

The wonderful thing about writers is that they can get us to feel sympathy for the She Devil. The really good ones don't do that by making excuses for villains – they trick us into it. By doing so, they give us a perspective we would never have if we only saw things from the protagonist's point of view. Sympathy for the She Devil can mean that you realize she is more complicated than black & white definitions of good would leave us to believe.

Or it can mean she's got her hooks in you, and the game is afoot . . .

About Emily:
I'm a writer -- Emily Devenport, Maggy Thomas and Lee Hogan are the pen names I used when I wrote my novels. I've been published in the U.S., the U.K., Italy, and Israel. My novels are SHADE, LARISSA, SCORPIANNE, EGGHEADS, THE KRONOS CONDITION, GODHEADS, BROKEN TIME (which was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award), BELARUS, and ENEMIES. Look for my new novels, THE NIGHT SHIFTERS, SPIRITS OF GLORY, and PALE LADY on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Kobo, Sony, Apple, and Smashwords. I'm married to artist/writer Ernest Hogan -- check out his Mondo Ernesto blog. I write reviews on amazon as Emily Hogan. Like most writers, I have an eye for the weird, and that's what I like to blog about. You can contact me at emdevenport(at)

One morning the people of the North woke up and the people of the South were gone. That s the first thing every child learns on the colony world of Jigsaw. But for one girl, knowing about The Disappearance is not enough. Hawkeye wants to know why.

That's why she spent half her life researching The Disappearance. And that's also why eight Neighbors show up on her doorstep, demanding that she accompany them into the Forbidden Cities ruled by the Southern gods to speak with the Spirits of Glory. Everyone thinks Hawkeye is an expert on Neighbors, these almost-humans who move, talk, and think as if they were born inside one of the Time Fractures. But she can't imagine what they want to ask the ghosts of their ancestors, or why they need her to go along. The Southern gods caused every human inhabitant of the Southern cities to disappear overnight :&emdash; what else might they do?

But the Northern gods say Hawkeye should go and her curiosity won't let her refuse, even though she's going into more danger than she can imagine. Pain and puzzlement wait along the broken interstate, along with scavengers who want to kill them all. Hawkeye's questions only generate more questions as they move farther and farther into the South, right into the heart of the Disappearance, until Hawkeye's questions have all been answered.

Even the ones she was afraid to ask.

Be sure to add 'Spirits of Glory' on Goodreads & visit Emily's blog here.

Emily has been kind enough to offer up a Smashwords ebook of 'Spirits of Glory' for one lucky winner. Fill in the Rafflecopter below. International, open until 12:01 am EST on 12/06.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 27, 2012

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Release Date: February 21, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pages: 341
Series: The Chemical Garden
Review Source: ARC received at Ontario Blog Squad Meet-Up 2011

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
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 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.

My Thoughts:
I saw someone describe this book as “emotionally exhausting”, and that is so truthful. When I was reading the book, and even when I finished it, I was so unsure about how I felt. I definitely didn’t like it as much as ‘Wither’, but I was (and still am, in a way) unclear about whether I even liked it or not.

‘Fever’, in a lot of ways, suffers from second book syndrome. So many crazy things happen and yet I feel like the overall plot of the series barely moved at all. Yes, there were some crazy revelations and happenings, but I don’t think an entire book was needed in order for them to come about. The events of the beginning of the book were so frustrating to me that I actually peeked ahead to see if the characters would get themselves out of that situation, which is something I never usually do. So much of the book is covered by an inescapable haze, and while it’s stylistically brilliant (to make the readers themselves feel addled takes talent), it does little for the plot itself. ‘Fever’ is a book of journeying, but the journeying seems wasted, and the characters themselves seem like puppets. I realize this was probably done intentionally, but it was just sad and confusing to see mere shadows of characters who were interesting in the first book, or at least far less passive.

I’m still incredibly interested by the world and characters that Lauren DeStefano has created, and I have hope that Book 3 will be as great as I found ‘Wither’ to be, but ‘Fever’ just seems like a confusing mess. This book was crazy intense and action packed, but while parts of it had glimpses of the brilliance of ‘Wither’, those glimpses were unfortunately few and far between.

The Cover:
I can't believe this is the cover after how gorgeous the cover of Wither was. I love the symbolism still, but the colour choices are unfortunate.


Find Fever by Lauren DeStefano on Goodreads, Book Depository, Amazon.

November 24, 2012

Book Swag Discussion

I know as book bloggers we all enjoy receiving swag, both to collect ourselves and to pass on to friends or local bookstores and libraries. But what type of swag do you think is the best for promoting a book?

The most common type of swag is obviously bookmarks. It makes sense to create bookmarks to promote books, and it's something that can easily be sent around the world for a low cost. At some point, though, we all have so many bookmarks that it becomes a bit of an overkill. And for me, personally, I don't tend to use swag bookmarks as actual bookmarks, because I want to keep them in good condition.

Solution? Here's one way I've found of actually showcasing some of the swag bookmarks I've received so I can appreciate them instead of just having them sit in an envelope. I have access to a laminator, so that makes things easier, but you could also glue them on paper if you didn't care about the backs showing, or put them in a plastic sheet protector.

Postcards are another similar type of swag item. I think they're good for displaying, but not necessarily much else.

Trading cards are not much different from the previously mentioned swag types, except they have a certain kitsch factor. I think especially for sports related books (such as Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, as seen in the picture) they work really well. For fans of the book/series they're great collector items (when they feature different characters, etc), but not necessarily for drawing new readers in.

Stickers are another fairly popular swag item. If I was in school I could definitely see putting them on my notebooks or binders. Bookplates aren't considered swag, necessarily, but I think they're a great thing to have for people who can't make it out to a signing.

Sometimes posters are designed to promote books -- I think these are especially good for bookstores and libraries. Often chapter samplers are created for popular titles and are passed around at conferences/events. HarperCollins Canada even has its own magazine called "Frenzy" where they promote their YA related titles in a very unique way. They have things that you would expect, like author interviews, but they also bring in different types of quizzes and articles, or even pieces on fashion (themed to a certain title).

Magnets are one type of book swag that I find very fun, mostly because they're useful and are easily displayed. I love having a refrigerator full of magnets that relate to things I love, so it's awesome when bookish things can be included.

Temporary tattoos are another very fun type of swag to pass out, although in reality I can't see actually using them, except maybe while I was at a book event. What I do love about these tattoos is that they (mostly) aren't just plain reproductions of the book's title logo. You get the eyes from Daughter of Smoke and Bone, or the paw print birthmark from The Gathering. They're kind of an "in" thing for the book's fans to recognize, or for new readers to appreciate once they've read the book.

Pens are one of my favourite types of swag just because they're incredibly useful. You can always use a pen, and it's a lot of fun when that pen is related to your favourite book series. I love the Kelley Armstrong pens especially -- the Darkness Rising pen has all the different colours in it, and the Women of the Otherworld pen shows a different message each time you click it.

Another favourite is buttons/pins. I like to stick mine into my picture board that I have hanging in my room, but you can always put them on backpacks or jackets as well. They can be a very visible form of promotion for your book.

And then we have the miscellaneous. I've seen a few guitar pick promos lately, and while I really like the idea, I can't see them getting much promotional use (unless you can wear it as jewellery or a keychain, like the Love & Leftovers one shown above). A mousepad is a fun idea, though does anyone actually use promotional mousepads? Once you have one you're not likely to use another, unless it happens to be your favourite series or publisher. Lanyards and bracelets I can see being a good idea, because you can actually wear them and get a use out of them. Magnetic poetry for a book promo is just awesome in my opinion. Magnetic poetry is super fun, and for it to include concepts and/or characters from your book is so cool. This picture also includes one of my favourite pieces of book swag ever, which is the hand sanitizer for 'The Way We Fall'. Having hand sanitizer as swag for a book about disease is just brilliant, and I love how the swag is both clever and useful.

Of course there are other types of swag, like bags or t-shirts. What type of swag is your favourite, and what do you think works best to promote a title to potential readers? Have you ever come across a really awesome piece of swag where, like the sanitizer, it's not typical but fits the book perfectly? I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I'm sure authors would too.

November 22, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Release Date: October 18, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 409
Series: n/a
Review Source: ARC received at Ontario Blog Squad Meet-Up 2011

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
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.

My Thoughts:
(First a note: I wrote this review after I read the book about a year ago, but I somehow never got around to posting it. In the meantime, I've read and loved The Raven Boys, but I decided to keep my review as it was written last year.)

I was a bit hesitant going into 'The Scorpio Races' because I’m one of the only people on earth who didn’t enjoy 'Shiver'. I’m also not a big fan of horses, so that’s sort of two strikes against this book. Thankfully I was intrigued from the moment I started reading it. I had a bit of a hard time because of the slower pace, but I was still interested, and it made me persevere. I’m glad I did, because in the end I was totally impressed. I adore the world that Maggie Stiefvater created for this book. It’s absolutely magical, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

The best thing about this book, though? The characters, absolutely. Kate “Puck” Connelly is just so endearing. She’s tough as nails and there’s nothing she loves more than her brothers and the island of Thisby, except perhaps her horse, Dove. And then there’s the strong, silent Sean Kendrick. He works magic with horses, and has a connection with Corr, one of the fierce capaill uisce (water horses). These two! I don’t even know. I loved reading from both their perspectives, and I fell in love with both of them. I love them separately, I loved their interactions together, and I adored how much they loved their horses. Remember how I said I wasn’t a horse person? Well, I’m not, but I am a big animal lover in general. There’s no denying the love these two characters felt for their horses, and it was beautiful to read about.

As mentioned, the pace of the book is slower in most parts. The actual Scorpio Races don’t take place until the end of the book, and while there are definite moments of excitement throughout the book, it also has a quieter feel to it. Maggie’s writing is so atmospheric that you experience every bit of the setting alongside the main characters. And what a setting it is. Thisby is this mysterious island where man eating capaill uisce wash ashore, and where each November men vie to be race champion on these creatures.

It’s not too often a book can make me tear up, but this one definitely did. I felt such a strong emotional tie with the characters that I was sad to see the book end, though I thought the ending was absolutely perfect. This is a book you really sink into and become part of, which is a wonderful experience. I’m so glad that I read 'The Scorpio Races', and I’ll definitely give Maggie Stiefvater’s future books a chance now that I’ve enjoyed this one so much.

The Cover:
Really like it.


Find The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater on Goodreads, Book Depository, Amazon.

November 21, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (1)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature upcoming book releases that they're looking forward to.

This week I'm eagerly anticipating...

by Jennifer Rush

Publisher: Little, Brown & Co.
Release Date: January 2, 2013

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?

Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.

Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.

Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

Add it on Goodreads.

Um yes, how cool does this sound?? Plus that cover is crazy awesome.

(Why yes, this is my first WoW post... ever. I used to do Future Reads posts, but I stopped doing that awhile back. I thought it was about time to start showcasing some future reads again, this time by officially joining in on WoW.)

November 19, 2012

Series Spotlight: Shifters by Rachel Vincent

The Shifters series by Rachel Vincent

Goodreads Links:
4. Prey

(Extremely Short) Series Synopsis (from Rachel Vincent's website):
Rachel’s Shifters series follows Faythe Sanders, the world’s only female werecat enforcer, as she fights to define her own role in her family and to claim a place in her Pride. The revolution is coming, and Faythe will be leading the charge. Are you ready to meet the new Alpha?

Synopsis for 'Stray' (from Goodreads):
There are only eight breeding female werecats left . . . And I'm one of them.

I look like an all-American grad student. But I am a werecat, a shape-shifter, and I live in two worlds.

Despite reservations from my family and my Pride, I escaped the pressure to continue my species and carved out a normal life for myself. Until the night a Stray attacked.

I'd been warned about Strays -- werecats without a Pride, constantly on the lookout for someone like me: attractive, female, and fertile. I fought him off, but then learned two of my fellow tabbies had disappeared.

This brush with danger was all my Pride needed to summon me back . . . for my own protection. Yeah, right. But I'm no meek kitty. I'll take on whatever -- and whoever -- I have to in order to find my friends. Watch out, Strays -- 'cause I got claws, and I'm not afraid to use them . . .

My (Relatively Spoiler Free) Thoughts:
Faythe is a very strong and stubborn character. She can be frustrating, but as a reader you love her for how she grows as a character throughout the series. You also admire how much she loves her family and her pride, and how she stands up for her fellow tabbies and for what she believes is right.

I really loved the increasing political aspect in the later books of this series, with inter-pride rules and a very evil/power hungry alpha of another territory. There is also such a great community of characters to these books. You can really feel the family connection and the love between the enforcers and other pride members.

For me, personally, the romance aspect to these books was lacking. I really didn’t like Marc as a character or as a love interest. A lot of times I did think Faythe should have treated him a lot better than she actually did, but I still didn’t think he was all that great. He was far too angry of a character for my liking, especially because physical violence came along with his temper. It felt like we never got to know Marc as a character besides his protective element and how sexy he was. Now if we want to talk about how much I adored Jace and how I thought that storyline should have gone, well that’s a whole different story.

Overall I did enjoy this series because I got really attached to the characters. There are emotional moments that will break your heart, especially in the last couple of books, but there is also a humourous aspect to them. This is a series that gets stronger as it goes, and I can definitely see why so many people are fans of it.

The Covers:
They're okay. I like the various colours and the font treatment for the series.

Series Rating:
[Low 4/5]

Check out Rachel Vincent's website for more information and purchase links.

(This was released as an adult series, but I could see it falling into the 'new adult' category, as the books start with Faythe as a grad student. There is mild sexual content, but I can definitely see this being a crossover series for older YA readers.)

November 18, 2012

Debut Author Challenge 2013

I'm very happy to be participating again in the Debut Author Challenge. For 2013 the challenge is being hosted by Tara at Hobbities.

Tara has asked all DAC participants to post a goal post of books that we want to read for the challenge. Here are the 2013 debuts that I've added to my list so far:

- Altered by Jennifer Rush
- Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook
- Hooked by Liz Fichera
- City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
- The Ruining by Anna Collomore
- The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding
- Legacy of the Clockwork Key by Kristin Bailey
- The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
- The Holders by Julianna Scott
- Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza
- Taken by Erin Bowman
- Reboot by Amy Tintera
- Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland
- The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston
- Transparent by Natalie Whipple
- Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider
- Canary by Rachele Alpin
- Fault Line by Christa Desir

It's crazy how many debut novels I end up reading and enjoying each year, so I'm really excited for all of these (plus many others I haven't discovered yet, I'm sure).

Be sure to sign up for the challenge and add your goal post to the list.


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