Saturday, August 31, 2013

ARC Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Publication: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 3, 2013)

Description: Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

My Thoughts: Holly Black's entry into the crowded vampire fiction genre really stands out for me. From the shocking beginning with Tana waking up in a house full of her dead friends to the hopeful conclusion, I was swept into the world Black created. 

Tana Bach is a somewhat normal seventeen-year-old in a world that has changed immensely during her lifetime. Vampires, who had always existed in secret, are now public. Anyone bitten by a vampire catches the infection and goes cold and begins craving blood. But, if they can survive 88 days without tasting human blood, the infection goes away and they are human. Vampires and those who have been infected along with a variety of humans who were already there have been sequestered in coldtowns. Springfield, Massachusetts, is one of the first of them and is the nearest to Tana's home. 

This is also an age of social media and the vampires are quick to use it. One very famous live feed comes from Lucien Moreau's home in Coldtown. It lets people on the outside watch what the vampires want them to see. The feeds play on people's desire to live forever. There are many people who really want to become vampires and who travel to the Coldtowns in the hopes of being turned. 

When Tana wakes up in the house where most of her friends died, she finds her ex-boyfriend Aidan infected and tied to a bed and near him she also finds an vampire wrapped in chains. She is determined to free both of them and flee before the vampires who created the blood bath wake and finish them off. The three of them are on their way to the nearest Coldtown. Tana is scratched by a vampire in their escape and she is afraid that she has been infected. Aidan is already going cold and craving blood. The vampire is Gavriel who is a very intriguing character. He has spent the last ten years being tortured for not killing the vampire who was responsible for bringing the vampires into the public eye and who infected countless humans. He is sort of insane and knows it. Tana is fascinated by him even though she knows he might be the most dangerous thing that she has ever known.

The story was amazing and intriguing and filled with realistically drawn characters and all sorts of moral dilemmas. While it isn't for younger young adults because of the the graphic violence, I think older young adults will be as enthralled as I was by the world Black has created. I highly recommend it. 

Favorite Quote:
She swallowed his blood, a dark vintage from some forgotten cellar. She felt like Persephone in Hades, pomegranate seeds bursting against her teeth, juice rolling on her tongue, and the more she had, the more she hungered. Her skin felt as if it were lit from the inside, her whole body shuddering with delicious sensation. 
I got this autographed ARC at ALA. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Memes: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Happy Friday everybody!!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

This week I am spotlighting The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I got this ARC at ALA at the end of June and was lucky enough to meet Holly Black and have her sign it. Here is the description of this Sept. 3 release:
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.
Beginning:
Tana woke lying in a bathtub.
Friday 56: 
Even amateur hunters who turned in a vampire could get a marker. If Aidan got one, then he could go into Coldtown and, if he stayed human, if he beat the infection, he could get out again. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

ARC Review: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Conjured
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Publication: Walker Childrens; 1 edition (September 3, 2013)

Description: Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember. 

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.


My Thoughts: CONJURED was breath-taking, amazing, compulsively compelling, and totally awesome. I run out of superlatives when I think about this story. The main character is Eve who begins the story in a new home, with a new face, and no memories of her past. She is told that she is a witness to a crime and under the protection of the US Marshall's service. Malcolm is one of the marshals who are protecting her and he is the one she can trust who helps orient her to the world around her. 

She is given a job as a library page and gets to meet Zach who is a wonderful character as well. He is constantly spouting trivia and totally honest and accepting. Zach is the one piece of her life that she can count on despite her horrifying visions and memory lapses. And together they can do amazing magic. 

We gradually learn that the Marshals are trying to track down a serial killer and that there are multiple worlds with all sorts of amazing beings. Earth just happens to be the one without magic which should make it a safe place for Eve. Eve's visions help the marshals track down the killer. 

Durst thanks her nightmares for her inspiration for this story. It is true that the story unfolds something like a nightmare with abrupt transitions and surreal events. But at heart for me this is the story of what it means to be real and what it costs too. 

I highly recommend this amazing story to all fans of fantasy.

Favorite Quote:
"How many times have we had this conversation? How many times have I forgotten everything I've done?" She waved her hand at all the photos on the bulletin board. "How many times have I forgotten everything I thought, felt, decided, believed? Everything I cared about? Everything I am?"
I received this eARC from the author for review. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Author Interview: Sarah Beth Durst

I recently was given the opportunity to interview Sarah Beth Durst and read her fantastic new novel - Conjured which will be released on September 3. (Check back tomorrow for my review.) Here is what Sarah had to say.

While I haven’t yet had a chance to read everything you have written, I have been struck by the variety of books you write from fantasy like Vessel to realistic fantasy like Enchanted Ivy. Can you talk about that a little bit? Does it help keep you fresh as a writer?


I suppose it does keep me fresh.  Like working out different muscles, or something like that.  But that's not why my books are so varied (e.g. paranormal thriller, fractured fairy tales, epic fantasy).  My books are so varied because I have the attention span of a hungry rabbit in a thriving vegetable garden.  Ooh, there's a carrot!  Let’s eat that.  Hop, hop, hop.  Ooh, lettuce!  I love lettuce!  Radishes!  Broccoli!  Except for me, that translates into: ooh, talking cat!  Let's write that.  Were-unicorn, yes!  Creepy carnival!  Desert with sand wolves!


In other words, I write what excites me.  And a lot of stories excite me.


As a Writer:


When did you begin writing and how did you learn to be a writer?


I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember.  I wrote my very first not-for-schoolwork story in fifth grade.  It was a cross between the Wizard of Oz and G.I. Joe.


I learned to write simply by doing it a lot.  That's actually one of the beautiful things about writing: you can try and try again as much as you want.  This isn't true of many other things.  Brain surgery, for example, doesn't have nearly as many do-overs.


Who are your writing influences?


Tamora Pierce.  Charles de Lint.  David Eddings.  Mercedes Lackey.  Terry Brooks.  Bruce Coville.  Robin McKinley.  Diana Wynne Jones.  Diane Duane.  Patricia C. Wrede.  Patricia McKillip.  Jane Austen.  I am a sucker for girl-with-sword, girl-with-talking-cat, girl-with-wolf, girl-with-awesome-powers-or-a-quick-wit kind of stories.


Where do you write?


I wish I could say I write someplace exotic or interesting, like on a beach or at the top of a mountain or inside the Temple of Dendur, but really, I write at home at a desk (preferably with a bag of Raisinets next to me).


Do you do your writing on paper or on the computer?


On the computer.  I type a lot faster than I write long-hand.  Also, I find that I do a lot of my thinking while typing.  Sometimes I don't know which way a scene is going to go until it comes out of my fingertips.


Where does a book begin for you? A character, an idea, a scene?


It varies from book to book.  With CONJURED, my next YA book, I knew I wanted to write about a girl in the paranormal witness protection program.  But I didn’t know who she was at first -- because neither did she.  At the start of CONJURED, Eve has no memories and a ton of bizarre powers.  Developing her back story -- and her discovery of it -- was a wild ride.


I do outline (see my answer to the next question below!), and so I did know where I was going with Eve's story, but there was still room for tons of discovery on the way.


Are you a plotter or a “pantser”?


I'm a plotter.  If I don't plot, then I'm distracted by shiny ideas mid-stream and go hopping after those ideas and end up with dinosaurs eating everyone.  Much safer for everyone, including the dinosaurs, if I plot.


Seriously, though, I find outlining to be very useful in crafting the full journey of the story.  But I also find it just as useful to sometimes ditch the outline and hop after those dinos.  An outline should be a tool, not a prison.


I have been hearing lately of authors who make scrapbooks or collages about books they are writing. Do you do anything like that?


Ooh, that sounds fun.  No, I've never done that.  I have been known to make Excel spreadsheets to track details.  Sometimes they’re color-coded.


As a Reader:


What books have most influenced your life?


See the same list above.


Probably the most influential was ALANNA by Tamora Pierce. I read that when I was ten years old, and I remember thinking, "If Alanna can become a knight, then I can become a writer."


What is the first book you remember reading by yourself?


No idea.  I feel like I came out of the womb reading.  But I'm guessing that's probably not true, because ouch.


What are you reading right now?


CLAWS by Rachel and Mike Grinti.  It's full of talking-cat awesomeness.  (It's my personal belief that there's no story that cannot be improved by the addition of a talking cat.  Look at Hamlet.  Add some talking cats and a strong Ophelia, and you have the much-happier Lion King.)


Random Silliness:


Favorite writing beverage?  Water.  I know, I know, boring.  But I do always have to have a glass of water next to me as I write.  Also, Raisinets.

Crayons or markers?  Crayons.

Summer or winter?  Spring and fall.  But if those aren't options, then summer (so long as there's a working air conditioner around).  I don't like to be hot, but I LOVE how long the days are.

Dogs or cats?  Cats.  I love dogs too, but there's not much better than curling up with a book and a cat.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week my teaser comes from Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst. Here is the description of this Sept. 3 release:
Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.
Teaser:
Eve raised her hand to toward the birds on the wall. "Fly," she whispered.

The birds detached from the wall.

The air filled with rustling and crinkling as the paper birds fluttered their delicate wings. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

State of the Stack (August 26, 2013)

This is my monthly State of the Stack post. It is my way to keep track of my review books and to hopefully reduce the stack that I have waiting for me. I take a look at my review commitments on the last Monday of each month. Please feel free to join in and let me know the state of your stack.

Here is my Review Books Spreadsheet. Yellow highlighted books are ones past their publication date that I still haven't read and reviewed. I use pink highlights for reviews due in even numbered months so that I can see at a glance how many I have for each month. Ideally, this keeps me from over-committing to review books.  


My Physical Review Pile


I just have pictures again this month. To see exactly what is on the shelves, check out the link above to my spreadsheet.
Shelf 1 (Authors A - F)
Shelf 2 (Authors G -  Rainfield)
Shelf 3 (Authors Riggle - Z and books to tall for the bookcase)
My Kindle Review Pile

Since I received so many print books at ALA, my Kindle crop is very small. I have been avoiding NetGalley until I catch up.
Iris by Scott Stabile - accepted from author and published on July 31.

The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton - accepted from Minotaur and published on Sept. 10
The Impersonator by Mary Miley - accepted from Minotaur and published on Sept. 17

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody - NetGalley read now title to be published on October 8

I Read This Month

These are listed in the order I read them. Links go to my reviews for all that have been posted already. Otherwise, the date the review is scheduled for is listed.

  1. False Memory by Dan Krokos
  2. False Sight by Dan Krokos
  3. The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
  4. Cast in Sorrow by Michelle Sagara
  5. Sure Signs of Crazy by Karen Harrington
  6. Throne of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
  7. Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich (Aug. 31)
  8. Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst (Aug. 29)
  9. A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway (Aug. 29)
  10. Don't Look Now by Michelle Gagnon (Aug. 28)
  11. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (Aug. 31)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date received and date published are listed in parentheses.

  1. Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst (8/9; Sept. 3)
  2. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu (8/10; Sept. 24)
  3. Fire Storm by Andy Lane (8/12; Oct. 1)
  4. A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway (8/14; Sept. 24)
  5. Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich (8/14; July 9)
  6. The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School by Fowler DeWitt (8/16; Sept. 3)
  7. Iris by Scott Stabile (8/22; July 31)
  8. Declan's Cross by Carla Neggers (8/22; August 27)
  9. Death Never Sleeps by E. J. Simon (8/22; July 19)
  10. Teardrop by Lauren Kate (8/22; October 22)
  11. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (8/22; September 24)
Next Month's Plan

Here are the books I got from ALA that are releasing in September.



Bickle, LauraThe Outside
Messner, KateWake Up Missing
Mull, BrandonSpirit Animals Book 1: Wild Born
Voigt, CynthiaMister Max: The Book of Lost Things
Gleason, ColleenThe Clockwork Scarab
Graves, Tracey GarvisCovet
Abdul-Jabbar, KareemSasquatch in the Paint
Constable, CathrynThe Wolf Princess
Falls, KatInhuman
Flower, AmandaAndi Unexpected
Rundell, Katherine Rooftoppers

Here are the books I received for review from other sources that will be released in September.





DeWitt, FowlerThe Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School
Norton, CarlaThe Edge of Normal
Coutts, AlexandraTumble & Fall
Miley, MaryThe Impersonator
Sales, LeilaThis Song Will Save Your Life
Ursu, AnneThe Real Boy
Sanderson, BrandonSteelheart
I know I won't be able to read all of these but I will try to read most of them this month. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stacking the YA Shelves (Aug. 25, 2013)

Tynga of  Team Tynga's Reviews hosts this meme to spotlight the books we receive each week. I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow when you see all the wonderful books everyone gets.

This week I bought two books and received three for review.
I have been interested in The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau ever since I first heard about it. I finally found a used copy at a price I wanted to pay.

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald sounded like just the thing to give to my students who don't see themselves as readers. 
Review Books
Scott Stabile emailed me and asked if I would be interested in reading his debut novel - Iris. After checking out the reviews at Amazon, I said I would like to read it. I thought a story that combined love, loss and aliens could be fun to read.

I got Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson through the Amazon Vine program. I have never read anything by Sanderson and thought that the first book in a new series sounded like the place to start. 

I also got Teardrop by Lauren Kate through the Amazon Vine program. This book begins a new series for her that is described as epic with heart-stopping romance, devastating secrets and dark magic. 

What did you add to your stack this week?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

ARC Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; 1 edition (August 27, 2013)

Description: She is the greatest assassin her world has ever known.

But where will her conscience, and her heart, lead her?

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king's contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king's bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she's given a task that could jeopardize everything she's come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon -- forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice. Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she willing to fight for?

My Thoughts: CROWN OF MIDNIGHT is epic fantasy at its best. It has a tyrannical king, a handsome crown prince, a loyal captain of the guard, and an eighteen-year-old Champion who does the king's bidding (or at least lets him think so.)

Celaena Sardothien has won the contest to become the King's Champion and now has to do what he wants. What he mainly wants is for her to kill his many and varied enemies. Since she loves both Dorian, the king's heir, and Chaol, the captain of the king's guards, the king uses their safety as an incentive for her to do what he commands. But Celaena has a number of secrets - some of which are revealed in this middle book in a trilogy. Among her secrets is the fact that she isn't killing those she is sent to kill but, rather, letting them flee the kingdom. 

When the king demands that she investigate the rebel movement growing in the city, Celaena encounters an old friend named Archer and learns that her best friend Nehemia is also keeping secrets from her. 

This was an amazing story about love found and then lost, hidden magic and magical beings, and a quest to determine the source of the king's power and finding a way to defeat it. I liked Celaena because, for an assassin, she is really a girly-girl who loves pretty things and who really wants to just be able to live her life without getting involved in all the convoluted politics of the court. Unfortunately, fate has a role for her to play that will take her out of her comfort zone and into a world she would rather not enter.

I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Favorite Quote:
Her eyelids were heavy as she opened them, blinking away the blurriness that still lingered. Her stomach ached, but the gloriella had worn off. She looked to her left, as if she'd somehow known, even in sleep, where he was.

Chaol dozed in the chair, his arms and legs sprawled out, his head tipped back, exposing the unbuttoned collar of his tunic and the strong column of his throat. From the angle of sunlight, it was probably around dawn.

"Chaol," she rasped.

He was instantly awake and alert, leaning toward her, as if he, too, always knew where she was. 
I got this ARC at ALA. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Memes: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Happy Friday everybody!!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

This week I am spotlighting Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas which is the sequel to Throne of Glass. This was the ARC I was most eager to find at ALA. The book will be released on August 27. Here is the description:
She is the greatest assassin her world has ever known.
But where will her conscience, and her heart, lead her?

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king's contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king's bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she's given a task that could jeopardize everything she's come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon -- forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice. Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she willing to fight for?
Beginning:
The shutters swinging in the storm winds were the only sign of her entry.
Friday 56:
"Oomph," she cried, slamming into a broad, muscled shoulder. Chaol even pulled her to him, a supporting hand on her back to keep her from toppling down the stairs.