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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Between

Between by Jessica Warman

Grade: 3.8 / 4 stars out of 5

Between by Jessica Warman was a read unlike many others.
When a constant thumping noise wakes Elizabeth Valchar up during the evening after her birthday party, she goes out to explore. By the side of the boat, Liz finds her biggest surprise of the birthday. Her own body.

Beautiful, rich, popular Liz is stuck in the limbo until she discovers what’s keeping her. With the unexpected help of Alex Berg—a former classmate who was killed by a hit-and-run driver—Liz explores the life as a ghost. Life with and without Liz isn’t as beautiful as it seems on the outside. 
Between by Jessica Warman will keep readers wondering who the murder really is. With an unexpected curveball throw at the very end, Warman does not disappoint with this highly publicized novel. Well paced with timely flashbacks, Warman keeps the book moving. Between brings up modern topics such as drugs, eating disorders, driving while drunk, and this overwhelming need to be better than someone else. The pressure to be the best forces people to do crazy things and Between takes that to the extreme.

While the concept and ending of Between were amazing, I found the characters to be unrealistic. It was just hard to swallow. Perhaps there truly are evil girls out there, boys with single-minded thoughts, and the cliché concept where popular always means rich, pretty, and mean. There were two characters that strayed from the pack, not completely, but enough to make a difference. I absolutely love those two characters because they had a bad side and a good side.

Then there’s Alex. He was a peculiar character.

But it is Liz that’s the most dynamic of her group. Her mother was anorexic. Her father had an affair. Her stepmom seemed to just swoop in right after her mother dies. And she’s keeping the biggest secret of all that’s eating her alive. This all comes together in the most interesting of ways especially when the mental stress transforms the physical body. Liz is nervous bundle of energy that just projects itself off the pages. I love the passion she has for running. I love the raw, intense, confused emotions that surrounded her in every chapter.

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Published: 2011 August 2; hardcover
Source: ARC from Walker for blog tour

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Fox Inheritance Audiobook Giveaway

CLICK THIS LINK FOR A SAMPLE AUDIO!
If you're like me, you probably spend more hours commuting to school or work than you like. Rather than reading your way to your destination, how about listening? It keeps your hands free for you know, driving or holding onto poles on buses/subways. An awesome person from Macmillain Audio has graciously offered the audiobook of The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson for one lucky winner!

Read my review HERE or read an interview with Mary for a chance to win a hardcover copy of THE FOX INHERITANCE!



Pro & Con of Technology with Mary Pearson + Contest!

To read my review for The Fox Inheritance, scroll down!

Yan asked me if I would talk about technology and some of its pros and cons, so I’m conducting a little interview with myself (maybe the other Biogel me?)



Mary1!
Mary1:  Are you an expert on technology?

Mary2:  Not by a long shot.  Sometimes I seriously can’t even get my TV set turned on. But I do pay attention when I hear about technology in the news, especially new medical technology.

Mary1:  But there’s all kinds of new technology in The Fox Inheritance.  Where did that come from?

Mary2!
Mary2:  I went to the library and read magazines and journals on some of the newest technology and what scientists were hoping to come up with and then I kicked it up several notches.  For instance, I read about paint, fabrics, and “smart clothing” that are imbedded with computer chips and those are already being developed.  It wasn’t a stretch for Locke to have shoes that change color and shape on command.  Wouldn’t it be great to have one pair of comfy shoes that changes color to match whatever you’re wearing?  Women’s closets around the country would cheer at the extra space.

Another technology area I knew I would have to address in the story was transportation.   I don’t think cars and freeways will ever go away (alas, no flying cars) but I read about improvements in transportation that engineers are working on, and to a small extent, some cities already have in place, and voila!  Transgrids are born in The Fox Inheritance that can get someone across the country in just a few hours and the car does all the driving.

Mary1:  But that’s not as glamorous as being instantly teleported in a million little bubbles.

Mary2:  No, it isn’t, but it’s way more realistic.  Every piece of modern technology I have in The Fox Inheritance I think could be possible in 260 years.

Mary1:  What about that little tattooey think you gave to Locke?

Mary2:  The iScroll?  Yes! Absolutely.  One of my biggest peeves is I’m always misplacing my cell phone.  Sometimes I can’t even find it in my own purse! They are making microchips as small as dust now—what if they could imbed them in something as thin as a liquid tattoo that could fit right in the palm of your hand?  You’d never miss a call again.  And 3D holographic projection already exists, so it’s just a matter of time before it’s included on phone apps—probably sooner than we think.

The iScroll!
Mary1:  Of course the con of that tattoo technology is that you have something attached to you that could be tracked.

Mary2:  I knew you would get to the cons.  Yeah.  I won’t say when or how, but Locke’s little tattoo does get him into some trouble.  I think most technology can be abused.  But it’s not really the technology that’s the problem—it’s the people who misuse it.

Mary1:  Is there any kind of technology that you wish had never been invented?

Mary2:  YES!@#!!%!  Automated calling systems!  If a real person doesn’t have the time to call me, then the real me doesn’t have time to listen.  Whoever invented that piece of technology should be whipped with a thousand curly telephone cords.

Mary1:  Do those still exist?

Mary2: At the Smithsonian.  I’m sure they would let us use them for a good cause.

Mary1 and Mary2:  Thank you Yan, for having both of us as a guest on your blog!

Tomorrow The Fox Inheritance blog tour will take Mary to the Story Siren blog  for ~*Publication Day*~ and Mary will answer some tough questions about bioethics.

For previous blog stops and the full tour schedule, go to Mac Teen Books



Thank you Mary(s) for a great interview/guest post! I would love to get a pair of shoe that changes color and shape! Imagine all the money I'll save the pain I'll never have to experience trying to break in a new pair.

The Fox Inheritance

The Fox Inheritance (The Jenna Fox Chronicles #2) by Mary E. Pearson

Grade: 3.8 / 4 stars out of 5
Locke, Jenna, and Kara were best friends before their accident. Jenna was set free from their prison 260 years before Locke and Kara. Those 260 years allowed for resentment, guilt, and confusion to grow. The Fox Inheritance, like The Adoration of Jenna Fox, was the exploration of self. Who am I? What am I? These questions bounce continually in the mind of Locke when his mind is finally downloaded into a body created by a madman. But surviving in a dark hell by yourself changes a person. Their minds may be intact and their bodies may be better now, but they’re completely new people now.
While The Jenna Fox Chronicles may be centered on the mentality versus the physicality of a being, The Fox Inheritance brings more political unbalance, action, and the advancement of technology. Mary E. Pearson continues to raise interesting concerns on legal and moral consequences of dealing God’s hand: death. Pearson tells the struggle of living a new life through a new POV, Locke’s.

Pearson effortlessly blends the past and the present together when Locke relapses. I struggled to pinpoint Locke: Do I like him? Is he good? Is he weak? Is he worthily enough to be given a second-chance? My answers swayed back and forth and I appreciated the chance Pearson gave me as I thought longer and deeper about my impression of Locke. He was physically strong, weak mentality and filled with this anguish. One question that repeatedly came up was who he loved more? Kara or Jenna? Its answer wasn’t clear-dry as love typically isn’t. Even in the depth of vast technological improvements and ever-changing worlds, Pearson still captured the realism of human emotions. She brought pieces of contemporary elements in a fantasy realm.

With the continuation of a series, there is an addition of new characters. Several struck out to me. One in particular isn’t human or even part human. Dot (Dot Jefferson) is a Bot who is programmed to drive a cab. The purpose of her existence is just that: drive. She doesn’t need legs, the sense of smell, taste, or touch for her purpose. But she, like other Bots, dream. They dream to escape their caged world and long to live their lives their way. With Dot, readers experience the excitement of looking at a brand new world. Taking simple pleasures and being thankful for just that. She was full of life…of bubbly energy that was infectious.

I found the plot to be simple but the details complex. Pearson built a world in The Adoration of Jenna Fox and sustained it in The Fox Inheritance. There is some drag to the novel where things slow down and Locke gets lost in his mind; a frustration with Locke when his indecision halts the entire novel and forces me to chug right on through. The climax leaves more questions than answers.

I urge readers who more interested in philosophical novels to read The Fox Inheritance and its prequel, The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

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Normally I'm not a fan of faces stuck in the middle of covers but I love in this case, the face is made up of pieces of a puzzle.
Source: ARC from Henry Holt for blog tour
Published: 2012, August 30; hardcover
Amazon: preorder now

Friday, August 19, 2011

A&L Do Summer

A&L Do Summer by Jan Blazanin

Grade: 4 stars out of 5
Aspen and Laurel are practical nobodies in their small town of Cottonwood Creek, Iowa. In their attempts to make this summer the best summer ever, Aspen and Laurel will talk dirty to customers, take a skunk for a stroll, puke their guts out, steal a chicken, and you know, save a neighbor’s life. All in the name of summer. And maybe by the end of the summer everyone will know their names.
While I know that A&L Do Summer is far from being the most realistic contemporary read, there’s outlandishly fun about this read that made this a great end of summer. My summer was far from exciting with school starting in a little over week from now, but I was able to experience a wild vicariously from A&L. A&L Do Summer  was a hilarious read with an ending that vindicated Aspen and Laurel rightfully. With a happily ever after, A&L Do Summer  would be a great way to end the summer.

Aspen is the more level-headed person in the relationship where as Laurel is always out looking for something to do. I wished Aspen had more of a back-bone and I wished Laurel would think things through, but together they make one heck of a pair. The yin to the yang.

With every good-feel book, however, there is a lack of development. The side-characters were one-dimensional and the villains were flat. I wasn’t able to pick up an array of emotions from them as I did from Aspen. Even Laurel seemed to be one noted.

Despite this I would recommend A&L Do Summer to readers looking for something quick, fun, and comedic.

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Source: ARC from media firm
Published: 2011, May 3; paperback
Amazon: part of 4 for 3 promotion

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Grade: 4.5 stars out of 5

Daughter of Smoke and Bone was just wow. Pick up it and embrace it.

That doesn’t convince you? Well let’s keep going….

But first, the beginning. When word first came out about Laini Taylor’s new book, I immediately dismissed it. I was trapped under piles of books and didn’t have the time to start a new paranormal romance series (because they’re really starting to annoy me). Then the reviews started to pour in. And pour in. They were positive, glowing, and urging other readers to pick this book up!  (Well here’s another one I guess.) When an offer was given to me to read an early copy, I caved in.
"Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?" [from Amazon]
Daughter of Smoke and Bone captivated me from the very first page. Taylor was able to capture emotions, bottle it up, and share them with the readers. I felt the anxiety, anguish, and confusion with Kaoru rather than reading about it. Whether it may be rooting for the angels to win or the demons to win, Taylor makes it impossible to truly hate someone. The print may be in black and white, but the characters are all shades of grey. Taylor drew the evil from the beauty of the angels and the kindness from the demons.  It was effortlessly done that I didn’t read the book as good versus evil, but simply a story of rebellions looking for peace.

I felt most connected to Kaoru and Zuzana from the start of their adventures until the end. Their friendship was ruffled a bit, but it continued to hold strong. This is an example of a good and stable friendship that is so believable; good friends bicker and fight every so often, but when push comes to shove, they’ll remain true to each other.

I absolutely love the side-characters. Point-blank they’re such amazing characters that I can read several chapters solely on them.

Akiva and Kaoru relationship was one of Romeo and Juliet’s, but it didn’t feel contrive or forced onto the readers. It was a fragile relationship that seemed to teeter: fight for their relationship or destroy it to save each other. I loved how the mystery came together as well as how the memory was restored. Taylor was able to build up the tension and mystery before unveiling in a big way.

In general the book was truly magnificent. It merged the past and the present flawlessly. It struck a balance between good and evil. From deadly fight scenes and tender moments of love almost too sweet to look, Daughter of Smoke and Bone can be aimed at many readers. With its fantastic elements and human emotion blended thoroughly readers who are sick of vampires can have another option. Taylor left little hints everywhere without the reader even knowing it; and gave the readers just enough information to explain concepts without dulling the experience.

Just try it okay? Don’t make me come over there and smack the book in your face now….

Cover C
Source: ARC from HipScout
Published: 2011, September 27; hardcover

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Winner of FURY!

*drumroll*

Congratulations are in order for...


JAYME! I've tweeted you :)

P.S. I have some exciting news to share to you all, but I need to work out a few more details first.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fury by Elizabeth Miles Giveaway!

Read my review for Fury here

Visit Elizabeth at her blog, her twitter, or her Facebook account!

Excited about Fury!? It's coming out on August 30th so order your copy soon...or, you can win one here! Just fill the form out and I'll announce the winner on Sunday!



FURY ARC TOUR:

AUG 3- Galley Smith
AUG 5- Books by their Cover (ME!)
AUG 13- Bookalicious
AUG 17- I Eat Words

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fury

*stay tune for a giveaway and other tour stops*


Fury by Elizabeth Miles

Grade: 3 stars out of 5
"Sometimes sorry isn't enough....

It’s winter break in Ascension, Maine. The snow is falling and everything looks pristine and peaceful. But not all is as it seems...

Between cozy traditions and parties with her friends, Emily loves the holidays. And this year’s even better--the guy [Zach] she’s been into for months is finally noticing her. But Em knows if she starts things with him, there’s no turning back. Because his girlfriend is Em’s best friend.

On the other side of town, Chase is having problems of his own. The stress of his home life is starting to take its toll, and his social life is unraveling. But that’s nothing compared to what’s really haunting him. Chase has done something cruel...something the perfect guy he pretends to be would never do. And it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed.

In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay.

Em and Chase have been chosen."
After rating Fury on Goodreads, I skimmed through several reviews. Things seemed to be split down the middle: half of the ratings were glowing, the other half, however, was than ecstatic about this new series. I could see both sides to the argument.

Fury was a new take on karma hitting hard. The bad guys never win and the Furies made sure of that. Elizabeth Miles took an old myth and weaved it into a modern high school. Miles wrote an angry novel with raw emotions that tugged the readers’ heart this way and that. She took a small detail like the lack of proper parental guidance for young teens (striving to be accepted in a world all about money) and molded that into the actions of the characters. The lack of love and attention was a recurring trait in the families that wormed its way to the core of Em, Chase, Zach; violence and blatant disregard for others being the strongest traits.

On the negative side, Fury lacks a clear direction. It focused on Chase and Em with some scenes together, but in some ways they could have stood alone in separate novels. It was only towards the end that something stronger than blackmail tied the two together for a more cohesive plotline. Another reason why Fury didn’t live up to par with the hype was the characters. A unique plotline is definitely good, but the weak characters took Fury down several notches.

I found many of the characters despicable. I couldn’t have it in me to feel sorry for their troubles they created it. I found it hard to like the characters. Chase and Em didn’t seem able to sort realistic thoughts from idealistic ones. They were dreamers who followed their hearts and not their brains. But brains are very important for common sense and seeing as how some actions and motives by those two were idiotic, they needed to think with their brains more. They were obsessive, not listening to good advice, and saying useless words. Sometimes sorry doesn’t carry much worth, but actions speak so loudly. SPOILER: I wished Em had help take down some of the photos of Chase instead of just pitying him for those who have read it.

The side characters—except for Em’s best friends—were also less than awesome in terms of being likeable. Chase and Em were able, however, to redeem themselves for several chapters before the climax exploded. In those brief moments, they shone. The guilt, anger, and relief descended upon them and it was a magnificent display of emotions.

Slower in the beginning that required the readers to grit their teeth and carry on through the mindless drama, Fury does pick up its pace in the end. The ending exploded with action and karma coming around full force. If Miles had written with the same intensity as she had in the beginning, I would have greatly enjoyed Fury a lot more.

One final thing about Fury was its open-endedness. How does this one character know so much about Furies? What are her ties to them? Why does a girl who kisses her best friend’s boyfriend gets targeted by the Furies when clearly there are eviler and crueler people in the world? How do the Furies target people? I ultimately wanted to know about the Furies than any other character.

Fury is Gossip Girls with a mythological twist that will have readers who enjoy drama salivating for the next book.

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Source: ARC from Simon Pulse for tour
Published: 2011 August 30, hardcover
Amazon: preorder

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Probability of Miracles

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

Grade: 4.8 5 (because oh gosh I can't stop thinking about that last line) stars out of 5

This is a very early review (about 6 months too early) but I have to gush about this book. It was bittersweet, beautiful, and aspiring. It hits you so hard. (The book hasn’t even been released yet and I’m already hoping for more books from Wendy Wunder.) The Probability of Miracles surprised just as I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan did last year. Both novels give the reader the chance to believe in coincidence and miracles and the need to live for what is perfect now.
Snarky Cam is hard on the outside but soft on the inside. Cam has a rare cancer that's slowly destroying her body that is if the treatments and trials don't kill her first. On a last ditch effort to live her life, Cam and her mother and sister move to Promise, Maine where rumor has it the place is full of miracles. After living and working in Disney World Cam is far from being a full believer. But from purple dandelions to flocks of flamingos to a unicorn in her back yard*, Cam may have to reevaluate her opinion.

With a mix of 13 Little Blue Envelopes and I'll Be There and something all its own, The Probability of Miracles will break your heart, glue it back together, and shatter it all over again. 
Hi Buddy!
Cam was the perfect heroine for me. She was a genuine sister and daughter who fights with her younger sister and mother, but ultimately loves and cares deeply about them. Cam wasn't a romantic or a dreamer. She was sarcastic, she was real. Can breathed life with all of its ups and downs into the novel.

Life isn't prefect, but it can be pretty darn good sometimes when you let people in and the negativity out. That was what Cam learned and we as readers learned with her. Promise was just one more hoax that Cam scoffed at, but the small town with its motley crew of people melted the ice around Cam. She became a softer version of herself and started to be the giver of miracles.

The Probability of Miracles had an array of characters, which gave the book an explosion of voices and personalities. And yet it remained harmonious because at its center was Cam. She brought them in together from the perky sister, to the ever-fighting mother, to the sassy Nana, to the boy who taught Cam how to love, to the best friend who gave Cam a purpose when she felt like giving it all up. They were a perfect cast of supporters to the perfect heroine of an amazing and profound book.

It was slow in the beginning, but worth it in the end. Oh, the end. The last line literally made me fall in love with the book all over again and again. There’s wickedness to the humor, but lightness to the romance.

Savor this book.

*The Probability of Miracles is a contemporary novel and not a fantasy one. So the unicorn was my attempt to throw a little curve ball to you, but it is in the novel, just not what you might expect.

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Initially the pink made me flinch but after reading the book, I love the pink. And the feather. And the long luscious hair, which is a big symbol in the book.
Source: ARC from Razorbill
Published: 2011, December 8
Amazon: preorder