Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Y and Z are difficult...#AtoZChallenge

So, we have reached the end of April, and I am relieved, if I am being honest. While I enjoyed the A-to-Z Challenge this month, I am also quite glad that it is over! Towards the end of the month I have definitely struggled (thus having the last two in the same post...again). Not only that, I have not been able to come up with anything other than this title...Y and Z are difficult to come up with topics for. Since I could not think of much, I thought I would just wrap it up by sharing what books I read in April, as this was an April challenge.

Kaleidoscope Me by Hillary K. Grigonis
XoXoXo by Bethany Lopez
Ciao by Bethany Lopez 

TTYL by Bethany Lopez
Strike Out by Cheryl Douglas
Crystal Magic by Madeline Freeman

Jellybean Kisses by Amy Evans
Immortal Sin by Julie Milillo 
Immortal Descent by Julie Milillo 

The Six Days by Anna Carolyn McCormally 
Stained by Ella James
Found in You by K.L. Ruse 

Screaming Divas by Suzanne Kamata 
Streetlights Like Fireworks by David Pandolfe 
Orenda by Ruth Silver

Fragile Line by Brooklyn Skye
This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl
Chosen Ones by Tiffany Truitt 

Naturals by Tiffany Truitt
Creators by Tiffany Truitt 
Still, At Your Door by Emma Eden Ramos 

A Life, Redefined by Tracy Hewitt Meyer
A Life, Forward by Tracy Hewitt Meyer

Whew! 23 books this month. I was a reading machine, spending pretty much all of my free time reading as much as humanly possible! It is easy to do when the books are so engaging that I just had to know what happened next! I doubt that I will have another month this good (though I do have summers off), but we will see how things go!

Still At Your Door by Emma Eden Ramos Blog Tour + Review

Still at Your Door: A Fictional Memoir by Emma Eden Ramos
Genre: YA/Contemporary
Publisher: Writers AMuse Me Publishing

Published: February 22nd, 2014
 Sabrina “Bri” Gibbons has only a few short minutes to pack her things and help her sisters pack theirs before running with their mother to the bus that will whisk them away from Butler, Pennsylvania, an abusive relationship, and a secret that none of them wish to acknowledge. She was not prepared, though, for her mother to drop them on the streets of New York with the promise that she would be right back. Haunted by the sight of her mother running back to the cab, Bri, with Missy and Grace in tow, settles in with their grandparents. Thoughts of her present and her future collide with memories of her past, her dead father, and her mother’s bizarre episodes. She watches her sisters struggle with school and acceptance, all the while knowing the lack of any sense of security will make it impossible for them to carry on as ‘normal’ children. She finally lets her guard down enough to allow someone else in and sees a faint glimmer that her dreams might be attainable. Disaster strikes again, this time targeting her sister. Is it possible for Bri to find that balance between her dreams and her family’s realities?

Review: I am not someone that reads a lot of memoirs. While last year I went through a bit of a phase where I liked to read non fiction, it did not last too long, and most of them were about educational things that would help me improve things at work, or just add addition things to what I was doing in my classroom. I think I have only read a couple of memoirs total, actually, which might be kind of sad. Still, I liked the idea of this book being a memoir, but a fictional one. I am a fiction lover through and through, and I really love how this one had a combination of the two. Of course, it focused on a lot of real life things, things that some people deal with every day, and that did make it a bit hard for me to read. I guess it hits close to home because a lot of my students at work at dealing with some similar things, and I can see how rough it is on a young person. 
At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to three sisters, Sabrina, Missy, and Grace. It is clear that the girls are already used to rough situations. Sabrina and Missy have lost their biological father, and Grace's father is not a good guy at all. The story starts in a very expressive, beautifully written way in which Bri and Missy are at an ocean, and Missy is expressing how she believes life would be much easier in the water. I loved the imagery of it all. Then they are back to the future, where their mother is waking them up and taking them on a trip to see their grandparents in New York City. Little do they know that their mother intends to leave them there and return home to Pennsylvania. 
From that point forward, the girls struggle through a lot of things. They did not go to school regularly before the move, so poor eight-year-old Grace does not even know how to read when they begin attending school in New York. Missy ends up dealing with the wrong crowd after enjoying the feeling of being accepted, and has to deal with the ordeal of sexual assault and abuse at the age of fifteen by a peer at school. Despite all of the negative, Sabrina seems to finally figure out who she is. She decides to join the theater crowd where she meets some great people, along with Cameron (eeep). 
This book is a wonderful view of how difficult life can be, and how people can rise through some of the darkest of times. It was so easy to read, so easy to fall into the situation and to feel for the characters as they struggled so much. The book does not necessarily have a happy ending, but I believe that goes well with the idea of it being a fictional memoir. Life is not always full of happily ever afters, and sometimes we have to take the hand that is dealt to us and find a way to move on. 
Rating: 4.0/5.0

About the Author:
Emma Eden Ramos is a writer and student from New York City. Her middle grade novella, The Realm of the Lost, was recently published by MuseItUp Publishing. Her short stories have appeared in Stories for Children Magazine, The Storyteller Tymes, BlazeVOX Journal, and other journals. Ramos’ novelette, Where the Children Play, is included in Resilience: Stories, Poems, Essays, Words for LGBT Teens, edited by Eric Nguyen. Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems (Heavy Hands Ink, 2011), Ramos’ first poetry chapbook, was shortlisted for the 2011 Independent Literary Award in Poetry. Emma studies psychology at Marymount Manhattan College. When she isn’t writing or studying, Emma can usually be found drinking green tea and reading on her kindle.
Twitter: emmaedenramos

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Creators by Tiffany Truitt Blog Tour + Review

Creators by Tiffany Truitt
(The Lost Souls #3)
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction - Dystopia
Page Count: 400
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: April 28, 2014
Book One: Chosen Ones
Book Two: Naturals

Heartbroken but more determined than ever after a tense showdown in the woods, sixteen-year-old Tess once again returns to the safety of her community of Isolationists. Bolstered by new alliances and desperate to protect those she loves, this time she knows she can return stronger and more powerful than ever to take back what is hers.

As she trains in combat and grows more confident, Tess receives beautiful letters penned by her forbidden love, the chosen one James, from his prison in Templeton. He is now serving as a bodyguard to the creators—the team of scientists who created artificial life in the first place. And what he has discovered about the true origin of the illness that halted natural life could change everything. Enemy will become ally and death will bring new hope in this stunning conclusion to Tiffany Truitt’s epic Lost Souls trilogy.

Review: I was THRILLED when I received the email about this blog tour. (Yeah, I know that I say that a lot, but I was SUPER excited about this one!). Sure, I was a little worried since this was the last book in the trilogy and I had yet to actually begin the series, so I was not sure I would be accepted to do the review for the tour. Not only was I accepted though, but I was given all three books to read and review, and I could not have been more thankful and excited! I love dystopians, and this one seemed like it was going to be very promising. I am very happy to say that it did not disappoint. Not. One. Bit. 

I really do not want to give too much away, as I feel like everyone should read the books for themselves and experience the pure amazement that is this trilogy. Therefore, I am going to be very careful about what I share here, but also give enough information for you lovely readers to realize that you need to go on Amazon or B&N and buy the ebooks right away so you can start reading them NOW. (Even though I have the ebooks, I have every intention of buying the books in paperback, too. I need them sitting on my shelf). 

The beginning of the series starts out quite sad. Tessa, our main character, has to watch her sister die. You see, the Naturals are not supposed to have children, and if they attempt to, it will kill them. Her sister fell in love, though, and made the mistake of becoming pregnant. After watching her sister die, Tessa must take the position as eldest daughter in their family. She is branded and sent to work at Templeton where the Chosen Ones are bred and live until someone decides to take them for whatever job they need doing. When she begins working there, she runs into James. While he is a Chosen One, it is obvious from the beginning that he is not just like the rest of them, something that both intrigues and frightens Tessa. Honestly, I loved the two of them from the very beginning. 

Naturally, in dystopians where the government (the council here) is trying to have full control, things do not go right or well. There are a lot of secrets and shady things going on, and Tess realizes that there are some really bad things going on, which leads into the second book where she manages to get out of Templeton, but then has to deal with a new group of people. Honestly, I read the whole series within about two days, so things did begin to run together, so I am having a little trouble remembering what specific thing happened in each book. It doesn't matter though, the series was amazing, and that's what is important! 

Truitt did a beautiful job creating the world that the story takes place in. Every single bit of it was believable, which is the most important thing to me when it comes to dystopian novels. Of course, I felt horrible for Tessa as she went through so many things, and wish I could have been there to tell her things were going to be okay (does anyone else ever talk to the characters?). So many amazing, crazy, complicated, upsetting things happened in this series, and I cannot even begin to explain them all. While the ending was heartbreaking (and secretly what I hoped would not happen), I applaud Truitt for doing what made sense for the story. I will always respect that over taking the easy way out, just because it is what your readers probably want to happen. Like I said, this series is amazing, and everyone should go out and purchase it right this moment! 

Rating: 5.0/5.0

Book One: Chosen Ones (The Lost Souls #1)

Life is bleak but uncomplicated for sixteen-year-old Tess, living in a not-too-distant future where the government, faced with humanity's extinction, created the Chosen Ones, artificial beings who are extraordinarily beautiful, unbelievably strong, and unabashedly deadly.

When Tess begins work at Templeton, a Chosen Ones training facility, she meets James, and the attraction is immediate in its intensity, overwhelming in its danger. But there is more to Templeton than Tess ever knew. Can she stand against her oppressors, even if it means giving up the only happiness in her life?

Book Two: Naturals (The Lost Souls #2) 

 Tess is finally safe from the reach of the Council, now that she is living in the Middlelands with the rebel Isolationists. With James having returned to Templeton, she easily falls back into her friendship with Henry, though her newfound knowledge of Robert’s chosen one status still stings. Even surrounded by people, Tess has never felt more alone. So she’s thrilled when James returns to the settlement, demanding to see Tess — until she finds out that it’s because her sister, Louisa, has been recruited into Tess’s old position at Templeton, and that the dangerously sadistic chosen one George has taken an interest in her.

Tiffany Truitt received her MA in literature from Old Dominion University. Her debut Chosen Ones, first in the Lost Souls trilogy, is a searing look at what it means to be other and how we define humanity, as well as a celebration of the dangerously wonderful feeling of falling in love.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Xtra Special Book (See What I Did There?) #AtoZChallenge

So, the librarian at the school I work at and I have a really good relationship. (In fact, I helped her move around some shelves of books today during my conference period as she prepares for the end of the year and having a massive amount of books returned.) On more than one occasion this year (try 5 or 6) she had to have books sent from other schools to ours because we did not have something that I was desperate to read. She seems to know my taste at this point (which is really anything YA, on the older side). Last week, she came into my room and handed me the book This Star Won't Go Out. I was not sure what it was at first, but she explained that John Green was inspired by Esther Earl when he was writing The Fault in Our Stars (a book she knows I love), and this was a book all about her. I really enjoyed it, and it was certainly eXtra special. Keep a look out for a review to hit the blog very soon.

World Building #AtoZChallenge

I'm so frustrated with myself! I was doing so well with this challenge, and then I completely failed this past weekend. The post was supposed to be on Saturday, and then I completely forgot to do it. Then I was going to make it up on Sunday, and then fell asleep before I got around to it. Oops! So, I will be doing two posts tonight in order to catch up and finish on time. I really have enjoyed this challenge, I just wish I had been a bit better at remembering every single day.

One of the big topics of conversation that seems to be popular at the moment with books is the idea of world building. Perhaps I hear it so much since I read so many dystopian books, but I really like this concept. It seems so unbelievable awesome to me how much an author can come up with when they begin developing the world within their story. I love to see what they come up with, and wonder what it would be like if it actually happened at one point or another. I also think it is a very important factor these days; we want to believe in the setting of the books we read.

What about you? Do you think world building is important in books?

Fragile Line by Brooklyn Skye Blog Tour + Review

Fragile Line by Brooklyn Skye
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Page Count: 222
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: April 21, 2014

It can happen in a flash. One minute she’s kissing her boyfriend, the next she’s lost in the woods. Sixteen-year-old Ellie Cox is losing time. It started out small…forgetting a drive home or a conversation with a friend. But her blackouts are getting worse, more difficult to disguise as forgetfulness. When Ellie goes missing for three days, waking up in the apartment of a mysterious guy—a guy who is definitely not her boyfriend, her life starts to spiral out of control.

Perched on the edge of insanity, with horrific memories of her childhood leaking in, Ellie struggles to put together the pieces of what she’s lost—starting with the name haunting her, Gwen. Heartbreakingly beautiful, this poignant story follows one girl’s harrowing journey to finding out who she really is.

Review: I was not sure how I was going to feel about this book, if I'm being honest. Not because the synopsis did not seem intriguing because it definitely did, but I feel like I have read quite a few dark/deep YA books lately, and I was worried I might be a bit tired of them. Has that ever happened to you? Somehow, without even knowing it, you grew a bit tired of whatever genre of book you continued to read over and over again? I have actually recently read another book that had a character with the same personality disorder, in fact. Still, I knew that I wanted to give it a shot, and I was thrilled when I quickly fell into this story. It was hard not to like the characters, and to want to know what was going on with Ellie. 

I feel that Ellie was a wonderful lead character, especially in the fact that she had no idea what was happening to her, either. It was nice seeing that confusion and worry through her eyes, and I found myself worrying for her as well. It must be horrible, blacking out and not knowing why it was happening. It did take awhile for her to come clean about what was happening, and I think that is understandable. Not only had she done some things her parents would not approve of, and the blackouts tended to happen at those times, but she had to explain to people that something was happening when she blacked out, that she was doing things that she was not aware of at all. 

I love how realistic this book was, too. While she was dealing with a lot, Ellie was still in high school, and your average high school things were going on. Her boyfriend had a female best friend, one Ellie was pretty jealous of, and eventually caused her to do some stupid things and watch her boyfriend slip away, especially when he thought she was changing and lying to him about things. No one could blame him for any of it, of course, but it was also heartbreaking to see Ellie deal with the pain when most of what happened she could not control herself. 

I don't want to share too much because I do not want to ruin the book for anyone who wants to read it, but it becomes obvious after awhile that Ellie is dealing with a multiple personality, and that is what is happening when she has a blackout and cannot remember getting a tattoo or other things that she would never do. It also explains why a guy names Griffin is suddenly everywhere, including texting her, and believes her to be someone names Gwen. Brooklyn Skye did a wonderful job of pulling everything together very well so that it was believable, but also made sense. 

Despite all of the awesome things in this book, Shane ends up being one of my favorite people in the entire novel. While I really do like Ellie, there is just something so amazing about Shane. Sure, he goes through the parts where he is hurt and doesn't believe Ellie, but he has a reason for it. In the end, it is obvious that he truly does love her (perhaps I'm just a sap for this as I married my high school sweetheart). Still, there is still something to say about a teen boy who will stick with his girlfriend, even when she is going through something so drastic. This is a book I would recommend to any contemporary fan.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Brooklyn Skye grew up in a small town where she quickly realized writing was an escape from small town life. Really, she's just your average awkward girl who's obsessed with words. She writes young adult and new adult fiction. You can follow her on Twitter as @brooklyn__skye or visit her web site for updates, teasers, giveaways, and more.

Twitter: (two underscores)

Giveaway: $25 Amazon or B&N gift card -Winner’s choice!

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