Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: The Rivals (The Mockingbirds 2) by Daisy Whitney

Synopsis:

When Alex Patrick was assaulted by another student last year, her elite boarding school wouldn't do anything about it. This year Alex is head of the Mockingbirds, a secret society of students who police and protect the student body. While she desperately wants to live up to the legacy that's been given to her, she's now dealing with a case unlike any the Mockingbirds have seen before.

It isn't rape. It isn't bullying. It isn't hate speech. A far-reaching prescription drug ring has sprung up, and students are using the drugs to cheat. But how do you try a case with no obvious victim? Especially when the facts don't add up, and each new clue drives a wedge between Alex and the people she loves most: her friends, her boyfriend, and her fellow Mockingbirds.

As Alex unravels the layers of deceit within the school, the administration, and even the student body the Mockingbirds protect, her struggle to navigate the murky waters of vigilante justice may reveal more about herself than she ever expected.


Details:

Publication date: February 6th 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

The Elliott Review:

What I love most about this book is its idealism. As a teacher, it melts my heart to think of a group of students dedicated to nothing but simply doing the right thing. The fact that they have to do this  because their school turns a blind eye to everything causes me to take a look at how I deal with things within my own classroom.

The Rivals picks up the year after the events of The Mockingbirds take place. Alex is still with Martin and still coming to terms with the date rape that she was victimized by the previous year. She's focused on trying to become a survivor and to lead the Mockingbirds to do right by other students just like they did with her case.

The mystery of who is behind the ring of drug-taking cheaters is Alex's to solve, and with the Mockingbirds and their motives being questioned and challenged, the stakes couldn't be higher. Alex finds herself in question more than she would like, and the problem is that she doesn't have any easy answers. Again, these are questions that someone with a high moral code would wrestle with, and I love the fact that this book wrestles with these issues.

The subject matter and themes of this book are heavy, but it is an engaging read that I would recommend to anyone, idealists especially.

Young Adult Notes:

Date rape, drug abuse, slurs against sexual orientation, mild violence, and mild language.

Source: Thanks to Little, Brown for making this title available in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

In My Mailbox: ALA Craziness...


I was really excited to be able to go to ALA Midwinter last weekend! I was able to go to the annual conference in New Orleans this summer, so it was fun to attend here in my very own Dallas. My main partners in crime were my sister, Jackie (My Tower of Books), and my crazy bibliophile teacher friend, Tara. Since I'm currently pregnant and having joint pain issues, I was not sure how this would go for me. I definitely knew I didn't want to punk out, but I just had no idea how I would hold up.

Due to teachers having to work till unsightly hours, we arrived a half an hour after the exhibits opened on Friday night. I was about ready to kill something waiting in traffic, but we did happen upon some great reads that night and I saw a few blogger friends, including Arena (The Nerd's Wife) carrying her super-uber cute little baby around!! :)

On Saturday, we somehow still managed to be a little late, but again - this was a great day. We saw tons of our favorite bloggers, authors, and ... books! By this point, all the carrying of heavy loads around was starting to wear on me, but I really never noticed until I sat down. Like a person high on some substance, I had no clue about the pain because I was in such an altered state of mine (high on books, not drugs). I got to hang out with Kari (A Good Addiction) and her friend Kelly along with some other bloggers and the fun/crazy Mary Lindsey! I had to leave early this day to go to a wedding in Granbury, but I still had a lot of fun. In the end, it was probably good I didn't stay longer than I did.

This morning, my sis and I arrived bright and early, got some great books, looked around at some stuff, and then decided that we both probably should be elsewhere. The walking and carrying had finally taken its toll of me, so I left and came home and passed out for a while!

Take a look at what I got!!!!






Thanks to all the amazing publishers who provided these awesome books and to the publicists and other employees who put up with a huge barrage of bloggers with a mostly wonderful spirit... We really did our best to try not to annoy anyone.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Winner: Tempest ARC!!!

The winner of Tempest is:

Emily!!

The winner was chosen by Random.org. She has been contacted and has 48 hours to respond! :)

Thanks to all who participated! If you would like, check out my other giveaways... More coming soon!!

Review: Dead to You by Lisa McMann

Synopsis:

Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family. It's a miracle... at first. Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn't going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he'd be able to put the pieces back together. But there's something that's keeping his memory blocked. Something unspeakable...

Details:

Publication date: February 7th 2012 by Simon Pulse

The Elliott Review:

This is the story of Ethan's struggles as he is renewed with his family after a long period of time. His brother is angry with him for getting in the car with his abductors all those years ago and has a vendetta against him throughout the story. Ethan's own anxieties and hang ups further complicate family life to the point that the family is in a very rocky place.

Ethan doesn't remember anything from when he lived with his family, and he strives to recover this as he interacts with old friends and the people of his small town. Everything is complicated and difficult, leaving Ethan feeling like he doesn't belong. He also has varying memories about life with the woman who took him, and he can't help but feel toward her like he would toward his actual mother, which just adds even more complications into the mix.

This is a very interesting book, a quick read that delves into the psychology of what it is like to try to fit into your own family. The ending is a big cliffhanger that will leave readers gasping.

Young Adult Notes:

Mild language, sensitive topics.

Source: Borrowed

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winner: Large Box of Books Giveaway!!!


The winner of my large box of books is:

Kelly D!!!

The winner was chosen by Random.org and has  been contacted and has 48 hours to claim her prize!

Thanks to everyone who participated! Don't forget to check out my current giveaways!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Synopsis:

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Details:

Published September 29th 2011 by Dutton

The Elliott Review:

Again, Stephanie Perkins and her amazing writing have pulled me out of my genre bias to love yet another one of her books! I was hesitant to read this book because this genre really isn't my thing. I was a little more trusting since I knew that I loved Anna and the French Kiss despite its genre. I was, yet again, confounded by the amazingness. I love the way Perkins can craft a perfectly light-hearted story that melts my inner-adolescent heart while at the same time layering said story with depth of emotion and experience that makes the story that much more powerful.

I love the way readers get to see Lola grow from the person she is at the start to the person she is at the end. She's caught between her current boyfriend, Max, and her long-time crush who is back in town once more. Who she chooses very much hinges on what direction she wants to take in life, who she wants to be. Not an easy decision to make as a teen, but everything is extremely believable and realistic while at the same time being satisfyingly fluffy and ... squee-worthy! 

I love Cricket Bell! He's the perfect blend of nerdy, sincere, and trendy that makes him someone to swoon over. He endearingly helps Lola come to terms with who she is as a person, flaws and all, and to accept that person as she is. He's just a guy that a girl like me would actually want in real life in addition to being a great fictional character!

This is definitely a wonderful follow-up to Anna and the French Kiss, and it's one you won't want to miss if you have any sense of romance whatsoever.

Young Adult Notes:

Small amount of strong language, mild sensual scenes.

Source: ALA

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Blog Tagline Needed - please help!!!


In May I am going to welcome a sweet baby boy into my family, but before that I am going on maternity leave from teaching and not going back. I'm going to embark on the adventure of being a domestic engineer doing lots of on the job training. I'm super-uber excited about this because it's really been my main "career" dream since I was young, and I'm also glad to get out of a profession that I feel has let me down in so many ways. There are some AMAZING teachers out there that were born to be teachers, and while I have learned so much from teaching and ultimately become the best teacher I can be... it's just not something that I feel innately called to do and have had a love-hate relationship with for eight years now. If I had been able to pursue my librarian aspirations, I believe I would be telling a very different story, but alas... It is what it is. That dream's not dead yet - just put on hold for a while.

So.... My blog's tagline (TEACHER-LIBRARIAN-FANGIRL) is going to need a serious update in May. I'm not really sure what direction I should go with it.

Here are some options I was thinking of...
  • Strike through the teacher-librarian and then add a dangling little "and mom" off of the fangirl part. That way I show all the facets of myself, the reviewer. I'm sure as I start reading to my son, I'm going to want to review those books, too... so that will be a part of the blog.
  • Change it to "A former teacher-librarian reviews" or something like that; after all, I'm not going to be able to review without thinking of it from a teacher or librarian's perspective.
  • I'm leaning more toward changing it to something that doesn't involve my profession or status in life at all... like "the rantings of a crazed bibliophile" or "bibliophile on the loose." The only problem is that I would still like there to be SOME kind of an educational slant obvious when visitors come to my blog

What do you think?? Any suggestions?? Am I being too OCD about this??


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer


What happens when happily ever after…isn’t?

Delilah is a bit of a loner who prefers spending her time in the school library with her head in a book—one book in particular. Between the Lines may be a fairy tale, but it feels real. Prince Oliver is brave, adventurous, and loving. He really speaks to Delilah.

And then one day Oliver actually speaks to her. Turns out, Oliver is more than a one-dimensional storybook prince. He’s a restless teen who feels trapped by his literary existence and hates that his entire life is predetermined. He’s sure there’s more for him out there in the real world, and Delilah might just be his key to freedom.

Delilah and Oliver work together to attempt to get Oliver out of his book, a challenging task that forces them to examine their perceptions of fate, the world, and their places in it. And as their attraction to each other grows along the way, a romance blossoms that is anything but a fairy tale.

Details:
Expected publication: June 26th 2012 by Simon Pulse 

I'm DYING to read this book! Jodi Picoult is my #1 writing idol, and the fact that she has written a young adult book is just about too much for my simple mind to handle!!!

What book are you waiting on???

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Author Interview: Megan Bostic (Never Eighteen)

Today on the blog, Megan Bostic is visiting to answer a few questions about her newly released book, NEVER EIGHTEEN. I just had to chat with Megan about this book because it's topic is so close to my heart.

NEVER EIGHTEEN deals with an emotionally charged topic. How did writing it affect you emotionally?

Writing a book such as this is always an emotional drain. I honestly would get mentally and physically exhausted after a day of writing NEVER EIGHTEEN. However, I believe I write better when I am in that impassioned place with my emotions roiling. Maybe it’s why I choose to write difficult subject matter.

I read that NEVER EIGHTEEN was your NaNoWriMo novel in 2008. Did you finish the entire novel in one month? Did you have to extensively revise?

I did finish the novel, just over 50,000, words in one month. However, what you’ll read when the book comes out is very different than that original novel, thank goodness. I did extensive rewrites and revisions, fifteen to be exact, before landing my agent, two after. It’s a much better book than that first draft, and about 8,000 words lighter.

What was your path to publication like?

Slow at first, then gained speed toward the end. I had written a superhero series, finished in 2007. I received some interest from agents, but in the end no one wanted it. I probably have about 100 rejections on that one. Once I wrote Never Eighteen (then called Mending Fences, back in November of 2008, I decided to shelve the superhero and actively try to get NE published. I revised it, as I said above, quite a few times, then queried about twenty-five agents. I was about to give up and do another rewrite when a friend gave me the name of an agent I hadn’t queried yet. She loved it. I signed with her March of 2010. She sent it out to five publishers, and at the beginning of April I had a deal from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

What kind of topics would you like to explore in the future?

I love writing about teen issues. I have two finished YAs, one about a school shooting, one about a girl who wants to play high school football to win the affections of her estranged father. I’ve also delved into kidnapping, and am currently working on a story about a cutter. I have an idea for my next novel based on the tornado outbreak of this year.

Whose writing do you enjoy most?

That’s a loaded question. When I was a kid, I loved Judy Blume. She was my absolute favorite. There wasn’t much YA that I remember as a kid, except maybe S.E. Hinton, who I also loved. I went straight from that to Stephen King. If I were to judge my favorite writer by the amount of their books I’ve read, he would be it. I prefer YA now to adult novels, though I love a good mystery, Dennis Lehane and Harlan Coben being my favorites. Of the YA I’ve read, which isn’t a heck of a lot, mostly because of lack of time, I really enjoyed Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl, Gae Polisner’s The Pull of Gravity, Geoff Herbach’s Stupid Fast, Alissa Grosso’s Popular, Julia Karr’s XVI, and Chris Crutcher’s Deadline. I could go on and on, but those are a few of the favorites I’ve read the last few years in which the voices really stood out, and the storylines were evocative.

Thanks so much, Megan!

Don't forget to check out NEVER EIGHTEEN, everyone!!

Austin Parker is on a journey to bring truth, beauty, and meaning to his life.

Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. The doctors say his chances of surviving are slim to none even with treatment, so he’s decided it’s time to let go.

But before he goes, Austin wants to mend the broken fences in his life. So with the help of his best friend, Kaylee, Austin visits every person in his life who touched him in a special way. He journeys to places he’s loved and those he’s never seen. And what starts as a way to say goodbye turns into a personal journey that brings love, acceptance, and meaning to Austin’s life.



Follow Megan:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Giveaway: Large Box of Books to One Winner!!!

So... ALA Midwinter is coming up next weekend, and since I live in the Dallas area, I will be attending and finding some wonderful titles to read and promote. Add to that the fact that I will adding a sweet little bundle of joy named Evan to my family in May, and I have a serious problem... My library is an explosion of books, packing materials, bags, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Until I started cleaning it today, it kind of looked like an explosion worthy of hoarders. At least, my husband delivered the ultimatum that I had to clean.

Here's what I have available to one lucky US winner:



US addresses only, please.
Extra entry for tweeting about the giveaway.

Ends January 25th.

To enter, please fill out THE FORM below!

Good luck!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

First Come, First Served Audiobook Giveaway: AKA Library Cleanup Time

I have some extra copies of audiobooks that I have received for review that are not necessarily my "thing." I mostly read YA books, for one thing, and listening to audiobooks is a HUGE commitment because you spend a lot of time listening. I have received some great books that I know would make the right reviewer's day, though. These are some titles by some big names. So...

This quick audiobook giveaway is simple.

If one of the audiobooks below IS your cup of tea and you make your best good-faith promise to review it on your blog, I will send it to you!

All you have to do is be the first to claim it by posting your name, email address, and link to your blog below.

I can only ship to US addresses on this one.. Sorry!!!

Again, first come, first served. If you claim, please, please review at some point...




(claimed)











Again, remember - first come, first served to US reviewers who plan to review... Please leave your name, email address, and link to your blog to claim.

I'm not going to hunt you down or anything, but claiming a title is saying that you plan to review. 

Hope you find a good listen!!! :)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Genres - Which do you prefer??

I usually read books that have a paranormal or fantasy or dystopian twist to them. Looking over my books read in 2011, the majority of the books I read were in those three genres. We're talking not very many contemporary or historical books at all. To me, reading is an escape from the stress of daily life, and jumping into a world so completely different from my own makes for a wonderful time away from reality. Strangely enough, the few contemporary novels that I actually did read were some of my top favorites for 2011.

This year so far, I have read five books, and only one of the five has been paranormal. The others? All contemporary. Many of the others I have planned to read in the near future are contemporary as well. I don't know if the shift is in the publishing world - that more contemporary novels are being published or if the change is in me, tastes modifying themselves.

At any rate, I think it's a good thing to get out of your favorite genre for a while and taste the other flavors of the rainbow. What about you? What are your favorite genres??

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Books About Teens with Cancer

I'm going to be the first to say that I hate cancer! It has taken grandparents from me early, and I just recently had to watch my mom struggle through the process of beating thyroid cancer. She's cancer free now, but she's leaving in a day to go visit/help her sister (my aunt) who just had a single mastectomy. It seems like cancer has our family's number, so... I hate it! 

Anyway, that said, I am eager to read the books that have been coming out about teens with cancer. It's such a sensitive topic, but I think it's SO important that the issue is addressed. I haven't read any of these yet, but I know they will probably all be tearjerkers for me.


Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine - a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it's undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingoes in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe - in love, in herself, and even in miracles.

A debut novel from an immensely talented new writer, The Probability of Miracles crackles with wit, romance and humor and will leave readers laughing and crying with each turn of the page.




Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.


Austin Parker is on a journey to bring truth, beauty, and meaning to his life.

Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. The doctors say his chances of surviving are slim to none even with treatment, so he’s decided it’s time to let go.

But before he goes, Austin wants to mend the broken fences in his life. So with the help of his best friend, Kaylee, Austin visits every person in his life who touched him in a special way. He journeys to places he’s loved and those he’s never seen. And what starts as a way to say goodbye turns into a personal journey that brings love, acceptance, and meaning to Austin’s life.

Add to Goodreads 



How do you feel about reading books that touch really close to home for you??? Do you try to avoid them, or, like me, are you a glutton for punishment?


Friday, January 6, 2012

Review: The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Synopsis:

Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad's consulting job means she's grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she's learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place--possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home.

But in the year since her brother Oren's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as "Sapphire"--a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can't get the murder out of her mind.

As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "butterfly clues," with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld much closer to home than she ever imagined--a world, she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death.

Details:

Publication date: February 14th 2012 by EgmontUSA 

The Elliott Review:

I love to read books with OCD characters, so I couldn't pass this one up. Lo has various obsessions - counting, repeating words, hoarding, stealing. Basically all of these methods help her feel that everything is right. Since her brother's death, stealing and hoarding are the only things that help her cope. One night, while sneaking around houses in the rundown part of town known as Neverland, she gets more than she bargained for when she hears gunshots and later finds out that she was at the scene of the crime when it was going down. Lo is a well-developed character with strengths to compensate for the inherent weaknesses encompassing her OCD.

What I love about this book is the sense of unease. I was unsure of everyone in the book, thinking that Lo shouldn't trust them in her search for answers. For instance, there's Flynt, an extremely attractive and even sweet guy, who seems to have a connection with Sapphire and possibly to the crime. As Lo gets closer to him, I started freaking out, hoping she wasn't getting in over her head.

I love how each clue is unveiled, giving a better perspective into what happened to Sapphire, about how the justice system basically let her down. The tension gets really high as Lo comes closer to the identity of the murderer, finding out what happened to her brother along the way.

This book is an interesting read, a very great contemporary fiction break for me.

Young Adult Notes:

Some language, some sensuality, violence, mention of rape.

Source: Thanks to Egmont USA for making this title available at NetGalley.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review + Giveaway: Tempest (Tempest 1) by Julie Cross

Synopsis:

The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.

That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities.

But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler.  Recruit… or kill him.

Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

Details:

Publication date: January 17th 2012 by St. Martin's Griffin 

The Elliott Review:

This book has had so much good press so far and achieved so much success, and when I finally got to sink my reading teeth into it, I was ecstatic to find out why! First of all, I love it that it starts off with Jackson and Holly being together in college. That's something you don't see a lot in YA, so it was different and interesting. Jackson and his nerdish friend Adam experiment with Jackson's abilities while Jackson leaves Holly basically in the dark about what he can do.

When Holly is murdered in front of him, Jackson goes back two years in time and gets stuck. He finds out that his father has not been up front with him about his own birth and background, so in addition to getting to know the Holly of that time period, Jackson also seeks to find out the truth about himself. I loved that the entire book is from his perspective. He is a typical boy that tries to deal with his deeper feelings in typical boy fashion.

The pacing of the novel kept me breathless and guessing and reading as fast as I possibly could. I can definitely see why this book has already been optioned by Summit Entertainment. The fast-paced action mixed with the romance and feelings and interesting take on time travel all combine to be amazing in book form, and I believe some of the book's cinematic qualities would translate very easily into a movie.

I'm already dying for the next book in the series to come out!!!!

Young Adult Notes:

Some strong language, a few risque sensual scenes, violence.

Source: Thanks to St. Martin's Griffin for providing a copy of this title for a fair review.

Trailer:





Win an ARC of Tempest!!

Ends January 26th!

US only.

Fill out THE FORM below to enter!!

Good luck!