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Friday, August 29, 2014
Feature & Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read

This week's question: tell us about a book character you'd trade places with.

    I know this won't win points for originality but I'd trade places with Hermione from Harry Potter. Let me specify, I'd trade places with adult Hermione who's settled in her life and career in Wizard Law post- Battle of Hogwarts. Nothing would get me to go back to high school again, I don't care how magical it is, plus there's the whole Death Eater issue young Hermione deals with. Living in the Rowling's Wizarding world as an adult seems like a pretty good option. 

Here, have this picture of Emma Watson in a suit, or as you can think of it: business Hermione. 


Thursday, August 28, 2014
Sway 
By Kat Spears

Published by St. Martin's Griffn

Release Date: September 16, 2014
Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Disclaimer: Copy received for review consideration via Goodreads Giveaway. This does affect my opinion of the book.


In Kat Spears’s hilarious and often poignant debut, high school senior Jesse Alderman, or "Sway," as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want---term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions.



But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all?



A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion---until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.

Review: I was a bit leery of this book when I first picked it up. Though I love the Cyrano de Bergerac tale I'm suspicious of narratives where the bad boy is transformed through the love of a "good girl". Luckily, Spears's writing was skillful enough that I bought Jesse's transformation and the reasons behind it, and found the story, its characters, and its humor extremely engaging.

One reason I enjoyed this story so much is that Jesse himself. He's a complex character: not what you'd call likable being a drug dealer who casually uses the slurs many teens use (be warned), someone who has an understanding of how people tick and uses it to his advantage, yet has an inner store of compassion hidden within his self-loathing shell. He has a very singular voice. He's not a character prone to much self-reflection, preferring to take action rather than stew in self-pity. He has had some trauma in his recent past that he needs to deal with, but there are no whiny Holden Caulfied-like soliloquies from Jesse. This endeared him to me despite his many character flaws.  He's also sincere in his acts of kindness, once he resolves to make them. Rather than stunts to win the angelic Bridget's love, they stem naturally from the relationships he has developed.

Speaking of relationships, the main reason I found Jesse's change so well-handled was that it did not revolve around Bridget. She's simply the catalyst that causes Jesse to form real relationships with other people and deepen the friendships he already had. He finally finds people who don't view him merely as a tool to get them what they want. These include a cranky elderly man, the disabled children at the center where Bridget volunteers, and Bridget's younger brother Pete, who has cerebral palsy. It may sound like a particularly wacky after-school special, but Sway never falls into the pit of being trite or overly earnest. The friendship with Pete is especially complex. Jesse goes from using Pete for information about Bridget, to enjoying the way Pete looks up to him, to having a genuine interest in him as a person. They are honest with each other, with Jesse calling out Pete's childish resentment of his sister and Pete understanding Jesse enough to criticize his fear of emotional honesty. As for Bridget, she is more than a stock love interest. Kind, if perhaps a little naive, she troubles of her own. The romance it is understated and sweet without being cloying. 

I'd recommend Sway to any fan of contemporary romance who doesn't mind a main character who's a bit more morally ambiguous than the norm, likes first person POV, dynamic characters, enjoys a sprinkling of humor with their angst, and roots for the underdog over the captain of the football team.




Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This week: Top Ten Books I want to read but don't own: 

And two books that haven't been released yet:
Amity by Micol Ostow
Published by Egmont USA
My Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Disclaimer: Received for review consideration from the publisher via Edelweiss. This does not affect my opinion of the book. 

 For fans of Stephen King and American Horror Story, a gruesome thriller suggested by the events of the Amityville Horror.


Connor's family moves to Amity to escape shady business deals. Ten years later, Gwen's family moves to Amity for a fresh start after she's recovered from a psychotic break.

But something is not right about this secluded house. Connor's nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons and destruction. Dreams he kind of likes. Gwen has lurid visions of corpses that aren't there and bleeding blisters that disappear in the blink of an eye. She knows Amity is evil and she must get her family out, but who would ever believe her?

Amity isn't just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a bloody end as she's done before. As she'll do again.

Alternating between parallel narratives, Amity is a tense and terrifying tale suggested by true-crime events that will satisfy even the most demanding horror fan.

Review: There's plenty to enjoy in Amity, especially for horror fans. As someone who will watch almost any scary movie* and also loves Stephen King, this book was right in my wheelhouse and it certainly delivered. Inspired by the legend surrounding the Amityville Murders as well as various other horror books (Stephen King's The Shining, in particular) this novel provides plenty of creepy moments as it relates the story of two different families inhabiting the evil house. References and allusions to other horror works are fun and plentiful, but most compelling (to me) was the protagonists and the dual first person narration.

    Viewing the house through Connor's eyes serves as a great way to escalate tension, as the creepiness escalates so do the early hints that there's something off about this narrator. Connor also has the specter of his abusive father looming over his family as a danger separate from any kind of haunting. Gwen, the second POV whose family buys the house ten years after Connor's, was recently released from a mental hospital and struggles with the question of whether her horrifying visions are real or delusions. Often haunted house books & films can be frustrating because the problem can be solved simply by getting out of the house, but here the protagonists truly trapped. They're teens, thus their choices are defined by their parents. Connor must obey the whims of his father and Gwen's parents do not trust her credibility and are constantly monitoring her for signs of a relapse. They are left at the mercy of the house and its bloodthirsty machinations as the narrative draws to a conclusion that seem inevitable. 

    Much of the novel's  scares come from subtle yet uncanny occurrences: a open door Gwen was certain was shut**, feeling breathe on the back of your neck when there's no one in the room, but there's some more graphic horror imagery as well and it's used effectively. Overall I found Amity quit entertaining and recommend it to any horror fans looking for a fun read. 

*not every horror movie. The Human Centipede will never pass before my eyeballs.
**Coincidently the closet in my bathroom has decided to creak open on its own and the lights randomly dim. Fun times at 3am!



Monday, August 18, 2014


The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Reading Pile:


The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero 

Hopefully I'll finish at least two of these books and participate in a couple of challenges as well.

To all Bout of Books participants, happy reading! 

Update 8/23/14
  • # of books completed: 2
  • # of pages read: 1,034
  • Books read: The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud, The Jewel by Amy Ewing
  • 252 pages into The Secret Place by Tana French
The Spell It Out Challenge hosted by Kimberlyfaye Reads: 


J - Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
A - Across a Star Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
I - In the Shadows by Kiersten White & Jim Di Bartolo
M - Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell
E - Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman

Bout of Books: The Conclusion
  • # of Books Completed: 4
  • # of Pages Read: 1,678
  • Books Read: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing, The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co #2) by Jonathan Stroud, The Secret Place by Tana French, and Amity by Micol Ostow.
All in all I completed many books I was meaning to read (though I deviated from my pile) and had great read-a-thon.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books I'm not sure I want to read (for various reasons):



1. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson - This is a case of hype making me leery of an inevitable disappointment. I've been looking forward to this book for a long time, but some reviews I've seen recently from trusted sources have burst that bubble. I probably will still read it, just not any time soon. 
2. California by Edan Lepucki - Another recommended book with lots of hype, I thought the premise sounded great but many reviews claim it's very slow. I'll probably give it a try, but I'm not in a rush. 
3. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling - This is the kind of literary fiction I personally find unbearable, so as much as I love Rowling it'll never reach the top of the TBR pile. 
4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy - I started this but did not finish before it had to be returned to the library, I know enough about the ending that I don't feel the need to read the rest. 


5. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner - I didn't like The Maze Runner on a writing level but I am interested in the film. Maybe I'll give it another try.
6. The Selection by Kiera Cass - I feel I missed the window on trying this series before I felt dystopian burnout. 
7. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi - The writing style seems like it would get on my nerves pretty quickly, though many people seem to love this series and some things I've heard about it are intriguing. It's a maybe.
8. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - I bought the e-book based on a  deal but I'm ambivalent about reading it. *shrugs*


9. Spell Bound By Rachel Hawkins - I really like this series and I'm just procrastinating on reading the conclusion.
10. Snuff by Terry Pratchett - This may very well be the last book Pratchett writes starring Commander Vimes of the City Watch, one of my very favorite characters, and I'm saving it for later (perpetually). 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday: Trading Places Edition

Feature & Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read

This week's question: tell us about a book character you'd trade places with.

    I know this won't win points for originality but I'd trade places with Hermione from Harry Potter. Let me specify, I'd trade places with adult Hermione who's settled in her life and career in Wizard Law post- Battle of Hogwarts. Nothing would get me to go back to high school again, I don't care how magical it is, plus there's the whole Death Eater issue young Hermione deals with. Living in the Rowling's Wizarding world as an adult seems like a pretty good option. 

Here, have this picture of Emma Watson in a suit, or as you can think of it: business Hermione. 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Early Review: Sway by Kat Spears

Sway 
By Kat Spears

Published by St. Martin's Griffn

Release Date: September 16, 2014
Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Disclaimer: Copy received for review consideration via Goodreads Giveaway. This does affect my opinion of the book.


In Kat Spears’s hilarious and often poignant debut, high school senior Jesse Alderman, or "Sway," as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want---term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions.



But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all?



A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion---until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.

Review: I was a bit leery of this book when I first picked it up. Though I love the Cyrano de Bergerac tale I'm suspicious of narratives where the bad boy is transformed through the love of a "good girl". Luckily, Spears's writing was skillful enough that I bought Jesse's transformation and the reasons behind it, and found the story, its characters, and its humor extremely engaging.

One reason I enjoyed this story so much is that Jesse himself. He's a complex character: not what you'd call likable being a drug dealer who casually uses the slurs many teens use (be warned), someone who has an understanding of how people tick and uses it to his advantage, yet has an inner store of compassion hidden within his self-loathing shell. He has a very singular voice. He's not a character prone to much self-reflection, preferring to take action rather than stew in self-pity. He has had some trauma in his recent past that he needs to deal with, but there are no whiny Holden Caulfied-like soliloquies from Jesse. This endeared him to me despite his many character flaws.  He's also sincere in his acts of kindness, once he resolves to make them. Rather than stunts to win the angelic Bridget's love, they stem naturally from the relationships he has developed.

Speaking of relationships, the main reason I found Jesse's change so well-handled was that it did not revolve around Bridget. She's simply the catalyst that causes Jesse to form real relationships with other people and deepen the friendships he already had. He finally finds people who don't view him merely as a tool to get them what they want. These include a cranky elderly man, the disabled children at the center where Bridget volunteers, and Bridget's younger brother Pete, who has cerebral palsy. It may sound like a particularly wacky after-school special, but Sway never falls into the pit of being trite or overly earnest. The friendship with Pete is especially complex. Jesse goes from using Pete for information about Bridget, to enjoying the way Pete looks up to him, to having a genuine interest in him as a person. They are honest with each other, with Jesse calling out Pete's childish resentment of his sister and Pete understanding Jesse enough to criticize his fear of emotional honesty. As for Bridget, she is more than a stock love interest. Kind, if perhaps a little naive, she troubles of her own. The romance it is understated and sweet without being cloying. 

I'd recommend Sway to any fan of contemporary romance who doesn't mind a main character who's a bit more morally ambiguous than the norm, likes first person POV, dynamic characters, enjoys a sprinkling of humor with their angst, and roots for the underdog over the captain of the football team.




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books I Want to Read But Don't Own Yet

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This week: Top Ten Books I want to read but don't own: 

And two books that haven't been released yet:

Release Day Review: Amity by Micol Ostow

Amity by Micol Ostow
Published by Egmont USA
My Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Disclaimer: Received for review consideration from the publisher via Edelweiss. This does not affect my opinion of the book. 

 For fans of Stephen King and American Horror Story, a gruesome thriller suggested by the events of the Amityville Horror.


Connor's family moves to Amity to escape shady business deals. Ten years later, Gwen's family moves to Amity for a fresh start after she's recovered from a psychotic break.

But something is not right about this secluded house. Connor's nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons and destruction. Dreams he kind of likes. Gwen has lurid visions of corpses that aren't there and bleeding blisters that disappear in the blink of an eye. She knows Amity is evil and she must get her family out, but who would ever believe her?

Amity isn't just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a bloody end as she's done before. As she'll do again.

Alternating between parallel narratives, Amity is a tense and terrifying tale suggested by true-crime events that will satisfy even the most demanding horror fan.

Review: There's plenty to enjoy in Amity, especially for horror fans. As someone who will watch almost any scary movie* and also loves Stephen King, this book was right in my wheelhouse and it certainly delivered. Inspired by the legend surrounding the Amityville Murders as well as various other horror books (Stephen King's The Shining, in particular) this novel provides plenty of creepy moments as it relates the story of two different families inhabiting the evil house. References and allusions to other horror works are fun and plentiful, but most compelling (to me) was the protagonists and the dual first person narration.

    Viewing the house through Connor's eyes serves as a great way to escalate tension, as the creepiness escalates so do the early hints that there's something off about this narrator. Connor also has the specter of his abusive father looming over his family as a danger separate from any kind of haunting. Gwen, the second POV whose family buys the house ten years after Connor's, was recently released from a mental hospital and struggles with the question of whether her horrifying visions are real or delusions. Often haunted house books & films can be frustrating because the problem can be solved simply by getting out of the house, but here the protagonists truly trapped. They're teens, thus their choices are defined by their parents. Connor must obey the whims of his father and Gwen's parents do not trust her credibility and are constantly monitoring her for signs of a relapse. They are left at the mercy of the house and its bloodthirsty machinations as the narrative draws to a conclusion that seem inevitable. 

    Much of the novel's  scares come from subtle yet uncanny occurrences: a open door Gwen was certain was shut**, feeling breathe on the back of your neck when there's no one in the room, but there's some more graphic horror imagery as well and it's used effectively. Overall I found Amity quit entertaining and recommend it to any horror fans looking for a fun read. 

*not every horror movie. The Human Centipede will never pass before my eyeballs.
**Coincidently the closet in my bathroom has decided to creak open on its own and the lights randomly dim. Fun times at 3am!



Monday, August 18, 2014

Bout of Books Sign Up, Goals & Updates



The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Reading Pile:


The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero 

Hopefully I'll finish at least two of these books and participate in a couple of challenges as well.

To all Bout of Books participants, happy reading! 

Update 8/23/14
  • # of books completed: 2
  • # of pages read: 1,034
  • Books read: The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud, The Jewel by Amy Ewing
  • 252 pages into The Secret Place by Tana French
The Spell It Out Challenge hosted by Kimberlyfaye Reads: 


J - Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
A - Across a Star Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
I - In the Shadows by Kiersten White & Jim Di Bartolo
M - Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell
E - Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman

Bout of Books: The Conclusion
  • # of Books Completed: 4
  • # of Pages Read: 1,678
  • Books Read: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing, The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co #2) by Jonathan Stroud, The Secret Place by Tana French, and Amity by Micol Ostow.
All in all I completed many books I was meaning to read (though I deviated from my pile) and had great read-a-thon.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'm not certain about.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books I'm not sure I want to read (for various reasons):



1. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson - This is a case of hype making me leery of an inevitable disappointment. I've been looking forward to this book for a long time, but some reviews I've seen recently from trusted sources have burst that bubble. I probably will still read it, just not any time soon. 
2. California by Edan Lepucki - Another recommended book with lots of hype, I thought the premise sounded great but many reviews claim it's very slow. I'll probably give it a try, but I'm not in a rush. 
3. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling - This is the kind of literary fiction I personally find unbearable, so as much as I love Rowling it'll never reach the top of the TBR pile. 
4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy - I started this but did not finish before it had to be returned to the library, I know enough about the ending that I don't feel the need to read the rest. 


5. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner - I didn't like The Maze Runner on a writing level but I am interested in the film. Maybe I'll give it another try.
6. The Selection by Kiera Cass - I feel I missed the window on trying this series before I felt dystopian burnout. 
7. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi - The writing style seems like it would get on my nerves pretty quickly, though many people seem to love this series and some things I've heard about it are intriguing. It's a maybe.
8. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - I bought the e-book based on a  deal but I'm ambivalent about reading it. *shrugs*


9. Spell Bound By Rachel Hawkins - I really like this series and I'm just procrastinating on reading the conclusion.
10. Snuff by Terry Pratchett - This may very well be the last book Pratchett writes starring Commander Vimes of the City Watch, one of my very favorite characters, and I'm saving it for later (perpetually).