Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sentinel Blog Tour: Spotlighting Pure (Covenant #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout & Huge Giveaway

Today we are celebrating Pure by Jennifer L Armetrout in honor of the Sentinal (the final book in the Covenant series releasing November 2nd) blog tour.  Thank you to Val at Stuck in Books for hosting and organizing this tour.  You are a blogger Goddess!!!  There are several stops on this tour, so be sure to visit them all!  This series holds such a special place in my heart.  Whenever we had first started this blog almost 3 years ago, we stumbled upon a new author by the name of Jennifer L. Armentrout.  She was coming out with a new book called Half-Blood.  We thought it sounded amazing, so we requested it from Spencer Hill.  We were merely tiny babes at that point in our blogging career (if I can call it that) with no real expectation of actually receiving an ARC.  Then one day a little wheat colored packaged showed up in that mail with a return address for Spencer Hill.  Needless to say, I freaked out A LOT!  In the package was Half-Blood, and it became the first official ARC the YA Sisterhood had ever received.  I took pictures of the package, the book and even brought it all to a book club meeting that night to show all my girlfriends.  And, that was just the beginning of our love of all the JLA!

For out part in the tour, we are taking a trip down memory lane and remember book 2 in the Covenant Series, Pure.

There is need. And then there is Fate. 
Being destined to become some kind of supernatural electrical outlet isn't exactly awesome--especially when Alexandria's "other half" is everywhere she goes. Seth's in her training room, outside her classes, and keeps showing up in her bedroom--so not cool. Their connection does have some benefits, like staving off her nightmares of the tragic showdown with her mother, but it has no effect on what Alex feels for the forbidden, pure-blooded Aiden. Or what he will do--and sacrifice--for her. When daimons infiltrate the Covenants and attack students, the gods send furies--lesser gods determined to eradicate any threat to the Covenants and to the gods, and that includes the Apollyon--and Alex. And if that and hordes of aether-sucking monsters didn't blow bad enough, a mysterious threat seems willing to do anything to neutralize Seth, even if that means forcing Alex into servitude--or killing her. When the gods are involved, some decisions can never, ever be undone.

Barnes and Noble | Amazon 

We loved this book so much!  Be sure to check out our glowing review by clicking the link below.  We also had a little fun on the original Pure blog tour.  We hosted a Jennifer L. ArmenTOURNEY.  Some of JLA's characters joined out tournament and battled it out to find out who were the fan favs.  So be sure to go back and check that out!  The link is also below.

Here's a special little interview with JLA about Pure:

For JLA – Pure has been called Seth’s book.  Did fans reaction to Seth surprise you?  I wasn’t really surprised by the reaction to Pure because I knew that the book focused more on Seth than Aiden.

For Alex -  Knowing what you know about Leon, do you think there was more to him being the one to find you in labyrinth?  Oh, I’m sure there was more to it.

For Aiden -  By far, the zoo was the best scene in Pure.  What did you enjoy most about being at the zoo with Alex?  I loved knowing that I was doing something for her that made her happy. 

For Seth – That whole sleeping issue that you and Alex have in Pure, did you realize what was up or were you just going with it?  I would’ve just gone with it.  But, truth?  I knew what was up.


# 1 New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer L. Armentrout Lives in West Virginia.

All the rumors you heard about her state aren’t true.

Well, mostly. When she's not hard at work writing, she spends her time, reading, working out, watching zombie movies, and pretending to write.

She is the author of the Covenant Series (Spencer Hill Press), the Lux Series (Entangled Teen), Don't Look Back (Disney/Hyperion) and a yet untitled novel (Disney/Hyperion), and new YA paranormal series with Harlequin Teen.

Jennifer also writes New Adult and Adult romance under the pen name J. Lynn. The Gamble Brothers Series (Tempting the Best Man/Tempting the Player) and Wait for You. Under her pen name, she is published with Entangled Brazen and Ha


Be sure to pick up your copy of Sentinel releasing November 2nd!  I can't believe this series is coming to an end.  We can't wait to see what JLA has in store for us!

Sentinel (Covenant, #5)
It's a beautiful day for a war.

As the mortal world slowly slips into chaos of the godly kind, Alexandria Andros must overcome a stunning defeat that has left her shaken and in doubt of their ability to end this war once and for all.And with all the obstacles between Alex and her happily-ever-after with the swoonworthy Aiden St. Delphi, they must now trust a deadly foe as they travel deep into the Underworld to release one of the most dangerous gods of all time.  In the stunning, action-packed climax to the bestselling Covenant series, Alex must face a terrible choice: the destruction of everything and everyone she holds dear… or the end of herself.



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: Just One Year

Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Available Now

Reviewed By: Honorary Sis Sarah P.

The Sisters Say: Like its main character, the book takes awhile to find itself.

Just One Day. Just One Year. Just One Read.

Before you find out how their story ends, remember how it began....

When he opens his eyes, Willem doesn’t know where in the world he is—Prague or Dubrovnik or back in Amsterdam. All he knows is that he is once again alone, and that he needs to find a girl named Lulu. They shared one magical day in Paris, and something about that day—that girl—makes Willem wonder if they aren’t fated to be together. He travels all over the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to reconnect with her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question if the hand of fate is as strong as he’d thought...

The romantic, emotional companion to Just One Day, this is a story of the choices we make and the accidents that happen—and the happiness we can find when the two intersect.

This is the second time that skilled author Gayle Forman has followed up a winning female perspective with a sequel from the boy's point of view. Fans of the bestselling If I Stay found a worthy pairing in Where She Went. In fact, Forman has said in an interview that she hadn't originally intended to give If I Stay a sequel. But then she realized she'd left her characters in a very difficult place, and the need to follow up propelled Where She Went.

The same could be argued for Just One Day. That book, told in "Lulu's" perspective, sends the female narrator on a journey to discover why her single perfect day with Willem has done such a number on her confidence and direction. As she searches for him, she's really searching for herself. The novel is quite a ride.


The trouble with Just One Year is that Just One Day is its spoiler! Instead of picking up at the end of book #1, Forman traces Willem's year in much the same way--from the moment he loses Lulu until the same August day on which the first book ends. In other words, the narrative tension which pulls Just One Day along--the enduring question of whether or not she can find Willem again--is missing in book #2. Because the reader already knows the result.

Along the way, there is much to admire. Forman does good work with Willem's back story, weaving in his analysis of fate, accidents and happiness. Willem has issues to work through, including grief, his promiscuity, his anger at his mother. Those points are done up in the author's seamless writing.

But in the book's middle section, it isn't enough. Willem travels great distances to try to find his girl. Yet all those peregrinations in Mexico are likely to make the reader (or at least this reader) beat her forehead against the $17.99 hardback, as the near misses pile up. The point is supposed to be that Willem isn't ready to find Lulu at New Years. But the reader doesn't care enough, because she already knows that he won't.

So it isn't surprising that the book finally gels after Willem stops looking for Lulu. Reconnecting with his uncle Daniel and auditioning for a new play are dramas which carry their own tensions. And the themes from Shakespeare's As You Like It spice up Willem's interior monologue. The story pushes along in a satisfying way until the denouement on the last page, which mirrors the last page of Just One Day.

Whether or not there's enough resolution on that final page will vary from reader to reader. I know I was expecting more, even if Willem's final decision is quite tender. Romantics, fear not.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Endless Knight by Kresley Cole; Review and Theories!!!!

Endless Knight by Kresley Cole (The Arcana Chronicles #2)

Book received from author (Huge thank you!!!)

On Shelves Now

Reviewed by:  Middle Sis Jenn

The Sisters Say:  Enthralling, Seductive and Heart-wrenching, A series that I wish coud be “Endless"
In this seductive follow-up to Poison Princess, #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole takes us deeper into the dark world of the Arcana Chronicles.

Shocking Secrets

Evie has fully come into her powers as the Tarot Empress, and Jack was there to see it all. She now knows that the teens who've been reincarnated as the Tarot are in the throes of an epic battle. It's kill or be killed, and the future of mankind hangs in the balance.

Unexpected Allies

With threats lurking around every corner, Evie is forced to trust her newfound alliance. Together they must fight not only other Arcana, but also Bagmen zombies, post-apocalyptic storms, and cannibals.

Gut-Wrenching Treachery

When Evie meets Death, things get even more complicated. Though falling for Jack, she's drawn to the dangerous Endless Knight as well. Somehow the Empress and Death share a history, one that Evie can't remember—but Death can't forget.

There are so many words that I could use to describe the magnitude of Kresley Cole’s new series.  I could go one and on with the, as Evie says, “SAT words.”  But instead, let me put it simply.  This is a beautiful story of how love and hate collide, how truth and deception walk hand in hand, and how the past always comes around again.

When I first read Poison Princess last year, I just knew that this was going to be an amazing series; and I am so glad that KC’s second book didn’t fall into the sequel slump.  Trust me on this one, this installment is even more amazing than the first.  There is action in every chapter, betrayal around every turn, and romance that will squeeze your heart and warm your extremities!

Endless Knight starts right where Poison Princess lets off, and right away we see how Jackson reacts to Evie becoming the Empress.  I just love how KC is able to capture the emotion in this scene. 

This is what I truly am…

Jackson stumbled back from me, making the sign of the cross.  Just as I once predicted.

With that one gesture, he has broken my heart utterly.”  PG 1

I can just feel the pain as the boy she loves stumbles back in fear.  This was such a perfect beginning to the book.  The rain is pelting down, and we know that with the rain comes the darkness, just as Matthew predicted.  And be ready, because with the darkness comes anger, fear, betrayal, and blood.

I just love KC’s characters.  So many books have minor characters that are completely flat, but KC manages to breathe life into each of them.  Good or evil, I feel like I know them; and that just shows you how amazing of a writer she is.  While I really do like many of her characters, one of my favorites remains Matthew, the Fool.  I love how his jibber-jabber is both nonsensical and cathartic at once.  He says so many things that are poetic and disturbing, and if you are like me, you spend much of the book trying to decode each of his messages.  Then when it comes clear, Wham!  It’s like you finally found the missing puzzle piece that has been troubling you.  But then, you discover that another one has gone missing.  I want to go back and re-read this just to hear Matthew’s not so random advice.

There is so much action in this book that you will NEVER get bored.  Page after page is filled with either blood and terror, love and romance, or mystery and deceit.  I was so wrapped up in the book that when it ended, I wanted to tear my heart out because I needed more!  I am dying knowing that I have to wait another year for the next installment.

One of the best parts of this book is the increase in the amount of romance.  I am a romance buff, so when all the kissing started, you can bet I was fully focused!!!!  Minor Spoiler (though not really because the blurb talks of Death’s seduction):  There is a sort of love triangle in this book, but I really loved how it was done.  We see Jack and Evie’s relationship grow, and there are points where you really can see how much Jack cares for her.  But Jack isn’t the sole focus in this book, now we have Death.

Death and Evie share a past (again, not a spoiler as its in the blurb), and let me just tell you—I love the bad guys.   I love the passion that drives them, whether it be from lust, anger, hatred, or whatever.  It’s always so potent, and that just makes their relationships all the more volatile.  This is extremely true when it comes to Death and Evie, and I really loved getting to see glimpses into their past.  Furthermore, you really get to see Death’s true self, and I have to admit, I’m kind of glad I liked him (even with the death threats and what not).

Kresley Cole has a forever fan in me.  This book is nothing short of amazing, and I highly recommend it to EVERYONE!!!  Seriously, go buy this series now because it is a must read.  KC has created the most unique post-apocalyptic world I have ever seen or read about, and I love the idea of people being Tarot Cards.  It’s so utterly distinctive, and there is just so much symbolism and mystery surrounding each of the Arcana.  Her world is bloody and beautiful, and if I were to be plunged head first into an apocalyptic fight to the death, I would certainly want a few of her characters by my side.

Content Warning:  There are some more mature romance scenes in this book.

Favorite Quotes:

Said by Death to Evie:  “Your death is mine, which means your life is mine.”  PG 114

Said by Matthew to Evie:  “You are the card that Death covets.”  PG 195

“Empress?  You awake?—

I’m up.  Matthew, give me some good news.

--The snow hasn’t come yet.—“  PG 210


And Finally…a few theories I would love to discuss!!!  Let me know if you agree/disagree or if you have your own theories you want to share!!  (There are SPOILERS contained in these theories, so do not read further if you have not read EK!)


It is mentioned that there are 2 Arcana immune to Evie’s poison.  We find out one is the Ogre, but what if the other one is Death??  They both have water on their cards, and Evie is immune to Death’s touch—it only makes sense, he would be immune to hers.

It is also mentioned that there is an Arcana that will not be activated until he/she kills another Arcana.  What if that’s Jack, and that is why he is drawn to them and Evie?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton

Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton

Available Now

Reviewed by: Honorary Sis Sarah P.

The Sisters Say: Sweet lakeside romantic tale of first love

Chelsea isn’t looking forward to her summer at the lake. It’s the first time her family has been there since her grandmother died, and she can’t break out of her funk. But her summer takes a turn for the better when she meets a boy who works in the bookstore. Josh is cute, sweet, funny…and best of all, seems to like her as much as she likes him. As the days pass by in a blur of boat rides, picnics, and stolen kisses, she can’t believe how lucky she is. No one has ever made her feel so special, or so beautiful.

But Chelsea knows her days with Josh are numbered. She’ll be heading home at the end of the summer—and he’ll be staying behind. Will this be Chelsea’s summer of love? Or will it be the summer of her broken heart?

At fifteen, Chelsea does not have any experience with boys. And that’s putting it mildly. So the first bit of Fifteenth Summer is essentially a sweet and tender comedy of errors. There are more than a few laugh out loud moments as Chelsea tries to negotiate her feelings, and her inability to spend more than sixty seconds near Josh without either putting her foot in her mouth or running away. Or both.

While first love stories have been done before, the writing here is excellent. There are many carefully observed moments of first love which even the most jaded among us can appreciate. “When you see the boy you love through a crowd, he can look completely familiar and be a complete surprise, all at once,” Chelsea learns.

I’m a sucker for well drawn secondary characters, and the cast of Fifteenth Summer is charming as all get out. There’s a wise cracking father and two bossy older sisters. The bookstore dog, the owners of the coffee shop (who accidentally ordered ten times the useful amount of mayo and are determined to use it up by summer’s end) and the food snob popsicle guy make the town into a credibly quirky place.

Readers may be reminded of Sarah Dessen’s beach town settings. Yet this author has taken things in a more romantic direction than Dessen, and not just with the love story. We are treated to a romantic rendering of the small town bookstore, the blueberry festival and a marvelous invention called a lantern party.

Have you ever noticed how loooong the summers are in summer love books? The heroine can spend three weeks avoiding the hero, and yet somehow there are still days and lazy days left for staring dreamily into each others’ eyes? And then there’s still time for a big misunderstanding, for squandered August days of misery before the resolution? Yet in real life, summer ends the moment it begins. (Which is probably why I’m reviewing a summer read in October.)

But all is forgiven, because real life summers don’t deliver the sweet denouement that summer reads provide. Slipping into a slightly idealized world is the whole point of cracking open a book whose cover is dappled with light reflecting off the idyllic lake. So sit back with an icy lemonade and enjoy all that Fifteenth Summer has waiting for you.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
eARC received from Harper Teen via Edelweiss
Release Date:  9-17-2013
Reviewed by:  Middle Sis Jenn
The Sisters Say:  Okay, but didn’t live up to its hype
It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

I was looking forward to reading this one because I had heard that it was great.  Unfortunately, while many other reviewers loved it; this just wasn’t the book for me. 

My biggest problem was that the action was very slow up until the midway point.  I think I was over 200 pages into it before I became truly interested.  On more than one occasion, I thought about putting it to the side.  However, I wanted to finish it to see what everyone was talking about.  Overall, there was just too much down time in the plot.  I could have done with 100 less pages; I think it was have blotted out the dull moments and gave more emphasis to the important relationship being built.

Please don’t take this review as entirely negative because it is not.  I would give this book 3 stars because my interest level did pick up once I got to see more of the world that Sherry Thomas was trying to build.  The characters were fun, and while there was nothing special about them, I didn’t find myself not caring about their destinies.  I actually read the last part of the book rather quickly since the action picked up, and I found myself my interested in the outcome.

The two main characters are Iola (also known as Fairfax) and Prince Titus.  They were enjoyable characters, but they didn’t really stand out.  One good thing is they didn’t read as false, so I was never annoyed by them; I just didn’t really take to them all that much.  Iola was strong and stubborn, but I felt like we didn’t really get to know her that well.  Her emotions were not shown very often.  We get to see much more of Prince Titus’s emotions, and as a result, I did like him much more that Iola.  While trained in lies and deceit, he seemed much more real than any of the other characters.  I could see his fear and uncertainty, and for that, I enjoyed him.

While I was somewhat entertained with the plot, I was sadly disappointed in the weak ending.  It seemed like there were 350 pages of build-up, where there was going to be this epic battle.  Then, when the time came for said battle, it was over in a few pages.  There wasn’t much detail in it, and Iola’s break throughs were not a focus.  She is supposed to be this great mage, and yet, she wasn’t the focus at all.  It felt completely flat, and I was extremely disappointed.

Overall, I think fans of high fantasy will enjoy it, although there are many better high fantasy novels out there.  I don’t know if I will pick up the sequel to this one when it comes out.  I just finished the book about 30 minutes ago, so right now I think I’m a bit too close to my disappointment.  So, I’ll wait a bit and decide if it is something I care to try again in the future.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Blog Tour Review and Giveaway: The Dollhouse Asylum by Mary Gray

The Dollhouse Asylum by Mary Gray
ARC received from Spencer Hill Press
Release Date:  October 22, 2013
Reviewed by:  Middle Sis Jenn
The Sisters Say:  A terrifyingly disturbing story of one man’s love and madness
A virus that had once been contained has returned, and soon no place will be left untouched by its destruction. But when Cheyenne wakes up in Elysian Fields--a subdivision cut off from the world and its monster-creating virus--she is thrilled to have a chance at survival.

At first, Elysian Fields,with its beautiful houses and manicured lawns, is perfect. Teo Richardson, the older man who stole Cheyenne's heart, built it so they could be together. But when Teo tells Cheyenne there are tests that she and seven other couples must pass to be worthy of salvation, Cheyenne begins to question the perfection of his world.

The people they were before are gone. Cheyenne is now "Persephone," and each couple has been re-named to reflect the most tragic romances ever told. Everyone is fighting to pass the test, to remain in Elysian Fields. Teo dresses them up, tells them when to move and how to act, and in order to pass the test, they must play along.

If they play it right, then they'll be safe.

But if they play it wrong, they'll die

Elysian Fields—supposedly the perfect place to hide away from a worldwide epidemic.  But, take a look behind the curtain (or through a crack in a wall), and you will see that this world is the true nightmare.  Mary Gray has created a fantastic, psychotic thriller of a novel.  Think about those creepy scenes in a horror movie---an empty room, pictures falling off the wall, silent—except for the mangled music box slowly playing a childhood favorite in the corner.  You know that feeling you get—that sinking feeling that consumes your and fills you with fear?  That’s this book!!!  It will immediately plunge you into a abyss of perfect terror, and at no point will you ever feel safe again.

I liked “Persephone,” Mary’s main character for the most part.  I thought she was strong and smart, and I admired her for not letting this psychotic yet mesmerizing man tear her apart.  At the same time, I felt like she was very wishy-washy at times.  Her loyalties didn’t mesh with her feelings, and it seemed like, on some level, she was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.  She could see Teo’s evil leaking from every pore, but there was a part of her that still wanted him.  This was the part of her that really bugged me.

The best character in this book is, by far, Teo, the villain.  She is so well written that you can hear the inner workings of his twisted mind.  He was completely insane and creepy, yet seductive at the same time.  Not seductive enough for me to like him even an inkling, though.  He is pure evil, and Mary did a great job of showing how madness and intelligence walk the same line.

I loved the literary aspect of this book.  I am a huge fan of tragic love stories, and this novel takes them to a new level.  We see them modernized and manipulated into something twisted and sick.  What an amazing idea and concept!!!  I loved it.

There were some things that bugged me, though.  First off, the description says that Teo is the “older man” who stole her heart.  So, right away, I had this picture of an old guy in my head.  Creepy much.  Teo is actually only 24, so I don’t think they should have described him in that way.  He wasn’t old at all, in fact, he is supposed to be gorgeous—but I had a hard time moving away from the “older man” comment.

The other thing that bugged me was some of the pacing.  I wanted a quicker pace that followed Teo and Persephone a bit more closely.  It wasn’t a slow pace, so don’t think that, but there was just some down times that I wished would speed up.

Overall, this is a great and unique read; and I highly recommend it to fans of tragic love stories, old classics, and creepy psychotic thrillers!
Blog Tour Schedule and Links
The final dates and stops are as follows:

October 8 - Interview (Fantasy Book Addict - Stacey) http://www.fantasybookaddict.com
October 9 - Book Review (Books Live Forever - Jenea) www.booksliveforever.com
October 10 - Interview (Kiki's Bookshelf - Savanna) kikisdreambookshelf.blogspot.com
October 11 - Guest Post (The Bookshelf Sophisticate - Katelyn) http://bookshelfsophisticate.blogspot.com/
October 12 - Interview (Falling for YA - Emily) www.FallingForYA.blogspot.com
October 13 - Book Review (YA Sisterhood - Jennifer) Http://ya-sisterhood.blogspot.com/
October 14 - Interview (Fragments of life - Precious) Shusky20.blogspot.com
October 15 - Guest Post (Two Chicks On Books - Jaime) http://www.twochicksonbooks.com
October 16 - Book Review (Harley Bear Book Blog - Melissa) http://harleybearbookblog.blogspot.com
October 17 - Book Review (Lost in Believing - Alison) http://lostinbelieving.wordpress.com/
October 18 - Guest Post (Jessabella Reads - Jessica)  http://www.jessabellareads.com
October 19 - Book Review (Stuck In YA Books - Amanda) lovesbooksreviews.blogspot.com 
October 20 - Guest Post (The Book Goddess - Jana) http://jana-thebookgoddess.blogspot.co.uk/
October 21 - Interview (Swoony Boys Podcast - Meg) http://www.swoonyboyspodcast.com/

Rafflecopter Giveaway for one signed copy of TDA: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall Into Fantasy Blog Tour: Kristin Cashore, Author of Bitterblue

Welcome to Penguin’s Fall Into Fantasy blog tour. Join Alison Goodman, Morgan Rhodes, Kristin Cashore, Melissa de la Cruz, and Michael Johnston as they share what fantasy means to them in a series of guest posts throughout the week of October 7th. Today’s post comes courtesy of Kristin Cashore, author of the New York Times bestseller Bitterblue.
Mastering Details in Bitterblue
Kristin Cashore
One of the things I love about writing fantasy is that I end up needing to know the answers to odd and specific questions—the kind of questions you can’t Google. For example, it turns out that Google can’t tell you how much rope a nefarious lord can hide under his jacket during a state visit to a queen in a high tower. (My trapeze instructor, Kaz, helped me with that one, by letting me fool around with the ropes at trapeze class.) Nor can Google easily tell you what adjective describes a lord who’s been stripped of his title and property. (With the help of my friend Marc, I settled on “disennobled,” then ended up taking the entire line out of the book. That’s another thing that happens a lot: you take time to find the answer to a question, then the book changes and you don’t need that information anymore.) Another question that’s too overwhelming for Google: “If a government is comprised of two legislative bodies with equal power, one of which is made up of members of the nobility and the other of which is made up of representatives elected by the people, but there is no longer a monarch, not even a representational one—what would you call that?” Happily, my friend JD, who’s got a human brain (vastly superior to a search engine), did not find the question overwhelming. Consequently, on page 534 of the Penguin edition of Bitterblue, Bitterblue describes the new government of Nander as “a sort of . . . aristocratic and democratic republic.”
Bitterblue presented me with a whole range of weird questions I had fun asking my friends. Could a nine-year-old child, precocious in arithmetic, divide 1058 by 46 in her head? (Maybe.) If you entered a maze, put your left hand on the wall, then walked, keeping your hand on the wall and turning left at every corner, would you be guaranteed to find your way out of the maze? (Not necessarily.) If our real-world days were divided into thirty hours instead of our real-world twenty-four hours and our watches consequently showed fifteen hours, what real-world time would it be when the fifteen-hour watch said twenty-five past two? (Almost two o’clock.)
Some of these questions were more important to the integrity of the book than others, but I found myself treating each and every question, no matter how small, with respect. Little things in a book can make a big difference. And it doesn't matter to me that the amount of time I spend working on a particular aspect of a book be proportional to the space it takes up in the book. What matters is that I believe in all the parts of any book I'm writing, big or small.
One particular Bitterblue question was so much fun for me to think about, and provided so much entertaining conversation, that I want to share it with you in more depth. It hails from a scene near the beginning of the book, when a character is tasked with disguising a boat so thoroughly that people looking at it might not see a boat at all.
Here’s the question I posed to friends: “Could a small boat, like a rowboat, covered with small mirrors, blend into a river so that you might not notice it at first glance? If one were careful about angles and approach, could it even stay slightly hidden as it approached shore?”
JD’s response should demonstrate why I like to ask JD questions:
“What is the ambient light level in which this boat is designed to operate? Are we talking bright daylight, with or without clouds? Dusk? Deep night (with or without moonlight)? I find it hard to believe that this would work, unfortunately. One of the big issues is that mirrors are nearly 100% reflective (at all angles), while a water surface is nearly 100% transparent when you look straight at it, and it becomes more and more reflective as the angle away from straight-on increases. This is why you see dappled light bouncing off ripples in the river when you look across it from the banks, while staring straight down into it from the middle of a bridge leads you to see mostly the water, with perhaps a very faint reflection, depending on lighting conditions. And don’t even get me started about polarization! A boat with a bunch of mirrors would, I think, stand out, because (a) it wouldn’t ripple; (b) the reflections would not look the same as reflections from the water (due to being mirrors and not water); (c) the reflections would at least in part reflect the watcher and whatever was behind them; and (d) I think it would be obvious that the boat was above the waterline, the same way that you can tell that water is rushing over a big rock by the way the water humps up. I could imagine such a boat confusing someone, but not working as a method for infiltration. You might be better off inventing a submarine, a diversion, or hiding your characters in a hollow log....”
(JD later suggested the Pirates of the Caribbean trick of walking under the rowboat on the bottom of the river, even though MythBusters has proven it's not possible--which led to an excellent tangential conversation about exploding toilets and underwater escapes from cars on MythBusters.)
Lance’s response should demonstrate why I like to ask Lance questions:
“That sounds to me like a fundamentally empirical question. You get the rowboat; I’ll start collecting mirrors.
“It does seem to me that it would be practically impossible. Even if things were sufficiently shaded such that the mirrors didn’t catch the sunlight, it’s going to reflect things from all the wrong places. I think it’s going to look like an approaching disco ball.”
Of course, this made me want to write an approaching disco ball into this book (and every book), but, unfortunately, brought me no closer to a solution for my boat problem. Lance also provided a few links to photographs that made my day—and made me wish I was a visual artist, instead of being trapped behind words. For example, the invisible shoe and the man of mirrors(scroll down). He also provided a link to the Ghost Blind , a mirrored device for hunters that didn’t make my day, but that made me want to take it into Harvard Yard and have fun popping out at people.
Anyway. At this point in the conversations, it was becoming clear that my mirrored-boat camouflage wasn’t going to work. Luckily, Marc’s more encouraging response should demonstrate why I like to ask Marc questions:
“I’ve been thinking about this question all day. I suspect it is possible, but difficult, and would depend more heavily on lighting than on approach. Something covered with mirrors will sparkle in the sun, but if the entire river is sparkling, that could be okay. A large, leafy, fallen branch over the top would probably help.”
A large, leafy, fallen branch! Marc was a genius! At this point, I took out any language about mirrors and resorted to language about large, leafy branches.
Weeks later, however, the conversations were still going on, and Marc added: “Note that a well-designed boat can have a lot of its mass under the water. And like the blind, the mirrors only have to be on the front of the boat if you’re trying to hide from people on the shore you’re approaching.” To which I responded: “I took out the mirror language, but maybe I’ll take another look at it today. I could say something vague. When in doubt, I try to be vague.”
Ready for the final result?
Here’s an excerpt of Po speaking to Bitterblue on page 89 of the Penguin edition:
“Well, from what I gather, you’d be impressed with the way she’d hidden the boat. It was all rigged up to look like a big, leafy, floating tree branch…. It involved mirrors…. when we got closer and your guards recognized it for a boat, they were quite bowled over.”
So. Does that seem like an awfully big production for the sake of a few words in a throwaway paragraph?
If so, welcome to novel writing. J
(My thanks to Kaz Stouffer, Marc Moskowitz, JD Paul, and Lance Nathan!)
About Bitterblue:
Enter the Graceling Realm and let it work its magic . . .

When Queen Bitterblue took the throne of Monsea, she was a child, and her advisers ran the kingdom for her. Now she is beginning to question their decisions, especially how they handle the legacy of her father Leck, who who ruled through his Grace—a special talent for mind-altering—and his taste for darkness and violence. Bitterblue needs to know Monsea’s past to lead it into the future, so she begins exploring the city sreets at night, disguised and alone. As she does, she meets two thieves, who hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart.
About Kristin Cashore:
Kristin Cashore received her master's degree in children's literature in 2003 from Simmons College, where she was named a Virginia Haviland Scholar. She is a freelance educational writer who writes content for textbooks and teacher editions, as well as book reviews and articles on children's literature. She lives in Cambridge, MA, and has an incredibly witty, funny blog at: www.kristincashore.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Unhinged by A.G. Howard

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. It spotlights books that have not yet been released, but ones that you should pre-order today! This week's book that we are anxiously awaiting is UNHINGED by A.G. Howard.  It will be released January 7, 2014 from Amulet.
Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she's always dreamed of.

That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.

As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.

If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she'll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.
I absolutely adored Splintered!  It was definitely one of my Top 3 for this year, and I am dying to find out what happens next.  I had never been a big fan of Wonderland until this book, and now I am completely hooked.  I can't wait to find out what happens when Alyssa returns to the backwards world, and even more, I can't wait to get some more Morpheus!!!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Review: Period 8 by Christopher Crutcher

Period 8 by Chris Crutcher

Available Now

Reviewed by: Honorary Sis Sarah P.

The Sisters Say: A quirky, well drawn high school and characters which left us craving a more fully resolved plot.

Period 8. An hour a day. You can hang out. You can eat your lunch. You can talk. Or listen. Or neither. Or both. Nothing is off-limits. The only rule is that you keep it real; that you tell the truth.

Heller High senior Paul Baum--aka Paulie Bomb--tells the truth. Not the "Wow, that's an ugly sweater" variety of truth, but the other kind. The truth that matters. It might be hard. It often hurts. But Paulie doesn't know how not to tell it. When he tells his girlfriend Hannah the life-altering, messed-up, awful truth, his life falls apart. The truth can get complicated, fast.

But someone in Period 8 is lying. And Paulie, Hannah, and just about everyone else who stops by the safe haven of the P-8 room daily are deceived. And when a classmate goes missing and the mystery of her disappearance seeps beyond P-8 and into every hour of the day, all hell breaks loose.

Author Chris Crutcher began his amazing YA career thirty years ago. In fact, when I read my first John Green novel, I was reminded of Crutcher’s hard hitting individualist characters. My favorite Crutcher novels are Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes (you have to read it to understand the title) and Deadline. Both are moving books and should not be missed. His other two most frequently mentioned books are Whale Talk and Stotan.

Crutcher often writes about male athletes—solid people with real world problems. His swim teams, his runners and his basketball players frequently use physical exertion to beat the stupid out of themselves after an emotional upset. Even if you’re deeply uninterested in sports (raises hand!) there’s something very appealing about listening to the inner workings of a guy as he plunges himself into 50 degree water for a two hour swim after breaking up with his girlfriend. Or getting sweaty out on the court, looking for the meaning of life while shooting hoops with his best buds. (Yum!)

In Period 8 (Greenwillow 2013) there are plenty of comfortably familiar Crutcheresque touches. Paulie “Bomb” Baum is a long distance swimmer with a big problem. One recent, crazy night, a female classmate, behaving well outside of her usual character, convinced him to cheat on his girlfriend. In the first chapter, Paulie confesses and is promptly dumped. Hard.

Unfortunately, it’s all aired out during Period 8, which is a lunchtime confessional hosted by a favorite teacher, Mr. “Logs” Logsdon. (Warning: everyone in Period 8 has a nickname. Everyone. Even the principal. And there’s a big cast of characters, too.) To paraphrase Fight Club, the first rule of Period 8 is that you never talk about Period 8 outside its walls.

Logs is another Crutcheresque device—each of his books features a brave teacher (or coach) who is both unusual in his or her approach, and unusually close to the students. The teachers in Crutcher’s books are powerful, human voices—you won’t find any of the “mwa mwa, mwa mwap” teacher voices of the Peanuts cartoons here. They’re willing to wade into the thorniest ethical questions even after 3pm has come and gone, with messy and varying results.

In fact, Crutcher is at his best breaking down the myth that high school factions are inviolable. Even outside of the unique bubble of Period 8, our man Paulie has cordial relations with everyone from the nerds to the “thumpers,” aka the Christian youth organization. Crutcher's cliques never feel cliched, even as Paulie gives the “thumpers” the gentle brush off: “As much time as I spend trying to haul myself through the water, I’m suspicious of guys who walk on it.” Their reply? “See you in school, man.”

It’s a quirky, unique high school environment. There’s not a cardboard cutout of a cheerleader or a stoner in sight.

Unfortunately, the plot and premise of Period 8 are nowhere near as taut as Crutcher’s earlier works. Instead of the tight psychological dramas he usually delivers, this one devolves into a sort of thriller. But the bad guys (and there are many) have motivations which feel underexplained at best, and murkily realized at the worst.

Worse, the most vulnerable characters aren't given due resolution. Poor Star, and poor Kylie. After the dramatic climax, the reader is left to wonder about their outcomes. By the end of the book, when the main characters sum up with: “you gotta hate yourself for not getting to know them better,” it feels like a bit of a cop out. As a reader, I would have loved to know them better.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Blog Tour Review and Giveaway: Shadowlark by Meagan Spooner

Shadowlark by Meagan Spooner
eARC received from Carolrhoda Lab via Netgalley
Available Now
Reviewed by:  Middle Sis Jenn
The Sisters Say:  Fantastic, Fun, and Full of Adventure
Ever since she escaped the city within the Wall, Lark Ainsley's wanted one thing: to find her brother Basil. She's always believed he would be the one to put an end to the constant fear and flight. And now, hidden underground in the chaotically magical city of Lethe, Lark feels closer to him than ever.

But Lethe is a city cowering in fear of its founder, the mysterious Prometheus, and of his private police force. To get the truth about what happened to Basil, Lark has no choice but to face Prometheus.

Facing her fears has become second nature to Lark. Facing the truth is another matter.

Lark never asked to be anyone's savior. She certainly never wanted to be anyone's weapon. She might not have a choice.

I really do love this series. Even though I have read so many paranormal dystopian novels, this one feels completely different from anything that I have read before.  There is just something completely magical about it that sucks me straight into the world. 

This one starts just a little bit after Skylark leaves off, and Lark is out searching for Basil.  Megan didn’t leave any time to waste, as the action begins straight off for Lark and Tansy.  Even though it’s the creepiest part, I am fascinated by the “shadow people.”  I’m still a bit lost about how the lack of magic turns them into empty cannibals, but it still fascinates me, especially when they seem so normal at times.  Anyone could be a “shadow person,” and that intrigue really drives the tension in the story.

I did have a bit of a hard time remembering everything that happened at the end of the last book, so I do wish that Megan had put in a few more reminders to clear my memory.  I couldn’t remember exactly why Lark left without anyone’s help, and I had somehow forgotten that she wasn’t a renewable.  She’s a drainer, of sort, and the institute is responsible for her ability to drain the magic out of other living beings.  It took me a few chapters in before I realized this again, so I think a few reminders would have helped me get into the book faster.

One of the things I was worried about before starting was whether or not Oren was going to come back.  I figured he would, but I didn’t want to have to wait more than half the book for him to show up like you do in so many other novels.  Megan didn’t disappoint as Oren makes an appearance in the first few chapters!!! YAY!!!!  And he’s just as wild and mysterious as ever—gotta love him for that.  Oren doesn’t speak much, but there is still something about him that just steals my heart.  I think it’s his leap first, look later attitude when it comes to protecting Lark.  That instinct is just so heartwarming for me!

Be ready for some great new discoveries in this book in the city of Lethe.  I was completely drawn in to this underground city, and I was fascinated with the society that had been built.  Sinister and secretive, the city gives more questions than answers. 

Overall, this is a great second novel.  It is slow at times, but I actually enjoyed the pace.  It was rhythmic, and just seemed to work well with the plot.  Now, I just have to sit around and wait for Book 3—come quick, please!!!
And, of course...you need the password, right?
YA Sisterhood Blog Tour Password:  Renewable
Giveaway Time!!!!! 

 US/Canada residents can win a signed copy of Skylark AND Shadowlark.
International residents can win (unsigned) copies of Skylark AND Shadowlark sent via Book Depository.
The winner will also win either a query critique (if an aspiring author) OR a pre-order copy of These Broken Stars (her new series co-written with Amie Kaufman). 


a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Little Too Much by Lisa Desrochers Cover Reveal

In the follow-up to Lisa Desrochers’ explosive New Adult novel A Little too Far, Alessandro Moretti must face the life he escaped and the girl he loved and left behind. Twenty-two year old Hilary McIntyre would like nothing more than to forget her past. As a teenager abandoned to the system, she faced some pretty dark times. But now that’s all behind her. Hilary has her life on track, and there’s no way she’ll head back down that road again. Until Alessandro Moretti—the one person who can make her remember—shows up on her doorstep. He’s even more devastatingly gorgeous than before, and he’s much too close for comfort. Worse, he sees right through the walls she’s built over these last eight years, right into her heart and the secrets she’s guarding. As Hilary finds herself falling back into love with the man who, as a boy both saved and destroyed her, she must decide. Past or future? Truth or lies?


**I loved the first book in this series and am dying to get my hands on this one!  I dare you not to fall in love with Alessandro in A Little Too Far!  I'm anxious to see what lies ahead for him in A Little Too Much!**