Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Ramblings on Shine by Lauren Myracle

So the summer of fantasy and magic isn't quite shaking out as expected. Mostly b/c my library kind of blows and the wait between books is insane. (FYI- nice people but small inventory- I spend a crazy amount of time waiting for ILL's to come in...) As is I may have to wait 6-8 weeks for the next book in a series to show up. Which leaves a lot of time without books! So of course I found some other books to read!

By: Lauren Myracle
Release Date:
Author Website


When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author. (from

My Ramblings:
This book was a bit of a departure for me, I've been reading a lot of Fantasy and Paranormal books lately (some veering firmly into Sci-Fi) so changing gears and going with a Realistic Fiction book was a really nice change of pace. I'll be honest in why I grabbed the book. The cover. It's beautiful. The one flower about to bloom, the desolate landscape in the background. I didn't even read the jacket before checking it out. The book definitely lived up to the cover. 

This book centers on a young girl named Cat growing up in a painfully small town where everyone is in your business and there is no room for anyone who is different. Everyone has secrets. Cat's secret has pulled her away from her friends and family and turned her into a shell of who she used to be. When her former best friend is brutally assaulted her world is shaken and she emerges with a mission. She has to find out who would hurt Patrick and why, and in doing so she takes a hard look at her town, her friends and herself. 

This book is really beautifully written. The story jumps around some. As it moves forward, we also see the events that led to Cat's withdrawal from her friends and family, and how her life changed after. We also catch glimpses of Patrick's life as well as Cat's bother and friends. In the end we get a very clear picture of not only who these people are, but how they got there. Everyone knows people like this. The big brother who struggles with protecting his siblings while still maintaining his reputation. The big man on campus who thinks he can take whatever he wants no matter the consequences. The kid who is so comfortable in his own skin that he doesn't care what others think. The one who is so ashamed of who he is that he spends his whole life fighting it. The broken girl who just needs a chance to find her way again. The small town where it's so hard to   stay, but where you can't imagine leaving either. This book is a slice of life, a specific story in a specific place and time, but it could be anywhere and that's what makes it powerful. 

Sure I had suspicions as to who had assaulted Patrick before the big reveal, but there was enough doubt that it's didn't spoil it. So, I won't give anything away here either. It's worth reading and discovering for yourself. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Ramblings on Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

Dear Chain Reaction (and by extension Simone Elkeles), I love you. Not in a creepy way, but in a "I instituted a book buying ban but broke it for you because I simply couldn't wait until my notoriously slow library got you in." In other words, I love you enough to crack open the wallet and own you. (Errr... this keeps getting stranger, I think I'll move on). Although before I jump into the meat of this post I do have to give credit where credit is due and say thank you to MA from EFG who insisted I read Elkele's How to Ruin series- she was right, I loved them and now I'm hopelessly addicted to Elkeles' books. The only course of action is to ramble on about this addiction and do my best to make sure you guys read all of Elkeles books too. So here we go....

Chain Reaction
By: Simone Elkeles
Release Date: August 16, 2011
Author Website

Luis Fuentes has always been sheltered from the gang violence that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. But that didn’t stop him from taking risks—whether he’s scaling a mountain in the Rockies or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis can’t stop looking for the next thrill. 

Nikki Cruz lives her life by three rules—boys lie to get their way, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you,” and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Her parents may be from Mexico, but as a doctor’s daughter, she has more in common with her north-side neighbors than the Latino Blood at her school. Then she meets Luis at Alex’s wedding, and suddenly, she’s tempted to break all her rules. Getting Nikki to take a chance on a southsider is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by Chuy Soto, the new head of the Latino Blood. When Chuy reveals a disturbing secret about Luis’s family, the youngest Fuentes finds himself questioning everything he’s ever believed to be true. Will his feelings for Nikki be enough to stop Luis from entering a dark and violent world and permanently living on the edge?

My Ramblings:
As already mentioned, I loved this book. I love the other books in this series (Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction). What Elkeles does is pretty amazing- meaning she writes realistic books about teens, and she writes them well. She doesn't shy away from the worst there is out there. Through the Fuentes boys, in this book specifically Luis, we see how no matter how much you want a better life, sometimes circumstances pull you back under. We see gang activity, shootings, drug deals gone wrong and a huge amount of cursing. We also see kids having sex for all the wrong reasons. Still, for every harsh reality we also see the best of humanity on display. We get to see true love blossoming (in all it's awkward and dramatic glory) and we see a family who sticks together against all odds and who would literally die for each other if it came down to it. Most importantly, we see that there is always hope. 

As always I'm going to start with the negative and end on a high note. A really minor thing made me cringe, and I hate to mention it, but I feel like I probably should. Here it is... Paco, Alex and Brittney's kiddo is two and in the book it's stated that he smiles at Luis with his four tooth grin. Now I have a two year old- and she's had a full mouth of chompers for a while now- so that was something that made me wonder. (did I miss something here?) It certainly didn't ruin the book or anything, but Elkeles is one of those authors that I feel does an insane amount of research for her books (I've seen the pictures of her riding around with cops and in an interview she talked about visiting prisons) and this little thing struck me as out of character. Anywho- minor issue in a great book, so let's commence with the good stuff!

This book is told in alternating points of view, this time Luis (the youngest Fuentes) and Nikki and much like the other books we see how they meet, how they challenge each other, fight, love and eventually come out better people. I don't want to give any of the story away (I want you to go read it- like now) so I'm going to refrain from gushing about every little plot point and story line, but lets just say there is a lot of action, some devastating heart break, some laughs and some really, really good loving. 

Not for nothing, but Elkeles is a master at a few things- accuracy, humor and love. And by love I mean everything make out sessions and sex scenes to proposals and weddings and happily ever after- she...uh... nails it. 

So, the long and the short of it is that this is a great third book in a great series from a great author. If you haven't read Elkeles' books yet, you really should get on it! Oh, and if you ever get the chance to see Elkeles in person, do that too. She is a great presenter and a lot of fun. 

I'm going to leave you with the book trailer for Chain Reaction... it's a good one (as are all her other book trailers)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Ramblings on Why this Week is Awesome!

Some very cool stuff happened in the last few days... some book related, some not, but all worth mentioning. Don't fret (I know you aren't)- a book review is coming soon! I just finished Simone Elkeles' Chain Reaction, I need a hot (and I mean hot) second to process it all and then I'll be back to share my ramblings with all you. First though... why this week rocks. 


1. I won TWO contests. One bookish, one not. One that I knew I was getting (based on when I entered), one I had no clue I was getting.

Contest one was from Elkeles herself as part of her Chain Reaction Release date festivities. All I had to do was post a picture of me with Chain Reaction. If I was one of the first 50 I would win an autographed picture of the Fuentes brothers. First I was bummed. I didn't have Chain Reaction. Then I got an email from BN- turns out I pre-ordered the book months ago and it was waiting patiently on the Nook to be read! So I snapped a shot, posted to Facebok and was in line for a picture.

(not sure why I look so smug here- I just do)

This means I get a picture of some sort signed by these three young men. Well worth sharing a crappy picture of myself with the internet, right? 

By the way- have you read these books? If not, you should. Like now. And while you are at it, go get all her other books, and also, if you have the chance to see her in person, get on that too. I kid you not she is the funniest person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I won't even blame you if you stop reading this post to go do it. (although fair warning- there's Joey Lawrence in the next section. So you know, you'd be missing out on that.)

Contest 2 has zilch to do with books- but it does have to do with shoes, and who doesn't like that. Right? Anywho- my favorite brand of shoe is Keen. These are not sexy, man killer shoes. These are I'm going to wear them everyday while I chase a toddler shoes. Also, climb some mountains and play in the mud and water shoes. There are 3 people in my house- there are 8 pairs of Keens. My love for this brand clearly overpowers the purse-strings every time they send me an email. Yesterday I captioned a picture on twitter and low and behold I won a pair of Keens. I've been coveting these boots for MONTHS. I ordered them this morning...FOR FREE. So yeah-- awesome :)


2. And now for what is clearly the most awesome portion of this week (although free stuff is hard to top). Yesterday I got an email from twitter. It was a generic "so-and-so is now following you" blah-blah-blah. I generally check the persons profile- see if it's someone worth following back and the delete the email. This is the notice I got yesterday....

Joey Lawrence as in "WHOA" was following me on twitter. I don't know why. I don't follow him (I'm not overly sure I even like him...he'll probably unfollow me now). Still- as a child who grew up on Blossom and TeenBeat, this is inexplicably cool. I have a few theories as to where the guy even found me. One is that he has a love for reading and found me that way...this is obviously a long shot. Maybe his twitter account was hacked and for reasons only known to the person who did, I was chosen as part of some nefarious plan and thus was followed- this is also silly. My last theory, which I almost love more then the fact that he's following me is that he twitter stalks the NKOTB twitter accounts and snags up unsuspecting fans to follow that way. I tweeted several NKOTB related tweets in the last few week and suddenly former teen heart-throb Joey Lawrence is all over it. Coincidence? I think not. Although, if this theory is true, um... there's no other way to say it, but dude...lame. Maybe if Joey Lawrence is reading this post (as I will be tweeting a link) he can give me the real deal- but until then I will simply say he is following me because I am awesome (obviously). 

Furthermore- I prefer to believe that it's Blossom-era Joey Lawrence following me and not Melissa and Joey-era Joey. For obvious reasons and not just the hair. I mean come-on. Look at this vest:

(I mean really look at this vest. It's like Aladdin meets Tiger Beat and is clearly all awesome)


So that is how this week has gone so far, and it's only Wednesday. Clearly I should be out buying a lotto ticket or something. *Sigh* Now I'm off to work on real book blogging stuff... you know, reviews and what not. Stay tuned for Chain Reaction, George RR Martin's Clash of Kings and Lisa McMann's The Unwanteds

Hoping everyone else's week is loaded with awesome too!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Ramblings About Expectations...

... or where I ramble on about two books instead of one. 

So this past week I read two books, Rampant by Diana Peterfreund and Demon Girl by Penelope Fletcher. Rampant I bought at the store, mostly because the cover was pretty kick-ass (I mean, swords and unicorns. I'm in.) Demon Girl I had grabbed up for free for the nook a few months ago and it's been just sitting on there waiting to be read. I had high expectations for Rampant, I'd heard some great stuff about it, the ratings and reviews on GoodReads were pretty positive, and after reading the synopsis I was pretty stoked to dive in. Demon Girl on the other hand I had no expectations for. I hadn't heard anything about it and hadn't even looked it up on GoodReads. Needless to say, it didn't really have anything to live up to. Now here's the thing about expectations, they are usually unattainable. Occasionally a book will totally live up to the hype, but it's rare. Look at some of the great series' whose final entry falls short for one reason or another (ahem...Mockingjay). The chance for disappointment is huge. Now, having no expectations? There's really no where to go but up. Either the book is just meh, which isn't a let down since you weren't expecting anything to begin with, or it exceeds expectations and you are pleasantly surprised. It's probably easy to see where I'm going with this as it pertains to Rampant and Demon Girl but I'll let the reviews speak for themselves. Fair warning though- there will be some spoilers in these reviews, I couldn't really get around it, and since these are not new releases I think it's fair game. So let's get to it...

By: Diana Peterfreund
Release Date: August 2009
Author Website

Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns...

Real unicorns are venomous, man-eating monsters with huge fangs and razor-sharp horns. Fortunately, they've been extinct for a hundred and fifty years.

Or not.

Astrid had always scoffed at her eccentric mother's stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend—thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to the prom—Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.

However, at the cloisters all is not what it seems. Outside, the unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from the crumbling, bone-covered walls that vibrate with a terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to—perhaps most dangerously of all—her growing attraction to a handsome art student ... an attraction that could jeopardize everything.

My Ramblings:
So, as you may have guessed by now this book fell way short for me. I was excited to read it, I liked the idea that we were going to see unicorns in a new light and I especially liked that the main character, Astrid's, path was dictated by the life of Alexander the Great. I saw so many cool ways this could go. And go they did. I was really into this book for about 90% of the pages. 

To start I really liked the mythology behind who the unicorn hunters were, that they were descendants of Alexander the Great who had a great war horse, which was actually a unicorn. I liked how that whole plot line played out, the interweaving of Alexander and his horse, the mythology surrounding Diana and the virgin hunters and then how these girls are called upon to take up their place in the line of hunters when the unicorns re-emerge. Peterfreund does a phenomenal job creating this world, I felt like I could very clearly picture everything from Astrid and Giovanni to the Cloisters to the different types of unicorns. I never felt the need to page back and remind myself which was which- from the Zhi to the Karkadann I got completely what they were and what they looked like. Each hunter was well thought out and their reasons for being there played out nicely. I was completely with them as they struggled to become not just good hunters, but good unicorn hunters and as they   contemplated what being a hunter meant. It was all very well done and then, for me, it crumbled. 

Going into the last section I felt like there were a lot of loose ends. What ever became of Brandt, Astrid's sort of boyfriend who was attacked by a zhi and then miraculously cured by a unicorn poison remedy and then subsequently disappeared? To me it seemed like it was heavily hinted that the Gordian, who was bankrolling the hunters training may have taken him to perform tests on him. How about Seth, the seemingly good guy who we end up finding out was being paid by Gordian to deflower Astrid's cousin? He also disappears, but to where. What of the other hunters that the Gordian is supposedly keeping and running tests on? We know one was sent in to be a spy at the Cloisters (she changed sides), but what of the others? These are just three plot lines that are left completely unanswered. The final battle is supposed to be epic, but to me it was an epic let down. There was none of the gore and violence we saw earlier in the book, I wanted to see the girls really fight, but instead it seemed like they just walked on in and got down to slaughtering the unicorns. It ends and the head of The Gordian is taken out by the Karkadann and then it's over. I finished it and literally thought "Huh. So that was odd." Not the best way to end a book. 

Others loved this book, so it's entirely possible I missed something, or that these things will be answered in the sequel, but on it's own I thought this book could have been great if it wasn't for these few things that closed the book out. (I'll talk about sequels in a minute)

Demon Girl
By: Penelope Fletcher
Release Date:
Author Website

Rae Wilder has problems.... Supernatural creatures swarm the earth, and humanity is on the brink of extinction. Stalked by a handsome fairy who claims she is like him, demonkind, Rae thinks maybe it was a mistake breaking the rules by going over the Wall into demon territory. Plunged into a world of dark magics, fierce creatures, and ritual sacrifice, she is charged with a guarding a magical amulet. The changes to her mind and body are startling, but rather than accept her purpose she struggles against who she is destined to be. Throw in a big lust for a vampire who can't keep his hands off her, and life starts to get complicated. Rae is forced to make the ultimate choice: to live and die human, or embrace her birth-right and wield magics that could turn her into something wicked, a force of nature nothing can control.

My Ramblings:
As noted I had zero expectations going into this book. I picked it for three reasons. 
1. Cool cover. 
2. It's YA Paranormal/Dystopian 
3. It was free. 

That simple. I grabbed it several months ago and let it sit on the Nook for a rainy day. To be sure there were some things about this book that I wasn't a huge fan of. I know formatting is sometimes not the authors fault with eBooks, but there was definitely some wonkiness going on. Random paragraph breaks and extra letters floating around here and there. I've taken other authors to task over things that could be fixed with better editing so it's only fair I mention it here, but honestly, the issues were few and far between, and it didn't really take away from the experience at all. So with that out of the way, did Demon Girl exceed expectations? Absolutely. This was a really interesting story that mashed together dystopian (which I love) and the supernatural (which I also love). 

Our main character is Rae and she is a bit of an odd ball. She's an orphan, in training to be a cleric (aka Demon Hunter) and, oh yeah, she also happens to be a demon. I liked that Fletcher jumped right in with the fact that Rae is a demon. There was no beating around the bush, no "is she or isn't she", just Rae is a demon, the worlds about to go to hell in a hand basket (again), so what is she going to do about it. I really appreciate that. That being said, I would have liked a little more background on some of it. There were a few moments where I stopped and thought "huh?" but all in all it was well done.

So to the story, the Rupture was an event where the balance of power tilted and vampires began eradicating humans who began walling themselves off for protection. Rae lives and trains in one of those enclosures, but ventures outside to run despite the dangers of demons. It's outside where she meets Breandon, a fairy who revels to her that she is a fairy as well. Then her world pretty much spirals out of control as various demons come out of the woodwork and they all want something from her. She's bonded to Breandon, she has some crazy attraction/attachment to Tomas (a vampire) and the various fairy factions all want her on their side as a new war flares up. She not only has to deal with understanding who and what she is, she has to decide what her place will be as the power struggle comes to a head. Another thing I appreciated was that Fletcher didn't shy away from taking out a character in the process of building up the tension. Violence wasn't hinted at, it was shown. Fletcher did a great job at showing the good, the bad and the ugly of what life post-Rupture would be like. 

And now the so what moment of this post...

So what does all this mean? Well, I guess what struck me was how expectations really change how I look at a book. I'm not trying to compare the books in any way, since they are really too totally different stories, but how I went into them certainly is worth thinking about. It's possible that Rampant never stood a chance with me, with what others were saying any little thing would mean that it simply couldn't live up. The fact that there were some fairly big things missing meant that, for me, it was a huge let down. Demon Girl on the other hand couldn't really fail. Even with the minor issues, it still was better then expected. Had I gone into both expecting nothing, then both may have been seen as successful. The opposite applies as well, if both were supposed to be fabulous then any issue in either would have resulted in my disappointment. It's funny how expectations can do that. 

Awhile ago I mentioned sequels- and I'll make one brief observation about those before I end this colossal post and call it a night. Both Rampant and Demon Girl are the first book in a series. Book two in both are out now. My library has neither, so if I want to read them and find out what happens I have to purchase it.  I already bought Demon Day for my Nook (it was $2.99), I might not read it right away, but I intend to find out what happens next. The sequel to Rampant, Ascendant, is also available for the Nook ($6.99) but I just couldn't buy it, no matter how badly I want to know if those loose ends are ever tied up. I felt like the level of disappointment that would occur if I spent more money and still was left empty-handed would be too much. My expectations have now flipped. I fully expect Demon Day to live up to Demon Girl, so I'm willing to pay for it. I expect nothing from Ascendant, if I get the chance to read it for free (come on library!) I will and hope that it leaves me pleasantly surprised.  

So what do you guys say? Do you hate it when books just don't live up to the hype or do you ignore the hype completely (which is seriously hard to do!)? And finally- want to give any of these books a read? Head to the library, or your local bookstore and see what you think!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Kids on the Block

So every once in a while I take a step outside of the land of books and write about something else. Once I wrote about Garrett Hedlund and whether the movie Country Strong was worthy of seeing in the theater (verdict? NO), another time I wrote about my horse- today though I'm going to write about a slice of my childhood that has amazingly become part of my adulthood (how often does that happen?). Of course, I'm talking about New Kids on the Block. The first concert I ever went to (that wasn't Raffi or Sharon, Lois and Bram) was New Kids on the Block. I was 9-ish and I was obsessed. I loved me some Jonathan Knight. I went on to love Backstreet Boys and NSync, but NKOTB was always #1. Then, as luck would have it, they got back together and I got to see them in a small venue in my hometown with the same person I saw them with when I was nine.

Then- as if life couldn't get any better, not only did they go back on tour, but they joined up with the Backstreet Boys to make super-group boy band NKOTBSB (I know- why had this not occurred sooner!?) So I went with the same friend again to see them. Um... Greatest. Concert. Ever. The only downside? Jonathan (who as you may recall, has always been my favorite) was injured and couldn't perform. I had to make do with my second favorite, Donnie, and the rest of the guys...

Now, I know- we are not talking about musical brilliance here (as several people have pointed out)- but dear god, do these boys know how to entertain a crowd. In fact the concert was so good that the day after we got home we bought tickets for a second concert at the end of the summer. There is something awesome about getting to go back and be a kid again.

They genuinely are having a great time. They make sure the crowd is having a good time. They trot out all the old dance moves and do them like it's the first time. They make sure we know they appreciate us for hanging with them for 20 years. In fact, in the first concert Donnie made sure to take a moment to tell us. He said (paraphrasing here) "I hope you all know that we know what it means that you are here with us tonight. Don't ever forget what you mean to us" and it seemed like he really meant it. I hope they know how much they mean to us fans too! 

Our second concert was better then the first (if that is possible). We sat right off stage right, 9th row, but only the row directly in front of us had people in it (and those people might have been related to the Knight's)- not only were we this close to the stage, but we could see back stage, which was awesome. Especially when the back stage crew had their own impromtu performance to "Please Don't Go Girl" complete with flashlight spot lights and a very dramatic singer. Sorry Joey, I couldn't take my eyes off the guys backstage! Unfortunately I couldn't get a picture of it (too dark). However, our closeness to the stage did mean that I could use sport-shot on my camera and get some really, really good pictures! 

The rest of the show was pretty spectacular. I'd go again tomorrow if they had another show in the area, it was that good. The guys were at the top of their game, they had a great time and so did I! I'm so glad that they got back together, joined up with BSB and went on tour. I really hope they come back again next year :)

Now for a few more pictures of this last concert! Enjoy!!

*for more NKOTB & NKOTBSB pictures from this tour and from a few years ago, click on over to my flickr album: ElstadRanch- New Kids on the Block