Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best/Most Memorable Reads in 2013

2013 was meant to be my year of more balance. More classics, more backlist, more variety. That's why I reduced my goal to 75 instead of 100. I ended up at 72 (see my list of books read in 2013) including a couple of eNovellas and rereads. Not too shabby for a year in which I spent a lot of time traveling for my books (THE MEMORY OF AFTER/LEVEL 2 and CHICK-O-SAURUS REX), majorly revising CHASING BEFORE and also being in the hospital and recovering from major surgery.  

Here are some of the most memorable aspects of what I read:

Memorable Dystopian Moments
I'm still reading a bunch of dystopian. The publishing industry might be tired of, but I'm not! My top six dystopian reads were: IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS by Cat Winters, STUNG by Bethany Wiggins, NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis, REQUIEM by Lauren Oliver, SHADES OF EARTH by Beth Revis and CONTROL by Lydia Kang.

Memorable Debuts
Last year I read over 50 debut novels by the Apocalypsies. This year I read 24 YA and MG debuts from 2013 + 2 from 2014.

Most memorable first line
'I have a dead girl's name.' From Stacey Kade's THE RULES: PROJECT PAPER DOLL. It's an immediate hook that makes me want to know more.

Most quotable overall
SEPTEMBER GIRLS by Bennett Madison. I pulled a bunch of quotes from this, but my favorite is probably: 'I felt life unfurling itself in lazy and salty spirals in the water below my feet, revealing itself as something I would never have guessed.'

Most memorable first chapter
I'm going to say ALL OUR YESTERDAYS by Cristin Terrill. The first chapter with Em in the prison and finding the note she wrote to herself - so tense! When I got to the line 'You have to kill him', I actually gasped out loud.

Most memorable laughs
It doesn't come out until next year, but LOOP by Karen Akins was so witty and fun. And I just started reading it, but SINCE YOU ASKED by Maurene Goo is hilarious so far.

Most memorable cry
IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS by Cat Winters. Oh so sad.

Most traumatic endings
NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis. STAR CURSED by Jessica Spotswood. IN TIME by Alexandra Bracken.

Most dramatic character arcs
Elise in THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. Terra in STARGLASS by Phoebe North. Knox in PROXY by Alex London.

Most memorable male leads
Tarver in THESE BROKEN STARS by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufmann, Alex in WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE by Trish Dollar, Anthem in CODA by Emma Trevayne.

Most memorable couples
Zuzana and Mik in NIGHT OF CAKE AND PUPPETS by Laini Taylor. Caymen and Xander in THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US by Kasie West. Fiona and Bowen in STUNG by Bethany Wiggins. Anna and Bennett in TIME AFTER TIME by Tamara Ireland Stone.

Most swoony (almost) kiss
I loved the angry dancing scene in REBOOT by Amy Tintera.

Most badass characters
Amelie in VENGEANCE BOUND by Justina Ireland. Mila in MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza.

Most memorable supporting characters
Baby in IN THE AFTER by Demetria Lunetta, Chris in SHADES OF EARTH by Beth Revis, Alice in ELEMENTAL by Antony John.

Most memorable father/daughter bond
HOOKED by Liz Fichera.

Most memorable locations
The mystical oak tree in RELATIVITY by Cristin Bishara, post-apocalyptic Antarctica in CHAMPION by Marie Lu, the town of Claysoot in TAKEN by Erin Bowman.

Most memorable WTF
Okay WTF was up with the ending of DANGEROUS GIRLS by Abigail Haas? Did. Not. See. That. Coming. Also CHARM & STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn.

Most memorable animals
The dolphins in THE NEPTUNE PROJECT by Polly Holyoke. (bonus!) The sloths in A LITTLE BOOK OF SLOTH by Lucy Cooke.

Most memorable outfit
Lilac's dress in THESE BROKEN STARS by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufmann.

Most memorable scenes that gave me chills
When the missing girl first appears in the car in 17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma. Pretty much every scene in BLACK HELICOPTERS by Blythe Woolston.

Most memorable scene that gave me chills (in a good way)
The conjuring of peacock footprints in NIGHT OF CAKE AND PUPPETS by Laini Taylor.

Most memorable scare
NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl was the creepiest novel I read all year.

Most memorable villain
Johnny in THE COLOR OF RAIN by Cori McCarthy. Dude is messed up.

Most memorable cover

Though I wasn't all that taken with the novel, I adore this cover so much. I think it's the pop of yellow.

Most memorable unexpected reveals
Hands down the twisty twists in THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER by Megan Sheperd. She knows how to set up shocking reveals.

Most memorable backlist reads
This was the year I finally met Marcus Flutie! (SLOPPY FIRSTS by Megan McCafferty)

Check out my memorable 2012 reads.

Tell me - what were some of your memorable reading moments in 2013?

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in Review: Music

I bought 180 songs in 2013 (same amount as last year!!), including four complete albums (last year I only bought one). The albums were all from bands I also saw in concert:

Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob More poppy than their earlier albums, this is one I can listen to start to finish. The beats are great for cleaning house ;)

The National - Trouble Will Find Me  The National is showing up in all my favorite things lately. They were on The Mindy Project. They had a song on the Catching Fire soundtrack. And they sang The Rains of Castamere on Game of Thrones. They are amazing and I love this entire album.

MS MR - Secondhand Rapture At first I was only into a couple of the songs, but upon repeated listens, I really fell in love with the catchy lyrics, melodic hooks, and sultry pop atmosphere.

Bastille - Bad Blood My pick for best album of 2013. Of course that might have something to do with the fact that I am certain Dan and I have the same muse. So many of the themes he explores are present in my forthcoming novel CHASING BEFORE. So much so that I am gobsmacked. See especially Bad Blood, Flaws, and Things We Lost in the Fire.

2013 songs on heavy rotation (indicates top 5)

*Things We Lost in the Fire – Bastille
*Hurricane – MS MR
Fireproof – The National
Love They Say – Tegan and Sara
*Midnight Drive – Still Corners
*Overdose – Little Daylight
*Lies - Chvrches
Beauty Queen – Foxes
Youth – Daughter
The One That Got Away – The Civil Wars
Get Lucky – Daft Punk
Safe and Sound – Capitol Cities
Troublemaker – Camera Obscura
Lilies – Bat for Lashes
If So – Atlas Genius
Sweater Weather – The Neighborhood
Drift – RZA (from Pacific Rim soundtrack)
Mirror - Ellie Goulding (from Catching Fire soundtrack)
Dream - The Boxer Rebellion
Waiting for Something to Happen - Veronica Falls

Favorite finds from previous years (indicates top 5)

*Deadlines and Commitments – The Killers (2012)
*Harbor Lights – A Silent Film (2012)
Youth Without Youth – Metric (2012)
Myth – Beach House (2012)
Let Her Go – Passenger (2012)
No Rest - Dry the River (2012)
Afternoon - Youth Lagoon (2011)
*A Little Piece - The Jezabels (2010)
*On The Surface – Civil Twilight (2010)
Girls Like You – The Naked and the Famous (2010)
Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap (2009)
No Direction – Longwave (2008)
Lights Out – Santigold (2008)
*Satellite – Guster (2006)
Le vent nous portera – Noir Desir (2001)

Live Music in 2013

+ Mumford & Sons - Dusseldorf, Germany - April (Highlight: none. I absolutely hated the venue, Mitsubishi Halle, and will never attend a concert there again. The terrible venue affected my overall enjoyment of the concert)
+ Tegan and Sara - Frankfurt, Germany - June (highlight: Call it Off)
+ The National - Luxembourg - November (highlight: Bloodbuzz, Ohio)
+ MS MR - Frankfurt, Germany - November (highlight: how excited they were to be on stage. Loved it!)
+ Bastille - Luxembourg - November (highlight: umm... during Flaws, Dan came into the audience, touched me on the shoulder and said hello. Note that I was the only person sitting (in a bar stool) in the whole place due to my recent surgery. It was pretty surreal.)
+ I had tickets to see The Light Princess in London, but couldn't go due to my hospitalization. Major Bummer. Glad that Tori Amos is embarking on a tour in 2014 and I already have tickets to five shows.

Have any recommendations for me based on my taste? Would love to hear them!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in Review: Movies and TV

Even though I don't usually blog about movies or tv, I do like my year end list summaries.

2013 Movies I saw this year (top 5 marked with an *)

Warm Bodies
The Place Beyond the Pines
Side Effects (plane)
Beautiful Creatures (plane)
Star Trek: Into Darkness
The Host (plane)
*Pacific Rim
World War Z
*Catching Fire
*Inside Llewyn Davis
Wolverine 2 (DVD)
*Captain Phillips

Total of 14 (1 more than last year)

Catching Fire was probably my top favorite and I enjoyed it even more than the Hunger Games. Inside Llewyn Davis is a great film, but hard to watch for struggling creative types like us.

Notable movies I saw in 2013 that were released before 2013 (top 5 marked with an *)

*Les Miserables (theater)
*Perks of Being a Wallflower
Pitch Perfect
*Silver Linings Playbook (theater)
The Fighter
Django Unchained (theater)
Zero Dark Thirty (theater)
Ruby Sparks
My Week with Marilyn
The Bourne Legacy
Taken 2
*Cloud Atlas
This is 40
The Campaign
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves 

2013 movies I still want to see

American Hustle
The Book Thief
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Before Midnight
The Spectacular Now
Stories We Tell

TV series I watched in 2013 (favorites marked with an *)

Game of Thrones Seasons 2, 3
Parks and Recreation Season 1
*Breaking Bad Complete Series
Gilmore Girls Season 1
Mad Men Season 6
Person of Interest Seasons 2, 3
*Orphan Black Season 1
Jericho (part of) Season 1
*The Mindy Project Season 2 (Favorite episode: Christmas Party Sex Trap)
Sleepy Hollow Season 1 (Favorite episode: Pilot)
Sherlock (BBC) Seasons 1, 2
*The Returned (French) Season 1 (Favorite episode: Camille)
The Bates Motel Season 1
The Walking Dead Season 4
Dexter Season 8
*It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 1 (Favorite episode: Underage Drinking)
The Big Bang Theory Season 7 (Favorite episode: The Thanksgiving Decoupling)

So much great TV available lately, and we're always looking for more recommendations. Shows we tried out but gave up on: Reign, Dracula, The Americans, and Almost Human. Stopped watching Revenge, The Vampire Diaries and Jericho. Looking forward to checking out the third season of Homeland, Orange is the New Black and of course new seasons of Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Orphan Black, The Returned, Sherlock and The Bates Motel. 

How was your year in movies and TV?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Series Review: Letters to Nowhere by Julie Cross

The Letters to Nowhere series revolves around Karen, an elite gymnast whose parents have just died. The first installment is novel length while the following installments are shorter and take an episodic approach. While I think this an interesting approach that gets the story out more quickly, I'd prefer to wait for full length novels with some meat on their bones.

In Letters to Nowhere, Karen writes letters to her dead parents about her life - everything from what it's like to live with her coach to dating the coach's son (whose bedroom is right next door). The novel starts out slow and I wasn't sold on the grief element, but I loved the elite gymnastics focus and the authentically slow-burn relationship between Karen and Jordan. Obviously I had to have more. (FTC disclosure: Review copy from author)

In Return to Sender, Karen participates in the Pan-Am Championships and attends a gymnastics training camp with US team coach Nina to prepare for Nationals. While this strikes a good balance between sport and romance, it feels too short. (FTC disclosure: Bought)

Return to You continues with the gymnastics training camp. Karen has a problem with the dismount of her bars routine and Jordan might need surgery which leads to a fight. There's a nice story arc here, but not that much happens other than a lot of falling off bars and pouty arguments. (FTC disclosure: Bought)

Find out more about the whole series at Julie's blog. (Note: More installments to come in 2014)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Reviews on a Theme: The Multiverse

This year on the YA scene there was a mini-boom of multiverse books. These came in two main types: 1) multiverse novels in which characters travel to actual physical universes other than ours a la the the TV show SLIDERS and 2) multiverse novels in which the main character experiences diverse versions of her own life a la the movie SLIDING DOORS.

Before reading on, you should be aware that for some of these books, their very appearance on the list constitutes a spoiler.

I read four novels this year where the characters travel to other dimensions. In each case there was a physical portal or object that allowed movement between two or more worlds. Also, there is at least one character who is able to explain the science behind what's going on in logical terms.

In TANDEM by Anna Jarzab, Sasha has long had dreams of another world in which she is a princess. On prom night, she's forced to go there by her date (who turns out to be her doppelganger's bodyguard) in order to impersonate the runaway princess. A "anchor"(which looks like a silver bracelet) keeps her in this strange new world where the US is split and war is imminent. TANDEM is full of intrigue and fun parallel Earth worldbuilding in which a simple potato might be your undoing. (FTC disclosure: Borrowed)

In 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil it's a mirror that shows Josie a one minute long glimpse (twice a day at 3:59 am and pm) into a world where her doppelganger, Jo, seems to have a much better life than she does. When Jo offers to trade for a day, Josie agrees, hoping to spend just a little more time with her ex-boyfriend Nick and parents who aren't going through a messy divorce. But once in the parallel universe, Josie discovers Jo's world is far from perfect and that Jo has trapped her there.
Thanks to Josie's aptitude for science, she's able to work out a plan to help her get back to her own world - before she's ripped apart by monsters that only come out at night. Along the way there are some awesome reveals and genuine scares though some may be put off by the insta-romance and a climax that relies on supposedly smart people doing stupid (and illegal) things. (FTC disclosure: Unsolicited review copy)

In RELATIVITY by Cristin Bishara, Ruby is unhappy in her own reality and longs to know the mother who died when Ruby was young. When Ruby enters a magical oak tree, she discovers it hides a wormhole that allows her to visit nine parallel worlds and she decides to explore each until she finds the perfect one. The concept and the themes explored (making the best of what you have, being careful what you wish for, the unpredictability of the universe) are top-notch. Ruby is intelligent and resourceful on her journey and the various scenarios she encounters are well drawn. This short novel aims to find a satisfying balance between exploring a meaningful breadth of worlds and doing so with true depth, and though it doesn't quite attain the latter, it is, nevertheless, a bold and impressive work. (FTC disclosure: Requested review copy from publisher)

In UNDERCURRENT by Paul Blackwell, Callum goes over a waterfall in his town and ends up in an alternate version of his world where one decision changed everything. It takes Callum most of the book to figure out that this is case, but the reader knows much, much earlier. Callum would rather believe he's the one that's gone crazy, because the existence of a multiverse is even crazier, isn't it? Blackwell has crafted a creepy thriller which explores how choices shape identity - sometimes in major ways. (FTC disclosure: Netgalley)

Other books to check out in this category:
THROUGH TO YOU by Emily Hainsworth
UNRAVELLING by Elizabeth Norris
OTHERBOUND by Corinne Duyvis - coming 2014

I read three novels this year in which the main character lives out split realities. In each, the split realities diverge from a choice the character makes.

In PARALLEL by Lauren Miller, Abby has a grand plan, but due to the collision of parallel universes, she finds herself living out a reality she didn't choose for herself. Her split path hinges on something minor - what class she takes in school. I found PARALLEL to be more of a "head" book than a "heart" book. I absolutely loved the symmetry of the dueling realities and the clever way everything fit together. My inner nerd was totally into the logical sounding scientific theories explaining what was going on, and Abby's character arc is stellar. I would have liked to feel more of Abby's love for Josh + Michael though. Intellectually, I understood why she fell for them, but their connections failed to move me emotionally. Despite that, I found this to be an immersive and impressive novel with great ruminations on living in the moment and accepting that you can't plan every little thing about your life. (FTC disclosure: Unsolicited review copy)

In PIVOT POINT by Kasie West, Addie has the power of "searching", that is, she can see the results of a choice before she makes it so that she can make the most informed decision. When her parents announce they will divorce and her father will move to another town, Addie "lives" through both choosing to stay with her mother and leaving with her father. In both "lives" she ends up dating a boy and soon it becomes clear which she prefers, but what if staying with the boy she loves means the death of someone else she loves? By adding people with superpowers, PIVOT POINT adds a fresh twist to the split realities concept. Plus, there's a high stakes murder mystery and lots of witty dialogue. The ending let me down a bit because I wasn't aware there's a sequel coming.  (FTC disclosure: Unsolicited review copy)

In JUST LIKE FATE by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young, Caroline can either stay at her dying grandmother's bedside or she can go to a party. What she chooses will determine her fate. I was solidly team “Stay” throughout the entire novel. Caroline’s arc here felt very authentic, and I admired her choice to remain by her dying grandmother’s bedside. Joel, Simone and Natalie were adequately fleshed out. I really wasn’t crazy about the “Go” Caroline, and the whole escape plotline including the new school/mean girl subplot never endeared her to me. But,  I LOVED the way everything came together and the philosophical nature of the ending. (FTC disclosure: Netgalley)

Other books to check out in this category:
THE POST BIRTHDAY WORLD by Lionel Shriver (adult)
MY REAL CHILDREN by Jo Walton (adult) - coming 2014

Any other multiverse novels you'd recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bookanista Review: Control by Lydia Kang

When Zel's father is killed and her sister is taken, Zel ends up in a safe house for mutant teens that officially shouldn't exist. While she plots ways to rescue her sister, Zel finds herself falling for the resident mysterious loner dude, Cy, and discovering long hidden family secrets.

There's so much to love in this novel that I struggled to pick the appropriate Zombie Chicken Merit Badge. Should I go for the romance badge to recognize the sizzling chemistry between Zel and Cy? Should I choose the twists badge to give props to a plot that continually surprised me with it's major reveals? Both could definitely be argued for, but in the end I went with worldbuilding because CONTROL totally immersed me in the futuristic world of 2150 - from the automatic cars to the crazy nightclubs and all the features of the tricked-out safe house. 

CONTROL comes out next Tuesday. Find out more about it at the author's website.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reviews on a Theme: Time Travel (YA)

Time travel is always one of my favorite topics in books and here are a few I read this year. I can recommend all of the following for fellow time travel fans.

AFTER EDEN by Helen Douglas

When Eden meets mysterious new boy Ryan she has no idea he's from the future - a future where a discovery of new planet by her best friend Connor has ruined the Earth's environment. Ryan's mission is to keep Connor from discovering the planet, and getting close to Eden is part of that plan.

AFTER EDEN's appealing sci-fi hook is what attracted me to the novel in the first place, but I stayed for the absolutely sweet contemporary romance between Eden and Ryan. It's a light, fun read that gets more action-oriented towards the second half, and I would hand it to readers looking to branch out to sci-fi as a great gateway book.

FTC disclosure: Lucky 13s ARC tour

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS by Cristin Terrill

In the future, Em is imprisoned at a military base and it's up to her to break out, get back to the past and prevent a catastrophic time travel machine from ever being built. In the present, Marina is love with her best friend James, a genius on the verge of a major scientific breakthrough - one that could very well get him killed.

This twisty novel starts out with a big bang when Em finds a note from a past version of herself telling her that there's only one option left: "You have to kill him." This sets up a high-stakes chase through time where if Em succeeds, she will erase herself, but in doing so, she'll be able to spare her younger self a lot of pain. The characters face many impossible choices and both Em and Marina's stories are intensely compelling.

I didn't quite understand the mechanics of the ending or how it's possible with the time travel rules that the novel established early on. But otherwise, I am impressed with this one. Definitely worth a re-read!

FTC disclosure: Netgalley

LOOP  by Shandy Lawson

Ben and Maggie have met, fallen in love, and died together countless times. Over the course of two pivotal days—both the best and worst of their lives—they struggle again and again to resist the pull of fate and the force of time itself. With each failure, they return to the beginning of their end, a wild road trip that brings them to the scene of their own murders and into the hands of the man destined to kill them.

This is incredibly fast-paced and also pretty short, so even though it's highly addictive and action-oriented fun, there's not much time for character development. I did find myself wishing it were longer and more developed, but I enjoyed my time spent reading it.

FTC disclosure: Netgalley 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reviews on a Theme: Sex in YA

Sex in YA is usually of the fade to black variety. But I read three contemporary books this year that get quite a bit more graphic than that. For further reading on the topic of sex in YA, check out this excellent post at Stacked.


Wren has always done exactly what her parents want her to. But the summer after she graduates from high school she decides it's time to do what she wants instead. That includes falling hopelessly in love with a foster kid, Charlie Parker.

What Myracle does so, so well here is capturing the all-consuming nature of first love. Wren and Charlie's get to know each other deeply on many levels - emotionally, intellectually and, yes, physically - and it's all refreshingly honest and straightforward.

But --- not gonna lie, Wren drove me absolutely crazy with her self-centeredness. It's like once she realizes she can live for herself instead of her parents she thinks everyone else should live just for her. This was especially apparent in her relationship with Charlie (who should be awarded a roomful of medals for putting up with her). His sweeping romantic gesture at the end of the book would have been swoon-worthy if it wasn't so foolhardy and if it didn't play right into Wren's self-centeredness.

Still, I would jump at the chance to read what happens next between Wren and Charlie.  Here's hoping there's a sequel (set in SPOILER).

FTC disclosure: Netgalley


Callie returns to her father after her mother is arrested for kidnapping her as a child. As she adjusts to life in a stable environment, she also falls for the town's resident charmer.

Based on the pitch, I somehow expected this to be more of an exploration of Callie's relationship with her father. While this aspect is more or less glossed over in favor of Callie's romance with Alex, I can't complain too much because their chemistry is a thing of beauty. Other pluses: Callie's fabulously understanding and uncomplicated friend Kat, the extended Greek family and detailed rendering of the tourist town of Tarpon Springs, FL. Personally I yelled at Callie a lot for the horrible way she treated her father, but at least I could understand why she behaved so badly.

FTC disclosure: Netgalley

USES FOR BOYS by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

In the beginning, it's just Anna and her mother and they are each other's whole world. But as Anna's mother starts a series of relationships with men, she pulls away from Anna - leaving Anna to look for someone else to complete her.

Anna's loneliness and neediness permeate the pages. Much of the novel is about how people use each for sex, and it's gritty and heartbreaking and depressing. Fortunately the ending is hopeful and I really do think Anna's journey is a powerful one that I'm sure many teens will relate to.

FTC disclosure: Bought

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: Parched by Melanie Crowder

This haunting little middle grade novel is set in an apocalyptic near future North America where water is so scarce that gangs have taken over the cities. Musa is kidnapped from his home and forced to look for water. Meanwhile, out in the middle of nowhere, gangs kill Sarel's entire family and burn down their homestead leaving her with a dwindling well and a pack of adorably loyal dogs.

So, here's the thing. I guess I should have known that dogs + drought + evil gang = animal death. It's kind of inevitable, isn't it? Fortunately the animal death didn't feel emotionally manipulative, like many fictional animal deaths do, so plus points for that. 

Crowder's writing is a highlight here. It's spare yet atmospheric. She even writes believably from one of the dogs perspectives, and the dog comes off as much more intelligent than say, Manchee (of Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking series). 

Despite many bleak episodes, the story of unlikely friendship between Sarel and Musa is ultimately uplifting. 

More about PARCHED.

FTC disclosure: Free from publisher at ALA

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Review: Champion by Marie Lu

All this week I'll be posting reviews on some of the books I read this year.

I'm starting out with the third and final book in Marie Lu's LEGEND series: CHAMPION.

PRODIGY (see my review) ended on a massive cliffhanger and I was seriously biting my nails for Day after his fatal diagnosis. At the start of CHAMPION, Day and June haven't seen each other in months. Day is living with his younger brother Eden and June is working as an advisor to Anden. But then June contacts Day with an impossible choice (I couldn't think of a worse one!) and things go from bad to worse.

In PRODIGY I really enjoyed seeing how the American Colonies (those not part of the Republic) had set up their society to be corporate sponsorship-based. In CHAMPION, we zoom out even further and see what's up in the rest of the world. June's visit to Antarctica was especially fascinating and I loved the idea of a society based on a points system. Not that I would personally like to live there, but the thought behind it is so intriguing. Thus the merit badge for worldbuilding this time around!

CHAMPION is a bittersweet but fitting ending to June and Day's story. I'm sorry to see the series end.

FTC disclosure: Bought

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fourth Annual Holiday #READATHON

It's been awhile since I've participated in a readathon, and I have a ton of reading to do if I'm going to complete my challenge of reading 65 books this year (downgraded from the original goal of 75 and the 100 I read last year).  And I found a superfun one!

This weekend Liza of WhoRuYou blog is hosting the 4th annual holiday readathon and there are a ton of prizes and mini-challenges for participants.

In fact, this post is a mini-challenge. If you've signed up for the readathon you can enter by posting about one of your favorite holiday memory in the comment section (Don't forget to leave a way for me to contact you). What can you win? Well since I just happen to be working on the acknowledgements for CHASING BEFORE (the sequel to my debut novel THE MEMORY OF AFTER) I thought it would be cool to thank one of readathon participants in my book.

Why holiday memories?

In THE MEMORY OF AFTER, the main character, Felicia, is trapped in Level Two, and endlessly relives memories of her life on Earth as well as renting the memories of others. To pass the time, Felicia makes top ten lists of her favorite memories, and I'm sure she has a list of her favorite holiday memories as well.

And she'd love to hear ours!

Shall I go first? Okay!

One of my favorite Christmas memories involves the grandmother who inspired THE MEMORY OF AFTER. She adored Christmas and got very excited about giving gifts. The first year I brought my husband to the US for the holidays, she asked me what was on his list. I didn't want her to stress out about giving him a gift, and I knew she had been collecting Beanie Babies to give to my cousins, so I said, "Just give him a beanie baby pig. He likes pigs."

Christmas morning, Daniel opened his gifts and he got 3 special edition beanie baby pigs that my grandmother had special ordered for him. One of them had gold feet! Daniel smiled and graciously thanked my grandmother but on the inside he was thinking, "I don't like pigs that much!"

But that's not the end of the pig story. The next Christmas, I went to the US without Daniel, but my grandmother still wanted to give him a gift. When I arrived at her house, she pulled me aside and said excitedly, "I found the best gift for Daniel!" It turned out that she bought 3 concrete lawn pigs. Each weighed 15 lbs. My weight allowance to go back to Germany was 50 lbs. See the problem? Even today, Daniel and I have a good laugh about the concrete pigs and their unsuitability for travel.

Your turn! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron Blog Tour Guest Post

Welcome to the MAN MADE BOY blog tour! I'm in the middle of reading this, and so far, it's lots of monsterly fun.

What's it about?

The son of Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride, 16-year-old Boy has lived his whole life in a secret enclave of monsters hidden beneath a Broadway theater, until he runs away from home after he unwittingly unleashes a sentient computer virus on the world. Together with the granddaughter(s) of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Boy embarks on a journey across the country to L.A. But Boy can only hide from his demons for so long…

I'm pleased to welcome Jon to the blog today!

My Monsters, My Protectors

I love monsters. The giant ones like Godzilla, King Kong, and more recently the kaiju in Pacific Rim. The people-sized ones like Dracula and the Werewolf. And even the miniature ones like the Gremlins and the strange little fairies in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.

When I was a little boy, I’d while away lazy sunday afternoons at my father’s house watching Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. At my mother’s house, I remember begging her to let me stay up past my bedtime to watch the rest of The Creature From the Black Lagoon, which was being shown on regular broadcast television in 3D! Over the course of a summer, I wore down my grandmother’s resolve and finally convinced her to buy me a massive Rhodan toy that had working wings. But my favorite toy was an MGM Monsters playset with Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the Phantom of the Opera. The playset included a sarcophagus for either the Mummy or Dracula (they took shifts), a cage for the Wolfman, and a laboratory table to strap Frankenstein’s Monster to. And they all had phosphorescent paint, so they glowed in the dark. It was a pretty sweet set. I frequently took them to bed with me. Because, I reasoned, they would protect me from the scary people.

Throughout my childhood, I was a frightened little boy. Not of monsters (obviously), but of real bad guys. Burglars, kidnappers, child molesters, strangers of all sorts. I’m not sure why I was so timid. Most likely a combination of my overactive imagination and a series of traumatic events that took place early on in my childhood. By the age of six, I knew bad things happened because I had experienced them first hand. The world was a violent and capricious place, full of unanticipated dangers that no parent or adult could protect you from. The world did not need monsters to be scary.

I would lay in bed at night with the covers tucked up to my nose, the darkness pressing in all around me. Both of my parents lived in crumbling old houses and the night sounds those buildings made were ominous. Many times I was certain that someone had broken in and was slowly creeping up the stairs to get me. On the really bad nights, when the dread was almost unbearable, I would bring my MGM monsters to bed with me. I would line them up on either side, their little glowing faces peeking out from under the covers. Won’t that kidnapper be surprised to find a pack of monsters waiting for him!, I would think grimly as I watched the doorway for hours until I finally drifted off to sleep.

I can’t remember exactly when it was I went from being afraid of the dark to preferring it. Probably around the time I started reading Anne Rice and listening to Ministry. One way to beat the dark is to become it. And I spent some time dressing like Lestat. This was before there was such a thing as “goth” or “cosplay”, but I think both would have applied. That was when, in a place as unlikely as Sophomore high school english class, I discovered what would eventually become one of my all time favorite books: Frankenstein. Far from the dim-witted brute I knew from old black and white films, the original Monster was eloquent and tragic and utterly relatable.

That book and that character carried me through a great many trials during my teenage years. So I guess it made sense that when I decided I wanted to write a YA monster book, I was drawn back to that story. And once I got going, I couldn’t stop at Frankenstein’s Monster. I had to bring them all with me on that ride. Vampires, werewolves, the lot!

I didn’t know it at the time, but as I started writing Man Made Boy, I was just beginning what would be one of the most difficult periods of my life so far. Writing this book was how I coped with it. And so once again the monsters came to my aid, as protectors and comforters. Once again, they got me through the long dark night.


Sixteen-year-old Boy’s father is Frankenstein’s monster and his mother is the Bride. A hacker and tech geek, Boy has lived his whole life in a secret enclave of monsters hidden beneath a Broadway theater, until he runs away from home. Now, the boy who’s never set foot outside embarks on a madcap road trip with the granddaughters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that takes him deep into the heart of America. Along the way, Boy falls in love, comes to terms with his unusual family, and learns what it really means to be a monster—and a man.

About Jon Skovron

Jon Skovron is the author of STRUTS & FRETS and MISFIT. Visit him at jonskovron.com.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Must Reads for 2014!

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is books released in 2014 that we're excited to read. My list could go on forever since I'm an addict and want all the things (link leads to pinterest board of books I covet), but I am limiting it to 10 + 5 bonus reads.

5 Standalones/Series Starts:

THE WINNER'S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski -- this one is getting amazing buzz.

LIV, FOREVER by Amy Talkington -- Ghosts, afterlife, murder mystery!

DISSONANCE by Erica O'Rourke -- another multiverse book! (Multiverse is the new dystopia in my

LANDRY PARK by Bethany Hagen -- post apocalyptic set in Kansas City. I have been waiting forever for this one it seems.

MY LAST KISS by Bethany Neal -- Afterlife, kissing :)

5 Sequels/Same Universe:

SINNER by Maggie Stiefvater -- Cole St. Clair!!! YES!

CRESS by Marissa Meyer -- I'm loving the mix of sci-fi and fairytale in this series.

STARBREAK by Phoebe North -- STARGLASS was a recent fave, so yeah!

SISTERS' FATE by Jessica Spotswood -- After the cliffhanger ending of STAR CURSED, I must know what happens.

ENDERS by Lissa Price -- This teaser line: "Who is real and who is masquerading in a teen body?"

Bonus! 5 Books from favorite authors:

Lauren Oliver's new book PANIC.
AS King will have a new book out - GLORY O'BRIEN'S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE.
Courtney Summers will have a new book out - ALL THE RAGE.
David Mitchell will have a new book out - THE BONE CLOCKS.
Jandy Nelson will have a new book out - I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN.

PLUS! 1 I am exited for YOU to read.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bookanista Review: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

Sometimes, I'm just really in the mood for a twisty thriller, and DANGEROUS GIRLS fit the bill. In a ripped from the headlines story (sort of a cross between the Natalie Holloway and Amanda Knox cases), a group of friends rents a house on Aruba. One of the friends, Elise, is murdered and her bestie, Anna, is charged with the crime. Thus begins the trial of the century. The media crucify Anna, but was she really guilty?

I loved the slippery nature of truth in DANGEROUS GIRLS and the not-so-subtile criticisms of the media culture we live in. Anna and Elise have a very complicated relationship, and although a boy is involved, it is their friendship which is the focus here.

The twist at the end is so jaw-dropping, at first I couldn't swallow it. It felt unearned and I struggled for a time to come to terms with it's plausibility. But after some lively discussions with fellow bibliophiles, I  admire the risk of the ending and concede that it is actually quite brilliantly set-up.

Definitely give this a try if you enjoyed GONE GIRL.

FTC disclosure: Netgalley

What the other bookanistas are reading this week:

Shari Arnold is intrigued with SCARLETT by A.C. Gaughen
Christine Fonseca is making a happy noise for THE INVISIBLE BOY by Trudy Ludwig
Tracy Banghart is revealing the cover for her upcoming book, SHATTERED VEIL
Tracey Neithercott is crushing on SOLVING FOR EX by LeighAnne Kopans
Kimberly Sabatini is reveling in YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE by Jennifer Castle

Monday, November 4, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

First of all, congrats to Alexandra Bracken for making the NYT bestseller list!

After I read The Darkest Minds (my review) last year, I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to continue the series. I had a lot of nagging world building questions, especially concerning plausibility. But then I read the eNovella In Time (my review), and some of my questions were addressed, giving me hope for Never Fade.  And indeed, Never Fade does a great job of going deeper into the world building aspect, although the main draw is still the pulse-pounding action. I enjoyed this second installment immensely, especially because I felt like I got to know the characters (old and new) more deeply. And I'm 100% sure I want to read the final book in the trilogy next year.

Here's the book summary:
The gripping and highly anticipated second installment in a dark YA trilogy about teens with dangerous powers on the run from the government. 
Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children's League call Ruby "Leader", but she knows what she really is: a monster. 
When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children's League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America's children-and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts-has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future-and who now wouldn't recognize her. 
As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam-and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart-she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?
Find out more about the series:



Show that your quest for truth and justice will NEVER FADE.
One (1) winner receives:
Custom Never Fade t-shirt and a copy of Never Fade

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only.
Prizing & samples courtesy of Disney Book Group.

To enter, fill out this form by November 11, 2013 at 11:59 pm CST.

FTC disclosure: Review copy provided by Big Honcho Media

See index of all dystopian reviews on Presenting Lenore

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On the Brink of Death: The Terrifying True Story of This Past Month

(Note: I haven't blogged in one whole month, which has never, ever happened before. This blog post will tell you why.)

On the morning of October 10th, 2013, I woke up at 7:45 a.m. with big plans. It was the second day of the Frankfurt Book Fair and I would have lunch with a friend from Berlin and hang out with a fellow author who was in town for the week. I also had a few changes to make to my final draft of CHASING BEFORE, based on feedback my editor had sent on the revisions I'd been working on for weeks and just turned in on October 8th (another reason for my blog silence).

But, I just hadn't been able to shake the low grade fever I'd had the past four days and now I had slight pain in my lower right torso. "Where's your appendix scar?" I asked my husband.  Same place I had the pain. Was I about to have appendicitis possibly? But if that were the case, wouldn't it hurt more?

I'd been to several doctors over the past three weeks complaining about stomach/intestinal issues, but none thought what I had was very serious. They prescribed some medicine to alleviate stomach cramps, lesson the amount of air in my system and to protect the lining of the stomach, told me to eat bland foods, and to get lots of rest. One went as far as to do an ultrasound that showed nothing out of the ordinary. The most pain I was in at any time during this time was the caffeine withdrawal headaches I got when I couldn't drink coffee anymore (they were unbearable, so I started drinking black tea.)

Coincidentally, I thought I had an appointment with my GP that day for my 6 month thyroid check-up, so even though I was feeling under the weather, I decided to keep my appointment. I walked with Daniel to the subway and headed to the doctor. At her office, I found out that I had mixed up my appointments and that I wasn't due in for another week. Fortunately, my doctor made time for me anyway. She looked at the results of my lab tests and noticed that I had a bacterial infection. She couldn't say where, and considered prescribing me antibiotics and sending me home, but decided to send me to the emergency room to get more tests. This saved my life.

I took a taxi to the Buerger Hospital and reluctantly cancelled my book fair appointments. In the emergency room, they asked about my pain level (low/tolerable) and were concerned by my continued fever. I had another ultrasound. The technician saw nothing terribly suspicious, but recommended a CT scan.  The CT scan showed that I had an abscess right around my appendix. I was admitted to the hospital and prepped for surgery. The doctors suspected that either my appendix had burst or a cyst on my right ovary had, but they couldn't be sure without going in via laparoscopy. It would be a small procedure, they said, through my belly button. It wouldn't leave a scar and I'd be out of the hospital within a few days.  Scary enough! I signed all the papers, including ones that said it could possibly be a more serious procedure (though I was assured this was unlikely).

They wheeled me into surgery and put me under.

Six hours later I woke up in the ICU. I was informed that the surgery had turned out to be major, open surgery to repair a hole in my colon, clean out the abscess and remove my appendix. Parts of my colon had been eaten away by bacteria. I would be at the hospital for at least two weeks. In short, I was a mess.

Once I finally got out of the ICU (two days of drugged out bliss and two days of wide awake torture) and into my quiet single room, the doctors explained that I had been hours away from death. If the abscess had ruptured, and it surely would have sometime on Thursday (at the book fair?), I would have gone septic. What they couldn't understand is how this all could have happened to someone so young and someone who walked into the ER with so little pain. According to their textbooks, someone in my advanced condition of infection should have been crawling and screaming in pain. The pathology report is still not in, so we still have no idea what the cause of the rupture was, and we may never, ever know.

I steadily improved over the next nine days in the hospital, and finally was released today. I will have many follow-up appointments over the next months, including a surgery planned for early January to continue to repair my colon. The doctors are hopeful of a complete recovery by February.

In the meantime, I'll be taking it easy. No heavy lifting. No sit-ups. No hard-to-digest food. Just lots of cat cuddles, walks in the park, and hopefully getting back into reading and writing soon. Oh, and I do have some upcoming concerts I'm excited about too (Passenger, Ms Mr, Bastille, The National), and the venues have been accommodating with handicapped seating (I can't stand for long periods of time).

I want to thank you for all your support throughout my hospital visit. I could only read messages on my phone, but I was inundated with well wishes from all corners of the globe. Your comments, tweets, cards, flowers (from my agency and from Lissa Price, author of Starters), etc kept me positive even through the pain, frustration, nightmares, severe nausea, and sleeplessness. One doctor told me he'd rarely ever seen a patient with such a serious diagnosis have such a radiant and positive attitude.

I'm not sure what the takeaway of this is, other than, listen to your body and get thee to a hospital post haste if you have a fever for over a few days. The doctors told me there was nothing I really could have done differently, that no one would have suspected the infection that lurked within me. I had a close brush with death, but I am alive and ever so thankful for it.

Here I am today:

PS: my few changes to CHASING BEFORE can be done in conjunction with copyedits.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Second Books in Series

My name is Lenore Appelhans and I have a problem. All too often, I start series and then never get to book two.  I realized this as I was trying to find books to put on today's list.

The actual Top Ten Tuesday topic today is Top Ten Best Sequels Ever, but I've decided to list only sequels I liked MORE than the first book. You know, just because I like to complicate my life like that. That means no Catching Fire or Pandemonium or Scarlet because even though I love them, I still prefer The Hunger Games and Delirium and Cinder.  I also couldn't include Lola and the Boy Next Door or Fire, because I haven't read Anna and the French Kiss or Graceling yet. (I know!)

BUT I did find seven books that fit my strict guidelines. So that's something.

The Likeness by Tana French. This second book in the Dublin Murder Squad series is still my absolute fave of the published four. Why? Because I love Cassie as a character and it contains one of my very favorite tropes -- impersonating a doppelganger. From my reviewIt's a murder mystery, yes, but it's also so much more: Author Tana French looks at class divisions and how history still effects the present, asks what "real life" really is, and explores the slippery nature of identity.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness. My favorite book in the trilogy. I love how complex this whole book is and we really get to know Mayor Prentiss, one of the best villains of all time. Also, no major animal deaths in this one! Yay!  From my reviewIn KNIFE, they were pushed to their physical limits. In ASK they are pushed to their emotional and moral limits by two very ruthless leaders, each giving their arguments as to why they are the lesser of two evils.

Thumped by Megan McCafferty. Bumped was a close to perfect book for me, so intelligent and zany. But I loved Thumped just as much. And it looks like this may be the only instance I can think of where I loved books one and two of a series equally. From my reviewThese two books were so much fun, I wish Megan McCafferty would write 100 more books in the series.

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde. (Read before blog) To me, this is the best book in the entire Thursday Next series. I love the fact that she jumps into Poe's The Raven and that she's the target of threatening coincidences. It's just so much fun. I liked it more than The Eyre Affair (maybe because I never read Jane Eyre?)

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. This series is out of my usual comfort zone, but I adore it so, so much, and a lot of that has to do with Gen's growth as a character (and the amazing twists of course).  From my reviewWhat I most enjoyed about the story though was Gen’s character growth. In book 1, he was clever, certainly, but also borderline unlikable for most of the book. Here he actually begins to grow into a swoonworthy romantic lead, and the transformation is stunning.

Rebel Heart by Moira Young. (My review + playlist) Hmmm... this one was a tough call, because there are certain things I liked more about Blood Red Road (Jack!), but De Malo is such a great adversary for Saba, that I'm going to go ahead and put this on the list.

The Forgetting Curve by Angie Smibert. (My review) I enjoyed this more than Memento Nora because I liked narrators Aiden and Velvet more than Nora and Micah. Plus the plot thickens and there's more conspiracy theory to dig into.

Honorable mentions:

Linger by Maggie Steifvater. Going to give a shout out to this book for introducing Cole St. Clair.
Prodigy by Marie Lu. I didn't put this on the list proper, because I still haven't gotten over my broken heart.
Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood. Same reason as Prodigy. The end gutted me.

Which sequels did you like better?