Google+ YA Romantics: September 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

Something Wicked Blog Hop

Welcome to my stop on the Something Wicked Returns Blog Hop, hosted by Rainy Day Ramblings, the Nocturnal Library, Candace's Book Blog and My Guilty Obsession.

I love Halloween -- it's one of my favorite holidays. I have a ton of decorations, I've already bought my candy, and I always want to dress up, even though it embarrasses my kids.

I also love scary books, and had a lot of fun putting this list together. My prize choices are either scary books I've loved, or those that are on my TBR list..

Click on the cover to find out more about a book!

Thin Space by Jody Casella Ashes by Ilsa Bick Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
pic name pic name pic name

Thin Space by Jody Casella
Ashes by Ilsa Bick
Anna Dresssed in Blood by Kendare Blake
The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Shadowlands by Kate Brian

Open internationally!  (If my winner wants to choose any other book up to $10 USD, that's okay with me!)

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Author Interview: Trish Doller talks about Where The Stars Still Shine

I'm thrilled to be hosting YA author Trish Doller, author of Something Like Normal and the just-published Where The Stars Still Shine.

Photo from

If you missed my review of Where the Stars Still Shine, just scroll down one post and check it out!

Hi Trish! I loved Where the Stars Still Shine and I'm so excited that you can stop by and answer a few questions.

Thank you. I’m happy to be here!

Jen: Becoming independent is the goal of many YA protagonists, but because of her very unusual upbringing, your main character Callie has to do the opposite -- learn how to be part of a family and let other people care about her. Was she a difficult character to write?

Trish: It probably sounds strange to talk about characters as if they’re real people but when I was writing my first novel (Something Like Normal), Travis was very forthcoming with what was bothering him and the way I needed to tell his story. It was like I was carrying him around in my head and sometimes he would not shut up! But with Callie...she was kind of like a feral kitten. She had a story, but I had to coax it out of her.  

Jen: I also loved the Florida setting of Where the Stars Still Shine. I've spent a fair amount of time on the Gulf Coast, but had no idea that Tarpon Springs has both a vibrant Greek-American community and a sponge industry. Can you talk a little about your research on the book's setting?

Trish: I wish I had something scholarly and smart to say here, but most of my research consisted of hanging out on Dodecanese Blvd., watching people, visiting gift shops, and eating Greek food. I will say that with each visit (maybe four or five in total) I noticed something I hadn’t before and most things worked themselves into the book. I did watch some videos about sponge diving and even took a ride on the tour boat that’s the inspiration for the one in the book.

Photo from

Jen: There were many fantastic secondary characters in Where the Stars Still Shine, but one of my favorites had to be Ariel, the snarky bookstore worker with the heart of gold. You're also a bookseller -- is Ariel your dark alter ego?

Trish: Ha! I think she might be. I definitely modeled the bookstore after the one I’d love to own--complete with the snarky categories. The character of Ariel was initially going to be a guy because I liked the idea of Callie having a guy friend who wasn’t a potential boyfriend, but after I wrote him (he didn’t have a name yet) I realized Callie needed to have more than just one female friend. Kat is the friend who cheers you up when you’re down. Ariel is the one who helps you hide a body.

These aren't Ariel's signs; they're from Capitol Books in DC.
Jen: Now I'm thinking which of my friends I'd call if I had a body to dispose of….  I'm always so excited when authors make playlists for their books. Can you tell us about a few of the songs on your Where the Stars Still Shine list (I linked to it below) and their connection to the story?

Trish: My absolute favorite song from the playlist is Girl America by Mat Kearney because it is so perfectly Callie and I still have a hard time listening to it without getting a little teary-eyed. I think the lines that connect best are these: 
My girl America, stop can't you see
It's not the circumstances that determine who you're gonna be
But how you deal with these problems and pains that come your way
It's for you that I pray with hope for a brighter day
And so I say, your deliverance is coming
One of my more light-hearted favorites is a song by Matt Nathanson called Bottom of the Sea. I think it fits in so many ways--Alex’s not-quite-chosen profession, his love of diving, and the scene in which he and Callie go snorkeling--and the most fitting lines are:
come on down to the bottom of the sea
come on down here
yeah there's room right next to me
i'm tired of getting even
let’s get odd odd
and live life at the bottom of the sea
The last song on the soundtrack is one I stumbled on one day while listening to Pandora and I thought it was just so right for the ending of the book. We leave Callie on a hopeful note, but nothing is tied up neatly and I think these words nail it:
We are words
On pages that we've left unturned
An ending no one's ever heard
We are a story slowly unfolding
Beautiful words
Jen: Since you brought up the ending, I'll say I thought it was perfect -- it was true to the story, it was hopeful, and it nudged the main characters in the direction I thought they needed. Did you have any doubts about ending the story this way?

Trish: I didn’t have doubts that the book needed to end the way it does, but I had so many moments when I didn’t want it to end this way. I turned it over and over in my mind, trying to find a way to give the ending more happily ever after, but life is messy and sometimes hope is what you get. And to end it any other way wouldn’t have felt right.

To listen to Trish's playlist for the book, click on the Spotify icon below:

You can connect with Trish here: Twitter | Tumblr | Facebook | website | blog.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Just Finished Reading: Where the Stars Still Shine

Where the Stars Still Shine
by Trish Doller
Published on September 24, 2013
by Bloomsbury Children's

Connect with the author: website | Facebook | Twitter.

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley. Please see my full FTC disclosure on right sidebar.
Summary from Goodreads: Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She's never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love--even with someone who seems an improbable choice--is more than just a possibility. 
My take: As a diehard contemporary/realistic fiction fan, sometimes I worry that this genre gets overshadowed by all the angst and drama and life or death stakes of all those paranormals and fantasies and dystopians. Then I read a book like Where the Stars Still Shine, and it reminds me of what's great about realistic, character-driven fiction: it captures all the beauty and sadness and messiness of life in a way that no other kind of story can manage.

Where the Stars Still Shine does have elements similar to other YA I've read, books like If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Schmidt and Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen that deal with parental abduction and/or life with an unfit parent, and then a character's attempt to adjust to a more "normal" life. And yet, while Callie's story does have some parallels to Carey's or Anna's or Ruby's, each girl's journey plays out differently.

The story opens as Callie, who's been living an itinerant life with her mother for over ten years, is discovered by the police and sent back to Tarpon Springs, Florida to live with her father. Everything about her new life -- rules and a house and a large family and a stable routine -- is completely foreign to her, and she's not sure she's on board with any of it. I loved that about this book. As in her debut book, Something Like Normal, Trish Doller has written a main character who feels completely real. Some fictional characters have a growth arc that seems to curve as perfectly as a rainbow. But real people mess up --  they backslide, they make choices that others can't understand, and they forget to learn from their mistakes. Callie was easy to relate to, and yet I never forgot that she'd never had any kind of a lasting relationship except with her mother, and that she'd lived through some really tough times.

Callie meets Alex as she's restlessly wandering on the esplanade one evening and they're instantly drawn to each other. This was insta-attraction, not insta-love -- neither of these two are interested in a relationship. Alex has family issues of his own and can't wait to leave Tarpon Springs and explore the world. But the two of them start meeting up in secret. While Where the Stars Still Shine is a YA book with YA themes, it does edge into NA territory, both due to the age of the characters (Callie is seventeen and Alex is twenty-one) and their sexual relationship, which is an important part of the story.

The characters and the setting in this book were standouts for me. Callie's father's family is part of a Greek-American community in Tarpon Springs. We meet Callie's yiayoula (grandmother) and her cousin Kat and learn about the local sponge industry. I also really loved the way Callie's mom was portrayed. She's deeply flawed, but also a woman who clearly loves her daughter even though she's failed her on multiple levels. Callie and her family have a lot of stuff to work out, and I loved that ending of the book was hopeful but didn't try to wrap everything up in a shiny bow.

Where the Start Still Shine was definitely a standout for me and I look forward to seeing what Trish Doller writes next!  I'm interviewing Trish tomorrow -- be sure to come back and check that out!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Extra! Extra! Shining Stars and Something Spooky...

Extra! Extra!

Extra! Extra! is my weekend post featuring brand new additions to my TBR pile as well as a summary of what's new on the blog.

This weekend I'm linking to Stacking the Shelves @ Tynga's Reviews or to Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. 

Stacking the Shelves pic name


You can enter to win my Freebie Friday giveaway!  US winner gets these…

...and if the winner is international, they can choose from a great list of books by Simone Elkeles and Katie Alender.

This Week's Reviews:

This week I reviewed:

Find Me by Romily Bernard

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

Countdown by Michelle Rowen

Sick by Tom Leveen

New Books:
None!  It's funny how being busy in real life can cut back on my time to stalk new books. It's just as well … October is a very busy reading month!

Next Week:

I'm really excited about next week. I have a review of Where the Stars Still Shine and an interview with author Trish Doller.

I'm also participating in the Something Wicked blog hop, hosted by Rainy Day Ramblings, The Nocturnal Library, Candace's Book Blog and My Guilty Obesssion.
I'm stirring my cauldron, cooking up a giveaway that will feature something scary, creepy or spooky…

Tell me what you're up to in the comments -- and feel free to leave a link so I can visit you back!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Freebie Friday: Wild Cards and Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer

Happy Friday!

Today I have two ARCs up for grabs for a US winner, and then other international options...

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender
Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles 

If my winner lives in the US, he or she can have one or both of these.

International winners can choose any one of the books below by Katie Alender or Simone Elkeles, shipped from the Book Depository. (US winner can also choose this option.)

Perfect Chemistry, Rules of Attraction, Return to Paradise or Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles OR Bad Girls Don't Die, From Bad to Cursed, or As Dead As It Gets by Katie Alender.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Just Finished Reading: Countdown by Michelle Rowen and Sick by Tom Leveen

by Michelle Rowen
Published by Harlequin Teen
on September 24, 2013

Source: e-ARC for review via NetGalley. Please see my full FTC disclosure on the right sidebar.

Connect with the author: website | Facebook | Twitter.
Summary from Booklikes: 3 seconds left to live.  Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped. 2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game. Kira Jordan survived her family's murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis. 1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it. Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira's psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan's secrets prove ever more deadly, Kira's only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can't escape. GAME 0VER...
My take: First, some background. Michelle Rowen (who also writes the YA Falling Kingdoms series as Morgan Rhodes) first published Countdown in July 2008 as adult fiction under the name Michelle Maddox.  A mere two weeks later, another book about a fight-to-the-death reality competition came out and became a worldwide phenomenon. I guess that's the way the cookie crumbles…

This 2013 version of Countdown has been rewritten as YA.When I read that this book was being redone as YA, I read the original. I think the story works much better as a young adult story. The adult version of Countdown is filled with steamy sex scenes, which is all well and good, but if you're fighting for your life, do you really have time for that? Plus, as it says in the blurb, Kira has every reason to hate Rogan, and I think the PG-13 version of their romance was much more plausible, given the circumstances.

Countdown is a fast-paced, plot-driven read, which is not usually my preferred kind of book, but sometimes just what I'm in the mood for. The book starts with a bang and and the tension never really lets up. Kira's backstory is quickly sketched, and then she's thrown into the game with Rogan. Her telepathic ability an interesting twist, and I loved trying to figure out how Rogan could say that he was a cold-blooded murderer when he didn't seem that way to me. For me, the relationship between Rogan and Kira and the way it affected them in their challenges was what made this book fun and compelling.

by Tom Leveen
To be published by Amulet Books
on October 1, 2013

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

Connect with the author: website | Facebook | Twitter.
Summary from Booklikes: Brian and his friends are not part of the cool crowd. They’re the misfits and the troublemakers—the ones who jump their high school’s fence to skip class regularly. So when a deadly virus breaks out, they’re the only ones with a chance of surviving. The virus turns Brian’s classmates and teachers into bloodthirsty attackers who don’t die easily. The whole school goes on lockdown, but Brian and his best friend, Chad, are safe (and stuck) in the theater department—far from Brian’s sister, Kenzie, and his ex-girlfriend with a panic attack problem, Laura. Brian and Chad, along with some of the theater kids Brian had never given the time of day before, decide to find the girls and bring them to the safety of the theater. But it won’t be easy, and it will test everything they thought they knew about themselves and their classmates.

My take: Like Countdown, Sick is an action-packed, plot-driven story.  I gave this ARC to my teen reviewer, Teen Snark, because he's a big Walking Dead fan. He has a lot of homework and was unwilling to be grilled at length, but had this to say: "The characters were cliche and the plot didn't go anywhere."

So I pointed out to him that the plot of The Walking Dead is pretty much: wander, wander, kill zombies, wander, wander. Teen Snark countered by saying that there are also character-driven subplots in The Walking Dead. Okay, fine. He usually wins our arguments through sheer force of will. While the characters in Sick are given a few hastily sketched traits, I didn't find them particularly well-developed. I also wasn't happy that two female characters were given illnesses that made Brian, the main character, feel even more obligated to rescue them from the marauding zombies. Yes, this upped the stakes, but also gave each of these girls a fragile, damsel-in-distress feel. Why not make the guy the one who needs rescuing once in a while?

If you like gory zombie action, you will definitely find plenty of that here. Sick doesn't skimp on the blood and guts and violence. There's also a fair amount of swearing, if that kind of thing is an issue for you. I was definitely absorbed by the story, and interested to see how it came out. Even though I usually shy away from really gross books, the gross parts in this one one didn't bother me all that much.  If you enjoy a fast-paced, blood-spattered, suspenseful read, you might like it just fine, and this book would be perfect for reluctant teen readers. If you prefer a trapped-in-a-school-with-zombies book with more substance, try This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers. Teen Snark and I both liked that one a lot.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Just Finished Reading …. Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles

Wild Cards
by Simone Elkeles
To be published by Walker BFYR
on October 1, 2013

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Please see my full FTC disclosure on right sidebar.

Connect with the author: website | Twitter.

Summary via Booklikes: After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.
Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?
My take:  If you've read any books by Simone Elkeles, you probably know that she's great at writing steamy, forbidden YA relationships -- drawing out the tension and amping up the emotion. I also love that she offers up a cast of diverse and authentic-seeming teen characters.

Wild Cards has all of this author's trademark elements. Derek has been kicked out of boarding school and is forced to move to Chicago with his stepmother and stepbrother, as his father is deployed. He quickly meets cute with his new step-aunt, Ashtyn (she and his stepmother are sisters) and the couple begins to warily circle one other. Ashtyn has problems of her own -- her boyfriend, jealous that she's been voted football team captain, seems resentful and distant. Plus, Ashtyn dreams of playing football in college. Of course, Derek and Ashtyn are desperately, secretly attracted to each other. It's all pretty fun.

The emotional aspect of this book really worked for me. Derek's anguish over the loss of his mother was particularly moving. Plus, as I said before, Simone Elkeles is a master of writing sexual tension. Derek's attracted to Ashtyn, she has a boyfriend, and the two of them are living in close quarters. I also liked the dual narration and I think that Simone Elkeles also writes a male POV particularly well. (Just a note: between the male POV and the football, this book has plenty of cursing, plus a discussion of an aspect of male grooming that, for me, was a first for a YA book. My mouth dropped open, and then I was cracking up.)

I'm not a football fan, so I'll leave the discussion of this book's football elements to those who are. But I was surprised that a book about a female football player didn't really feature football games as part of the story. However, there was a part of the book where Ashtyn was the only girl at football camp, and I thought the portrayal of the special accommodations the camp had to make for her -- and the hostility and outright sabotage she suffers at the hands of her fellow campers -- both gripping and heartbreaking.

There's a reveal about Derek near the end that, for me, ended up limiting Ashtyn's opportunity to have a moment that I'd been waiting for. If you've read the book and want to know my thoughts, just highlight the blank space below for my spoiler 2 cents. And please be careful of leaving spoilers in comments:

I felt that the reveal that Derek was not just a football player himself, but one of the best quarterbacks around, and someone  who could lead Ashtyn's team to victory,  really limited Ashtyn's ability to shine as a female athlete. I was really wishing that after Landon left the team, she would have the chance to rally the guys (who, after all, voted her captain) and help them play to the best of their ability as a team. I was a little disappointed that the ending handed her a boyfriend to rescue her instead of letting her shine on her own.

If you're a Simone Elkeles fan, I think you'll enjoy Wild Cards. If you've never tried one of her books, and prefer your YA on the steamy, angsty side, you should definitely check this book out!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing September 24-30

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Every Tuesday, I tell you about all the great new YA books you can grab in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing in September so we can all check them out!

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA -- if I missed something, please let me know in comments. You are also welcome to link your reviews of YA books that were self-pubbed in September!
The winner of the September giveaway can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.) Enter by linking reviews, commenting on linked reviews, or tweeting :)  
Click on the covers to read description and add to Goodreads.  *Asterisked titles may have different international release dates*

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (Bloomsbury)
The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski (Greenwillow)
Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce (Scholastic)

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinness Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson Inhuman by Kat Falls
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (Katherine Tegen)
Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson (Delacorte)
Inhuman by Kat Falls (Scholastic)

Shadows by Robin McKinley Find Me by Romily Bernard Through the Zombie Glass by Gena Showalter
Shadows by Robin McKinley (Nancy Paulsen Books)
Find Me by Romily Bernard (Harper)
Through the Zombie Glass by Gena Showalter (Harlequin)

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan Fallout by S.A. Bodeen
All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry (Viking)
Untold (Lynburn Legacy #2) by Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)
Fallout (Compound #2) by S. A. Bodeen (Feiwel and Friends)

Fractured by Teri Terry Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender Invasion by Walter Dean Myers
*Fractured (Slated #2) by Teri Terry (Nancy Paulsen Books)
Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender (Scholastic)
Invasion by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic)

Countdown by Michelle Rowan Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi Inheritance by Malinda Lo
Countdown by Michelle Rowen (HarlequinTeen)
Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi (Knopf)
Inheritance (Adaptation #2) by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown)

A Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron A Radiant Sky by Jocelyn Davies The Darkest Path by Jeff Hirsch
A Spark Unseen (Dark Unwinding #2) by Sharon Cameron
A Radiant Sky (Beautiful Dark #3) by Jocelyn Davies (Harper)
The Darkest Path by Jeff Hirsch (Scholastic)

If you want to find out what's new in New Adult, be sure to check out This Week in NA on Books With Bite!
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