Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: EXILE by Shannon Messenger

Title: EXILE
Published: October 1st 2013
Series: Keeper of the Lost Cities #2
Genre: MG Fantasy
Publisher: Aladdin
POV: 3rd person limited
Pages: 576
Format: Printed ARC
Source: Publicist
Rating: The Royal Library, Top Shelf
Sophie Foster thought she was safe. Settled into her home at Havenfield, surrounded by friends, and using her unique telepathic abilities to train Silveny--the first female alicorn ever seen in the Lost Cities--her life finally seems to be coming together.

But Sophie's kidnappers are still out there. And when Sophie discovers new messages and clues from the mysterious Black Swan group, she’s forced to take a terrifying risk—one that puts everyone in incredible danger.

As long buried secrets rise to the surface, it’s once again up to Sophie to uncover hidden memories—before someone close to her is lost forever.

In this second book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie must journey to the darkest corners of her luminous world in a sequel that will leave you breathless for more.

Sophie Foster is back, and in EXILE  she's in for a world of trouble and excitement. From training a rare alicorn (essentially, a very endearing winged unicorn) to trying not to fail her classes at Foxfire, Sophie's life becomes exceedingly complicated when the mysterious Black Swan group continues to send her obscure messages. As if that's not bad enough, Sophie's become even more of a strange outcast in her society -- especially since she now has a goblin bodyguard to keep her safe -- and her elfish abilities are starting to have some problems. In order to save herself - and the people she cares about - Sophie has to travel into unknown territory, and decide who she can trust to help her succeed... 

Once again, Messenger gives elves and other creatures of myth her own twist in this captivating sequel. Dangerous, thrilling, and incredibly surprising, EXILE is an outstanding sequel that will keep readers glued to the pages. I told myself I would only read a few chapters one night, and somehow found myself up at midnight, still reading. The characters I fell in love with in the first novel are given more page-time in this sequel, and Sophie's adventures take a darker, more emotional turn. While I highly enjoyed KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, Messenger surprised me with how incredible EXILE turned out to be. If you are looking for a fun and creative middle-grade series that is filled with surprises and fabulous characters, then you need to check out these books. 

Highlights: I love how important family and friendship is in this series. While Sophie relies heavily on herself, she also leans on her friends (especially Dex and Keefe) and family (the fabulous Grady and Edaline) when she needs some extra support. I even enjoyed Sophie's struggles with her abilities in this novel, and how she never let that hold her back. The new details Messenger included about Sophie's fascinating world were fantastic. While reading, I never knew what to expect from this story, so I was very surprised by certain moments. 

Lowlights: I didn't make note of any lowlights while reading, so I think it's safe to say that I highly enjoyed this entire story. I was a bit bothered by Fitz's moody attitude, but I understand why he acted the way he did. 

Rating: The Royal Library, Top Shelf. I love EXILE, so it is going on the top shelves in the royal library where everyone can see it. I'd highly recommend this book, because it is an incredible story and an exceptional sequel. 

My Reviews of Other Works by Shannon Messenger

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking The Spine

Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Releases: April 15th, 2014
From the author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.

Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

I enjoyed MY LIFE NEXT DOOR, so I can't wait to see what Fitzpatrick does with her next book!

What are you waiting on? 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Top Ten Best Sequels Ever

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

1.  THE CROWN OF EMBERS: This book made me fall in love with this trilogy.
2.  CROWN OF MIDNIGHT: Epic, surprising, romantic, and deadly. All-around, it's fabulous.
3.  SCARLET: SO GOOD. I need the third book, ASAP.
5.  A MILLION SUNS: The mystery! The revelations! Love this book!
6.  BITTERBLUE: Not a direct sequel, but fabulous nonetheless.
7.  SPARK: Gabriel. Fire. Merrick brothers. Thank you, Brigid Kemmerer.
8.  DEMONGLASS: Exciting, surprising, and oh so humorous.
9.  INSURGENT: Not as good as book one, but still very surprising.
10. CATCHING FIRE: This story impressed me - it so surprising!

What book do you think is one of the best sequels ever?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Highlights / Lowlights: MEGAN MEADE'S GUIDE TO THE MCGOWAN BOYS by Kate Brian

Author: Kate Brian (AKA, Kieran Scott)
Published: September 2006
Series: N/A
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: SimonTeen
Pages: 267 
POV: 1st person
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought/Own
Rating: The Royal Library, Top Shelf
Boys. 7 of them, to be exact.

Megan is used to moving from place to place -- it's typical for an army brat. But she drew the line at South Korea. She insists on staying in the States to finish her last two years of high school. So her parents made arrangements for Megan to live with their friends, the McGowans...and the McGowans' 7 sons.

Turns out, living with 7 boys might as well be a foreign country! The boys are messy. They are cliquey (who knew?). And worst of all, two of the oldest boys are H-O-T. (A problem considering they are supposed to be Megan's "brothers.") Megan is definitely in enemy territory. She needs to win over the boys' hearts without totally crushing her own. And when Megan starts falling for one of them, sibling rivalry takes on a whole new meaning....What is a girl to do?

Highlights: Ever wonder what it would be like to live with 7 boys you're not related to?1 Megan Meade finds out in MEGAN MEADE'S GUIDE TO THE MCGOWAN BOYS, and this novel is every bit of fun as you'd expect it to be. But, it's not all light-hearted fun. There is some drama, between Megan and the McGowan boys, along with a few of her new classmates. The various and developing relationships (such as the slowly forming motherly-daughterly one between Megan and Regina, and the slow friendships Megan creates with the McGowan's) were my favorite part of the novel. Plus, Megan's an athletic girl, and I highly enjoyed the soccer scenes. 

Lowlights: I wish Brian had written more, and given some of the brothers (like Sean2) more page-time. I disliked the last couple paragraphs of the novel, because they made me question a few things about the way it ended. It created a bit too much doubt about who Megan ends up with instead of intrigue. 

Rating: The Royal Library, Top Shelf3love this book, so it is going on the top shelves in the royal library where everyone can see it. I'd highly recommend MEGAN MEADE'S GUIDE TO THE MCGOWAN BOYS, because it is a fun story with enough drama and romance to satisfy readers.

1 *Raises hand* 
2 Otherwise known as "mysterious, nice, and attractive motorcycle-riding brother," which is pretty much all I learned about his character throughout the entire novel. Bummer.
3 I grew up reading this novel, so I'm probably a bit biased. If you're looking for a fun book with some light drama (not to mention focus on family and a little romance too), then you might enjoy this story!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dear Book Banners,

I started falling in love with books when I was eleven or twelve years old, and my parents happily agreed with my newly discovered hobby. They brought me to the bookstore once every few months, and would buy me two or three books of my choice. When I strolled into Borders, I walked straight for the TEEN / YOUNG ADULT section. I browsed the shelves, made my choices, and told my parents when I was done. We went to the checkout counter, paid, left, and I thanked them. Every single trip, it was the same thing. 

My parents never, not once, asked to see my book choices. 

You might think, well, maybe you had parents who expose their children to anything, appropriate or not. Or, maybe even you had terrible parents who did not care about you enough to worry about your reading material. You would be wrong in both cases. My parents have always been very protective and concerned about me. They knew where I was at all times, who I was with, what I was doing, and were always present in my life. They always made sure that I was making good choices in my life. 

So, why did my (slightly controlling) parents never check my book choices? 

It is because my parents trusted me. They trusted me to know what I was ready to read and to know right from wrong (and be able to discern both from the content of my newly purchased novels). They trusted me to make good decisions, to use books as a learning experience. They trusted me to realize that novels are not real, and that my life will not always reflect the ones presented in the story. 

I’m sure they realized, at one point or another, that some of those YA novels featured sex, drugs, alcohol, cursing, and et cetera. But, they still encouraged my reading. They trusted me to learn from those stories and from the "bad behavior" featured in some of them. They preferred to have me read about those subjects in order to learn, as opposed to shielding me and possibly leading me to make those mistakes in my own life. 

YA novels taught me that I never want to do drugs. I learned that sex should be meaningful, and it should be something both parties are prepared for (including unintended consequences, such as pregnancy or STI’s). I learned to never cheat, and even if it means failing. I learned that alcohol can make people do stupid things, and I have yet to touch even a drop, despite the fact that I am legally of age to drink. I learned that people curse, and at the end of the day, those are merely words. They cannot hurt you, unless you let them. I learned that some words can, however, hurt others who are sensitive. I learned to treat others the way I want to be treated. 

I learned how to be the best version of myself through YA literature that is routinely challenged for banned for featuring “adult” or “questionable” content.

Now, I am a college student with two Associate degrees, and I will also (hopefully) earn a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature this spring. And, honestly, I feel that I have done well in life so far. I know I owe that to my parents, but also to the novels I read as a teenager. Those stories shaped who I am, and I will always be grateful for them. I will always be grateful to my parents for never telling me “You can’t read this” and even more grateful that they let me read anything and everything. Instead of censoring, they let me learn and grow through literature. They let me read about the "uglier" side of life, and I am a better person for it. 

I understand why some adults are nervous when it comes to letting their teenagers read YA novels that have cursing, sex, abuse, and etc. I understand completely. But, many of these topics are already in every teenager’s daily life. 

I had friends who had sex as teenagers. I decided to wait. 

I had friends who drank alcohol and did drugs as teenagers. I refused. 

I had friends who cursed like sailors as teenagers. I…well, I cursed as a teenager. Barely. 

The truth is that you cannot protect teenagers and children from everything. 

Literature is a safe haven. Let them read, and discuss it with them. Better yet, let them read, and allow them the chance to discover right from wrong on their own. If you cannot do that, I’m sorry. I wish you could, for the sake of your child(ren), who could learn so much from those novels that you are currently waving in the air and urging other adults to ban from schools and libraries. 

If you do censor your children’s reading material, I hope that you do not extend this censorship to public schools or libraries. You do not have to right to take books away from other people. I would never walk up to you and tell you what you or your child can and cannot read. If I did, you would be annoyed with me. Furious, even. I realize you only want to help, but you are hurting many teenagers by taking away literature that can change their lives for the better

I read YA books with “questionable” content, adult books with adult content, and classics as a teenager. Thanks to those novels, I made good life choices as a teenager, and I still try to do so as an adult. Reading those novels did not turn me into some sex-crazed, alcoholic, cursing, abusive person. They turned me into a young woman who tries to live happily and healthily, who always tries to be kind to others, and who strives to learn as much as possible. 

I think I turned out pretty well. I think your teenager will turn out pretty well, too, so long as you give them the opportunity to learn from literature. While sharing darker issues with your child is scary, it will help them grow. I hope you give them a chance to do so. I hope you look at literature and see it as a tool for learning, not as the enemy. 

I hope you embrace literature, because literature will never hurt you. Literature will show you mistakes you should avoid in life and teach you new ideas and perspectives. But, at the end of the day, YOU are the only person who can decide what you will learn from every story. There is not a single book that will force you to believe or behave in positive or disagreeable ways. You make that choice, all on your own. 

SOME BOOKS THAT I READ AS A TEENAGER (Both YA and Adult Literature): 
PRIVATE series by Kate Brian
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson
HARRY POTTER series by JK Rowling
DREAMLAND by Sarah Dessen
THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER by Sarah Dessen (and other Dessen novels)
WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson
ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
THE GIVER by Lois Lowry
GOSSIP GIRL by Cecily von Ziegesar
DEVILISH by Maureen Johnson
ERAGON by Christopher Paolini
THE LUXE by Anna Godbersen
JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte
ROMEO AND JULIET by William Shakespeare
MACBETH by William Shakespeare
THE SCARLET LETTER by Nathaniel Hawthorne
MOBY DICK by Herman Melville
THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinback
THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinback
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
NIGHT by Elie Weisel 
IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote
THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL by Philippa Gregory
And many more!

This post was inspired by Banned Books Week

Monday, September 9, 2013


Author: Leila Sales
Published: September 17th, 2013
Series: N/A
Genre: YA contemporary
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
POV: 1st person, past tense
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher / Publicist
Rating: The Royal Library, Middle Shelf
"Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, Leila Sales' THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together."

Elise Dembowski is that girl – the girl that doesn't fit in no matter how hard she tries, who exists along the outskirts of her high school hierarchy, the girl others notice only when they're harassing her, and the girl who is completely and utterly lost in her own life. I don't know about you, but when I younger, I was sometimes that girl. So, it was easy for me to sink into this story and let Elise's words and newly discovered musical life wash over me. From high school annoyances to DJing in the hottest underground club in the world1, you'll likely find yourself up late at night, still reading THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, and loving every second of it. This was my first Leila Sales novel, and it definitely will not be my last.

Highlights: Sales brings Elise Dembowski to life and makes her a genuine protagonist that readers will love to root for. This story is about more than suicide2 – it's about family, friendship, music, dancing like a total fool, finding yourself, and figuring out your place in life. Characters were a definite highlight, especially Vicky and Mel. The DJ aspect was very cool, and Elise's song preferences gave me more music to check out. I enjoyed how the romance aspect didn't pretend to be more than it actually was - there's attraction, but not love. 

Lowlights: It's hard to say what kept me from falling head-over-heels for this book. Maybe her parents lack of attention? I mean, really. She's sneaking out every Thursday night and NOBODY notices?

Rating: The Royal Library, Middle Shelf. THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is fantastic, worth owning, and has earned a spot in the royal library. I enjoyed this story very much, and would recommend this book to other readers.

1 Unless you're Pippa, in which case, Start is not the hottest underground nightclub in the world. Also, why can't my city have the hottest underground nightclub?! I want to dance! *sighs*
2 The suicide aspect of this story is very small, actually.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (119): REBEL BELLE and THE WINNER'S CURSE

WoW is hosted by Breaking The Spine

Author: Rachel Hawkins
Release: April 8th, 2014
Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.

I loved Rachel Hawkins's novels HEX HALL and DEMONGLASS (still need to get the last book, though), so I'm excited for her newest work. This story sounds like it's going to be fun and amusing! Snappy banter, ancient line of guardians, mysterious prophecies...I'm sold.

Release: March 4th, 2014
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences.

It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

I highly enjoyed THE SHADOW SOCIETY, so I'm very excited to see what Rutkoski's next novel will be like! It sounds so intriguing. 

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Top Ten Books That I Wish Were Taught In Schools

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish!

1.  DREAMLAND by Sarah Dessen
3.  CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein
4.  BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys
5.  BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver
6.  THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney
7.  THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green
8.  HARRY POTTER by JK Rowling
9.  SPLIT by Swati Avasthi
10.  WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson

I was going to include a reason for each book, but it ended up sounding very fangirl-y, so I'll only say that all ten books are incredible and worth discussing in a classroom setting.

What are your top ten choices?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Highlights / Lowlights: WHEN YOU WERE MINE by Rebecca Serle

Author: Rebecca Serle
Published: May 1st, 2012
Genre: YA contemporary
Pages: 334
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: electronic ARC
Source: GalleyGrab
Rating: The Courtyard
Rosaline knows that she and Rob are destined to be together. Rose has been waiting for years for Rob to kiss her--and when he finally does, it's perfect. But then Juliet moves back to town. Juliet, who used to be Rose's best friend. Juliet, who now inexplicably hates her. Juliet, who is gorgeous, vindictive, and a little bit crazy...and who has set her sights on Rob. He doesn't even stand a chance.

Rose is devastated over losing Rob to Juliet. This is not how the story was supposed to go. And when rumors start swirling about Juliet's instability, her neediness, and her threats of suicide, Rose starts to fear not only for Rob's heart, but also for his life. Because Shakespeare may have gotten the story wrong, but we all still know how it ends.

Highlights: I have always thought that Romeo was a jerk from the way he quickly transferred his affections from Rosaline to Juliet in William Shakespeare's play, Romeo & Juliet. So, as a fan of Shakespeare's work, I was very excited to read Rosaline's POV in a modern retelling. While the story wasn't quite what I hoped for, I did enjoy certain aspects. I liked Len's character and Rose's interactions with him, and a few other side characters stood out, especially Juliet. The romantic interactions were solid, and the secrets each family had kept me curious. 

Lowlights: Understandably predictable. It sometimes became over-the-top dramatic about things that didn't really matter1.  WHEN YOU WERE MINE fails to introduce anything new or surprising to the tragic story. Characters treated Juliet like she was the bad guy through most of the book, but honestly, I think most of the blame lies with Rob2. I didn't feel a strong connection to the story or to Rose. Shakespeare's writing is classic, but even with such excellent source material as a starting point, this retelling was nothing special. 

Rating: The Courtyard. I liked WHEN YOU WERE MINE enough to finish reading, but I'd only invite it inside the palace on rare occasions. I would not purchase this book, because the story had quite a few flaws. Still, if I ever feel the need to visit with this story again, I'd be glad to see it hanging around in the courtyard (or in reality, the public library). 

1 But hey, that's high school. Social drama is almost a requirement. 
2 This story would have been more interesting if Rose would have blamed Rob, not Juliet.