Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cornerstone Read-Along Week Four

                                                                         
Oh no! It is the last week of the read-along for Cornerstone! (And my post is late) Oh, I've loved this read-along and meeting the new bloggers that have joined in as well as some of our old blogging friends.
If you'd like to join in you can sign up at Rainy Day Ramblings.
For a full schedule of all the questions and answers here they are:

Below are the questions for this week's final Read-Along:

Cornerstone Read-along Questions- Week #4
Ch.17-21, pp. 195-219

1.  At the party Jen's true colors seem to re-emerge. Did you buy Jen's earlier apology and feel that she was genuinely sorry for the way she treated Nali or did you suspect all along that she was being false? Do you think Jen had an ulterior motive for inviting Nali (and Garrett) to her party? Was it a good idea for Nali to attend the part in the end?

No, I never bought Jen's apology. The words never really came out of her mouth. Yeah, she wanted to make a mockery of Nali in front of Garrett so that he would drop her and want to date her. But she seems to forget that Garrett never wanted to date her in the first place. I think it was a good idea for her to go so everyone could see her and Garrett together, but they didn't get to stay long enough to make a huge difference. But I think maybe Jen got the message. But she's just more angry now.

2.  When Nali discovers her father holding her mother at gunpoint he tells her that he only wants to be a family again. He also tells Nali that her mind has been poisoned against him by her mother.  Did you believe there was any truth to his words or that his feelings towards Nali were sincere at all? Do you think there is any truth to Roger's claims of the Ianua being controlling? 

No, there's no truth to that. Nali's mother never even talked about her father until very recently and she never told him what her father did. She still didn't tell him what his threats were until she absolutely had to. Poisoning her mind would have been talking bad against him for years and she never did that. No, his feelings were never sincere about being a family. You don't hold a gun to someone to make them be your family. No, I don't believe the Ianua is controlling. There was always stress that Nali had a choice. Nali knew she had a choice to be in it or not. Evangeline left the community and no one forced her to return. No one asked for the papers she was writing. If they were controlling they would have constantly tried to force them to return to the community.

3.  When Nali drops the Cornerstone in exchange for the release of her mother, it distracts Roger and Nali's mom attempts to escape. After a struggle Evangeline is shot and killed by Roger. Do you think Evangeline intentionally sacrificed herself? Were you surprised when Roger took his own life afterwards instead of returning to the Fury with Nali? What does Roger's suicide say about his character?

Yes, I think Evangeline intentionally sacrificed herself. She wanted Nali to get away from Roger and was buying her precious time.  I think Roger had crossed over to the insanity part of the Fury, but had just enough left that he still knew right from wrong and really did love Evangeline and Nali (just had a warped way of showing it) and he was sorry for what he had done. I wasn't surprised. He knew Nali's choice and he couldn't change especially after he killed her mother. He lost everything when Evangeline died. I think his suicide says he might have had a small part of a conscience left and decency, to not take Nali to the Fury. He'd have been almost forced to make her part of the Fury's plans if he had lived.

4.  After Nali's mom is killed, she returns as Nali's new connection replacing Grace. Did this surprise you? Do you think it "was meant to be" as Nali's mother says?

I was surprised, but I guess with the way things work out, I shouldn't have been. This novel is so unpredictable that it's really hard to guess what's going to happen. It must have been meant to be and I should have seen it coming when that conversation between Nali and Garrett took place. But again, so unpredictable.

5.  When Nali regains consciousness she learns from the Addo that in addition to losing her own parents, all the other Addo's have been killed as well as Garrett's father. Were you surprised that all these characters were killed off by the end of the book?

Yes, killing off big characters is a big deal. That there are no male role models for all those boys in the family is going to be interesting to see. I guess Sean will have to step up. There is so much grief and sadness at the end of the book. But I wonder if  Mr. Reese will become one of the boy's connections. Or if Sean will choose a different path, now.

6.  Nali must decide whether to pick the Cornerstone back up and start the imprinting process again (which will be extremely painful and possibly life threatening) or she can choose to walk away and have a Simple life. Nali decides to pick the stone back up and become Contego. Why do you think she made this decision? Was it for vengeance? Was it for Garrett? Or do you think there is another reason? Would you have made the same decision if you had been in Nali's place?

No, Nali's reasons for picking up the Cornerstone were personally her own. She wants to be Contego. That was her choice and she is going to honor that. She knows all the possibilities, but she thinks it's worth the risk. And she wants to protect the Addo. That's what she was born to do. Would I make the same choice?
I'm a bit of a chicken especially when it comes to dying, but yes, if that's what I was born to do, I would do it and if I died doing it, then that's what I was meant to do.

Totally awesome questions! This was such a great read-along! I really enjoyed it and pick up a copy of Cornerstone if you haven't already. It is unlike anything you've read. It does have a religious community in it, but they are unlike anything you've ever known and it isn't religious in anyway. The second book is out now called Keystone. There is an awesome blog tour going on right now regarding that, and you can see my post for that, Keystone Blog Tour  here and enter the giveaways. 


Thank for following along!

Heather

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini Review

The Other Normals

by Ned Vizzini
Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine “Perry” Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin, so when his parents ship him off to summer camp Perry is sure he’s in for the worst summer of his life.
Everything changes, however, when Perry gets to camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals. Perry’s new otherworldly friends need his help to save their princess and prevent mass violence. As they embark on their quest together, Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero.
Bestselling author Ned Vizzini delivers a compulsively readable and     wildly original story about the winding and often hilarious path to manhood

I just don't even know where to start with a review of this novel. The characters, Perry, well he is so endearing in an adorkable way, you know boys like this even if you were a girl, you were like him, maybe still have moments like he did. You can't help but like him, he's just trying to become a man and has no idea how to do it. He's fifteen and hasn't hit puberty. He's into playing an RPG game that's not played on a computer. Yeah, more adorkable. He makes his own battle plans and characters but doesn't name them. He doesn't buy the expensive characters. He doesn't even have friends to play the game with. What? No other "nerds" to play this game with. Until he meets Sam in the comic book store. And buys a book about C&C called "The Other Normals". They play in the stairwell at Perry's school and plan campaigns and battles. Perry has one friend.

And then his alcoholic brother tells him, he's going to Summer Camp. Not Math Camp. Nope this is normal camp with regular kids. His parents have been divorcing for 8 years and are dating their respective divorce lawyers so the lawyers confirm this bit of doom and then his parents do, too. It's the worst news he can imagine. As they drive to the camp, there is a sign that all lawyers must get out there. So the divorce lawyers get out without questioning it. (Weird) Maybe if they compared the brochure to the camp they would sue. The lake on the brochure is beautiful, in reality, it's drained. And so it goes with the rest of the camp. Perry's RPG things are confiscated except for a small figure his mom gives him before she leaves. It looks amazingly like Perry and comes in handy when he gets in a fight immediately.

And then, Perry's life changes forever. He follows a creature that he created for C&C into the woods and travels to the world of "The Other Normals". The adventures that follow prove his mettle as a boy on his way to manhood and disprove everything he thought he knew about the universe. He meets Mortin Enaw, Ada, Gramary and Leidan all of whom change his life and he changes theirs. He is tasked with kissing Anna, a girl from the camp across the non existent lake and when they send him back to his side of the world he gives it an awkward try. An embarrassing, unplanned and completely inappropriate thing happens. He has to escape to "The Other Normals" to get away from his shame.

Through a few trips back and forth, the events in his world are changed as well in "The Other World" but Perry himself is changed. He's no longer this kid who is afraid to live in the real world that he has to escape into an RPG to live. He learns to trust himself, think, be brave.

It is a funny story with weirdness at every turn. It is a story about an awkward teen whose pick up line is to hold a fire extinguisher and say, "You need this because you're so hot." He thinks the three story comic book store is like a "nerd Mothership." This is the young inexperienced Perry.

This is Perry in the world of "The Other Normals", just taking things in stride, sorta. "No I'm not. I put down my spork. Everybody uses sporks in the world of the Other Normals." Funny little tidbits are thrown in that make you back up and say, wait what? And you go back and read it again. I so see my youngest son in Perry an I'm going to get a print copy of this for him so he can see that growing up isn't all terrible. It can be a fun adventure. That's what I got most from the story, that despite the awkward phases, you can still go on, no matter how embarrassing or hard it seems.

I definitely think there is room for another story though it's nicely wrapped up. I'd love to read another adventure, growing up story about Perry. It was amazingly well written, fast paced, humorous and fresh. No wasted words, it never got slow or dragged. Even at 400 pages it was a fast read.

I haven't done it justice with my review. I know that. Hopefully others will do a better job. This is an amazingly well written story about the awkwardness of being different in a world of "normal" and trying to fit in. It's about finding that fitting in isn't at all what it's cracked up to be and that being different, being who you are is just fine. But you have to find out who that really is, be honest with yourself about who you are. And you have to move forward. Ned Vizzini is so great at capturing awkward teen years. I hope he continues to write these stories, for the awkward teens, boys and girls, everywhere.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher Balzer and Bray for an honest review. This in no way influenced my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, September 24, 2012

So Into You by Cecilia Gray AToMR Tour and Giveaways (International)

So Into You (Book 2 in the Jane Austen Academy Series)

by Cecilia Gray
Modern retelling/based on Sense & Sensibility.
The last thing that the girls at the elite Jane Austen Academy need is guys. But over the summer the school has been sold, and like it or not, the guys are coming. And they're about to turn the Academy—and the lives of its students—totally upside down…
Meet sweet and sensible Ellie who hasn’t met a problem her mom’s yoga mantras can’t fix. But when her parents threaten to pull her from the Academy just as her flirtation with the cutest boy in school heats up, will Ellie be able to keep her cool?

This is the second novel in the Jane Austen Academy Series. Here is my review for the first book, Fall for You. This novel picks up right after the last novel left off. I had to kind of jostle my memory a little bit to remember who each of the four girls were, but it didn't take long. Emma is the somewhat shallow fashionista, but she has a great heart and she lives with Ellie who was formerly best friends exclusively with Lizzie who is now currently dating the hottest guy at school, Dante and was the main character of Fall for You. She lives with Anne whose parents used to own the school, but due to poor financial decisions, are in bankruptcy and someone else has purchased the school. Someone that introduced boys to the school for the first time this year.  They also want to change the name of the school, something the girls are adamantly against, but no one more outspoken against this than Lizzie. She seems to be consumed with Dante and the name change leaving her best friend Ellie and her problems to herself and Emma when she isn't busy with her own drama.

While the first novel was somewhat simple in plot line, this one is much more complex with several subplots running alongside the main plot which is that Ellie's parents aren't paying her tuition. They are setting up a yoga studio in Guatemala and adopting a baby and they want Ellie to come with them. Not want really, expect her to come with them. Jasta, the name the girls fondly call The Jane Austen Academy, is home to Ellie and she can't imagine leaving it. It's where she can be the surfer girl and the math geek and where four seemingly distinctly different girls, Anne, Lizzie, Emma and Ellie can be friends. Home is and has always been Jasta.

Complicating matters is the rather confusing flirtation she has with Edward. He's funny and sweet and thoughtful and Ellie falls for him hard. He gives every indication that he feels the same way about her but he never makes his move. In an embarrassing moment she makes it abundantly clear that she likes him, but he freezes up and leaves. Ellie is embarrassed and stuffs all her feelings inside. She listens to Emma go on an on about Josh, the teen actor she's fallen for who doesn't seem very much interested in her except as a little fun and she listens to Lizzie go on and on about Dante's parents who hate her. But she never reveals how hard it hits her when the hardest blow comes on parents night. How hard it is to work in the kitchens morning, noon and night and still keep up her studies so she can afford books and board. No one notices her pain.

So Into You is a great novel about facing the realities of life, recognizing who and what you stand for, and where your place is in the world. Sometimes you have to go against those who think they know best for you. It teaches you to believe in yourself. It's fun and heartbreaking and filled with friendship and the resounding motto of Jasta that, "We Will Be Heard!"

Recommended for YA readers. Some mature themes. Highly recommended!
Thanks to Cecilia Gray and AToMR tours for the complimentary copy of the novel. The rest of the tour can be found on the tour page  So Into You.

You can find the author, Cecilia Gray here:

Social Media links:
Twitter: @ceciliabooks


The Giveaway is Books One and Two in the Series Fall For You and So Into You. You can enter below. The giveaway is open Internationaly as the books are e-books.


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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cornerstone Read-Along Week Three


This week's Read Along questions are brought to us by Heidi at Rainy Day Ramblings
This is week 3 of the Cornerstone Read Along and the Questions cover Chapters 11-16. Thanks to Heidi for these questions and for participating in the read along! Again, if you haven't read Cornerstone, the questions and answers are going to give the story away, but if you don't mind, read away! And remember,
the E-Book is only 99cents on Amazon HERE
Also there is a giveaway to one winner of a signed copy of CORNERSTONE and an E-Book of KEYSTONE. You get an entry each time you link up. And don't forget the epic awesome giveaways going on with the KEYSTONE TOUR which you can see on my Blog Here

Cornerstone Questions Chapters 11-16

1. Were you surprised about the revelations of the unique society that Nali now finds herself a part of? Which of the four signs do you identify the most with: Alo, Contego, Addo or Veritas?

Come on, I'm a book person- Alo of course! I'm not a fighter/protector (unless it's my kid then Mama Bear comes out), I'm not a wise person and God forbid I try to organize anything. The world would be an unruly mess. Wait, it already is! Maybe the wrong people are Veritas!

2. The Reese boys have a unique way of answering their phone. Tell me the funniest or most interesting way you have answered your phone or someone else's.  

My college roommate and I had a morbid sense of humor so we used to answer the phone "City morgue. You stab 'em we slab 'em." It's probably from a movie or something but it became a habit for us to answer the phone that way. This was before caller i.d. My son just told me that was sick and not in a good way so maybe I shouldn't be admitting this, but it's what we thought was funny back then.

3. Do you think Nalena is going to be able to stick with her initial choice of living a Simple Life or do you feel Garrett or the Addo will persuade her to change her mind?

She won't stick with it. She's got way too much Contego in her to not fight it. Plus, I know she wants to be able to protect her mother.

4. The Addo does not fit the wise man mold with his sweats and cookie crumbs. What was you first impression of him? Would you go to him for advice?

Okay, when I picture the Addo in my mind, I see Brian Doyle Murray in my mind, the way he looked in 17 Again, with the beard and mustache and white hair (I know he's supposed to have brown hair). And I can see him in a sweat suit and yeah, I think I'd go to him for advice. Why not? Who says you have to look serious to get advice from them? There are great comedians out there dishing some great wisdom! Plus he just sounds approachable. I like an approachable looking and sounding wise man rather than a stern, scholarly looking person. I'd be much more likely to go to them and listen to them.

5. What do you think of Nalena's mom's reaction to the revelation that other Addo are dying? Do you think she is in denial?

Uh, yeah! Like big time!! Denial like the river in Egypt! Too Corny???? I also think she's a little bit scared for herself. It will also mean that there is a Cusp and that Nali may have to use her powers to fight to protect her mom.

6. What do you think of Nalena's new guardian angel, Grace? Do you believe in guardian angels? Have you ever had an experience where you felt like someone was looking out for you?
I always liked that line when Nalena wanted her mom to write a story about it so I'm glad that is who Grace turned out to be. She sounds adorable.

 Do I believe in guardian angels....I have to say I think some people have someone looking out for them. As reckless and clueless as my youngest son is, he should be dead or at least horribly disfigured and maimed by now, but he quite obviously has someone taking extra good care of him. He's done countless things that would have killed others or has just missed killing himself, just missed an artery, an eye etc. No one can be that lucky! I don't believe I have one.

I think that inner voice inside us that tells us to wait for someone else to go into the parking lot at night or to double check the doors or not talk to that stranger, I think that's someone looking out for us whether it's our primal nature of survival, inner wisdom or wisdom from above. The trick is learning to listen to it and not feeling like a fool for listening to it. Trust that inner voice. (Not the one that tells you bad things about yourself, that's a different voice. This is the one that makes decisions for you, instinct).

Awesome questions Heidi! You can link below to follow along.



Here are next week's questions:
Brought to us by Heather (great name!) from The Flyleaf Review

Cornerstone Read-along Questions- Week #4
Ch.17-21, pp. 195-219

1.  At the party Jen's true colors seem to re-emerge. Did you buy Jen's earlier apology and feel that she was genuinely sorry for the way she treated Nali or did you suspect all along that she was being false? Do you think Jen had an ulterior motive for inviting Nali (and Garrett) to her party? Was it a good idea for Nali to attend the part in the end?

2.  When Nali discovers her father holding her mother at gunpoint he tells her that he only wants to be a family again. He also tells Nali that her mind has been poisoned against him by her mother.  Did you believe there was any truth to his words or that his feelings towards Nali were sincere at all? Do you think there is any truth to Roger's claims of the Ianua being controlling?

3.  When Nali drops the Cornerstone in exchange for the release of her mother, it distracts Roger and Nali's mom attempts to escape. After a struggle Evangeline is shot and killed by Roger. Do you think Evangeline intentionally sacrificed herself? Were you surprised when Roger took his own life afterwards instead of returning to the Fury with Nali? What does Roger's suicide say about his character?

4.  After Nali's mom is killed, she returns as Nali's new connection replacing Grace. Did this surprise you? Do you think it "was meant to be" as Nali's mother says?

5.  When Nali regains consciousness she learns from the Addo that in addition to losing her own parents, all the other Addo's have been killed as well as Garrett's father. Were you surprised that all these characters were killed off by the end of the book?

6.  Nali must decide whether to pick the Cornerstone back up and start the imprinting process again (which will be extremely painful and possibly life threatening) or she can choose to walk away and have a Simple life. Nali decides to pick the stone back up and become Contego. Why do you think she made this decision? Was it for vengenace? Was it for Garrett? Or do you think there is another reason? Would you have made the same decision if you had been in Nali's place?



I so love these Read Alongs!! We actually get to discuss books!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Starling by Lesley Livingston Review

Starling

by Lesley Livingston
Goodreads Summary:
Mason Starling is a champion fencer on the Gosforth Academy team, but she's never had to fight for her life. Not until the night a ferocious, otherworldly storm rips through Manhattan, trapping Mason and her teammates inside the school. Mason is besieged by nightmarish creatures more terrifying than the thunder and lightning as the raging tempest also brings a dangerous stranger into her life: a young man who remembers nothing but his name--the Fennrys Wolf. His arrival tears Mason's world apart, even as she feels an undeniable connection to him. Together, they seek to unravel the secrets of Fenn's identity as strange and supernatural forces gather around them. When they discover Mason's family--with its dark allegiance to ancient Norse gods--is at the heart of the mystery, Fennrys and Mason are suddenly faced with a terrifying future.

Set against the gritty, shadowed back-drop of New York City, this first novel in award-winning author Lesley Livingston's epic Starling Saga is an intoxicating blend of sweeping romance and pulse-pounding action.

I'm not quite sure how this one seems to have slipped under everyone's radar but I thought it was fantastic once I got a chance to read it. This is new stuff- Norse mythology which I know next to nothing about. Vikings, Asgard, Odin, Thor, Loki and that's about it. I don't know who is good or bad or anything else. But this was a really gripping novel! It starts with a bang with fencing practice being interrupted by a hellacious storm and I do mean hellacious with monsters that look like they come from that very place. And a beautiful naked man wielding a sword that can kill these monsters with one blow. He puts the fencers to shame as they cower behind him, all but Mason Starling, daughter to Gunnar Starling sister to Rothgar and Rory. When you meet Rothgar, you're going to want him to have his own series or at least have a lot more time in the story. Biker guy, very protective of his little sis and able to appease the very volatile and demanding Gunnar Starling, yeah,Fennrys Wolf was very swoon worthy, but so was Rothgar

So, you've got a bunch of Vikings, actually descendants of them, stinking rich and they know how to use swords. Rory and Mason attend an elite prep school that make elite schools we've previous read about look like public school. There's a boy with a distinctly Greek sounding name and his mother and Gunnar get into a fight after the monsters attack the school. Hmmm, Vikings, Greeks....Just think on that. And then there's the Fennrys Wolf who is inexplicably drawn to Mason and she to him. The problem is, Fenn cannot remember anything before that night. He has nightmare and wisps of memories, but nothing is clear to him. And then there are the pesky monsters that are constantly chasing he and Mason, trying to kill them.

I tell you, I was flipping pages so fast I wasn't sure if I had read the last words on the previous pages before I had started the next page.  I've never read Lesley Livingston's Wondrous Strange series, but I am going to read it now. She knows how to tell a story. I think I was holding my breath at the end. The characters, Fenn and Mason are revealed to us and yet held back. We don't get to see what they don't know so it's hard to truly know them. But we know the mettle they are made of and they are our kind of people.

I loved this book! I cannot wait for the next in the series. This one ended on a big cliffhanger, but I don't feel like I'm dangling if that makes any sense. You'll just have to read it to see what I mean. I loved the Nordic mythology. I love Valkyries and anything to do with them, though they weren't specifically in this novel, I have a feeling it's only a matter of time. There were other mythologies sprinkled in as well so the lore could become very complex. But in a genre that is full of Greek Gods and Goddesses, this Nordic mythology is a welcome addition! And definitely worth reading for the fast paced action, the family intrigue and Rothgar!

Heather

Friday, September 14, 2012

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff a Review

Stormdancer

by Jay Kristoff
Goodreads Summary:
A DYING LAND 
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever. 
AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her. 
But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

I'll just say right now, this is a book I've been waiting almost nine months to read. It had a lot to live up to and I can say not only did it not disappoint me but if far exceeded my expectations. I expected good writing, I've been following Jay Kristoff's blog for awhile and knew he was capable of it. I got exceptionally descriptive prose so artistic that it painted a picture of the world he was describing. Yes, it was intricate and detailed to a fault, but once described, I knew what an Irezumi from each of the Zaibatsu clans looked like. I knew that Docktown was crawling with all types of people peasant to beggar to merchant. And the color of the sky, the color of a person's skin, and the color of Shima under the Shogun's rule. I was never in doubt. And this was what I always thought steampunk looked like, streets and air clogged with pollution and smoke from too many machines, people choking on the air, wearing goggles because they had to, not as a fashion statement. Too many people in too small a space. Not revolutionary ideas, but excess of machines. So yes, there is a lot of description, but like any painter, he must lay down the foundations, the base colors before the finer colors, the plot, the characters can be painted.

And the characters oh, so unforgettable. Yukiko, the 16 yr old main character is has hard as any substance on this planet. She is not without feeling, her heart is big and she loves, but she does what must be done. I thought I had seen tough characters in the past in the books I've read. All of them put together do not equal Yukiko. It's not just her skill at killing or her friendship with Buruu the "thundertiger" or the proper name arashitora. It's her ability to make decisions, the hard ones. To separate feeling from her mission. She is ruthless in her quest to restore Shima to it's former glory, when the sky was blue, when there were animals, and green plants. When the sun didn't burn everything up. When the water was clean and the air was safe to breathe. How she'll do this, she's not sure, but in this novel, she takes the first steps. 

The other characters whether minor or major, were never ignored or forgotten. From Hiro, the samurai  with the sea green eyes, to Masaru, Yukiko's father and the Master Hunter of the Shogun called "The Black Fox", no one was forgotten, each given rich detail and motivation. I was afraid I'd get hung up on foreign names and nicknames with "san" and "chan" added after the names and everything being so different. But it's as if Jay Kristoff leads you by the hand until you're comfortable with the world and then let's go. So I was never lost, I knew what every Yukiko-san meant and what Bushido was (of course the glossary in the back was very helpful and I read it a few times before I started reading). But the depth of what honor is and sacrifice for something bigger than herself-Yukiko taught me that lesson better than anything I've ever read, classics, adult comtemporaries, anything else in YA.

To say Stormdancer left an impression on me would be a huge understatement. To say that it is a good novel is an understatement. And to say that Yukiko and Buruu are just two characters in a book is an understatement. Nothing in Stormdancer is an understatement. I was there. I lived it. I felt it. That's what a great novel is. Stormdancer.
Heather

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Cornerstone Read-Along Week 2 Ch 6-10

It's the second week of the Cornerstone Read Along and the questions are tough this week since author Misty Provencher came up with these questions for me. I am rereading Cornerstone as we go along and I'm really enjoying it! If you're just reading it for the first time, I hope you're having fun joining us in the read along and will follow the Keystone tour (it's gonna have prizes...)! So without further ado the questions and my answers!


           At the start of Chapter 6, Nalena follows Garrett in pursuit of the man who attacked her in the woods.  She has a semi-out-of-body-experience, running faster than she should be able to, with the ground passing beneath her in “a dirty blur”.  Her feeling of fear is what jerks her back into herself and trips her up.  What do you think of her new abilities and what limitations might they present? 
 I    I  think her new "abilities" are great especially as she seems in danger and they seem to somehow link her to Garrett. But her fear is definitely going to be a limitation if she is going to lose her powers every time she gets scared of them. She could get really hurt if Garrett isn't around to protect her or even that time when she dropped and rolled, I can't believe she didn't break her arm again.

 After Nalena loses Garrett in the pursuit, Nalena and her mother end up at Garrett’s house to let his parents know what has happened.  We meet the rest of the Reese family, including Garrett’s oldest brother and carbon copy, Sean, and Garrett’s youngest sibling and only sister, Iris.   Sean and Iris remain at the house while the rest go to search for Garrett.  Why do you think they were the ones left behind?  Anything odd in their conversation that could give us clues as to what is going on?

They were left behind because Iris was the youngest and most in danger and Sean was left behind because other than the parents, the most capable of taking care of Iris and Nali and her mom. The whole conversation that went on was weird. What Iris was trying to say the boys were, "impressioned"  the police being called or not, it was all very weird. I didn't have a clue what was going on. I felt like Nali did. Why wasn't anyone else as upset as she was?

3.      Chapter 7- Um, WHY do you think he didn’t kiss her???  If you were in Nali’s shoes, would you have forced the kiss to happen?
     
      The only reason I can think of for him not to kiss her when he was so close was that he didn't want to take advantage of her when she was so obviously upset. Big Mistake. That's when you kiss the girl! No! If he didn't kiss me, I would high tail it out of there out of sheer embarrassment. I would never have made the first move! Neither would Nali. This is all brand new to her.

In Chapter 7, Evangeline drops it like its hot and explains her past, what the Ianua is and why she’s kept Nalena from it all.  At this point, if you could have a broader view of the world Nalena is entering into, what would you envision or assume it to be like?  Would you be frightened or intrigued?

I'm really not sure how to answer that question. The way it's described, I just imagine a bunch of scribes like from the bible sitting around in a dusty room scribbling on papyrus with stylus. I can't even begin to think of how Nali's mom gets her information and if it ever shuts off. Does she hear the voices all night long, how does she get rest. That's what I'm thinking about. And are these people hidden in the world. And since the beginning of time. Did they exist during the time of dinosaurs when men weren't supposed to be alive? Did they know how to write when people weren't supposed to have that capability? I have a lot of questions. And I think I'd be frightened because I would not want to spend my life like her mother. That is just too much writing though I think I would find a better way to do it, maybe speak into a recorder and have someone to transcribe things? Make use of a computer? I understand why she does it the way she does, but the thought of doing that, obviously there's no chance for a normal life. The thought of that would frighten me.


  Regina and Jen visit Nalena in the school bathroom with a whooping in mind.  Does it bother you that they are cheerleaders?  What if Jen had been a random, unpopular girl?  Would the scene have the same impact for you?

In reality, I don't think cheerleaders are all that mean. That wasn't my experience in high school. That they should be held to a higher standard, well yeah, I think they should. But the truth is, they sometimes get away with more because they are pretty, kind of like in life. Pretty gets you certain things. But it only gets you so far. It wasn't foremost in my mind that she was a cheerleader just that she was a pretty, popular girl when the fight was going on. If it had been a nobody, I still would have been upset if it had been for the same reason, because she thought she was going out with Garrett and wanted to teach Nali a lesson. It was just more effective with her being popular and pretty because she gets shown as a liar and a mean girl. Thank God for snoopy old Cora!

6.      Chapter 10, the Reese boys reveal that Nalena being a Contego means that there is a Cusp coming.  If you were to define the Cusp, what do you think it would be?  Would it be a singular event or a series of them? Why do you think Evangeline takes it so hard that her daughter is not Alo?
     
      I think the Cusp is maybe a change within the religious community. And I think it's a series of events. Or, it could be an apocalyptic event. I really have no idea at this point. There is no predictability here so anything could be the Cusp. I think Evangeline takes it so hard because she is Alo and always expected the same for Nali. Being Contego seems like there is some risk involved, danger and what mother wants their daughter in danger. Garrett said being Contego meant they were warriors, Sean corrected him and said they were protectors. Either way, they will have to fight. I think she's worried for Nali. But considering what Nali has been through being called "The Waste" and putting up with that for so long, I think she's ready for anything.    
       

        If you want to link up, the linky is below 


Here are next week's questions hosted by Heidi at Rainy Day Ramblings
Cornerstone Questions Chapters 11-16

1. Were you surprised about the revelations of the unique society that Nali now finds herself a part of? Which of the four signs do you identify the most with: Alo, Contego, Addo or Veritas?

2. The Reese boys have a unique way of answering their phone. Tell me the funniest or most interesting way you have answered your phone or someone else's.

3. Do you think Nalena is going to be able to stick with her initial choice of living a Simple Life or do you feel Garrett or the Addo will persuade her to change her mind?

4. The Addo does not fit the wise man mold with his sweats and cookie crumbs. What was you first impression of him? Would you go to him for advice?

5. What do you think of Nalena's mom's reaction to the revelation that other Addo are dying? Do you think she is in denial?

6. What do you think of Nalena's new guardian angel, Grace? Do you believe in guardian angels? Have you ever had an experience where you felt like someone was looking out for you?


Monday, September 10, 2012

Silver by Talia Vance Review

Silver

by Talia Vance
Goodreads Synopsis:
"As I step into the room, a silver flash blurs my vision. Before I can take a breath, the world falls away."
Brianna has always felt invisible. People stare right past her, including the one boy she can't resist, Blake Williams. But everything changes at a house party where Brianna's charm bracelet slips off and time stands still. In that one frozen, silver moment, Blake not only sees her, he recognizes something deep inside her she's been hiding even from herself. Discovering she is descended from Danu, the legendary Bandia of Celtic myth, Brianna finds herself questioning the truth of who she is. And when she accidentally binds her soul to Blake, their mutual attraction becomes undeniable.But Blake has his own secret, one that  could prove deadly for them both. Bound together by forbidden magic, Brianna and Blake find themselves at the  heart of an ancient feud that threatens to destroy their lives and their love.

I love Celtic lore and anything having to do with their legends. That's where my beloved fairies come from and I love the ancient traditions of the Celts though I am no expert in them by any means. Not many books have ventured into this subject area so it's a bit hard to follow sometimes when you aren't familiar with the lore. Even though I've read some of the old legends, I didn't know Danu or Killian so I found myself foundering a bit as I read the beginning  of the book. I was completely lost and disappointed. When I finally got to what I'll call "the beach scene" I was about to give up entirely. Then I decided to start over.

When I started over, I read slower, taking time to understand what Brianna was saying and thinking, what actually happened in the silvery flash moments, what her friends were like, I really read slow because this all seemed brand new to me.  As I read the second time, everything clicked and by the time I got to "the beach scene" I understood what was happening. So I caution you to read slowly and really understand what is real and not real in Brianna's words. I thought she loved Blake, but how do you love someone you've only worshiped from afar? And I thought when their souls were bound that they would love each other, but love didn't seem to factor into that. Love is separate from the soul. And that secret that Blake has, yeah, it's a killer!

I really did enjoy this story. I thought it meandered a little bit at first and I was a bit shocked at a couple of the scenes in the beginning, this is definitely for MATURE YA readers. Christy, one of Brianna's best friends is a girl that has a "jerk radar" as Brianna says, only she uses it the wrong way, falling for the jerks instead of  turning away. Haley, Brianna's other best friend, is a guy magnet attracting any guy she wants dating them a little while and dumping them for the next guy. Brianna though has been invisible to guys until her charm bracelet falls off and Blake finally sees her. 

The story behind their possibly not being able to be together is much bigger than some Romeo and Juliet kind of thing. It goes back thousands of years. And the two go back and forth between trusting and not trusting each other. Blake says things that Brianna doesn't understand and is hurt. Brianna lashes back and in you don't know if they really have feelings for each other or its the bond or both. I thought, from the synopsis this was going to be a boy and girl in love against all odds fighting against someone or something but that's what I get for believing the synopsis. It's kind of like believing in book covers.  Sometimes you're lured in by false pretenses. But these two fight against having feelings for each other which was especially hard on Brianna's part as she'd watched Blake from the sidelines for so long. But the urge to fight was stronger.

There are plenty of side characters beside Brianna's best friends, most of them being Blake's friends, Jonah (grr), Austin, Joe and Brianna's parents. Yes, she does have parents that are somewhat involved in her life and bless the girl, she has rescued a horse, Dart, from the race circuit where he didn't do well, and has nursed him back to health. She has to sell him because she used part of her college fund to buy him, but she rescued an animal. Gotta love that girl. I found that I liked her more and more as the story went on and she became what she was meant to be-the Bandia.

The role the fates have destined her to play is not one any of would choose, I think and its one of those recurring ones that's been played out through time, kill or be killed. But Brianna is different and she wants to choose a different path for herself and she is determined to find a different way to live her life. The end of the book is nicely concluded but there is much more to come and I can't wait to see how the story turns out. I know there will be a lot of trials ahead for Brianna and Blake.  I just hope their love becomes something more solid than it seemed to be in this first novel. And I'm sure there will be quite a few battles to be fought in the coming books, whether it be of wills or physically, they will come.

I recommend this to anyone who loves a bit of fantasy and legend, Celtic lore, magic, romance. This is definitely for Mature YA readers as there are sexual references in the book that are fairly explicit.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publishers Flux via NetGalley for an honest review. I received no compensation for my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Skinny by Donna Cooner A Review

Skinny

by Donna Cooner
Goodreads Summary:
Find your voice.

Hopeless. Freak. Elephant. Pitiful. These are the words of Skinny, the vicious voice that lives inside fifteen-year-old Ever Davies’s head. Skinny tells Ever all the dark thoughts her classmates have about her. Ever knows she weighs over three hundred pounds, knows she’ll probably never be loved, and Skinny makes sure she never forgets it. 

But there is another voice: Ever’s singing voice, which is beautiful but has been silenced by Skinny. Partly in the hopes of trying out for the school musical—and partly to try and save her own life—Ever decides to undergo a risky surgery that may help her lose weight and start over.

With the support of her best friend, Ever begins the uphill battle toward change. But demons, she finds, are not so easy to shake, not even as she sheds pounds. Because Skinny is still around. And Ever will have to confront that voice before she can truly find her own.

Sometimes, a book really resonates with you when you read it and you eagerly devour it nodding in agreement with every word understanding each thought and action the main character has. Such is the case with Skinny. The story of Ever, a 302 pound 15 year old undergoing gastric bypass surgery is told through Ever's point of view. She narrates the story and we hear her thoughts and reactions. She's built this wall, this shell around her, this fat to keep people away, to deal with her mother's death, to deal with what she knows people are thinking about her. It's a vicious cycle. She started eating with her mother, closet eating, sharing chocolate bars eaten when her dad wasn't around. Then her mom died and she used the chocolate bars as a way to feel close to her mom. And then Skinny arrived after a certain amount of weight was gained. Skinny, the voice inside that told her she was too fat to do anything. And so she kept adding the pounds.

This is kind of a Cinderella story in that Ever goes from being the obese joke in the school to someone that gets noticed. But the real story here is that despite the dangerous surgery Ever goes through and the recovery and her transformation, that voice telling her she can't, she's still too something to be good enough, didn't disappear. I believe a lot of people think "If only I had more money, my troubles would go away." They don't. You won't be any happier. "If only I could get John to go out with me" your troubles would still be there. "If I were richer, prettier, smarter, skinnier...." You have to be enough. Ever learns a lot about herself and the people she's been pushing away and the one that's been by her all along. It's a great story about changing how you view yourself and the people around you.

I think adults as well as teens would get a lot from this novel. It isn't about being overweight and then getting skinny and getting the boy. Not at all. It's not really about an eating disorder for those of you that shy away from those books. It's about how you see yourself and that voice inside of you, whether you hear it or listen to it or not. I found it to be an incredibly moving story with some insights that I myself needed to read and learn.

This is a clean read and recommended for teens and adults. 

I won this ARC from the author. I was not compensated for my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

You can  contact the author at YA Muses or Website, Twitter or Facebook

Heather

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cornerstone Read Along Week One Chapters 1-5


Today is the first day of the Read-Along featuring Cornerstone by Misty Provencher. I reviewed Cornerstone several months ago and hope that some of you picked up a copy of it then. If not, you can take a chance now to see if you might be interested in the novel. It is a fantastic novel with a totally different supernatural element to it and great characters that you will come to love. And of course, there is a romance that is slow to build, but oh such a smoldering burn. I hope you'll get a copy of Cornerstone and join the read-along.

So, if you've read Cornerstone, grab your book and answer the questions. If you haven't read it yet, it's only 99 cents on Kindle at Amazon. Grab it and read it fast! Then join us and answer the questions. Link up and we'll have fun discussing the book, my favorite part of blogging!


1.)  Right away we learn a bit about the fact that Nalena has to buy massive amounts of paper for her mom and that her mother is a bit of a paper hoarder.  What was your initial reaction to this?  Do you think there might be more to her mothers paper obsession?  What do you think it is that she's writing down, is she really just a crazy lady that has a compulsion to create characters and plot details?

This was tricky because I knew there had to be more to the story than her being a paper hoarder but I had no idea what. When she talked to Nalena she certainly didn't seem crazy so I ruled that idea out. I didn't know what she was writing down but it definitely seemed important to her and I was hoping to know more by the end of the book.

2.)  We meet Garrett.  Okay, breathe for a moment... Now we meet him and we see him through Nali's eyes and she's very wary at first, despite his good looks (or because of it).  But he seems so genuine, and he says he understands her mothers paper hoarding.  And then he saves her from the crazy person in the woods.  And then makes her hand and arm feel better. What are your thoughts about Garrett so far?

I'm still wary of him. Nali has been hurt so much by the kids at school and here is this super cute jock paying attention to her. It doesn't make sense and her mom is warning her to stay away from him. Something is wrong here. And so far, caution is better than hope.

3.) We meet Cora and Nali describes her as a bit of a fair-weather friend.  Only showing up when it's convenient and never really being a true friend.  Have you ever had a fair-weather friend?  How did it make you feel?

Hmm, not that I can remember. I did have people that swung by only to tell me the latest gossip not to find anything out about me. I pretty much ignored them. I thought they were pretty pathetic if that's all they had to do.

4.) Nali is teased and called The Waste at school because of her mothers paper hoarding.  She's constantly made fun of and put down.  Do you think you would be brave enough to stand up for yourself?  And if you were to see someone being teased would you jump in and stand up for them?

I want to say yes that I would stand up for myself and the other person and the person I am today, I know I would stand up for the other person. But not myself. I'd ask to transfer to another school or quit altogether. The person I was in high school, I would never have stood up for myself. I would have cried and run away. If I saw someone being treated that way, I would probably have stood up for them. In high school yes, but in lower grades, maybe not. I was still afraid of the world.

5.)  When Regina is picking on Nali in class she suddenly feels these rings go around her body and then seems to step outside of it.  Later when she's attacked she seems to have a sort of super speed that helps her dodge blows.  Do you have any idea what might be going on?  If you could have any ability what ability would you choose?

When I first read the book, I didn't have a clue. It's still a bit out there. I'd either choose the ability to be invisible or to turn into anything or anyone else, I guess that's transforming not shape shifting.


Awesome questions Candace! Made me think a little deeper about the book! Make sure to linkup below.



So below are the questions for next week and I am ashamed to say, they were not written by me like they should have been. Misty, the author, came up with the questions as I've been dealing with some stuff. So thank you so much Misty and I hope we all enjoy answering her questions.

WEEK TWO QUESTIONS

1.   At the start of Chapter 6, Nalena follows Garrett in pursuit of the man who attacked her in the woods.  She has a semi-out-of-body-experience, running faster than she should be able to, with the ground passing beneath her in “a dirty blur”.  Her feeling of fear is what jerks her back into herself and trips her up.  What do you think of her new abilities and what limitations might they present? 

2.   After Nalena loses Garrett in the pursuit, Nalena and her mother end up at Garrett’s house to let his parents know what has happened.  We meet the rest of the Reese family, including Garrett’s oldest brother and carbon copy, Sean, and Garrett’s youngest sibling and only sister, Iris.   Sean and Iris remain at the house while the rest go to search for Garrett.  Why do you think they were the ones left behind?  Anything odd in their conversation that could give us clues as to what is going on?

3.  Chapter 7- Um, WHY do you think he didn’t kiss her???  If you were in Nali’s shoes, would you have forced the kiss to happen?

4.  In Chapter 7, Evangeline drops it like its hot and explains her past, what the Ianua is and why she’s kept Nalena from it all.  At this point, if you could have a broader view of the world Nalena is entering into, what would you envision or assume it to be like?  Would you be frightened or intrigued?

5.  Regina and Jen visit Nalena in the school bathroom with a whooping in mind.  Does it bother you that they are cheerleaders?  What if Jen had been a random, unpopular girl?  Would the scene have the same impact for you?

6. Chapter 10, the Reese boys reveal that Nalena being a Contego means that there is a Cusp coming.  If you were to define the Cusp, what do you think it would be?  Would it be a singular event or a series of them? Why do you think Evangeline takes it so hard that her daughter is not Alo?

Have fun with these questions,
Heather

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