Thursday, January 31, 2013

Monthly Recap: January 2013

Can you believe we're almost through January? It seems almost unreal to me! Where the heck does the time go?

Anyway, I decided to do a recap of what I read this month and give you guys some brief thoughts on the books. Some of these have reviews up on the blog, and some still needs to have reviews written (those will go up in the coming weeks.)

What I Read: 

So, have you read any of these? What did you think? If you do any kind of monthly wrap up and would like me to drop by, feel free to leave a link! 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cover Reveal: Stained by Cheryl Rainfield

Hey guys!

Today it's my pleasure to be part of the cover reveal for Stained by Cheryl Rainfield. Ready to see the lovely cover for this very exciting sounding book? Just scroll down.






Book Summary: 
In this heart-wrenching and suspenseful teen thriller, sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for "normal." Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer.

Sometimes you have to be your own hero.

Book Trailer: 

Stained will be released on November 19th, 2013.

Want To Pre-Order? Here are some links: 

Amazon (hardcover):, it says you can get an email when available)

I'd like to thank Cheryl for inviting me to be part of this cover reveal. I know I'm eagerly awaiting Stained's release, because I can't wait to read it!

So, what do you think of the cover? Are you interested in reading Stained? I'd love to know! 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Young Adult Giveaway Hop

Today I'm thrilled to be part of the Young Adult Giveaway Hop being hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and BookLove101. I'm even more thrilled, because the books that I am offering as a choice for the person who wins my giveaway are all books that I'm madly in love with, and I can't wait to present someone with the opportunity to win one of them.

So, what's up for grabs this week? ONE lucky winner will be able to pick ONE of the following books and I will send it to them via The Book Depository. This giveaway is open anywhere that The Book Depository ships.

So, let's get this party started. Here are the books the winner can choose from: 

Shadow And Bone
by Leigh Bardugo
GoodReads | My Review!
Who's This For?: If you like high fantasy and have yet to read Shadow And Bone, we really need to fix that.

My Thoughts In A Nutshell: This is the book I missed in 2012, the one where I'm still going "How did I not read that?" about it even after closing it and putting it on my shelf. Full of action, intrigue, romance, magic and memorable characters, Shadow And Bone is one of, if not the, best book I've ever reviewed on this blog. You do not want to miss this one, guys. It's amazing!

The Mephisto Kiss
by Trinity Faegen
GoodReads | My Review!
Who's This For?: Do you like paranormal romance? This is probably the book for you.

My Thoughts In A Nutshell: I was super excited to start this series, and the first book was Good. This book, though, is absolutely mind-shatteringly awesome and I could not put it down. Jordan is a strong, but real and likable, heroine and Key is just plain awesome and I totally loved him.

Note: You are totally welcome to choose this or the first book, The Mephisto Covenant. (Links to my review.)

The Selection
by Kiera Cass
GoodReads | My Review!
Who's This For?: Lovers of romance, fairy tales and dystopia, step this way. With it's fascinating love triangle and blend of fairy tale-esque and light dystopian elements, The Selection has much to offer.

My Thoughts In A Nutshell: The Selection was my choice for best book of 2012, so the short and sweet version of things was that I totally loved it. If you like any of the elements I've listed above and have not read this for some reason, you really should because it's beautiful, emotional, passionate and awesome.

Under The Never Sky
by Veronica Rossi
GoodReads | My Review!
Who's This For?: Fans of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction who like action, adventure and romance.

My Thoughts In A Nutshell: Filled with a perfect balance of action, adventure and romance, I was deeply drawn into Under The Never Sky, and chose it as one of my favorite books of 2012. I love the rich and vivid world building, and the even more fascinating and compelling relationships that form between the characters--whether it's the friendships between Aria x Roar or Perry x Roar, or the well done romance between Aria and Perry that I feel for hook, line and sinker.

Note: You're welcome to request the sequel, Through The Ever Night, if you wish.

by Marie Lu
GoodReads | My Review!
Who's This For?: If you like Dystopian fiction or plots with lots of action, deception and secrets, this is probably your book.

My Thoughts In A Nutshell: Legend is a high energy novel that I could not put down. I really liked June and Day and found myself very wrapped up in their story. The balance of all the different elements of the story is handled very well--I think I recall reading this book in a day or two.

Note: You are also welcome to choose Prodigy

by Liz Fichera
GoodReads | My Review (not up yet!)
Who's This For?: Do you like contemporary YA? If so, Hooked comes highly recommended.

My Thoughts In A Nutshell: I Just Finished This, and I thought it was completely freaking awesome! Hooked is full of interesting characters, situations that will in turn have your heart melting or make you want to tear your hair out. I started this on Saturday night and finished Sunday morning. A practically compulsive read that I could not put down! (So good that I'm offering it NOW even though my review won't go live til' Friday. Maybe I'll try to pop that on GR earlier?)

Well, now that I've shown what you CAN win, I guess I'd better show you HOW to win, huh? ;) Don't worry, it's easy! Just use this rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to see who else is taking part?

Thanks so much for dropping by and taking part in this giveaway. Good luck!

Review: Blaze by Laurie Boyle Crompton

*Many thanks to SourceBooks and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book!

Comics themselves tend to give me a headache if I try to read them. Fortunately, they tend to be made into pretty awesome cartoons and action figures, and my childhood was full of these, along with pretty much every other form of geekdom under the sun. And no, in some ways I've never truly "grown out" of my geek "phase".

So the idea of a comic artist getting revenge on a jerk by turning him into a villain in her comic project was very appealing, while his retaliation toward her promised the potential for a meaningful look at one of the most utterly offensive stigmas that any young woman can be branded with: being labeled a slut.

Blaze lived up to it's potential. It made me smile, laugh, cry and scream. But why am I still writing my intro? Let's get to the heart of this, shall we?

(Summary from GoodReads)

Blaze is tired of spending her life on the sidelines, drawing comics and feeling invisible. She's desperate for soccer star Mark to notice her. And when her BFF texts Mark a photo of Blaze in sexy lingerie, it definitely gets his attention. After a hot date in the back of her minivan, Blaze is flying high, but suddenly Mark's feelings seem to have been blasted by a freeze-ray gun, and he dumps her. Blaze gets her revenge by posting a comic strip featuring uber-villain Mark the Shark. Mark then retaliates by posting her "sext" photo, and, overnight, Blaze goes from Super Virgin Girl to Super Slut. That life on the sidelines is looking pretty good right about now..

I like the fact that we get to see what is promised in the blurb from its mostly innocent start to it's start of healing finish. The way that the novel was structured allowed me, as a reader, to experience a certain level of dramatic irony, the sort of "knowing" one might get when reading a tragic play. I got to see Blaze and Mark's 'rise and fall', all the while knowing Mark is an absolutely craptacuar guy and that things are gonna go to hell. 

Yet at the same time, I will admit that there were moments where I was smiling at these two, and in part even cheering Blaze on, all the whole knowing the consequences that were to cme. This, to me, is a mark (no pun intended) of great writing. If I hadn't felt this way, the build up to the main "punch" of the novel would have been irritating and pointless. And without that build up, the darker parts of this story would have lost a certain level of poignancy. Because I had time to grow to care about Blaze, the things that happened to her--regardless of what those were---mattered, the longer I read. 

The other thing that I want to commend Laurie Boyle Crompton on is the way that the situation that this book escalates into is resolved. Slut shaming is something that does not just magically go away, and to have something happen that would just make all of the issues that Blaze ends up facing disappear would have robbed this novel of its credibility. By focusing on the healing going on within Blaze as a character, and the realization that those closest to her will stand with her even amid this nightmare, the story was able to stay real while still providing the reader with hope that Blaze will make it through this disaster alive (both literally and internally--living, not merely surviving) if not unscathed. 

I totally loved Blaze and thought she was a fantastic protagonist. This book is told in first person, and as someone very familiar with marvel comics, her 'voice' was refreshing and it was very fun to see the world through her eyes. It amused me when something major would be happening and she'd be imagining what it would look like as a comic panel. Blaze is also a loyal friend, a good sister to her little brother, Josh, and learned to stand on her own two feet by novel's end. If she were real, we could definitely hang out at Comic Con. 

The "soccer cretins", and most importantly Blaze's brother Josh, had a piece of my heart that just kept growing bigger as the novel progressed. Blaze and Josh's relationship reminded me a lot of how I was with my baby brother Shawn and his friends, although they were gamer geeks like me and our thing was hosting monthly gaming events called "gamer gatherings". I loved the mild bickeing and absolute rock solid loyalty these two shared. It was probably the most touching thing in the entire novel. 

I wanted to whack Blaze's mom with a rolling pin and shout "bad!" or at least "get a clue!". She just plain sucked for about 90% of the novel. The grandmother was also annoying, but I'll let her have a get out of jail free card since she is elderly and that can happen very easily with generational gaps, etc. 

As for the guys, they served their purposes. I thought both Mark and Quentin were both well done, but not in the normal sense of the word. Since we already know Mark is going to be a jerk, there is not really a lot of room for him to grow or change. As for Quentin, i admired his loyalty to Blaze during her ordeal but he seemed just the slightest bit tacked on for the sake of "Yay, YA romance!". Too bad, as I actually found what we saw of him likable. I wish there'd been a bit more substance there. 

If you're looking for the greatest love story ever told, this isn't it. 

What Blaze does very well, though, is exploring with honesty, compassion and courage just how wrong things can go during the teen years when a girl gets her heart set on a total jerk. 

I don't think I've ever actually read a book for this blog showing, as I said earlier, the 'rise and fall' of a relationship. We experience this with Blaze, and personally I felt with (and for) her. I saw glimpses of myself in some of her behavior: the long term crush that is (likely) going nowhere, the elation if you think that guy likes you, the devastation when the reality that he doesn't sinks in and the desperation to make him yours in the aftermath of this. 

Of course the real question becomes "Is he worth it?" and the answer is generally no. If likeing someone makes you feel like you're on a really bad roller coaster, with more downs then ups, its usually best to get off asap. 

As for Quentin, I liked what we saw of his personality, but he was ultimately a "bonus" the author included to add a bit more bubble / happiness / sweetness to the overall story. I wish there'd been a way to dig a little deeper here because the character, and the relationship between him and Blaze, interested me but didn't develop enough for me to feel it was 'real' and not just a check box or plot device. 

While the actual romance / HEA aspect of Blaze could have been better, the novel did an excellent job at putting forth the story in the blurb that I had actually come to read. At times touching and at times tearful, I can say this much: I was never bored reading this book because of Blaze's terrific narrative voice, the soccer cretins' antics and the very honest look at some very dark and real topics in contrast to this. 

Blaze is definitely worth your time if you are looking for a book that will make you both feel and think. I'd strongly recommend that you check it out! 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Shopaholic Sunday: Stacking the Shelves (Jan. 27th)

Shopaholic Sunday is my chance to share all the awesome book related goodies that I've bought, borrowed or received in the past week. I share the feature through Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Hey guys! It's been a while since I last did a Stacking the Shelves / Shopaholic Sunday, so I'm mostly going to focus on the totally amazing selection of eBooks I've received for review via NetGalley. I'm absolutely floored that I have all of these on my kindle and that I'll get to share my opinions on them with everyone here! So, ready to see what I got? :) Read on...

1. Blaze by Laurie Boyle Crompton

The minute you bring up comics in a YA novel, my interest generally tends to be piqued. Add to this the interesting contemporary issues that the main character, Blaze, is facing, and I couldn't resist wanting to check this out. I actually just finished reading this one and I really enjoyed it. My review should be up on Tuesday.

2. Poison by Bridget Zinn

This was on my most wanted list for 2013, so I had to take a chance and request it. I should be getting to this book soon and I'm really excited about it. This seems like it should be an awesome and unique spin on the whole fantasy / fairy tale plots most people are use to and I'm dying to see how it will actually play out.

3. Hooked by Liz Fichera

My mom was hugely into golf in her teens and I grew up as a kid listening to stories about her time on the golf course and at tournaments. My grandpa was also, apparently, a very good golfer and the reason my mom got into it, but grandpa and I spent most of our "golf" time playing Mario Golf on the regular nintendo during the early 90s. I couldn't resist a book with golf and love as plots since I'm all about romance and I'm actually pretty familiar with golf as a sport. I actually finished Hooked this morning and my review should be up on Friday.

4. Bruised by Sarah Skilton 

Feeling guilt over the death of a criminal. That's what immediately grabbed me when I read the summary for Bruised. I'm going to guess the title is a play on the term bruised ego, based on the summary, and I'm curious to see how Imogen will handle the way that what happens around her change things that happen to her. Probably what I'm reading next, and I'm really excited to start it!

6. Dualed by Elsie Chapman 

I think a lot of dystopian fans are looking forward to this one, and I know I was pretty much jumping up and down when I got the e-mail telling me I was approved. :) I'm curious to see how this trial that every member of Dualed's society has to go through effects people, and further, to see how it will effect West--and how that effect will hopefully shift and change--from the book's beginning to its end.

6. The Culling by Steven Dos Santos

I've already zipped through this book and I enjoyed it. I wasn't totally crazy about the main character, Lucky, but this was mostly because he was defined by his relationships with others, instead of by anything uniquely his own. That could likely be because of the pacing, style and structure. Other characters were very interesting, though, and some of the things that happened were absolutely bone chilling. Worth checking out.

A tremendous thank you goes out to SourceBooks, Disney Group, Harlequin, Amulet / Abrams, Random House and Flux. I deeply appreciate the opportunity to read these books and share my opinion with others!

So, what did you get this week? Feel free to leave a link and I'll check it out. :) 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Is It Time For Another Makeover?

There are three things that I feel I'm "known" for as a blogger. Two of these: (1) being "the blog that rates in hearts", and (2) the fact that I have a category within my reviews to discuss the romance in the books I read, are things that I am proud of and enjoy. The last, which is the fact that I can't seem to keep a design for more then a few months, frustrates me to no end.

Let's have a quick look at just the headers that have graced my blog since I first opened it in June 2011:

Awww, my first header. <3 What did I love about this one? The simple clean design was really appealing. It got across two things I really cared about: pink and hearts. It's also got a slightly casual design to it thanks to the simplicity and the fonts I used.

Why didn't I keep it? Let's be honest, those hearts aren't done right--the crayon effect is two different shades because of two different background colors, the girl, who is outlined in skin tone and done in black shadow looks silly... and I ended up, despite it's simplicity, feeling this was kinda boring and plain as I started seeing what other people had. I wouldn't claim jealousy, per se, but rather a desire to have something "as good".

And here's my halloween header from 2011. I actually quite like this one. I stuck with certain elements, like the hearts and the font for my name (this was before I switched to just going "I Write, I Read, I Review" and before I started using my tagline, "the blog that rates in hearts". I really love the catgirl image in this. My nickname is "Mao" (like the sound a cat makes, only spelled differently), so it was sort of a play on that that if I was getting dressed up for Halloween, this is what I'd be. I am also much happier with the pumpkin hearts then I was with the pink ones.

Why didn't I keep it? Well, for one, it's a Halloween design, so it was seasonal from the get go. And for two, I got really, really, REALLY sick of that burgandy color background that blended into the bottom of the header by the time October was done. I can *still* remember how glad I was to take down this design. That was also partially because I had this one, though...

What was I thinking?! This is a case where my header was probably my least favorite aspect of a blog design, and I had the design in question for AGES. I do like the character and the picture of my dogs. I did that myself. But quoting a poem and putting my blog name in such an afterthought way were both mistakes. I think I had this from November til March, and then I decided I wanted something a little more "spring"...

This wasn't a "bad" header, and it went with a bright, lemony design that I recall getting some comments on. But it felt too much easter and not enough me. We can finally see that I started to use my tagline, though. How in the world did that take so long?! I think I felt a little detached from this header since I grabbed an image off Dreamtime and used that with some font. It also didn't help when I saw a few others with similar things. I realize that anyone can use stock imagery, but I like to be original. So it had to go...

This is far and away the most beautiful header that has ever graced my blog. It was a collaboration between my friend Renee over on DeviantArt and I (she did the art, I did the lettering / font choice / placement). It's actually Sarena from Sealer's Promise, sitting under the Tree of Life and holding a silver apple. It's gorgeous. BUT... it doesn't actually reflect this blog. *Totally MY fault, not Renee's.*

This might sound silly, but when I see purple on a blog my first thought is actually "Ramblings of a Daydreamer". *laughs* My *intent* was to have the background be the color of the sky in the Underworld, with leaves from the tree falling, and the effect turned out well... but while it pays homage to my book and my characters, it doesn't (yet again...) reflect me or the blog and I'm probably the only one who immediately "gets" what the design is about.

So here I am at the same DARN crossroad I always end up at... Am I just too much of a perfectionist to appreciate what I have here, or is it time to do something to this place *again*? And do I want to do the design work again, or do I want to concede that I do NOT have the skills needed to get what I want for this place and hire someone?

Letting go of creative control (of Anything!) absolutely terrifies me. There were a couple times when working with Renee when something wasn't quite how I wanted it, and telling her that was difficult. Who the heck am I to tell someone who can design such beautiful stuff anything? O.o Fortunately, it was mostly minor things (like we doubled my Tree of Life divider, above, so it would fit more narrowly and work right as a divider.)

Further, I'm on a pension so I need to make sure that if I hire someone that I KNOW what I want, because it's not something I can go and get redone in three months if I start to not like it.

Which leads to my questions for you guys:

1. Is there one of the designs I've had that you felt best captured the feel of this blog's content, writing, etc?

2. If not, maybe you can answer this: What do you think Would capture the essence of this blog? (Things that come to mind for me include hearts, butterlies, some type of female avi, and keep the leaves and the tree, but maybe making the leaves pink to reflect the romance angle I tend to take?)

3. Blog designer recommendations! I do know a couple people who do absolutely fantastic work (in my opinion), but I know that if I do decide to go the "hiring someone" route that I need to make my decision carefully.

Thanks for taking the time to look at this. Your feedback is deeply appreciated!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Just A Quick Update...

Hey guys!

I haven't been on here in a few days because I've been suffering from a really crappy flu bug and it's sapping all my energy. :(

I do have good news, though! This week (Jan. 28th-Feb. 1st) you can expect to see a giveaway, since I'm taking part in the Young Adult Giveaway Hop, as well as a cover / trailer reveal post for Stained by Cheryl Rainfield, which looks absolutely fabulous, in my opinion! (Don't worry, you'll get your chance to weigh in!)

I should also have a new review out (not quite sure what that'll be yet--I can be moody / cranky when I'm sick and I need to figure out what kinda book I'm in the mood for...) I'm thinking one of these:

Any thoughts? I'd love to know. :)

I hope you're having a fantastic week. Bye!

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