Review: Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

so, guess what?  this book was awesome!  and guess what again?  i'm currently reading the companion / sequel, which is also awesome.  and guess what again?  the sequel comes out tomorrow!  so if i haven't convinced you to read book 2 by the time you finish this review and are dying to read book 1, then go read my review of it tomorrow! 

edit:  how did i not before realize how much this reminds me of a teenage doctor who!?  

title:  Ultraviolet

author: R.J. Anderson

pages: 306

format: Hardcover

isbn/asin: 978-0761374084

buy it: Amazon

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 9/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Lovers of Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen and Glitch by Heather Anastasiu and sci-fi and psychology and good writing and joy.

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.
This is not her story.
Unless you count the part where I killed her.
Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori—the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?

the basics
I was legitimately obsessed with this book from the get-go.  I mean, how can you not want to devour it after reading just the first three lines of the blurb?  You start right in the middle of the action and Alison sucks you in.  She's unsure of herself, quiet, smart--all the things us readerly geeks were back in high school.  But she's special, too.  She smells sounds.  Tastes colors.  Listens to the music of the stars at night.  It's one of the most interesting portrayals of synethesia that I've seen, and an amazing way to turn what could be a generic genre book into something special and memorable.  The Alison-Faraday relationship weirded me out a little on grounds of age-differences-creep-me-the-hell-out, but the hopeless romantic in me was caught.  And I loved that the sci-fi was there but not overpowering; for the most part, this is a story about a girl finding herself and struggling to stay afloat in a world that tells her she's insane.  

plot . 5/5
There's no lag time.  You start right in the action and Alison helps you to catch up later.  Rather than being confusing, it's exciting.  Like solving a mystery.  You're also living inside Alison's head, because even she doesn't know what's going on at first.  The central mystery of Tori drags you into the story head-first.  Did she really disintegrate?  Was Alison hallucinating?  Did Alison kill her?  Does she have some kind of supernatural powers?  These questions stay up in the air for a long time, allowing you to feel Alison's own struggle--is what she saw real, or is she insane?  Is she a murderer?  The turn happens very suddenly, but the ending doesn't feel rushed.  What did irk me was the way Alison figured out the conversation between Mathis and Sebastian near the end.  Because it screamed deus ex machina.  But using her synesthesia as both character quirk and plot twist was brilliant.  And in the end, the plot was tight, thrilling, and well done.  

concept . 5/5
I love good portrayals of psychopathology in literature.  Synesthesia is one that hasn't been covered very much at all, but it's so interesting.  Anderson gives us a pretty accurate portrayal of intense synesthesia here, while also upping it to a kind of supernatural level to fit with the speculative nature of the story.  Adding psychology to sci-fi was another brilliant stroke.  Because the whole time, you're wondering how much is real and how much is in Alison's head.  It gives the book a deeper layer than just a hardcore sci-fi thriller would, while still being thrilling.  

characters . 5/5
I loved Alison.  She can be a little annoying at times, but in an endearing way.  She's broken.  She's been afraid her whole life of being insane.  She feels abandoned by everyone that she cared about.  The side characters are more variable.  Melissa feels thrown in just as another psychic blow to Alison; I'm not so sure that her "betrayal" is more than another way to make you feel sorry for the MC.  Alison's parents are also a little underdeveloped.  It ends there.  Alison's psychiatrist, Faraday, and the other patients are all real people in their own right, each playing an important part.  Even the small ones who seem superfluous, like Micheline, play an important role in helping to show Alison's development as a person.  It felt real.  

style . 5/5
Gorgeous.  Anderson has a sense of style that's much more mature than your average YA.  It's lyrical in places and richly descriptive, filled with sensory information.  Which is absolutely brilliant, because you can see Alison's synesthesia in the very way she talks and describes her world.  Even if synesthesia is something very foreign to you, the way Alison narrates her world allows you to jump into her head and to imagine for yourself that maybe the name Tori tastes like cough syrup and pain is violent orange.  It's beautiful, truly.  

mechanics . 5/5
Many more adjectives than I'm usually comfortable with, but as I said above, it works.  Very nicely polished.  Also, the chapter titles are brilliant.  Since Alison's brain assigns character, color, and other qualities to numbers, you get her take on each title.  For example:  Nine (is black); Twelve (is reckless).  The descriptions for each number are also cleverly descriptive of the content of each chapter.  Oh, and did I mention that nine is my favorite number and black is my favorite color?  Just sayin'.  

take home message
A refreshingly mature YA that takes sci-fi to a deeply emotional level, with a dash of danger, a twist of romance, and pages of beautiful writing.  

Note: I purchased this copy.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Spotlight: Four Paws, a poetry anthology with a cause

Hey, everyone!  
I know reviews have been a little slow lately, but spring break is next week, so you can expect some reviews coming up.  I have some great ones in the queue, too.  

Today, I just want to take a little break to tell you about an amazing cause.  Several bestselling indie authors have teamed up to write a poetry anthology.  Best part?  ALL (and I mean 100%, no exceptions) of the proceeds go to Dog & Kitty City, a no-kill animal shelter in Dallas run by the Humane Society.  

With thousands of pets being abandoned and euthanized each year, it's so important to support no-kill shelters that commit to keeping animals healthy and alive and finding them new homes.  However, these shelters are overtaxed and underfunded.  Please, consider buying this great (cheap!) anthology.  You'll get an enjoyable book, and some furry friends will get a chance at a new life.  

Check it out at Goodreads and Amazon

The Quillective Project's mission is to turn the power of the written word into an instrument of compassion, hope, and generosity by putting that power directly in the hands of organizations that share our principles.

The 2013 Quillective Project is Four Paws, a poetry anthology featuring bestselling authors Scott Morgan, Ben Ditmars, Amber Jerome~Norrgard and Robert Zimmermann, with a "fourword" by Russell Blake.

100% of all proceeds from the sale of Four Paws will benefit The Dallas Humane Society's no-kill shelter, Dog & Kitty City. Your purchase of this book makes a difference.


Showcase Sunday #7

Showcase Sunday is a meme to show off all the books you've collected this week!  

i'm definitely missing some books in here, because i have a problem, but, eh, whatever. so many new things! 

acquired this week 

The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand by Gregory Galloway {hardcover} 
Stitch by Samantha Durante {paperback} [free from author]
Every Day by David Levithan {hardcover} 
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia {paperback} 
Everbound by Brodi Ashton {hardcover} 
The Archived by Victoria Schwab {hardcover} 
A New Quarantine Will Take My Place by Johannes Goransson {paperback} [not pictured] 
Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate  by Johannes Goransson {paperback} [not pictured] 
Dear Ra by Johannes Goransson {paperback} [not pictured] 
Trapped by Jack Kilborn {kindle} [not pictured] 
The Next Forever by Lisa Burstein {kindle} [not pictured] 
Six Earlier Days by David Levithan {kindle} [not pictured] 
Steam by Jessica Fortunato {kindle} [not pictured] [free from author] 
A bunch of ARCs from Netgalley that I shudder to list, cause I have to get back to my reports... 


Bizarre Writing Prompts: College Essay Edition

If you've gone through your college essays, you know that some are the boring "Tell me about yourself." Well, that's not this list.  I've looked around for some of the weirdest prompts I could find that could make some really interesting stories.  All of the questions in this first set come from The University of Chicago, which is renowned for its really creative (and weird!) questions. 

Also, if you have a prompt idea, submit it to me by email and you could be included in Volume III (with your name as credit and a link to your website of choice!).  Feel free to submit prompts for any genre.  I'll be making many more lists of prompts for romance, horror, contemporary, etc.!  

The Prompts

1. Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?

2. "A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies." –Oscar Wilde.

Othello and Iago. Dorothy and the Wicked Witch. Autobots and Decepticons. History and art are full of heroes and their enemies. Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis (either real or imagined).

3. How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.)

4. Chicago author Nelson Algren said, “A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street.” Chicagoans, but not just Chicagoans, have always found something instructive, and pleasing, and profound in the stories of their block, of Main Street, of Highway 61, of a farm lane, of the Celestial Highway. Tell us the story of a street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.

5. The hero's great deeds are actually performed by his/her imaginary friend.  Go.  

6. University of Chicago alumna and renowned author/critic Susan Sontag said, “The only interesting answers are those that destroy the questions.” We all have heard serious questions, absurd questions, and seriously absurd questions, some of which cannot be answered without obliterating the very question. Destroy a question with your answer.

7. Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.

8. If you could balance on a tightrope, over what landscape would you walk? (No net.)

9. How do you feel about Wednesday?

10. You are hosting a brunch of historical, literally, or other disreputable persons (think: Mad Hatter’s Tea Party). What is your menu? Who are your guests? In answering this question, imagine a scenario: We want some exposition, serious or silly, we would accept some dialogue, and we are willing to trust you to respond in such a way that your brain power, your imagination, your sense of taste, and your capacity to tell a story reveal something true about you.   [[A personal favorite, because this was the one I wrote about in my essay!]] 

Happy writing!


What are some college essay questions that would make great stories?  


Books by Theme: Modern Literary Classics that Your High School English Teacher Forgot About

Every wonder why you never read anything written after 1940 in high school?  Yeah, I don't have an answer.  But if your opinion of literary fiction stops around The Grapes of Wrath, you're missing out!  Literary fiction is alive, well, and sometimes actually accessible to the modern reader.  Here are a few of my favorites that may have missed your shelf.

Also, no offense to high school English teachers.  I've had several brilliant ones.  It's not their fault that the American high school curriculum forgets about modern literature.      

Modern Literary Classics

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
A young man, incidentally also named Jonathan Safran Foer, and his English-speaking (sort of) Ukrainian guide Alex set off on a journey to unearth the woman who may or may not have saved Jonathan's grandfather from the Nazis.  This whimsical, magical book runs the gamut from hysterical to deeply tragic (often on the same page) with an irreverent reverence and a sarcasm that I've found few places other than Foer.  I read it in a day and immediately gobbled up his next work.  The funniest and most touching book you'll ever read about the Holocaust, love, and family.  Essential.  Also, I've seen him talk and he's one of the cleverest, most humble authors out there. 

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders
Six short stories and a novella set in CivilWarLand, an amusement park where nobody seems to be amused and everybody seems to be living out the ragged ends of their hopes and dreams.  Saunders is a master satirist.  His stories are obviously exaggerated, but so violently so that you can't help find truth in them.  This is a rare book that actually made me laugh, and think, quite a bit, about the state of America and growing up.  I've seen Saunders do a reading as well, and I wish he could read all his stories to me; he's so insanely funny and charming.  (If you like this, try Choke by Chuck Palahniuk, which also features an amusement park gone wrong.) 

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Okay, I haven't read it.  It's on my shelf.  But I must mention it, because wherever you look for modern classics, you see Zadie.  I know from the short stories I've read of her that she's biting, clever, and very attuned to the artificial world that we call literature.  Beginning with Archie, a down-on-his-luck schmuck who flips a coin to decide his suicide, and Samad, a halal butcher shop owner who gives him a second chance.  If I make it through the week without reading it through, I'll give you ten bucks.  Not really.  But seriously, Zadie is a rockstar. 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Reading this book is like learning a new language.  Meet Alex, a homicidally charming young man whose principal interests are rape, ultraviolence, and Beethoven.  Meet a dark future where gangs run the streets, ordinary citizens fear to go out at night, and police have turned to brainwashing as the final solution.  The central question: when is the cost of redemption too high?  Besides simply being beautifully dark and disturbed, the book is narrated by Alex in his futuristic slang, which itself perfectly captures the grotesqueness of his world.  There's no glossary; you're thrust into the unfamiliar words immediately, such that reading the book is having the experience of fully immersing yourself in another culture.  Brilliant.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
So, you've read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, maybe.  You were enamored of An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten, the fictional novel contained therein.  Well, meet the inspiration.  This is a punishing, unforgiving book, but it's one that no self-respecting reader can avoid forever.  Set in a near future, it follows the very non-chronological escapades of a mad director, a decompensating tennis prodigy, a drug addict, a broken freedom fighter.  The stories of these tortured  people are intertwined around a central issue: what is entertainment, and at what cost do we seek it?  Be prepared to read a lot of footnotes and be very confused--but also mystified, and inspired. 

Click the book titles to find out more! 

What are some of your favorite modern literary classics?  


Writing Tips: C.J.'s Top Ten Most Hated Book Title Problems

So you have a neat new book title, huh?  Well before you go off sending it to everyone and their mother, remember:  your title sets the tone for your work.  People will judge a book by its cover, and that includes the title.  If the title sounds dumb to me, I'm not going to pick up the book....unless I've gotten a great recommendation from someone I trust.  And if the title sets a tone that the book undermines, it's going to piss me off.  So let's look at some common title errors that drive me crazy....and make me less likely to buy your book. 

1. Series titles that don't match  
So, you want to write a series.  With pretty titles.  And you claim to know grammar.  Ever heard of parallel structure?  You know, that thing that makes words go together and sound nice.  Like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  Now look at this list from Amanda Hocking:  Switched, Torn, Ascend.  If you're an OCD grammar nazi like me, your brain just cried.  "Switched" and "Torn" are both past participles.  "Ascend" is not.  Was it really so hard to choose Switch, Tear, Ascend or Switched, Torn, Ascended?  It just sounds sloppy. Now look at George R. R. Martin.  Game of Thrones, Clash of Kings, Feast of Crows.  See how nice and uniform it is?

The exception is titles that don't match at all and don't pretend to want to match.  Susan Cooper's fantastic series has titles like these:  Over Sea, Under Stone;  The Dark is Rising;  Greenwitch;  The Grey King;  Silver on the Tree.  They're all purposefully very different, so it works.  

2. One word titles that are vague and tell you nothing about the book 
I've been known to rant about one-word titles, and for good reason.  They can be great, or they can be totally useless.  Examine Twilight.  Beautiful.  Meaningful.  Sets the tone as a dark, sort of supernatural story (since twilight is the time when worlds come together), and is also a clever commentary on Bella's life at the time.  Now look at Forever by Maggie Stiefvater.  Okay, so I know absolutely nothing about this book based on this title, and it just sounds like someone picked a generic fancy word (see also: raven, dark, seduction, etc.).   

3. "Cute" or "clever" variations on famous works 
Again, I've gone into this particular faux pas before.  Some great books are guilty of this crime.  Crime, you say?  Well, let's think.  You're taking the title of a famous work and spinning it.  Why?  Are you actually claiming that your work is a substantive parody / reimagining of the work?  Okay, good luck to you.  Do you just think it's clever?  Then shame, shame on you; the literary gods will smite thee.  Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter; cool book, but its relation to Caroll stops at the title.  Bad.  Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard (despite being way not my genre) is cute because the book has very clear ties to the Austen period but also a modern twist.

4. Puns in non-funny books, or non-funny puns 
I could probably explain this one with A Good Day to Pie by Carol Culver.  It's just groan-worthy.  Maybe some are a little clever, but for the most part, they make you want to punch a bookshelf.  With all the creativity out there, you think we authors could come up with our own clever titles.  Not ones that are thin disguises of other cliches that weren't that great in the first place.  It's a little more forgivable for children's books...but only a little.  

5. Harry Potter replicas, or Boy's Name and the Fancy Object 
It's been done.  J.K. Rowling took it.  Sorry.  You can't have it.  Whether you're Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors by Jenny Nimmo (and don't get me started on the singular oddity in that series, Midnight for Charlie Bone) or Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, you'd better be kissing Rowling's toes because you're riding her coattails into popularity.  Okay, so Percy Jackson isn't all that awful.  But there can only be so many copycats out there before they all start to look the same.

6. Kh'talkdo goes to the market, aka, I can't spell your title 
This is largely a search problem.  Your book seems snazzy.  I see it at the store or on a website.  I want to find it later and buy it on Amazon.  But wait!  I have no idea how to spell it.  And after a while, I give up, because I've decided that you really secretly didn't want me to buy it, or you'd have spelt it something that another human being could conceivably duplicate.  I'm looking at you, Septimus Heap series (Magik, Flyte, Physik, Queste) and don't get me started on The Tar-Aiym Krang by Allen Dean Foster. Fantasy authors are particularly notorious for this one. 

7. Titles stolen from angsty emo teenagers (no offense meant to angsty emo teenagers; I was one of you not too long ago) 
The inspiration for this pet peeve (which is a phrase I actually hate, mind you) was I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder.  How about this rule: if it's likely to be scrawled on the inside of a 14-year-old's notebook, then don't make it your book title.  It just sounds silly.  Period.  I'd give you more examples, but this one is just so good, I'll let it stand alone.

8. When the tone doesn't match the book in any conceivable way 
If I go into the book thinking, based on the title, that it's going to be humorous, silly, dark, or whatever, it had better be humorous, silly, dark, or whatever.  Anything other than that feels like false advertising.  For example, Pirates! by Celia Rees.  For what seems to be a pretty epic, adventurous, historically based book, it has the title of an exhibition for children at the Museum of Science and Industry.  Which is fine.  Except it's not.  So something a little more epic would be nice.

9. That unfortunate sexual innuendo that just ruins it for you 
I could give you an entire list, but, voila!  Goodreads has done it for me.  Basically, don't be these people.  If your book name makes people snigger, they're not going to take it seriously.  So unless you want it to be a humorous sex-themed romp...um, read it a few times over and make sure no one will turn it into one.  A  personal favorite by someone who should know better:  Night Probe! by Clive Cussler.

10. Okay, this one is cheating.  What are your most hated book title trends?  Or, what are the most ridiculous titles you've come across?  
Your turn! 


Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

we accept the love we think we deserve

happy valentine's day

title:  The Perks of Being a Wallflower

author: Stephen Chbosky

pages: 224

format: Paperback

isbn/asin: 978-1451696196

buy it: Amazon

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 10/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  People in love with Salinger, the 90s, John Green, sad British pop music, and love.  Fans of the movie who need the full story.  Lovers of 500 Days of Summer and the Brat Pack.

Charlie is a freshman.

And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up

the basics
The second coming of Holden Caulfield, or the first coming of Colin Singleton.  My very good friend took me to see the movie on one of the worst days of my year.  I was down in the dark and the stunning performances by Lerman, Watson, and Miller gave me a new life.  But I knew, as I'd known for a long time, that I had to read the book.  As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again.  Charlie is the sweetest, most and least broken character I've read, and also one of the truest.  Everyone has been him at some point, but there's also so much more that makes him an individual rather than a universal.  The plot is diary-like, the writing dreamlike and painting-beautiful.  It leaves you feeling like you've been punched in the gut, and somehow light and floating at the same time.  Perfect.

plot . 5/5
If you want all the answers, you'll be disappointed.  There are many gaps.  Many unsung scenes.  It's written as a diary in letters, which means that we see everything after-the-fact.  The ending is abrupt but perfect, and the pacing is great.  I'm having a hard time describing it without saying "great."  The events alternate between serious, highschool normal, and even a little whimsical.  Symbols are woven in with such subtlety that you can read deep if you want or simply enjoy the ride and let them sink in.  It's like reading someone's brain, or living it.

concept . 5/5
Salinger already took the angsty teen crown, and you could say that Goethe did it even longer before.  That doesn't mean that Chbosky doesn't make it new.  His is one of the best explorations of mental illness out there, on par with Girl, Interrupted, with an authenticity and a voice that few authors can claim.  The diary in letters is certainly new.  Charlie writes to an unknown person whose identity is never revealed.  We don't know what this person thinks of the letters.  How they're involved.  How we would react to receive such letters.  And it also reveals so much about Charlie's character and his desire for closeness that he would write his diary to another person instead of an invisible other.  This theme permeates the story.  Everyone is looking for love--the lasting, true kind, that seems so hard to find.

characters . 5/5
Of course Charlie steals the show.  He's part a child, part a wise old man, longing for connections that he just can't seem to find.  He reminds you of that part of you back in middle school when you were dorky and bespectacled and just wanted a friend.  (Or was that just me?)  But he's by no means the only star of the show.  Sam and Patrick are real in their own right.  Sam is a foil to Charlie's sister, a wise mentor and also a scared girl looking for a love she doesn't feel worthy of.  Patrick is at once a trailblazer and a scared little boy.  The other characters get less screen time, but they're no less real for it.  There are worlds in each of their heads that you could jump into if you wanted, and seeing them through Charlie's sympathetic eyes, we find new facets that even they might never see in themselves.

style . 5/5
I could quote every line, turn it into a song or an inspiration wall art.  Actually I did that already.  But basically, it's beautiful.  Charlie's voice, first person, has the wisdom of a poet, the beauty of a painting, and an innocence that is childlike, refreshing, and allows you to see the world in ways you never thought you could.

mechanics . 5/5
Could I possibly complain?  Everything is perfect.  As I mentioned, the diary-letter format is brilliant.  Are you sick of me gushing yet?  Go read it!

take home message
A letter from the mind of a troubled teen to all the insecurities, the ones you know and the ones you never knew you had.

Note: I purchased this copy.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Review: Drain You by M. Beth Bloom

title:  Drain You

author: M. Beth Bloom

pages: 400

format: Paperback

isbn/asin: 978-0062036865

buy it: Amazon

rating: 4/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Grown-up fans of Twilight.  Younger fans of The Vampire Chronicles.  90s kids who never left the 90s.

Every night I'd lie there in bed and look out at the hills behind our house, listening. I knew there'd be consequences.

Actions meant reactions. Sunrises meant sunsets. My fear was too permanent, lasting longer than eyeliner, something I wore every day and didn't wash off.

Quinlan Lacey's life is a red carpet of weird fashions, hip bands, random parties, and chilling by the pool with her on-and-off BFF Libby. There's also her boring job (minimum wage), a crushed-out coworker (way too interested), her summer plans (nada), and her parents (totally clueless). Then one night she meets gorgeous James, and Quinn's whole world turns crazy, Technicolor, 3-D, fireworks, whatever.

But with good comes bad and unfortunately, Quinn's new romance brings with it some majorly evil baggage. Now, to make things right, she has to do a lot of things wrong (breaking and entering, kidnapping, lying, you name it).

There's normal, and then there's paranormal, and neither are Quinlan's cup of Diet Coke. Staying sane, cool, in love, and alive isn't so easy breezy.

the basics
I could have rated this book higher, but I think I expected so much of it that I judged it more harshly than similar books.  The writing is clever.  The voice is unique.  The setting is somewhat reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis fastforwarded ten years and stuffed into the body of a teenage girl.  All great things, right?  Right.  Except for something clearly referencing the best band of all time (read: Nirvana), I wanted more.  I wanted darker.  Grittier.  Deeper than a vampire novel.  And, ya know, not a vampire novel.  What I got was a well-written vampire novel with a few plot holes but overall, a solid cast of characters and a refreshingly classic take on the undead.  It may not have met all my lofty expectations, but it had enough atmosphere to stick with me, and I'd definitely recommend it to fans of paranormal romance, who are more in tune with its style than I am.

plot . 3/5
The plot was a little haphazard.  It started out in one place, dragged on through a slow reveal of the love interest's dark secret, and then sped up.  Then all of the sudden we're meeting this other character.  James was definitely the main driver of the story.  Whit felt thrown in, like Bloom needed something to happen while James was away.  His sudden affection for Quinn felt thin and contrived.  But if you ignore that icky middle part, the overall story is entertaining.  It's less about the cool neat new world of vampires and more about decadence, friendship, and what goes bump in the night.

concept . 4/5
Okay, so I dinged it for being about vampires.  I just can't put vampires in the same sentence with Nirvana.  I mean, Bloom had the chance to do something super cool and new with James and his weird habits.  That said, as a vampire novel, I thought the concept was dead on.  (I amuse myself.)  It felt more classic than Twilight, like Anne Rice for angsty teens.  Dark, scary, dangerous--not the sparkly good guys of Meyer's world.

characters . 4/5
Quinn is actually kind of annoying, but in that, "Hey, I was totally that annoying when I was that age" way.  And sometimes in that "Oh my god, stop being a total idiot moron" way, but I was hooked enough on the story to stick with her.  She's messed up and selfish and she knows it, which is refreshing.  Bloom doesn't try to hide her faults.  I think because she's so obviously and transparently flawed, I respected her for it.  The side cast is a little more variable.  James feels cardboard.  Libby is one of the better developed, as far as the brainwashed party girl can be.  I really liked James' sister and wished she was in it more.  Whit could have been thrown out, or brought in more; he felt too in-between.

style . 5/5
This was the saving grace of the book.  The style was just so gorgeously dark.  It's hard to explain, but it had atmosphere.  I felt dark and excited and ethereal while reading it.  I felt like I always did reading about Lestat.  Something about the 90s and its grungy apathy is so perfect for the undead, and it was a brilliant backdrop.  All in all, it was the writing that kept me going, and that made this book much more memorable than your average throwaway teen pararomance.

mechanics . 5/5
Don't use Nirvana songs unless you're going to go deeper than blood jokes.  The editing was fine.  Pacing could have used a tweak.

take home message
A new-old vampire tale that brings the grungy apathy of the 90s and the undead together around a wonderfully flawed heroine and her hopeless romance.

Note: I purchased this copy.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

Giveaway Winner: January New Release

we have a winner! 

Thanks to everyone who entered the January New Release giveaway! I'm happy to meet all my new followers and I'm so grateful to everyone for participating and sharing with others.  

Didn't win?  Look no further than the Giveaway Page for more chances to win great prizes! 

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look out for the next giveaways and more reviews coming soon!  i swear, i'm still alive. 


Cover Reveal: Come, the Dark by Rebecca Hamilton

Remember The Forever Girl, that awesome paranormal romance about elementals and Wicca from Rebecca Hamilton?  Well, guess what?!  The cover for the next book in the series is out!  I'm dying to read this one.  I'll miss Sophia, the first book's bookish but brave heroine, but I'm excited to meet Cordovae.  Whose name is awesome.  Now, check out the gorgeous cover...and read The Forever Girl in the meantime!  


Come, the Dark

to be released Winter of 2013

"Whatever you do, fight." A Rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

Rose was just a teenage girl carrying her father’s baby. A teenage girl who desperately wanted to escape. Womanhood in Salem, Massachusetts 1692 wasn’t what she had in mind.

As Rose attempts to save her newborn daughter, Anna, from both her father and the dark spirits that haunt her life, she is thrust from Georgia, 1962, into the start of Salem’s infamous witch trials, leaving her daughter hopelessly out of reach. Here, the townsfolk call her Abigail, while a strange man in the woods calls her by the name she gave herself as a child: Cordovae. A name she's never shared with anyone else and no one else could have possibly known about.

All she wants is to find her way back to her daughter . . . but going back isn’t an option. Not until she faces certain death to stabilize the dark spirits that plague Salem before they possess the town. If she doesn’t move them in time, not only will human civilization be destroyed, but she’ll be forever trapped in this strange new place, unable to see her daughter ever again.

Even if she can complete the task in time to return home to save her daughter, there’s still one problem: she’s falling in love with a man who can’t return with her. Achieving her goals will leave her forced to choose between the only man who’s never betrayed her and a daughter she can’t quite remember but will never forget.

A heart-wrenching tale of a mother’s love for her daughter, this romantic paranormal fantasy underlines the depravity of both historical and modern society while capturing the essence of sacrifice and devotion.

All those signed up for release notification will automatically be entered to win a free copy of the book!