Interview: Saundra Mitchell

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Saundra Mitchell, the fabulous author of upcoming YA historical romance The Vespertine and last year's Shadowed Summer (which I'm ashamed to say I still need to read). Historical? Romance? STUNNING cover? What else do I need to say? ;)

The Vespertine officially releases on March 7th, though it's currently available through almost all online vendors.

Clickable links: {Saundra's website}{blog}{The Vespertine website}{goodreads}{amazon}{book depository}

1. Can you think of three words beginning with the letter "v" that in some way relate to The Vespertine?

Visions-- Amelia has them, everyone wants them-- at least, they think they do. Visitation-- you can't have a clandestine meeting with a completely inappropriate boy at home, now can you? And voluptuary-- exactly the kind of person Nathaniel is, and the sort that Amelia wishes she were brave enough to be.

2. What exactly makes the sunset so special and vision-evoking?

It's not the sunset, so much as the fire. Amelia's ability is directly tied to her affinity with the element fire, and-- well, I though having her gaze into sunsets was more interesting than staring at candles. Since sunset lasts only a few moments each day, and it's no guarantee that it will be visible, it also limits her-- which keeps the story working. If she could just see the future any time she wanted to, that would take all the tension out. (And leave people wondering "why doesn't she just...?")

3. Can you give any historical insight on why the 1889 society is so receptive to Amelia's visions (versus run screaming and lock her in an asylum)?

The Victorian period (in America, it's generally considered the Gilded Age,) was born out of multiple wars, a still devastating infant mortality rate, an age of plagues and fevers and just enough science to understand that something was causing them, but not enough to realize what, and a Queen in England who venerated her late husband and brought mourning to an art-form. It was a tumultuous time, filled with sudden leaps of technology.

It was also a world growing smaller-- with the telegraph, news no longer took months to travel from place to place. With photography, people in Baltimore could see distant places like Cairo and Bombay. The Western world became fascinated by the Eastern world, with customs that seemed to Westerners at the time as exotic and magical. Occidentals were especially taken by the death rituals of the Ancient Egyptians, and the Hindu conception of reincarnation.

Blend all of that together and you get an age where people actively seek out the unknown. Where people romanticize death, and the possibility-- scientific or magical-- of bringing loved ones back from the other side. While that became a movement of very earnest spiritists and spiritualists, the average person's fascination with the occult and Orientalism became a fad. It was entertainment to go see a medium perform. It was entertainment to have a seance. It was entertainment to try your hand at the techniques.

During the 17th century Dutch Tulip Craze, nobody thought it was weird that everybody was suddenly collecting flower bulbs. During the 1990s, no one thought much of adults and children going wild over Beanie Babies. And in the late 19th century in America, talking to ghosts and trying to find your psychic mind's eye was, for most people, a pasttime and diversion. That's why people initially take Amelia's gift very lightly: she fit right into the fad of the day *and* her predictions seemed to come true. It was a party trick writ large!

4. Who's your favorite character in The Vespertine and why?

Oh man, I can't pick just one. I love them all, I really do-- even the evil and the unhinged ones. However, I personally find Agnes Castillo totally hysterical. She's just so creepy!

5. Who would you cast for Nathaniel and Amelia? A combination of celebrities is fine. :D

No combination needed-- in my head, Nathaniel is played by Ed Westwick, and Amelia is played by Malese Jow. It makes my heart go pittapittapitta just thinking about them together!

6. If you were in on the 1889 Baltimore scene, what kind of girl would you be? The shy debutante, the social climber, etc.

I'm pretty sure I'd be Bridget, the maid. Most of my ancestors left Ireland during the Great Famine. In the book, Sarah Holbrook talked about wanting to marry a boy who worked for a living-- my people have always been the ones working for a living!

7. If The Vespertine had a theme song, what would it be? (or playlist, whatever you prefer)

Uninvited by Alanis Morissette. No seriously. I do actually have a playlist of the music Amelia and Zora would have been familiar with (that I listened to while writing the book) right here, but Uninvited is totally Amelia and Nathaniel's theme in my head.

8. How has prepping for the release of The Vespertine been different from your first book, Shadowed Summer?

The second time around, I understand what's happening. I understand where my book is in the system, and how the system works. So instead of wasting a lot of time freaking out over stuff that's completely normal, I'm busy freaking out about stuff that's important. All the same level of anxiety, just more appropriately focused!

9. Any heads up on what's next for Saundra Mitchell?

I have a really busy year this year!! THE VESPERTINE comes out March 7th, and I'll be doing a series of events for that including a Hoosier Author Bookfair, Houston Teen Book Con, and probably Capital Bookfest in Charleston.

Writing wise, in May, I have a story in the forthcoming TRUTH AND DARE anthology, edited by Liz Miles, followed in the fall with an adult love story in Trisha Telep's MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE. I'm also honored to be part of Carrie Jones and Megan Kelly Hall's DEAR BULLY anthology, also due out this fall.

Then the madness starts over next year with the companion novel to THE VESPERTINE, THE SPRINGSWEET!

10. And, finally, what is the Saundra Mitchell, patented saying (either to writers or in general)?

Well, my personal motto is, "It's not a book until it has a body count," but that's not very uplifting, is it?

I think my actual saying for writers and people in general is, "Be afraid, but do it anyway." Whatever it is you're wishing for, working toward-- you're going to hit scary spots, and hard patches, and setbacks. It's okay to be afraid-- but you have to keep going if you want to succeed. Be afraid but do it anyway!

Thanks to Saundra for being such fun to interview!

I've already ordered The Vespertine from Amazon last week, so get your move on. *drools some more over the gorgeous cover* And for those of you that want to wait, come join in on The Vespertine Goes Calling tour. It starts tomorrow, and there are some awesome prizes for to win. Hope you're as excited to read The Vespertine as I am! :)

Me as the Piano Woman

Okay, since I never vlog, I decided to record something of just me fooling around on the piano. Yes, I'm one of the people that move around like crazy when playing and, yes, I make weird faces -- but I have no shame. So, Sandy @ Pirate Penguin's Reads, do one too! :D

I know the sounds quality is absolute trash, but my phone doesn't have the best recording capabilities. //understatement. But this video's not to judge how good I am, so I just hope it doesn't burn your ears out (make sure to turn it low first). I kind of jump around: the first two are parts of my past pieces that I stopped last month, the next two are segments from my very new songs (I have five new ones, so it's still almost sight-reading), and the rest are all random sheet music printed from the internet (starting from 6:28). In general, it's sprinkled generously with mistakes, so just watch out for your ears, m'kay?

If you recognize the first of the random songs, major props to you, and the last is my butchering of "Jar of Hearts" by Christina Perri; it's a gorgeous song, but I definitely cannot sight-read the piano part. And if you can determine any of the other songs amidst the crackling, I'd love to hear what you think they are! I'll post the song names sometime, if you guys are interested.

To the point, I'm posting about music because I won't be here over the weekend. I'm leaving Friday morning for Baltimore to attend All State Senior Orchestra. The gist: string and wind players across the state audition for spots, then the ones who get in drive to Baltimore and stay from Friday morning to Sunday evening, when we perform. It's my first year, so I'm a mix of nervous and excited, though I'm definitely not eager for the 12 hours of rehearsal we're going to have on Saturday... Our schedule is literally "eat, rehearse, eat, rehearse, eat, rehearse, sleep." Joy.

But anyways, that means I won't be posting this weekend. I'll put up the Saturday Network, but save my In My Mailbox to next weekend; maybe then I'll have enough books to do a vlog about it. :) 

For those of you that got the reference in my post title, I'm proud of you. For those that didn't, allow yourself to be educated please:

Review: Father of Lies by Ann Warren Turner

Ann Warren Turner's website here // $10.59 from {amazon} 
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 8, 2011) 
Hardcover: 256 pages 
Truth or Lies?

Lidda knew, with a clarity that was like a candle in a dark room, that all had changed; something was loosed in the village—Devil or not—and they would pay for it, every last man, woman, and child.

Fourteen-year-old Lidda has always known she was different. She longs to escape Salem Village and its stifling rules—to be free to dance, to sing, to live as she chooses. But when a plague of accusations descends on the village and witch fever erupts, Lidda begins to realize that she feels and sees things that others can't, or won't. But how will she expose the truth without being hung as a witch herself?

Gripping and emotional, Ann Turner's retelling of the Salem witch trials captures one girl's brave soul-searching amidst a backdrop of fear and blame.

Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts:  
An unfortunate girl caught in a tumultuous time, Lidda is an “appalling” nonconformist in a time where women are expected to submit everything to their husbands and to society. Triple that with an at-the-time unknown mental illness and mass prosecution, and you find one very compelling premise in Father of Lies.

While I highly esteem Ann Turner’s creativity, I feel this small book of a little over 200 pages just wasn't enough to capture the full potential of bipolar disorder and the Salem witch trials. When I think of the Salem, I envision unbridled hysteria, insane little girls, and many jabbing fingers. While Father of Lies remains true to all of the above, the intensity level was taken down a notch; Lidda continually states that the town was crazy, but I failed to see enough of the town actually being so. Misguided, perhaps, but not “SALEM, THERE ARE FREAKING WITCHES AMONG US” hysterical. And I think a large contributor to that not-quite-hysteria was Lidda’s bipolar disorder. The story alternates between Lidda’s experiences of internal and external craziness, which, while interesting, made me feel torn between the two; just when I would start to get into the Salem trials, the focus would switch back to Lidda's internal struggle. As a whole, the story just felt rather slow and extremely linear: A, then B, and thus C, no surprises to be had. The action only really kicks up at the end, and it wrapped up just as I started getting really into it. 

Yet my main issue is character. Father of Lies is narrated in third person, though it concentrates on Lidda. Despite that, I can sum Lidda and everyone else up in one or, at most, a couple words: obedient, envious, desperate, [insert characterization here]. The relationship between Lucian and Lidda had me wondering, but everyone else seemed to simply fit their role in the course of the trials. If you're an accuser, you're an attention-seeking girl and nothing more. With such a strong subject area, I can see that character may not be the strong point, but I’d prefer it to be like the lone girl in red [Wikipedia] in Schindler’s List; I like to get personal, and that just didn’t happen here. Yes, I could relate to Lidda’s independence and idealism and admire her continued strength, but she simply failed to come off the page for me.

All negativity aside, I still enjoyed Father of Lies. In the author’s note, Turner emphasizes how historically accurate parts of the book are, and I could definitely tell. That accuracy didn’t exactly endear the book to me, but at least I can see why the Salem portion of the plot may seem formulaic and appreciate the in-depth research that went into this book. And in retrospect, considering the circumstances, I think the bipolar disorder was done very well. It was intriguing, unique, and mystifying, and I could really sense Lidda’s struggle, even if I didn't feel that strongly for her.

Of course, after mentioning my main issue, I have to mention my favorite aspect as well: the writing. It consists of beautiful, powerful imagery, perfectly matching Lidda’s singularity and adding to the authenticity of the time period. Loved it. 
Once she was outside the dark room, Lidda flung back the hated gray hood, pretending she wore a bright scarlet cloak instead, and danced down the frozen path with no one to see, holding her hands out to the light.

Romance: Nothing really.
Cover: 3.0 -- The girl and text are both very, very pretty, but the whole huge-face-on-cover thing is quite generic.

Bottom Line: Father of Lies is a book that falls flat for me in terms of character and plot-line. However, the vivid writing flawlessly complements the dark nature of the concepts being explored, with the premise and  writing mostly filling in other areas I found lacking. Overall, I'd recommend Father of Lies to historical fiction fans, especially if you're interested in the Salem witch trials. And I again applaud Ann Turner on her willingness to tackle two such intense topics, combining them into a very question-provoking, very unique read.

Calling All High School Book Bloggers!

Cara from Chasing Words and I were talking... or, basically, talking about how junior year is threatening to kill us. So, we said, why not start something that recognizes fellow high school bloggers? Start off slow with a list and see where it goes. OFFICIAL P.A.: Please join us in bitching together as we painstakingly ascend these rocky hills to the beautiful steel gates of college (submit blog link below). We have cookies and AP books. ;)

For those who have already survived this hardship, I think it's interesting reading reviews about young adult books that are actually from young adults, and hopefully you do too. If not, you can always come here and scoff as, come May, we run around like beheaded chickens. But, if you do know any high school bloggers, I would love if you could direct them my way. :D

Anyways, that wraps up this public announcement. In all seriousness, there's just a ton of stress from parents, school, and even from myself. I feel that knowing there are fellow high school bloggers, just like you, that are somehow finding the time to blog really lends some hope, that I CAN DO IT. I don't know how many are out there, but I'd love to know so we can support each other in the days to come~

Parting note to everyone that's feeling down: WE WILL SURVIVE.

Edit// (inlinkz removed)
Since no one seems to want to link, I suppose I'll go ahead and add blogs myself then make it a separate page later. If you'd like to be added, just comment below. :)

1. Kelsey @ The Book Scout
2. Lauren @ Books From a Shelf
3. Chioma @ Blue and Black Ink
4. Ari @ Reading in Color
5. Lauren @ Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf
6. Kreag @ I Devour Books
7. Alison @ Lost In Believing
8. Julia @ That Hapa Chick
9. Julie @ Sea Reflections
10. Caitlin @ Scarrlet Reader
11. Audrey @ Holes in My Brain
12. Meg @ In Which a Girl Reads
13. Linna @ 21 Pages

TSN Winner


This is just going to be a quick, short post that I just wanted separate from my next one. For  her participation in The Saturday Network, the winner of the $5 Amazon gift card is...

Alexia (TSN #6)

Thanks to everyone who joined in on the fun, and I'll be posting on your blog, Alexia. Hopefully I'll see you guys again next Saturday for another round. :)

In My Mailbox (22) & Randomness

In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and inspired by Pop Culture Junkie.

First, am I the only one here that gets a bit freaked out by howling wind and trembling buildings? My friend says it's like the wind "whip[ping its] hair back and forth" (Willow Smith reference, anyone?), but for some reason, I don't think that quite covers it.

Also, PILLOW FIGHTING DAY! Info and join [here]. Not going to do it myself because I won't be in the right place at the right time, but this is a piece of genius, I tell you.

Anyways, not much to report this week:

For Review:
Father of Lies by Ann Warren Turner -- thank you, HarperCollins.

Bought (from a closing Borders store, awws):
XVI by Julia Karr -- really, really like the cover on this one. I'm on page 98 right now, and it's pretty good so far, if a bit slow at times.
• A couple of SAT II/SAT/AP review books that I doubt anyone's interested in -- I'm trying to get books from my friends and libraries, but these books are still sapping money. *stabs the concept of standardized testing*

THE STORY: I was in the car on the way back from Borders yesterday, when my sister exclaims, "It's a car of balloons!" And, of course, being the Up fan I am, I had to look. So despite the woman driver's obvious "what's your problem?" stare as she passed us by (sorry), I also had to take this picture of all her balloons. The only thing that would've made it infinitely more awesome is if her car had started to float up, up, up-and-away. <333

One very last note before I retreat into my rabbit hole: I'm going to try and go back to before, when my reviews were mostly just stream of consciousness (aka brain spew). I've been trying to make them more formal because I greatly admire some fellow bloggers that do that, but I've realized it's just not me; it's much harder for me to enjoy blogging when conforming to that standard. I've always been easily influenced and a people-pleaser, so it's taken a while for me to try everything and decide. Just a heads up.

What did you get? Leave me a link, and I'll be sure to check it out. :)

Okay, I'm going back to my hole now. *hangs up a "visitors allowed" sign*

The Saturday Network (25) & Giveaway!

WHAT IS THE SATURDAY NETWORK? The Saturday Network is meant to be a quick, easy way for you to network your blog and, more specifically, get comments! All you have to do is comment on the previous blog and, in return, you're guaranteed a comment by the next participant. We all love comments, right? :)

I also randomly feature a Saturday Networker every week, and it could be you!


No featured blogger this week because I haven't done this in a while. BUT YEAH, GET YO ASS HERE because I AM giving away a $5 gift card just to celebrate this little return of TSN. And, well, we all know what you could be getting with that... ;D

When you participate in the Mr. Linky below, it counts as one entry. I'd like to think my Saturday Networkers might help me spread the word about TSN from the goodness of your heart, but if it's extra incentive, you can get an extra entry by blogging about it or adding the button to your sidebar (button's on the right and shown below). Link me in the comments! Contest ends tomorrow night at 11:59 EST, which is when TSN ends. It's open to everyone, though keep in mind it's to the U.S., U.K., or Canada versions of Amazon...

Ze button:

**I'll be contacting the winner through his/her blog, but if you'd rather I email you, say so in the comments please.

There is a small change in that I'm asking to please link to your post instead of just you blog; it can be any post that you want someone to comment on. :)

QUICK QUESTION ABOUT INTENSE DEBATE: I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet... the "Reply" feature is cool, but I liked how Blogger let me do "top commentators" with everyone, not just people who have IntenseDebate accounts. What do you guys think about ID?

To Participate:
1. Submit your blog to Mr. Linky in this format:

Blog Name - Child/MG/YA/Adult/ALL (genres(s) you review)
Blog link to post
 ie. Books At Midnight - YA
2. Head to the blog listed before yours and comment on his/her linked post. Thoughtful comments are appreciated, but if you really can't think of anything to say, feel free to just drop a line and say "hi!"
3. That's it! I encourage you to visit more blogs and I hope you find a blog to enjoy! :)

The Midnight Post (2): Author Contests & News

Let's step into this week's time portal, shall we? :D
(I'm not sure if this is helpful to you guys, so let me know if you'd like to see this again sometime.)


Lisa Mantchev revealed the cover for So Silver Bright. ARGH. It's so gorgeous I'm surprised I'm still not blinded right now. I'm embarrassed to say I've still only read Eyes Like Stars in the Theatre Illuminata series (is the second book good?), but I just want to kidnap Jason Chen and his freaking amazing art skills.

After announcing a stunning cover for her novel The Faerie Ring last week, Kiki Hamilton just posted up a couple pictures of the formatting - and it's just as beautiful as the cover.

Tera Lynn Child's cover for Sweet Venom had a huge release party earlier this week. It's gorgeous and darker then her usual covers, and you can visit Tera Lynn Child's blog read her own commentary and a little more about Grace Whitfield (the girl on the cover).


Read the advanced e-galley of Elizabeth Scott's Between Here and Forever. GO NOW, because Elizabeth Scott is pure amazing-ness, in person and in her writing. :D

Carrie Vaughn, author of Voices of Dragons, just posted up the first chapter for her upcoming pirate-and-fencing-themed release, Split.

Suzanne Young is teaming up with Hannah Moskowitz for the Awesome Contest of Awesomeness. Enter for a chance to win Invicible Summer and A Need So Beautiful (I KNOW. ;ooooo), as well as sneak previews into their 2012 books - ends 2/28 (intl.).

Angie Smibert is running an extended contest with cool Momento Nora-related prizes: forgetting pills (Jelly Belly's), a copy of the book, a charm bracelet, and temporary tattoos. Click to check out the details and participate!

Kiersten White is giving away an UK edition of Paranormalcy and a sketch from Hot Stuff. To enter, write a blurb for Supernaturally or post its cover - ends next Monday (intl.). And why wouldn't you want to post this cover?!


Clarity, Kim Harrington's debut YA novel coming March 1st, now has a named sequel - Perception. No, I haven't read Clarity yet but I've heard great things, and the titles are simple, sweet, and to-the-point. What's next in this series, 20-20 Vision? ;)

Kimberly Derting announced a new book due out November 15th, 2011 from McElderry (Simon & Schuster): The Pledge. Romantic fantasy in a dystopian world + Kimberly Derting = <3333

I reviewed Wither earlier this week and during a brief email with Lauren Destefano, I found that new books in The Chemical Garden series will be released a year apart, every March. How cool is that? (Just like The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting.. yes, I have a thing for corresponding dates.)

For all my fellow kindle owners out there, Tera Lynn Childs posted that she's in the process of making her second novel, Eye Candy, available as a $1.99 Amazon ebook and, eventually, Smashwords. What are you waiting for? 

(Section for my randomness, lol, because I need one after scouring the internet. *eyes plop out*)

First, I literally found this song on Rachel Hawkin's blog a few minutes ago. She posted theme songs for all her upcoming books and Hex Hall, which I recommend (blackmailed my sister borrowed my sister's copy). But, it's helluva CATCHY. *gets new girl crush on Cheryl Coke*

And to wrap this up... It's the warmest day we've had here in months, near 70 degrees, so in honor of the coming spring:

The Weekly Debate (13): It's PROM, Baby

(I'm thinking I needs me a button for this feature... if you have suggestions, do tell. In the meantime, I'll try to secure myself some magic, inspirational pixie dust. Also, I'm now putting the question at the bottom.)

WARNING: This one is much more of a personal rambling thing than a debate, but I'd still love to hear your experiences at the end! And I promise next week's will be more interesting -is brain dead-.

Before going to high school, I had read what I thought were the ULTIMATE preparation books: young adult books. Think SAT prep but, in this case, high school prep. Yet when I finally reached the not-so-pristine, not-so-cute walls of my new school... where was the locker-shoving? The table-fuls of cliques? The only things that proved true were the corner make-outs and use of drugs. Surprise, surprise.

That's not to say that I don't love young adult books because they do what they're supposed to: allow us an escape from reality. But that doesn't keep me from being disappointed in the romance area. I'm sixteen and still waiting for my first kiss, a time where I'd expected to have:

•    been swept off my feet by a faerie prince (TEAM ASH for the win)
•    met my first rugged werewolf, though I might settle for a sparkly vampire instead
•    gotten a ride with a sensitive, bad boy (Alex from Perfect Chemistry); rich like Wesley from The Duff wouldn't be bad either... 
•    met an all-around amazing guy -- Finnick from The Hunger Games is largely underappreciated <33

... Okay, so maybe I didn't expect all of that. I can be reasonable and settle for one. ;)

Which leads to me pondering over prom. Prom seems to have been made into this ritual-of-passing, an inauguration ceremony as children transform into beautiful adults. //end of cheesiness. I'm not saying this is all YA fiction's doing, because it's not. Movies, siblings, music, you name it. *shrug* My expectations aren't that high, but to speculate on this topic: What exactly is prom?

First, two words: American Pie.

American Pie isn't one of my favorite movies, but four guys making a group pact to get laid on prom night basically embodies this notion. Weird, crude, and funny all bundled into one.

Also, I think I'm passing on mentioning how often stories talk about going to a hotel after prom. They're not telling jokes in there all night, that's for sure...

2. Become Cinderella.

 Pretty in Pink, anyone? Andie's on here for her freaking awesome prom dress (and fashion taste in general) and sweet relationship with rich boy Blane.

And is there anyone who doesn't know this song?


3. A couple hours for shit to go down. -- Looking at Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, Jessica uses the time to show Lucien the sexiness he's missing out on. Basically, a good time for you to screw over that evil bitch in the corner. You know, the one that stole your date?

4. An opportunity for killers. -- I'm not even touching the movie Prom Night, since I don't watch horror films. But WATCH OUT.

5. A sign of normality in a big, big world -- Next time you're running from crazed vampires and ballet studios, make sure you stop by prom to get your dose of normalcy.

MY VERDICT: OKAY, there's bound to be more things that I missed, but these are the five main aspects I've seen. So next year, when I attend prom, I'll try to get laid with my Prince Charming and cut the straps off my mortal enemy's dress, all while watching my back for serial vampire killers. Sounds like a plan to me. :D

So, what are you expecting from prom or, if you've went to prom already, how was your experience? Embarrassing, life-changing, any or all of the cliches above? Do you know any other cliches I'm missing?

Just a couple prom reads...

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Lauren DeStefano's website here // $11.02 from {amazon}
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (March 22, 2011)
Hardcover: 368 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.
Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts:
Wither is a captivating tale that finds beauty in loss and hope in despair. Despite my few misgivings, its unique plot and fluid prose guarantees Wither a top spot on my dystopian shelf for this year.

What ranks Wither so highly is Lauren DeStefano’s writing, which somehow manages to be extremely lyrical yet simplistic. I loved her poetic descriptions, small details that quietly held up Wither’s characters, setting, and the twisted world in general. Taking a scene between Rhine and a shall-not-be-named someone:
"He weaves his fingers through mine, and I allow it, feel the clammy warmth of his palm against mine. Flush. Alive. Eventually I realize that I am holding on to him just as tightly as he holds on to me. And here we are: two small dying things, as the world ends around us like falling autumn leaves."
-pg. 147 (ARC)
Yes, Wither may be depressing at times, but it balances the hopelessness with small, scattered rays of light – particularly Cecily, Jenna, and Rhine, the three wife-sisters’ relationship. DeStefano develops an amazingly genuine, close-knit sisterhood by merging three distinctive personalities and differing views on life; Cecily is the forever-optimist who embraces her new life, Jenna is the polar opposite, and Rhine is somewhere caught in the middle. I could relate to each one of them to varying extents, which is especially impressive considering that they’re trapped not only in marriage, but in an unfathomable polygamous one.

Another abnormality, the twenty or twenty-five year lifespan in Wither brings up intriguing ethical questions, though I would have liked to see this concept of what humans would do with an extremely limited amount of time. Maybe I have a pessimistic view of humanity, but I definitely expected more aggression and partying and less of the refined detachment.

Rhine’s character triggered some questions as well, my main question being: where does Rhine find her strength and motivation? Her motivation seems to stem from romantic love and desire for freedom, both of which I found to be too unsubstantiated. And as much as I respect Rhine’s persistence and perseverance, a number of her actions I found more impulsive and self-indulgent rather than brave, a likely result from my skepticism. I also never fully believed in the “evil” of the villain, who was disquieting with his refinement and role in one disturbing scene, but whose persona seemed to be more speculation and abstract threats than proof. Overall, the characters were reasonably well-developed and enjoyable, though many could have benefited from a little additional molding.

Romance: There are some kissing and vague mentions of sex, but nothing explicit. For those of you that have read Wither already: I wave the Team Linden flag. <3
Cover: 5.0 -- I LOVE this cover. The colors are gorgeous (dark and very dystopian-y), the picture is accurate, and I can tell how all the little details tie into the story. Am I the only one who'd like to see that dress in person? ;)

Bottom Line: In Wither, we’re given a tantalizing peek into a world of glittering falsehoods and stimulating paradoxes, complete with tentative romance and a sketchy villain. I recommend dystopian readers try this solid debut, though Wither has many aspects that I feel are either very subjective or very controversial, which can be seen a wide variety of ways. Personally, I'm not very enthusiastic about where and whom Wither ended with, so I may or may not continue The Chemical Garden trilogy, depending on where the series goes. However, I will definitely be looking out for more of Lauren DeStefano’s beautiful prose in the future, and the creativity involved in Wither is a mark of her potential to be a stand-out author.

**Thank you to Simon& Schuster for the ARC.

Also read as part of Dystopian February at Presenting Lenore.

2011 Debut Author Challenge

-renewed determination- I kind of failed at this last year, but I WILL DO IT IN 2011. I love reading debut authors, but I'm fairly/really lax in updating a list. Debut books, I'm coming for you~

If you're interested in signing up, here's the information link, as hosted by the lovely Kristi at The Story Siren. Participating too? Let me know! :)

I'm try to be a little more modest this year with a goal of 15 books, though there are so many ah-mazing authors debuting this year, hopefully I'll get to read more. Here's my lust/read list (wishlist moved):

(links to my reviews)
1. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
2. Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan
3. Enclave by Ann Aguirre

The read books will have links to my reviews.

I've just sprung back into the blogosphere, so I'm not familiar with many debut books getting rave reviews. If you know any that are must, must, must reads, I'd LOVE to hear! :D

Happy S.A. Day & GIVEAWAY!

Happy Singles Awareness Day to all those single ladies - and men - out there. Or, for you couples out there, Happy Valentine's Day. I'm in the former group but not bitter about it, so I'll just chill tonight with my lovely homework and computer. ;)

It's my first real giveaway in quite a while, and before I start, I'd like to give a shout-out to the authors that contributed to my blogoversary - the one that unfortunately didn't happen due to real life complications. I instead promoted the books in real life to the local libraries and friends, but since I still haven't given a shout out, here's a huge thanks and cookies to:
Sophie Jordan (Firelight) ---- Simone Elkeles (Perfect Chemistry series) ---- Tricia Mills (Siren) ---- Rebecca Maizel (Infinite Days) ---- Artist Arthur (Manifest) ---- Andrea Cremer (Nightshade), and Sara Zick from Penguin for The Julian Game by Adele Griffin, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin, and Stalker Girl by Rosemary Graham.
They're all fabulous, fabulous authors that I recommend checking out if you have the time. I might purchase some of their books and give them away again later this year... :o

Anyways, on to the giveaway! As I previously mentioned, I'll be giving away Wither. And in spirit of Singles Awareness/Valentine's Day, I'll be throwing in an additional five (5) love-themed books for you to choose from.

The Love List: 
Wither (ARC) by Lauren DeStefano
The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulburg
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles (kind of old, but it's one of my favorites. <333)
The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Eternal Ones (ARC) by Kristen Miller

To enter, please fill out the form below
Two (2) winners, one international/U.S. and one U.S. only (unless you would like to pay shipping, in which case please mark the box saying so)
• Winners will each get one book of their choice, with the int./U.S. winner getting first choice 
Contest ends Monday, March 7th at 11:59 EST  
• For more information, please view my contest policy

LOVE you guys, and good luck! :)


Features? & Non-YA Books I've Been Reading

I haven't been around for a while, so I'd love to hear your thoughts on the two features I started. I made it a survey in case anyone wishes to remain anonymous, but it should only take a minute or two. If you could please click below and answer the two questions, I'd greatly appreciate it, thanks. :)

Moving on, I'm going to pass on the IMM because I haven't been buying many books recently, just a couple here-and-there mixed with some interesting fan-fiction (P&P, Howl's Moving Castle... :D). So instead I've elected to share a couple books I've read lately that are not young adult:

Frindle by Andrew Clements

I saw this on the hospital shelf while I was volunteering yesterday and, remembering how much I loved it as a little kid, had to reread it. I love Nick Allen's spunk, so if you haven't read this one, go write it down with your frindle. ;)

Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman

I recently finished this one for English class, and I definitely say READ IT. I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers since it essentially asks: "What would you do if you saw the man that raped you in your house?" The play brings up great questions about the nature of truth and justice, and it's a plus if you're already interested in Pinochet and the Chilean Truth Commissions. If you're sensitive to bad language, I would recommend staying far away from this one, but it's very thought-provoking without being graphic. (As an alternative, there's the rated-R movie, though I haven't watched it yet.)

The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat -- currently reading

I just started this one last night, though I've read some of Danticat's short stories before; her writing is beautiful. If you haven't read any of her works, I can't stress enough that you're missing out and need to start remedying that situation like... NOW. Here's a sample from the first chapter:
"I'm like one of those sea stones that sucks in colors inside and loses its translucence once it's taken out into the sun, out of the froth of the waves."
I really admire Danticat's skill in quickly conveying the main character's insecurities without the off-putting self-pity, and I'm loving the book so far.

So any other Clement-lovers here or anyone that's read the above-mentioned books? I'd love to know and hear your thoughts! :D

New Look -- Same Old Me

Why, hello there. I'll stop for a moment to let this sink in...
/end first failed attempt.

HELLO! In case you've forgotten, my name is Jenn and I'm the crazed owner of this blog who owes yet another apology for the extended hiatus. School has only gotten worse with the looming IB/AP/SAT tests, so I can't promise rigidly scheduled posts per se, but I will try my best. Before, I partially left because a regimented schedule made blogging began to feel like a chore - as much as I love you guys - and I'm now trying to return and renew that sense of excitement in being able to exchange thoughts and be heard. So my resolution is to loosen up in my self-imposed posting requirements (aka possibly spam with more personal or superficial issues that no one cares about) while squeezing in a review once or twice a week. Can I do it? YES, I CAN... maybe. :o

Some quick notes:
- I'll be reviewing Wither by Lauren DeStefano -- and possibly giving it away? Would anyone be interested? I haven't really been around in a while so I don't know how available the ARC is, though I have seem some controversial reviews floating around.
- Yes, new layout! I'm trying to go for something more elegant and classic as compared to the old one, so please, please tell me what you think. Anyone willing to prevent me from traipsing obliviously around with an unattractive blog design deserves my love and many cookies. ;)
- Finally, I've installed IntenseDebate, which should start with this post... It's the main reason I'm putting up a post despite the blog still being under construction, and my fingers are crossed that it'll work. Again, if you like the old system, do tell.

Anyways, I'm happy to be back - for real this time - and look forward to catching up to you guys soon. Know a NEEDTOREADTHISORDIE 2011 book that I've been missing out on? I'd love to hear about it. :D