Desolate Beauties

I've yet to read Scorch Trials, but I enjoyed Maze Runner and the background to The Death Cure (Maze Runner #3) by James Dashner  (announced on April 27th) is absolutely stunning. Wow. I bow to god-like photo manipulation skills. The dystopian aspect, scale of the background, and blue/yellow combination also reminds me of Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari:

These covers truly represent the beauty in harsh reality. Looove.

Also, Kiki Hamilton's trailer for The Fairie Ring has been spreading around, but I thought I'd post it anyways for those who've missed it. WANT NOW, please. :)

Review: Shadows on the Moon by Zoë Marriott

Zoë Marriott's website here // n/a from {amazon}   
Publisher: Walker Books (July 7, 2011) -- UK
Paperback: 464 pages
Source: Publisher (ARC)
Suzunne is a shadow-weaver. She can create mantles of darkness and light, walk unseen in the middle of the day, change her face. She can be anyone she wants to be. Except herself.

Suzume died officially the day the Prince's men accused her father of treason. Now even she is no longer sure of her true identity.

Is she the girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother’s new husband, Lord Terayama? A lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama’s kitchens? Or Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands?

Everyone knows Yue is destined to capture the heart of a prince. Only she knows that she is determined to use his power to destroy Terayama.

And nothing will stop her. Not even love

Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts: The four words Shadows on the Moon evoke extremely mixed feelings. It's simultaneously stunning yet slightly annoying. Completely and absolutely amazing yet occasionally long and dragging. I can't stress enough how much I loved, loved, loved certain aspects of Shadows on the Moon, but I can dwell all too well on the parts I did not.

When first looking at Shadows on the Moon, it's impossible not to notice that it centers on Japanese culture. If the premise wasn't enough, the blossoms and beautiful Japanese girl on the cover are dead giveaways. Or at least they are to an avid Japan fan like me, for whom the Fuedal Japan setting will be the primary reason to re-re-reread this book. Their customs never cease to amaze me and the scattered Japanese vocabulary gives the story the perfect touch of authenticity. (I've listed some at the bottom of this review as a reference for those interested in reading or are currently reading Shadows on the Moon. Or maybe you just love Japan. :))

This book is marketed as a new take on Cinderella, but don't let that fool you. It's different in so many ways, to say it's like Cinderella is like comparing a spring dress to Kate Middleton's wedding dress, with Shadows on the Moon being the much classier latter, of course. In the beginning, I could distinctly draw a few parallels between the two stories and found it extremely clever how Zoe Marriott managed those, considering it's Feudal Japan; as "Cinderella," Suzunne pretends to be the cinder man's niece for a period of time. But after the first third (the book is split into three sections), the story drifts far, far away from the traditional fairytale in its own unique, Japanese way. And that's a good, very good thing as Zoe Marriott proceeds to thoroughly explore the many crevices in Japanese culture and custom. In the end, the story does remain true to poor-girl-and-prince, but in such a twisted manner that I didn't even draw the connection until, quite literally, right now.

Yet my intense love for all things Japanese and fairytale in Shadows on the Moon still couldn't overcome my annoyance with Suzunne. It wasn't an overwhelming annoyance, as I'm definitely one who may stop reading a novel if I find myself wanting to rip off the main character's head, but it was there nonetheless and prevented me from fully enjoying the story. Much of that irritation stems from Suzunne's passivity. I'm completely aware that society often restricts her actions, and I can understand that, but it's not just physical passivity. Suzunne repeatedly runs away from both physical and emotional confrontation and continually accepts her depressing fate, making it extremely hard for me to continue being sympathetic rather than frustrated and impatient. Perhaps if I had connected with her character better, I could be more forgiving, but Shadows on the Moon retains retains most of that distance and third-person detail (though narrated from Suzunne's POV) that characterize traditional English fairytales. That distance wasn't a problem in itself, but it certainly didn't reduce my annoyance with Suzunne.

What did mediate my irritation was the fact that Suzunne is legitimately depressed. She slits her wrists and inflicts other bodily harm to herself, once almost to the point of death. And even as naive and impulsive as she is, I can't deny that she's brave and, in certain matters, persistent. I'm glad she got her happy ending, though I felt the story wrapped up much too quickly. It was exciting, for sure, with so many unexpected twists and, again, I found the way in which Zoë Marriott ends certain conflicts extremely clever. But it was like a great flurry then -- nothing. Done. What especially irked me was that I felt Suzunne's depression was never fully addressed. Even close to the end, she still uses bodily harm as a means of escape and self-empowerment. Perhaps the glorious happiness Suzunne finds at the end is meant to imply she will overcome her dangerous habits, but I want to know or at least have some more explicit indication that she will prevail. Depression is serious business, and I think it needed more closure.

Regardless, I still have to applaud Zoë Marriott for tackling so many different concepts, from self-acceptance to Feudal Japan to depression. You know, as if a mere (sense the sarcasm) fairytale retelling wasn't already enough. ;)

Romance: Again, there's the distance that prevented me from having a heart-to-heart with Suzunne's love interest, Otieno, but he's sweet, sensitive, smirk-y, and sworn to protect Suzunne from all evil (basically, he's devoted and utterly in love, but I wanted to keep the alliteration, haha). And even more wonderful, he has dark skin, long hair, and blue swirl tattoos and Suzunne isn't afraid to admire that exotic, savage beauty -- and neither am I. Plus a billion respect points for Suzunne and Zoë Marriott for this interracial relationship with such pure, unadulterated love.

As for rating, there's nothing explicit but there are multiple, subtle mentions of sex and prostitutes. 

Cover: THE GIRL IS GORGEOUS. The cover matches the story very well and it's attractive and soothing, though not stunning. Woot for Asian girls on covers, and on the back cover, I think it's cute how you can see her flower earring (not visible on the front). :)

Liked:  Feudal Japan setting, complete Cinderella revamp, Otieno, solid lessons on self-acceptance and greed, idea of shadow weavers
Disliked: Suzunne's character, occasionally the length (though it's because my annoyance with Suzunne made the story drag), rushed ending

Bottom Line: Despite the mediocre rating I give Shadows on the Moon in terms of overall enjoyment (who knows, you may like Suzunne more than I did), I still highly recommend it to lovers of fairytale retellings and Japanese culture. Yes, I have my misgivings about it, but Shadows on the Moon is truly a masterful blend of East and West, of beauty and tragedy that is completely unparalleled by any fairytale retelling I've read before.

Japanese 101 (Shadows on the Moon could benefit from a glossary...):
·         Shamisen – a three-stringed musical instrument played with a plectrum
·         Seppuku – a Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment; originally used by samurai as a means to preserve honor rather than fall into enemy hands or by leaders to punish samurai that had committed serious offenses
·         Haori – lightweight coat worn over a kimono; originally only worn by men
·         Obi – a sash for traditional Japanese dress or for martial arts
·         Baka-yarou – an extreme insult, along the lines of a SOB
·         Geta – traditional footwear that resemble clogs and flip-flops

an obi (among many Obi Wan's on google images) // source

Waiting on Wednesday (4) & New Covers

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

Fix Me by Rune Michaels
Atheneum (December 6, 2011)
Orphaned as a child, terrorized by her abusive brother, and haunted by memories, Leia feels exposed, powerless, and vulnerable. When her tormented mind can stand it no longer, she escapes to the zoo, where she finds shelter and seeks refuge. The zoo is a sanctuary: a protective space for families, and a safe place for the traumatized to forget. But can she ever feel safe? Can she ever forget?

Once again, Rune Michaels brings us a harrowing psychological drama that raises questions about the very nature of humanity. This chilling tale will challenge our preconceptions of family, memory, and self, leaving readers wondering, are we the pinnacle of evolution—or are we just animals on display?
It sounds unique (a zoo) and uniquely beautiful. There are so many directions Fix Me could go, and I can't wait to see where Rune Michaels takes this promising, heartbreaking premise. Not many words this time because I don't know what else to say about it, and hopefully that'll be my awestruck reaction after reading the book.

For drooling purposes, two recently released, stunning covers:

Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala (October 18, 2011
I absolutely loooove the colors used in this cover. Never thought I'd say that about such liberal use of yellow, but I love it beyond words. <3

Summer's Crossing by Julie Kagawa (June 1, 2011) aka Puck fan-service
A novella of Puck's story, free starting June 1st! I'm Team Ash, but I'll definitely be reading it because it's: a) Julie Kagawa, queen of the fey world, and b) Puck, who seems to always fall by the wayside. The cover's also just as beautiful as all the others in the series, especially how the words "Summers Crossing" branch into vines.

My reaction: WANT. NOW.

What are you waiting for this warm Wednesday?

892 Followers Contest. ♥

As promised, a contest for all you amazing, amazing people that somehow manage to constantly listen to my babbling. Yes, it's not exactly 900, but who's really counting? What matters is that this is where I can be me, and I can't thank you guys enough for making me feel like someone actually listens to me, that someone actually wants to. I can't thank you guys enough, but at least I can try with these (yesss, bribery):

What's up for grabs?
• A signed ARC of A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young (releases June 21st)
• A lined A6 notebook with felt roses
• A black cellphone charm of black porcelain and a light pink flower hand-painted on it
• A red crystal flower necklace pendant
• A cute cat bookmark!

It's my first contest where I haven't actually offered six or so options to choose from, but hopefully this isn't too disappointing. ;)
And if I reach 963 followers (since 3's my favorite number and "369" my favorite combination) before the end of this contest, I'll throw in another winner and some more ARC's and signed books. ♥

To enter, please fill out the form below.
** You must be at least 13 years old to enter.
Open internationally
Contest ends Friday, May 20th at 11:59 EST 
• For more information, please view my contest policy.

In My Musical Mailbox (27)

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

For Review:
The Queen Bee of Bridgeton by Leslie DuBois
OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy
Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs --
Flawless by Lara Chapman -- I had to review this one because it's based off Cyrano De Bergerac. How cool is that?
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer & Cinderella: Ninja Warrior by Maureen McGowan -- I love fairy tales, and the titles are so unique. And they're the "pick your adventure" type of book. :)
Corsets and Clockwork edited by Trisha Telep -- So, so many awesome authors in this collection.

Thank you to Bloomsbury, Teen Book Scene/Leslie DuBois, Premier Virtual Author Book Tours/Baker & Taylor Publishing Group, and Running Book Press!

Won from
The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group by Catherine Jinks

• Two t-shirts that read "Abused Werewolf" and "Reformed Vampire" -- I'm wearing the vampire one right now (as my pajamas... my excuse is that it's Sunday), and I gave the werewolf one to my little sister. They're SO comfortable, thank you! :)

Webcam = poor quality, sorry. ):

Bought (from Strand):
The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong -- I posted the trailer to this in my latest midnight post along with how much I wanted to read it. Well, here it is. :)
The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge -- love the cover. And it's pretty thick, which I'm hoping means a longer, epic adventure.
Stay by Deb Caletti
Instructions for a Broken Heart (ARC) by Kim Culbertson
The Eternal Sea by Angie Frazier (Everlasting #2) (ARC) -- Angie dropped by and gave a list of reasons why every girl should love a sailor almost a year ago from today. Everlasting was one of the first books I bought and loved on my Kindle, so I was estatic when I found the sequel at Strand. ♥
• Unrelated goodies: adorable animal-shaped pencil sharpeners from Morning Glory and a blue-and-black striped sweater for $12 from The Vintage Twins (article on the shop) in Ann Arbor.

I won't actually be able to read and possibly review these bought books until late May, but I can't wait! Just need to resist, resist, resist the itching temptation...

To wrap it up, for today's music portion:


Review: In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap

Susanne Dunlap's website here // $10.79 from {amazon}
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (April 12, 2011)
Hardcover: 304 pages
Source: Author
It's 1854 and sixteen-year-old Molly would give anything to change her circumstances as a lowly servant in a posh London house. So when she hears of an opportunity to join the nurses who will be traveling with Florence Nightingale to the Crimea, she jumps at the chance. The work is grueling, the hospital conditions deplorable, and Miss Nightingale a demanding teacher. Before long, the plight of British soldiers becomes more than just a mission of mercy as Molly finds that she's falling in love with both a dashing young doctor and a soldier who has joined the army to be near her. But with the battle raging ever nearer, can Molly keep the two men she cares for from harm? A love story to savor, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes imagining of the woman who became known as "the lady with the lamp." 

Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts: Susanne Dunlap proves her skill at crafting richly detailed, entrancing historical fiction yet again with her newest release, In the Shadow of the Lamp. This time, she documents the Crimean War, known for introducing live war correspondence, modern warfare, and, the most relevant here, Florence Nightingale and her nurses.* My heart followed a certain idealistic yet dedicated 16-year old nurse, Molly, as she navigated the oceans of love, war, and – of course – the one between London and Turkey.

I’ve read both of Susanne Dunlap’s previous YA novels, The Musician’s Daughter and Anastasia’s Secret, and neither were at all lacking in the research department. In the Shadow of the Lamp is no exception. From just the story, I learned more about Florence Nightingale than I have in any class – and probably more than I’ll ever want to know. But that’s okay, because while the story tells, it does so without being didactic. The subtly in which Susanne Dunlap introduces the numerous little historical facts lent itself to the story’s authenticity and had me completely enveloped in the 1850’s. In fact, it may not be too much of a stretch to say Molly and I could have been interchangeable... almost. And if you want to know even more, there’s still the author’s note awaiting your scholarly mind.

However, though Susanne Dunlap has remained fairly consistent in hitting the historical mark just right, I’ve always felt much less strongly for her characters. So it's with happiness that I say she keeps getting better and better. Molly is a spunky girl that knows what she wants and is willing to do whatever it takes to get there; yes, I’d say boarding a ship to war oceans away from home constitutes courage and determination. With so much turmoil around and within her, I greatly admired Molly’s strength and absolute refusal to lose sight of the ultimate goal of aiding others. The world needs more Molly’s.

But does the world need more love triangles? Love triangles are delicate things, and I could feel the anguish in the one between Molly, Will, and Dr. Maclean. But as sadistic as it may sound, I wanted more anguish. I got a general feel of both love interests, as in I can name a couple characteristics for each, but I don’t think I ever got past that barrier of appearances versus reality. Perhaps the problem lay in plot, in that space and duty keeps Molly from seeing much of either one, or in the intensity of each meeting (or lack thereof). Regardless, I just wanted more. I still cared about each of the characters and their happiness, but it seemed like Molly fell in love without truly knowing the person.

Yet when I closed the book, a gooey smile was plastered on my face. And I can attribute that to the page-or-so epilogue at the end that perfectly clinched the story for me:
“Most of all, he taught me how love could bind two people across oceans and through walls, living or dead, forever.”

-- page 287
(Who is Molly talking about? That’s for me to know, and you to find out. ;))

Romance: PG, if you're one to cover a minor's eyes during chaste kisses.

Cover: It's fitting enough, but nothing really unique to the story Very beautiful colors though, and I can definitely imagine this looking nice next to my copy of Anastasia's Secret, since they follow the same chest-up shot with a pretty background. :)

Liked: Historical background, spunky heroine
Disliked: Love triangle/romance sub-plot

Bottom Line: Susanne Dunlap is one of my favorite YA historical fiction writers and In the Shadow of the Lamp reaffirms why. Molly’s bittersweet story merges with a rich background to form an extremely enjoyable and informative historical read that I highly recommend to all YA historical fiction lovers. In the Shadow of the Lamp is in many ways an exploration, and I eagerly await Susanne Dunlap’s next venture/adventure – because I know it’ll be both.

*Sorry, I’m taking AP European History soon and couldn’t resist. I felt proud recognizing the Light Brigade and remembering Lord Tennyson’s poem, haha.

Button Winner & Updates

... I noticed I have an annoying habit of titling my posts "A & B." But I can't help it -- I have a lot to say. I'm pretty sure I could talk all day when I'm "feeling" a topic. How do you restrain your titles to just "A" and not "B?"

Anyways, I'm still pretty braindead due to just arriving home from my college visiting trip, but I'm here! For the updates section, I'll definitely be posting less next week and in May due to the bane of my high school existence: standardized testing. I have quite a few giveaways and author interviews scheduled that hopefully you guys will enjoy, but that also means it'll be quieter next week as I arrange those while cramming like crazy. Most of the contests are U.S. only, but I'll be announcing an international followers contest next week. :)

Now, for the button winner (with my simple, new winner banner)...

Yan (#14)

Congrats, Yan! I'll email you soon. And even for those that didn't win, I'm glad you found them as humorous and uplifting as I did. <33

Signing off for now, but more info coming on IMMM this weekend! Perhaps even a vlog...

The Weekly Debate (18): The Never Put Down Syndrome

Today's weekly debate is going to be short, mainly because I have to go pack (arghh). But it's also a simple question: Do you suffer from the "never put down" syndrome?

 I often fall asleep reading... // source

Never put down syndrome   //ˈnevər po͝ot doun ˈsinˌdrōm

1. The mindset of generally being unable to put down a book without finishing it. Common symptoms include reading until the wee hours of the morning (or all night and morning), continuing to read despite how much one's enjoys the book, and a compelling need to tie a neat bow on the story before closing the pages. Other symptoms vary.

 2. A sleep-depriving syndrome that ails this blogger, and causes her to frequently read until at least one or two in the morning.

Waiting on Wednesday (3) & Debut Kpop

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
• Egmont // September 13, 2011
It could happen tomorrow. A cataclysmic event. An army of quasi-zombies. Can one teen really survive on her own?

An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions. For those spared, it’s a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.... Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the Changed, Alex meets up with Tom—a young army veteran—and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse. This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to survive.
Though Ashes doesn't yet have a cover for me to squeal over and the premise fails to knock me over, I love the excerpt included in the catalog:
The air was a welter of odors: Ellie’s fear; her own peculiar perfume of sweat and anxiety; and that dead-meat stink that pillowed through the woods like ashy, gray smoke. 

Slowly, carefully, Alex dropped to her knees, the cold earth biting through her hiking pants. Ellie didn’t move a muscle. Wordlessly, Alex followed the girl’s horrified gaze—and then her blood turned to slush. No, she thought. 

No, please, God, I’m not seeing this.
And it's blurbed by Michael Grant and James Dashner! So it must be some kind of awesome.

Now, for an adult read:

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
• Ballantine Books // August 23, 2011
The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. 
Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realize what's been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. 
The Language of Flowers is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.
I think the cover for this one is simple but beautiful and the premise matches that. The Language of Flowers sounds like a sweet and touching read, and love stemming (haha, pun) from flower meanings? Sign me up. ;)

On a final book-related note, YA characters sure have gorgeous eyes. Like die-hard gorgeous, vibrant, enviable eyes. These are the two paperback covers for Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus (releases May 4th) and Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin (releases September 20th). Based on aesthetics alone, I prefer the hardcover Shadow Hills cover and the paperback Extraordinary one, though I really don't feel that strongly for either one.... Regardless, I think I'm hypnotized by their eyes. *o*

Bonus for Kpop fans: New boy group Block B just debuted today with its single Do You Wanna B? and the MV to its title track, Don't Move! What do you think? The group is supposedly based off hip hop, which  isn't my favorite genre, but I do like the choruses to the two songs.

As for the MV, I can't stop looking at that guy with the floppy cowl. It just keeps -- flopping! Gah, lol. The shininess is also a little over the top. But I drool over the guy with wavy brown hair and the one with red -- redddd -- hair. Now, off to find out their names...

The Midnight Post (3)

"Your midnight YA snack. (If you ate authors.)"


Enclave by Ann Aguirre {my review} -- 4.5 stars. Awesome book! As for the trailer, I like it, but that's really not how I imagined Fade, who I envisioned lankier and with much darker hair. But the Freaks are delightfully freaky-looking, and I don't know if I'm the only one here, but I had a Gollum from LOTR moment at 0:45. :o

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong -- it sounds cliche, but I've heard awesome things about it... so I just may have to buy myself a copy. And the trailer is very nicely done.

In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap {guest post} • {contest} -- review coming soon

My Unfair Godmother by Janette Rallison -- I read and reviewed one of her other YA books, Just One Wish, back in 2009, and she has such an affinity for cuteness! Check out the quirky cover.

What Comes After by Steve Watkins

Insight by Diana Greenwood


• This week is Kimberly Derting's iClue. Bring yourself up-to-speed on her iClue page, and participate for a chance to win an iPod Touch. (Confused or intimidated by iClue? Lisa and Laura post 4 simple steps.)

• To countdown to the May 3rd release of her debut novel Moonglass, Jessi Kirby is holding weekly giveaways on her blog, with unique prizes that correspond to her various sources of inspiration. This week's contest is for a snazzy Lifeguard Prize Pack, complete with a Crystal Cove T-shirt, aviators, and more!

• Jennifer Laurens is giving away a Heaven Ab-so-lute-ly T-shirt, along with one of her books of your choice. Ends this Friday.

• Kody Keplinger is holding a contest for Leah Clifford's A Touch in Mortal. Just head over there, spread the word, and comment with the craziest/coolest thing you've done with/to your hair! Mine is highlighting it purple in ninth grade. ;)

• Lisa DesRochers, author of Personal Demons, is offering a chance to win a signed ARC of Original Sins (the sequel to PD) and a signed copy of Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins. Open internationally, and enter by April 15th, noon PST.


• On April 8th, Kat Zhang posted about her 3-book deal from HarperCollins for Hybrid, which I'm hoping will make for another amazing dystopian read in the future:
HYBRID is YA novel about a girl battling for her right to survive in a world where two souls are born into each body and one is doomed to disappear.

• Not exactly YA, but Simon & Schuster has confirmed that they will be publishing Steve Job's biography iSteve: A Book of Jobs in early 2012, aka -insert witty title-. More info here.


• To celebrate the 90 days until release, Maggie Stiefvater posted a video of her playing a little teaser to Forever -- in music form! I'll spare you my wild guesses as to what happens, but Maggie plays piano beautifully and makes adorable faces. And, gosh, she has a STEINWAY. *jealousy*

• Karston Knight, author of Wildefire (releases July 26th from S&S), never fails to amuse me, and his recent post Woodpeckers, Mullets, and Woodpeckers with Mullets continues to trend. Can I say Karston Knight would make a great conspiracy theorist?

Paranormalcy author Kierston White reveals the secret to writing a bestseller. Collective gasp, anyone?

• Carrie Harris, upcoming debut author of Bad Taste in Boys, briefly mentions the importance of having one or two memorable, physical details to a character. Her anecdote brought a quick smile to my face. :)

balloons make me think spring // source unknown

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre website here // $9.99 from {amazon}
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (April 12, 2011)
Hardcover: 272 pages
Source: Publisher
WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE. In Deuce's world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed 'brat' has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear--to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She's worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing's going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce's troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn't like following orders. At first she thinks he's crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don't always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she's never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce's perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy... but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she's ever known.

Rating: View my rating system.


My Thoughts:
Dear Enclave, I thank you. Your grittier, bloodier reality is a breath of fresh air in a genre quickly focusing more on the romance and less on the harsher, dystopian aspects. Not to say both sides of the spectrum don’t each have their merit, but I needed a balance, a change – and Enclave was it. On face-level, Enclave is essentially a post-apocalyptic zombie read, with the zombies replaced by eerie, flesh-eating Freaks and the killer, a literally kick-Freak-ass protagonist Deuce. But factor in scarred bad boy Fade, impending cannibalistic doom, and generous bloodshed, and Enclave proves to be a one-way ticket to an intriguing, suspenseful ride packed with action and hardships galore.

The first thing I noticed when starting Enclave was, of course, the enclaves. Granted, Ann Aguirre isn’t the first, and most certainly won’t be the last, to make use of an underground dystopia, but she adds her own twists: the interconnected societies, the name-picking process, the assigned jobs based on natural capabilities, and much, much more. Everything’s lined with a subtle undercurrent of militant order, and Enclave certainly doesn’t shy away from the cutting edge of pragmatism. The strongest survive, the weak... are eaten.

One of my favorite aspects is, without a doubt, the action. The fighting is spot-on, with enough detail for me to envision the characters’ astounding, Matrix-reminiscent moves, yet not so much as to be completely revolted by the amount of blood spilt – and for someone who becomes nauseous at a finger cut, that’s saying something. Don’t be mistaken, there’s definitely blood and very much of it, but the violence is done in a tasteful way that while thrilling, shouldn’t be a trial on anyone’s stomach. Though I can honestly say those Freaks are freaky.

But if asked what I liked the most about Enclave, it would definitely be Ann Aguirre’s development of Deuce. I can see where readers may feel apathetic towards her character, given her early, unquestioning submission and seeming lack of feeling, and even I’ll admit that I couldn’t exactly empathize with her most of the time. But Deuce was Deuce, and she was real. She was brought up in a society with an overarching survival-of-the-fittest mentality, and this background is perfectly reflected in her short, punctuated thoughts and realistic, yet kind, attitude. If that makes Deuce hard to relate to, so be it. For me, it wasn’t as much of a relatable issue as my admiration of, again, Deuce's development. Ann Aguirre masterfully shaped a character that has history yet is dynamic and able, albeit reluctant, to change.   

And of course, I can’t end this review without mentioning the love triangle. The focus isn’t really on romance, but the formula is there: one wavering girl, two different, devoted guys. Deuce’s ignorance made me want to scream at her a couple times, but I’m sure it’s mostly because I am TEAM FADE, all the way. I'm definitely intrigued to see where this will go!

Romance: Two or three kissing scenes, if I remember correctly. Not much in this department.
Cover: 4.0 -- It's definitely not a beautiful cover, but it actually fits Enclave. Originally, I was going to give the cover a lower score, but then I asked myself what would I want the cover to be? I couldn't come up with any answer except what wouldn't suit the story at all: the overused blown-up face, pretty fonts, bright or soothing colors. So I suppose I'm pretty content with it. I also had to give some extra points because I saw the real book in person today (courtesy of my book buying friend) and it's shiny. Mad props there.

Liked: Characters, Plot, Writing, Originality, Setting
Disliked: A bit more detail on the setting would have been useful, Deuce's occasional passivity and ignorance

Bottom Line: Enclave presents a gritty and bloody peek into the darker side of dystopian fiction. (Think The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan on a lighter scale.) It's solid on all fronts, but don't go in expecting a deep, emotional character connections or a danger-filled romance -- because I highly doubt that's what you'll take from it. Terror, perhaps. Thrill, most likely. Intrigue, definitely. All-in-all, Ann Aguirre is a welcome addition to the dystopian and YA community with her fabulous debut, and I'm eagerly anticipating who-knows-what in the second book of this series, Outpost.

In My Musical Mailbox (26)

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

Only one book this week, for review:

Thanks to Suzanne Dunlap! And if you missed it, she did a guest post and sponsored a giveaway of In the Shadow of the Lamp earlier this week.

Again, not much, but I'm going to Strand next Saturday. *runs in circles* :D

Anyways, I though I'd also share a picture of some of my pins, since I posted about my love for them on Friday.  (Enter the contest!) The grassland ones I actually bought from Epcot Japan, but they're Japanese, and the ones under that I bought from beanforest. For the record, I don't actually objectify men... really. And I fully support "Respect the dance floor. Stop groping in the club."

For the music, today's theme is relaxing Japanese music. In case you haven't realized, I have pretty electic music taste. xD

The first is part of the soundtrack of Ar Tonelico 3, a Japanese PS3 game. I don't actually play it, but I think the beginning is beautiful.The second is the more well-known Rurutia, who has a high and soft voice -- I'd describe it as ethereal, but I'll let you be the judge. 

Edit// I wanted to put up my favorite Rurutia song but couldn't think of it before posting. BUT, I remember now, so I'd suggest checking out Selenite if you liked Lost Butterfly, above.

Hope these songs put you in the mood for a soothing Sunday! :)

The Saturday Network (31) -- The Last One?


WHAT IS THE SATURDAY NETWORK? The Saturday Network was started in January 2010, and 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!


First off, thanks to the three bloggers who participated last week: Ms. Martin Teaches Media, Mindful Musings, and Eating YA Books

Secondly, I'm considering stopping The Saturday Network. Should I? As some of you may know, I started The Saturday Network all the way back in January 2010 and it used to have 20-30+ participants per week. But the number now is down to three as of last week. So I'm wondering if anyone still enjoys it and, if not, perhaps I should be posting some real content over the weekend.

The main reason I'm posting about this now is because I recently discovered the Comment Exchange Program over at YA Addict. It's very similar to TSN but has much more participation than over here... So maybe I should just wave the white flag and give up on my one-year old baby. ):

Anyways, if this is the last one, we're going out with a bang:

The Rolling Stones -- A Bigger Bang CD cover

To Participate:
1. Submit your blog in this format:

Blog Name - Child/MG/YA/Adult/ALL (genres(s) you review)
Blog link to post
 ie. Books At Midnight - YA/MG
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! :)

Giveaway: A Cute Button ♥

Quick post alert. It's not entirely book-related but... have I told you that I love witty jokes? I'm not generally a fan of crude humor, but give me a pun and I'll have a field day. I'm planning on ordering these adorable/witty/awesomeasflyingcows pins from beanforest's shop on Etsy, so I thought why not buy a pin for one of you readers while I'm at it? Granted, they're only $1 each (my sister and I bought 18 pins last time), but it's the thought that counts, right? And I just wanted to share my love for these 1.25" mounds of joy. ♥

A few pins I enjoy. I own the Marie Antionette eating cake and the Shakespeare quote pins. :)

So open internationally, and please comment with the pin of your choice -- either the name its sold by or its link. This giveaway will close at whatever time I choose to order the pins, which will likely be early next week (read: in the next few days).

For the record, beanforest does not know I'm touting his pins. I only hope that you'll find one that will bring a smile onto your face like these do to me!

Note: I might post later with a review. We'll see how life flows.

The Weekly Debate (17): Responding to Emails

 good ol' communication // source

At some point in every busy blogger’s life (or anyone that has a presence online), I think we all ask ourselves: should I respond to all emails? There is no doubt that responding to emails takes chunks of precious time, so where is the line between obligation, plain courtesy, and simple preference?

Ideally, I would love to respond to each and every email. I know everyone that bothers to email me takes the time to look at my blog and send an email my way and I feel honored that anyone out there would contact me. (Yes, it sounds like I have abysmally low self-esteem, but it still amazes me that people actually like to hear what I have to say. I literally have a mini-adrenaline rush every time I see a new comment pop-up in my inbox. My fellow book bloggers, do you ever get over that?) But… here’s what I’ve been doing:

OTHER BLOGGERS/READERSI always, always respond. (If I haven’t, it’s probably because I missed your email *is an airhead*, in which case, I’m sorry!) Communication is one of my favorite and, in my opinion, a key aspect to blogging, so it’s extremely important that the connection in the blogosphere and between blogger and reader is established and maintained. I started my blog to share my thoughts, and that’s what I want to keep doing. No homework pile is going to stop me. *dons Catwoman suit*

For the record, if I get mauled by a werewolf, shot by an elven archer, sneezed on by a dragon -- I will die responding. Amen.

AUTHORS/PUBLISHERS – … This is the part I’m really uncertain about. I used to respond to every review request I received, regardless of if I accepted or declined. For ones I declined, I always tried to give specific reasons for why I really didn’t think the book fit the usual types of books I enjoy and/or review. But now that I receive many more requests than, say, I did in early 2010, my most legit reason half-to-most of the time is “I don’t have enough time.Should I email quickly back just to say that? I'm a bit hesitant on this kind of response because I feel like it might be more offensive than me not responding.

The review requests that I’m really interested in (as in I'm 96.5% certain I'll enjoy), I email back almost immediately. However, for most others, I put them in the starred section of my inbox, telling myself I’ll consider reviewing them... then usually forget.  Despicable, despicable me. 

As for when I email authors and they don't respond, I'm not offended. I realize that we are all busy, busy people, and I know that a lack of response isn't from malicious intent. Or I hope not. *bouts of insecurity*


So what do you guys think: 

• Is it vital to respond to all emails regardless of the subject matter -- so is it a question of courtesy or self-discretion? 

• For my fellow book bloggers out there, what do you do?

For readers and authors/publishers, what kind of response would you prefer to see?

communication off trees // source

Contest: In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap

Susanne Dunlap has been kind/awesome/generous enough to offer a signed finished copy of In the Shadow of the Lamp for one lucky winner. :)

And if you didn't get the chance, be sure to check out her thoughts on the plausibility of love triangles in her guest post yesterday!

Find this book on: {amazon} • {goodreads} • {book depository}

Release Date: April 12, 2011

It's 1854 and sixteen-year-old Molly would give anything to change her circumstances as a lowly servant in a posh London house. So when she hears of an opportunity to join the nurses who will be traveling with Florence Nightingale to the Crimea, she jumps at the chance. The work is grueling, the hospital conditions deplorable, and Miss Nightingale a demanding teacher. Before long, the plight of British soldiers becomes more than just a mission of mercy as Molly finds that she's falling in love with both a dashing young doctor and a soldier who has joined the army to be near her. But with the battle raging ever nearer, can Molly keep the two men she cares for from harm? A love story to savor, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes imagining of the woman who became known as "the lady with the lamp.

To enter, please fill out the form below
One winner, U.S. and Canada only
Contest ends Wednesday, April 27th at 11:59 EST  
• For more information, please view my contest policy.

Guest Post (2): Susanne Dunlap

 *gasp* What is this, a two? Yes, you read that correctly. Susanne Dunlap was kind enough to do a guest post for my little ol' blog last year nearing the release of Anastasia's Secret, which was over a year ago from today. Today she's back -- and to sound cliche, better than ever! -- with her upcoming historical YA novel In the Shadow of the Lamp (releases April 12th).

Very Click-able links: {website} • {amazon} • {goodreads} • {book depository}

Without further ado, I'll turn it over to Susanne for her personal take on a centuries-old concept and its role in her new book:


I’ll confess, I’m a pretty straight-up, one-man-at-a-time kind of woman. For me, the feelings I need to experience in a real relationship are so intense and all-engulfing that I can’t imagine feeling them for more than one person at a time.

That said, I have definitely experienced moments when the shades of my affection and love have been distinctly gray, when it’s hard to sort out what’s real, what’s important, and what’s lasting. That’s the way I experienced Molly’s feelings in this novel. The two men she becomes close to are so individual, and fulfill such different emotional needs for her, that she cannot make a decision when faced with both of them.

She’s young, of course. And she is far away from home, away from everything she knows. The “far away” of her 19th-century life is so much more drastic than going away to college, say—the equivalent journey a modern-day 17-year-old might take. No one’s watching out for her, except the other nurses, who all have their own struggles and trials. It’s up to her to decide what’s right, and how she feels. 

I’m pretty sure that if I had been in Molly’s shoes, with exactly those circumstances, I would have felt just as she did, and been every bit as confused. I like to think I would also be as brave and honorable, but that’s the privilege of being an author: creating characters that push the boundaries and explore feelings and face trials and overcome them in a way that I would never have to. 

Yet when it comes down to it, how can someone love two different people in the same way? Getting involved with two people at the same time is fraught with hazards. If they don’t know about each other, lying and deceit becomes a fact of life. If you really care about both of them, then you can add guilt to the mix, because who wants to risk hurting people you love? 

Molly loves both Will and Dr. Maclean. But does she love them in the same way, with the same degree of passion? Or does she only think she does, and has she simply not figured out what she wants?

I don’t think I have the answer. That’s another magical thing about being an author. Your characters take on lives of their own, and seem to act without asking you what they should do.

I’m really looking forward to hearing what readers think about Molly and her coming of age, and the two men who love her. It’s an exciting thing, to launch a story into the world.


Thank you, Susanne! Are you intrigued by these two dashing young men? Whose side are you on? Check back tomorrow for a chance to find out (aka giveaway)...

Purple Daze Winner! & Hunger Games Love

The winner of Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan is:

Stephanie (Sk***

Thanks to everyone who entered, and congrats, Stephanie! I've emailed you. :)

If you didn't win this one, there may be another giveaway on Wednesday. And when I say may, we all know what I mean.Though it'll be U.S. and Canada only again, since I need to save money to host an international 900 followers contest. I'm a high school student that gets paid minimum wage, what can I say? ):

On a tangent, I found over at Natalie's blog Mindful Musings that they cast Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth)! There's a summary of the casting over at and an official announcement on

I'm not ecstatic or depressed over the choices appearance-wise, and I can't say anything about their acting. The only concern I really had was that I don't think Josh and Liam really look the same age... but perhaps that'll change after they get roughed up a bit. I had a little trouble envisioning Josh as Peeta, so I whipped out my 5-minute, horrendous Photoshop skills and:

... I think I may have made it worse.

In My Musical Mailbox (25)

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

... Yes, it's Photoshopped. (Because some silly girl lost her cellphone with it's much-needed photo-taking capabilities. And is found between the time of me starting this post and finishing it! xD) I think it's pretty obvious, given that Mblaq's Lee Joon does not arrive wrapped in a box with a pretty red bow -- no matter how much I wish it were so. If anyone wants a celebrity in a box for their birthday/Christmas present this year, let me know and I'd be glad to send some pixels over! ;D

For review:
Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott -- I love, love, love Japanese fairy tales, and Shadows of the Moon is based off of one. Excited! (Thank you to Random House UK.)

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle -- I've heard it's cute. :3
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher -- I was inspired by Aly's interview with Jay Asher this past week (how awesome is that?) to finally check it out.
The Uses of Enchantment by Burno Bettelheim -- My English teacher actually suggested this one when I mentioned how much I love fairy tales. I've heard iffy things about Bettelheim's credentials, but I'm looking forward to reading his analysis.

Mblaq's Lee Joon "In A Box" ♥

I'm going to NYC next, next weekend (weekend of the 15th) to visit some colleges = STRAND. So I'm waiting to splurge. ;)

For this week's music, it's more Panic! At the Disco. They just released the album Vices and Virtue two weeks ago, and I thought I'd share. The first, Hurricane, is my favorite in their new album followed closely by Always; the former is more reminiscent of their older songs whereas the latter is soothing and uplifting. I also recommend Let's Kill Tonight if you like 'em.

What did you get this week?

The Saturday Network (30)


WHAT IS THE SATURDAY NETWORK? The Saturday Network was started in January 2010, and 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!


Darn, I should've pulled an April's Fool joke yesterday, but I was too tired and forgot. Instead, I've come armed with some April 1st cheer today:

The last man looks suspiciously like me blogging... (and sorry for any trauma caused from slight nudity).

And for vampire fans: What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
Select text for answer (it's in white): Frostbite! ;)

Anyways, this week's featured blogger is Lea (TSN #4) from YA Book Queen. She writes clear, honest reviews with a touch of humor, and I swear I'm not just biased because she's an awesome affiliate. Lea also put up a contest to win an ARC of The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roeckers today (US only), so head on over and enter!

To Participate:
1. Submit your blog in this format:

Blog Name - Child/MG/YA/Adult/ALL (genres(s) you review)
Blog link to post
 ie. Books At Midnight - YA/MG
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! :)

Review: Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan

Sherry Shahan's website here // $11.96 from {amazon}
Publisher: Running Press Kids (March 22, 2011)
Hardcover: 208 pages
Source: Publisher
Purple Daze is a young adult novel set in suburban Los Angeles in 1965. Six high school students share their experiences and feelings in interconnected free verse and traditional poems about war, feminism, riots, love, racism, rock 'n' roll, high school, and friendship.

Although there have been verse novels published recently, none explore the changing and volatile 1960's in America— a time when young people drove a cultural and political revolution. With themes like the costs and casualties of war, the consequences of sex, and the complex relationships between teens, their peers, and their parents, this story is still as relevant today as it was 45 years ago.
Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts:
I picked up Purple Daze with some apprehension; I’ve only read one book written in verse (which I didn't enjoy) and I’ve seen authors struggle with developing the voices and side stories of more than one narrator, not to mention six. So I didn’t have high expectations when starting Purple Daze, but I’m glad to say I was pleasantly surprised by its unique and gritty glimpse into America during the Vietnam War.  

I’ve previously brought up Spielberg’s girl in red, and Sherry Shahan utilizes this method perfectly. Of course, I’ve learned about the atrocities of the Vietnam War in history class, but that’s worlds apart from seeing the same event through the eyes of six struggling American teenagers: Ziggy, Nancy, Cheryl, Don, Phil, and Mickey. While the characters themselves seemed largely one-sided, I think the importance lies in the role they play. They either seemed driven by sex and drugs or by achieving some impossible ideal, whether it was love or an end to the war, and both spoke loudly of the general hopelessness of the time. However, on the technical aspects of narration, the three had approximately equal book-time at the beginning but Ziggy, Nancy, and Don seemed to fade away towards the end. I really would have liked to see those three characters fleshed out more, and though I could kind of relate to Cheryl, Phil, and Mickey, again, they seemed mainly just there to represent different experiences and different mentalities.

Despite my initial misgivings about the verse format, I found myself gradually falling in love with it. I don’t know how, but I do know why. The snippets from letters, notes, and thoughts were like a constant stream of consciousness that I was unconsciously drawn into. The format really suits the frequent changes in POV and the few choice words went met-and-surpassed “sufficient.” They contributed to that sense of a “silent horror,” a horror that doesn’t need to be explicitly stated but is simply felt. (So it goes without saying that my favorite snippets were those of Phil’s experience on the warfront.) I definitely found the verse towards the end more moving than at the beginning, but perhaps that was meant to reflect the increasing agitation during the Vietnam War. Sherry Shahan also complements the verse with occasional notices or a brief, intriguing summary of a famous person at the time, such as Malcolm X, that gave some historical insight and provided useful background for the story.

“I keep on having this dream.
A short, sharp sound.


When I turn, a squat brown boy
jabs a gun in my gut.

Click! Click!

He swings the butt at my head.
I empty a clip in his face.

Bones fly. Chip by chip.
A tooth.

Another round of shoot-a-gook.

I wake up sweatin’ blood.

God forgive us.”

- pg. 168, Phil's POV

My final complaint is that I felt the ending was rushed, as in everything worked out a bit too perfectly and a bit too quickly after all the angst and suffering. I may just make an exception this time and welcome a character dying or befalling some great misfortune.

And my last comment to anyone who’s read the book: I applaud Cheryl for her decision on Don. I’m happy to see someone recognize that kind of “love” for what it is.

** Note: The language is pretty crude, but quite necessary, so if you're offended easily, you probably shouldn't read Purple Daze.

Romance: There is some romance, but it receives pretty equal with all the many other aspects: family, violence, school, personal discovery, etc. Some mentions of making out, sex, but nothing explicit.
Cover: 4.0 -- I actually really like this one for it's 60's feel. It kind of relates, I suppose... but mainly I just find it aesthetically pleasing and quirky.
Writing:  4.0
Characters: 3.0
Plot: 3.5

Bottom Line: Purple Daze is a raw, unique, and no holds barred glimpse into a grief and angst ridden period of American history. A closer connection with the characters and a faster dive into the central turmoil would have really made Purple Daze amazing for me, but I still have to congratulate Sherry Shahan on a powerful debut and will definitely watch for her works in the future.