New Releases: July 3rd

Finally after over a month off, I have a TWO new books to enjoy! July is loaded with five releases that I am eagerly anticipating.

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier, Sarah Rees Brennan

The Lowdown: This book is the first collaboration between YA authors Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan.

From Goodreads.com

Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn’t mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It’s up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity!

On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

Why you should check it out: Whenever I look at the the YA books that are featured on the Goodreads giveaways, I see a ton of vampire novels. All of these stories tell the same tale of the girl falling in love with the mysterious vampire. These plots–always told from the point of view of the girl–discuss how interesting and amazing this dangerous creature is. The protagonist’s friends are seen as the enemy for trying to get between her and the object of her affection.

Are you sick of these books? Are you tired of reading about a young woman who needs her supernatural boyfriend to survive? I have a feeling Team Human is the answer to this phenomenon, because this book focuses on the friendship between the girls more than the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. I really feel that this perspective will make for a stronger and more interesting characters. I am really curious to see the authors’ take on a vampire story. I feel as if Larbalestier and Brennan can create a vampire story that I will enjoy.

The excerpt I read confirmed my high hopes for this story. The female characters seem smart and witty. The vampire is enough of a parody to be enjoyable without inducing eye rolls. When combined with author Maureen Johnson’s review of the story–”If you love vampire books, this is the book for you–if you hate vampire books this is also the book for you”–I realized I needed to buy this book ASAP. After all, if Maureen Johnson says you should read a book, you probably should.

Not sold yet? Check out the first chapter here and promo video here.

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

The Lowdown: This story follows the life of Ruth Saunders; a character Weiner previously introduced in a short story Swim. That tale details Saunders’ life as a freelance writer who edits the college essays of prospective students. Weiner’s latest novel discusses Ruth’s life as she prepares to rejoin the television world after an extended absence.

From Goodreads.com

Blockbuster #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner returns with an irresistible story about a young woman trying to make it in Hollywood…

At twenty-three, Ruth Saunders headed west with her seventy-year-old grandma in tow, hoping to be hired as a television writer. Four years later, she’s hit the jackpot when she gets The Call: the sitcom she wrote, The Next Best Thing, has gotten the green light, and Ruthie’s going to be the show-runner. But her dreams of Hollywood happiness are threatened by demanding actors, number-crunching executives, an unrequited crush on a boss, and her grandmother’s impending nuptials.

Set against the fascinating backdrop of Los Angeles show business culture, with an insider’s ear and eye for writer’s rooms, bad behavior backstage and set politics, Jennifer Weiner’s new novel is a rollicking ride on the Hollywood rollercoaster and a heartfelt story about what it’s like for a young woman to love, and lose, in the land where dreams come true.

Why you should check it out: I checked out the prequel to this story–Swim–because it was free. After reading that small tidbit of Ruth’s life, I needed to know more. The first chapter only made me more excited about this book. I knew immediately that this story was a must-read.

I have previously discussed my love for the way in which Weiner depicts relationships in her novels. Whenever I finish one of her books, I can guarantee that I feel an emotional connection to the woman I just read about. Even though I may not have had the same life experiences as them, I still felt as if I understood where they were coming from and what they went through.

The stories are more than just tear-jerking tales of female bonding. Weiner takes the humor she constantly displays on her twitter feed and interjects it into her books. I am also hoping that Weiner’s experience as a showrunner for the short-lived TV show State of Georgia will be lead to interesting anecdotes of working in Hollywood.

After finishing this post, you must go and check out the short story Swim. It is free and can be read on your computer. I know that after reading it you will add The Next Best Thing to your to-read list.

New Release: January 10th

The bad news is that I have no new releases on my radar for the next few weeks. The good news is that I can take this time to talk about books published earlier this year. First up is a book release January 10th.

The Lowdown: This is the fifth solo fiction release by popular Vlogger and author John Green. He has also released two YA collaborations.

From Goodreads.com

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Why you should check it out: I always eagerly await new John Green novels. Green does not force himself to release new books on a strict schedule, which allows him to take the extra time necessary to perfect them. This effort really shows in his stories. When reading one of these novels, I find myself wishing for time to slow down. I want to be able to enjoy every single word on the page. I am always torn between wanting to know what happens and never wanting the journey to end.

Green’s novels are also so amazing because he tells great stories. He is able to convey the thoughts and feelings of his characters in a realistic way. This makes the story to feel personal, as if it is about one of your friends. The personal connection makes you invested in the ups and downs of the plot, creating an emotional tie to the characters and their tale. All of this is especially true of this The Fault in Our Stars. I made sure to read this book with a tissue box nearby.

In short you should check this book out because John Green’s books are amazing. This one is no exception. Get your hands on a copy ASAP. Need additional prompting? Read an the first chapter here

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

My RSS feed is full of great book blog posts. I find these posts are a excellent way to discover new reads and authors. When something catches my eye, I add it to my “to-read” list. The next time I unexpectedly find myself with nothing new to read, I’ll check one of these blog discoveries. Last week I saw a book on Steph Su ReadsCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein–that I knew I needed to read right away.

From Goodreads.com

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

I have been in a reading rut recently. Most of the books I have picked up have been dystopian trilogies or tales of how the girl gets the boy. I enjoyed these stories but sometimes just need something different. Code Name Verity was the perfect change. Instead of the typical love story–or more common love triangle–this book told of the adventures and friendship between two woman during WWII.

I will admit that it took me a while to get use to the narration style. Once I did I was hooked. I stayed up reading this book way past my bedtime just to know how the book ended. The fact that the plot was so different meant that it was unpredictable. It was impossible to guess what would come next. Sentences that were throwaway lines at first became huge plot points later. I wished that I had purchased a physical copy of this book instead of the E-Reader version so I could have flipped back and forth between the pages. I finished the book knowing that a re-read was in order in an attempt to catch all the small details I missed initially.

The characters of the story were also a refreshing change. It seems common these days to have a protagonist who has a special ability. Generally this skill is something they are born with, or happen to realize they have right in time for a crucial plot point. It is nice to see that this is not the case for the women in this book. You see the hard work and training that it takes for them to get to where they are. Their skill is not something they happen upon by luck or chance. This made the characters believable. It added a certain realism that enabled me to imagine the protagonists on their journey as the story unfolded.

Review: This book is wonderful. It is a refreshing change from the pile of dystopian love triangles on the shelves. Despite its YA categorization, I really believe this book will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good story. The fast pace and unique characters made it impossible to put down. I highly recommend this story.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

So, I happened to stumble across something completely new and WONDERFUL the other day. What is the cause of this delight? A YouTube adaptation of Pride and Prejudice called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Now you may think that the world doesn’t need ANOTHER P&P adaptation. Poor Elizabeth Bennet has been through the ringer in reprises and sequels. I thought I had my fill after reading the original novel and watching the 2005 movie version, but was quickly proven wrong.

There is something special about this retelling. It starts with the characters. Elizabeth Bennet-Lizzie–is the perfect mix of wit and sarcasm. Charlotte is the consummate foil with her serious attitude. Older sister Jane is absolutely charming. Lydia is perfection; she takes all of the annoying characteristics of teenagers and makes them entertaining. The actors own their characters, creating believable people. I want to grab a drink with them and become their friend.

Instead of meeting the Bennet parents, you see them portrayed by Lizzie and Charlotte in costume. This often allows the writers to work in the original words of Jane Austen without them seeming out of place. Lizzie’s rendition of Darcy enables you to see her perception of him without her having to say it directly. Lydia’s impersonation of Bing Lee–Charles Bingley–is what I assume to be wildly inaccurate; but entertaining as hell.

The characters alone were enough to make me subscribe to these videos; the brilliant writing led me to become addicted. The writers adapt the Bennets’ problems of the early 19th century to contemporary issues. Finding wealthy suitors to support your five daughters–due to a lack of an inheritance– becomes finding rich guys to pay off your three daughters’ student loans. These stories translate seamlessly while being injected with humor.

I was hooked after watching the first video. I watched the three available episodes immediately. I then re-watched them another two or three more times. On Mondays and Thursday I eagerly watch Lizzie’s twitter feed for an announcement of a new vlog. Once a new one is posted I watch it two or three times before the withdrawal sets in.

Why am I so interested in a story when I know the ending? Because the writers have made such an interesting journey. They have taken something we know the answer to and created new questions. When will we see Darcy? What sort of craziness will Lydia get herself into? What journey will Charlotte take? I need to know now!!!

However, I am forced to wait for these answers. On days where there is no new videos updates I check the various Twitter feeds of the characters and their various Tumblr pages. I know I will be sad when it the series ends, but can’t wait to see how the it unravels. Have I convinced you to check the first episode? I have included it below. Looking to catch up on all of the LBD goodness? Check out this link here I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

New Releases: May 8th

I hope you enjoyed my first “New Releases” post! This week there are two releases that I have been eagerly awaiting that I am going to discuss.

Underworld (Abandon Trilogy #2) by Meg Cabot

The Lowdown: This book is the second in the Abandon YA Trilogy by author Meg Cabot

From Goodreads.com

Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera isn’t dead.

Not this time.

But she is being held against her will in the dim, twilit world between heaven and hell, where the spirits of the deceased wait before embarking upon their final journey.

Her captor, John Hayden, claims it’s for her own safety. Because not all the departed are dear. Some are so unhappy with where they ended up after leaving the Underworld, they’ve come back as Furies, intent on vengeance…on the one who sent them there and on the one whom he loves.

But while Pierce might be safe from the Furies in the Underworld, far worse dangers could be lurking for her there…and they might have more to do with its ruler than with his enemies.

And unless Pierce is careful, this time there’ll be no escape.

Why you should check it out: When I reviewed the first book in this trilogy–Abandon–I did not love it. I mentioned that I often found the book confusing due to its extensive use of of flashbacks to inform the reader of the main character’s back-story. A reread of the novel helped to clear up this confusion and left me with a more positive review of the book. As I am now familiar with the protagonist’s history, I doubt there will be much need for the author to travel back and forth in the narrative. This leaves me optimistic about the second book. I was also encouraged after reading the first two chapters on Cabot’s blog. (Note this link will contain spoilers for Abandon; the first book in the trilogy.) More importantly the author has released many of my favorite books and very rarely lets me down. I am choosing to be cautiously hopeful about this release and can’t wait to check it out.

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5) by Cassandra Clare

The Lowdown: “COLS”–as it is often referred to by author Cassandra Clare–is the fifth book in the Mortal Instruments series. This is the second to last book in this YA hexalogy.

From Goodreads.com

The demon Lilith has been destroyed and Jace has been freed from her captivity. But when the Shadowhunters arrive to rescue him, they find only blood and broken glass. Not only is the boy Clary loves missing–but so is the boy she hates, Sebastian, the son of her father Valentine: a son determined to succeed where their father failed, and bring the Shadowhunters to their knees.

No magic the Clave can summon can locate either boy, but Jace cannot stay away—not from Clary. When they meet again Clary discovers the horror Lilith’s dying magic has wrought—Jace is no longer the boy she loved. He and Sebastian are now bound to each other, and Jace has become what he most feared: a true servant of Valentine’s evil. The Clave is determined to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. Will the Shadowhunters hesitate to kill one of their own?

Only a small band of Clary and Jace’s friends and family believe that Jace can still be saved — and that the fate of the Shadowhunters’ future may hinge on that salvation. They must defy the Clave and strike out on their own. Alec, Magnus, Simon and Isabelle must work together to save Jace: bargaining with the sinister Faerie Queen, contemplating deals with demons, and turning at last to the Iron Sisters, the reclusive and merciless weapons makers for the Shadowhunters, who tell them that no weapon on this earth can sever the bond between Sebastian and Jace. Their only chance of cutting Jace free is to challenge Heaven and Hell — a risk that could claim any, or all, of their lives.

And they must do it without Clary. For Clary has gone into the heart of darkness, to play a dangerous game utterly alone. The price of losing the game is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she even still trust him? Or is he truly lost? What price is too high to pay, even for love?

Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.

Why you should check it out: If you have already read the first four books in this series, you are probably eager to get your hands on this one. The last installment ended on a HUGE cliffhanger, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next! If you have yet to read the series, I encourage you to check it out. The fast pacing makes for an addicting book that grabs your attention and won’t let you go. The alternate reality that Clare creates is so complex and interesting that you will tear through the pages to know what happens next.

Looking for an excerpt from this release? Check out this link here. Interested in checking out something from the first book? You can find a selection from the book here.

New Releases: May 1st

Here is the first of my posts about new releases I am excited for. I am starting off with a bang by discussing three new books. I hope I can inspire you to check out at least one of them!

Insurgent (Divergent) by Veronica Roth

The Lowdown: Insurgent is the sequel to Roth’s dystopian YA novel Divergent; winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Favorite Book of 2011. The book deserved the win, and I’m hoping the second book in the trilogy is just as good.

From Goodreads.com

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Why you should check it out: I know it’s hard for people to get excited about another YA dystopian novel right now. I’ve read a lot of them and have only loved a few. So far this series has been one of my favorites. Why? I really enjoy the fact that the protagonist is a strong woman who survives based on her own skill and determination. It also helps that she is not in the middle of a love triangle. This is a refreshing change from other dystopian novels, which makes for a strong story. If you still aren’t convinced, you can check out the first few chapters here. Just be warned that these chapters will contain spoilers for the first novel Divergent. I can not wait to start this book after pre-ordering it weeks ago.

The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service by Beth Kendrick

The Lowdown: The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service is a standalone novel by Beth Kendrick, and it’s Kendrick’s eighth fiction release.

From Facebook.com

Lara Madigan has a gift. She can help you find your soulmate—your canine soulmate, that is. As a dog trainer with a soft spot for strays, she’s found the perfect home for sulky Shih Tzus, broken-down border collies, and diabolical Dalmatians. But while she’ll always make room for one more rescue mutt, she’s not sure she’s ready to commit to another human being. Especially after her live-in boyfriend drops the bomb: he’s not a dog person.

Horrified and temporarily homeless, Lara and her furry pack move in with her mother, a wealthy fashionista who forbids even a single drop of drool. As word gets around the exclusive gated community, Lara is overwhelmed with demands for her services. A model wants personal training for her overweight “flabrador”. An aging socialite preps her pedigreed puppy for dog show domination. If Lara can survive the breakup, the outrageous requests of her high-maintenance clientele, and her dogs systematically destroying her mother’s McMansion, she might finally find the rescue dog who rescues her back– leading her straight to the guy who could be her perfect match.

Why you should check it out: I picked up my first of Kendrick’s books–Nearlyweds–on a whim. I enjoyed it enough that I purchased her next novel; The Pre-Nup. Again I found it worth my money. I checked out her 2010 release–Second Time Around–after wining a copy. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book in contrast to the first two. I felt as if the writing had really improved. Kendrick was able to depict relationships so much stronger in this story than her previous story. The way she showed the connection between the woman of the novel made me relate to the characters and cheer them on.

I was lucky to win a copy of the author’s 2011 release The Bake-Off. This time the plot focused on the bond between sisters who ha not always gotten along. Again I found myself loving the story. This helped me reach the conclusion that Kendrick’s writing improves with each new release. To me this means that her newest story will be the best yet. Not convinced? Check out this excerpt. That snippet was enough to persuade me to get my hands on this book soon after its release.

Jeneration X: One Reluctant Adult’s Attempt to Unarrest Her Arrested Development; Or, Why It’s Never Too Late for Her Dumb Ass to Learn Why Froot Loops Are Not for Dinner by Jen Lancaster

The Lowdown: Jen Lancaster returns to her nonfiction roots with this release. I have checked out–and loved-her five previous memoirs.

From Amazon.com

In Such a Pretty Fat, Jen Lancaster learned how to come to terms with her body. In My Fair Lazy, she expanded her mind. Now the New York Times bestselling author gives herself—and her generation—a kick in the X, by facing her greatest challenge to date: acting her age.

Jen is finally ready to put away childish things (except her Barbie Styling Head, of course) and embrace the investment-making, mortgage-carrying, life-insurance-having adult she’s become. From getting a mammogram to volunteering at a halfway house, she tackles the grown-up activities she’s resisted for years, and with each rite of passage she completes, she’ll uncover a valuable—and probably humiliating—life lesson that will ease her path to full-fledged, if reluctant, adulthood.

Why you should check it out: I have read the author’s previous five memoirs and loved them all. The crazy antics in Lancaster’s life have often made me laugh out loud while reading. They are the perfect stories for when you just want to escape from your own life for a bit. Sometimes you need that in a book. I know that someday when I’m having a crappy week I’ll read this book and it will be able to put a smile on my face. Looking for an example of the sort of crazy you can expect in this book? Check out the author’s trailer for the book here.

I hope you enjoyed this first post about the new releases I’ll be checking out this week. I’ve helped others add something to their “to-read” pile.

Books I Can Not Wait to Read in 2012

I love Tuesdays. Why? Not only do they signify that Monday is over, but they are also the day that publishers release new books. This means that almost every week this year I have awoken on Tuesday excited to get to the bookstore.

This excitement left with me with two problems. How do I keep track of all of these great releases, and how to I get the word out to others who may want to read them? My solution to the first problem was to create an Amazon.com Listmania List–Books I Can Not Wait to Read in 2012-to track publication dates. After thinking for a bit, I was able to solve the second problem. I realized I could use my blog to discuss the new releases for any given week. Each post could briefly cover what each book was about and then share why I was excited to read it.

I am hoping that these posts will help people find great new reads. Have a book that you are excited about? Let me know! I love finding new books as much as I love sharing my favorites with others.