Friday, August 5, 2011

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

After reading Kody Keplinger's debut novel The DUFF last year, I was really looking forward to see what was up next for her. I started hearing about Shut Out and without even knowing what it was about, I had to read it.

When I found out that All 4 Alabama had a copy donated for auction, I immediately decided that it was going to be one of the auctions I fought for and I did. I was SO excited when I won and I couldn't wait to get it in my hands!
What I really like about Kody's characters is that they seem very real to me. In Shut Out our main character is Lissa and she's a major control freak, but not without reason. She's dating the quarterback of the football team and when the football and soccer rivalry causes people to get hurt and gets in the way of her relationship, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She may not be able to control what the boys do, but she can control what she does or doesn't do. Soon, all the girlfriends are joining Lissa in a Lysistrata-esque sex strike.
During the sex strike, Lissa forms friendships with all the girls and even gets an old friend back. Something that happens more often than not when it comes to YA is the growth of the characters and I think Keplinger did a very good job showing Lissa's. She went from this girl that was embarrassed to even say the word "sex" to someone who organized a sex strike and helped not only herself, but others, be comfortable with who they were. 

Now for Cash and Chloe. These two are the boy and the best friend and I thought these were great characters. I liked Cash from the second I was introduced to him. He's cute, athletic, and the boy all the girls want. He's unattainable but not because he's dating the queen bee or anything, but because there's only one girl he thinks is worth the time. He might be one of the most popular boys in school but I liked how he wasn't totally confident when it came to the one girl that mattered. Cash was understanding, tender, and sweet and that totally made him sexy.

As for Chloe, I think she rocked at being the best friend. She was the exact opposite of Lissa and they complimented each other really well. Where Lissa was private one, Chloe threw everything out in the open. She was considered a slut and a whore for liking sex and sleeping around but she was strong and confident and knew exactly who she was. When it came to being comfortable with sexuality she was the one who asked the tough questions like "Why can boys enjoy sex but not girls?" "Why should girls be deemed sluts when they enjoy sex but guys are heroes?"

My only complaint was Lissa's dad and his obsession with sports. Dare I say it? It reminded me of Charlie from that book, but worse. Practically every scene her dad was in there was some mention of the big game that was or had been on or a sports channel. He was likeable and I loved the part with the father/daughter talk, but he really seemed one-dimensional to me. Yes, I know. He's not a main character and he's just the parental presence but still. Can't we have a cool dad in a contemporary novel who ISN'T a sports fanatic?

This was a quick and fun read and totally something I'll read again. Keplinger definitely scored a touchdown with this sophomore novel and I can't wait to see what she comes out with next!

Do you think sex, or any kind of intimacy for that matter, should be withheld to get a point across? Will you be reading Shut Out?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

XP: Ringgold Reads

I wanted to make sure the most possible people see this so I'm cross-posting this from my other blog.

Many of you know I am 1/2 of the All 4 Alabama team to help raise money for a rural Alabama town that was hit hard by the destruction of the April 27th tornadoes.

Originally my friend Julie and I were going to team up together to raise money and help tornado victims but in the end we each decided to focus on different things. I really wanted to help rural Alabama and she needed to help her own community.

With the help of author Susan Gregg Gilmore and the participation of Random House, Ringgold Reads was created with a mission to rebuild the school libraries of Ringgold, Georgia and help to promote reading and writing as a way for students to express themselves after experiencing such a life-altering event.

Considering the number of books in a library, the number of different books needed is relatively small. However, the number needed of each book (70) isn't a small number. The list of books needed can be found under the Info link on the Facebook page.

Are you getting ready to start back to school shopping? Why not pick up an extra copy of The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird? Did you see a copy of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas or A Walk to Remember marked down in your local bookstore's bargain section? Have an extra copy of The Hunger Games laying around?

Why not donate it? Every book helps and I know the teachers and students will greatly appreciate them.

Have a few unused credits on PaperBackSwap? You can use them at no charge to you AND help a great cause!

If you DO plan on donating, make sure you email them at to let them know the book and number of books you're donating so they can keep track of what they need. As for the books, you can mail those to:


I know I'll be on the hunt this tax free weekend to see what books I can snag. Will you?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Queen of the Dead - Stacey Kade

For some reason I thought this was going to be book one in the series and I was very wrong. Queen of the Dead is actually book two in Stacey Kade's A Ghost and a Goth series.

I was extremely confused when I started reading and I had a ton of questions going through my head. Thank God Stacey re-hashed a few things throughout the book because otherwise I probably would have quit reading.

The premise of the book is cool. Basically a goth guy can see ghosts and he just so happens to be stuck with the ghost of the girl who was the queen bee of their school. She was sent back from the white light (sometime during the first book) and is partnered with him.

I DO wish I would've read book one first because maybe I would've liked book two better. The first half of this book I was wondering what was going on and it was a major distraction for me. Then once I finally started getting into the book, I was almost finished. It seemed like things didn't pick up until maybe the last 75 pages or so for me. I never felt like I was invested in the characters, especially Will (the goth), but I did find myself a little interested in him finding out answers about his father.

Will was just kind of blah and other than being told he's goth from the series title, did not picture him that way.I really liked Alona because she seemed to have the most depth of the two. She had this tough exterior but she was kind of broken on the inside and there were times she didn't seem to like the fact that she was stuck with Will but she protected him. I definitely would have preferred for the book to be solely in her voice instead of the alternating POV that was given.

This wasn't a bad book and I most likely would have enjoyed it more if I had read the first book but as it is, I didn't and it wasn't my cup of tea.

Have you read this series? What did you think?

The Near Witch - Victoria Schwab

What happens when the tale you're told as a child comes true? In Victoria Schwab's debut novel, The Near Witch, Lexi Harris finds out.

When a stranger shows up in Lexi's village of Near and children start disappearing, the people gather their torches and pitchforks (ok, so not QUITE literally..but close) and set out to hunt him down.

Even though Lexi is told to let the men search, she goes off to find answers of her own. Upon meeting the stranger, who she names Cole, she believes he is not the one taking the children and sets of to clear his name before the unthinkable happens. Will she find the missing children before it's too late? Can she stop this from happening before her little sister becomes one of them?

This is one of those books I have been hearing about for a LONG time, so long in fact, I temporarily forgot that it isn't in stores yet when I was telling my mom I thought she'd enjoy it. Oops.

The writing was absolutely fantastic and there were a few times where I re-read a sentence because it was so beautifully worded and it just seemed magical. The descriptions made the book play out kind of like a movie in my head and the littlest things, like Lexi's little sister hopping around, were just so vivid I felt like I had seen it for myself. I thought the story was interesting and well told and was full of mystery, romance, conspiracy, with a little bit of creepy thrown in.

I loved Lexi as the main character. She was strong, fearless, determined, stood up for what she believed in, and was very confident, even when she wasn't feeling like it. The characters were well done and I don't know if it was intentional or not, but I got a small battle of the sexes vibe between everyone else outside of Lexi and Cole.

I don't want to say much more since it isn't out yet but I will say that I really enjoyed reading this and I hope you do too. Victoria did a wonderful job on her debut novel and if she figures out a way to bottle up some of her talent, I'll gladly take some.

I'll also be hosting an interview with Victoria in the next week or 2 so look for that as well as me gushing over meeting her and many other wonderful authors at the 2011 Decatur Book Festival. EEK! Only about 46 more days!

An ARC of The Near Witch was provided to me by Disney Publishing Worldwide and in no way sways my opinion of the book.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Uncommon Criminals - Ally Carter

Uncommon Criminals picks up about two months after Heist Society ends. We find out that Kat has struck out on her own to re-steal lost items and return them to their rightful owners. When she meets a woman who tells her Visily Romani sent her to Kat, Kat takes on the job to steal the Cleopatra Emerald.

This was as equally fun as its predecessor and I loved getting drawn deeper into Kat's world. I was wondering where the story was going to go when things were done so early on but I really liked the fact that a con was conned.

The whole time they were plotting on stealing the Cleopatra Emerald a second time, I was wondering how in the world they were going to do it when the mark knew who they were and was an expert con herself. Good times!

One thing that did kind of bother me about Kat was that she really has a hard time letting people help. She's definitely strong-willed and stubborn but she has a very hard time accepting the fact that her friends want to help her and be around her and I look forward to future books to see how she grows.

Hale still remains my favorite character with his witty remarks and his charm. I like the relationship Hale and Kat have because it kind of reminds me of that awkward high school phase where you like a boy but talk yourself out of the possibility that he could ever like you. That's another of Kat's flaws though, she sells herself short when it comes to anything that's not theft.

Kat's flaws are a huge part of why she works as a believable character. She definitely has trust issues, who wouldn't doing what she does, but when she trusts you, you become part of something bigger. A family.

Uncommon Criminals was a quick and fun read and I wish I didn't have to wait so long for the next installment.

Are you a fan of Ally Carter? What's your favorite book dealing with thieves?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Heist Society - Ally Carter

Every time I go to Books-A-Million (which is at LEAST once a week) or my local used bookstore, I am always seeing books by Ally Carter. There have been numerous times where I've picked up Heist Society, read the back of the book, contemplated buying it, and then ended up putting it back on the shelf.

I'm not sure why this kept happening, but it did. Every single time there was this little voice in head saying "you probably won't like it, buy this book instead" and I would wander off to something else.

Thanks to Disney Publishing Worldwide, I received a review copy along with the 2nd novel, Uncommon Criminals, and I decided to take a break from the eight other books I was reading (yes, eight. I have been in a MAJOR reading funk this year) to get started.

Believe me when I say that I was pleasantly surprised at how quick I got sucked into the story. Now I do most of my reading at night before bed, but Heist Society was going back and forth between my nightstand and my purse (it accompanied me to work a few days).

Katarina Bishop is a fifteen year old retired thief. Yup, all Kat wants to do is enjoy being normal so she conned her way into a prestigious private school. This "normalcy" she has going, doesn't last long when she's kicked out for something she didn't do. She's sucked back into the life she wanted to leave behind because her dad is being framed and it's up to her to save him. Did he really do it? Who is Visily Romani and better yet, WHAT does the W.W. in Hale's name stand for?

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much is the whole white collar crime thing because yes, I'm a HUGE fan of the TV show White Collar and this book reminded me of it. The story was fun, the book was the perfect length, there wasn't any portion of it that felt like the book was dragging, a cute boy, and there's intrigue and world-traveling. What more do you need?

Then there's the relationship between Kat and Hale. I absolutely LOVED it along with their banter. I could really relate to Kat in that "I like him but there is not a chance he could like me back" way and all I wanted to do was pull her aside and give her a pep talk. Hale is a cutie and although there is a second boy introduced who seems to have a thing for Kat, there isn't really any indication that he's even a small bit of competition for Hale. Ok, so there IS but in my book Nick wasn't competition. At all. That COULD be my own 15 year old self being completely smitten with Hale though.

I will admit that the thought of a group of teenagers pulling off a heist of that magnitude, was a bit unbelievable and kind of pulled me out of the story a bit and did take a little getting used to. Once I quit thinking about the logistics, I was able to just enjoy the ride I was being taken on.

This was such a fun book and as soon as I closed Heist Society I opened Uncommon Criminals. It's almost 1am as I write this, but even so, I plan on reading a chapter or 2 before I go to sleep.

Thanks DPW for sharing this book with me because otherwise, I'd still be picking it up and putting it back down at the bookstore. I am OfficiALLY a fan now. See what I did there?

Have you read Heist Society? Is there a book that you keep picking up at the store only to put it back down again and again?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Interview with John Nelson

Hey everyone! I know I haven't really posted much book stuff lately but I have been in a reading rut this year (seriously, I've read less than 20 books this year). So today I have an interview for you! John Nelson, author of Against Nature was kind enough to answer a few questions for me so sit back, relax, and get to know a new author!

1. To get started, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and former Special Ops Medic--Air Commando. I now work as a healthcare executive in Utah. I'm married to a beautiful and brilliant woman and I have three kids and a sweet dog named Dexter.

2. What inspired you to write Against Nature?
From fact comes fiction. The news headlines were filled with some disturbing stuff like secret prisons, torture, wars justified through public deception, and so much more. I kind of thought we were heading toward a dystopian society. I also wondered what would happen if some of the stuff our government was doing overseas washed up on our shore. The end result was a dystopian thriller. Most dystopia fiction is about the future. Mine is about the present and how we get to that dystopian future. 

3. I really like that you take the present and show how we could get to the future. Most dystopian novels start off with everything changed already and just briefly mention how things changed. Interesting! From idea conception to completed work, what was the hardest part during the whole process for you?
I love the writing process. I never know where the story is going to take me until I get there. I think the hardest part is cutting and editing when the ride is over. 

4. During the research, what was the most interesting or the weirdest thing you found yourself reading about?
 I knew most of what I wrote about. I can't say I had to do too much research. I did take facts of the past decade and expanded them to create a dystopian society. That was certainly the scariest part.

5. If you could sit down with any author, past or present, who would it be and what would be the first question you'd ask them?
Voltaire. I'd ask him to rewrite Candide for our times. 

6. You knew this was coming, favorite books and authors? 
My favorite books are Candide by Voltaire, Animal Farm by George Orwell, Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I like books with social value. Books that make you think.

7. In the last year, what has been your favorite release?
I recently read Hunger Games and enjoyed it. I read it on the beach in Mexico....sea, sun, sand and a decent book. Life elevated!  What makes Hunger Games a good book and not a great book, in my estimation, is the lack of social criticism. I didn't see a clear reflection of our own society. Lots of young adults are reading it, but they're not learning anything in the process. Is the book a critique of our growing violent society, our thirst for voyeurism with reality TV, and our acceptance of inequality?  Are we on a path to that world? What are the road signs? All that was missing. It was still an enjoyable read, but not a classic.

8. Is there a question you wish people would ask but either forget to ask or just don't think about asking? 
I think fiction writers have a goal for the reader. Just as a comedian's goal is to say silly things to make us laugh, a conservative talk radio host says inflammatory things to make us angry and outraged. The question people should ask me is: what was my goal for Against Nature? My goal was to make the reader think and reflect. And be entertained too, of course. But beyond the simple pursuit of entertainment, I think a dystopian novel has to do a little more than that. It needs to make you think and reflect. You should see your own world in the reflection of the  book's fantasy world. I tried to do that. It's up to the individual reader to judge whether or not I succeeded.

9. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I'd like to thank you for hosting me and for creating an on-line community where readers and writers can come together. I'd also like to thank you for your work to help your neighbors following the devastating tornadoes in your area. It's so wonderful to see people act selflessly and not just in their own self interest. 

Thank you John! It was a pleasure getting to know you and hosting you here on my blog!

You can purchase the Kindle edition of Against Nature here.

What do you think about Against Nature? Is there a question you think I should have asked?

Monday, May 9, 2011

All 4 Alabama

Hey guys,

I just wanted to post a few links that deal with this project I'm helping with to raise money for people who lost everything in the tornadoes that ripped through Alabama last week.

You can read about on my blog here and check out the auctions/donations site Courtney and I have at All 4 Alabama.



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