New Release: Down and Across

Down and AcrossRelease Date: February 6, 2018

Down and Across
by Arvin Ahmadi

Summary from Goodreads:
Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try–all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.

I can’t wait for this book because:
Sounds like a great coming-of-age story! I love that it focuses on the idea of grit and perseverance. Fiora, with her crossword obsession, sounds like just the type of quirky character I’d love! And it’s set in DC, my childhood hometown!

This author will be at the NoVa Teen Book Fest on March 10, 2018!

February Debuts 2013

Each month I’ll be doing one post to highlight book releases by debut authors that I have my eye on.  Check back at the end of the month for reviews! Or feel free to try to sway my opinion to read other debuts as well!



Debut Author Challenge:
February Releases

Pantomime 
by Laura Lam 
Release Date: Feb. 5

Goodreads Summary:

R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass—remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone—are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimaera is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.
Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.
But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

What grabbed me:
This sounds like such an imaginative and unique story, and I love the cover!

City of a Thousand Dolls 
by Miriam Forster 
Release Date: Feb. 5

Goodreads Summary:

An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.
Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

What grabbed me:

This sounds like a gripping and suspenseful read set in a fantastical world. Add a dash of romance to the adventure and mystery, and this sounds like my ideal read!

Pivot Point 
by Kasie West 
Release Date: Feb. 12

Goodreads Summary:

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.
In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

What grabbed me:

I love this concept of two completely different lives stemming from a single choice and how intriguing that she can see the possibilities and both options have serious pros/cons. I love everything about this premise!

Dance of Shadows
by Yelena Black
Release Date: Feb. 12

Goodreads Summary:

Dancing with someone is an act of trust. Elegant and intimate; you’re close enough to kiss, close enough to feel your partner’s heartbeat. But for Vanessa, dance is deadly – and she must be very careful who she trusts . . .
Vanessa Adler attends an elite ballet school – the same one her older sister, Margaret, attended before she disappeared. Vanessa feels she can never live up to her sister’s shining reputation. But Vanessa, with her glorious red hair and fair skin, has a kind of power when she dances – she loses herself in the music, breathes different air, and the world around her turns to flames . . . 
Soon she attracts the attention of three men: gorgeous Zep, mysterious Justin, and the great, enigmatic choreographer Josef Zhalkovsky. When Josef asks Vanessa to dance the lead in the Firebird, she has little idea of the danger that lies ahead – and the burning forces about to be unleashed . . .

What grabbed me:
The cover is creepy but beautiful.  I did ballet up until middle school and will always have a fondness for it.  I love to read books that take me back to that past love.  Plus this sounds like a suspenseful read!

Dualed 
by Elsie Chapman 
Release Date: Feb. 26

Goodreads Summary:

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.
Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.
Elsie Chapman’s suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.

What grabbed me:
Yikes!  Killing your twin?!?!  Definitely sounds similar to Hunger Games.  Looks like a fast-paced and exciting read!

Some debut novels from January that I purchased and also plan to read:

Which debut novels are on your list?

Book Review: Level 2

Level 2
by Lenore Appelhans

Published by: Simon and Schuster for Young Readers
Form: Kobo eBook on iPad
Genre: Sci-Fi / Dystopian
Big Themes: Memories, Death, Reconciliation, Friendship, Love, YOLO

Goodreads

*Debut Author Challenge*

Summary:
Felicia died, and now she’s in Level 2 where she can play back memories of her life as well as share her memories with others. But what she doesn’t know is that there is a war going on that is preventing humans from moving on to the next level.

I’m going to start my review on a positive note, and tell you the things the author did well.  But overall, I was disappointed with this debut because of its unrealized potential.

Memory System:
This was the most interesting concept that Appelhans came up with.  Each memory could be played like a Youtube video.  It had tags, user ratings, and number of views.  I loved this concept and what it revealed to you as a reader when you saw what each memory was tagged as and what the ratings were.  This was a great intertextual detail and a fresh idea.  You also learn as the story progresses that users earn credits for each time their memories are viewed, and people with the best memories become “rich.”  This was sad for one particular character who didn’t have many positive memories to share, and thus was broke.  I even wish this idea had been explored even more because it was so fascinating.

Initial Mystery:
I was extremely intrigued for the first four chapters as to what Felicia had done wrong and how she’d managed to ruin her life.  The author gives you all these hints and clues as to Felicia having made huge mistakes that she regretted in her life, and as a reader, you understood not wanting to face the worst parts of your life.  It sort of set Felicia up as an unreliable narrator who wasn’t telling you everything, but with the memory system, you figured that you would find out eventually.

Vivid Flashbacks:
Flashbacks can often screw with pacing, but I found that the flashbacks were by far my favorite moments in the book.  Often the settings in the flashbacks were beautifully described and sensory experiences.  Some of my favorite scenes: musical goat trip, hearing Neil sing, the church game, and sushi with Autumn.

Problems I Had:
All my notes for the first four chapters were so positive, but as the story continued you can see my notes get more and more frustrated.  I’m going to try to divide my problems into categories.  I don’t necessarily blame the author for these issues.  These are things that editors and beta readers should have questioned and given her time to work on.

Lack of World Building:
I’m very confused because I’ve read reviews that praise Appelhan’s world-building.  I’ll admit that the flashbacks are vivid and beautiful.  I’ll concede that her memory concept is very cool.  But I found the actual world of Level 2 to be lacking in both detail and logic.  The only things I can tell you about Level 2 are that there are: never-ending hives, a lot of white, grooves, and crevices. Here is a sampling of questions I had while I was reading:

  • How do people find their way around?  This is never clearly explained.
  • How are the hives organized?
  • What is the key difference between life on Earth and Level 2?
  • Why do people have no hair?
  • How does materialization work?
  • If you can’t feel anything, because you’re dead, than why would you feel the after effects of being drugged?  Same with going off the drugs, why should you feel deprived?
  • Why can you feel some things and not others?
  • Why can you be wounded if you’re dead?
  • Why can you die?  If you’re already dead…
  • How can people be erased if their memories are accessible via the computer system they have?
  • Why do characters need rest if they’re dead?
  • If they can materialize anything they want, why would they choose an antiquated bow and arrow instead of say… a machine gun?

Appelhan chose a super tough setting to tackle in her debut novel: the afterlife.  But I’m not going to give her a free pass on logic just because it’s a mystical place.  I think if people had asked her some of these questions, and she’d been forced to think about the rules of her world, then we might have gained a clearer understanding of this fascinating vision of the afterlife.

Lack of Connection to the Rebellion:
I had so many problems with the rebellion.  First was the total lack of threat.  All we see in the beginning of the book are these blinking scanner things that don’t actually do anything to harm them.  And there’s people hiding and saying to be careful.  But we don’t actually see any of these scanners do anything threatening… ever.

Then we’re told there are these evil Morati angel people.  But we don’t actually see them… until chapter 19 (of 21).  We don’t know what they look like or have seen them actually do anything.  All we have to go on is what three people tell us about them.  You can’t keep you main antagonist off-screen like this for the whole book.  It doesn’t work.  If you want me to be invested in a rebellion, then I have to understand who/what I’m rebelling against.

We do get these weird zombie things.  They were kind of scary, but their appearance was brief (and not until chapter 17 of 21).  There were two zombies.  Two.  And they chopped their heads off, no sweat.  That was the biggest threat in the whole book.  Two zombies.

And my final issue with the rebellion is that we don’t meet many rebels.  We meet three: Julian, Mira, and Eli.  That’s it.  But then, at the end of the book, it says, “I see Mira and Eli leading a charge of several thousand rebel troops against the Morati palace.”  What?!?!  We only saw three rebels the entire book and suddenly there are THOUSANDS.  And this epic, huge battle… is only one paragraph and told to us from off-screen.  Felicia isn’t there.  Nor did we know of any plans of an epic battle to attack the palace.  And what is this palace?  Why would you keep this action off-screen?  You’re completely keeping your reader isolated from this rebellion.  I wasn’t invested in it at all.  I had no emotional ties to what was going on.

Felicia’s Role:
I get the vibe that Felicia was some sort of chosen one, and they needed her energy… to power the world?  I really did not understand.  Many times we are given really obvious hints that Felicia is super powerful and extra special.  Think like the Matrix and Neo being the One.  But I still don’t understand all the energy stuff or why she’s so coveted by both sides of the rebellion.

I was excited at the beginning of the book because I thought what made her special was that she had mad computer hacking skills.  And I thought she’d be able to use those skills in this world of Level 2.  But that never happened…  Instead Felicia has some special energy… and can materialize stuff really well… and gets over drugs fast…  (I still don’t understand the materialization process which seems to require no skill and has no limitations.)  If you’re going to make a character into the Chosen One, then I better understand why they’re so special, and in Felicia’s case… I didn’t.

Repetitive Structure and Writing Techniques:
I began to get really tired of cliffhangers at the end of every short chapter.  I felt like I was constantly getting splashed with ice cold water.  Ha!  Bet you didn’t see that coming!  Actually, after the first few times, if you toss ice water at me enough, I will expect it.  The cliffhangers grew repetitive.  There are other ways to end a chapter and still get the reader to keep reading.  You don’t have to always throw out a surprise.  Mix it up.

And there were some cliché similes that kept popping up at the end of paragraphs, such as:
“I almost feel like I’m a lab rat in some futuristic sci-fi maze.”
“…like a starving person begging for crumbs.”

Other Things that Bugged Me:
-Characters disappearing for pages and suddenly reappearing.
-When things were revealed.
-The big reveal about Autumn at the end.
-The big reveal about Julian at the end.
-The big reveal about Neil at the end.

(Don’t want to discuss the reveals because that would mean spoilers, but if you want to discuss, let me know.)

Overall Rating: 
I was really looking forward to this book, and while there were some things it did well, overall I was disappointed.  On goodreads, I gave the book 3 stars, but it would probably be more like a 2 and a half.

Top Ten 2013 Debuts I Want




Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. For more information about Top Ten Tuesday and a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics, click here.
Top Ten 2013 Debuts I Want

(In order of release date, and book titles link to Goodreads)

1. Pantomime 
by Laura Lam 
(Feb. 5)

Goodreads Summary:

R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass—remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone—are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimaera is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.
Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.
But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

What grabbed me:
This sounds like such an imaginative and unique story, and I love the cover!

2. City of a Thousand Dolls 
by Miriam Forster 
(Feb. 5)

Goodreads Summary:

An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.
Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

What grabbed me:

This sounds like a gripping and suspenseful read set in a fantastical world. Add a dash of romance to the adventure and mystery, and this sounds like my ideal read!

3. Pivot Point 
by Kasie West 
(Feb. 12)

Goodreads Summary:

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.
In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

What grabbed me:

I love this concept of two completely different lives stemming from a single choice and how intriguing that she can see the possibilities and both options have serious pros/cons. I love everything about this premise!

4. Dualed 
by Elsie Chapman 
(Feb. 26)

Goodreads Summary:

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.
Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.
Elsie Chapman’s suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.

What grabbed me:
Yikes!  Killing your twin?!?!  Definitely sounds similar to Hunger Games.  Looks like a fast-paced and exciting read!

5. Poison 
by Bridget Zinn 
(Mar. 12)

Goodreads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?
Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

What grabbed me:

I love this cover and the protagonist sounds like a strong and conflicted character. Elements of adventure and hints of fairy tale lore, I want to check this one out!

6. The Collector 
by Victoria Scott 
(Apr. 2)

Goodreads Summary:

Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it. His good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence has made him one of hell’s best—a soul collector. His job is simple, weed through humanity and label those round rears with a big, red good or bad stamp. Old Saint Nick gets the good guys, and he gets the fun ones. Bag-and-tag.
Sealing souls is nothing personal. Dante’s an equal opportunity collector and doesn’t want it any other way. But he’ll have to adjust, because Boss Man has given him a new assignment:
Collect Charlie Cooper’s soul within 10 days.
Dante doesn’t know why Boss Man wants Charlie, nor does he care. This assignment means only one thing to him, and that’s a permanent ticket out of hell. But after Dante meets the quirky, Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect—he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector, and uncover emotions deeply buried.

What grabbed me:
This is my guilty pleasure, swoony bad boy read for the year.  I enjoy books from the male perspective, and I’m looking forward to reading about this guy with an attitude go soft and get in touch with his emotions.

7. Taken 
by Erin Bowman 
(Apr. 16)

Goodreads Summary:

There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.
They call it the Heist.
Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.
Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

What grabbed me:

The high stakes and intriguing dystopian world make this a must read for 2013. I’ve already heard lots of buzz for this book and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will be a favorite.

8. The Ward 
by Jordana Frankel 
(Apr. 30)

Goodreads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Ren is a daredevil mobile racer who will risk everything to survive in the Ward, what remains of a water-logged Manhattan. To save her sister, who is suffering from a deadly illness thought to be caused by years of pollution, Ren accepts a secret mission from the government: to search for a freshwater source in the Ward, with the hope of it leading to a cure.
However, she never expects that her search will lead to dangerous encounters with a passionate young scientist; a web of deceit and lies; and an earth-shattering mystery that’s lurking deep beneath the water’s rippling surface.
Jordana Frankel’s ambitious debut novel and the first in a two-book series, The Ward is arresting, cinematic, and thrilling—perfect for fans of Scott Westerfeld or Ann Aguirre.

What grabbed me:

Disaster/Survival novels terrify me, but I can’t help myself. I devour them. The Manhattan setting and need for freshwater are total pulls for me, and the reference to Westerfeld definitely caught my eye.

9. Reboot 
by Amy Tintera 
(May 7)

Goodreads Summary:

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).
Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.
The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

What grabbed me:

This is a totally strange but interesting idea. Humans being rebooted and made stronger. And I love novels that make you think about what it means to be human.

10. Linked 
by Imogen Howson 
(Jun. 11)

Goodreads Summary:

Elissa used to have it all: looks, popularity, and a bright future. But for the last three years, she’s been struggling with terrifying visions, phantom pains, and mysterious bruises that appear out of nowhere.
Finally, she’s promised a cure: minor surgery to burn out the overactive area of her brain. But on the eve of the procedure, she discovers the shocking truth behind her hallucinations: she’s been seeing the world through another girl’s eyes.
Elissa follows her visions, and finds a battered, broken girl on the run. A girl—Lin—who looks exactly like Elissa, down to the matching bruises. The twin sister she never knew existed.
Now, Elissa and Lin are on the run from a government who will stop at nothing to reclaim Lin and protect the dangerous secrets she could expose—secrets that would shake the very foundation of their world.
Riveting, thought-provoking and utterly compelling, Linked will make you question what it really means to be human.

What grabbed me:
I love the idea of mysterious links between human beings, and this sounds like a suspenseful read with hints of dystopia.

Which debut novels are on your list?

Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2013




Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. For more information about Top Ten Tuesday and a list of upcoming Top Ten Tuesday topics, click here.
Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2013

My goals are a mix of “personal bookish accomplishments” as well as how many books I want to read and where I want to purchase my books.

1. Finish novel and begin querying in Fall 2013.
I’m writing a steampunk novel for my Masters thesis.  It’s a retelling of a classic piece of literature, and I’m having a total blast writing it.  I’m setting aside the entire months of June and July for revisions (summer vacation from teaching), and August is my deadline for completion!  Wish me luck!

2. Graduate with my Masters in Children’s Literature.
Once I have my Masters in hand, my goal is to find a job in Children’s Publishing.  I would love to work with middle grade or YA in an editorial or marketing role.  I’m currently exploring different avenues and entry level positions.

3. Post at least one book review a week.
My schedule for January has me posting two to three book reviews a week because I’m trying to catch up from my hiatus.  Reviews are slated in my posting schedule for Mondays, occasional Wednesdays, and Saturdays.  I’d love to keep up a two a week schedule, but as it’s tough for me to READ two books a week (with teaching middle school and writing my thesis), I didn’t think that was a realistic goal for me to maintain.

4. Read 12 debut novels.
Last year was my first year attempting the Debut Author Challenge.  I purchased 12 debut novels… but didn’t get around to reading 12 debut novels.  This year I’m setting a goal to post a “Debut Review” on the last day of every month.  This is a way of setting a deadline for myself, and I work well with deadlines (even the self-imposed kind).

5. Read 3 Newbery books and 3 Printz books.
I took a graduate course in Newbery books as well as heard a guest speaker who served on the Newbery committee.  It gave me a real understanding and sense of honor for these awards.  I’m always excited to hear what books are awarded medals each year, and I want to continue reading Newbery and Printz award winners each year (not just when I’m taking a class!)  I also enjoy trying to figure out why this book was chosen/selected versus other books, and identifying the winner’s merits.  I’m a total nerd!

6. Read 7 steampunk novels.
I am likely going to be doing an independent study in the Spring on steampunk, and therefore know I will be reading a bunch of it.  I also want to read what is out there in terms of YA steampunk so as to place my own novel in context.  Is it similar to what’s already been published?  What does it have to offer that’s new?  I have some theories, but I really need to read more in order to prove my assumptions correct.  Some books on my list: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress, Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve, and The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann.

7. Read 3-5 contemporary novels.
This is a genre that I’m slowly growing to enjoy.  This year I read Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, The Fault in Our Stars, and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (review forthcoming).  All of which I enjoyed, despite not being an avid contemporary reader.  This year I will undoubtedly be reading Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen, and Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry.  I’ll be watching for a few more contemporary reads to add as well.

8. Read 3-5 historical fiction novels.
This is a genre that I used to love.  I totally grew up on the American Girl series. (Felicity was my favorite.) I’d love to renew my love of historical fiction because lately I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction.  I’ve heard great things about Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson.  But I’ll gladly take recommendations of great historical fiction.

9. Do majority of eBook purchasing from indie booksellers through Kobo.
I’m a little upset by what I’ve read about Amazon’s business practices and their interactions with publishers, authors, and booksellers.  Despite loving my Kindle Touch, I want to shift my book purchasing to support independent booksellers.  I got an iPad for Christmas and downloaded the Kobo app.  Through Kobo, I can purchase eBooks from my favorite indie stores, like Browseabout Books in Rehoboth, Delaware or Politics and Prose in Washington D.C.  I want to purchase eBooks from the stores that offer me great book events, opportunities to meet my favorite authors, and a great shopping experience.

10. Start novel #2.
I’m not even done with book one, and I’m already thinking ahead to book two!  That’s partially because book two was started before I even began book one.  But then there was the “Dystopian Boom” and I realized I had to figure out a way to make my dystopian trilogy different from all the others being offered.  I had a unique premise, but I needed a different ending.  Most dystopians end with either the protagonist running away from the dystopian society or rebelling against the dystopian society.  I wanted an ending that would be neither of those.  And I found one!  A fantastic twist!  I can’t wait to return to this project when I finish my steampunk novel.

Whew!  Does anyone else feel like they need to print out all their goals and resolutions and post them on the walls to keep them in sight?  I have a lot I want to get done this year!

What are your Bookish Goals?

January Debuts 2013

Each month I’ll be doing one post to highlight book releases by debut authors that I have my eye on. At the end of each post, I’ll name my MUST READ for the month. Check back at the end of the month for my review. Or feel free to try to sway my opinion to read one of the other debuts as well!


Debut Author Challenge:
January Releases

Altered by Jennifer Rush
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Goodreads Summary:

Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.
Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.
Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

Why I’m Interested: I’m a huge fan of science fiction.  Throw in secrets, escape, love, and a mysterious connection and this sounds like my kind of read!

Splintered by A. G. Howard
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Goodreads Summary:

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Why I’m Interested: I normally avoid books about mental illness because it’s such a heavy and dark topic that really gets to me.  However, the reviews that are posted and the description intrigue me, especially the vivid setting and spin on a literary classic.

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

Release Date: January 15, 2013
Goodreads Summary:

Felicia Ward is dead. Trapped in a stark white afterlife limbo, she spends endless days replaying memories, of her family, friends, boyfriend … and of the guy who broke her heart. The guy who has just broken into Level 2 to find her.
Felicia learns that a rebellion is brewing, and it seems she is the key. Suspended between heaven and earth, she must make a choice. Between two worlds, two lives and two loves.

Why I’m Interested: This book has a lot of buzz already.  The summary sounds strange, but it also sounds action-packed and intriguing.

Touch of Death by Kelly Hashway
Release Date: January 15, 2013
Goodreads Summary:

Jodi Marshall isn’t sure how she went from normal teenager to walking disaster. One minute she’s in her junior year of high school, spending time with her amazing boyfriend and her best friend. The next she’s being stalked by some guy no one seems to know.
After the stranger, Alex, reveals himself, Jodi learns he’s not a normal teenager and neither is she. With a kiss that kills and a touch that brings the dead back to life, Jodi discovers she’s part of a branch of necromancers born under the 13th sign of the zodiac, Ophiuchus. A branch of necromancers that are descendents of Medusa. A branch of necromancers with poisoned blood writhing in their veins.
Jodi’s deadly to the living and even more deadly to the deceased. She has to leave her old, normal life behind before she hurts the people she loves. As if that isn’t difficult enough, Jodi discovers she’s the chosen one who has to save the rest of her kind from perishing at the hands of Hades. If she can’t figure out how to control her power, history will repeat itself, and her race will become extinct.

Why I’m Interested: I have this fascination with Medusa and think she’s a totally awesome character/legend/myth to play around with as a writer.  That alone made me want to check this book out.

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Goodreads Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.
Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.
Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

Why I’m Interested: I heard an agent speak about acquiring this manuscript and it immediately jumped out at me when I saw the list of debuts.  While I haven’t read H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, I’m really into YA books that are spins or twists on classic literature, so this one definitely intrigues me.

Hooked by Liz Fichera
Release Date: January 31, 2013
Goodreads Summary:

When Native American Fredericka ‘Fred’ Oday is invited to become the only girl on the school’s golf team, she can’t say no. This is an opportunity to shine, win a scholarship and go to university, something no one in her family has done.
But Fred’s presence on the team isn’t exactly welcome — especially not to rich golden boy Ryan Berenger, whose best friend was kicked off the team to make a spot for Fred.
But there’s no denying that things are happening between the girl with the killer swing and the boy with the killer smile…

Why I’m Interested: Native American protagonist and a girl who golfs could make this a fresh and original contemporary read.

My MUST READ January Debut is…

Level 2
Look for my review on January 30!

(I wanted to pick The Madman’s Daughter but it comes out January 29 and I want to read one of the above in January, so look for Madman’s Daughter to slip into another month as a debut read.)

2012 Reflection and Looking Ahead

2012 Challenges


Goodreads Challenge
Goal 75 Books
Did Not Complete



2012 Debut Author Challenge
Goal 12 Books
Did Not Complete

Instead of recapping my failures (depressing) and making excuses (lame), I’m going to reflect on the things I did accomplish this year:

1) I wrote more blog posts in 2012 than I did in 2011 (despite taking a 3 month hiatus), and made lots of new friends along the way 🙂

2) I took 12 credits in graduate courses and now have 36 out of 48 credits towards my Masters degree. I have just one class and my thesis to go!

3) I wrote tens of thousands of words for my novel as well as researching topics that were completely unfamiliar to me like the history of metalworking and properties of metal. I will undoubtedly finish my first draft this winter and that makes me happy!

Goals for 2013

Goodreads Challenge: I’m going to set my goal lower than 2012 but higher than 2011. Hopefully, that middle ground will be the right number. My goal will be 60 books.

Debut Author Challenge: I really want to do a better job on this challenge. It turns out that I purchased a bunch of debut novels, but it was the reading them that got me in trouble. I’m going to have to schedule one book per month and set deadlines for myself. I work well that way, with a little more structure. So I’m going to set a goal of one book a month or 12 books total.

Reading Goals: I want to diversify my reading selections. I tend to read more fantasy and sci-fi, but would like to also read more historical fiction (which I enjoy), mysteries (which I loved as a kid), and contemporary (which is growing on me). I also want to pay more attention to publishers and diversify my reading in that way. I also will be reading as many steampunk books as possible, so if you see a good steampunk book, send it my way!

Writing Goals: I will be finishing my first draft of my steampunk novel this winter, which will be my thesis for my Masters. I will be revising over the Spring and Summer, and be done by August 2013. Hopefully, I can start the query process Fall of 2013. My next writing project (since this novel is a steampunk standalone) will likely be the dystopian trilogy that I put on hold. I had a major revelation while studying dystopians over the summer, and figured out how to break away from the typical dystopian format. I have a major twist that I’m really excited to explore, which should distract me from the nerves of querying.

Blogging Goals: I want to maintain an every-other-day posting schedule, with two-thirds of my posts being book posts and one-third being writing posts. I’d love to look into co-hosting an event or doing some giveaways, but that really depends on big changes in my real life and how they’ll impact me (jobs, moving, money, etc.)

2013 could have a lot of changes in store for me, especially as I’m completing my Masters and pursuing job/career changes. I hope these big changes won’t get in the way of my goals, but regardless, I’m optimistic that 2013 is going to be a fun year 🙂