Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Incarnate (Newsoul #1) (ARC) ~ Jodi Meadows

Incarnate (Newsoul, #1) 

Author: Jodi Meadows
Publication: January 31, 2012
By: HarperCollins
4 Stars!


Is the worth of a person's life or their soul connected to how many years they've lived?  The longer you've lived, the more you're worth?  Is a soul really strong enough to transcend time and rebirth?   

In the land of Range, reincarnation is the norm.  The cycle of life, death and rebirth has been happening for thousands of years - until Ana is born.  She's the first Newsoul in Heart and her birth has thrown their world into a panic because it signifies the end of another's chance at rebirth.  Forever.  

For most people, including those closet to her, Ana represents a curse and is living a life that doesn't belong to her.  There is one person though, who believes she's good and wants to help her find out how she came to be.  If he can get Ana to see her worth, he might be able to convince the rest of Heart to see it as well, but they'll have to survive their journey first.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Secrets of the Lost Summer (ARC) ~ Carla Neggers

Secrets of the Lost Summer

Author: Carla Neggers
Publication: January 31, 2012
By: Mira
2 Stars

Thank you Netgalley. 

The cover is really pretty!

This was my first novel by Carla Neggers and while I found it to be well written and the way she wove two different story lines of love and romance into one mystery, interesting, this book wasn't for me. 

I found it slow in places and the main character, Olivia somewhat irritating.  I'm not a plant or herb person so any time the story veered in that direction, my attention was lost. 

No one book is going to satisfy all readers and that's my opinion of this one.  Just because this doesn't make my list of favorites doesn't mean it won't make someone else's.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mailing the Cupcake ARC - Advanced Reviewer Cupcake

I had to go to the Post Office today to mail some cupcakes ARC's. (Advanced Reviewer Cupcakes - this is a play on the book ARC) I was already nervous about this process because I feel like my cupcakes are in a way, a reflection of me and I want them to taste good ALL THE TIME.  As I left, my husband said, "Don't let the glove lady make you cry!"  Gee, thanks, I think.  

Who is this masked hand creature who reduces grown women to tears?  Well, she's our local USPS NIGHTMARE!  She's the expert of all things postal and as of today, all things cupcake.  (I do not *hearts* her)  In fact, I will let people butt in front of me just to avoid having to deal with her but since I was the only one in line today I had no choice.  

My exchange with her went like this...

USPS lady: (looking at me as if I am the dumbest person on earth) You're shipping cupcakes?
Me (smiling): Yep!
Her: (Disgusted noise) Well, we're rough w/our packages. Idk what kind of package you put them in but they're gonna end up smooshed.
Me: (Still smiling) Well, they're frozen & I secured them in a cupcake holder w/special sticks to keep them as still as possible and I stuffed...
Her: (Interrupting me) You mean, they're frosted? (meaning, "Could you BE any more stupid?!)
Me: (Still smiling but struggling) Yes. They're frosted. They're frozen & I'm sending them overnight so they should be OK.
Her: (Shakes her head at my obvious lack of intelligence) Idk what condition they'll arrive in b/c like I said, we're very rough w/our packages.
Me: (Gives a shaky laugh) Let's just think of this as an experiment OK?
Her: Yeah, whatever. (Then to prove her point, she takes the box and THROWS IT OVER THE LEDGE INTO THE MAIL BIN. THROWS.IT!
Me: Makes this face ---> 0_0  while contemplating opening the other box of cupcakes & smashing one in her face.

What did I do? I bit my tongue (literally) and told her to "Have a nice day!" and walked out before the Snarkiliciousness kicked in (when that happens, it never ends well).


Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Book Basket

What's waiting for me in my book basket thanks to YABooksCentral & Netgalley... 

Paper Covers RockThe Mad Mask (Archvillain, #2)Unbreak My HeartLife Is But a DreamShooting StarsFracturePandemonium (Delirium, #2)Zero
Gil MarshSlide

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"War Horse" (Movie Tie-In Edition) ~ Michael Morpurgo


Author: Michael Morpurgo
Publication: November 1, 2011
By: Scholastic
5 Stars!

An epic, heartwarming tale of a horse and his boy that will have even the least of horse lovers reaching for the tissues.  Spanning the years of World War I, War Horse is told from the point of view of Joey, a red-bayed horse whose journey begins as a young colt on a sheep farm and chronicles his adventures into becoming a decorated soldier.  Joey and his young master Albert are inseparable, each sharing a mutual love and respect for one another but when Albert's father sells Joey both of their lives are forever changed. 

Click here to read full review


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Blood Red Road" (Dust Lands Book #1) ~ Moira Young

Blood Red Road (Dust Lands, #1)

Author: Moira Young
Publication: June 7, 2011 (read Jan. 16, 2012)
By: Margaret K. McElderry
5 Stars ~ A MUST READ!

"To escape she will have to fight." 
"To survive she will have to lead."

This was like mixing The Hunger Games, Gladiator, True Grit and Romeo & Juliet all together to make one AWESOME book!  I fell in love with Jack and Saba is my new hero!

Eighteen year old Saba has spent her entire life at Silverlake with her twin brother Lugh (pronounced "Lou") her Pa and nine year old sister "Emmi".  It's a hard life in the dusty wasteland although not a bad one.  She's happiest when she's with Lugh, her golden brother with his blond hair and eyes as blue as the sky. (Everyone says Saba's the night to Lugh's day with her black hair and dark eyes.)  Saba and Lugh do everything together, always have since before they were born.  She can't imagine living her life without him around or living anywhere but Silverlake, however,  she could do without her pesky little sister Emmi.  

Emmi's always bugging Saba and she often sends her off to help their Pa who hasn't been the same since their Ma's been gone.  Seems he always has his head stuck in the clouds, muttering about what's written in the stars.  Pa believes everyone's life has a plan and a purpose that's already been determined for them and says he can see it but he doesn't share what he's seen for Saba and Lugh.  Lugh thinks their Pa is crazy and wants nothing more than to get out of Silverlake.  Saba?  She doesn't know what to believe.  She just knows she likes having her family together.

When a dust storm rolls in fast and fierce one afternoon, it brings with it five cloaked men who turn Saba's world upside down when they take off with Lugh.  She's determined to go after Lugh, to bring him back and make the men who took him pay.  Having never been outside of Silverlake, Saba is thrust into a violent world where laws only apply to a select few and the danger is unlike any she's ever experienced before.   

On her journey to rescue Lugh, Saba will learn some hard lessons about people, life and herself.  She discovers she's stronger than she ever knew she could be, a true warrior.  She'll also find she has room in heart for someone other than Lugh which both surprises and scares her.
Hopetown is where she thinks the cloaked men, or Tonton have taken Lugh and it's there that Saba meets Jack, a cage fighter with a bad rep but one she can't seem to get away from.  She's drawn to him and he to her and it makes her crazy!  He's cocky, infuriating, irritating, helpful, funny, beautiful and wiling to help her find Lugh.  (See how he could drive a girl insane?)

She also meets the Free Hawks, a gang of girl rebels who are bad ars!  They too agree to help her find Lugh, although their leader warns Saba not to trust Jack, and what starts out as a simple rescue plan quickly morphs into something that could change the course of their world forever.

In order to accomplish her mission, get Lugh back and reunite her family, Saba will have to rely on the help of her new found friends, trusting them with her family, her life and with one of them, her heart.

Blood Red Road is a story full of action and adventure but it's also a story about love and not just the romantic kind.  Saba is a girl whose love for her family knows no boundaries and she literally goes to the ends of her earth, enduring serious physical and emotional trials to try and save her brother.  One of her biggest struggles is in allowing herself to be vulnerable, not just with Jack but with the Free Hawks as well.  For her, to be vulnerable is to be weak.  

Saba also can't see her worth, having always been told that Lugh was the "golden boy" she's believed that meant she was the lesser, uglier twin, and she's genuinely surprised when Jack tells her that she's beautiful.  She has a fear of abandonment too which makes it difficult for her to get close to others.  Why should she when once she has Lugh back everyone else will go their separate ways? 

Is Blood Red Road violent? Yes, but no more so than The Hunger Games.  What stood out to me as a "negative" was the language but even that was still within context of the story in my opinion. "Gawdamn" or "Gawdammit" is used in place of "G*d damn or G*d dammit". 

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Exposure" ~ Therese Fowler

Exposure: A Novel

Author: Therese Fowler
Publication: May 3, 2011 (Read Jan 12, 2012)
By: Ballantine Books
4 Stars!

This was like a modern day Romeo and Juliet tale with the topic of sexting at it's core. (A surprisingly relevant subject for both teens and parents.)

Amelia and Anthony are young, in love and have big plans for their future but her father's need to control every aspect of her life forces them to keep secrets.  They do plan on telling her parents about their relationship but think it's best to wait until after graduation, after she turns eighteen and will legally have the freedom to make her own decisions.  But everything they've worked hard to protect shatters in an instant when Amelia
leaves her laptop sitting on the kitchen counter one morning.

When her father, Harlan decides to test his computer hacking skills out "just for fun", he gets more than he bargains for.  He expects to find Amelia's school projects but instead, he stumbles upon pictures of a naked guy.  Refusing to believe Amelia played any part in what he views as a crime against his family, he decides to call the police.  In doing so, he sets in motion a chain of events forever changing not only Amelia and Anthony's lives, but everyone their story touches.

What makes this story even more weighty is that Author Therese Fowler's own experience on this topic with her eldest son is what inspired "Exposure".  She weaves fact and fiction together so beautifully all the while addressing tough questions about today's teen culture, sex, internet responsibility versus the legal system and the thin line separating art and pornography.  

"Sexting" has become a serious legal issue in the past few years among teens and the rise of Hollywood stars and starlets making sex tapes or getting caught with their clothes off on each others cell phones certainly doesn't help matters.  What teens need to understand is this... 

1) Taking naked pictures of yourself or anyone is not a good idea.  Why?  Chances are, it's illegal, especially if you or the other person is 18.  (Think jail. Prison. Nobody looks good in orange, do they?) 

2) Those naked pictures of you WILL get out and be seen by someone other than the person you originally intended.  It will happen.  It always does.  (Whose the family member that makes you cringe? Yeah, THAT person will see those pictures.)

3) EVERYTHING you put on the internet is there FOREVER. It NEVER. EVER. goes away. EVER. (Imagine your kids Googling you one day & BAM! there you are...in all your nekid glory.  Awkward much? Yeah, I thought so.)

4)  If you're looking for your "15 minutes of fame" by taking your clothes off, you'll get it but it will be the WRONG kind of fame. 

"A Million Suns" (Across the Universe Book 2) ~ Beth Revis

A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2)

Author: Beth Revis
Publication: January 10, 2012
By: Razorbill
4 Stars

Stars! How the frex am I supposed to wait another year to find out what happens with Amy and Elder?!  *sighs*

There's always pressure for an author to deliver a follow up book that's just as good if not better than the first and "A Million Suns" does not disappoint.

This sequel has it all, action, adventure, romance, even a mystery to solve that could change the fate of everyone aboard the Godspeed. 
As Elder continues to solidify his role as Godspeed's new leader, he's met with resistance especially now that Phydus is no longer in use.  The fact that there are many who view Amy as a threat doesn't help, and things only get more complicated after Elder uncovers a shocking secret, one that will have he and Amy searching for clues that could affect everyone on board.

The more time they spend together, the less they're able to deny the feelings that are developing between them but Amy still questions.  She believes love is a choice and wonders if she and Elder weren't the only two their age, if they both had a choice, would they still choose each other?  Better yet, would she still choose Elder because, let's face it, we KNOW he'd choose her.  (Personally, I think she needs to "choose" to stop frexing thinking so much.)

As their search continues, becoming more dangerous at every turn, the ship goes into complete chaos. Frex! Will Amy and Elder be able to find the answers they need in time and at what cost?  Trusts will be broken, loyalties questioned, lives lost and love tested, all for the sake of hope in a New Earth...a new beginning.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Every You, Every Me" (ARC) ~ David Levithan

Every You, Every Me

Author: David Levithan with Jonathan Farmer
Publication: September 13, 2011 (Read Jan 2012)
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

There are people we know in a casual sense and then there are those with whom we share a connection.  Those we share our hopes, dreams and fears with; who know us better than we know ourselves.  Is it possible to spend years with a person, having revealed the darkest parts of yourself only to discover you didn't really known them at all?  

Evan thought he and Ariel knew each other best but he begins to question the truth of their friendship after a series of cryptic photos start showing up after she's gone.  Attached to the photos are notes suggesting that there is someone else who knows the details surrounding Ariel's disappearance and the role Evan played in it.  In order for him to reconcile his guilt, he'll have to figure out where the pictures are coming from and how well that person knew Ariel, or worse, how well they know him.

Click here to read full review 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pyxis (A Pyxis Novel) ~ K.C. Neal

Pyxis: The Discovery (Pyxis, #1)

Author: K.C. Neal
Publication: October 15, 2011 (Read January 10, 2012)
Publisher: Stonehouse Ink
4 Stars!

Let's start with some cover love shall we? So pretty!

This was a fun, magical, mysterious, romantical story, unlike anything I've read within the paranormal genre recently.  (Btw, if you've never heard of "romantical" before it's because I just made it up. I do that sometimes. Make up my own language.)  

Corrine Finley, a Sophomore at Tapestry High School appears to be your average teenage girl with a BFF, an after school job at her Dad's cafe and feelings for a guy who had major boyfriend potential until he was caught kissing her arch nemesis after the Winter Solstice Dance.  (Boys...*sighs*)  As she tries to put him behind her, life begins to go from so-so to interesting when the goodies she bakes for a school fundraiser (using some of her late grandmother's food dye) sends all the guys into a frenzy making her the object of their affections.  While she knows she's not riding the ugly train, the sudden admiration is a little surprising and overwhelming for Corrine.  Even her BFF, Angeline or "Ang" thinks it's strange so the two decide to try to figure out if there's more to Grandma's food dye than just the blue and yellow coloring. 

Turns out the little box that Corrine thought was just something to house the dye has a fancy name, "Pyxis" and could be a recipe for disaster if it falls into the wrong hands.  What the girls discover within the Pyxis is that things are not always what they seem and everyone has a destiny to fulfill whether they're ready for it or not.  Both girls have a role to play with Corrine's job being that of protector of this world and the world that haunts her dreams.  Wait, what?!  How the heck is she supposed to do that?!  Well, with a little help from her friends of course!  Ang will be along for the ride as will Mason, which could complicate things.   

Mason is the guy who broke her heart when Ang caught him macking on Sophie (resident Mean Girl) after the Winter Solstice and then jaunted off to another content for half the year with his family without a word about it.  Granted, he's been doing humanitarian work there but still.  He's been e-mailing Corrine the whole time he's been away but she's ignored him.  (How could he kiss her one minute and then turn around and hook up with Sophie the next minute? Ick!)  When Mason does return home, Corrine is in for a big surprise. (OhMyMason!)  Not only has Mason grown but he's been having nightmares similar to Corrine's.  (What is up with that?!)  The more time they spend together the less Corrine can fight the feelings she has for him but she also can't forget what happened with Sophie.  Can you blame a girl?

Let's focus on the hotsauce that is Mason for minute...he's smart, sweet, funny, charming and he spends time building wells in Africa.  A-FR-I-CA people!  Add to that, his tallness, great hair, beautiful eyes, ripped bod (See? Building wells is beneficial for all involved.) and his need to protect Corrine at all costs.  He's the total package.  He's also willing to go the extra mile when necessary and the scene where he volunteers to try the white fluid before Corrine gives any to Aunt Dot is HILARIOUS and I laughed until I cried!

Together, Corrine and Mason (and Ang when she's not busy) begin to look for answers to their questions surrounding the box, it's contents and their joint dreams.  Corrine's Aunt Dot is the only one who can help them but she's stuck in a nursing home and doesn't seem to recognize anyone.  Their dark dreams worsen and start to spill over into the waking world causing Corrine to need Mason's company more just to feel safe. (Um, I have nightmares, maybe Mason could help me out too?)

Will they be able to bring Aunt Dot out of her stupor before things get any stranger or will the darkness from their dreams finally creep into the daylight, overtaking Corrine, Mason and everyone around them?

I'm really looking forward to the next installment in this series because I have tons of questions like what's gives with Sophie?  What exactly DO the blue and yellow liquids do?  Will Jordan Gumbreath make a reappearance?  I can't wait be "Alight"ed.  ;)

The Kane Chronicles Book 3 
Rick Riordan
Expected Publication 
May 1, 2012

The Serpent's Shadow (Kane Chronicles, #3)

Monday, January 9, 2012

"The Sweetest Thing" (ARC) ~ Christina Mandelski

The Sweetest Thing

Author: Christina Mandelski
Publication: May 2011 (read 1/8/2012)
By: Egmont USA

This story had me at "cake".  Why?  Well, my nickname isn't "Cupcakegirly" for nuthin'!  I've been "all about cake & cupcakes" since I can remember and baking and decorating 'lil cakes 'o love is what I do when I'm not reading. (If I could live in a bakery with books I would be in Heaven!)

This really is a sweet read. (Let that sink in for a second) Sheridan Wells is a girl with passion.  A passion for the town she lives in, the cakes she creates and a passion for finding the mother who walked out on her when she was 7.  She's lived her entire life in St. Mary's, Michigan with her Dad, the infamous Chef Donovan Wells and her Nanny who owns the bakery, "Sweeties" where Sheridan spends most of her time.  She's dubbed, "Cake Girl" by her peers but beyond spending time with her two BFF's, Jack and Lori, she doesn't have much of a social life.  "Sweeties" is where Sheridan loves to be because it's the one place she can escape to when her life gets too complicated and it's where she feels closet to her Mom, or at least the Mom she remembers.

When her Dad is tapped for his own reality cooking show, (move over Giada!) a dream of his that would take both he and Sheridan to New York City and away from everything and everyone Sheridan loves, she decides to do whatever it takes to stop it.  All of St. Mary's is in a tizzy about the news and when the "Suits" come to town, the attention Sheridan and her Dad receive only gets worse.  She grows increasingly anxious about all the possible changes to come and Nanny tells her that the "big guy" upstairs is ultimately in charge and Sheridan should let him lead the way.  Sheridan isn't buying into that at all.  She wants to be in control of her life just like she controls how her cakes turn out and she wants everything to stay the same.  So, when the "Suits" decide to do a segment that involves throwing her an early albeit, fake sixteenth birthday party, Sheridan comes up with an elaborate plan that not only includes sabotaging her Dad's new show but finding and bringing her Mom home too.  

All that Sheridan has left of her Mom, besides her limited memories and their shared talent of cake decorating, is a box of birthday cards.  Each one of the cards is filled with a present never received and promise to return one day.  She also has the last note her Mom gave her the day she left which she's carried with her every day.  She's spent countless hours over the past few years searching for her ever even enlisting the help of her BFF Jack.  He's the one person who knows how desperate Sheridan is to find her Mom and has been with her along the way, at the end of every empty lead.  When he hears about her Dad's show, he's excited for her and thinks it would be good for her to go to New York City.

Sheridan struggles with everyone's enthusiasm about the opportunities the new show could provide for her Dad, for her and even for the town.  Doesn't anybody understand?!  Even her friends are more excited than she thinks they should be, especially Jack. Doesn't he get it?  If she leaves St. Mary's and her Mom does comes back, she won't be there.  She also won't be around to hang out with him or Lori but he still encourages her to think about all the cool bakeries they have in NYC.  What's his problem?!  Isn't he supposed to be on her side?!  She and Jack have been friends forever and Sheridan thinks it's odd that Jack attracts so much attention from girls at school.  It's just Jack after all; the boy she's seen every day of her life since she was 5 years old.  When she looks at him, all she sees is Jack with his dark hair and dark eyes.  Hmpf.  But when the hottest guy in school, Ethan Murphy starts showing interest in her, Jack begins to act strange and then he has the nerve to stop talking to her altogether.  What's wrong with Jack anyway? 

Ethan Murphy...*sigh*  Ethan is beautiful, funny, popular and rich.  Every girl in school is vying for his attention so when he walks into "Sweeties" looking for Sheridan, she's surprised that he even knows who she is, let alone wants to spend time with her.  She knows he has a reputation for being a player but when he smiles at her, she has trouble remembering her own name.  As she gets to know him she learns that his passion is for cooking (just like her Dads) and he hopes to one day have his own show (just like her Dad).  He also knows what it's like to have a parent leave and she wonders if he could understand how she feels about wanting to find her Mom?  Should she confide in him now or should she wait until after the party?

The closer the fake party gets, the more anxious Sheridan is to find her Mom.  She feels like she's running out of time!  She thinks she's found her Mom and plans to go after her with Lori's help but all that changes when Nanny lands in the hospital.  Sheridan is forced to refocus her attention and starts to notice the still, small voice in head that tells her maybe it's time to "let go".  Even Jack (who is no longer speaking to her) tells her she needs to move on.  (Whatever!) Sheridan has no plans to give up hope even though that message of "letting go" seems to be popping up EVERYWHERE now.  She wonders if maybe God isn't trying to tell her something but decides to continue in her quest to locate her Mom.

When the truth about her Mom finally does come out, it's devastating for Sheridan and for those who love her.  What she thought was real and what actually IS real is not only painful for her but also makes her question if she can trust anyone else in her life.  Whose turn will it be next to leave?  Hurt and confused, she looks to Father Crowly for some answers, including wanting to know hot it's possible that God's plan could include a Mom who leaves her kid?  He responds by telling her this, "It's just free will. The ultimate blessing and curse.  God might lead you one way, but if you choose a different path, what can He do?  Nothing, of course; that's why it's called free will."

Sometimes we can get so caught up in focusing on the "suck" in our lives or what we feel is missing that we fail to notice what or whose been there all along.  We forget to see the blessings that are right in front of us.  In Sheridan's case it's the parent who didn't leave her.  Her Dad loves her and is trying to make the best decision for both of them even if she can't always see that.  Sheridan's been so focused all these years on the Mom she didn't have that she's forgotten about her awesome Dad and all the great memories they have together.  Nanny's no slouch either!  She always makes herself available to Sheridan for girl talk, words of advice (there will be no defacing of temples!) and for Sunday dinners.  Nanny's also encouraged her artistic abilities, allowing her to flourish in the bakery while showcasing her mad cake decorating skills. 

Then there's Jack, the boy who knows her inside and out and whose affection for her has grown beyond friendship over the years into something more.  (So.much.more)  He's the guy who brings her coffee in the middle of the night, goes for runs with her (even though he hates to run) just so he can spend time with her and who asks her how her Nanny is because he knows that's important to her.  No one else does that.  Jack's the boy who cares for her too much to let her stay where she is simply because she's afraid of change. *swoon*  It doesn't hurt either that he happens to be tall, dark and gorgeous.  Open your eyes Sheridan!  There's a REASON the girls at school fawn all over Jack...DUH!

While it's good to be passionate about something like Sheridan was, you have to make sure that what you're passionate about doesn't become all consuming, like her cakes did.  The amount of time she spent at the bakery started to get in the way of spending time with her Dad, Nanny and even her friends. Focusing too much on the past can become an issue as well.  Taking a walk down memory lane is fine every once and awhile but memories can also get distorted with us only remembering what we want to remember.  A reality check from those who love us is helpful, so is remembering to focus on the here and now because what's right in front of us just might be the sweetest thing. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

TMI - City Of Lost Souls Cover Reveal!

Mortal Instrument fans have been anxiously awaiting the cover reveal and HERE.IT.IS...

Jace & Clary 
(I had hair the same color as Clary's once but it wasn't on purpose and it definitely wasn't as purdy.)

Prologue from City of Lost Souls:
Simon stood and stared numbly at the front door of his house.
He'd never known another home. This was the place his parents had brought him home to when he was born. He had grown up within the walls of the Brooklyn row house. He'd played on the street under the leafy shade of the trees in the summer, and had made improvised sleds out of garbage can lids in the winter. In this house his whole family had sat shivah after his father had died. Here he had kissed Clary for the first time.
He had never imagined a day when the door of the house would be closed to him. The last time he had seen his mother, she had called him a monster and prayed at him that he would go away. He had made her forget that he was a vampire, using glamour, but he had not known how long the glamour would last. As he stood in the cold autumn air, staring in front of him, he knew it had not lasted long enough.
The door was covered with signs—Stars of David splashed on in paint, the incised shape of the symbol for Chai, life. Tefillin were bound to the doorknob and knocker. A hamesh, the Hand of God, covered the peephole.
Numbly he put his hand to the metal mezuzah affixed to the right side of the doorway. He saw the smoke rise from the place where his hand touched the holy object, but he felt nothing. No pain. Only a terrible empty blankness, rising slowly into a cold rage.
He kicked the bottom of the door and heard the echo through the house. "Mom!" he shouted. "Mom, it's me!"
There was no reply—only the sound of the bolts being turned on the door. His sensitized hearing had recognized his mother's footsteps, her breathing, but she said nothing. He could smell acrid fear and panic even through the wood. "Mom!" His voice broke. "Mom, this is ridiculous! Let me in! It's me, Simon!"
The door juddered, as if she had kicked it. "Go away!" Her voice was rough, unrecognizable with terror. "Murderer!"
"I don't kill people." Simon leaned his head against the door. He knew he could probably kick it down, but what would be the point? "I told you. I drink animal blood."
He heard her whisper, softly, several words in Hebrew. "You killed my son," she said. "You killed him and put a monster in his place."
"I am your son—"
"You wear his face and speak with his voice, but you are not him! You're not Simon!" Her voice rose to almost a scream. "Get away from my house before I kill you, monster!"
"Becky," he said. His face was wet; he put his hands up to touch it, and they came away stained: His tears were bloody. "What have you told Becky?"
"Stay away from your sister." Simon heard a clattering from inside the house, as if something had been knocked over.
"Mom," he said again, but this time his voice wouldn't rise. It came out as a hoarse whisper. His hand had begun to throb. "I need to know—is Becky there? Mom, open the door. Please—"
"Stay away from Becky!" She was backing away from the door; he could hear it. Then came the unmistakeable squeal of the kitchen door swinging open, the creak of the linoleum as she walked on it. The sound of a drawer being opened. Suddenly he imagined his mother grabbing for one of the knives.
Before I kill you, monster.
The thought rocked him back on his heels. If she struck out at him, the Mark would rise. It would destroy her as it had destroyed Lilith.
He dropped his hand and backed up slowly, stumbling down the steps and across the sidewalk, fetching up against the trunk of one of the big trees that shaded the block. He stood where he was, staring at the front door of his house, marked and disfigured with the symbols of his mother's hate for him.
No, he reminded himself. She didn't hate him. She thought he was dead. What she hated was something that didn't exist. I am not what she says I am.
He didn't know how long he would have stood there, staring, if his phone hadn't begun to ring, vibrating his coat pocket.
He reached for it reflexively, noticing that the pattern from the front of the mezuzah—interlocked Stars of David—was burned into the palm of his hand. He switched hands and put the phone to his ear. "Hello?"
"Simon?" It was Clary. She sounded breathless. "Where are you?"
"Home," he said, and paused. "My mother's house," he amended. His voice sounded hollow and distant to his own ears. "Why aren't you back at the Institute? Is everyone all right?"
"That's just it," she said. "Just after you left, Maryse came back down from the roof where Jace was supposed to be waiting. There was no one there."
Simon moved. Without quite realizing he was doing it, like a mechanical doll, he began walking up the street, toward the subway station. "What do you mean, there was no one there?"
"Jace was gone," she said, and he could hear the strain in her voice. "And so was Sebastian."
Simon stopped in the shadow of a bare-branched tree. "But he was dead. He's dead, Clary—"
"Then you tell me why he isn't there, because he isn't," she said, her voice finally breaking. "There's nothing up there but a lot of blood and broken glass. They're both gone, Simon. Jace is gone. . . ."

Monday, January 2, 2012

"Don't Breathe A Word" ~ Holly Cupala

Don't Breathe a Word

Author: Holly Cupala
Publication: January 3, 2012
By: HarperTeen

Another beautifully written book by Holly Cupala that's heartbreaking, gritty and real.  Everyone needs some breathing room in their lives but for Joy, it's become a struggle of life or death.  Each breathe leads her one step closer to suffocation or one step closer to freedom.  Freedom from her parents constant worry, freedom from her boyfriend Asher's control and freedom to figure out who she's meant to be.  If she can manage to escape, to find the homeless boy who offered to help her, maybe she'll be able to breathe again.
Joy, a life-long asthma sufferer is literally suffocating in her life. Her family suffocates her with their constant worry about her health - is she taking her medicine?  Does she have her emergency inhalers?  Will the next coughing fit land her in the hospital again, or worse, will this be the time she stops breathing for good?  The medical bills and her parents job situations have taken a toll on everyone in the family.   Then there's her asthma.  If the air isn't clean enough or she strains her lungs too much she literally suffocates. 

Her boyfriend Asher, who is the definition of "control freak", suffocates her with his words, affection and the manipulative way he shows his love to her. (which isn't love at all)  He leaves scars that are both seen and unseen.  Her family either doesn't notice or chooses to not to notice how much of driving force he is in her life. 

Joy's relationship with Asher is unhealthy right from the start.  The pull she feels towards him is a powerful one and she recognizes the control he has over her but she can't seem to make herself leave.  After awhile, he won't let her.  When things go too far one night, farther than just cruel words, or mere threats, Joy realizes the only way to protect herself and her family is to escape.

She's convinced that the best place to go is the streets of Seattle, to disappear into the homeless population there.  She's seen them numerous times, even accompanied her older brother Jesse while he handed out sandwiches but it was the last time with her friends that's etched in her mind.  Asher had been upset with her and after the homeless boy witnessed Asher's harsh treatment, he'd offered Joy his help, saying, "If you ever need help, you know where to find me." (pg 79)  She believes if she can just find that boy again, she'll be okay.

With a drastic new appearance and only a backpack to her name Joy sets off to search for the boy and begin her new life on the street.  When she finally does catch up with "Creed", she discovers that life out there is much harder and more dangerous than she ever imagined.  He lives with two others, Santos and May, in an abandon house with no running water which means no bathroom facilities and no showers.  They sleep on dirty mattresses while scavenging for food in dumpsters or shoplifting it.  Joy meets other people too, many of whom are not as nice and who are willing to do whatever it takes to survive on the streets.  Whether it's selling drugs, prostitution, panhandling or modeling (nude) for local art students these teens will do whatever is necessary to survive.  There are shelters nearby offering clean showers, hot meals and warm beds but many of the kids are afraid of being returned to foster care or in Joy's case, turned into the police if her family or Asher is looking for her. 

Joy learns that looks can be deceiving and even though Santos is a tough kid, he has a kind heart and a love of reading.  He takes Joy under his wing and shows her how to acquire food and gets her asthma medicine when she needs it.  May was the character who broke my heart.  She's a product of the streets with a drug addict Mom who proves the point that many homeless kids feel living on the street is safer than at home.  As a result, she's built a wall around herself using sarcasm as a means of protection. 

Creed is the self appointed protector of the group. (He was also my favorite)  He wasn't able to protect those he loved back home so he did was he thought was best and left.  His dream is to be a musician and he plays on street corners and fills in at gigs when he can.  He's kind and generous and doing what he needs to in order to provide for those around him.  It's obvious that he cares for Joy or Triste, as she goes by on the street but he doesn't allow anything to happen between them.  This frustrates her but he knows what Asher did to her and the last thing she needs is another guy trying to control her.   

Joy and Creed grow closer the longer she spends on the street and she begins to realize that neither one of them can run away from their pasts forever.  Eventually, you have to decide to stop struggling and face your life in order to become the person you were meant to be.  When she does return home, she's forced to face the truth - about her family, Asher and why she left.  She comes through her experience stronger and more aware of who she is and the she also learns what real love is.  Real love isn't cruel or hurtful and it certainly doesn't leave scars.  Real love is joy, pure joy.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!!

2012 Reading Challenges I've signed up for

 Goodreads 2012 Challenge

75 Books is my current goal...  

I'm already getting started with this purchase from Barnes & Noble today.  I was SUPER excited because it's not even supposed to be out for two more days!!  Nook still has it on pre-order but I couldn't wait. :)
 Don't Breathe a Word