2013 Debut Author Challenge

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This year, the Debut Author Challenge is being hosted by Tara at Hobbitsies. All the information about signups and rules can be found at this page here and a handy list of debut books can be found here.

On my list are 10 books that I am already eagerly waiting for, and two free spots for those debuts I learn of that catch my interest. And as always, if I can read more I will!

My goals:
12 Debut Books

1. Altered by Jennifer Rush
2. Dualed by Elsie Chapman
3. City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
4. The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar
5. MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza
6. Taken by Erin Bowman
7. Reboot by Amy Tintera
8. PODs by Michelle Pickett
9. Insomnia by J. R. Johansson
10. Starglass by Phoebe North
11.
12.

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Review Copy Wipeout Goals

Well, I think this is the first time I’ve missed a “Waiting On” Wednesday in a long time! But, I have goals for the Review Copy Wipeout being hosted by The Book Monsters. Any book you’ve received for review in 2012 counts towards the challenge, so I thought I’d make a list. I have it broken down into review books (solicited to me), review books (unsolicited) and BEA books.

I still have 13 books from 2012 that authors/publishers/publicists e-mailed me to request a review and I agreed. While I want to try and read all of them, the following are the “oldest” that I definitely want to get read:

Review Books (solicited)
The Lure of Shapinsay by Krista Holle (Sweet River Romance)
The Fairytale Keeper: Avenging the Queen by Andrea Cefalo (Scarlet Primrose Press)
The Opposite of Tidy by Carrie Mac (Razorbill)
Oracle: Sunken Earth by C. W. Trisef (Trisef Book, LLC)
Thief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell (Pyr)
Pure by Julianna Baggott (Grand Central Publishing)

I received a number of unsolicited books from great Canadian publishers, and I’m looking forward to reading them. I’d like to try and read at least the following:

Review Books (unsolicited)
Amber House by Kelly Moore (Scholastic)
Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion)
Grave Mercy by R. L. LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Illuminate by Aimee Agresti (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

And last, the books I picked up at BEA through author signings or publisher booth visits. Some I have since received for review (unsolicited), so I’d like to read at least those ones:

BEA Books
The Blessed by Tonya Hurley (Simon & Schuster)
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)
Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch (Scholastic)
What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion)

So, a big list, but I’m hoping I can do it! I just need to buckle down and get some good reading time in (hard, when you work 8am to 10pm some days), and I think I’ll be able to do it. I’m going to give it my best shot, at least!

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder
by Marissa Meyer

ISBN-13: 9-780312-641894
Publication: January 2012 from Feiwel and Friends
Rating: 3 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I liked it

Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interface has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it “a matter of national security,” but Cinder suspects it’s more serious than he’s letting on.

Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived.

But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.

Take China in the future, add in a plague, androids, cyborgs and a colony on the moon that has become it’s own civilization and you get Cinder. Cinder is a cyborg living in New Beijing. Life is simple and routine as a mechanic until in one day, she is visited by the Prince who needs her expertise, and the plague breaks out in the market. Soon, Cinder is swept up in more intrigue than she could imagine, and more than she wants.

I enjoyed Cinder for the sci-fi and fairy tale re-telling aspects, mostly. I think there were a few reasons I wasn’t as in love with this book as I wanted to be – hopefully I’ll be able to get them across right. First was Cinder herself. I didn’t connect with her like I wanted to. Cinder spent most of her time worrying about what Prince Kai or others would think (or thought) about her being a cyborg. She’s supposed to be an amazing mechanic, but besides fixing an old car all we really see her do is hit things to make them work and remove a futuristic version of an SD card from an android. But, no matter how much I didn’t connect with Cinder, she showed glimpses of being strong and independent (and a little rebellious) and by the end of the book was completely focused and in charge of her life. So she grew on me. Prince Kai was similar. Nice guy, you can tell he’s going to be a good Emperor, but he felt a little off. I also didn’t get the romance between Kai and Cinder – it seemed strained and not needed.

I loved the sci-fi aspects of Cinder. The androids and cyborgs, the new world government, even the idea of the plague. This is a book rich in description and you can’t help but fall into the world that Marissa Meyer created. The Lunar colony was an interesting add-in to the world, and one that at times worked for me and at times didn’t. Queen Levana is a thouroughly despicable villain and her plot was great. The glamour and “magic-but-really-science” part of the Lunar physiology confused me a bit, especially in a few parts involving Cinder. I understand the idea and how it’s used, and that in these instances Cinder herself is meant to be unsure and confused as well, but for me – the reader – the confusion always made me feel like I had missed a part somewhere.

The Cinderella part of the story was faithfully redone – and very well, I might add – and the sci-fi future was a perfect setting for it. I think, for me at least, Cinder is just a very full book with a lot going on. Overall, I was completely entertained and I enjoyed the story. I feel it is definitely a debut to check out, since my complaints are very unique to my own tastes and likes in books. The writing is great, and like I mentioned earlier the detail and world building is amazing.

Cinder is part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.

For those of you that enjoy audio books, Macmillan has graciously offered an audio clip from the first chapter of Cinder.

Cinder Audiobook Excerpt

3 Challenges for 2012


CHALLENGE OBJECTIVE:

To read & review a minimum of twelve young adult or middle grade debut novels between the dates of January 1, 2012 – January 31, 2013.*

*The 2013 extension is so that December Debuts can be read and count toward the challenge.

RULES & GUIDELINES:
– You must have a Blog to post your reviews or be a member of Goodreads.
– Your blog must be written in English.
– Deadline to join is May 31, 2012.
Sign Up Here

BOOK GUIDELINES:
– Must be a young adult or middle grade title.
– Must be the author’s YA or MG debut, released in 2012.
– If an author has a previous novel published for adults or children, they can still qualify for the challenge.
– If an author has a previous YA or MG title, they do not qualify for the challenge.

MY LIST
1. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
2. Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
3. Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
4. Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
5. Fracture by Megan Miranda
6. Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic
7. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
8. The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
9. The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
10. Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
11. Everneath by Brodi Ashton
12. Cinder by Marissa Meyer


What books count towards the SRC?
Any second YA or MG book published by an author in 2012 counts – it can be the second in a series, a new series, or a standalone. The only requirement is that it is the SECOND book the author has published in the YA or MG realm (and it must publish in 2012 in your home country)!

– January 2012 to December 2012
– Read at least 10 sophomore books in 2012, and must have a goodreads account or blog
Sign Up Here

MY LIST
1. A Million Suns by Beth Revis
2. Truth by Julia Karr
3. Until I Die by Amy Plum
4. Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
5. Demon Eyes by Scott Tracey
6. The Forgetting Curve by Angie Smibert
7. Revived by Cat Patrick
8. The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton
9. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
10. Embers and Echoes by Karsten Knight


– This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2012 – Dec 31, 2012.
– As we would like to see quality reviews linked up to our monthly wrap-ups, only bloggers can enter. Sorry about that!
– Any genre, length or format of book counts, as long as it is a book that’s been sitting on your shelf for some time now. Only books released in 2011 and earlier! NO ARCs and 2012 fresh-off-the-press releases allowed!
– You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.
– You can move up levels, but no moving down.
Sign Up Here

LEVELS
1-10 – A Firm Handshake
11-20 – A Friendly Hug
21-30 – A Sweet Kiss
31-40 – Love At First Sight
41-50 – Married With Children

MY LEVEL: A Firm Handshake:
1. Divergent by Veronica Roth
2. Wildefire by Karsten Knight
3. Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
4. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
5. Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
6. Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
7. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
8. Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry
9. The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
10. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow by Nathan Bransford

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow
by Nathan Bransford

ISBN-13: 9-780803-735378
Published: May 2011
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!

It all started with a corn dog.

That’s what the spaceman who crashed in the woods near detention-prone Jacob Wonderbar’s house wanted to trade for his spaceship. It seemed like a pretty good deal to Jacob! But when he and his best friends Sarah and Dexter take their new ship for a test ride, well…before they know it they’ve broken the universe, gotten kidnapped by a space pirate, landed on a planet that smells like burp breath, and been chased by revenge-hungry substitute teachers. But the strangest thing of all? Jacob finds out that there’s an entire colony of space humans, and his long-lost father might be one of them. Now he’s not so sure he wants to go home…

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow (henceforth called Jacob Wonderbar) is ridiculous in the best possible way. I was fully entertained from page 1 right to the end, and often laughed out loud at the sillyness.

Jacob, Dexter and Sarah are three typical fifth graders – though Jacob has a knack for getting rid of substitute teachers – until they trade a spaceship for a corndog. Then, they’re fifth graders in space. What follows their initial blast off into the big, wide Milky Way Galaxy is an adventure of epic proportions that includes breaking the universe, being stolen, finding a planet full of substitute teachers and running a maze as a science experiment.

The ideas presented in Jacob Wonderbar are absolutely crazy, but work. The story is presented in such a good voice – all three kids stand out. Jacob is the crazy trouble-maker who is a good friend and decent kid. Dexter is the loyal friend and tag-along who has a backbone deep down and manages to come into his own, while Sarah is the smarty-pants whose parents enroll her in way too many activities and she can definitely take care of herself, thank you very much! The characters mesh so well together, and are so endearing. I want to be their teacher!

What I liked most about Jacob Wonderbar is that underneath all the humour, adventures, space pirate and crazy scientists (not to mention all the substitute teachers) – underneath all the sillyness – the story touches on absent parents, over-worked kids and really is a tale about friendship, and what it can hold up against and weather. I would have no problems recommending this book to elementary school kids (and teens!), and I think they would love it.

Advance Reader Copy provided by Penguin Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!

Jacob Wonderbar is part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.

Find Nathan:
Website | Twitter | Facebook

0.4 by Mike Lancaster

0.4
by Mike Lancaster
ISBN-13: 9-781405-253048
Rating: 4 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it

“My name is Kyle Straker and I don’t exist anymore.”

So begins the story of Kyle Straker, recorded on old audio tapes. You might think these tapes are a hoax. But perhaps they contain the history of a past world…

If what the tapes say are true, it means that everything we think we know is a lie.

And if everything is a lie, does that mean we are too?

0.4 is such a neat book. I’ve read my share of humans-as-computers, and the way Mike Lancaster tackles the idea is very cool. I have to say right up front, though, that the book’s format had me immediately thinking back to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (both books are written with the idea that the book is a transcript of found audio tapes). However, the inserted notes, forwards and afterwords of 0.4 was quite different. so though the concept is the same, the execution was unique.

The whole idea of the book is that it is a transcription of the Straker Tapes, and account left by Kyle Straker in the early 21st century, that details the events of the time period. From the first page, we realize that the future if quite different from our present. The story follows Kyle, Lilly and two adults, Kate and Mr. Peterson as they realize that something has happened to their town – in fact, something has happened to the whole world – and they have been ‘left behind,’ as it were.

The atmosphere of the writing as Kyle tells his story is full of anxiety, fear and sadness. Kyle’s tapes are a plea to the world to not forget those who had been left after the events that took place (it’s hard not to give anything away!). The imagery, the tiny ‘footnotes’ inserted by the author explaining everyday things that are no longer around (like reality tv! hehe), and the broken or missing parts of the narrative (from cut off tapes and interruptions)_all lend the story a realistic quality. A great story for anyone who likes an apocalypse, dystopia and maybe some out-of-this-world explanations will really enjoy 0.4!

0.4 is part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.

XVI by Julia Karr

XVI
by Julia Karr
ISBN-13: 9-780142-417713
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really, really liked it

Every girl gets one. An XVI tattoo on the wrist – sixteen. They say they’re there for protection.

Some girls can’t wait to be sixteen, to be legal. Nina is not one of them. Even though she has no choice in the matter, she knows that so long as her life continues as normal, everything will be okay.

Then, with one brutal strike, Nina’s normal is shattered; and she discovers that nothing that she believed about her life is true. But there’s one boy who can help – and he just may hold the key to her past.

But with the line between attraction and danger as thin as a whisper, one thing is for sure – for Nina, turning sixteen promises to be anything but sweet.

XVI takes everything about our society that is consumer driven, class based, and sexualized and magnifies it into a very intense future, where your sixteenth birthday implies you’re ready and willing for sex, society is divided by a rigid class system, and the media/advertising companies are everywhere and more than a little bit brainwashing.

Nina is not looking forward to her sixteenth, though her friend Sandy is the perfect example of a “sexteen.” Nina doesn’t feel ready to have sex, and does not want the pressure that comes with the XVI tattoo on the wrist. After tragedy strikes her family, Nina and her younger sister move in with her grandparents, and it’s the beginning of a mystery surrounding her father (who’s dead, isn’t he?) and the FeLS (Female Liaison Specialists) program.

The world that Julia Karr has created may seem light, full of technology to make anyone drool and consumer driven, and it is, but it’s also incredibly raw and gritty. It’s a society driven on sex and media, yet seems to have done away with today’s problems, until you get down and dirty and discover that it’s all still there, just covered up by brain-washing adverts and the government. The first hint we get that things are not all sunshine and daises in this bright future is through the NonCons (non conformists, I assume) who break the law to get their voices heard. I loved every new insight into Nina’s world, and could happily keep reading about it.

Nina herself is someone I connected with very well, and I loved her family. She’s a character who really grows throughout the story, and she is a lot stronger than she often gives herself credit for. Sal, the mysterious boy who knows more than he should is also quite well developed, through I would like to know more of his story. The ending of the story was a little rushed in places, I thought, but I was still holding my breath through it all, and was definitely shocked at some of the revelations and resolutions.

XVI is a very well written, well developed story that looks at a future not too distant from our own, one that is scarier than it may seem. The mystery surrounding Nina and her father, as well as the FeLS program drives the book and makes you not want to put it down until you see how it ends. Julia Karr’s debut is not one to miss.

XVI is part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.