Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review & Giveaway: PYXIS by K.C. Neal



Want to win a Kindle?  You get an extra entry in author K.C. Neal's PYXIS blog tour giveaway if you follow A Backwards Story!!  How cool is that?  Click here to go straight to the Rafflecopter page.  I'll try to post the contest at the end of this entry, too, but I've tried to post Rafflecopter on here before and it always rejects, so you might HAVE to go to this link to enter!  Good luck!!


Title: PYXIS: THE DISCOVERY
Author: K.C. Neal
Release Date: Out now (Nov. 4, 2009)
Publisher: StoneHouse Ink
Received: e-ARC for review

SUMMARY:

Corinne lives an average teenage life working at her dad’s cafe, hanging out with her best friend, and trying to forget a falling-out with her almost-boyfriend Mason. Things take a strange turn when she uses her late grandmother’s food dyes for a bake sale, and her customers suddenly find her irresistibly alluring. Then she discovers she and Mason are haunted by the same dreams of a dark force that consumes everything in its path. Pursued by shadowy figures and a crazy woman with secrets from the past, Corinne must find out who her grandmother really was. In her quest to unravel her family’s history, she learns she is destined to protect this world--and the dark world of her dreams. She races to find the answers she seeks before her nightmares break free.

Okay, so I'm guilty of judging this book based on its cover/title.  I dragged my feet over reading this.  It sounded interesting, but there was always something I wanted to read more whenever I got around to it.  And why?  Because the book was called PYXIS.  I thought it was about pixies/fairies/etc., just with a unique spelling.  And let me tell you...I was 100% wrong.  The pyxis referred to is "an ancient Greek word for a box used to hold medicine" (page 25; nook edition). 

Main character Corinne has a special box full of mysterious liquids left behind by her grandmother.  The box is engraved with the word "Pyxis" and, at first, Corinne thinks the bottles contain food dye.  She uses them for a school bake sale and suddenly, her classmates are acting out of the ordinary.  Her and her best friend Angeline start experimenting to find out more about these mysterious potions.  When their friend Mason returns home from abroad, they're able to dig further into the mysteries surrounding the pyxis box and the strange piece of parchment hidden within it bearing their names.  Corinne and Mason begin having strange, dangerous dreams, but the only person with answers is lying in a coma.  Can they figure out who they are and what their destiny holds before time runs out?

Just when PYXIS really begins picking up in speed, readers are left with a huge cliffhanger ending.  PYXIS: ALIGHT doesn't release until Spring 2012.  While the books could have been rolled together since the first one is novella length, PYXIS is a fast, fun read.  It's also a great deal for your e-book reader or app at only 99¢!  I really liked the way Corinne and Mason became reacquainted after his return home, their relationship awkward before slowly re-approaching normal.  I wish Angeline hadn't disappeared from the book once Mason appeared.  She had a lot of family functions!  At the same time, I think her role will be much more important in the second book.  K.C. Neal has set up an interesting world that I'm dying to know more about.  I can't wait for her to reveal more answers in ALIGHT!

COVER DESIGN:

Maybe it's because I kept seeing this cover on my nook in black and white, but I really thought the model was holding a fairy.  I thought this was going to be a fairy book, especially with how much the title looks like the word "pixie."  This is a case where I was a cover snob and spent too much time ignoring a good book.

I get the cover now, because it features an important white potion and the background is probably supposed to be the Cove, but at the time, I never thought twice about it.  Bad Bonnie, Bad!!

That said, I'll be interested in seeing what the second cover looks like!


Waiting on Wednesday: TAKE A BOW by Elizabeth Eulberg



Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine. This event highlights our most-wanted upcoming releases!

What's this? A WoW that isn't the same exact book as my Cover Crazy of the week? I've finally broken out of the trend. You know what they say about the third time (in a row)...

Title: TAKE A BOW
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg

Release Date: April 1, 2012
Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Add it: Goodreads

WHY?

I've wanted to read this since first discovering it over the summer. I want to read it even MORE after:

1) Blogging about it last week for my guest post with G Reads,
and
2) Meeting Elizabeth Eulberg at a signing last night.

THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB was the very first book I ever reviewed on my blog (back when I didn't blog a lot. I only had 38 posts my entire first year of blogging! Now, I often get that many posts in one month!).

I love books about the arts. It's one reason I really looked forward to 2011 releases RIVAL by Sara Bennett Wealer, VIRTUOSITY by Jessica Martinez, BUNHEADS by Sophie Flack, and AUDITION by Stasia Ward Kehoe, to name a few. It's why I still believe in shows like GLEE and SMASH (debuting on NBC Feb. 6, 2012). In college, I even interned at a performing arts middle school. I'm really excited about TAKE A BOW!


SUMMARY:From the fantastic author of THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB and PROM AND PREJUDICE comes a story of all the drama and comedy of four friends who grow into themselves at a performing arts high school.

Emme, Sophie, Ethan, and Carter are seniors at a performing arts school, getting ready for their Senior Showcase recital, where the pressure is on to appeal to colleges, dance academies, and professionals in show business. For Sophie, a singer, it's been great to be friends with Emme, who composes songs for her, and to date Carter, soap opera heartthrob who gets plenty of press coverage. Emme and Ethan have been in a band together through all four years of school, but wonder if they could be more than just friends and bandmates. Carter has been acting since he was a baby, and isn't sure how to admit that he'd rather paint than perform. The Senior Showcase is going to make or break each of the four, in a funny, touching, spectacular finale that only Elizabeth Eulberg could perform.



What are you anxiously waiting for this Wednesday?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just Contemporary: Guest Post with Sarah from Storybound Girl!

All month long, Ashley from Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing and Shanyn from Chicks Love Lit are hosting an epic event entitled Just Contemporary.

 There are all kinds of goodies, from giveaways to reviews to guest posts and author interviews. Ashley is also doing a round-up of Contemporary reviews and features on other blogs each week, so get in touch with her if you post anything!

  A Backwards Story has signed up to swap a guest post with another blogger on the web each week for the next five weeks. Here is the final of five guest posts. You can still see posts from the first, second, third and fourth weeks with my guests, as well as my posts on their blogs, Kat Reads, Candace's Book Blog, Danya's A Tapestry of Words and Ginger's G Reads.
Today's guest post features Sarah from Storybound Girl.  She can also be found on Twitter.

 Now, it's time to introduce her and see why she loves contemporary!

If you want to see my thoughts on the subject, just shoot over to Storybound Girl!



What I'd Like to See in Contemporary Fiction by Sarah at Storybound Girl

I am a longtime fan of contemporary YA. It’s my absolute favorite… always has been, always will be. The instant I read the prompt for this week of Just Contemporary, all I could think was: nothing specific, just MORE. I want publishers to put more contemps on the shelves!
Beyond that, I must admit, I’m a sucker for a clever, quirky title. While I’ll still pick up a book called THIS SUMMER or ENDLESS CRUSH (note: not intended to be real book titles) if I’m intrigued by the back cover copy, I’m much more likely to instantly go for books like THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS, PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ, or THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX. All three are great books and totally live up to their name. (I’ve got a review for VERA DIETZ up on my blog right here, if you’re curious. They are all MUST READS.)

Other than a quirky title, I like intriguing concepts with the story that I may be unfamiliar with, like: Elizabeth Scott’s STEALING HEAVEN, about a girl who works as a reluctant thief alongside her mother, Sarah Dessen’s WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE where we see a dad who rehabs failing restaurants (inspired by Kitchen Nightmares), Jennifer Hubbard’s THE SECRET YEAR, about a boy dealing with the sudden death of the girl he was having a secret relationship with, and Stephanie Perkins’ LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR, which features a girl with two dads, a penchant for elaborate costuming, and a quirky, inventor boy next door.



And that’s it! That’s not too much to ask, is it? More books! Quirky titles! Oddball situations! (I’d also appreciate plenty of crushing, kissing, and happily ever afters.)What about you?

Several other blogs took part in this week's post theme as well; a full list will be available on Ashley's blog! 


Also, don't forget to check out MY guest post over at Storybound Girl! It features the top ten contemporary novels coming out that I'm already dying to read!

Top TBR Titles This Winter!


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.


This week’s topic?

Top Ten TBR Titles This Winter!

There are so many books I want to read this winter, from ARCs I'm still dying to read to books coming out that I can't wait to get my hands on.  My top ten (in reverse release-date order since the ones I want most come out last, OF COURSE) are:







*PANDEMONIUM by Lauren Oliver (Mar. 6)

Because aaaaaaaaaaah!!  I have been waiting since reading an ARC of DELIRIUM back in 2010.  I must know what happens next!  Plus, DELIRIUM is my second-favorite book of 2011, behind only THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern.  Lauren has a GIFT!


*SPELL BOUND by Rachel Hawkins (Mar. 13)


Can you believe HEX HALL is finally coming to a close?  I can't!  I went from not really wanting to read this series to being completely enraptured.  Plus, Rachel has two books out in 2012.  Win!



*FEVER by Lauren DeStefano (Feb. 21)

Another aaaaaaaaaah!! moment because I--again--read the ARC long before the book dropped.  WITHER was one of my 2011 favorites.  Must know more ASAP!!



*LONE WOLF by Jodi Picoult (Feb. 28)


It's a new book from my all-time favorite author!  I can't wait!  Jodi's also going to be coming out with her first YA novel (co-authored with her daughter) this year...and it's FANTASY.  Awesome! (I believe this is the UK cover with the US cover still to come...?)


*THE RIVALS by Daisy Whitney (Feb. 06)
Another book I've been longing for.  I adored THE MOCKINGBIRDS and have been anxious to get my hands on more by Daisy Whitney.  I'm sad that my covers won't match, but think the new covers will make more people pick this up, so...!


*NEVERMORE (The final MAXIMUM RIDE book) by James Patterson (Feb. 02)

FINALLY, this series is coming to an end.  I hate how evil the cliffhangers in this series are.  Granted, I did NOT love ANGEL last year, especially after how highly I anticipated it after the bombshell ending in FANG, but I still want to know how it all ends!!


*MIDNIGHT IN AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale (Jan. 31)

New Shannon Hale!!  And a sequel to AUSTENLAND, with a book-movie about to drop.  Shannon is also releasing a sequel to PRINCESS ACADEMY in 2012.  So again, a double-win!



*THE ROOK by Daniel O'Malley (Jan. 11)
I don't know much more than the summary of this one, but it is one HECK of a summary.  Just look at the how the Goodreads summary begins, pulling a quote from the novel: "The body you are wearing used to be mine." I believe this is adult fantasy.  I want this, oh how I want this!!



*WINTERLING by Sarah Prineas (Jan. 03)


This book has such a pretty cover.  AND it's been blurbed by Kristin Cashore!  AND it sounds really good!  Have I ever told you that I love fantasy?  And horses?  Because I do!


*THE SECRET SISTERHOOD OF HEARTBREAKERS by Lynn Weingarten (Dec. 27)

This went from being a book I felt very lackluster over to slightly intrigued by.  With the recent book trailer release, it went to, "Okay, I so need to read this right now!"








Annnnd what about ARCs I'm about read this winter?  Maybe they don't all come out during the winter months, but all but three of my "must-read-this-ARC NOW" ARCs *do.*  Sooo the top ten most-anticipated (to me) ARCS I own (either physically or as an e-book from NetGalley) that I will get to this winter (in release-date order) are:




*HALLOWED by Cynthia Hand (Jan. 17)
The sequel to UNEARTHLY!  I started reading this a couple weeks ago, but realized that I should re-read (or skim) UNEARTHLY first...or at least the last few chapters.  I loved UNEARTHLY when I expected not to care at all.  Can't wait!


*AFTER THE SNOW by S.D. Crockett (Feb. 03)
I'm waiting for a snowy day to read this one.  I want to replicate the feeling I got reading ICE by Sarah Beth Durst or TRAPPED by Michael North or even THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab (on a particularly wind-howling day).  I love when the weather outside gives you an extra layer of emotional attachment when reading a book!


*SCARLET by A.C. Gaughen (Feb. 14)

I have ALWAYS had a soft spot for ROBIN HOOD.  Heck, earlier this year (last year now? I forget...) I was re-reading all the Robin Hood stories and watching all the movies for an idea bunny I had that I might write someday.  Plus, it's a story where a girl is forced to hide in disguise.  Call me crazy (I blame you, Tamora Pierce!!), but I love such books!  Heck, I have one of THOSE in the works for someday, too!  LOL!


*WHEN THE SEA IS RISING RED by Cat Hellisen (Feb. 28)
This cover!  This synopsis!  By now, you know I love dystopian fiction.  I was really excited to receive this and can't wait to finally sink my claws in!


*GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers (Mar. 7)


This is THE BOOK.  I have wanted this since the deal was announced in 2010.  I felt so honored and lucky to receive an ARC a few weeks ago.  I'm still trying to make the time to read this and hope to do so in the next couple of weeks!


*EYE OF THE STORM by Kate Messner (Mar. 13)


There are a couple of books by Kate Messner that I'd like to read now!  This is middle-grade dystopian, which I think we need more of, especially in the year THE HUNGER GAMES hits the big-screen.  I don't know about you, but I don't want a nine-year-old reading those books.  But something like THE GIVER by Lois Lowry or THE UNWANTEDS by Lisa McMann or, now, EYE OF THE STORM by Kate Messner?  Absolutely!

 

*PRETTY CROOKED by Elisa Ludwig (Mar. 13)
It's a little like Robin Hood (Which I just told you I love) and a little like Ally Carter's HEIST SOCIETY, all mixed up into a story of its own.  I just snagged a copy on NetGalley and I'm excited to read this!


*SPIRIT'S PRINCESS by Esther Friesner (Apr. 24)
Esther Friesner has written tons of stuff.  I know her best for her YA series on Troy and Egypt.  Now, she's taking on Japan, which is a country dear to my heart, having lived there for two years.  And doesn't the girl on the cover look FIERCE?



*ENCHANTED by Alethea Kontis (May 8)
This book sounds FABULOUS and the cover is awesome!  I love books that read like fairy tales while still being unique books of their own! This is another one I hope to read ASAP.


*WAKING STORMS by Sarah Porter (July 3)
I can't believe I have this ARC *now* when the book doesn't come out until July.  I adored LOST VOICES and think the summary for WAKING STORMS sounds even *better.*  I am DYING for this.  This is also a "been trying to fit it in since its arrival" title that I hope to get to in the next couple of weeks!



Winners, Winners, Winners!


It's a day of winners, bookworms!  We had hundreds of entries between the two contests, but thanks to random.org, I have managed to choose seven fabulous winners. 

Winners have 48 hours to respond to their email or another winner will be chosen!


The winner of RHYMES WITH CUPID by Anna Humphrey is…


Joli @ Actin' Up with Books!

And the winners of the massive THE CHILDE giveaway are...



Grand-prize Autographed Book/Swag Pack combos go to:

 Lieder from Songs & Stories!
&
Runner-up swag goes to:
Amy L.
Oriana
Laura H.
Jolene

Congratulations!!! Another contest is coming...soonish! :) What will it be...!?  There are also two more hops on the horizon in early 2012, so look forward to more books!



[DISCLAIMER: Winner chosen using www.mathgoodies.com.]

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mythological Mondays: Mythology in Kay Cassidy's THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY


Mythological Mondays is a feature I created to spotlight books brimming with--you guessed it--mythology! I adore this sub-genre and can't wait to share my love with all of my fellow bookworms! This feature isn't just focused on novel reviews; it may also include interviews, looks at original mythological tales, etc. Please feel free to do this with me! If you guys ever do a mythological feature and want to join this and snag my lovely mermaid, I would LOVE to see the feature. I’ve even included a Linkbox for you. It doesn’t have to be Greek mythology, or even mythology per say. It can be mermaids, unicorns, or heck, even fairy tales (because I’m too lazy to do a separate fairy tale feature…). It doesn’t even have to be every Monday. I’m sure there will be Mondays when I skip, too. ^_^


I'll be posting my review of THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY tomorrow as Just Contemporary begins winding down since, despite the title (and the fact it's being featured on Mythological Mondays), this book is 100% contemporary.

So why, you might ask, are you seeing it featured today?

The book centers around a secret society with mythological roots!  I wasn't expecting that development when I picked up this book (since the cover screamed "fairy tale"), but I was really excited to see these appearances!


ISIS, Egyptian Goddess of Motherhood, Magic and Fertility

"'The Cinderella Society is the recruiting arm of ISIS, an even more secret society of the most powerful women in the world...Isis was one of the most powerful ancient goddesses, honored for being ultrafeminine and super strong.'" (page 140, first edition hardcover)



ATHENA, Greek Goddess of Wisdom and Warfare

The Cinderella Society isn't the only secret society in Kay Cassidy's debut novel.  The Cindys fight the good fight and are opposed at every twist and turn by the Wickeds.  The Cindys have ISIS as their core base while the Wickeds (who call themselves the Delectae, which is Latin for the Chosen Ones) have ATHENA, chosen because Athena was the goddess of war.


ARTEMIS, Greek Goddess of the Hunt and the Moon and Childbirth

ISIS Headquarters is located inside a building named Artemis Hall, which is only appropriate since ISIS and The Cinderella Society are all about girl power!



Anyway, I thought all the mythological references were a lot of fun and wanted to share them with you since they won't be a focal point of my forthcoming review.

Does this whet your appetite and make you want to know more about THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY?  Stop back at A Backwards Story tomorrow for my review! :-)






Cover Crazy: REVIVED by Cat Patrick

Cover Crazy is hosted by The Book Worms. Each week, bloggers "admire the art and beauty of a book’s design, so I’m going to post minimal words. It is up to you to write how you feel and what you like about it the way you’d like to."

This week's cover is one I've been seeing since it was revealed a while back. I get more excited every time I see it again!


REVIVED by Cat Patrick:







I'm not sure exactly WHAT she's tearing into, but I want to know! I like the texture of this thing being pulled apart. Plus, it's so mysterious! I also really like how blue the model's eyes are. They really pop. You can even see her hidden eye because the color is so vibrant. It also fits in really well with all the blues and greens in the cover.

I really enjoyed Cat's debut novel FORGOTTEN (Though I wish Book Depo would sell the Australian cover since I love it more than the US edition, which I have yet to purchase despite reading the book earlier this year...) and am looking forward to REVIVED!


What do you think? What cover are you crazy about this week?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

IMM: 11.27.11






IN MY MAILBOX: 11.06.11







In My Mailbox was created by Kristi at The Story Siren because:

"I get books to read and then ultimately share my thoughts about with my readers. As much as I want to, I can’t possibly read every book I receive. Yet, I still wanted a way to feature those books on the blog, even though it might not be in the form of a review. Problem solved! Every week I'd share the books I received that week... ones I'd bought, or gotten at the library, and ones that I'd receive to review on the blog. That way I could mention titles that might not otherwise get some face-time on The Story Siren..."

I find the same thing happening at A Backwards Story. I'm so backed up on reviews atm... That's why I like these videos!


CURRENT GIVEAWAY:

I'm participating in Book Savvy Babe's Black Friday Book Bonanza Hop and am giving away a copy of RHYMES WITH CUPID by Anna Humphrey for Ashley from Basically Amazing's Just Contemporary month!


I've also extended entries for THE CHILDE by C.A. Kunz, so there's still time to enter!


Both giveaways end tonight at 11:59 p.m. Enter now!



READING NOW:

THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY by Kay Cassidy






READ THIS WEEK:

*NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL by Justina Chen Headley
*GEEK CHARMING by Robin Palmer
*SNOW IN SUMMER by Jane Yolen




REVIEWED THIS WEEK:

*DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor
*RHYMES WITH CUPID by Anna Humphrey
*NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL by Justina Chen Headley


*Book Signing Wrap-Up: Fantastic Fiction for Teens from Books of Wonder featuring Tamora Pierce, John Connolly, Rae Carson, Leanna Renee Hieber, Matthew Cody, Lauren McLaughlin, Delia Sherman

*I wrote a Guest Post on Top Ten Upcoming YA Novels I want to read for Just Contemporary Week 4 at Ginger's blog G Reads

*Guest Post Blogger Ginger from A Tapestry of Words was on A Backwards Story for Just Contemporary Week 3




RECEIVED THIS WEEK:







Loot:

How was everyone's holiday? I hope you got some great stuff!

SWAG:

*Signed bookplates for SISTERS RED and SWEETLY by Jackson Pearce
*Signed bookplate for ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE by Gabrielle Zevin
*Autographed bookmarks for FLAME OF SURRENDER by Rhiannon Paille
*THE POISON DIARIES tote bag and two matching pens from HarperCollins (Featuring paperback release of THE POISON DIARIES and launch of new book NIGHTSHADE)


ARCs:

*THE INTERNATIONAL KISSING CLUB by Ivy Adams (aka, really co-authored by Emily McKay, Shellee Roberts and Tracy Deebs) [Along with some super-cute swag!] [Dec. 31/Feb 13 Tour Stops with Teen Book Scene]
*HERE by Denise Grover Swank [Feb 15/Feb 23 Tour Stops with Teen Book Scene]

PURCHASED:

Nothing this week!


LIBRARY:

*DRAGON'S KEEP by Janet Lee Carey [Companion to next month's buzzed-about DRAGONSWOOD] (I believe Small Review reviewed this earlier in the year...?]
*EXTRAORDINARY*: The True Story of My Fairygodparent, Who Almost Killed Me, and Certainly Never Made Me a Princess by Adam Selzer
*VANISH by Sophie Jordan
*NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL by Justina Chen Headley

Saturday, November 26, 2011

(Review) NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL by Justina Chen Headley


All month long, Ashley from Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing and Shanyn from Chicks Love Lit are hosting an epic event entitled Just Contemporary.

There are all kinds of goodies, from giveaways to reviews to guest posts and author interviews. Ashley is also doing a round-up of Contemporary reviews and features on other blogs each week, so get in touch with her if you post anything!

Also, from Friday, Nov. 25 at 12:01 a.m. EST to Sunday, Nov. 27 at 11:59 p.m. EST, please enter to win a copy of RHYMES WITH CUPID to keep! Enter here!


Title: NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL
Author: Justina Chen Headley
Release Date: Out now (Feb. 01, 2009)
Publisher: Little, Brown
Received: Borrowed to read

SUMMARY:

As he continued to stare, I wanted to point to my cheek and remind him, But you were the one who wanted this, remember? You're the one who asked -and I repeat - Why not fix your face?

It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper.

She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

Written in lively, artful prose, award-winning author Justina Chen Headley has woven together a powerful novel about a fractured family, falling in love, travel, and the meaning of true beauty.


What is beauty?  Ask 100 people, get 100 different answers.  It's true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  With the onslaught of media stating that everyone should look a certain way, it's hard when a person doesn't fit that mold, especially during the high school years.

Here's an example of a conversation revolving around beauty in Justina Chen Headley's award-winning novel NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL:

"Nothing's perfect."

"Maybe we don't have the same definition about what's beautiful.  So define it.  Define true beauty."

"Well, it seeps into you.  It doesn't make you forget yourself, but totally the opposite...It connects you with everything and fills you with awe that you share the same space with something that glorious.  Like a sunrise or a clear blue day or the most extraordinary piece of glass.  And then suddenly...you have this epiphany that there's more to the world than just you and what you want or even who you are."

(pgs. 229~230, hardcover edition)

Terra Rose Cooper is not what anyone would call traditionally beautiful, despite the fact that she has a perfect figure and was born with the type of blonde hair that women spend thousands of dollars a year trying to copy.  People always give her a double-take, and not because of these features.  Instead, they find themselves staring at the huge port-wine stain encompassing her right cheek.

No matter how many procedures Terra goes through to remove the unsightly blemish, nothing works.  She suffocates it beneath layers of make-up, but it's always there.  She's only had one boyfriend, and the relationship is one of convenience.  On top of that, her dad is over-controlling and loves belittling her and her overweight mother.  Terra's day-to-day existence is hard, and she can't wait to graduate and go to college as far away as possible.  Over winter break after yet another botched attempt to surgically remove her birthmark, her family becomes entwined with the Fremont family's after a minor car accident.  The Fremont family has its own issues:  The parents are going through a divorce and the eldest son, Jacob, is adopted.  Everyone always stares at him because he's an adopted Chinese boy, not a girl like everyone' used to seeing.  His mother always has to tell perfect strangers about the way he was born with a cleft lip.  The two families become fast friends and teach one another about learning to live all over again, causing Terra to re-evaluate her own meaning of the definition of true beauty.

Headley also has a masterful way of portraying prose, rendering ordinary sentences into something beautiful. For example:

"Maybe my conversations with Jacob were nothing but spiderwebs, sparkling with the fresh dew of newness, stringing us together, but gaping with hopes?" (pg. 195, hardcover edition)

There are so many layers to NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL.  While at first, Terra and her mother wallow a lot, they've gained a lot of confidence by the novel's end.  There's a very empowering feel to the book as it comes to a close.  There are multiple social issues at play that many readers will be able to relate to, whether it's being overweight, having birthmarks/scars/acne/etc. rather than the perfect face, or living in a household in fear of a parent.  Where can one fit in when they don't fit into the world at large?  NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL is about paving your own path and believing in yourself.  I loved the message of this novel and can see why it  has been nominated for so many awards.



COVER DESIGN:


Every time I see this cover, I can't help but think of the cover for Alyson Noël's EVERMORE.  The same stock image of the model was used, only flipped in reverse.  What's even more interesting is the fact that the two novels were published two days apart, so it wasn't like one had been out for a long time and the other copied.

I like the way the model's hair covers the right-side of the model's face in NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL so you can't see Terra's birthmark.  It allows readers to envision their own image in their head and create the shape as they want to see it.  I also like the way that the model's left cheek is blemished by a compass.  The compass is important in the novel because Terra and Jacob go geo-caching.  Also, Terra's father is a cartographer and has named his three children after his specialty.  I also like the way the three sections of the book were titled: Terra Nullis, Terra Incognita and Terra Firma.  Each segment looks like:



Additionally, each chapter had latitude and longitude lines running through the page as well as a title that fits in with the world of mapping.  



So clever!

You can't really see it in this picture, but I really like the way each title heading is at an angle.  The font also makes for some cute-looking pages!

Just Contemporary: Guest Post with Ginger from G Reads

All month long, Ashley from Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing and Shanyn from Chicks Love Lit are hosting an epic event entitled Just Contemporary.

There are all kinds of goodies, from giveaways to reviews to guest posts and author interviews. Ashley is also doing a round-up of Contemporary reviews and features on other blogs each week, so get in touch with her if you post anything!

A Backwards Story has signed up to swap a guest post with another blogger on the web each week for the next five weeks.Here is the fourth of five guest posts. You can still see posts from the first, second, and third weeks with my guests, as well as my posts on their blogs, Kat Reads, Candace's Book Blog, and Danya's A Tapestry of Words.

Today's guest post features Ginger from G Reads. She can also be found on Twitter.

Now, it's time to introduce her and see why she loves contemporary!

If you want to see my thoughts on the subject, just shoot over to G Reads!



Contemporary YA: Top Ten Contemporary Reads by G Reads

1. WHERE THINGS COME BACK by John Corey Whaley
I started following this author on twitter before I read his book & was told by numerous trustworthy sources that I HAD TO read his debut novel. WTCB is the kind of story that resonates so much deeper than you first expect it to. I've never read something before where an author takes two completely different plots and molds them together so beautifully. I noticed a lot of the author in the main character as well, and to me that made the book more personal.



2. THE PIPER'S SON by Melina Marchetta
It was the Aussie cover that grabbed my attention first, but it was the character of Thomas Mackee that completely won me over. He is the epitome of a beautifully broken boy that I so badly wanted to fix. I wept many tears while reading his story. It's a book I will recommend to anyone who is interested in reading well written novels from a male point of view.


3. THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY by Jenny Han
This series put a new face on my blog. I became known as the blogger who loves Jenny Han! I devoured this series in a matter of days & then went on to tell every one I knew to read it. I bought multiple copies to send to random bloggers across the country. This book has everything you want in a YA contemp: friendship, growth, love, & resolution. It's a book that will always remain close to my heart.



4. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky
If there is one book that I can sum up as encompassing every thing a contemporary novel should have, this one would be it. Though this book has been out for more than a decade, I just read it for the first time this year. Saying that I was blown away by it's capacity is an understatement. Never have I read a book that literally moved me to the point of not being able to write a review. I adore this story more than anything else.


5. SLOPPY FIRSTS by Megan McCafferty
Quite possibly the funniest and most REAL YA contemp I've read this year. Jessica Darling is a character that I will forever feel tied to. I loved witnessing her youth through her cynical eyes. But the best part is, the story progressed in to her early adult years too. We don't get to see a lot of this in YA contemps, so I appreciated a finality that this story so deserved.


6. LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins
It was her sophomore novel that I ended up loving more, which is rare in YA today. The character of Lola was so interesting to me. I loved her quirkiness and uncertainty. But it was the boy next door that sold the deal for me. Every girl dreams of having a Cricket just a stone's throw away. I loved the slow build of their relationship and ADORED the setting in San Francisco.




7. FORGET YOU by Jennifer Echols
This is my favorite of her novels. She writes the BEST sexual tension in YA lit. Echols keeps it tasteful, yet satisfying. I may or may not have a fictional crush on Doug. Ok let's be real, I wish I were 17 again and could spend a night in the back seat of a car with this boy! haha Aside from the sexytimes, I always enjoy Echols character conflicts. They start out broken, yet somehow, they get minded back together.. always by the least likely person.


8. WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Forman
Though I did enjoy If I Stay, it was the sequel that completely won me over. I'm a sucker for male POVs in books, so reading this story from Adam's point of view intrigued me so much. Gayle Forman has the ability to write from a dude's head that is so believable and spot-on, in my opinion. The pain was just seeping off the pages. The climax on the bridge - one of the best moments I've EVER read, in any book.


9. THE BOYFRIEND LIST by E. Lockhart
This series is a close second runner up to my love of the Jessica Darling series. Ruby Oliver has such an enticing voice. I could not get enough! So much that I devoured this entire series in just a week's time. She had me laughing hysterically at one point, and then clutching the book on the verge of tears the next. I truly appreciate a book that has the ability to take me on such a range of emotions.




10. GRAFFITI MOON by Cath Crowley
The most recent book in YA contemps that I finished and have gushed and gushed about. I loved the poetic tone through out the novel, yet the author had the ability to keep the story in tact and on a path you wanted to keep following. I adore a story told from alternating points of view because it's almost as if you're getting two stories in one. This book sealed the deal on my love for Aussie YA writers. They have yet to disappoint me!


Several other blogs took part in this week's post theme as well; a full list will be available on Ashley's blog!


Also, don't forget to check out MY guest post over at G Reads! It features the top ten contemporary novels coming out that I'm already dying to read!

Friday, November 25, 2011

(Review) RHYMES WITH CUPID by Anna Humphrey


All month long, Ashley from Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing and Shanyn from Chicks Love Lit are hosting an epic event entitled Just Contemporary.

There are all kinds of goodies, from giveaways to reviews to guest posts and author interviews. Ashley is also doing a round-up of Contemporary reviews and features on other blogs each week, so get in touch with her if you post anything!

Also, from Friday, Nov. 25 at 12:01 a.m. EST to Sunday, Nov. 27 at 11:59 p.m. EST, please enter to win a copy of RHYMES WITH CUPID to keep! Enter here!


Title: RHYMES WITH CUPID
Author: Anna Humphrey
Release Date: Out now (Jan. 01, 2011)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Received: Borrowed to read; recently purchased

SUMMARY:

Goodman's Gifts & Stationery Store

February 14
Cashier: Elyse

3 boxes of heart-shaped chocolate . . . $12.00
Chocolate is the only good thing about this nauseating holiday.
4 containers of candy hearts . . . $5.00
Ever since my ex cheated on me, I've sworn off love. Too bad my new neighbor Patrick didn't get the memo.
1 Valentine's Day card . . . $4.50
I'm not interested. Although, he is pretty cute. And sweet. And funny.
1 singing Cupid doll (promotional item) . . . $0.00
Stupid Cupid! Point your arrows at someone else. . . .
Subtotal . . . $21.50

It's going to be a complicated Valentine's Day.


I was planning to wait and post my review of RHYMES WITH CUPID on Valentine's Day, but decided to post it now in honor of Just Contemporary month. Besides, this gives you two months to buy the book and read it if you don't win my giveaway, right? ^.~

If you're a fan of contemporary YA romances such as ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins, you'll really enjoy this as well! Anna Humphrey's RHYMES WITH CUPID is exactly what you would expect: A light-hearted, feel-good romance. Every once in a while, it's nice to read something sweet and predictable, and this book is as gooey-good as the ice cream sundae on its cover! Main character Elyse is a cynic and doesn't believe in love after a relationship that ends badly. She works at a mall gift shop and is forced to promote sappy Valentine's Day cards and singing Cupid dolls. Her co-worker Dina, however, is really into the holiday despite also not having a boyfriend. Dina is emotionally attached to a guy who always blows her off, and Elyse decides to get her over him once and for all. She decides to hook her up with a guy named Patrick who comes into the shop one day looking for a new pen. He's pretty cute and, as luck would have it, he's Elyse's next-door neighbor, too. The only problem? Patrick only has eyes for Elyse...and Elyse might be starting to have thoughts on pairing him up with Dina, even though the last thing she wants is another relationship.

A book like this one is the reason I often prefer contemporary romances to the paranormal/fantasy insta-love syndrome. I prefer it when relationships grow gradually and bonds build through friendship before blooming into something more. This is one reason I liked ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS so much. I've been trying to replicate the feeling I had when reading that and so far, RHYMES WITH CUPID has come the closest. There are some really great scenes between the two main characters that are completely re-readable. Granted, there are times Elyse annoys me because she's so gung-ho on swearing off love. How can she resist Patrick? He's incredible; I'd totally date a Patrick if he was in my life. At the same time, there are reasons for the things she does and it's commendable that she's willing to sacrifice her own happiness for a friend's. I read this book earlier this fall, so it doesn't have to be read in February. Anytime you're looking for a tasty read, this one might be just what your sweet tooth is looking for!


COVER DESIGN:

I honestly think the book covers for this book and PAST PERFECT by Leila Sales (guest post and review HERE) should be flip-flopped. In PAST PERFECT, the main character, Chelsea, and her best friend Fiona are ice cream connoisseurs and the book takes place during the summer. This breezy cover would be perfect, right? RHYMES WITH CUPID, on the other hand, takes place in February. Okay, so maybe a rain jacket is still a little inappropriate, but you could do the same cover with snow. The cover never really jived with PAST PERFECT despite how much I enjoyed it.

That said, the cover is really cute and breezy, easily ear-marked as a light-hearted romance, so it's perfectly suited for its genre!