f0zKg0J4zFLYz-Yq0aednQVqREE Once Upon a Prologue: January 2012
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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - #8: Books That Would Make Good Book Club Picks

{ ++ } Hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish, this meme features a different theme every week, and hey, it's Tuesday - we've got the rest of the week ahead of us.  We all need a little fun, and who doesn't love the challenge of ranking their top 10 anything...especially when it comes to books?!  I know I do, hence why I thought it'd be fun to participate, and spice things up a little!

January 31: Top Ten Books I Think Would Make Great Book Club Picks

 { 1 } The Hunger Games trilogy.  Enough said, right?  But when I finished the first book, I remember going, "oh my god.  This is so gritty and scary because I COULD see this happening." 

{ 2 } Mercy by Jodi Picoult (or really, any of her books.)  But especially Mercy, because for me, it was one of Jodi's books that made me think the hardest about the subject the book revolved around: mercy killings.  I never really had an opinion on them before; Mercy made me ask myself why I hadn't, and if I could do what one of the characters had done, were it someone - I - loved.  Her books often come with discussion questions in the back so it's the perfect book club book. 

{ 3 } Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.  This is an incredibly moving book that makes you think about the time you have, and if you are living your life to the best of your ability, making the most of every day.  It's so powerful! 

{ 4 } The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I actually haven't read this whole book yet, but I have seen the movie, and I cried several times.  I think if the book is anywhere as amazing as the movie that it asks some extremely difficult and still-relevant questions about race, equality, and understanding. 

{ 5 } Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.  I'm adding Jodi in again because she writes about hot, relevant subjects, and with the recent bullying incidents around the country, I think Nineteen minutes is especially meaningful. 

{ 6 } After You by Julie Buxbaum.  I coveted this book for a long time before I got the chance to buy and read it, and it was worth the wait.  It's been a year or so since I read it but I remember thinking it was a great portrayal of how to deal with grief, and how to start again. 

{ 7 } Saving June by Hannah Harrington.  A YA contemporary that is one of the BEST and most realistic representations of grief I've come across in literature in awhile. 

{ 8 } If I Stay by Gayle Forman.  I started this book awhile back and didn't finish it, but only because I decided I wasn't in the right mood to read it.  It seems so poignant, really teaching about what a life is worth, and how to life one's life and what is worth living for. 
{ 9 } Just Listen by Sarah Dessen.  This book explores what it means to be "normal," to conform, or not to conform, and really makes you think about if you have the courage to be true to yourself or not. 

{ 10 } Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.  I just finished this one, so it's on my mind.  It made a lot of sense to me, and like The Hunger games, made me think that the world Rossi proposes is POSSIBLE.  And thus, all the more scary. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Pages: 293
Published: April 19, 2011 (Harlequin Teen)
Series or stand-alone:  Goddess Test (1)
Rating: Squee-worthy
Source: Nook purchase
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Find the author online: Website | Twitter

It's always been just Kate and her mom—and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld—and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy—until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.

My Review

Looking back, I can't recall why I hesitated so long to read The Goddess Test.  I was interested in it when it was first published - I just wasn't reading much mythology based fiction, and definitely not YA mythology/fantasy.  But as I started branching out more, I finally took a chance on The Goddess Test, and I read it almost in one sitting, over the course of a couple of hours.  I'm used to reading mythology in my paranormal romances, but I was really quite pleasantly surprised by Aimee Carter's debut YA novel.  Protagonist Kate Winters is grounded, realistic, and skeptical of the situation she walks into, until tormented Henry - Hades, if she believes him - offers to keep her dying mother alive while she faces the seven tests that will determine if she is granted immortality or not. 

Kate enters into the bargain with him unsure of what to believe, and I liked her for that.  She isn't all doe-eyed innocence, nor is she hardened to the point that she - doesn't - believe.  She knows she caught up in something bigger than herself, but watching The Goddess Test unfold - and watching Kate grow and change - was emotional and heart-warming.  All she's known for so long is taking care of her mother, and as her relationship with Henry deepens and matures, from stranger to friends, to the poignant potential for more, Kate learns that she's put her life on hold, and that both Henry and her mother want the same thing for her: for her to live to her full potential.  Over the course of The Goddess Test, Kate learns a great deal about herself, as well as those around her.  I whole-heatedly applaud Aimee Carter for all the character growth infused throughout The Goddess Test - in Kate, in Henry, and in the secondary characters. 

There were a few weak moments in the plot that took a bit away from my enjoyment.  There were several twists that I definitely saw coming, including one that I assume was meant to be obvious, because it very much was.  In some cases, that would have gotten the book in question a lower rating, but what saved The Goddess Test for me (although it very much was a quick, and overall satisfying read), was the emotion.  I connected with Kate immediately, because of the fact that I've lost several relatives to cancer, and I could identify with her deep longing for "one more day," and to not have to say goodbye yet.  Henry was more detached in some ways, yet he appealed to me just as much as Kate did, though there were a few times when I wanted to give him a good shake.  The bond that developed between him and Kate intrigued me, and I found myself looking forward to their scenes together.  Their attraction and relationship was somewhat quick for my taste - not quite insta-love, which is a positive thing - and I hope that Aimee Carter develops them even more in the books to come.  

There were so many strong, powerful emotions in The Goddess Test: Henry's unrequited love for his lost wife, Kate's intense love for her mother and bond with her, Kate and Henry's connection, Kate's grief over her mother, Kate and Ava's friendship, and all of that, to me, was one of the best features of The Goddess Test.  There are also several secondary characters that I would absolutely love to know more about and hope we will see more of in the sequels. 

Even with a few flaws, The Goddess Test is still a novel I really enjoyed, and having received the sequel, Goddess Interrupted through NetGalley, I'm excited to read it soon.  Aimee Carter definitely left off on an interesting note, full of promise in more ways than one, and I look forward to seeing what else she has in store for her characters!

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Year, New Yeads Give@away! Win 1 of 4 January releases!

{ ++ } Since we're almost a month into 2012 with some AMAZING books that have already come out, I wanted to do a giveaway.  I've read all of the books I'm offering in the giveaway, and I think all of y'all should be able to, as well!  Plus, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for all the support thus far this year! 

The following books are up for grabs: Fracture  |  Tempest  |  Cinder   |  Under the Never Sky.  All of these ladies are amazing, talented and friendly, and I hope y'all love their books as much as I do!  Each book affected me, be it because of how I related to the characters (Fracture), the ingenuity behind the plot (Cinder), the emotion, romance, and action (Tempest) or the fact that it kept me guessing and pulled at my heart strings (Under the Never Sky.)  Good luck!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Pages: 384
Published: January 3, 2012 (HarperCollins)
Source: ARC from the publisher
Series or stand-alone: Under the Never Sky (1) 
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon
Rating: Swoon-worthy
Find the author online: Twitter | Website

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

My Review 

I wanted Under the Never Sky from the moment I saw the cover and read the synopsis.  I coveted it almost more than any other book I've read recently.  The synopsis was electrifying and until it arrived in the mail, this book had an unshakeable hold on my heart.  I waited to read it so that it would count for the 2012 debut author challenge, and in the time between receiving it and beginning to read Under the Never Sky, I'd forgotten just how much it appealed to me - yet I quickly remembered once I was about three chapters into it.  Although I was confused at first, since Veronica Ross propells the reader right into the action, not really giving anyone a chance to catch their breath, I quickly acclimated to both Aria and Perry's worlds, and leaving those worlds for any amount of time was frustrating, almost painful - because I was so involved with both of them, and their journies - together and as individuals.  

Over the course of Under the Never Sky, we become well acquainted with both Aria and Perry, two people who couldn't be more different - or so they think.   I adored both of them, in different ways.  Veronica Rossi shares both of their narratives with us in alternating chapters, which usually is very off-putting for me, but here, it worked.  In fact, I truly cannot imagine the story being told any other way now, having read it.  The dual points of view work perfectly, by showing us the foils that Aria and Perry are to one another both through their different ways of life and their ideals on - and prejudices about - one another, so that it means so much more when they do finally start working together to achieve not just their individual goals, but at times, the same goals.  Their antagonism toward one another is peeled back slowly, gradually, so that the friendship and, in time, affection that builds between them is done in beautiful layers.  It's never too much, never overpowering, but always gorgeously developed.  

Aria and Perry are so believable together because they are both such heart-felt characters, who experience poignant growth during Under the Never Sky.  When we first meet Aria, she is sheltered and untested, and largely unprepared for the reality of being alone in "the Death Shop."  Peregrine or Perry (I'm not sure which I prefer) considers all Reverie Dwellers "Moles" and is filled with rage at his brother's leadership of their tribe, as well as awash in the abilities he possesses.  While Perry softens in some ways, yet never loses his edge, Aria becomes tougher, maturing into a survivor, but never hardens.  The two grow to perfectly compliment one another; through various encounters and experiences that they share, Veronica Rossi masterfully brings them together.  

Both the plot of Under the Never Sky and the secondary characters are equally riveting.   The story itself spins out differently than I would have expected from the synopsis, and while I am still unclear on some things such as the Unity, what happened to the world as we know it, and how much time passed between then and the time that the book is set in, and although that was distracting at times, having so many questions, I have faith that Veronica Rossi will answer them in the books to come.  Between the lush world-building of both Reverie and the Outsider lands, the secrets that are revealed throughout Under the Never Sky, and the way the first book leaves off, I have no doubt that the sequels will be just as thrilling and heart-stopping.  

I've tried and tried to describe the plot of Under the Never Sky to various friends, but it's such an amazing blend of dystopia and sci-fi that I never really know where to begin.  I never knew what to expect, starting a new chapter, but for me, the underlying, thrumming emotion of Under the Never Sky is truly what kept me reading.  Whether it was Aria and Perry discovering one another, Aria's love for her mother, Lumina, or Perry's for his nephew, Talon, the emotion was there, real, and strong.  There were scenes between Perry and Talon, or Aria and Perry that felt so private and precious, it was like Veronia Rossi was lifting the veil on a moment that was really happening, allowing the reader a peek.  I adored Perry's bonds with the ones he loved, and his intentions to be a better, stronger leader than his brother - for his faults, Peregrine is a true hero, and with him, Aria becomes a true heroine.  

Under the Never Sky has it all - mystery, drama, intrigue, romance, a bit of fantasy, but underneath it all, the lynchpin that holds the story together and makes it so unforgettable is the heartbeat that Veronica Ross has infused her novel with, ensuring anyone who reads Under the Never Sky will be thinking about it long after reading the last page.


In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  No money or compensation of any sort exchanged hands.   I review books with no intention of monetary gain; rather, I review books out of my love of reading.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - #7: Books I'd Want on a Desert Island

{ ++ } Hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish, this meme features a different theme every week, and hey, it's Tuesday - we've got the rest of the week ahead of us.  We all need a little fun, and who doesn't love the challenge of ranking their top 10 anything...especially when it comes to books?!  I know I do, hence why I thought it'd be fun to participate, and spice things up a little!

{ ++ } January 24: Freebie --- Make a top ten list about anything book related that you want. That super specific topic you thought would make a great top ten list or that past topic you wished you would have gotten a chance to participate it? This is the week to do it!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Want on a Desert Island 

This topic has already been featured in TTT but it was before I started participating, so I thought it'd make a cool choice for this week.  : )

{ 1 } The Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop.  Okay, okay, it's more than one book but really, these three books need to be read all together, as one long story.  They are THAT incredible.  My senior year AP English teacher recommended them to me, but it wasn't until about three years later that I read the books, and WOW.  I'd never read anything like them.  I guess I would call them dark fantasy, but really, the novels hold so much: romance, court  intrigue, an amazing caste system, a deeply developed mythos.  I used to re-read them every year, and it's about time for another re-read.  

{ 2 } The Talisman/Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub.  I'm cheating again, but these two books are so amazing.  A lot of readers I ran across didn't enjoy the sequel as much as they did The Talisman but in some ways, I enjoyed it even more.  Both books capture the whimsy Stephen King so favors in a few of his novels (namely IT) and are written so seamlessly I couldn't have told they were co-authored.  I just adore the characters and the story being told.  Black House is the only book I've ever stayed up all night to read. 

{ 3 } Mercy by Jodi Picoult.   What to say about MERCY.  *sighs*  It broke my heart.  It gave me hope.  I need to re-read it, but I need to forget how it all happened, first.  This book is polarizing.  And hard to read.  And oh so gorgeous. 

{ 4 } The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  I don't buy books based off of hype.  I might be curious about them, but if anything, the hype makes me want to wait, to dig my heels in and say, "I'll read it when I'M ready."  I've only bought a handful of books off of buzz in my life, until recently.  I bought The Name of the Wind off of the praise on the back cover and inside, but mostly, I bought it because of the blurb on the back cover.  

"I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I have burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the university at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during the day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. my name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me." 

Kvothe is a smart-ass.  He's insufferable.  He's charming and daring, and brave, and smart.  He's amazing, and one of my favorite heroes of all time.  I devoured this book.  I've read it twice now, and it is just as brilliant the second time around.  

{ 5 } The Hunger Games trilogy.  They cannot be separated.  I don't know what to say about these books, this story, except that it changed the way I read books forever.  Broke me out of my reading slump and ended my book-ish snobbery.  I'm so invested in them, and I cry every time I watch the movie trailer. 

{ 6 } Tempest by Julie Cross.  If you're reading this blog and you don't know by now how much I adore Tempest and what an emotional mess it left me, I don't know what to say other than this book is incredible. 

{ 7 } Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  I knew I had to have this book and this series when, as a cashier at Hastings, I rang out a lady who was buying every single one of them in trade paperback (ie expensive!) because she'd lost them in a move and as she put it, "I have to have my Outlander books."  We must have talked about them for ten minutes.  It wasn't long after that I purchased the first one.  *sighs over Jamie Frasier* 

{ 8 } Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  My "comfort" book, my "my soul is weary and needs restoring" book.  I've learned so much about life and love from this book. 

{ 9 } The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffennegger.  I've only read this book once; however, I've seen the film about a dozen times.  The romance is unorthodox, heart-wrenching, and utterly beautiful.  Henry and Clare are real love.  I just, I adore this book.  I cried and cried reading it, and it moved me in so many, many ways. 

{ 10 } Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.  From my original Goodreads review: "The book that changed my life. I was 14 when I read this book, and although I've since devoured many novels, this one remains in a special place in my heart, simply because of who I was when I read the book, the time in my life, and the utterly gorgeous, tragic story that V. C. Andrews chose to tell through her protagonists, the Dollanganger children."

Honorable mentionShatter Me | The Harry Potter series | The Second Sons trilogy | The Vampire Academy series

{ ++ } What about y'all?  What is YOUR Top Ten this week?  What do you think of mine?  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: New Girl by Paige Harbison

New Girl by Paige Harbison
Pages: 304
Expected publication: January 31, 2012 (HarlequinTeen)
Series or stand-alone: stand-alone
Source: Received via NetGalley
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Rating: Shrug-worthy
Find the author online: Website | Twitter

They call me 'New Girl'...

Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.

And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back

My Review

I was originally completely psyched to read Paige Harbison's novel, New Girl, touted as a modern-day nod to the classic novel, Rebecca.  I read and thoroughly enjoyed Rebecca when I was in high school - it was mysterious and creepy, and I just devoured it.  So when I got my hands on New Girl, I couldn't wait to start it; unfortunately, it quickly became clear that this was not the book I had expected.  Paige Harbison introduces us to dual narrators - the unnamed protagonist, and the vivacious, deeply disturbed Becca Normandy, the girl who has it all on the surface.  Told in the present day as our "new girl" arrives at the prestigious Manderlay Academy (a nod to the novel that inspired this book), and alternately, from Becca's point of view, we see both girls in various lights throughout the course of Paige's novel. 

Becca disappeared some months ago, and the chapters from her narrative, which are woven through New Girl introduce us to a girl who craves attention and love so fiercely that she'll do - and does - anything to get, and keep the spotlight.  At first, I had every intention of liking Becca, or at least feeling sorry for her.  It seemed clear she had to have been through something terrible, something that would explain her state, her almost innate ability to manipulate those around her; sadly, exactly what that was, was never aptly explained; instead, it seemed as if Becca simply was who she was.  And quickly,  I lost any sympathy for her.  She did seem very lost and broken underneath her facade, which became clearer as she moved from one boy to the next, faking a relationship and running away from the one that might have brought her real love, but to me, there was no pay-off there for following her maniacal point of view.  I was never sure if Paige Harbison intended for her to be sympathetic or just purely malicious.  

On the flip side, our other protagonist was grounded in reality.  I liked her immediately, and I felt for her, arriving at the academy where everyone was still either mourning Becca's disappearance, or insisting she was still alive and that the "new girl" would never be able to take her place.  It didn't seem to matter to the majority of the secondary characters that the heroine never gave any indication she wanted to do any such thing, and the repeated reminders that she was nothing like Becca - nowhere near as pretty, popular, amazing, etc etc became grating.  I felt terrible for the protagonist (yes, I 'm refraining from saying her name, since Paige Harbison doesn't give it away until the end) but there were so many times that I wanted her to stand up for herself.  The few times she did, I thought she should have handled herself and the situations differently, instead of giving the group what they wanted. 

The characterizations were severely lacking in New Girl.  Some characters, such as Max and Johnny had more depth, but even their full potential was never explored.  Max came across as sensible and caring one moment, and utterly conflicted and unable to make his own decisions the next.  It was clear to me that he wasn't over Becca, yet he continues to pursue an on-again off-again flirtation with the heroine, and succeeds in pushing her away several times.  (I kept wishing she'd slap him; instead, she was always there, waiting.)  Johnny confused me, too.  He seemed like a decent guy, but he never really did much to redeem himself for the poor choices he made.  And the girls.  Oh, my.  All the girls were cookie-cutter characters.  I lost track of how many parties this group of girls and guys threw; someone was always drunk, topless, or on pills of some sort.  I'm sure that Paige Harbison was trying to accurately capture the feeling of being a teenager, away from home, experimenting, but these characters were all so FLAT.  There was little to no depth, and a sense of immaturity woven throughout New Girl.  I was a bit uncomfortable with the fact that sex came up so often, as well as other sexual encounters, yet when it was mentioned, it was in a very juvenile manner.  The phrase "we did it," was tossed around, leaving me to wonder why Paige Harbison couldn't present the subject matter in a more tasteful manner - I'm not asking for more detail, since this is a YA novel, but there are other terms (ie. love making) that could have been used. 

There was a good sense of mystery to New Girl, and for me, the dual points of view were actually very fascinating, and, I thought, a wonderful plot device.  However, this book was NOT the Gothic read I was hoping for, and overall, it had too many flaws - weak characters, little-to-no growth over the course of the novel, and the fact that Becca's behavior was never satisfactorily explained.  New Girl ended on a good note, but it wasn't a strong conclusion for me, and after all the build-up, I felt like there was no sense of accomplishment or understanding.


In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  No money or compensation of any sort exchanged hands.   I review books with no intention of monetary gain; rather, I review books out of my love of reading.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Blue Sky Days by Marie Landry (@sweetmarie83)

Blue Sky Days by Marie Landry
Pages: 207
Published: January 17, 2012 (e-book format)  (orig published January 05 2012)
Series or stand-alone: Stand-alone
Rating: Swoon-worthy
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Smashwords
Find the author online: Twitter | Blog | Book Blog

A year after graduating from high school, nineteen-year-old Emma Ward feels lost. She has spent most of her life trying to please her frigid, miserable mother - studying hard, getting good grades, avoiding the whole teenage rebellion thing - and now she feels she has no identity beyond that. Because she spent so many years working hard and planning every moment of her life, she doesn't have any friends, has never had a boyfriend, and basically doesn't know who she is or what she really wants from life. Working two part-time jobs to save money for college hasn't helped her make decisions about her future, so she decides it's time for a change. She leaves home to live with her free-spirited, slightly eccentric Aunt Daisy in a small town that makes Emma feel like she's stepped back in time.

When Emma meets Nicholas Shaw, everything changes - he's unlike anyone she's ever met before, the kind of man she didn't even know existed in the 21st century. Carefree and spirited like Daisy, Nicholas teaches Emma to appreciate life, the beauty around her, and to just let go and live. Between Daisy and Nicholas, Emma feels like she belongs somewhere for the first time in her life, and realizes that you don't always need a plan - sometimes life steers you where you're meant to be.

Life is wonderful, an endless string of blue sky days, until Nicholas is diagnosed with cancer, and life changes once again for Emma in ways she never thought possible. Now it's time for her to help Nicholas the way he's helped her. Emma will have to use her new-found strength, and discover along the way if love really is enough to get you through.

My Review

I've been lucky in the last year or two, since I started reading new authors and genres, to absorb some amazing books, but none of them have touched me in the way that Blue Sky Days has.  From the prologue, I was captivated, and as Marie Landry's debut novel spun a web of self-discovery, longing, and growth around me, I fell deeply in love with the setting, the plot, and the characters, especially the heroine, Emma Ward.  Having graduated high school, but lacking the funds to venture on to college like the rest of her peers, Emma is stuck, watching her life pass her by.  She's spinning her wheels.  Emma was a character I identified with immediately.  Her home life was nothing like mine, but the desire to do more, to BE more, to change who she was, I've been there.  In so many ways, I connected with Emma, and I went on her journey with her. 

Emma was a loner, concentrating on her studies in high school, and although I had a few close, good friends, so was I.  I didn't go to a lot of parties, and I didn't date during high school.  I was too content to just be, to watch everyone else live instead of going out and living, myself.  It wasn't until I graduated that I started taking risks, branching out, and trying to get more involved in my own life, and so to see Emma struggling, at odds with who she was, was so poignant. I felt like Marie had peered back in time and revealed a glimpse of me, and probably, of many other young girls, confused, lost, not quite sure of who they were.  Watching Emma, with the help of her aunt, Daisy, Nicholas, and a few amazing friends learn to discover who she was, who she could be, brought tears to my eyes.  Her evolution as a character felt real and genuine, never forced or preachy.  And the family and friends who helped her along the way were wonderfully fleshed-out, from debonair and earnest Nicholas, pretty and loving Maggie, vivacious, encouraging Daisy, and supportive Vince.  They were such amazing foils to Emma's own mother, and I wanted to wrap my arms around them all.  Watching Emma change struck a nerve in me, reminding me of the years I spent finding out who - I - was.  

Also heart-warming was watching Emma fall in love with Nicholas.  Blue Sky Days is only 207 pages, but Marie Landry made every word, every scene and chapter, count.  I never felt like it was the dreaded insta-love with Emma and Nicholas.  Although they do move somewhat quickly, it also made sense.  Marie Landry perfectly captured the high of first love, those moments when the other person can make you smile, even when they are just a brush across your thoughts.  I was right there with Emma, falling in love for the first time, realizing it IS possible to care SO much about another person, realizing that someone can look at you, of all people, and see someone special.  For all the authors who write about love and romance, Marie got it absolutely right, pinpointing with subtle grace what, exactly, first love and in this case, real love, is.  Nicholas and Emma were heart-warming and their interaction brought me to tears more than once, seeing how much they cared for one another, through good times and through bad - that when it really mattered, when they were both terrified, they were still right there for each other. 

I also really admired the way Marie developed the relationships between Emma and the others in her life.  Her aunt, Daisy, was so full of life, that it was infectious in a good way, and it was easy to see how much she and Emma loved one another.  Daisy was such a good influence on Emma throughout Blue Sky Days, becoming Emma's rock, in some ways.  Maggie and Vince were amazing friends for Emma, who learned through them what friendship was about.  And Nicholas, who taught her so much about life - how to live it and how to love it - was so much more than a boyfriend.  But what I applaud the most is that Emma, although she learns from all of the secondary characters, and leans on all of them in hard times, never becomes TOO dependent on anyone other than herself.  She learns strength and she learns how to believe in herself, and even when faced with hard times, she never crumbles.  I was so proud of her! 

Blue Sky Days moves along nicely - pausing here and there to allow the reader time to fall deeper in love with the story being told - then picks up the pace, bringing me, literally, to the edge of my seat.  At one point, I was shaking, because I knew what was coming, then because I had to know what was next.  I shed tears of happiness, and tears of fear for the characters.  For a short novel, Blue Sky Days was brimming with emotion, and it never felt fake.  I've rarely come across a novel that clicked with me so powerfully; in some ways, I felt almost overwhelmed from how much I cared about the characters, especially Emma and Nicholas, by the end, but it was in a good way.  Marie Landry made me FEEL something for her characters, and when I read the last page, I felt like I was saying not goodbye, but "see you when I see you" to friends.  It's a rare gift, to be able to accomplish that over the course of a novel, but Marie did it.  I won't forget Emma, Nicholas, or Blue Sky Days anytime soon. 

Special Note from the Author:

Marie would like to thank the people who have supported her by showing her appreciation in some small way. So, for every person who buys a copy of Blue Sky Days during the tour and sends Marie proof of purchase via email to irishstar_83{at}hotmail{dot}com she will enter you into a giveaway to win a book of your choice up to $12 CAN from The Book Depository.  

Mini-Interview with Marie Landry 

{ 1 } Is there any one certain special memory or event you associate with writing Blue Sky Days?

Well, when I originally wrote Blue Sky Days, I was 20; I wrote it in a month, and remember being shocked that I wrote an entire book in that amount of time. When I brought the book back out seven years later in 2011, I was researching independent publishing, and constantly going back and forth, unsure if it was a good idea. The moment I knew I was going to take that leap of faith was a memorable one. I felt empowered, terrified, excited, and a million other emotions. All these months later, I still feel that mixture of emotion on an almost-daily basis.

I also have a few great memories that involve my Grama, who passed away in August. She was one of my biggest fans, and every time I visited her, she wanted to know what was happening with the book, how much longer until it was ready, when she could read it, etc. She never got to read the book, which kills me, but I finished the book cover and was able to show it to her in the hospital two days before she died. She was so happy and so proud of me, and I’ll never forget that.

{ 2 } What is one thing you learned about yourself as a writer, while writing Blue Sky Days?

I know it’s kind of cliché, but I learned that you can do anything if you believe in yourself. I had so many people tell me over the years how hard it was to become a professional writer, that I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up, or that I should find another career and do writing on the side. What they didn’t realize is that writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do. So, I busted my butt doing freelance writing for hardly any money, worked 8-12 hours a day, 7 days a week, overcame a lot of obstacles, and here I am. It took a lot of determination, focus, hard work, and a passion for writing…and, if I’m honest, a little bit of a stubborn streak in wanting to prove the naysayers wrong. ;-)

{ 3 } Who is your favorite character from
Blue Sky Days

That’s tough. I love them all for different reasons, and I became very attached to them. I guess my favorite character is Emma, though, because I poured so much of myself into her, and spent the most time with her. I really tried to get inside her head and feel what she would feel, and listen to what she had to say. I’m sure that sounds completely insane since she’s a fictional character, but I guess that’s why writers are known to be a little crazy and eccentric - our best friends are imaginary people!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - #20: Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

{ ++ }  This weekly event/feature is graciously hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine.  You know that feeling you get when you're browsing upcoming books on Goodreads or Amazon and one strikes your fancy?  Maybe you squee.  Maybe you giggle to yourself.  Maybe you bounce in your seat.  We all get excited (I do a combination of all three of the previous choices...) about new books, be it a favorite author you're familiar with, or someone whose work you'll be reading for the first time.  Jill's meme gives us the chance to spotlight what we are anxiously awaiting this week.

I'm Waiting On...

 It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past—and hers?

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis |  Goodreads
Expected publication: May 8th, 2012 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Why it's swoon-worthy: This one sounds SO SO cute, a total retelling of the Frog Prince, but the author has definitely added her own touch.  And oh, sweet cover, too! Update: HEE.  I just got an ARC of this one!  SO HAPPY.  Thanks to HMH! 

{ ++ } What are YOU waiting on this week?

Guest Who - #1: Mickey from I'm a Book Shark

{ ++ } Welcome to Guest Who, a new feature here at Once Upon a Prologue, for 2012.  I wanted to get to know my followers and fellow bloggers better, so this idea was born: a guest-post swap.  Each month, I'll feature someone new.  We will write either on the same topic, or one of our own choosing, and it'll give me a chance to see what y'all think about the chosen topic, and have loads of fun!  And of course, discussion is welcome, anytime.  

To get involved, send me a email at courageousgrace (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject "Guest Who."  : )

 The first Guest Who participant is the awesome Mickey from I'm a Book Shark.  If you don't follow her blog, you definitely should.  Mickey is enthusiastic and sweet, and her blog always has great content! So go check her out after you read her guest post and see her dream cast!  Have you read the books?  Do you agree with her dream cast?  See someone else in one of the roles?  Just want to share some love for Richelle Mead?  Hit us up in the comments!  

Note: the formatting gave me a headache.  I'm a work in progress, y'all.  ;)

Topic: Dream Cast a Book You Loved

If I had to create my dream cast of any book, I would definitely pick the perfect cast for Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead myself. This series is so full of emotion, and I just absolutely loved it. It’s been over a year since I started it, and it came to a conclusion this summer. It was definitely a great ending to a superb series. If you haven’t yet read it, please do check it out. If you have, maybe you’ll agree with some of choices for this awesome cast of major characters!!

 Georgina: Christina Hendricks.  She’s a hot redhead who could totally play Georgina’s character. Georgina is this honest, outgoing, fun but cautious woman with curves to die for, literally. I think Christina could do her justice.

Seth: Michael Vartan.  He can pull off the low-key author who’s obsessed with Georgina, no problem. He’s got the soft features and can be goofy if needed. Love him!

Carter: Alexander Skarrsgard.  He’s the perfect Carter because he can pull off the bummy looking hot angel. Oh yes. Picture him with a knitted cap on drinking wine from a box with a straw. There’s Carter!

 Roman: Clive Owen.  He’s my pick for Roman because he’s dark, brooding, good looking, but can be evil. Who wouldn’t fall for a guy who looks like this? 

Erik: Bill Cobb. Erik is an older black gentleman who helps Georgina out. This dude could definitely play a character like that! Definitely what Erik looked like for me in the books.

 Jerome: John Cusack.  If you’ve read the novels, you know that Jerome actually chooses to go through life on Earth looking exactly like John Cusack. Therefore, you can’t pick anyone else but the man himself!

{ ++ } I really enjoyed having Mickey on the blog.  I also wrote a guest post for her blog, which will go live today.  I couldn't decide on a book to dream cast, so  I wrote about my love for the blogging community.  If you'd like to be a part of Guest Who, please email me to let me know, or DM me on Twitter!