Monday, October 29, 2012

Our Top Halloween Reads 2012

This week, in honor of Halloween and #allhallowsread, we've chosen our favorite Halloween reads. Here's some information about All Hallow's Read, sponsored by Neil Gaiman.

If you want to give a young adult in your life (or anyone who love YA books) a fun Halloween read, check out some of these.

Lisa's Picks:

  1. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan - This book takes place in the not-too-distant future after the zombie apocalypse. The world is creepy, and yet well done. For more information, read my review.
  2. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake - This is a Great Halloween read. Just your average "boy meets girl. Girl kills people" story.  It reminded me a lot of the TV show, Supernatural, as well (which I love). Cas is a witty and engaging main character. The story is well-paced and fun, as it builds to a surprising blockbuster ending. I especially liked that it was set in Canada. 
  3. The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong - (part of The Darkest Powers Trilogy - it's all great) Is set in a creepy institution where "troubled teen" Chloe discovers she is really a Necromancer. This book has it all, creepy ghosts, werewolves. See Blair's review for more.
  4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Though probably written for a middle grade audience, this book has all sorts of great creepy and both YA and adult appeal.
  5. The Sandman - The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman - This series of classic comics is available as a graphic novel (somewhere). This was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman (of so many years ago) and I have been a huge fan ever since. An escaped nightmare, called simply "The Corinthian" made me sleep with the lights on.  

Blair's Picks:

  1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I love this story about a boy who grows up in a graveyard. LOVE IT. It's the sort of book I wish I could write. It has the bonus of appeal to both YA and middle grade.
  2. Mort, Reaper Man, Soul Music, Hogfather and Theif of Time, all from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett - Ha! I bet you thought that it would be the Tiffany Aching books, didn't you? She's witchy and YA. But no. If I had to pick a Halloween-y Discworld sub-series, it's the Death books. Why? Because how can you get more Halloween-y than Death? That' right, you can't. Plus, he's my favorite Discworld character of all time. Best Death ever. The characters Mort (Death's apprentice) and Susan Sto Helit (Death's granddaughter) give the books some YA appeal.
  3. Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts - Because zombies. Every Halloween countdown needs zombies. Okay, this book's creatures aren't really zombies, but they do come in apocalyptic, world-eating hordes.
  4. The Passage by Justin Cronin - More apocalyptic hordes. This one isn't technically YA, but neither is Stephen King, and a lot of teenagers read him. If you're one of those teens, give this vampire romp a try. It has the added bonus of no added sparkles.
  5. Coraline by Neil Gaiman - Apparently my weaknesses include spooky Neil Gaiman books that cross the line between middle grade and YA. This fantastically creeptactuar story about a girl who discovers another world behind a locked door is well worth the read, at any age.

Jessica's Picks:

  1. The Dark Tower Series - Stephen King - Hello. Stephen King the epidemy of fright.
  2. Running with the Demon (Book 1) - Terry Brooks - A fight between good and Evil and a teenager that must make the choice between the word and the void - what more could one want.
  3. A Knight of the Word (Book 2) - Terry Brooks - A little bit about voids, evil, fallen knights and a college girl who must still save everything (There is a third book too but Nest Freemark has transitioned from teen to adult.)
  4. Earthsea Trilogy - Ursula K. Le Guin - Magic, dragons, demons and the prices paid
  5. City of Beasts - Isabel Allende - although not technically scary in the sense of ghosts and ghouls it is about the destruction of things not understood.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Messenger (Mortal Beloved #1) Tour by Pamela DuMond

Parallel Words YA is delighted to participate in the The Messenger book tour, sponsored by AToMR tours! Check out the gorgeous cover and description. We can't wait to give it a read! There's even a giveaway at the bottom of the page.

Book Description: 

Infinity. Life. Death. Rebirth. Some souls are meant to be together, but pursuing true love can be dangerous and often deadly. When sixteen-year-old Madeline falls in love with Samuel, a boy who lives hundreds of years before she is even born, she will risk her very existence to be with him.

Madeline’s from present day Chicago when she is pushed onto the train tracks, and accidentally time travels to a bloody war between the Natives and the colonists. She falls in love with a Native boy, Samuel. But, she’s living in the body of a colonial girl and their romance is a crime that carries harsh punishments.

Madeline discovers that she is meant to be a Messenger, a traveler who if properly trained, can slip through time's fabric at will. The Medicine Woman mentors her. But Madeline doesn't fit in this world. She’s different from the other colonists. Rumors of witchcraft and spying arise. Deadly Hunters, dark-souled predators as well as skilled time travelers, crave Madeline's powers. Can Madeline find the way back to her future? And will that future include her one true love, Samuel?


A low-pitched droning penetrated my ears and rattled my bones. Being a city girl, I usually didn’t care about a little noise. Could be an el train whistling nearby outside my bedroom window, a bus chugging down the street, or a garbage truck picking up trash on any normal day. But it wasn’t any of those, ’cause this day definitely wasn’t normal.  
I tore through a thick wood, my breath ragged, as skinny tree branches whipped across my face and body. One slapped my forehead and something warm trickled into my eye. I wiped it away and saw that my hand was bloody. I should be used to that by now.  
But I flinched, and tried not to cry out in pain because he was hunting me. If he heard he would calculate how far away from him I was. Then he would know how quickly and easily he could catch me. And if he caught me, he would kill me.

But I didn’t want to die, yet. Not here, not now. I had to find a way to be with my Samuel.
I started running again but this time shielded my face with my arms. My feet kicked up some dirt as well as a few yellow and orange leaves blanketing the ground.

I fled past ancient pine trees with thick round trunks and branches covered with needles that towered over me like a canopy when I tripped on the hem of my skirt. I heard a loud rip as I fell toward the forest floor. My arms pin wheeled and momentum, possibly the only thing on my side right now, jerked me upright.  
I stopped for a few seconds to catch my breath. The droning had grown louder. Good. I was closer to that place where desire, action, a little bit of luck and magic would join forces. I’d find that moment to slip through time’s fabric, travel hundreds of years back to present day and warn or even save people. Especially my Samuel. 
Then I heard his voice, muffled, but close by. And his words chilled my soul. “Stop running, Messenger,” he said. “You cannot save him or yourself. You cannot save anybody.”  
I’m sixteen years old and cop to the fact that in terms of life wisdom, people think teenagers have been through next to nothing. But I’ve recently learned the hard way that I’m not your average teenager, and wisdom cannot be measured in birthdays.

Buy the book here:

Pamela Dumond's Facebook page:

Twitter:  Pamela DuMond  @CupcakesNovel

Giveaway - US

Giveaway - International

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out these other sites on the tour:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: A Strange Fire (A Florence Vaine Novel) L.H. Cosway


Flo has always had problems. Her stammer prevents her speech and her dad’s abuse makes her life a living hell. Not to mention she sees colours other people don’t. When her dad decides to ship her off to live with her grandma in the sleepy town of Chesterport, thinks that this is her chance for a better life. But on her very first day at her new school she is ridiculed and laughed at for having a stammer. One student sticks up for her and his name is Frank. Frank’s body is surrounded by an aura of fire, but Flo is the only one who can see it. He lives in a foster home for troubled teenagers. Flo is drawn to him because he’s different and so is she. Things are about to get scary, because Chesterport is not your ordinary suburban town. It’s infested by a coven of dark witches who prey on the young and the elderly. Soon Flo discovers that she’s next on their list of victims, and finds herself fighting a battle she never would have imagined possible.

My Review:

I think one of the things that I like most about reading, (especially a good book) is that they can suspend time; transport you to an entirely different place or event; evoke emotions in you and allow you to become apart of something different than your own existence. The only thing that I don't like is that when it is done I am back once again in my own reality and the pleasure that kept me so engrossed in the novel is now just a memory.

This book was like that. I got so lost in it that I was almost late for work and couldn't wait until work was done so that I could pick it up again. I thoroughly enjoyed the way L.H. Cosway brought the characters to life in a rich texture of suspense and intrigue. I'm a huge fan of the paranormal but haven't read a lot of romance novels feeling that the romance took away from the essence of the book. Here however, it enhanced it. It was a pleasant surprise that brought me back to my own youth and the emotions and entanglements that went with being a teen and as I put down the book I was almost saddened that I wasn't one still.

I would say that the only thing that wasn't so great for me was the portrayal of the main character Flo as an abused teen. I didn't think she got deep enough into the pain and trauma of how that would feel and the repercussions of that kind of abuse. Aside from getting Flo to Chesterport, it really didn't lend to the story. She could easily have made her background more of a mystery eluding to the fact that she had been abused, keeping the readers in a little more suspense about who and where she came from. Fortunately, it really only is talked about in the first couple of chapters and then only slight references made to it later on. So in the end, it didn't detract too much from the story.

I loved the book, I totally gobbled it up and read it in less than a day and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes paranormal romances.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Rated by: Jessica

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong (Darkest Powers #2)

Story Synopsis:

If you had met me a few weeks ago, you probably would have described me as an average teenage girl — someone normal. Now my life has changed forever and I’m as far away from normal as it gets. I’m a living science experiment — not only can I see ghosts, but I was genetically altered by a sinister organization call the Edison Group. What does that mean? For starters. I'm a teenage necromancer whose powers are out of control: I raise the dead without even trying. Trust me, that is not a power you want to have. Ever.

Now I’m running for my life with three of my supernatural friends - a chaming sorcerer, a cynical werewolf, and a disgruntled witch - and we have to find someone who can help us before the Edison Group finds us first. Or die trying. (from Goodreads)

My Review:

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed The Summoning, the first book in the Darkest Powers trilogy. I liked that book. A lot. On to the sequel, The Awakening. Guess what? I liked this one, too!

Armstrong once again delivers a story that's fun, quirky and filled with pulse-pounding suspense. The characters are just as interesting as before. A mega-bonus (from my point of view) is that Armstrong again devotes a couple of pages to pointing out how NOT to treat people with mental illness, and for that she gets my applause and virtual hugs.

The plot is not quite as gripping as the first book, and a lot of it involves getting the characters from Point A to Point B. That said, I can't really fault a book for focusing on moving the characters from one place to another, since my all-time favorite trilogy is Lord of the Rings, and that's about 70% walking, as one does not simply walk into Mordor. Some of the best stories out there are journey stories. But with The Awakening, I got the distinct feeling that the book's real job was to set me up for the third book. Part of this was because a lot of scenes followed a patten: Chloe is, intentionally of unintentionally, testing out her powers. Let's see what happens! Readers, take note.

Even with this business-time aspect, Armstrong still manages to create a fun, page-turning addition to her Darkest Powers trilogy. Next stop: The Reckoning.

Rating: 4 stars

Rated by: Blair

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Story Synopsis: 

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there's more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren't afraid of becoming the monster her father was.

Lisa's Review:

Kristin Cashore's ability to weave a world, filled with unique and interesting characters always makes her stories worth reading. I enjoyed Graceling, the previous story written in this world, and I truly enjoyed Fire, but not in the way I expected. Cashore has a way of pulling you into her world so that the story and its characters stay with you. However, while I enjoyed this story and found it compelling, I am not convinced it should really be categorized as Young Adult. This book is fantasy, pure and simple. Truly enjoyable fantasy. Not really YA.

Before you get mad at me for saying this, please hear me out. It's not that the these books were overly complex or that anything addressed in these books wasn't suitable for young adult (or even some middle grade) readers. It's about the Young Adult fiction category itself. I still believe the story to be very good.
Young Adult fiction is usually characterized as follows:
  • First person narrative: Generally, young adult fiction is written in first person and Fire is written in third. There are always exceptions: the later Harry Potter books (though the series started as middle grade) as well as The Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series come to mind.
  • Protagonist is high-school aged: The idea behind YA versus regular fiction or even the upcoming "New Adult" category is that the main character in YA fiction is experiencing things that relate to being that age in some way. I've even heard that stories set the summer after graduation no longer qualify the story for Young Adult. While Fire is seventeen at the start of the book, she is treated like an adult woman in all aspects.
  • Story takes place over a short time frame: The idea is that the stories are faster paced and events take place closer to real time than adult books. However, Fire takes place over the period of a year or more, with many major events happening.
  • Written in scenes, more than summaries: This gives a sense of immediacy to the story. Most YA fiction is written in scenes where characters interact. Fire is not written in as many scenes, so there's less immediacy to some of the events, giving the story more of an 'adult' pace or feel.
In fact, the only thing making this story young adult is the fact that Fire is seventeen when the book begins (18 when it ends) and that any sex scenes are written in a completely fade-to-black kind of way. Otherwise, her publishers and promoters have stretched the genre to bring a good story to young readers.

This book is a strong work of fantasy and could just as easily thrive on the adult shelves. Marketing it as YA, however, made this book, and Graceling, truly stand out, and made it available to readers of all ages. It's an argument in favor of adults reading fiction that's classified as "Young Adult".

While I truly enjoyed the book, I can't help but feel a little manipulated when good stories are cut to fit a YA genre simply because it's a "hot" genre. While it's true that there are always exceptions to any rule, sometimes the exceptions outnumber the rules.

If we based a book's YA status on the age of the characters alone, Game of Thrones could be added to the YA shelves because there's a few young characters in there. Just sayin'.

Blair's Review:

I think Lisa covered this pretty well so I won't add much, except to say that I agree. I enjoyed reading this book, but it didn't feel YA. As for the reasons why, I didn't have as many as Lisa - she knows a lot more about the rules and trends of YA than I do. For me, it was Fire's age that made the difference. She could have been 20-something and it would have been the exact same book.

That said, I really liked the book. What I love about Kristin Cashore's writing is that her made-up world is so detailed that it feels real. At no point does the world feel like it exists solely as a setting for the story; it bursts with a life of its own. I can imagine all sorts of stories taking place behind the scenes. Cashore opens the door to the world and invites us in, and I'm more than happy to enter. (And it's got a map. I love books with maps. Maps are like invitations. Dear Reader, please enter this fantasy realm. A map is provided for your enjoyment and convenience.)

Similar to Graceling, the pacing is a bit uneven. There's a reveal about 2/3 through the book which feels artificial - Fire knew this detail which is critical to her character, and we're in her head, so why didn't we know it too? The "A ha!" moment felt tacked on for effect. And there's the whole it-doesn't-feel-like-YA-thing. It feels like its been jammed into the YA mold.

Well-developed characters and a rich world make this book worth reading. But it should be marketed to adults as well. I'm sure there are adults out there who would enjoy this book, but won't come across it because its only on the YA shelves. That's kind of a shame.

Our Ratings:

Lisa's Rating: 3.5 or 4 stars
Blair's Rating: 4 stars