Aug 31, 2011

"Back to the Books" Giveaway Hop!

This giveaway hop is hosted by the aweomse people from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Buried In Books. It will run from Sept. 1 - Sept. 7, 2011 (yes, I'm posting a little early). I'll choose the winner on Sept. 8, 2011.
The Prize:

You can win a book of your choice, up to $10 USD from:

if you live in the US,

if you live outside the US! That means this giveaway is international as long as The Book Depository ships free to you. Not sure? Check this list HERE.

The Rules:

1. Must be a public GFC follower (I will be checking!)
2. Have a valid address
3. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email announcing their win. After that, I will select another winner.

Bonus entries:
     +3 for replying to any of my reviews
     +2 tweet about this contest (must provide the link & include my handle: @irish_banana)

Make sure you enter my giveaway for a copy of Sara Shepard's The Lying Game!

Waiting on Wednesday (10)

"Waiting On"  Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking  the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
This week I'm waiting on....
The Mephisto Covenant
by Trinity Faegan
Here's the Goodreads blurb:
Sasha is desperate to find out who murdered her father. When getting the answer means pledging her soul to Eryx, she unlocks a secret that puts her in grave danger—Sasha is Anabo, a daughter of Eve, and Eryx’s biggest threat.

A son of Hell, immortal, and bound to Earth forever, Jax looks for redemption in the Mephisto Covenant—God’s promise he will find peace in the love of an Anabo. After a thousand years, he’s finally found the girl he’s been searching for: Sasha.

With the threat of Eryx looming, Jax has to keep Sasha safe and win her over. But can he? Will Sasha love him and give up her mortal life?
Why I need to read this one:

I adore the hint of anything smacking of mythology. As if the cover wasn't enough to entice me, the summary makes me want it NOW. Plus, it has the promise of a truly epic love story.
The Mephisto Covenant will be released 9.27.2011 by EgmontUSA

Aug 29, 2011

Review: Lie by Caroline Bock

Title: Lie
Author: Catherine Bock
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: 8.30.2011
Pages: 224
Genre: Contemporary
Series: No
Source: Finished copy provided by publisher

Rating: A-

Summary (from Goodreads):
Everybody knows, nobody’s talking. . . .
Seventeen-year-old Skylar Thompson is being questioned by the police. Her boyfriend, Jimmy, stands accused of brutally assaulting two young El Salvadoran immigrants from a neighboring town, and she’s the prime witness. Skylar is keeping quiet about what she’s seen, but how long can she keep it up?
But Jimmy was her savior
. . . .
When her mother died, he was the only person who made her feel safe, protected from the world. But when she begins to appreciate the enormity of what has happened, especially when Carlos Cortez, one of the victims, steps up to demand justice, she starts to have second thoughts about protecting Jimmy. Jimmy’s accomplice, Sean, is facing his own moral quandary. He’s out on bail and has been offered a plea in exchange for testifying against Jimmy.
The truth must be told. . . .

Sean must decide whether or not to turn on his friend in order to save himself. But most important, both he and Skylar need to figure out why they would follow someone like Jimmy in the first place.

Whatever preconceived ideas I had about this novels were consummately shattered upon reading five chapters in. I went into this thinking it would be an angst-ridden, emotional tale of one girl’s struggle to balance right and wrong. Perhaps the most valuable lesson Caroline Bock taught me is that there is no simple answer, and one story can have many sides.

Lie is, in fact, told by ten different people. Each person gives their own take on what happened the night Jimmy and Sean attacked two El Salvadoran boys simply because those boys were Hispanic. While it might seem that so many voices telling the tale could get muddled or jumbled, Bock does a surprisingly good job at keeping them separate. Instead of confusion, each person adds a new layer and dimension that brings focus to the story.

The only drawback to this is that I felt I couldn’t really establish a strong connection to any of the characters. Skylar is the most prevalent narrator, but the entire novel is told in such a fragmented and fractured way that I couldn’t really nail her character down and bond with her. On the flip side, the bonus to this method is that it kept me from making any assumptions or judgments.

There’s no denying the tragic nature of this book. Unfortunately this book is rife with real world truths and beliefs that plague our society as a whole. Bock is careful not to press her own beliefs onto the reader, which is commendable. Lie could have easily served as a soapbox platform for her, but she kept it objective. I don’t know that I could have done the same. She was able to explain hatred and bigotry in a way that didn’t make me immediately repulsed. I could actually understand. That, my friends, is the power of a gifted writer.

Buy:  Amazon

Aug 28, 2011

In My Mailbox (9)

Hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren, this is a great way to share the reads I got this week by purchasing, trading/swapping, or for review. All links lead to Goodreads. Since I haven't posted one in a bit, this covers the last couple weeks.

Eyes in the Mirror by Jilia Mayer
Lie by Caroline Bock
Last Breath by Rachel Caine  (Read my review HERE)

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Elixir by Hilary Duff
Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay (Thanks to Tara @ Taming the Bookshelf)

Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire, St. Martin's Griffin, and Rex Robot Reviews for the review copies!

Review: Last Breath by Rachel Caine

Title: Last Breath
Author: Rachel Caine
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: 11.1.2011
Pages: 352
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Yes (Morganville Vampires #11)
Source: ARC tour from Rex Robot Reviews

Rating: A

Summary (from Goodreads):
With her boss preoccupied researching the Founder Houses in Morganville, student Claire Danvers is left to her own devices when she learns that three vampires have vanished without a trace. She soon discovers that the last person seen with one of the missing vampires is someone new to town—a mysterious individual named Magnus. After an uneasy encounter with Morganville's latest resident, Claire is certain Magnus isn't merely human. But is he a vampire—or something else entirely?

I’m honestly scrambling to find something other than “I FREAKING LOVED IT” to post right now, but I’m coming up somewhat empty. Rachel Caine’s 11th book in the Morganville Vampire series is everything a fangirl could dream of. Last Breath was filled with drama, romance, action, mystery, and a lot of suspense.

After eleven books, you pretty much know what you’re getting into with these books … or so I thought. Caine again kept me on my toes by showing us not only Claire’s point of view, but also Eve and Amelie. While I found Eve’s scenes all right, it was the insight into Amelie’s head that I simply adored. It was great to hear her inner monologue as she worked things out. She is a character I never quite know where to stand with, and now I feel like I know (and love) her a little bit more.

When this series debuted, I thought Caine was a genius. She gave a whole new spin on vampires and vampire lore that I hadn’t encountered yet. That her characters were loveable and multi-dimensional was an added bonus. In this book she adds another layer to the vampire legend and why Morganville itself was created in the middle of the desert. I was always curious as to why vampires chose to live under the hot, Texas sky and this explains it marvelously.

This book is a fun ride all the way around. I cracked it open as soon as I tore it out of the envelope in the mail and didn’t stop until I was done four hours later. Yes, it’s that good. Fans of the Morganville Vampire series will love this book. If you haven’t picked up any of these books, run (don’t walk) to your nearest bookstore. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Aug 24, 2011

Review: Never Have I Ever by Sara Shepard

Title: Never Have I Ever
Author: Sara Shepard
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date:
Pages: 309
Genre: Contemporary; Mystery
Series: Yes (The Lying Game #2)
Source: E-book

Rating: A

Summary (from Goodreads):
My perfect life was a lie.

Now I’d do anything to uncover the truth.

Not long ago, I had everything a girl could wish for: amazing friends, an adorable boyfriend, a loving family. But none of them know that I’m gone—that I’m dead. To solve my murder, my long-lost twin sister, Emma, has taken my place. She sleeps in my room, wears my clothes, and calls my parents Mom and Dad.

And my killer is watching her every move.

I remember little from my life, just flashes and flickers, so all I can do is follow along as Emma tries to solve the mystery of my disappearance. But the deeper she digs, the more suspects she uncovers. It turns out my friends and I played a lot of games—games that ruined people’s lives. Anyone could want revenge . . . anyone could want me—and now Emma—dead.

I read The Lying Game when it came out last year, my first Sara Shepard book. I thought it was cute, fun, summer-y fluff with a unique plot. I’m not sure if I simply have a different frame of mind this time around, but while book one was fun, I found Never Have I Ever to be addicting. I could not put this book down!

While it still has the catchy, summer vibe that I enjoyed in book one, Never Have I Ever takes it to the next level. It explores the dynamic between the lying game group, and makes deeper connections between the friends. Anyone I considered a suspect in Sutton’s murder was systematically refuted as the killer, which frustrated me in the best way possible. I love the mystery surrounding these books.

I know there’s now a renewed interest in this series because of the TV series on ABC. I’ve watched the first few episodes of The Lying Game and while it is great, it doesn’t hold a candle to the books. I adore the romance of Emma and Ethan in the books, versus how it is being set up on the TV show. There’s something more visceral and emotional about their connection in the novels that is lost on the show. And after all, aren’t books always better than anything TV or movies can create?

Aug 23, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (6)

Teaser Tuesday is weekly meme hosted by Mizb at Should be Reading 
Grab your current read 
Open to a random page 
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
This week I am reading:
Lie by Caroline Bock
" 'Everybody knows, nobody's talking,' I whisper into my cell phone even though I'm alone. 'That's our mantra.' "pg. 20

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Everybody knows, nobody’s talking. . . .

Seventeen-year-old Skylar Thompson is being questioned by the police. Her boyfriend, Jimmy, stands accused of brutally assaulting two young El Salvadoran immigrants from a neighboring town, and she’s the prime witness. Skylar is keeping quiet about what she’s seen, but how long can she keep it up? 

But Jimmy was her savior. . . .

When her mother died, he was the only person who made her feel safe, protected from the world. But when she begins to appreciate the enormity of what has happened, especially when Carlos Cortez, one of the victims, steps up to demand justice, she starts to have second thoughts about protecting Jimmy. Jimmy’s accomplice, Sean, is facing his own moral quandary. He’s out on bail and has been offered a plea in exchange for testifying against Jimmy.

The truth must be told. . . .

Sean must decide whether or not to turn on his friend in order to save himself. But most important, both he and Skylar need to figure out why they would follow someone like Jimmy in the first place.

Publication date: 8.30.2011

Aug 21, 2011

Review: But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

Title: But I Love Him
Author: Amanda Grace
Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: 5.8.2011
Pages: 245
Genre: Contemporary
Series: No
Copy: Bought from

Rating: A

Summary (from Goodreads):
At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved — and needed. Ann can't recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor's rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything — and everyone — in its path.

This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.

For such a small book, this one packs one heck of a punch. I was a bit disappointed to see how thin this book was, but the more I read, the more I appreciated its brevity. This wasn’t a story that needed all the gory details drug out across several chapters. The way Amanda Grace (or Mandy Hubbard) tells this story is breathtaking and spellbinding.

In case you aren’t aware, this story is told backwards, with only a few brief interludes into the present time. It begins in the present with Ann laying amongst broken glass and her own smashed psyche. Instead of building up to the moment everything goes to hell, Grace instead walks us back through the steps of the relationship. It’s an ingenious way to keep the reader from forming any assumptions and conclusions. It’s so easy to go into a novel like this already villainizing the abuser.

I’ve read other domestic abuse stories that didn’t feel nearly as visceral as this one did. Grace does a phenomenal job of portraying the abuser, Connor. Few authors I feel dig deep enough to try and understand why someone turns to abuse. I especially loved that even while Connor grew up with abuse, he hated it. And yet, he seemed almost powerless to break the cycle. It’s such a damning trap that toy many people fall into. Every time Connor lashed out at Ann, he was repentant, usually almost immediately. I was honestly confused: Was Connor genuinely sorry? Or was he simply manipulating Ann to coerce her into staying? I think that’s the point—abuse isn’t black and white. While it’s wrong all the way around, there are other variables at play. Connor was just as broken and messed up as Ann.

Books like these are a rarity. They need to be read and passed along, especially to the younger generation. I would have no problem handing this book to my 13 or 14 year old cousin to read. Yes, this book has some adult subject matter, but it’s imperative that kids start understanding and recognizing the signs of abuse. Not only is this a powerful story, but it’s informative. I could easily see this book becoming required reading in high schools and/or middle schools in a few years.

Aug 19, 2011

Follow Friday (2)

Q. If you could write yourself a part in a book, what book would it be and what role would you play in that book?

I'm sure this will be a popular answer, but I would either want to be one of the Nightshade wolves or a Guardian in the Vampire Academy series.

I am completely enamored with both series, and if I'm going to play any part it'll have to have a supernatural edge to it. I love both shifters (how cool would it be to become another species for a little while?!) and the Guardians (because that would be seriously kick ass).

But, for an old school answer? I'm still on a bit of a Sweet Valley High kick. And I'd totally steal Ken Matthews for myself. Just sayin'.

TGIF (2)

TGIF @ GReads is a great way to meet new bloggers. Feel free to leave me a comment and I'll be sure to pop over to your blog and follow you back!

This Friday's Question:

The Reviews We Don't Write: 
Have you ever read a book and not wanted to review it? Are some books too personal that we want to keep our thoughts our own? 

I don't know about them being too personal, because if I can truly connect with a book on an emotion level, then I simply must tell the world about it. The best book is one that can evoke a physical reaction - laughing out loud, crying, throwing the book, etc. I go into every read praying this book is next book that will make me feel.

There are, however, books I hesitate to review. This is typically because I cannot connect with them or flat out don't like them. I recognize the hard work that goes into each and every book, which is why I hate to give a negative review. I know I am essentially saying I don't appreciate the years of sweat and tears someone poured into this work, and that just makes me feel bad.

For example, I am currently reading a book (no, I won't tell you which one as I read several at a time) that feels like a wicked hangover. Ever gone out, gotten wasted, and then woke up the next morning not sure how you got into your own bed? That's this book. I'm pretty sure there's a good time somewhere in it, but there are so many jumps and holes in the story, I can't get a clear picture. It's jumbled and confusing and I'm only praying it gets better.

Aug 18, 2011

Review: Dark Parties by Sara Grant

Title: Dark Parties
Author: Sara Grant
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 8.3.2011
Pages: 320
Genre: Dystopian
Series: No
Copy: Finished copy sent from publisher for review

Rating: B

Summary (from Goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says...

Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most.

I found myself in a bit of a quandary at the end of this book. I found that while I love Sara Grant’s world, I wasn’t all that crazy about her main character, Neva. That doesn’t usually happen to me—typically if I dislike the lead, I can’t get into the book, but there’s something about Dark Parties that just attracted me, even if Neva fell short.

I found Neva to be annoying at times, sometimes to the point I had to put the novel down and take a break so I didn’t slap the girl myself. There was something about here that just set me on edge and kept me from connecting fully with her. It wasn’t one big character flaw, but a few different things she did (or how she reacted to a situation) that bothered me.

Despite my own feelings for Neva, I can’t help but applaud Grant for creating such an intense world. Dystopians are such a tricky genre—a new world must be created with new ideals, beliefs, cities, and groups of people. But at the same time, that world has to be on the scale of believable or it simply becomes fantasy. Grant’s Protectosphere was very well done. I would have a liked a bit more detail, but I think that would have hindered in the fast-paced ride she put me on. Sometimes it’s better to leave a bit to the imagination to keep the momentum of the story.

I’ve read several other reviews for Dark Parties, ranging from glowing to glowering, and here’s what I have to say: If you love dystopians you have absolutely nothing to lose by grabbing this book. Sara Grant is a gifted storyteller, and I think you’ll genuinely enjoy this novel.

Aug 17, 2011

Giveaway: "The Lying Game" by Sara Shepard

In honor of ABC Family's "The Lying Game" premiere, based on the series by Sara Shepard, I am giving away one hardback, first edition copy of the book that started it all!

August 17 - September 3, 2011

1. Must be a GFC follower of The Irish Banana Review
2. Must live in the US/CA and have a valid address (no P.O. Boxes)
3. Must be over 13
4. I will email the winner (so make sure your email address is valid) and they will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected.
5. Have fun!

Extra Entries:
1. Follow me on Twitter:
@irish_banana  ~ +1 Entry
2. Friend me on Goodreads:
Hannah        ~ +1 Entry
3. Tweet/Blog about this giveaway            ~ +3 Entries
4. Reply to any of my reviews                     ~ +5 Entries (Reply to as many as you want!)

Waiting on Wednesday (9)

"Waiting On"  Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking  the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
This week I'm waiting on....
by Brodi Ashton
Here's the Goodreads blurb:
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...
Why I need to read this one:

You mean other than that stunning cover? (Yes, I'm shallow and occasionally judge a book by its cover.) There's something that is darkly seductive about this book. And I love a good love triangle when done right. This book is totally up my alley.
Everneath will be released 1.3.2011 by HarperCollins / Balzer + Bray

Aug 16, 2011

Review: Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

Title: Wolfsbane
Author: Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Philomel
Publication Date: 7.26.2011
Pages: 390
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Yes (Nightshade #2)
Copy: Bought from

Rating: A

Summary (from Goodreads):
When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer—one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack—and the man—she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.

If Andrea Cremer goes missing, the first place you should check is my basement because I’m probably holding her hostage, forcing her to write more stories for me to read. OK, in all seriousness? This book is epic-fantastic, and that’s coming from a Ren-girl (and we all know he got kinda shafted on the page-time in this book).

Cremer’s world of witches, wolves, and magic is just plain addictive. It’s sexy and smart and sophisticated—all a reader can want in a book. I love getting lost in these pages. Her characters are strong and well-developed, and the plotline kept me guessing over and over. Just when I thought I might have sort of figured it out, I was totally wrong. I love being surprised like that.

The back story between the Keepers, Guardians, and Searchers is really explored here, and I thoroughly enjoyed finding out more of their history. There’s something deeply satisfying about reading a well-thought out story.

While, yes, I was vaguely disappointed about the lack of Ren (until I read the first chapter of Bloodrose), I could read about Calla all day. She is one of my top five favorite fictional female heroines. I love her strength and vulnerability, and the way they are seamlessly balanced in this book. I love the ensemble scenes with the pack. Nightshade made me love each and every pack mate, flaws and all, and Wolfsbane on reaffirmed that devotion.

Fans of Nightshade will adore this book. Instead of an even-keel sequel, Cremer ups the ante and raises the stakes every chance she gets. It’s heart-pounding, stay up all night kind of reading. These are the kinds books that book lovers crave.

Top Ten Tuesday (1)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by 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!

This week is a freebie, so I can make my own list. I've decided on:

Top 10 Releases I'm Excited
About This Fall

1. Eve by Anna Carey I've been desperate to read this book for months now. This is the first in a trilogy of a new dystopian series. It's being released by HarperTeen October 4, 2011.

2. Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon The Irish girl in me (have you seen my blog name?) has me craving this one. I'm hearing lots of positive buzz around it. It will be released by HarperTeen October 4, 2011.

3. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson This YA fantasy by a debut author is right up my alley. I love that the heroine isn't your typical, drop-dead gorgeous girl. It's coming out Sept. 20, 2011 from Greenwillow.

4. Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan I've never been a fan of space odysseys until I got my hands on Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Now I'm hooked, and cannot WAIT for this one. This comes out Sept. 27, 2011 from St. Martin's Griffin.

5. Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout I've alread read this book (see my review HERE), but it simply had to be added to the books I'm most excited about this fall. This will be released by Spencer Hill Press on Oct. 18, 2011.

6. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin Visit any YA blog and you're bound to see a post devoted to this new debut. It's blowing up the blogosphere. I can't wait to get my hands on Sept. 27, 2011 (Simon & Schuster).

7. The Pledge by Kimberly Derting Kimberly Derting can do no wrong in my book. Her Body Finder series are some of the best things I have ever read, and I have no reason to suspect her foray into the dystopian world will prove any less addictive. This comes out Nov. 15, 2011 from Margaret K. McElderry.

8. Shut Out by Kody Keplinger Heard of a little book called The D.U.F.F.? No? Where the heck have you been? Kody Keplinger has this incredible way of writing that completely sucks you in. I've already pre-ordered this one. This comes out Sept. 5, 2011 from Poppy.

9. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins Can we all just agree that Anna and the French Kiss was hands-down the most romantic book of 2010? I expect nothing less than awesomeness when I delved into this book on Sept. 29, 2011 (Dutton).

10. Illuminated by Erica Orloff Forbidden romances are my thing. They drive me insane, but I love them. That's what has me so excited about this one, due out Dec. 8, 2011 from Speak.