Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Publication Date/Version: December 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 546
Age Group: 12 and up
Received From: ReaderViews

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

First off, let me just say "wow." This book was truly a great work of literature, and it's sure to be a huge hit. I think the universe has an unspoken law that any book this large has to be good - otherwise, it's just a waste of paper. ;) And this was definitely not a waste of paper!

Beautiful Creatures had it all: mystery, suspense, some serious romance, and plenty of twists. All the makings of a perfect story. I was drawn in from the very beginning, and although a darker tale, Ethan's sarcasm had me laughing all the way through. Each character had a great story, and each was well-developed. Characterization was a large part of this book.

The storyline itself was simply amazing. The rich setting added tons to the complex plot. There was always a new twist to comprehend, and I felt as though I was there with the characters. The pacing was spot on; never did I have to put the book down because of slow points. The story came to life with wonderful details, and overall, the book had a great voice to it.

Normally, I'm not a fan of male protagonists, but Ethan was awesome. He was so easy to connect with, and you'll root for him the entire time as he searches for a cure to Lena's dark curse. His attraction to Lena was adorable, and their romance had me swooning. I couldn't get enough of them. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl have created an absolutely wonderful book that is bound to be incredibly popular. And by the looks of it, there's definitely a sequel!

Overall: Beautiful Creatures weaves a complex story filled with darkness, hope, first love, and endless emotions. Truly original.

My Advice: Preorder this! You won't regret it.

The Cover: I would have liked to see something a bit brighter, maybe Lena's eyes. The writing is very pretty, however, and I like the slight sparkle it has.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

In My Mailbox (11)

IMM is a weekly meme that explores the contents of one's mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi at The Story Siren. Sorry I haven't been around in so long everyone! School's keeping me busy, and my internet's been down.

Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman
(HC/August 2009/Delacorte Press)

Andromeda Klein has a few problems.

Her hair is kind of horrible.

Her partner-in-occultism, Daisy, is dead.

Her secret, estranged, much older, and forbidden boyfriend-in-theory has gone AWOl.

And her mother has learned how to text.

In short, things couldn't get much worse. Until they do. Daisy seems to be attempting to make contact from beyond, books are starting to disappear from the library, and strangely and suddenly, Andromeda's tarot readings have begun to predict events with bizarrely literal accuracy.

Omens are everywhere. Dreams; swords; fires; hidden cards; lost, broken, and dead cell phones... and what is Daisy trying to tell her?

In the ensuing struggle of neutral versus evil, it's Andromeda Klein against the world, modern society, demonic forces, and the "Friends" of the Library.

I received this from the publisher in order to write a review for Teens Read Too. They also sent along a postcard and a cool CD that has four songs on it, three from King Dork and one from Andromeda Klein, as well as a Q&A session with Frank Portman and a sneak peak at Going Bovine.

I got some other really great things as well this week. I recently won a contest for a a prize pack of James Patterson books. I came home to a nice big box filled with:

Maximum Ride: Max, Angel Experiment, School's Out - Forever, Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, The Final Warning, Manga
The Dangerous Days of Daniel X
Daniel X: Watch the Skies

I also received The Book of Luke and Lips Touch from Paperback Swap. Oh, and Simon & Schuster sent me another Hush, Hush poster for some reason.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

In My Mailbox (10)

IMM is a weekly meme that explores the contents of one's mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi at The Story Siren.

Million-Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica
(ARC/November 2009/Philomel Books)

What would you do with a million dollars, if you were thirteen?

Nate Brodie is nicknamed "Brady" not only for his arm, but also because he's the biggest Tom Brady fan. He's even saved up to buy an autographed football. And when he does, he wins the chance for something he's never dreamed of—to throw a pass through a target at a Patriots game for one million dollars.

Nate should be excited. But things have been tough lately. His dad lost his job and his family is losing their home. It's no secret that a million dollars would go a long way. So all Nate feels is pressure, and just when he needs it most, his golden arm begins to fail him. Even worse, his best friend Abby is going blind, slowly losing her ability to do the one thing she loves most—paint. Yet Abby never complains, and she is Nate's inspiration. He knows she'll be there when he makes the throw of a lifetime.

I don't normally read books about sports, especially ones with male protagonists, but this sounds especially moving. Thanks to Penguin for sending me an ARC.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
(HC/November 2009/Simon & Schuster)

Nora Grey is responsible and smart and not inclined to be reckless. Her first mistake was falling for Patch. Patch has a past that could be called anything but harmless. The best thing he ever did was fall for Nora.

After getting paired with Patch in biology, all Nora wants to do is stay away from him, but he always seems to be two steps ahead of her. She can feel his eyes on her even when he is nowhere around. She feels him nearby even when she is alone in her bedroom. And when her attraction can be denied no longer, she learns the secret about who Patch is and what led him to her. Despite all the questions she has about his past, in the end, there may be only one question they can ask each other: How far are you willing to fall?

I opened my mailbox to find a package containing a finished, signed hardcover of Hush, Hush. There were also three limited edition posters! Becca, along with her marketing manager, sent out these lovely presents as thanks for spreading the word about her book. Thank you so much!! You can see my review of Hush, Hush here.

I also received a Secret Society Ankh tattoo that I won from La Femme Readers. Thanks Eleni!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Random Magic Tour

Hey there! There's an up and coming tour of Random Magic by Sasha Soren, an incredibly nice and dedicated author. I get the chance to take place in this lovely tour and to help promote what seems to be a magical new book. I'm excited to read Random Magic! Here's a tour schedule - maybe you'll find a new blog to follow!

Random Magic Tour
Oct. 17 - Nov. 25, 2009
Author site: Sasha Soren
Main blog host: The Other Shelf
Contact the tour: @RM_TheCoven

1/Oct. 15
[Tour prep]

2/Oct. 17
3/Oct. 18

6/Oct. 24

6b/Oct. 25
Alt: The Other Shelf (Tour site)

7/Oct. 26
Trisha Lynn

7b/Oct. 27

8/Oct. 28

9/Oct. 29
10/Oct. 30

11/Oct. 31 (Halloween)

12/Nov. 2

13/Nov. 3

14/Nov. 4

Charity Lynn

15/Nov. 10

17/Nov. 12

18/Nov. 13
Willow Raven

19/Nov. 15

20/Nov. 17

21/Nov. 18

22/Nov. 20

23/Nov. 21

24/Nov. 23

Elizabeth (Miss Eliza)

25/Nov. 25

Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket by Hazel Allan

Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket by Hazel Allan
Publication Date/Version: August 2009/Paperback
Publisher: Strident Publishing
Pages: 348
Age Group: Middle school and up

Twelve-year-old Bree McCready has a mission: she has just one night to save the world!

It starts when a clue inscribed on a Half-Heart Locket leads Bree and her best friends Sandy and Honey to an ancient magical book. With it they can freeze time, fly and shrink to the size of ants.

But they soon discover the book has a long history of destruction and death. And it's being sought by the monstrous Thalofedril, who will stop at nothing to get it.

Using its incredible powers, he could turn the world into a wasteland.

Bree, Sandy and Honey go on the run - hurtling off city rooftops, down neck-breaking ravines, and through night-black underground tunnels - to keep the book out of his lethal hands. Little do they know that the greatest danger of all lies ahead, in the heart of his deadly lair...

Can Bree find the courage to face this terrifying evil, and to confront the secrets of her tragic past?

Bree will always hold a special place in my heart, simply because it was the first book ever offered to me for review by the author herself. Hazel, by the way, is a sweetheart. Now, onto the book.

Good friends, action, and thrills, oh my! Bree had all of it. The mystery of the Half-Heart Locket starts out quickly, within the first chapter, and the pace never slows down from there. Bree is easy to relate to, and her best friend Sandy is just as quirky. Then along comes Honey, the girl with the looks, but none of the attitude. It was refreshing to see the pretty girl turn out to be the nice girl, as well.

I really enjoyed Bree, seeing how I love a good mystery with plenty of tasks to complete. This book had just that. It took a little to get used to the different grammar and slang, but it was fun! The entire book was about the three friends' quest to keep Thalofedril, who is incredibly creepy, away from the magical book. Their journey is fast paced and the idea of seven wishes really keeps the book moving. It was interesting to see how the friends reacted to each new wish they were given. At times I wished I could be in their places, just to experience the crazy adrenaline rush.

One thing I wished we could have seen more of was character development. I would've enjoyed learning more about Sandy and Honey, especially Honey. They both had such interesting families, and I would've liked to known more about their pasts. Hopefully, we'll get some new information in the sequel.

Bree is targeted for a younger audience, and I believe that's clear in the lack of any bad morals. All ages could enjoy this, however - I know I did. It was nice to read a book that wasn't filled with cussing, desire, or drinking. Bree is a perfectly good book without all of that, and is therefore accessible to all readers.

Overall: Although targeted for a younger audience, I found Bree to be incredibly enjoyable and filled with fast paced action and ideal friends.

My Advice: This book is currently being published in the UK, but is still available for order from Amazon. Definitely pick up a copy of this! You won't want to miss this, and all ages will be able to enjoy it.

Cover: I really like the title, with its cool font and color. The characters are portrayed perfectly, right down to Honey's multi-colored nail polish.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Firsts (2)

The first line can make or break a reader’s interest. Just how well did the author pull you in to the story with their first sentence? To participate in this weekly book meme is extremely easy.

Grab the book you are currently reading and open to the first page.
Write down the first sentence in the first paragraph.
Create a blog post with this information.
Did this first sentence help draw you into the story? Why or why not?

I am currently reading Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Here's the first sentence:

There were only two kinds of people in our town.

Definitely not the most interesting sentence. It gives me the sense that the town is small, and I'm vaguely curious about what two kinds of people there are. It's an okay start. I really enjoyed the next sentence, however.

"The stupid and the stuck," my father had affectionately classified our neighbors.

Now that's cute and gets me excited to read more. I smiled when I read that line. I now know that everyone in town is either stupid or stuck - hopefully, because of something mysterious! This sentence shows the humor one can expect from the rest of the book, while still portraying a sense of mystery. Off to a good start!

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (1)

This is a weekly meme hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog.

Books I completed this week:

None! Terrible, I know. It's been super hectic. I'm this close to finishing Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket by Hazel Allan, which I'm really enjoying. A review is coming soon. In the meantime, check out the guest blog Hazel wrote!

Books I'm currently reading:

Books I'm going to start soon:

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

The Pricker Boy by Reade Scott Whinnem

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Guest Post with Hazel Allan, author of Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket

I wanted to be a writer from the first moment I held a pencil. It was the only thing I was good at and the one thing I could see myself spending my life doing. I won several awards throughout school for story writing but despite being complimented regularly for my colourful imagination (or scolded for my daydreaming!) on the whole my talent seemed to go unnoticed. Over the years I reluctantly accepted that writing would have to be a hobby and one that I could only pursue in between a real job. I worked for many years in the field of education before returning to University where I studied for a degree in Community Education. When I graduated in June 2003 I was already expecting my son. He was born in the November and I decided to dedicate myself to being a full time mum for a while. I forgot about writing although now and again I would think to myself “I really must start doing something with all these thoughts that churn around my head!”

I began working on my novel the day after the relationship with my son’s father ended. I had toyed with the basic concept of a children’s novel for some time and I could see clearly in my mind all the characters and their individual personalities. My personal crisis seemed to crack open something that had been buried deep inside and suddenly the idea of writing just felt like the right thing to do. It offered me a way of escaping an extremely difficult period in my life, a chance to release negative and destructive emotions, whilst offering me some much needed hope for a new beginning. Without wishing to sound over dramatic, writing “Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket” saved me. Looking back, it was such a positive thing to do under such desperate circumstances, almost as though I was not prepared to go down without a fight. Putting pen to paper was a last ditch attempt to stop me from unravelling completely. It seemed to organise the chaos in my life and helped to make me feel whole again. Suddenly I was grabbing every spare second I had to write. I can remember rushing downstairs when Laurie went for his afternoon nap hoping to scribble down a few paragraphs while the house was quiet. I took to carrying a notebook in the back of the buggy along with the spare clothes, wet wipes and the soggy, half eaten biscuit - for those flashes of inspiration that inevitably occurred in the oddest and most inconvenient places! My book started to feel like my second child.

I get asked lots why I wrote this particular book. To be honest I didn’t plan it this way. “Bree McCready” started out as a short story about bullying called “In Her Shoes”. Things spiralled from that point and before I knew it the characters had taken on their own personalities. I started writing like my characters lives depended on it. Soon the broken locket and the magic book were being thrown into the mix and suddenly I had this kind of fantasy/adventure book with emotion running through it. Someone once described “Bree McCready and the half heart Locket” as being like “Indiana Jones written by Jacqueline Wilson”

As a deep-thinking and misunderstood youngster I was always on the lookout for books that contained real characters, ones that I could identify with and who had a story that struck a chord in me. I remember falling in love with Holden Caulfield as I read “The Catcher in the Rye” when I was fourteen. Right from the beginning I really wanted Bree to have that affect on her readers. Despite being really clever and wise Bree feels a bit like a square peg in the circular hole of life. She feels like something is missing in her life and I think a lot of young people will relate to her because of this.

As a little girl I was keen to find characters who I could relate to but there weren’t very many heroines that I found all that appealing. All the interesting characters were boys. Most literature revolved around princesses and let’s face it, they are pretty boring - lying around all day brushing their hair and waiting for their handsome prince to rescue them! How deluded are they?! So I always knew I was going to have a gutsy, resourceful, intelligent and brave girl character in my book. I see it as a bonus that I ended up with two!

One thing soon became clear as I wrote “Bree McCready“. Every chapter was going to finish on a cliffhanger. Once I had this idea it became easier to write an adventure story. It got to the point where I couldn’t wait to get started the next day to find out what was going to happen! It also became clear quite early on that I wanted to write a story that would appeal to adults too - something that parents could read and enjoy with their children. As a result I feel there is something for everyone in this book - boy, girl, adult, child, teacher….I have had the most amazing feedback from grown ups saying how much they have taken Bree to their hearts.

Once I finished writing “Bree McCready” I had absolutely no idea where to start getting it published. I didn’t know anyone in publishing. I didn’t even know anyone who knew anyone. All I knew was that I had a good book that I felt certain children would like. My first stop was the internet. I got the names of some well known publishers and I sent a copy of my synopsis and the first three chapters of the book to them. After that I thought I had nothing better to do than to sit back and wait for the offers to come flooding in. What I hadn’t realised was that hundreds of other aspiring writers were doing the same! When I started getting rejection letters I tried not to let it bother me. Everyone knows that even J.K Rowling got rejection letters. One kind publisher advised me to invest in a copy of the ‘Children’s Writers and Artists Yearbook’ which I did. This was very helpful not least because it advised me how best to structure my covering letter to publishers and how to lay things out so my manuscript wouldn’t get chucked in the bin before it had even been read. I did a lot of waiting and felt a lot of disappointment before my luck finally changed. A lovely lady called Alison read my manuscript and despite the abundance of mistakes she loved it. She saw something special, something promising and she really believed in me and my book. That was all it took, just one person to see the potential and then the ball started rolling.

In the run up to getting the book printed there was so much to think about! The first priority was to consider the size of the book. What I had written was almost three times the size of the finished book - which might have put some younger readers off. So my editor, Graham got to work deciding which bits of the story were staying in and what parts were not necessary. This was quite a long process which mostly took place via phone conversation but luckily Graham and I agreed on what was best for the finished article. Then we had to decide on the cover for the book. The expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover” certainly does not apply when talking about books for children. It’s the first thing they do when they walk into a library or book store - scan the hundreds of books for something special, something that really grabs their attention. Everyone on the team knew that Bree’s cover had to reflect the story inside. It had to do justice to the dark and exciting elements of the book. There were a few attempts with a couple of different illustrators but nothing felt right. With less than six weeks to go until launch night we still didn’t have a cover design that we all agreed on. Graham kept reassuring me that everything would be fine but I was really beginning to panic that we were going to have a launch party without a book! At last a brilliant artist called Lawrence Mann came up with the cover that now graces the front of the book. I am still in awe of how perfect it is, right down to the tiny details such as Honey’s individually painted fingernails and Sandy’s handkerchief. I absolutely love everything about it.

It took me until I reached the age of 34 to even consider trying to write the novel that I knew was inside me from an early age. There were times when I thought I would never see my book in print. This has not been an easy journey - I have lots of rejection letters and a few gray hairs to prove that! There were times when I seriously doubted myself but even during those dark moments I never stopped believing in Bree. This has been a most important learning curve for me, pursuing the one thing that has always mattered most. It took me a while but with a lot of hard work, and a sprinkling of good fortune I got there in the end!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

In My Mailbox (9)

IMM is a weekly meme that explores the contents of one's mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi at The Story Siren.

For Review:

The Pricker Boy by Reade Scott Whinnem
(HC/September 2009/Random House)

There's something lurking in the woods just beyond the Widow's Stone. Stucks Cumberland has seen it - a boy with skin that's as gray as dead bark, covered head to toe in thorns.

It seems impossible. But then, nothing about this summer is as it souled be. Stuck's best friend, Pete, has grown sullen and abusive. Ronnie wears long sleeves despite the heat, self-conscious about the scar that reminds everyone of a day they'd like to forget. Vivek's jokes seem increasingly desperate, and Emily is stirring feelings in Stucks that he doesn't know what to do with.

And through it all the Pricker Boy is out there, watching them from the edge of the woods. At least, Stucks thinks that's what's happening. But it's hard to concentrate with all the buzzing - the relentless buzzing that started in the trees and is now crawling around the surface of his brain...

Chilling and lyrical, The Pricker Boy is a ghost story with substance - a psychological thriller that takes readers on a journey deep into the dark woods and deeper still into the dark corners of the human soul.

I'm so excited to read this, especially after just finishing Lord of the Flies. I received this for review from Teens Read Too, which I'm now a reviewer for!

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
(ARC/January 2010/Little, Brown and Company)

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting down the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

Another thriller! I received this for review from ReaderViews.

I got some other books in the mail - not for review, just for fun:
The Alchemyst by Michael Scott (PaperBack Swap...The author has the same name as the boss from The Office!)
Just Like That by Marsha Qualey (Paperback Swap)
Going Bovine by Libba Bray (Random House sent me another copy for some reason...)
The Long Wait for Tomorrow (I won this from Random House)
Bog Child (I used my Random Buzzer points to get this book)

And that's all folks. I hope everyone else had a good week in books; I look forward to seeing what everyone got!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo
Publication Date/Version: September 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 264
Age Group: 15 and up

Pushed into indentured servitude for her stepmother in the City to pay off her father's debts, Ash is consumed with grief. She misses her family and her happy life at the edge of the Wood where old magic used to linger in the air like fairy breath. Her only joy comes from the brief, stolen walks in the woods with the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean. Ash's single, unspoken hope is that someday he might steal her away, as fairies are said to do.

But on the day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, from Kaisa she learns the art of the hunt, how to ride and track. Their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, but it grows and changes, and with it, Ash reawakens her capacity for love - and her desire to live.

Entrancing and romantic, Ash is an empowering retelling of Cinderella about choosing life and love over solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

I received Ash by Malinda Lo from ReaderViews for review.

Ash starts out strong and never fades. The beginning is intriguing and I was instantly drawn in by the old fairy magic and tales. Each fairy story really added something to the book, and they helped to create a feeling of magic. The setting was gorgeous and added a lot to the storyline. The atmosphere overall was lovely, and seemed like the perfect setting for unusual happenings.

Although a retelling of Cinderella, Ash strayed far enough away from the original plot line that it didn't feel like a complete copy with only new names and places. This story truly developed into something unique; I rarely remembered that this was a retelling. Ash was a good character, and I enjoyed learning about her mother and father. It was enjoyable to read about her step family's exquisite lifestyle, even though I was always hoping that neither of her stepsisters would find a husband. Kaisa was an interesting character, and I wished we could have learned more about her. It would have been really great if a few chapters had been told from Kaisa's point of view so we could get an idea of how she felt about all of the happenings.

Sidhean, unfortunately, didn't do much for me. It was a though we were told he was handsome and had a romantic relationship with Ash, but I myself never really saw it. I didn't feel much of a connection between the two and was somewhat disappointed.

Malinda Lo has created a wonderfully lyrical piece of literature, and she is sure to gain many new followers. I look forward to reading more of her work.

Overall: Ash was composed of beautiful prose, and an even better setting.

My Advice: Definitely pick up a copy at your local book store. This is a book you'll want to have on hand so you can reread it again and again.

Cover: The cover is interesting. It doesn't quite do it for me, however. I like the title font and color, but all of the black is too dull for my tastes. Maybe a finished copy would be prettier...
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