Monday, November 30, 2009

My Beauty: A Guide to Looking & Feeling Great by Marlene Wallach

My Beauty: A Guide to Looking & Feeling Great by Marlene Wallach
Publication Date/Version: August 2009/Spiral Boung
Publisher: Aladdin
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: ReaderViews

Want flawless skin and a perfect smile? Although no one's perfect, Wilhelmina Kids and Teens modeling agency president Marlene Wallach will let you in on all the secrets you need to look your very best. From getting a really great haircut to finding the ultimate lip gloss, Marlene's tips make polishing your natural beauty simple and easy so that all the best things about you shine through. Packed with fun quizzes; spa treatments; interviews with beauty industry insiders such as celebrity dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad and makeup artist Paula Dorf; and more, My Beauty will help you discover your unique dazzle, whether on the runway, in the classroom, or on the soccer field.

My Beauty offers a lot of cosmetic tips and tricks, but it doesn't do much more. If you've ever looked through a beauty handbook before, you won't find anything new. And if you're anything like me, you've been through a guide or two... or five. This doesn't have much to offer for teenagers, but it will be fun for tweens (think 10-12.)

While not enough substance for older teens, tween girls will have plenty of fun with this. It will definitely keep them occupied through sleepovers and get-togethers. My Beauty has plenty of things: hair styles, makeup styles, skin tips, and more on how to look your best. I always find these types of books to be a little shallow, but hey, much of the things that interest today's population are. The one thing I found to be fun in this guide were the do-it-at-home spa recipes. There were face masks and hair treatments, as well as some other stuff. I am excited to try those out.

My Beauty doesn't do much in the way of depth, but it is a simple, girly guide to looking good. It would make a good Christmas gift for tween girls.

Overall: My Beauty is a totally girly guide to having fun with your looks, but it won't offer enough for an everyday teenage girl.

My Advice: Borrow this from the library if you're looking for a guide like this. Otherwise, save your money and buy a wonderful novel. (Okay, I'm a bit biased here.)

Cover: So girly. It will definitely draw in the target audience. I'm fine with it. The colors could've matched a little better, however. It's weird though. When I look at the girl in the center and the girl on the right very quickly, their combined image looks a little like me. Not in a conceited way, (eyeroll) but in a I-have-the-same-face/eye/whatever-shape... if you know what I'm saying. ;)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Invisible Lines by Mary Amato

Invisible Lines by Mary Amato
Publication Date/Version: October 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Egmont USA
Age Group: 10 and up
Received From: Beth at Goodman Media (Thanks!)

For Trevor Musgrove, life isn't always bright and cheerful. His family has just moved to Hedley Gardens, a tough housing project its residents call "Deadly Gardens." He goes to school with rich kids who have everything, while he has to work just to afford soccer cleats. It doesn't help that the best athlete in school, Xander Pierce, happens to have it out for him. Mistakenly enrolled in an advanced science class taught by an odd but engaging teacher, Trevor is thrown headfirst into the world of natural science. Through all this, he will learn that life can spring up in the darkest places - maybe even Deadly Gardens.

Mary Amato has created a touching and genuine novel that's suitable for all ages. Although intended for the target audience of 10 and up, I'm 16, and I thoroughly enjoyed Invisible Lines.

Trevor Musgrove comes from a poor family where he has to struggle and fight for everything he has. The book starts out with a rather sad event, setting the tone for the rest of the novel. Trevor and his family don't have it easy at all. The poor guy could barely afford second-hand soccer cleats. It seemed that he would never get a lucky break.

He does, however, get lucky when he's accidentally placed in a Summit Science class, one for smart kids. His teacher, Mr. Ferguson, makes learning interesting. I love teachers like that - ones who make you want to be at school. Anyways, Mr. Ferguson really helps Trevor try harder in school. I especially enjoyed this teacher. He seemed fun and very energetic. I even learned a few cool facts.

Trevor had a lot to face, but he persevered and attempted to push through it. I enjoyed seeing him try hard to do good. His story was an inspiring one that all readers will enjoy. We didn't learn much about the secondary characters, but it wasn't too bad. I knew just enough about each of the characters to be able to picture them and their mannerisms. I really enjoyed Trevor's mom when she finally let go of her rough exterior.

I really liked reading Trevor's "Kingdom of Fungi: Identification Notebook." The facts were really interesting. I'll have to pick up a finished copy so I can see the drawings. With drawings throughout, this will definitely engage wary readers.

Overall: Invisible Lines was touching, emotional, and funny. A good read for all ages.

My Advice: Borrow this from your local library when you need some inspiration.

Cover Thoughts: The cover doesn't catch my eye, but it does make sense in relation to the story. The graffiti is kind of cool though.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

In My Mailbox (16)

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

For Review:

Dear Big V by Ellen W. Leroe
(ARC/Released September 2009/WestSide Books)
Courtney Condon, a funny, off-beat junior, is caught smack in the middle of the war that's raging between the Lewds and the Prudes at Delaware-Valley High School. One of the most committed of Prudes, Court’s the founder of Donuts and Coffee, an abstinence club at Dull-Val. But when Courtney, a reporter for the school newspaper, is assigned an Op Ed piece that forces her to work with Lance, the school “player” and hottest guy at school—and who represents everything Courtney despises—she finds that this up-close and personal contact with Lance throws her into a Whirlwind of Confusion over her chaste ideals. Court wrestles with the conflicting messages her hormones are sending her—the wakeup call neither her friends nor the Lewds have been able to make her understand. As a different battle rages at home, Courtney’s staunchly devout, strict-Catholic mom, who has secrets all her own, is pushing the limits of abstinence and her own form of prudishness to the point of alienating the entire family, from Courtney’s patient father and her banished older brother, even to Courtney herself—especially when Mom catches Court in a lip-lock with Lance in his car, right in her very own driveway! Laugh-out-loud funny, Dear Big V illuminates the conflict between hormones and values that teens face every day.

Sounds entertaining. I received this for review from BookDivas. Thanks!

Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick
(HC/October 2009/Simon Pulse)

When Holly loses her virginity to Paul, a guy she barely knows, she assumes their encounter is a one-night stand. After all, Paul is too popular to even be speaking to Holly, and he happens to have a long-term girlfriend, Saskia. But ever since Holly’s mom died six months ago, Holly has been numb to the world, and she’s getting desperate to feel something, anything—so when Paul keeps pursuing her, Holly relents. Paul’s kisses are a welcome diversion, and it’s nice to feel like the kind of girl that a guy like Paul would choose.

But things aren’t so simple with Saskia around. Paul’s real girlfriend is willowy and perfect… and nothing like Holly. To make matters worse, she and Holly are becoming friends. Suddenly the consequences of Holly’s choices are all too real, and Holly stands to lose more than she ever realized she had.

Sounds great! I hope I enjoy it. A big thanks to Lauren and her publisher for sending this my way to review!


I received a great prize this week from B.A.M. Book Reviews! I won their Vampire's Assistant giveaway and today the package was waiting for me when I got home. In it there was The Vampire's Assistant book, which contains the first three books of the Cirque du Freak series. There was also a Vampire's Assistant backpack, locker mirror, and tshirt, which is super soft! Thanks so much!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Review Policy

Now that I've started receiving books for review directly from publicists and the like, I figured it was a good time to write out my review policy.

I started The Book Owl in August of 2009 for my personal enjoyment. I use this blog to keep track of the books I've read and to connect with other book lovers. This blog is a way for me to share my love for books and to learn about new, exciting books.

I gladly accept review copies from authors, publicists, publishing houses, etc. I am happy to host contests and participate in blog tours, as well as have authors over for interviews or guest posts.

Types of books I enjoy: I focus almost completely on Young Adult. I will also review Middle Grade titles, though they are not my main focus. I rarely, if ever, review Adult titles. If it especially strikes my fancy, however, I will consider reviewing Adult works. I enjoy all genres of books. I honestly can't think of any I don't enjoy. I especially love historical fiction, dystopian fiction, apocalyptic fiction. and realistic fiction. I also really enjoy paranormal, fantasy, mysteries, thrillers, romances, comedies, and chick-lit. I will occasionally read non-fiction too. I basically read anything and everything.

I prefer to read series in order. If you contact me about reading a book that is part of a series, I would also like to be sent each of the preceding books. It makes reviewing easier, as I don't have to go in search of the previous books.

I am happy to review books of all popularity levels. I read well and lesser known novels. Even if your book is self-published, or not published widely, feel free to contact me! Many of my favorite books are not well known.

Books I don't accept: I do not accept e-books or pdfs for review. I don't have the time to read on my computer. Plus, it hurts my eyes.

When I accept a book: If I request a book for review, I will review it. I try to pick out books I believe I will enjoy, but this doesn't always happen. My main priority when it comes to reviews is honesty. Therefore, I cannot guarantee a positive review. If a book is sent to me that I didn't specifically request, I do not guarantee a review. My reviews include the cover art, basic information, (title, author, publication date, version, publisher, and age group) book summary, and my personal review. To add a personal touch to my reviews, I include 3 extra points: Overall, My Advice, and Cover. Overall is a general idea of my review. My Advice tells the reader whether it's worthy of buying at a local book store, checking out form a local library, or skipping. In Cover I tell the readers my thoughts on the cover, including how well it connects to the story and whether I like the design and layout or not.

I try to read and review books in a timely manner, but things do get busy around here. Please understand that I may not be able to get around to your book right away. If you need your book reviewed by a certain time, please tell me. Unless a book is sent to me specifically by an author, I cannot guarantee that I will read every book sent to me. If I chose not to read a book, however, it will be passed on or donated.

If I cannot finish a book, I will make a quick post outlining the reasons I was unable to finish it.

Other Information: I do not accept monetary compensation for reviews of books provided by authors and publicists. I consider keeping the book my compensation.

I also love swag! I am more than happy to pass out bookmarks, book plates, and any other fun stuff. I do enjoy keeping some for myself, however. ;]

Contact Information: Feel free to contact me at mac.attack17(at)yahoo(dot)com

Thanks a ton!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine

A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine
Publication Date/Version: October 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Henry Holt InGroup (Thanks!)

According to Chinese tradition, those who die hungry or unjustly come back to haunt the living. Some are appeased with food. But not all ghosts are successfully mollified. In this chilling collection of stories, Ying Chang Compestine takes readers on an exhilarating journey through time and across different parts of China. Hungry ghosts have prevailed - from the building of the Great Wall in 200 B.C.E. to the modern day of iPods - and continue to torment those who wronged them.

At once a window into the history and culture of China and an ode to Chinese cuisine, this assortment of frightening tales - complete with historical notes and savory recipes - will both scare and satiate.

Ying Chang Compestine has created a wonderfully frightening collection of tales, all while providing delicious recipes and interesting historical notes. When I initially started this book, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, however. The book was set up as a meal plan with appetizers, main courses, and desserts. All of this went along with the theme of satisfying hungry ghosts. At the end of each story was a full recipe that connected to the story, along with historical notes that talked about key points in the story. Each was very interesting, and I enjoyed learning some new things.

The stories in A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts were quite scary. All of them tended to be rather gruesome, which I was surprised by. I definitely wouldn't recommend this to younger ages, as even I was grimacing at a few of them. Not for the faint-hearted, that's for sure. Also, each story had an illustration accompanying it, which only made them even more frightening.

In case you don't know, I'm a huge fan of anthologies and short story collections, so I'm happy to add another one to my book shelf. This book would be great for anyone looking for a scare or anyone who's interested in yummy food and interesting historical notes.

Overall: Delicious and scary, all wrapped in one! An exciting collection of creepy tales.

My Advice: I really enjoyed this book, but it may not be for everyone. Check this out from your local library to see for yourself.

Cover: What a cool cover! I like the title design and the image corresponds well with the book's contents. Very eye-catching. It definitely makes me want to open it up and take a look.

ps. Happy Thanksgiving! :) Enjoy the nummy (yes, I meant to spell it that way) food!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Million-Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica

Million-Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica
Publication Date/Version: November 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Philomel Books
Age Group: Middle Grades/Young Adult
Received From: Publicist (Thanks!)

Nate Brodie is nicknamed "Brady," and not just for his arm. He's the biggest Tom Brady fan in all of New England. He's even saved up to buy an autographed Brady football. And when he does, he wins the chance at something he's never dreamed of - to throw a pass through a target at a Patriots game for one million dollars. On live TV!

Nate should be excited. But things have been tough lately. His dad lost his job and his family is struggling to keep their home. It's no secret that a million dollars would go a long way. So instead of being happy, all Nate feels is pressure, and just when he needs it most, his golden arm begins to fail him. Yet his best friend, Abby, refuses to let him feel sorry for himself. Not with what she's going through.

Mike Lupica has created a novel that many people today will be able to relate to. He tackles an especially tough subject that affects a lot of people today: the economy. Nate's parents are barely getting by and he knows it. He also knows that this throw could save his family, and the pressure mounts up. On top of this, his best friend, Abby, is going blind. Nate is overcome by the pressure, and begins to lose his game.

I felt so sorry for Nate. Although he has a great opportunity, he basically has to make this throw or his family loses their house and everything else. He deals with so much pressure and at times it gets to him. I don't know what I'd do if I were in his situation. It was easy to relate to Nate and his family's economic troubles. Basically everyone right now is suffering, and it was hard to have to see this young guy deal with all of his family's problems. His parents tried to keep it away from him, but it was obvious how much the million dollars would help. I was especially emotional about the economic hardships because my family does everything they can to give me the very best, and I related to Nate in that I want to help out my family.

Normally I don't enjoy reading books with male protagonists, especially books about male-dominated sports, but this was worth it. I enjoy football, so I understand most of the terminology, but I wouldn't recommend this to people who can't stand sports, as this is what the entire book revolves around. Nate was easy to relate to though. It was great to see such a supportive family. Million-Dollar Throw was inspirational and very emotional.

Overall: This book will tug at a lot of heartstrings, as it really is a serious book.

My Advice: Borrow this from your local library. It's not for everyone, but it does have a great message.

Cover: It represents the book well, but it's not very eye-catching. Definitely geared more towards males.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

In My Mailbox (15)

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

For Review:

A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine (HC/October 2009/Henry Holt)

According to Chinese tradition, those who die hungry or unjustly come back to haunt the living. Some are appeased with food. But not all ghosts are successfully mollified. In this chilling collection of stories, Ying Chang Compestine takes readers on an exhilarating journey through time and across different parts of China. Hungry ghosts have prevailed - from the building of the Great Wall in 200 B.C.E. to the modern day of iPods - and continue to torment those who wronged them.

At once a window into the history and culture of China and an ode to Chinese cuisine, this assortment of frightening tales - complete with historical notes and savory recipes - will both scare and satiate.

I received this from the Henry Holt InGroup. I absolutely love anthologies and short story collections, so I'm excited for this one!

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler
(ARC/Releases December 2009/Harper Teen)

Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen are all at Paradise - a resort in the Caribbean, that is - for different reasons, but in Paradise their lives become tangled together in ways none of them can predict. The week might take Jena on kiss closer to having a life; set Dakota on a new path; push Skye to stop playing a role, or face the consequences; or inspire Owen to take a leap from his online life to a real one, all because of a girl he met in Paradise. Whatever happens here, it will change them all.

Yay! I'm so excited for this one. Carolyn Mackler's publicist was kind enough to send me a copy. Thank you very much!

Friends Forever by Mary Ann McRaney
(PB/March 2009/Xulon Press)

One dark night, ten-year-old Cassie Bennett cried out to God to send an angel to help her. Neglected by her alcoholic mother and excluded at school by her schoolmates, Cassie desperately needs a best friend. Her cry for help brings a young angel to earth on her first assignment. As the story unfolds, Gabriella encourages Cassie to rise above her circumstances, conquer her fear, and let her light shine. Along the way, Gabby manages to help her friend resolve several issues including a school bully and a spoiled little rich girl. But the biggest challenge the girls face is the pedophile, who has just moved in the apartment complex and befriended Cassie's mother. Standing up to evil is not easy, but with Gabby's help Cassie learns to do just that. Their friendship transcends a tragedy, and the two girls remain "friends forever."

Sounds good to me! I received this for review from ReaderViews. Thanks

My Beauty by Marlene Wallach
(Spiral Bound/August 2009/Aladdin)

Want flawless skin and a perfect smile? Although no one's perfect, Wilhelmina Kids & Teens modeling agency president Marlene Wallach will let you in on all the secrets you need to look your very best. From getting a really great haircut to finding the ultimate lipgloss, Marlene's tips make polishing your natural beauty simple and easy so that all the best things about you shine through. Packed with fun quizzes; spa treatments; interviews with beauty industry insiders such as celebrity dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad and makeup artist Paula Dorf; and more, My Beauty will help you discover your unique dazzle, whether on the runway, in the classroom, or on the soccer field.

I received this for review from ReaderViews. Thanks!

From PaperBack Swap:
Converting Kate by Beckie Weinheimer
Teach Me by R.A. Nelson

I'm super happy with the books I got this week! How'd everyone else do?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Publication Date/Version: March 2007/Paperback
Publisher: MIRA
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Harlequin Teen Panel

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace - and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust - and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...

Where to begin? I've been wanting to read this book for a long time, and I finally got the chance when the Harlequin Teen Panel sent it my way. I'm so glad they did.

Poison Study had it all - loads of adventure, a scandalous romance, a great back story, and even better characters. There was always something exciting happening in this book, whether Yelena's life was being threatened or she was simply doing her daily training. The plot was non-stop excitement, never a dull moment. I got through this quickly, completely devouring it. Yelena was a wonderfully strong heroine that I loved to read about. She was a tough girl who could fight for herself. All of the other characters were great, as well. I loved Ari and Janco, along with Valek. They all had their own quirks and motivations.

(Small spoiler) Yelena and Valek's relationship was a confusing one, but I'm so happy they ended up together. This is a bit of a spoiler, but it's pretty predictable. Valek could be so frustrating and Yelena's feelings for him were never quite clear to me. One thing I found a little odd was their age difference. Yelena was only about 16, while Valek was in his mid-30s. That bothered me a bit, but Yelena seemed so much older than she actually was, and Valek cared for her so much that it distracted me from that fact.

Yelena's back story was completely amazing, in both good and bad ways. Good in that she was able to fight through it, but bad in what horrendous acts she had to suffer through. I was appalled by the things that had happened to her, as will be other readers. Some of it was tough to read, but in the end, Yelena shows a lot of character and is able to trust people and come back from her terrible past. Poison Study was a wonderful story, and I can't wait to read the next in the series.

Overall: A captivating read that takes the reader on a fascinating journey through Yelena's struggles to stay alive.

My Advice: Buy a copy of this at your local bookstore. I recommend this for older teens, however, as some of the content is too much for younger ages.

Cover: I like the cover quite a bit. The castle setting fits the book, and the way the girl is sneaking around reminds me of Yelena perfectly.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In My Mailbox (14)

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

This week I got nothing, nada. I am, however, expecting eight books. How odd. Oh well - it's given me time to catch up on my TBR Pile, mainly my TBR and reviewed pile. Luckily, that's down to only 3 or 4 books! Now I have a huge stack of "personal" books that I get to start on. I have so many great books to read.

At the moment I'm reading Million-Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica which is good so far. I'm not very far along yet, but it seems like it will end up being a touching story.

I hope everyone else had a good week and happy reading!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Interview: Hazel Allan, author of Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket

Please welcome Hazel Allan, author of Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket. You can read my review here. Hazel previously worked with underprivileged children as part of the Government’s Early Intervention Programme, which was established to tackle the problem of low literacy levels. She has also worked with children on the verge of exclusion from secondary school, and has a keen interest in literacy issues. Hazel Allan lives in Edinburgh with her young son. Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket is her debut novel and was published August 2009 by Strident Publishing.

What inspired you to write Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket?
I always wanted to write a children’s novel. Before I was a writer I worked with children in an area of Edinburgh where literacy levels were very low. There was very little interest in books and I always felt like I wanted to write an adventure story that would appeal to young people who were reluctant readers. In my mind Bree was always going to be a heroine for kids who feel they are a bit of an outsider or who have lived through tough times and come out the other end fighting. The fact Bree comes from a one parent family and lives in a neglected part of town was a deliberate attempt to steer away from the stereotypical family life that is so often depicted in children’s literature. We all need a hero, someone who reflects our innermost thoughts and feelings and someone who we can aspire to be. Having a character to connect with might just encourage those reluctant readers to pick up a book they can enjoy and get taken on the ride of their lives in the process!

I also worked for a while with illiterate adults which made me all the more appreciative of my gift as a writer. So that inspired me too.

It was during a particularly tough time in my personal life that I started writing Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket. My main inspiration came from my little boy, who is now six. I thought it would be nice for him to have something special to look at when he grows up, something to be proud of and to share with his children. That’s why I dedicated the book to him. I wanted to be a good role model for Laurie and to show him that I tried my very best to achieve my potential and that I did everything possible to give him a better life. He continues to inspire me on a daily basis.

Is there anything you have to have while writing?
Coffee! Lots of it. I gave up on biscuits because the crumbs were playing havoc with my laptop (and my waistline!). I have to have peace and quiet too. I really wish I was one of those cool people who can hang out and write in busy cafes but my head just doesn’t cope well with noise. I cannot multi-task when it comes to writing - I need to go into a little bubble and detach myself completely from the world. Because of this, I sometimes have to have an alarm clock. It has been known for me to get so engrossed in writing that I lose track of time. But I’ve only forgotten to collect Laurie from school once!

What character in Bree do you feel most represents yourself?
Bree is a lot like me when I was younger. I was (and still am) a very deep thinking person and I don’t always feel like I fit in. Like Bree there was always something missing from my life and I couldn’t fill the void no matter how hard I tried. I realise now that writing was the only thing that would complete me as a person. Despite her strengths and talents it’s a bit of a struggle for Bree to accept herself and I can really relate to that side of her too. When I first wrote the characters each one had their individual characteristics that got right under my skin and I very quickly found myself identifying with all three of them in some way or another - the rebel, the bully, the broken-hearted, the loyal friend, the eccentric. So I guess it is safe to say that there are bits of me in all the characters. I am unconventional like Honey, I am anxious like Sandy and I am strong minded and wise like Bree. And obviously the mother side of me comes out when I write about Madeleine. She has struggled to give Bree the best in life. She has dedicated herself to being a single mum and I am looking forward to giving Madeleine something nice in the sequel! She deserves it.

What has the process of gaining popularity in the US been like?
Very exciting!! I can’t tell you what it means to me that Bree is travelling the world. I have always wanted to visit the States so it feels wonderful that some small part of me is there now! I can travel vicariously through Bree. When I wrote the book I was careful not to make the story too specific to one area. Rockwell estate could be anywhere in the world and Ramthorpe Junior could be any school. Bree McCready and the Half-Heart Locket is to all intents and purposes an adventure story and yet underneath this rather obvious exterior there lies many topics that I believe are relevant to all young people regardless of where they live - bullying, self image problems, grief, and relationships. Bree is a solid role model in as much as she shows great courage and determination in the face of extreme hostility and ultimately learns to accept herself, warts and all. She symbolises struggle and survival against the odds and it is my hope that she will become a hero to all children, regardless of their nationality and cultural background. I think children all over the world have something in common. They all love a good story. I would love for Bree McCready to take off in the US in a big way.

Are you working on anything at the moment? Please tell us something about it.
Yes, I’m working on the sequel to Half Heart Locket. It’s called Bree McCready and the Flame of Irenus. The second book takes place during the summer following the first adventure so the gang have all now turned thirteen. There will be lots more action and cliffhanger moments and a bit of fun as well. All the familiar faces will be there and some new ones, including a love interest for Bree. Annie is on top form with her psychic gift and Alice Renshaw is as nasty as ever. Tanas Theramonde is back with another bad guy and there are some other new nasties that will send shivers up your spine!

If I keep dedicating every spare second I have to writing I hope the second book is ready sometime in August 2010. Then I can start on the third book!

Thank you so much for joining us Hazel!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Random Magic Tidbit

I'm currently part of a tour for Random Magic by Sasha Soren, hosted by Other Shelf Tours. For my post, I wanted to share an interesting post about butterflies, which are featured in Random Magic. My review will be coming later. Enjoy :)

In the Garden of the Muses, the air is teeming with butterflies in vivid colors. It’s a beautiful image, but those little splashes of color also have a more subtle meaning.

The dazzling butterflies, in fact, literally are thoughts. The Ancient Greek word for "butterfly" is ψυχή (psȳchē), which translates as “soul” or “mind.”

In one sense, the butterflies would be symbolic of the Muses’ shifting thoughts. In another sense, they’d be the messengers of inspired thoughts to their favorite writers, artists, poets, or other seekers.

In a third sense, the butterflies represent the Muses' general benevolence, kindness and good nature toward mortal beings, since seeing a butterfly can symbolize that love is on its way to you soon, or that you’ll see someone whose face you miss.

In the last sense, because a butterfly starts life as a lowly caterpillar, then a pupa, before finally emerging as something delicate and glorious, with a flutter of resplendent wings, the butterfly represents the creative process, itself.

You start with something ugly or low, or not quite developed, then through stages of development, survival and patience, in the end something really quite extraordinary emerges.

Of course, the vibrant color and delicate glory of butterflies are also, unfortunately, very short-lived. But of course that’s what makes temporal things so beautiful, even life itself.

This awareness is recognized in the Japanese concept of “mono no aware,” or a sensitivity of ephemera. In brief, one of the reasons cherry blossoms are celebrated is because of their beauty. But also because their beauty will only exist for a brief span of time.

What’s interesting, of course, is that, while human beings are mortal, the things they create are immortal.
They don’t have the lifespan of immortals like the Nine Muses, but, ironically, the things they create are immortal. The physical object might be destroyed, but the memory, or the representation of it lives on.

If you’re not sure if this is true or not, you might consider that today we can still hear the works of Mozart or Grieg, or watch a story told by Shakespeare or, to go even further back, by Homer. The dead can’t speak, but, yes, their legacy can.

Unlike butterflies, which bring welcome beauty into the world, and just as quickly abandon the world, human hands can create immortal works of art.

As the Latin saying goes, “Ars longa, vita brevis.” (Art is long, life is short.)
These are just some things to consider when you’re reading that section of the book -- and also, perhaps, the next time you happen to see a butterfly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

UTF: Unable to Finish (1)

Don't you just hate when you can't get through a book? I know I do. I'm one of those people who has to read all the way through a book, otherwise I feel empty. I don't know how the story ends and it drives me crazy. Unfortunately, the last two books I have attempted to read have had to go into the "Unable to Finish" category. I hate that. I just couldn't finish them, though. I didn't want to completely banish them, so I'm doing two mini reviews about why it just didn't work out for me. (Book summaries not included)

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

Andromeda Klein tells of the story of, you guessed it, Andromeda Klein. It sounded interesting enough, but by page 30 I'd heard so many random terms that made absolutely no sense - even with the glossary in the back- that I just couldn't take it. Oddball characters are fine, but she was so odd that I had no idea what she was talking about. She just kept going on about occultism and her dead friend. I was already bored and frustrated, so it wasn't happening.

Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox
(PB/February 2009/Square Fish)

This could have been a really great book. I liked the writing style - it felt sophisticated, somehow. Plus, the plot seemed cool. A select few go into the Place, capture dreams, and feed them to the public. It would have been cool if we'd heard about it, by oh you know, the 100th page. I was past 100 pages and Lauren still hadn't had her Try to see if she could enter the Place. That's all the book had been talking about, yet we still hadn't found anything out yet. I'm an impatient person, and I just couldn't wait any longer, so I gave up. -sigh- Maybe someone with more patience would enjoy this, but I couldn't make it through. Good idea and writing, slow execution.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Pricker Boy by Reade Scott Whinnem

The Pricker Boy by Reade Scott Whinnem
Publication Date/Version: September 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Random House
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Teens Read Too

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

It seems impossible. But then, nothing about this summer is as it should be. Stucks'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...

Reade Scott Whinnem has created what can only be described as a modern-day Lord of the Flies. This absolutely terrifying story follows a group of friends throughout their summer as they try to figure out why they are being tormented by the Pricker Boy. Everything they believe will be questioned, and no one will be trusted.

The Pricker Boy was completely enthralling, yet horrifying. The storyline instantly piqued my interest, as I was in the mood for something scary. On a trip into the woods, the group of friends discovers that their offerings left for the Pricker Boy, offerings meant to keep him away, have been rejected. From this moment on, the friends begin their spiral into complete chaos and disorder. Never did I imagine that this book would be so scary. Books rarely have a frightening effect on me, but all while reading The Pricker Boy, I was constantly looking over my shoulder. I also turned on pretty much every single light in my house on for the next four days. The Pricker Boy's treatment and silent stalking of the friends is what made this book so terrifying, as well as his cruel actions.

Mr. Whinnem does a great job at setting scenes. I could always put myself into one of the kids' places and feel the horror that they were feeling. I could feel their mind-numbing terror. Normally, with this many characters, I would be unhappy that we didn't get to learn more about each of them. In this book, however, the scare factor was such a central point that I really couldn't focus on anything else. Similar to Lord of the Flies, the friends must face their fears and discover if there really is something out in the woods, or if it's all just in their heads.

Expect the unexpected in this book. At one point, when a major twist was revealed, I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped. And then my face screwed up, and all I was thinking was "What?!" Then I had to reread the paragraph a few times, to make sure I understood correctly. Anything that can get a reaction like that has to be good.

Overall: Completely terrifying, thought-inducing, and not for those who are easily scared. You'll be thinking about this one long after you finish reading it.

My Advice: For one, pick this up from your local library. Secondly, pick it up from your library in the middle of a summer day when you know you will be surrounded by people wherever you're reading. You definitely don't want to be alone and in the dark reading this one.

Cover: Very good cover. I like the color palette and the sketchy quality. The Pricker Boy's eyes really portray his creepiness.

Teaser Tuesday (6)

Wow, it's been forever since I've done one of these!

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading in which one grabs her current read, opens to a random page, and gives two "teaser" sentences from that page.

"Several hundred people woke up abruptly, before the happy conclusion of their dream. It was - one man later told his cronies - like being thrown into an icy pond while in the act of love."

Page 44, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Hold Still by Nina LaCour
Publication Date/Version: October 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Dutton Books
Age Group: 14 and up
Received From: Publicist

dear caitlin.
there are so many things
that i want so badly to tell you
but i just can't

That night Ingrid told Caitlin, I'll go wherever you go. But by dawn Ingrid, and her promise, were gone, and Caitlin was alone. Ingrid's suicide immobilizes Caitlin, leaving her unsure of her place in a new life she hardly recognizes. A life without the art, the laughter, the music, the joy she shared with her best friend.

But Ingrid left more than a memory behind. Devastating and hopeful, playful and hopeless. In words and drawings, Ingrid documented a painful farewell in her journal - just for Caitlin. Journeying through Ingrid's final days, Caitlin fights back through unspeakable loss to find renewed hope.

Nina LaCour, a debut author, is going to have a great career ahead of her. She is able to capture the raw emotions felt after Ingrid's suicide, while showing Caitlin's healthy healing.

I'm so glad this was offered to me for review. I was in the mood for some real emotion, and I got just that. Caitlin has just lost her best friend, Ingrid, to suicide. Now she must deal with the painful process of healing. At first she feels as if she must deal with it alone, but she slowly begins to let others in. I was very happy to see Caitlin recover in a healthy way, without resorting to complete withdrawal or self-inflicted pain. Readers are taken on Caitlin's path to a new life without her old best friend, and along the way we experience all of the love and hatred that comes with the process.

Although I know nothing about photography, I still enjoyed its large role in this book. It added a lot of interesting perspective and symbolism. At first I wasn't sure about Ms. Delani, Caitlin and Ingrid's photography teacher. She shunned Caitlin from the beginning, but we eventually learn that she is just as upset over Ingrid. Ms. Delani soon transformed into someone who was there for Caitlin. It was her small actions that made a difference. I really enjoyed the characters in Hold Still, especially Taylor and Dylan. It was nice to see others in the grieving process as well. I think it would have been interesting to have an occasional chapter from another character's view point to see how they were dealing with the situation.

Hold Still freely puts forth raw emotion, and Caitlin hides nothing. It was sometimes hard to read about her journey, but I was glad that I did. Ingrid's journal entries added a lot to the story. Although some were short, or didn't seem terribly significant, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be Caitlin. I'm happy that we got a feel for Ingrid and her impact on Caitlin. Finally, Caitlin's romance with a certain boy was completely believable. Although her starting actions were a little odd, I felt that they were totally understandable. I never felt like "What is she doing?" I understood her need to connect with someone in a time of pain, and I think the majority of readers will be able to see things from her side of the story.

Overall: Hold Still is a breathtaking, emotional journey that is hard to forget.

My Advice: Pick up a copy of this at your local bookstore. You'll want a copy to read on rainy days to remind you that there are always good things in life.

The Cover: Perfect for the book. Breathtaking and beautiful. I feel that it expresses the book perfectly, between the writing, the pen-colored title, and the gorgeous girl. Lovely.

In My Mailbox (13)

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

For Review:

Invisible Lines by Mary Amato
(ARC/Released October 2009/Egmont)

For Trevor Musgrove, life isn't always bright and cheerful. His family has just moved to Hedley Gardens, a tough housing project its residents call "Deadly Gardens. " He goes to school with rich kids who have everything, while he has to work just to afford soccer cleats. It doesn't help that the best athlete in school, Xander Pierce, happens to have it out for him. Mistankenly enrolled in an advanced science class taught by an odd but engaging teacher, Trevor is thrown headfirst into the world of natural science. Through all this, he will learn that life can sprin up in the darkest places - maybe even Deadly Gardens.

Thanks for Beth at Goodman Media for sending this to me for review. I've never read anything by Mary Amato before. If you have, what did you think of her books?

The Won:
Evermore by Alyson Noel
(Thanks to Teen Reads.)

The Bought:
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Award and Interview Time

This week, the lovely Lorelei of Tattooed Books passed on the Honest Scrap award to me. Thanks so much!

The Honest Scrap award is dedicated to bloggers who write truthfully from the heart. You're then supposed to pass off the award to a handful of other deserving bloggers, and post ten honest statements about yourself.

I'm passing it onto:
1. Aimee at My Fluttering Heart
2. Adele at Persnickety Snark
3. Juju at Tales of Whimsy

10 honest statements:
1. I'm incredibly afraid of the dark. And heights. I get dizzy when I'm up high.
2. I love thunder and lightning storms. They're so much fun.
3. I go through book moods. Sometimes I crave raw emotion, other times I just want comedic fluff.
4. I actually enjoy school for the most part. I love that there's a never ending supply of knowledge.
5. I really enjoy unexplained mysterious. You know, UFOs, Big Foot, the Lochness Monster.
6. I can't stand scary/gory movies. I've probably only watched about 4 scary movies in 16 years. 7. I love autumn. The smells and colors are gorgeous.
8. I have 13 sheep.
9. I'm a great bargain hunter. I don't remember the last time I bought something at full price.
10. I'm terrible about returning and answering phone calls. I don't answer my phone unless someone leaves a message.

One more thing. The awesome Steph Su at Steph Su Reads featured me as her Friday Featured Blogger here. Thanks for the great interview Steph!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Long Wait for Tomorrow by Joaquin Dorfman

The Long Wait for Tomorrow by Joaquin Dorfman
Publication Date/Version: September 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 342
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Random Buzzers Program

A simple twist of fate brought Patrick Saint and Kelly McDermott together, a car crash in which they were the only two survivors. Kelly has always been the leader, a high school football star dating the hot cheerleader. To Patrick, it seems the world can't wait to give Kelly everything he desires. Until the night things go too far. Kelly, faithful Patrick, and the football team terrorize Edmund, the school's science nerd, for seeing something he shouldn't have.

The next morning, Kelly is different. The "new" Kelly McDermott cares what Patrick thinks, knows how to smoke and play pool, and doesn't remember his own class schedule. Should Patrick believe him when Kelly says he's actually forty years old and asleep in a mental institution? And will this second twist of fate give them enough time to figure out what catastrophe Kelly's older self has come back to prevent?

The Long Wait for Tomorrow managed to make the subject of time travel and its consequences even more confusing. The idea was interesting, but it lacked the proper execution. I constantly found myself confused. The theory used to explain time travel was complicated, and we never really learned exactly why Kelly travelled back. Although he may have travelled back in time to prevent a "catastrophe," I rarely felt as though he was actually doing anything to prevent it. He made a few attempts to right the wrongs, but he could have been a true leader and stuck up for poor Edmund. I was left feeling that Kelly didn't do all he could to stop what he knew was coming - and why wouldn't he try his hardest to stop it?

I had problems with the characters, as well. We learned very little about them, and the few things I did learn have already flew from my memory. There was little background, and their conversations seemed out of place. I just couldn't imagine people a couple of years older than me having the conversations that the three main characters had. One of the few things that kept me going was the spark between Patrick and Jenna, Kelly's girlfriend. This, however, wasn't enough to keep the book afloat.

I partially enjoyed the climax of the book, but I didn't feel especially emotional about it. I mean, we heard vaguely about it afterwards, so it was all just third person retellings. I never felt as if I was actually there. The very end, about the last chapter or so, just left me even more confused and empty. I felt that this book could have expressed so much more emotion and achieved a stronger message if the author didn't focus as much on making the characters' conversations seem deep and intellectual. Not everything said has to have an important meaning.

Overall: The Long Wait for Tomorrow had the potential to show some real emotion and grit, but the execution wasn't there.

My Advice: Skip it. Unless you really love time travel theories and just can't resist.

The Cover: Busy and bold. It expresses my personal confusion towards the book, but it doesn't give the reader any sense of what the book is about.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Super Special (Last) Saturday!

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to attend Jay Asher's speech at the Eugene Public Library. His speech was all about the writing process, where the idea for 13 Reasons Why came from, and the publishing process. There was a lot of interesting information. Plus, he was really funny! He definitely didn't seem like the kind of guy to write about such a heavy subject.

Afterwards, I was lucky enough to have him sign my copy of 13 Reasons Why! How exciting. Here I am with him:

Well, it's an ok picture of me. Not great. haha


Now on to Part 2 of my Super Special (Last) Saturday! So, I walk into the room where the talk is taking place, and I look for a nice (read: normal) person to sit next too. Well, there was this friendly looking lady sitting down, by herself at the moment, so I decided to sit next to her. She instantly said "Hi" with a big smile on her face. Phew, good choice. It just gets better from there.

A friend of hers came and sat on the other side of her. All of a sudden, the lady I'm sitting next to opens up her bag, takes out an ARC of The Naughty List, and signs it (!!!!!!!!!) for the girl who just sat down. OMG, I'm sitting next to freaking Suzanne Young, author of The Naughty List!!! So I calmly turn to her, and ask her if she's the author of The Naughty List. Of course she says yes, and I tell her that I've been dying to read it because I've heard about it online and it looks amazing. Then, get this, she says something along the lines of "Really? Well, I have an extra copy if you'd like one." ?!?! Would I like one?!? So now, I've got signed and personalized copies of both 13 Reasons Why and The Naughty List! Crazy, right? I'm so glad I sat next to her. :)

Three words: Best. Saturday. Ever!

In My Mailbox (12)

IMM is a weekly meme that explores the contents of one's mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi at The Story Siren. Sorry for the lack of posts; my internet is still down. This is one of the few times it's been up all week. :/ (Descriptions from Amazon)

For Review:

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
(ARC/Releases March 2010/Dial Books)

When her fiery older sister Bailey dies abruptly, seventeen-year-old Lennie, bookworm and band geek, is catapulted to center stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.

Hold Still by Nina LaCour
(ARC/Released October 2009/Dutton Books)

dear caitlin, there are so many things that i want so badly to tell you but i just can’t.

Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful . . . in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and newfound friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid—and Caitlin herself.

Thanks to Anna at Penguin Books for sending this to me for review!

Won from Contests:

The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols
(PB/September 2009/Simon Pulse)

Brace yourself for the battle of the exes....

Hayden and Nick used to be a hot item, but their brief affair ended with a highly publicized breakup. Now the two are "just friends," excluding the occasional flirtation.

When Hayden wins the girls' division of a local snowboarding competition, Nick is unimpressed, claiming that Hayden wouldn't have a chance against a guy. Hayden calls Nick's bluff and challenges him to a head-to-head boarding contest. Their mutual friends quickly take sides, the girls on Hayden's and the boys on Nick's, making for an all-out battle of the sexes. This friendly competition is bound to get heated -- and they might end up igniting some old flames.

Thanks to Kristi from The Story Siren and Jennifer Echols for sending a signed copy of The Ex Games my way!
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