Thursday, December 31, 2009

Secrets of Truth & Beauty by Megan Frazer

Secrets of Truth & Beauty by Megan Frazier
Publication Date/Version: July 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Age Group: 12 and up
Received From: The Library

When Dara Cohen was little, she was a star. She was the cutest seven-year-old who ever sang Ella Fitzgerald, and it was no wonder she was crowned Little Miss Maine.

That was then. Now Dara's seventeen, and she's not so little anymore. So
not little, that when her classmates find out about her illustrious resume, their jaws drop. That's just one of her many problems. Another is that her control-freak mom won't get off her case about anything. Yet the one that hurts the most is the family secret: Dara has an older sister her parents tried to erase from their lives.

When a disastrously misinterpreted English project lands her in the counselor's office - and her parents pull her out of school to save face - Dara realizes she has a decision to make. She can keep following the rules and being misunderstood, or she can finally reach out to the sister she's never met, a sister who lives on a collective goat farm in Massachusetts. Dara choose B. What follows is a summer of revelations - some heartbreaking, some joyous; of friendship, romance, a local beauty pageant; and choices. And as autumn approaches, Dara finds she may have to let go of nearly all that she's ever taken for granted in order to figure out who she really is, and what family really means.

Dara Cohen was Little Miss Maine when she was young. But after gaining more than a few pounds, no one can believe her. When she tells about her experience in an English project, it's wildly misinterpreted and her parents pull her out of school. Dara, no longer willing to suffer under her parents' scrutiny, decides to visit her sister Rachel, the sister her family never told her about. Dara moves to her sister's goat farm and begins a whirlwind of a journey.

Based on her first novel, Megan Frazer has a wonderful career ahead of her. Secrets of Truth & Beauty was delightful. Right from the beginning I liked Dara. She seemed fun and friendly, just tired of always having to follow the rules and be a perfect child. Plus, her mom's always on her back about her weight, and she can't take it anymore. Because of these things, Dara moves to a little goat farm where her sister Rachel lives.

The farm, called Jezebel, sounded dreamy. It's one of those cute, homely places in a small town that sounds like a great town to grow up in. I was smitten. Dara quickly learns the lay of the land, and she becomes just another member of the farm. She helps with the daily tasks, making cheese and milking the goats. Rachel cooks amazing food, and the company's lots of fun.

Dara meets a lot of great new people, including Owen, the resident hottie. Too bad he's got a secret of his own about why he's at the farm. And when Dara learns a bit more about the farm, she'll see the reasons her parents were so upset with her sister.

I enjoyed this novel so much. It was touching and honest. It taught you never to judge before you get to know someone. The whole setting sounded wonderful and close knit. I loved Dara because she didn't feel bad about her weight, like everyone thought she did. She was never that upset about herself, but she did gain more confidence as the summer wore on. The secondary characters were great as well.

The only person I didn't enjoy was Dara's mother, an impossibly cruel mother who shows no compassion for her daughters. She tries to control Dara completely, attacking her for her weight. And as for Rachel, well, she doesn't even acknowledge her. After the incident, Rachel is no longer a part of the family. Dara's father might no seem much better, but I felt sorry for him. I believe he still loved both of his daughters, but he felt compelled to agree with his wife. It was a tough situation for him.

After it all, I was very happy with the ending. Dara made the right choice. Oh, and Rachel's love interest - how perfect! I was completely surprised and very happy.

Overall: Funny. Homely. Finding oneself. Family growth.

My Advice: Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or library. This was a wonderful book that will appeal to all girls.

Cover: I actually prefer the ARC cover, which isn't as bright, but more toned down. The idea in general is ok, but the cover models don't represent the characters at all. It's pretty but it doesn't work with the story.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wishlist Wednesday (4)

This post is inspired by Stargirlreads at Books Make Great Lovers. In Wishlist Wednesday, I'll showcase a book that may or may not be out yet that I would love to review and cannot wait to read! Links and descriptions are from Amazon. Here's what's on my wishlist this week:

The Knife of Never Letting Go
by Patrick Ness

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him -- something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

Reasons I want to read this:
1. It's a dystopian novel! I love them.
2. I've heard such great things about it. Apparently, I need to read it.
3. I just finished Salt, in which the main characters could talk to and hear others silently. It seemed like an interesting concept, so I'd like to read more books with a similar idea.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Teaser Tuesday (7)

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.

"DS was Deep Salt, the furthest reaches of the deepest tunnels of the mine. Men sent there never returned to the surface. What they dug for nobody knew, and after a time, one by one, they vanished."

Page 9, Salt by Maurice Gee


Monday, December 28, 2009

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
Publication Date/Version: August 2007/Paperback
Publisher: Warner Books
Age Group: Adult
Borrowed From: A Friend

When Savannah Lynn Curtis comes into his life, John Tyree knows he is ready to turn over a new leaf. An angry rebel, he had enlisted in the army after high school, not knowing what else to do. Then, during a furlough, he meets Savannah, the girl of his dreams. The attraction is mutual and quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah vowing to wait for John while he finishes his tour of duty. But neither can foresee that 9/11 is about to change the world. Like so many proud men and women, John must choose between love and country. Now, when he finally returns to North Carolina, John will discover that loving Savannah will force him to make the hardest decision of his life.

My very first Nicholas Sparks novel! I'm so glad I finally picked up one of his books.

John Tyree's an angry soldier. He always caused trouble back when he was at home, with only his father to help him along. When he comes back on leave he meets Savannah and changes for the better. He knows that she is the one for him, and he will do whatever it takes to be with her. The army and his duties, however, get in the way of their love, and when he comes back, things aren't the same.

Wow. That's about all I can say. How does Mr. Sparks do what he does? Create a beautiful, touching novel that anyone can relate to, even if you've never been in a similar situation. John at first seemed stubborn and rude, but he developed into a much more mature and likable character over the course of the story. The first couple of weeks he spends with Savannah was wonderful to read about. They had instant chemistry that flew off the pages. I liked Savannah, as she seemed well-rounded and down-to-earth. Over time, though, things changed.

When John came back for his second leave, things between him and Savannah were different. It was amazing how Sparks could capture all that was wrong with just a sentence or two. You could feel the tension radiating from the page. I was basically wincing as I read it. You know Nicholas Sparks has to be a great author if he can bring forth those kinds of emotions with a simple sentence. And when John comes back for the final time, wow. It's all I can say once again. After dealing with his poor father, who I ended up loving and crying over, John must now face Savannah and the future she's created for herself while John was gone. John truly becomes a good person for what he does, and I love him for every bit of it. I, however, became unhappy with Savannah. She wanted what she couldn't have. She couldn't be happy with her blessings, but instead was greedy and only wanted more. I lost my respect for her.

Another great character was Tim. He was a true gentleman, and it was easy to see how much he cared for Savannah. I loved him throughout the entire book, and I still do. He seemed like such a genuine person.

After reading Dear John, Nicholas Sparks has enthralled me in his writing and I cannot wait to read another one of his novels. Completely beautiful.

Overall: Emotionally raw. Honest. Heartbreaking. Wonderful. A must read.

My Advice: Go buy a copy. I know I'm starting a Nicholas Sparks collection.

Cover: The letter and the horses are perfect. After reading the book, it all becomes clear. Perfectly simple and elegant. I always think that when I see his covers.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Evermore Contest

Now that I've reached 80 followers, I've decided to hold a contest! Thanks so much to those who follow and read my blog. It also seemed like a good time to hold a contest, seeing as it's during the holidays and it's almost a new year.

There will be 1 winner winning Evermore by Alyson Noel. You can find my review here. Although I didn't love it, I know lots of other people do, so I want to give someone else the chance to read it.

This contest will run through January 30, 2010. Contest is open to the US. Good luck!

This is my first time using a Google Document form, so hopefully it works!

See my Contest Policy here.
Contest Closed!

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Evermore by Alyson Noel
Publication Date/Version: February 2009/Paperback
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Bookstore

After a horrible accident claims the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever Bloom can see people's auras, hear their thoughts, and know someone's entire life story by touching them. Going out of her way to avoid human contact and suppress her abilities, she has been branded a freak at her new high school - but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste.

Damen is gorgeous, exotic, and wealthy. He's the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head - wielding a magic so intense, it's as though he can peer straight into her soul. As Ever is drawn deeper into his enticing world of secrets and mystery, she's left with more questions than answers. And she has no idea who he really is - or what he is. The only thing she knows to be true is that she's falling deeply and helplessly in love with him.

Ah, another immortal-type book. I'm not sure how many of these I can handle.

Ever's psyhic. She has been ever since her entire family died in a car accident. Now she hears thoughts and reads auras. It's all a little overwhelming. Then she meets Damen, the typical bad boy who changes everything. No more noise, just peaceful calm. Around him, everything fades away and Ever doesn't have to worry about her powers anymore. She does, however, have to worry about the secrets Damen is hiding, including some that involve her.

Good girl meets bad boy, falls head over heels, somehow loses him, gets angry, wins him back, happily ever after. It's another one of those books, ladies. Maybe with some added twists, but nothing I couldn't see ahead of time. Ever's seen as a freak because of the way she dresses and acts, but it's not her fault when she can't get the voices out of her head. Then Damen comes along. Right from the beginning, you could tell exactly how he would act. Another run of the mill bad boy. They're always enticing, but there's never anything new about them. I've seen the same boy a hundred other times. They're fun and all, but not totally believable. Real life bad boys don't often change. He was exciting to hear about, but there didn't seem to be much substance behind him.

A major problem I had was the suddenness of Ever and Damen's relationship. One second they were kinda flirting, then oh-they're-bf-and-gf...when did that happen? I like reading about the chase and then the catch. I felt as if there was no chase. I also wish we could see more of Ever's abilities. Those get pushed to the side, with Damen taking the lead. I believe the story could have been very unique if Ever's abilities were showcased more, or used more often. It's really an interesting idea.

That being said, Evermore was a guilty pleasure. I see why tons of people will enjoy it. Fast-paced, a hot boy, and some romance. Plus, lots of paranormal fun. I will pick up the sequel, but with some reservations.

Overall: A little too predictable. Cool psychic powers. Fun romance and enticing bad boy. Guilty pleasure.

My Advice: Pick up a copy at the library. I'm sure I'm in the minority who doesn't love this book, but I can see why others love it.

Cover: Wonderful cover! I love the whole thing. Even though you can't see it very well, the girl's makeup looks very pretty. And the tulips are a great focal point.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

In My Mailbox (19)

IMM is a weekly meme that explores the contents of one's mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi at The Story Siren. All links and descriptions are from Amazon.

For Review:

Random Magic by Sasha Soren
(PB/December 2009/Beach Books, LLC)

When absent-minded Professor Random misplaces the main character from Alice in Wonderland, young Henry Witherspoon must book-jump to fetch Alice before chaos theory kicks in and the world vanishes. Along the way he meets Winnie Flapjack, a wit-cracking doodle witch with nothing to her name but a magic feather and a plan. Such as it is. Henry and Winnie brave the Dark Queen, whatwolves, pirates, Struths, and fluttersmoths, Priscilla and Charybdis, obnoxiously cheerful vampires, Baron Samedi, a nine-dimensional cat, and one perpetually inebriated Muse to rescue Alice and save the world by tea time.

I received this as part of a blog tour from Other Shelf Tours. Thanks!

Metamorphosis: Junior Year by Betsy Franco, drawings by Tom Franco
(HC/October 2009/Candlewick)

Life. Love. Death. Identity. Ovid’s got a lot on his mind, and he pours it all — as confessions, observations, narrative poems, and drawings — into the pages of a notebook. Inspired by his namesake, he wryly records his classmates’ dramas as modern-day Roman mythology. There’s Sophie and Caleb, the Psyche and Cupid of cyber-couples; poetic Paula, who pursues filmmaker Franny like Apollo chasing Daphne; and graphic novelist Duwayne, a Proserpina shuttling between divorced parents. Meanwhile, Ovid hides his own Olympian struggles: his meth addict sister Thena has run off, leaving him with a suffocating home life and a disturbing secret. In her striking YA debut, Betsy Franco introduces an expressive soul with a heartbreakingly authentic voice. Fantastical ink illustrations by her son Tom Franco enhance the intimate tone, delving deep into one intriguing teen’s imagination.

A Pearl Among Princes by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
(HC/September 2009/Dial)

Welcome to the island where princes learn to be charming.

Gracepearl Coal is the cook’s daughter on Miramore, the island all princes visit for their summer program in the Charming Arts. Each year, the princes-in-training arrive on gallant seacraft, guided by captains trained to navigate the island’s treacherous waters. Passage on one of these boats is the only method to leave the island—thus betrothal to a royal is the only way for Pearl to find her far-off destiny, the one that’s started haunting her dreams. Luckily, this year’s crop of princes include some promising prospects, but how will Pearl leave behind her ailing father or—hardest of all—marry a boy other than her long-time beloved, Mackree . . . who now finds it too painful to even speak to her?

The Seven Rays by Jessica Bendinger
(HC/November 2009/Simon & Schuster)

You are more than you think you are.

That is the anonymous message that Beth Michaels receives right before she starts seeing things. Not just a slept-through my-alarm-clock, late-for-homeroom, haven't had-my-caffeine-fix kind of seeing things. It all starts with some dots, annoying pink dots that pop up on and over her mom and her best friend's face. But then things get out of control and Beth is seeing people's pasts, their fears, their secrets, their desires. The images are coming at Beth in hi-def streaming video and she can't stop it. Everyone thinks she's crazy and she's pretty sure she agrees with them. But crazy doesn't explain the gold envelopes that have started arriving, containing seeing keys and mysterious tarot cards. To Beth, it all seems too weird to be true. You are more than you think you are? But here's the thing: What if she is?

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
(HC/October 2009/Delacorte Press)

Logan Witherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. But things start to look up when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Sage Hendricks befriends Logan at a time when he no longer trusts or believes in people. Sage has been homeschooled for a number of years and her parents have forbidden her to date anyone, but she won’t tell Logan why. One day, Logan acts on his growing feelings for Sage. Moments later, he wishes he never had. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Enraged, frightened, and feeling betrayed, Logan lashes out at Sage and disowns her. But once Logan comes to terms with what happened, he reaches out to Sage in an attempt to understand her situation. But Logan has no idea how rocky the road back to friendship will be.

Never Bite a Boy on the First Date by Tamara Summers
(PB/September 2009/HarperTeen)

I've got a few issues:
1. I'm a vampire now.
2. One of my classmates was found dead, with telltale fang marks.
3. I didn't do it! (really!)
4. Nobody believes me, so . . .
5. I'm going to have to find the real killer. I've already got three suspects. (three very cute suspects.)
6. One more problem: I am seriously falling for one of them . . . but what if he's the killer?

I received this book and the four before it from for review. Thanks!

From Contests:
Austenland by Shannon Hale
Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange

Thanks so much to Cecelia of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia for sending these my way!

I had a great week. What about you?

Privacy Policy

I take your privacy very seriously. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at mac.attack17(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Here at The Book Owl, I do not collect or store personal information. I cannot, however, stop others from taking your email address or any information left in the comments section. I advice that if you ever post your email address, you post it as I did for my email address. Replace . with (dot) and @ with (at).

The only time I ever collect information is for contests, solely for the purpose of contacting the winner(s). I do not store any information collected, nor do I give it out. Once I have sent out the prize, all information will be deleted. Nothing will be shared or distributed in any way. It will not be rented, sold, or kept on file.

Contest Policy

Because I wish to hold more contests in the future, I would like to lay out some basic contest policies. If you have any question, feel free to contact me at mac.attack17(at)yahoo(dot)com.

- Entrants must be 13 years of age or older. If entrant is not 13, they must have parental permission. Please be honest.

- Winners will be posted when contest ends. I will email winners and they will have 72 hours/3 days to email me back. If I am not contacted within the allotted time, a new winner will be chosen.

- Entries will only be accepted during the given contest time. I reserve the right to extend or end the contest without notice.

- Winners are chosen by a random number generator, such as

- I will ship prizes as soon as possible once I receive a response from the winner.

Please follow the guidelines honestly. Make sure you fit the contest deadlines and requirements.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope you got everything you wished for and had a great time with family. Enjoy the yummy food!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dear Big V by Ellen W. Leroe

Dear Big V by Ellen W. Leroe
Publication Date/Version: September 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: WestSide Books
Age Group: 14+
Received From: BookDivas

Courtney Condon, a funny, off-beat junior, is caught smack in the middle of the war between the Lewds and the Prudes at Delaware-Valley High School. Court's the founder of an abstinence club at Dull-Val. But when she's assigned an Op Ed piece for the school paper that forces her to work with Lance, the major "player" and hottest guy at school, this up-close and personal contact with Lance throws her into a Whirlwind of Confusion over her chaste ideals. Meanwhile, Courtney's staunchly devout, strict-Catholic mom is pushing her own form of prudishness to the point of alienating the entire family, especially when Mom catches Court in a lip-lock with Lance in his car, right in her very own driveway!

Courtney's caught in the middle of a battle between the Lewds and the Prudes at her school after a not-so-subtle attack by some members of the abstinence group she formed. Although she wasn't involved, she's still getting a lot of flak for it. And with the Op Ed piece, her values are tested when she's paired with Lance. She's in for quite the ride.

Ellen W. Leroe did a wonderful job of creating a book about abstinence and being true to yourself without one bit of preachiness. A lot of books of this subject matter push abstinence too much, and sound more like a textbook than a novel, but Ms. Leroe refrained completely from that. She involved humor and really got into the head of a teenage girl fighting with her values.

The characters in this book, although not all lovable, were great. It was easy to imagine each one, as every school has someone who fits the descriptions. Courtney had a wonderful sense of humor, and I'm pretty sure I laughed out loud a couple times. Lance, the ultimate player, seemed likable, but revealed his true self. I'm glad this wasn't another case of bad-guy-turns-good, but was instead something much more real-to-life.

Courtney's struggles were believable, as were her desires to let go of her chaste ideals. In the beginning she may have been a bit uptight, but she developed into a more understanding character. Even Courtney's mom wasn't too bad when her learned her reasons.

Overall: Funny. Quick read. No preachiness whatsoever. Good values.

My Advice: If you're struggling with yourself, or looking for a funny take on abstinence, pick up a copy at your local bookstore. Those who are unsure about the book should pick it up at the library. Definitely worth reading.

Cover: Good colors. The girl, however, irks me. She looks way too young to be a high school junior.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wishlist Wednesday (3)

This post is inspired by Stargirlreads at Books Make Great Lovers. In Wishlist Wednesday, I'll showcase a book that may or may not be out yet that I would love to review and cannot wait to read! Here's what's on my wishlist this week:

Bewitching Season
by Marissa Doyle

Twins Persephone and Penelope Leland are anticipating their first London season with mixed feelings. Pen can’t wait to flirt with handsome young men at parties, but Persy would far rather stay home and continue her magic studies. When the twins discover that their governess has been kidnapped as part of a dastardly plot to enchant the soon-to-be Queen, they’re determined to find and save them both. Along the way, Persy learns that a good lady’s maid is hard to find, that one should never cast a love spell on anyone after drinking too much brandy punch at a party, that pesky little brothers can sometimes come in handy, and that husband hunting isn’t such an odious task after all, if you can find the right quarry.

Reasons I want to read this:
1. I'm really in the mood for historical fiction somehow
2. It seems like there are a lot of elements - magic, humor, romance, history
3. Pretty cover, once again

Monday, December 21, 2009

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Publication Date/Version: June 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Age Group: Young Adult
Borrowed From: A Friend

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

It is once again evident as to why Sarah Dessen has so many fans. She has done it again with another wonderful novel that teenage girls everywhere will be able to relate to.

Auden (cool name) decides to spend the summer at her dad's. Her parents are divorced, and her dad and his wife have just had a new baby. She figures she could use a change of pace, and heads out there for the summer. While there, she meets a few boys, makes unbelievable friends, and works in an over-the-top girly boutique, all while going on a quest to discover the things she missed out on in high school.

I love the concept to this book! Going on night adventures with a cute boy, trying to recapture the past. Living what she missed out on for the first time. Lots of first times and cute stories. Her nocturnal escapes sound dreamy. There aren't any high expectations, just simple hanging out, wasting the night away.

The characters in Along for the Ride are great. I could relate to Auden easily, and Eli's wonderful. He's so believable, and it's easy to connect with him over his tragic loss. I really felt for him, and understood why he was the way he was. He's definitely one of my favorite male characters in all of Sarah Dessen's books. Auden's new friends, the other girls who work in the boutique, are just wonderful. Based on first impressions, they could hate her, but instead they invite her into their group and provide a good base of support. I enjoyed seeing Auden grow more comfortable in her role as a friend.

The one thing I couldn't stand about this book was the complete lack of any decent parental figure. Heidi was the only okay figure. At first she annoyed me with her clinginess, but I grew to like her throughout the story. Robert, her father, was such an insensitive, self-centered jerk though, that I just wanted to bash him the majority of the time. Same goes for her rude, condescending mother, Victoria. Honestly, get an attitude adjustment people. I dreaded the passages that featured these two. They made me furious. What jerks.

That being said, the story was wonderful. A cute romance, good friends, and plenty of real emotion. Sarah Dessen's never going to stop rolling out the hits.

Overall: It's Sarah Dessen. That's all you need to know. Emotional. Heartbreaking. Adorable.

My Advice: Buy a copy at your local bookstore. Add it to your uncountable Sarah Dessen collection.

Cover: The bike is good, but I'm not happy with the people. The girl looks too well, girly, and the guy looks too clean cut. It is cute, however.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In My Mailbox (18)

IMM is a weekly meme that explores the contents of one's mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi at The Story Siren. All links and descriptions are from Amazon or Orca Book Publishers website.

For Review:

Dream Girl by Lauren Mechling
(PB/November 2009/Delacorte Press)

Claire Voyante has been having strange visions ever since she can remember. But the similarity between her name and her talents is purely coincidental. The name is French and unlike the psychics on TV, she can’t solve crimes or talk to the dead.

But that all changes on Claire’s 15th birthday, when her grandmother gives her something a little more extraordinary than one of her old cocktail dresses: a strange black-and-white onyx cameo on a gold chain. It’s not long before Claire’s world becomes a whole lot clearer. And a whole lot more dangerous.

Dream Life by Lauren Mechling
(ARC/Releases January 2010/Delacorte Press)

Claire Voyante's first semester at Henry Hudson High School was eventful, to say the least. As she heads into her second semester, things are calming down a bit. But Claire has a few secrets that are getting harder to keep. Her biggest secret of all? The onyx and ivory cameo necklace her grandmother gave her for her 15th birthday. Ever since she started wearing it, her dreams have been coming to her in black and white and turning out to be oddly prophetic.

Becca’s been hanging out with her old prep school friends and never seems to have time for Claire anymore. And soon, Claire discovers why—there’s a secret group of society girls with a mysterious identity. And, turns out, a mysterious enemy who’s out to get them. The second she sniffs out trouble, Claire jumps on the case. But is it someone close to Claire who’s in danger again—or could it be Claire herself whose life is at stake?
Thanks so much to Lauren for sending these to me for review! I cannot wait to start reading this series. I've heard great things about it.

We Were Here by Matt de la Pena
(HC/October 2009/Delacorte Press)

When it happened, Miguel was sent to Juvi. The judge gave him a year in a group home—said he had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how he thinks. The judge had no idea that he actually did Miguel a favor. Ever since it happened, his mom can’t even look at him in the face. Any home besides his would be a better place to live.
But Miguel didn’t bet on meeting Rondell or Mong or on any of what happened after they broke out. He only thought about Mexico and getting to the border to where he could start over. Forget his mom. Forget his brother. Forget himself.
Life usually doesn’t work out how you think it will, though. And most of the time, running away is the quickest path right back to what you’re running from.

I received this from BookDivas for review. I've heard good things, so hopefully I'll like it too.

Walking Backward by Catherine Austen
(PB/October 2009/Orca Book Publishers)

When Josh's mother dies in a phobia-induced car crash, she leaves two questions for her grieving family: how did a snake get into her car? and how do you mourn with no faith to guide you?

Twelve-year-old Josh is left alone to find the answers. His father is building a time machine. His four-year-old brother is talking to a plastic Power Ranger. His psychiatrist offers nothing more than a blank journal.

Isolated by grief in a home where every day is pajama day, Josh makes death his research project. He tests the mourning practices of religions he doesn't believe in. He reads the Darwin Awards to judge the stupidity of his mother’s accident. He interviews the neighbours in search of a murder suspect. He tries to mend his little brother's shattered heart. He observes, records and waits—for his life to feel normal, for his mother's death to make sense, for his father to come out of the basement.

Salt by Maurice Gee
(HC/October 2009/Orca Book Publishers)

Salt is an utterly compelling fantasy adventure, the work of a master storyteller at the peak of his powers.

When his father Tarl is captured and enslaved to work in Deep Salt, Hari vows to rescue him. This is a forbidding task: no one returns from Deep Salt. But Hari was born and raised in Blood Burrow. He's tough and smart—and he has a secret gift: he can communicate with animals.

The beautiful Pearl, born into the privileged world of the ruling class known as Company, has learned forbidden things from her mysteriously gifted maid Tealeaf. Now her father has promised her in marriage to the powerful and ambitious Ottmar. But Pearl will never submit to a subordinate life, so she and Tealeaf must flee.

When their paths cross, Hari and Pearl realize that together they must discover the secrets of Deep Salt. Their long journey through the badlands becomes far more than a quest to save Tarl—their world is on the brink of unspeakable terror.

Juggling Fire by Joanne Bell
(PB/October 2009/Orca Book Publishers)

Rachel's idyllic existence with her family in the remote mountain passes of northern Yukon was shattered by her father's depression, the family's relocation to "town" and her father's subsequent disappearance. Obsessed with understanding why her father never returned, Rachel hikes with her dog across mountain passes and along valleys to her childhood home. As she walks, she distracts herself from her anxiety by reinventing fairy tales remembered from her childhood. As the days pass, the imaginary quest begins to echo her own journey as she confronts danger, faces loneliness and unearths the truth about her father.

Me, Myself, and Ike by K.L. Denman
(PB/October 2009/Orca Book Publishers)

After watching a tv program about Otzi, a 5,000-year-old "Ice Man," Kit's friend Ike becomes convinced that Kit's destiny is to become the next ice man—a source of information for future generations. Together they obtain artifacts they think will accurately reflect life in the early twenty-first century and plan their journey to a nearby mountain. Kit gets tattoos similar to Otzi's, writes a manifesto and tries to come to terms with making the ultimate sacrifice. As he grows more and more agitated and isolated, his family and friends suspect that something is terribly wrong, but before they can discover the true severity of the situation, Kit and Ike set off on what could be their last journey.

I received all four of these books from Orca Book Publishers. Thanks so much! They all sound great, and I can't decide which to read first.

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
(My first Nicholas Sparks!)

From Paperback Swap:
Lost It by Kristen Tracy

I had an absolutely amazing week! Thanks to everyone who sent books my way. How did you do? Now...what to read first? :) Happy reading!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Break!

Finally, finally, it's Christmas Break. This last week has been super busy, and I haven't gotten around to keeping care of my blog. I sincerely apologize to my readers. I'm taking a quick trip, Sunday through Tuesday. I'm trying to schedule some posts, but please excuse me if I can't. After I get back though, posts will happen every day. While I'm gone I won't be able to moderate comments, so they'll show up later. Thanks for sticking around and happy holidays! I'll be seeing you soon. :)

Interview: Reade Scott Whinnem, author of The Pricker Boy

Please welcome Reade Scott Whinnem, author of The Pricker Boy. You can read my review here. As a child, Reader Scott Whinnem spent his summers in the earthquake-ridden, ghost-infested woods of East Haddam, Connecticut. From an early age, his father instilled in him a love of Star Trek, comic books, and monster movies, thereby condemning him to a life of incurable geekiness. In addition to being a writer, he is also an avid gardener, cook, and photographer. Both he and his wife are proud public school teachers. They live on Cape Cod, where they dig clams, correct essays, and ,when necessary, reassure their overweight cat that she is a devastatingly attractive female.

1. What inspired you to write The Pricker Boy?
When I was about eight, my grandparents lived in a cottage in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. The cottage was off on this little dirt road just a block away from the ocean. The yard was surrounded on three sides by undeveloped lots, and those lots were completely overgrown with thick thorn bushes.

One night while we were visiting them I had a dream that I was standing in the yard, and I looked over towards the fence where the thickest thorns grew. There was something in there, so I walked over to get a closer look. Through the fence I saw a boy hiding back in the brush under the thorns. He looked just like any other boy my age, except that his skin was grey and he was completely covered with thorns from head to toe. He started brushing the branches of the thorns out his way so that he could grab me and pull me under the bushes. I tried to run but couldn't move. I woke up screaming that the Pricker Boy was coming to get me.

It's the earliest dream I remember having, and it stuck with me. I think what fascinated me about the Pricker Boy was that apart from the thorns on his skin he seemed perfectly normal. Well, apart from the thorns and the violent derangement.

Later, when I was a teenager, I lived in a house near a lake in Connecticut. Most of the other houses in the area were seasonal cottages that were empty three seasons out of the year, but in the summertime there would be a lot of other kids around. I used to have a handful of ghost stories that I liked to tell. I had one about a white wolf who would chase people through the woods. Another was about the ghost of a homicidal hermit who lived in an abandoned house out past the reservoir.

The Pricker Boy was inspired by my childhood dream in Mattapoisett and by those teenage summers, and is dedicated to the many friends who sat around the fire listening to my stories.

2. Is there anything you have to have when you write?
I'm discovering as I get older that I am easily distractible, so getting rid of distractions is the number one thing. I've started writing in the basement lately because I can get out of my wife's hair, and also because there's no internet connection down there to sidetrack me. The internet is awful. I'll think of some factoid that I need to look up online, and the next thing I know I'll be downloading Stargate fan films and reading the Wikipedia entry on Jack Benny.

I've got a few things that I like to have around, some useful and some just fun. I have my poster for the 1931 Frankenstein. I have Roget's thesaurus. I have my Big Book of Baby Names in case I can't think up a name. I have my replica Star Trek TOS phaser that I fire at the cat. I also have a ton of instrumental music. The right music is essential to my writing.

I do, however, tend to get OCD about certain things. If I'm making notes for a book I try to use the same colored pen to write the notes down. I also color code my post-its by subplot. It's ridiculous, but if it helps to keep the ideas straight in my head then I'll keep doing it.

3. Have your students read your book? What do they think of it?
One of my students read it while it was in process, but he hasn't read the final published version yet! I'm dying to know what he thinks of the changes, but he's away at college and I won't catch up with him until Christmas.

The first student to finish the book showed up at my door during lunch the following day because she couldn't wait for our next Writers' Forum session to talk about it. She took me to task on a few things, actually. She wasn't happy with how one of the relationships evolved. She also wanted to exchange theories on one of the unanswered questions in the book, which was a lot of fun. I would love to hear people's theories on that, but to say any more would call for a spoiler alert, so I won't go on.

4. The Pricker Boy was absolutely terrifying - in a good way. Was it your intention to create such a chill-inducing book? How did you manage to make it so frightening?
One of the few writers who really frighten me is H. P. Lovecraft, and it's because he was so masterful at turning the reader's imagination against him/her. He leads you into dark places, but instead of guiding you through and explaining things along the way he slams the door and locks you inside with just enough information for your imagination to drive you insane.

I have nightmares—bad nightmares—and The Pricker Boy allowed me to explore that world of darkness that we all risk entering whenever we fall asleep. However, of the dreams that are explored in the book, I find the first one to be the least frightening, mainly because it's the easiest one to explain away. It's logical, given what happened to him on his fourth grade field trip, that Stucks has nightmares about being kidnapped by a demon. To me, it's the dreams that come later, the ones that are more suggestive and have more room for interpretation, that are really scary. In fact, it was Stucks' "unfinished room" nightmare towards the end of the book that gave me shudders every time I passed it in the rewrite, because the reader's imagination has real wiggle room in there, and it's not a nice place to be wiggling around in.

I try to write books that keep the pages turning. My friends would say that I'm a terrible tease, which is probably true, and writing a suspenseful story is a way to tease people and entertain them at the same time.

5. In my review I said that your book was a "modern-day version of The Lord of the Flies." Thoughts?
High praise indeed! While the premise of Lord of the Flies is 'a group of boys crash lands on a deserted island,' the real story is how their darker selves emerge in the absence of authority. The Pricker Boy's premise is 'a monster from the woods threatens a group of young people.' The real story digs much deeper than that, but I'll leave it to the reader to decide which of the stories is more unsettling.

I can see where you could see a similarity. As Stucks says of Pete in chapter nine, "Again he goes silent. He's studying me. Studying me the way you'd study an anthill before kicking it. Studying me the way you'd study the ants afterward to see how they'd react."

Thank you for the comparison; it’s very flattering.

6. Are you working on anything right now? If so, could you tell us a little something about it?
I'm working on a couple of things right now. I've always wanted to write a road book, and I have a first draft of a manuscript. Actually, to call it a first draft is a bit of an exaggeration. It needs a lot of work. But I can tell you that it's the story of two high school students who set off one summer to find a friend who has disappeared. It's not as spooky as The Pricker Boy, but I think that it will be just as scary. The "monster" in this book is no ghost, and his threat is much rawer. The story is still in the early stages, so I won't say more. If the process of writing it is anything like writing The Pricker Boy was, the final manuscript will be quite different from this first draft.

Thank you so much for joining us Reade!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler
Publication Date/Version: December 29, 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: HarperTeen
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Publicist (Thanks!)

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 one 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.

Tangled is a story of the secrets we keep, the risks we take, and the things we do for love.

Tangled was not at all what I expected it to be, but it turned out to be a delightful surprise.

Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen all take a vacation to Paradise. Jena with Skye and Dakota with Owen. Jena has self-image issues, and isn't happy with herself. Skye's the perfect girl and has it all together, or so it seems. Dakota's your average male player, but he's not sure if that's what he wants. And Owen's stuck in a virtual world, blogging about his life instead of living it. Essentially each of the characters has something they want to change. I thought the entire story would take place in Paradise, but only Jena's story did so. I didn't know what to think when I first learned this, as I thought this might be a more light read. With the change of scenery, though, we were able to delve deeper into the characters real emotions. It was like a combination of realistic fiction and an anthology. Each character told their story from their point of view, allowing us a glimpse into their life.

The best comparison I can make is that Tangled is an indie-book, like an indie-movie. Known for being unique, and really getting at the true core. I thought this same thought several times, and it really is the best way to describe the novel. It offered a different take on point of view, as well as a new version of character development. Some would complain that we didn't learn enough, but all four of the characters were connected. We learned little snatches about the other characters from another's story. We learned about Skye in Jena's story, Owen in Dakota's, etc. It was a cool way of seeing what happened to each of the characters.

I truly enjoyed this new experience. I especially enjoyed Dakota's and Owen's stories. Jena's and Skye's seemed a bit too typical to me. All really made a change though, and it was great to see them through it all. It's hard to express what I feel for this novel. It's engaging and exciting, keeping you wrapped up in the story. I know I haven't offered a concrete review, but if you take anything from this just know that Carolyn Mackler has created an intense, unforgettable experience. She really has succeeded in creating another great novel.

Overall: Emotional. Inventive. Indie. Engaging. A must read for anyone looking for a new take on story telling.

My Advice: Pick up a copy from your local bookstore when it comes out. Or, better yet, preorder it. It will stick with you long after you've finished reading.

Cover: Love it! It expresses the complexities of the novel, with the wonderful ribbon hearts. It's great how there's pink and blue, fading together, like the girls and boys.

In My Mailbox (17)

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

For Review:

The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz
(HC/December 22, 2009/HarperTeen)

Summer is here and Allie is exactly where she wants to be: working full-time at the ultra-cool Bob & Bob Records in Berkeley. Here Allie can spend her days bantering with the street people, talking talk with the staff, shepherding the uncool bridge-and-tunnel shoppers - all the while blissfully surrounded by music, music, music. It's the perfect setup for her to develop her secret identity as The Vinyl Princess. Her very first zine is about ready to print and her new blog,, is up and running. From the safety of her favorite place on earth, Allie's poised to launch vinyl revolution - or at least reach some fellow music geeks out there.

They are out there...aren't they?

I received this for review from ReaderViews. I'm really excited for this one as I've heard nothing but great reviews! It came with two cute The Vinyl Princess buttons and the zine that's talked about in the description. I'm especially happy because I got a finished copy, though it's not out yet.

From Paperback Swap:
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti

Borrowed From Friends:
Exit Here. by Jason Myers
Along for the Ride by Sarah Desssen
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

I had a good week! What about you?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wishlist Wednesday (2)

This post is inspired by Stargirlreads at Books Make Great Lovers. In Wishlist Wednesday, I'll showcase a book that may or may not be out yet that I would love to review and cannot wait to read! Here's what's on my wishlist this week:

by Amy Huntley

Madison Stanton doesn't know where she is or how she got there. But she does know this—she is dead. And alone, in a vast, dark space. The only company she has in this place are luminescent objects that turn out to be all the things Maddy lost while she was alive. And soon she discovers that with these artifacts, she can reexperience—and sometimes even change—moments from her life.

Her first kiss.

A trip to Disney World.

Her sister's wedding.

A disastrous sleepover.

In reliving these moments, Maddy learns illuminating and sometimes frightening truths about her life—and death.

This is a haunting and ultimately hopeful novel about the beauty of even the most insignificant moments—and the strength of true love even beyond death.

Doesn't this sound wonderful?
Reasons I want to read it:
1. The premise sounds really interesting
2. The cover is gorgeous
3. I wasn't happy with Elsewhere, so I want to read a good book about the afterlife
4. It came out on my 16th birthday, September 29th 2009!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Interview: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, authors of Beautiful Creatures

Please welcome Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, authors of Beautiful Creatures. You can read my review here.

1. What inspired you to write Beautiful Creatures?
Margie: A long lunch at El Cholo, about ten pitchers of Diet Coke, and the backs of twenty paper napkins. A best friend. A long time critique partner.
Kami: A shared love of fantasy, and Southern gothic lit. A group of teens. And two words – Sixteen Moons.

2. Is there something that you have to have when you write?
Enormous earphones blasting Spring Awakening. My MacBook Air. Caffeine. Reading glasses. Sometimes the Santa Monica Library or the Park City Library or a particular patio in Otranto, Italy. A good idea – which by definition is something my own teens don’t think is stupid!
Kami: My laptop. A comfy place to write (my bed is a favorite). Quiet. Diet Coke with lots of ice. Snacks – preferably involving chocolate and sugar.

3. What was it like co-authoring a book?
Kami and I have sort of a unique situation. We can fight like sisters, but never about anything that isn’t stupid. We’ve never disagreed for a moment about our vision for this book and this universe. And we have an eerily compatible writing style.
Kami: We also have a huge amount of trust and respect for each other. And it’s awesome to share the crazy experience of publishing a debut novel with one of your very best friends.

4. What is it like to be a debut author?
Margie: Terrifying. Exhilarating. If it wasn’t for our Tweethearts and blogger friends, and for the YA authors who adopted us and cheered us on from the start, we would have died of sheer fright!
Kami: It’s really scary. You put something you love out into the world and you have no idea how it will be received. I’m so grateful the YA community and our readers have been so supportive.

5. Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, could you tell us something about it?
We just finished the sequel to Beautiful Creatures, so yay!
Kami: The second book is full of surprises. It comes out this time next year, so hopefully it will give readers a chance to fall in love with Ethan and Lena the way we have.

You can keep up with Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl at

Join the US Fansite at

Visit Little, Brown’s Beautiful Creatures website at

Thanks for joining us!
cover photo credit goes to Alex Hoerner

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I checked on my blog a couple of days ago to see that I now have 60 followers! I want to give a big shout-out to all of my followers. It really does mean a lot when you visit and comment. Each comment makes my day. :)

Expect a contest soon in honor of my new milestone.

Also, in case you're wondering what's coming up soon for review, here's an idea:

Dear Big V by Ellen W. Leroe

Evermore by Alyson Noel

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler

Friends Forever by Mary Ann McRaney

Wishlist Wednesday (1)

This post is inspired by Stargirlreads at Books Make Great Lovers. In Wishlist Wednesday, I'll showcase a book that may or may not be out yet that I would love to review and cannot wait to read! Here's what's on my wishlist this week:

by Susanne Dunlap

Murder and love - from the halls of Vienna's imperial family to a perilous gypsy camp

Amid the glamour of Prince Nicholas Esterhazy’s court in 18th-century Vienna, murder is afoot. Or so fifteen-year-old Theresa Maria is convinced when her musician father turns up dead on Christmas Eve, his valuable violin missing, and the only clue to his death a strange gold pendant around his neck. Then her father’s mentor, the acclaimed composer Franz Joseph Haydn, helps her through a difficult time by making her his copyist and giving her insight in to her father’s secret life. It’s there that Theresa begins to uncover a trail of blackmail and extortion, even as she discovers honor—and the possibility of a first, tentative love. Thrumming with the weeping strains of violins, as well as danger and deception, this is an engrossing tale of murder, romance, and music that readers will find hard to forget.

Mystery, historical fiction, and romance all combined into one. What more could I want? Sounds like a perfect book to me.

Besides, isn't the cover absolutely lovely? The girl is gorgeous. Let me just say, I want that dress.
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