Monday, December 20, 2010

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Publication Date/Version: September 2010/Hardcover
Publisher: Razorbill
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Around The World Tours (Thanks!)

Mackie Doyle seems like everyone else in the perfect little town of Gentry, but he is living with a fatal secret - he is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now the creatures under the hill want him back, and Mackie must decide where he really belongs and what he really wants.

A month ago, Mackie might have told them to buzz off. But now, with a budding relationship with tough, wounded, beautiful Tate, Mackie has too much to lose. Will love finally make him worthy of the human world?

Mackie is a Replacement, a castoff, whatever you want to call him. Years ago he was swapped for a human child from underneath the town of Gentry. The people of this small town know that their prosperity depends on the happiness of the creatures below the ground, and talk of the odd occurrences is forbidden. The citizens pretend as if nothing happens. When Tate's little sister is taken, however, Mackie feels he must do something, as his health is quickly declining and he feels that he must in order to reverse the backwardness of the small town.

The Replacement is a chilling and, often times, gruesome debut. Ms. Yovanoff brings a new aspect to the worn out YA paranormal genre with a book that's sure to find itself loved in the hands of fans of horror, paranormal, and good story telling.
Mackie is a character that you are instantly sympathetic for. With his odd circumstances, he has never fully fit in, except with his sister and very small group of friends. His allergies to metal keep him out of cars, wary of kitchen utensils, and as far away from school blood drives as possible. With his health deteriorating, he is approached by a stranger who tells him that he is dying. This stranger seems to be one of Mackie's kind, and, soon, Mackie will find out that there are many more like him above the ground.
After the disappearance of Tate's, Mackie's somewhat crush, little sister, he feels it's his duty to find her. Because he's dying, he figures he might as well. As he learns more about the warring underworlds and their grievances with the humans, things only become more complicated and twisted and even more terrifying. What goes on down there, as well as above, are the kinds of things that keep you awake at night. And Mackie must face them with the help of his loyal friends.
Brenna does a wonderful job weaving a story and its lore. I was intrigued as the why the underworld people acted as they did. Mackie was interesting, and it was easy to understand his pain. The supporting characters were each unique, with Roswell being a favorite. What I found most compelling about this novel is the fact that Mackie fits in with neither the underworld creatures, nor the regular humans - he's always an outsider - as well as the fact that even the scary creatures felt lonely and neglected. There was one particular scene involving Mackie and one of the dead girls that really struck a chord with me. Her pain was so evident, and his simple gesture was refreshing.
I encourage all of the Young Adult audience to pick this up, as I believe everyone will find something to love about The Replacement.
Overall: Atmospheric. Creepy and gruesome. Strong emotions and depth. Great supporting characters.
My Advice: Buy it or borrow it. It's a great fall read.
The Cover: That is one of the scariest, greatest covers I have seen. It ties in perfectly with the novel and really sets the right mood.
*This was read as a part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge and the 100+ Reading Challenge

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway by Albert Borris, author of Crash Into Me

Please join me in welcoming Albert Borris, author of Crash Into Me. Today, I am lucky enough to share an exceprt from his book with you.

About Crash Into Me:

Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae have one thing in common: they all want to die. When they meet online after each attempts suicide and fails, the four teens make a deadly pact: they will escape together on a summer road trip to visit the sites of celebrity suicides...and at their final destination, they will all end their lives. As they drive cross-country, bonding over their dark impulses, sharing their deepest secrets and desires, living it up, hooking up, and becoming true friends, each must decide whether life is worth living--or if there's no turning back.

Throughout the book, Owen makes lists, and below is one of them.

Top Ten Ways to Kill Yourself on Television:
1. Blind-folded Execution
2. Skate into a bus
3. Tied on train tracks dressed like Barney Rubble
4. Walk the plank on a Pirate Ship
5. Wear a fish suit in a shark tank
6. Samurai Sword Fight with balloon guns
7. Soak yourself in gasoline and hold a burning candle
8. Drive off the top of a parking garage in an Ice Cream Truck
9. Catapult into the side of a Mountain
10. Sky-dive without a parachute onto a trampoline
*copyrighted by Albert Borris

For more info on Albert and suicide prevention visit his website here.

And now, for the best part! I am happy to announce that I have one copy of Crash Into Me to give away thanks to Albert. Please see the details below.

- Contest will run until Sunday, November 20th, 2010
- Open to the US only
- Enter here

Good luck!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blog Tour: Guest Post by Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade

Please join me in welcoming Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade. Today, she's here to tell us about some Young Adult books that are must-reads!

Reading Recs, or Spreading the Love

One of the best parts of being an author is meeting other authors. I’ve been able to meet my writing heroes and heroines over the past several months and it has been amazing. I read as much as I can, so my recommendations here are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great books. The following titles are a few of my recent favorites:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.

Two brilliant authors who are two wonderful people write a book about two awesome boys, both named Will Grayson. I got to hang out with John and David at ALA and I’m still going through withdrawal – I wish I could see them every day! This story about self-discovery, friendship, and loyalty made me laugh out loud and cry. It’s beautifully written and full of surprises. John Green and David Levithan each write books on their own too – and they are all amazing, pick any one of them up and you’re in for a treat.

The Demon’s Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan

The first book has a fabulous twist. The second book features a kick-ass heroine. All of it takes place in England, one of my favorite countries and is full of an original mythology that is fascinating and compelling. I love the characters Sarah has created and I’m dying for the third book in this trilogy to hit shelves!

Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

Lisa is my critique partner so I’ve been lucky to read this book and its sequel, Original Sin, early. You can pick it up September 14! Lisa has offered an original spin on the battle between Heaven and Hell with a no-nonsense, sassy heroine and two phenomenally sexy boys trying to win her heart (and soul). Lisa’s books are delicious and addictive!

Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

I love The Wolves of Mercy Falls series, which Maggie is best known for, but her books focusing on faerie lore are my favorites by this gifted author. Not a series, but companion novels Lament and Ballad are achingly beautiful. The joys and sorrows of Maggie’s characters haunt you well after you’ve finished the books. If you haven’t checked out these books (published by Flux) you should.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Speaking of faerie lore, Brenna’s debut hits shelves in September. This book hit me hard, but in a good way. It’s a frightening and slightly disturbing interpretation of ugliness and beauty, good and evil. The protagonist is Mackie – a very unique young man – he’s a changeling, a faerie child left in place of a human child who’s been stolen. Unlike other faeries, Mackie is trying hard to be part of his human family and their world, despite the fact that it’s slowly killing him. I loved this story which is in turns sweet and horrifying.

Thanks for joining us Andrea!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blog Tour: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Publication Date/Version: October 2010/Hardcover
Publisher: Philomel
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Publisher

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything--including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

A bit animal-like, a whole lot sexy, and plenty of action. Nightshade is a whirlwind debut that tops the charts as one-of-those paranormal books. Ranking with Raised by Wolves and Spell Hunters, this one hits all kinds of new levels.

Calla is a strong, no nonsense kind of girl. The kind you actually want to read about. She's certainly no pushover, and you get that immediately from the story. She's tough and fights for what she wants. We're drawn in instantly to her major problem - saving a human boy, violating pack rules. Soon after, she begins to question everything she's known about the pack and just how truthful they really are.

Meet her two rival boys, Ren and Shay. Ren is the soon-to-be alpha male of the pack Calla and Ren are destined to create. He's the hot boy with a heart just for Calla. He's not without his flaws, but he is willing to stop it all for Calla. Then comes along Shay, the boy Calla saves from certain death. He's not afraid of the pack, though he should be. He fights for Calla and crosses more than a few boundaries doing so. I preferred the relationship between Ren and Calla as it was hot and exciting. I didn't feel the chemistry between her and Shay, but apparently she did. Either way, it didn't detract much from the plot.

Fast-paced and full of action, the insanity never stops in Nightshade. The pack is intense and demanding, while Calla's secrets draw her away from her duties and friends. There's nonstop intrigue and you can't help but flip the pages. This hefty book only took me a couple days to read. I highly recommend Cremer's debut, and I cannot wait for the next installment, Wolfsbane!

Overall: Hot chemistry, dynamic pack, full of intrigue.

My Advice: Buy a copy.

Cover: Loving it. The colors are great, and I especially enjoy the flowers that look as though there's been a bit of bloodshed.

*This book was read as a part of the 100+ Reading Challenge and the 2010 Debut Author Challenge

Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Publication Date/Version: March 2010/Hardcover
Publisher: Dial
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Publisher

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie 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.

Similar to Cath Crowley's A Little Wanting Song, The Sky is Everywhere delivers on romance and prose. These two books fall into their own special category of writing. It's beyond emotional, beyond evocative, beyond anything else. It's near perfection in a book. Writing as good as this hits true emotions and makes you nod along saying Yes! That's exactly what it feels like. Jandy Nelson is a writer who is able to put into words what everyone feels but can't describe.

Bailey faces the classic dilemma of having two boys both vying for her heart. One is her sister's old boyfriend, who shares her pain but also causes enormous amounts of grief. The other is a new boy who lights up her world, bringing sunshine and music to the dark corners of her mind. Does she want to remember her sorrow, or forget it completely? The decision is complicated, and we're taken along through each of Bailey's thoughts. The beginning of each chapter starts with a poem or a few words written on trash scattered throughout the town - all of which are touching and simple. The Sky is Everywhere is one of those book where I wish I had a notebook handy to write down each gorgeous phrase I came across.

Though the characters were a-okay after such a long fight - one of my pet peeves - I really can't detract much from the story because of a few plot points. The words and weight of this book are ultimately redeeming. This is a book you can't judge based on character arc or dramatic tension. Instead, it's one of those books you judge on the quality of life, the emotions it portrays, and the simple elegance of its words. It's touching, inspiring, and gosh darn near perfect.

Overall: I really shouldn't have to explain at this point. I already said gosh darn near perfect.

My Advice: Buy it.

Cover: I didn't initially love it, but it's growing on me. I prefer the UK cover, as that one's gorgeous.

*This was read as a part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge and the 100+ Reading Challenge

Sunday, September 5, 2010

School: Why I Love, and Despise, You

Fall is creeping up on us and, unfortunately, for a large majority of the population, that means one thing: school. Whether you love it, dread it, or just like to see your friends, it's always there. And now, the reasons for my love-hate relationship, which I'm sure many of you will agree with.

1. Seeing my friends! That first day back, or, for me, the first football game (which happened before the first day,) is the best feeling, especially as a now upperclassman. I'm a junior! Seeing all of your old friends is great, and it's even better to say hi to people you don't talk to much. Everyone's just happy to see each other.

2. Being an upperclassman! It's about darn time. Now I get automatic rights for all of the good things in school life: front row at all of the games, ability to walk under the minuscule cover when it rains, parting of the hallways. I'm stoked.

3. Talking to new people! Whether it's transfers or incoming freshman, it's nice to make someone's day by simply acknowledging them. And it's great when someone I don't really know strikes up a conversation with me.

4. New classes! Yep, I said it. I have tons of fun going to all of my new classes, meeting teachers, and starting in on those Lit books!

5. School spirit! Dressing up for games, getting decked out in team colors, yelling 'til you're hoarse...that's the life of a teenager.

1. Summer homework! I take a couple AP classes which inevitably means summer homework. I'm 40 hours in and counting. Bring it on. Oh, and if my history teacher assigns one more mind-numbingly boring book, I don't know what I'm going to do.

2. The dreaded school picture! Now this can really be a plus or a minus, but planning is terrible, as is the anticipation to see how your picture turned out. Way too stressful.

3. No free time! Between sports, homework, and general school activities, when I am supposed to live? Or eat or shower for that matter? For me, it's wake up at 5:30 and go to bed by 10:00, if I'm lucky. Thank goodness for my friends who always get coffee - I couldn't survive without mooching off of them!

4. Homework! I've got 7 subjects, and that means a lot of homework. 3-4 hours average, 7 if it's bad. I will not miss those days.

5. Stress and the inevitable forgetful moments! Yes, for some reason, you always manage to forget the test in your hardest class or to do homework in that one class. It happens, and it sucks.

School, with its highs and lows, isn't everyone's favorite but I think we can all agree that it's one of the most memorable of exciting times of our lives!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

In My Mailbox or The Fed Ex Guy is Sneaky

IMM is a weekly meme that explores the contents of one's mailbox. IMM was started by Kristi at The Story Siren. I'm doing it a bit differently now. I will be taking pictures, including an interesting title as I'm tired of numbers and why I received it (a la Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.)

Crave by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz (Accepted Review Copy)

Echoes by Melinda Metz (Accepted Review Copy)

Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love edited by Trisha Telep (Accepted Review Copy) - Fed Ex dropped this one off, and because I never open my door for them (hehe) he left it on my porch. I walked out, looked around, and didn't see it so I came back inside. I thought maybe it was a package I had to sign for, but I decided to look again. He had wedged it in a corner behind our potted plant, under its leaves. Very sneaky... I do like that about Fed Ex though. They always put our packages out of a passerby's viewpoint.

The Death by Bikini Mysteries (Books 1-3) by Linda Gerber (Paperback Swap) - What a surprise! I thought I was receiving a copy of the first book, but I ended up getting all three in one book.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles (Bought) - Thanks to a gift card from my awesome Grandma!

The Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau (Random Buzzers Program)

Do you like the way I'm doing IMM now? Or do you like the old way?

I had a good week! How was yours?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I'm participating in the Banned Books Reading Challenge!

The lovely Steph of Steph Su Reads has issued a Banned Books Reading Challenge, and I plan on taking part! You can read more about it and sign up here. This is my main post, in which I will be outlining my goals and linking to reviews.

Often times I find myself recommending book to certain age groups based on their content, but who am I to judge? I look forward to break boundaries and defying those who think they can control me. Bring on those oh so bad banned books.

My goal is to read at least 2 banned or challenged books. I'm starting out small, but maybe I'll read more. I would like to check out:

Crank by Ellen Hopkins
The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review: Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney

Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney
Publication Date/Version: September 2009/Hardcover
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Publisher

Big Macs and pop tunes mask the emptiness as Madeline watches her mom drink away their welfare checks. Until the day Tad, a quirky McDonald's counter boy, asks Madeline out for a date, and she gets her first taste of normal. But with a life that's anything but, how long can normal really last?

Hanging with Jeremy, avoiding Mam, sticking Do Not Disturb Post-its on her heart, Desiree's mission is simple: party hard, graduate (well, maybe), get out of town. But after Desiree accepts half a meatball grinder, a cold drink, and a ride from her mother's boyfriend on rainy afternoon, nothing is ever simple again.

Too many AP classes. Workaholic mom. Dad in prison. Still, Ariel's sultry new boyfriend, Shane, manages to make even the worst days delicious. But when a trip to visit the sick grandmother she's never met reveals her family's dark past, Ariel struggles to find the courage to make the right choice for her own future.

Blue Plate Special is one of those stories that really gets to you. It starts as just another teenagers with problems book, but Michelle weaves together intrigue, wit, and awkwardness into a classic coming of age story that defies preset standards.

Madeline, Desiree, and Ariel. All young girls with their whole lives ahead of them, stuck in problem situations. All are connected, but none know it just quite yet. As time flashes from one point of view to the next, each young woman offers a glimpse into hard times and just what it means to be a fighter. Their situations are heart-wrenching at worst, manageable at best, but their connections are undeniable.

Kwasney has created a compelling storyline that can stand completely on its own. It flows between characters with ease, each offering up a different attitude and time period. Michelle manages to show how love and hurt transcends all boundaries, as well as just how connected we all really are. The plot kept me moving at a steady pace as I simply had to find out what happened to each girl, to see whether they had enough fight to get out of their situation.

The great storyline left me so blinded that in the final chapters, when everything was coming together and connections were revealed, I was in shock. How had I missed all of the key moments and clues? It should have been so obvious, but it wasn't. Those last few chapters delivered gut-wrenching punch after punch, leaving you to piece it all together and contemplate what you've just realized. A second read-through is required for me; I hope to find the connections that I missed the first time.

Overall: Innovative. A must read. One of my favorites of 2010.

My Advice: Buy a copy, that simple.

Cover: The simple design and over scheme are inviting. The broken pieces of one whole represent the book's major theme. Well done.

*This was read as a part of the 100+ Reading Challenge

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blogging Break

These couple weeks of time left before school starts are very busy for me, so I've decided to take a break from blogging. I'm not sure how long this will be - at least until my summer homework is finished and I'm caught up on my real life commitments. I'm still reading review books, meaning I will have reviews when I get back. Thanks to my understanding followers!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In My Mailbox (49)

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

For Review:

The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball by Risa Green
(ARC/Releases September 2010/Sourcebooks Fire)

When Erin Channing's favorite aunt dies, Erin is bequeathed a pink crystal ball and a set of weird instructions. Granted, Aunt Kiki (aka Aunt Kooky) always lived "outside the box." But now Erin and her two best friends are convinced that the pink crystal ball holds the key to their future-or at least the key to getting dates...

Jumbee by Pamela Keyes
(ARC/Releases October 2010/Dial)

Seventeen-year-old Esti Legard spent her childhood in the Shakespearean world of her famous father, and when he died, she knew she could never give up acting. After she and her mother move to a Caribbean island for her senior year, she realizes that nothing at her new school's theater department is quite as it seems. Stunned by the death of a fellow student on her first day of class, Esti is soon surrounded by legends of the wicked jumbees that haunt the West Indies. She finds herself snubbed by the school’s star actress and relegated to a minor part in Romeo and Juliet.

Only her intriguing new friend, the elusive Alan, shares her passion for Shakespeare. Hiding in the dark recesses of the theater, he leads Esti deep into her own soul to explore the limits of her talent. When Esti's childhood best friend moves to the island and back into her life, however, Alan disappears. Rocked by growing accusations of befriending a jumbee, Esti realizes she must find out who – or what – Alan really is. She is soon forced to defy everyone and everything she’s ever believed in, as she plunges into the mysteries of Shakespeare and the legends of the West Indians, discovering shocking truths about her own past that will forever shape her future.

I love the setting for this book!

I had a bit of a slow week, but that's alright! I'm really looking forward to the books I have. How'd you do?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Review: The Jaguar Stones by J&P Voelkel

The Jaguar Stones by J&P Volekel
Publication Date/Version: April 2010/Paperback and Hardcover
Publisher: Egmont
Age Group: Middle Grade with Young Adult appeal
Received From: Publisher

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy, video-gamer extraordinaire, is furious when his archaeologist parents cancel the family vacation to go on a dig in Central America. But things go from bad to worse when Max is summoned to join them, only to discover that his parents have vanished. With the help of Lola, a fast-talking, quick-thinking Maya girl, Max embarks on a quest to find out just what’s going on. Soon Max and Lola are running for their lives in the perilous rainforest, as they unlock ancient secrets, meet mysterious strangers, and begin to understand that, in San Xavier, nothing is ever as it seems.

Fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to Max Murphy. But can a teen whose biggest talent is for video games rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save himself from the villainous Lords of Death?

Max, a spoiled boy from Boston, is thrown into a whirlwind of ancient Mayan culture. When his archaeologist parents disappear, it's up to him to find them and bring them back. There are more than a few obstacles in his way, however. He comes across thieving monkeys, a Mayan girl, stones with the power to destroy the world, and a few bad guys who are out to get them.

The Jaguar Stones is an action-packed novel that will appeal to Middle Grade readers, as well as those in the Young Adult category who love adventure or history. I also recommend this to boys who can't seem to find a good book.

Max, who is initially and continually a very whiny character who luckily deals with that problem later on, is the unsuspecting victim of a huge quest to find the Jaguar Stones and save the world from the Lords of Death. While far-fetched, the story is made interesting by lots of Mayan history. I've always had a fascination with ancient cultures, and this book really fed my appetite. I'm so glad to have picked it up, as I learned a ton and enjoyed one of the most action-filled stories I've read in a long time. The culture of the Mayans resonated on such a large scale in The Jaguar Stones; the basic facts and rituals were incredibly neat, and I know that anyone who enjoys history will love this book.

As I said, Max is initially annoying but he gradually develops into a selfless character. Lola, a Mayan girl, is feisty, independent, and courageous. I'm adding her to my list of good role models. She fights for what she believes in and will do anything to protect her people. The plot was complicated and the book lengthy at 400 pages, a bit so for MG readers. For these reasons, I recommend this book to upper MG readers or Young Adult readers. The plot never slowed down, and I felt as though I were in an awesome Indiana Jones film.

I could really tell that J&P Voelkel did a large amount of research, and I really appreciate that. This book could have been average, based on Mayan facts that everyone knows, but I learned a lot and was introduced to a fascinating culture. I am immensely excited for book two!

Overall: Tons of action. Exciting plot. Fascinating culture. Great for MG and YA readers.

My Advice: Buy a copy if my review has interested you at all

The Cover: Very literal covers can be hit-and-miss, but I'm really fond of this one. The text is interesting, and the image accurately portrays an intense scene in the story.

*This was read as a part of the 100+ Reading Challenge

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Wishlist (26)

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 Goodreads. Here's what's on my wishlist this week:

The Sweetness of Salt
by Cecilia Galante

Julia just graduated as her high school valedictorian, has a full ride to college in the fall and a coveted summer internship clerking for a federal judge. But when her older sister, Sophie, shows up at the graduation determined to reveal some long buried secrets, Julia's carefully constructed plans come to a halt. Instead of the summer she had painstakingly laid out, Julia follows Sophie back to Vermont, where Sophie is opening a bakery - and struggling with some secrets of her own. What follows is a summer of revelations - some heartwarming, some heartbreaking, and all slowly pointing Julia toward a new understanding of both herself and of the sister she never really knew.

Reasons I want to read this:
1. I love the cover - its images and color combinations, especially the way the text is laid out
2. I enjoy stories like this: ones in which a family is shaken up by secrets
3. I'm in the mood for contemporary fiction

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Teaser Tuesday (19)

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.

"He spoke in an admiring whisper. "The Black Jaguar of Ah Pukuh...lost for centuries...But where did you get it?"

Page 59, Middleworld: The Jaguar Stones by J&P Voelkel


Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Zillah's Gift by Lois West Duffy

Zillah's Gift by Lois West Duffy
Publication Date/Version: August 2009/Paperback
Publisher: Beaver's Pond Press
Age Group: Middle Grade/Young Adult appeal
Received From: Reader Views Kids

Zillah is an orphan in ancient Persia living in a caravan serai--a safe haven for desert travelers. Other children taunt her because of a birth-mark on her face and strangers think it is the sign of a curse. Her future is grim until a royal caravan comes to the serai, following a wondrous star. Zillah has seen that star, though it is invisible to those around her.

Through a series of amazing events, Zillah embarks on an adventure, full of danger, trying to protect her most precious secret.

Zillah is a simple girl living in a caravan serai in the Persian desert. She works under her oppressive aunt and uncle, hoping to one day gain her freedom. A birthmark across her face scares many, leading to taunts and jokes. Zillah, however, is strong and knows that she will do something greater with her life. When a royal caravan comes through and notices her curiosity, Zillah is taken on their journey following a glorious star that only some can see.

I went into Zillah's Gift expecting simple storytelling and, overall, an average book. This is once again a case of don't judge a book by its cover! I was plunged into a rich setting, interesting time period, and wonderful story.

Zillah is a headstrong, independent young girl who is full of respectable morals and wishes. She was the kind of character that you root for from the beginning. Ms. Duffy had a fairly simple way of telling the story, but it was captivating nonetheless. The details were plentiful and I could easily see the picturesque setting.

I am a big fan of historical fiction, and I was pleased to find that Zillah's Gift took place in a time period that I have never read about. It was pleasantly surprising, and I'm eager to seek out more stories in this time period.

Zillah's Gift is a gem of a surprise, with a touching story packed inside of a great setting. I recommend this to everyone, especially those who enjoy historical fiction.

Overall: A surprisingly wonderful read. Interesting setting. Great storytelling.

My Advice: Buy it. I'm happy to put it on my shelf.

The Cover: It fits the story well, with the girl and camel, the star, and the letters that look as though they've been worn down by desert sand. I love the colors of the sunset as well.

*This was read as a part of the 100+ Reading Challenge

Sunday, August 15, 2010

In My Mailbox (48)

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

For Review:

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
(ARC/Releases September 2010/Razorbill)

Mackie Doyle seems like everyone else in the perfect little town of Gentry, but he is living with a fatal secret - he is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now the creatures under the hill want him back, and Mackie must decide where he really belongs and what he really wants.

A month ago, Mackie might have told them to buzz off. But now, with a budding relationship with tough, wounded, beautiful Tate, Mackie has too much to lose. Will love finally make him worthy of the human world?

I received this from Around The World Tours. I'm reading it right now and enjoying it quite a bit.

Fledgling: Jason Steed by Mark A. Cooper
(ARC/Releases September 2010/Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

Jason Steed is looking for a place to call home. He finds what he's looking for in the Sea Cadets - an elite group of British youngsters being groomed for lifelong service in the military. But when a routine training exercise goes awry, Jason finds himself in the middle of a secret mission. The future of the world hangs in the balance...and Jason might be the only one who can save it.

This isn't my normal read, but I'm actually very excited to pick it up!

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent
(PB/August 2009/Harlequin Teen)

She doesn't see dead people, but…

She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.

Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about her need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who'll be next…

I received this for review from the Harlequin Teen panel which I love! I've been wanting to read this book for a long time, so I'm excited to finally own it.

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

I had a good week! How about you?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday Wishlist (25)

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 Goodreads. Here's what's on my wishlist this week:

by Cat Clarke

Grace meets enigmatic Ethan the night she's planning to kill herself. The next morning she wakes up in a strange room with a table, chair, pens and paper. There's nothing to do but write, and as she writes, Grace remembers the things she's tried so hard to forget.

The hazy memories lead Grace into a dark place where friendship, heartbreak and betrayal tangle together...

Reason I want to read this:
1. The premise makes it seem as though this will be a deep, well-thought out novel.
2. Why is she in that room? And why do her, well, captors want her to write? I must find out!
3. The combination of colors on the cover is gorgeous.
4. Unfortunately, this is releasing in the UK, not the US.

ps. Sorry for my absence. I haven't been in a blogging mood lately.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

In My Mailbox (47)

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

For Review:

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
(PB/August 2010 in Australia/Pan Macmillan Australia)

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.

His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere.

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.

Cath was kind enough to send me a copy of this after I loved her previous book, A Little Wanting Song, so much!

The Summoning by Kelly Armstrong

The past two weeks I've only received two books, but it's actually been a really nice break! I removed myself from all tour websites which takes off tons of stress. I finally came to terms that I was obsessed with them. ;] Hope you had a great week in books!

Friday, August 6, 2010

One Year Blogoversary!

That's right everyone - today is my one year blogoversary! It's thanks to all of you and your lovely comments, as well as a few handfuls of amazing books, that I continue to enjoy my blogging duties. No, sorry, there's no giant contest. All I have to offer are my thanks...

...And some nummy cupcakes. Hope to see you this time next year!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mini Reviews (4)

Mini Reviews is composed of, well, small reviews. These will likely be books I read forever ago or didn't enjoy a whole lot, but did finish. These reviews will be short and sweet.

Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

This one really drew me in and kept me reading. I was fascinated by Phe's odd powers, and I really wish we heard more about those. The concept as a whole was interesting, and the plot progressed quickly. There was a large array of characters, and the mystery added a lot to the story. I had an idea of what was going on, but I liked the feeling of figuring things out with Phe. While this isn't one of my favorites, I look forward to the next book.

This book was positive in some places and lacking in others. My main complaint is that I feel as though this book is being marketed to the wrong audience. I believe this would make a great picture book for young children, but as a MG/YA book, it offers little. I can easily see small children enjoying this story along with great drawings, but for the audience I write to, it's much too repetitive and it shows rather than tells.

Forget-Het-Nots by Amy Brecount White

I wanted to like this book, I really did, but it just wasn't for me. The idea of a flower language was intriguing, and while it was fully fleshed out, it didn't hold my attention well enough. If there had been even more mystery or suspense, I believe I would have enjoyed this more. It was, however, much to young for what I thought would be a YA book. This book is better suited for MG readers. I think they will find the mystery aspect more suitable for them, as well as the overall level of character maturity.

Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

Ah, the horrors of waiting a long time to review a book! All of the fault falls upon me and my procrastinating ways. This book was one that I enjoyed a lot at the time. I think I may reread it. The story was heartfelt, as were the characters. They were very real, simply themselves. The end was a shock to me, and I remember being a bit teary-eyed. All in all, it was a good read that I recommend.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday Wishlist (24)

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 Goodreads. Here's what's on my wishlist this week:

The Twin's Daughter
by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Lucy Sexton is stunned when a disheveled woman appears at the door one day... a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Lucy's own beautiful mother. It turns out the two women are identical twins, separated at birth, and raised in dramatically different circumstances. Lucy's mother quickly resolves to give her less fortunate sister the kind of life she has never known. And the transformation in Aunt Helen is indeed remarkable. But when Helen begins to imitate her sister in every way, even Lucy isn't sure at times which twin is which. Can Helen really be trusted, or does her sweet face mask a chilling agenda?

Reasons I want to read this:
1. What a concept!
2. It vaguely reminds me of The Prophecy of the Sisters which I really enjoyed.
3. I like the cover - how there's two obvious images and how they create an image in their void

Contest Winners!

I have multiple contest winners to announce!

The three lucky winners of Lost For Words are:




The lucky winner of one set of the Zan-Gah series is:


The lucky winner of a copy of Mockingbird and other book-related goodies is:


Congrats to all of the winners. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Teaser Tuesday (18)

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.

"Gaia sopped a bit of clean rag into her cup of tea, absorbing the last hot liquid, and then wiped it over the ankle, cleaning it. She dipped the needle in the brown ink, held it briefly to the light, and then, swiftly, as she had done before under her mother's guidance, she pressed the pin into the baby's ankle in four rapid pricks."

Page 4, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien


Monday, August 2, 2010

I have returned

I'm back everyone! I just thought I would let you know. I'm going through comments and answering emails. Look forward to posts. It's nice to see all of you again.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Hey all! I'm currently gone at the moment, so I've got a couple of things to say.

1. Don't worry if your comments aren't going through! I have moderation on, so they won't show up until I get back and am able to go through all of them. Also, I have scheduled some posts, as you can see, but a lot of it was rather last minute, so you might not see posts every day this week. I'm enjoying my time off and trying not to stress about the blog.

2. I know that at least one of my contests has expired, and one may in the very near future. It's okay if you enter past the date I have listed as the entry closure date - I didn't know I would be gone so those contests will be extended. I'll end them when I get back, and then I'll announce the winners.

3. IMM will be postponed until next week. I have absolutely no idea what I've received this week, so you'll see two weeks worth of books the following week.

Catch you all later!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday Wishlist (23)

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 Goodreads. Here's what's on my wishlist this week:

Tweet Heart
by Elizabeth Rudnick

Claire is a #hopelessromantic. Lottie is determined to set up her BFF with Mr. Perfect. Will wants his #secretcrush to finally notice him. Bennett is a man with a plan.

Claire can’t believe it when her dream guy starts following her on Twitter. She never thought he noticed her, and suddenly he seems to understand her better than almost anyone.

But the Twitterverse can be a confusing place, especially when friends act differently online than they do in person. Things get even more complicated when Claire realizes she’s falling for someone else, the last person she ever would have expected….

Reasons I want to read this:
1. It sounds like such a cute story line!
2. Love the adorable cover.
3. I really enjoy books told in alternate forms (email, diary entries, etc.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Teaser Tuesday (17)

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.

"I wrapped my arms around her; my fingers froze for a half second s they grazed her bra strap. I took in her scent - her familiar vanilla practically hidden by a coffee smell."

Page 15, Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson


Monday, July 26, 2010

The Clearing by Heather Davis

The Clearing by Heather Davis
Publication Date/Version: April 2010/Paperback
Publisher: Graphia
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Around The World Tours (Thanks!)

Amy, a sixteen-year-old recovering from an abusive relationship, moves to the country to start a new life with her aunt–all she wants is for everything to be different. In the clearing at the back of Aunt Mae’s property, she makes an amazing discovery—Henry, a boy stuck in the endless summer of 1944. Henry and his world become Amy’s refuge and she begins to learn that some moments are worth savoring. But when the past and present come crashing together, both of them must find the courage to face what is meant to be, even if it means losing each other forever.

Moving from a big city to her aunt's small, country home after a relationship with a bad outcome, Amy has a lot to get used to. It's alright with her, though. She wants, and needs, things to be different. Just how different things will get, however, is beyond Amy's imagination. After wandering through a strange mist behind her aunt's house, Amy meets Henry, a boy stuck quite literally in the past. What develops is a real, hopeful love. Because of Henry's situation, things unfortunately can't stay as there are forever.

The Clearing is my first novel by Heather Davis, and based on its tone and setting, I look forward to picking up more.

Amy comes across as a brash character throughout the novel, but she's not without her reasons. Her attitude irked me at times, mainly when she was hurting genuinely nice characters without knowing it, but I also understand her need to protect herself. I'm glad this took place in the country, not the city, as I believe it helped add to the serene romance that took place. It was one of those settings that you wished you could have as a child, one of those gorgeous places to grow up. Rockville was a quaint country town where the neighbors are friendly and people make blueberry jam. Davis created the setting perfectly, and without it the book wouldn't have been what it was.

Told in alternation perspectives, you can see Amy and Henry's relationship progress slowly, but in a lovely way. Henry was the classic gentleman - ladies first, hold the door, don't make her uncomfortable. He never pushed Amy or asked for anything she didn't want to give. His demeanor was refreshing in a genre that's riddled with bad boys. I absolutely adored the progression of the relationship, as it was sweet and simple, but oh so deep. This was true, real love, not just lust. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

Henry's situation was an odd one, but luckily it was explained well. My mind couldn't fully comprehend what was happening, but that wasn't the point. It created a perfect opportunity for love to bloom, and, in this story, that was all that mattered.

The only thing that leaves me torn about this book is the ending. While it fits the book well, it left me a bit wistful. I wanted more than what I was given. I think that's just me, though.

Overall: Lovely romance. Serene setting. A perfect gentleman.

My Advice: Buy it or borrow it. It's really up to you.

The Cover: I love the washed effect of the blues and greens, as well as the picture in the middle. The girl in the red dress is absolutely perfect for the story. I could have done without the "True love is timeless" and the boy, as they don't fit my perceptions of the book.

*This was read as a part of the 100+ Reading Challenge

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Onward Bound to the Happiest Place on Earth!

Yes folks, I'm talking about Disneyland. My best friend and her family are going down to California for a bit over a week, and they're kind enough to bring me along. I, therefore, will be gone from this blog starting today until about next Sunday. I'm already gone at this point - I had to get up at 4 because we're driving. Whoopee. In the meantime, I'll be going to Disneyland, hitting up an L.A. Dodgers games, and wake boarding. So excited! I have posts scheduled, so you won't even know I'm gone. And with my awesome new phone, I'll be able to reply to your emails, so no worries there! See you all when I get back.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

In My Mailbox (46)

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

For Review:

The Clearing by Heather Davis
(PB/April 2010/Graphia)

Amy, a sixteen-year-old recovering from an abusive relationship, moves to the country to start a new life with her aunt–all she wants is for everything to be different. In the clearing at the back of Aunt Mae’s property, she makes an amazing discovery—Henry, a boy stuck in the endless summer of 1944. Henry and his world become Amy’s refuge and she begins to learn that some moments are worth savoring. But when the past and present come crashing together, both of them must find the courage to face what is meant to be, even if it means losing each other forever.

I've already read this, and I really enjoyed it! I received this from Around The World Tours.

No and Me by Delphine de Vigan
(ARC/Releases August 2010/Bloomsbury Children's)

Parisian teenager Lou has an IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life—and that of her parents—all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou bravely asks her parents if No can live with them, and is astonished when they agree. No’s presence forces Lou’s family to come to terms with a secret tragedy. But can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together when No’s own past comes back to haunt her?

I've finished this one as well. Look forward to a review soon! I received this from Around The World Tours.

The Line by Teri Hall
(ARC/Released March 2010/Dial)

An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It’s said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel’s dad died in the last war. It’s a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?

I received this from Around The World Tours. I've finished it, and I'm really looking forward to the sequel!

Dream of Night by Heather Henson
(HC/May 2010/Atheneum)

An abused horse. A damaged girl. A last chance for both...

I actually already have an ARC of this which I haven't read, but it's nice to have a finished copy!

The Fire Opal by Regina McBride
(HC/May 2010/Delacorte)

There was a time when Maeve O'Tullagh led a simple life; a time when she and her mother, Nuala, collected kelp on the foreshore near their cottage in Ard Macha; a time when she played among the Celtic ruins with her older brothers and daydreamed about the legendary Holy Isles, an enchanted land ruled in a past age by a beautiful goddess.

But after Maeve's sister, Ishleen, is born, her mother sinks into a deep, impenetrable trance. For years, Maeve tries to help her mother "awaken," and then the unthinkable happens: Ishleen succumbs to the same mysterious ailment as Nuala.

Heartbroken to think that her sister and her mother might be lost to her forever, Maeve sets off on an unimaginable quest to a world filled with fantastical creatures, a web of secrets, a handsome, devious villain who will stop at nothing to have her hand in marriage—braving them all to retrieve a powerful glowing stone that will help her recover the souls of her loved ones and bring them home to Ard Macha.

I received this from Bookdivas for review. I hope there's some good legends or lore behind the story.

Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson
(HC/March 2010/Delacorte)

Joshua Wynn is a preacher’s son and a “good boy” who always does the right thing. Until Maddie comes back to town. Maddie is the daughter of the former associate pastor of Joshua’s church, and his childhood crush. Now Maddie is all grown up, gorgeous—and troubled. She wears provocative clothes to church, cusses, drinks, and fools around with older men. Joshua’s ears burn just listening to the things she did to get kicked out of boarding school, and her own home.

As time goes on, Josh goes against his parents and his own better instincts to keep Maddie from completely capsizing. Along the way, he begins to question his own rigid understanding of God and whether, as his mother says, a girl like Maddie is beyond redemption. Maddie leads Josh further astray than any girl ever has . . . but is there a way to reconcile his love for her and his love for his life in the church?

Sounds like a really good concept! I also received this from Bookdivas for review.

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
(ARC/Releases October 2010/Graphia)

“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

Doesn't this sound good?! I was so stoked to get a copy! I never realized how small it was - only 180 pages.

Emma and the Vampires by Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson
(PB/Releases August 2010/Sourcebooks Landmark)

The Regency-era comedy of manners finds Jane Austen's beloved title character, Emma Woodhouse, attempting to arrange the affairs of the young ladies and gentleman vampires, including Mr. Knightley, in her social circle with delightfully disastrous results.

I received this from the publisher for review. I've yet to read a retelling like this, but I look forward to it!

Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson
(ARC/Releases September 2010/Sourcebooks Fire)

After living in twelve places in eight years with her drifting mother, fourteen year old Calle Smith finds herself in Andreas Bay, California, at the start of ninth grade. Fearful of putting down roots anywhere, but armed with her song journal, she moves to her own soundtrack through a world that bounces her between the school drama crowd, a mysterious loner, and an unlikely boy who will become her first love. But it's the troubling truth Calle uncovers about the father she thought abandoned her that forces Calle to face the toughest choice of her young life.

Thanks to the publisher for this one, as well. Love the cover!

Prophecy of Days: The Daykeeper's Grimoire by Christy Raedeke (Prize from Once Upon a Read-a-Thon)
The Iron King by Julia Kagawa (From Harlequin Teen Panel Discussion)

I had a great week! What about you?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Contest: Mockingbird and goodies

Thanks to the wonderful Kathryn Erskine, I am able to offer 1 signed copy of Mockingbird, as well as some book related goodies to give away! You can read my interview and review.

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful.

Contest Closed
Good luck!

Interview: Kathryn Erskine, author of Mockingbird

Please join me in welcoming Kathryn Erskine, author of Mockingbird. You can read my review here. Kathryn grew up in Europe, Africa, Canada, and the United States, and was a lawyer before she figured out what she really wanted to be when she grew up--a writer! She takes her inspiration from the world around her and from her personal experiences, including her childhood attending 8 different schools. Lots of great writing material, and there's more every day!

1. Please describe Mockingbird in 50 words or less.
Ten-year-old Caitlin, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, struggles to understand emotions, show empathy, and make friends at school, especially after the death of her brother, her social link to the world. Working to find closure, she helps her family and her community come to terms with the school shooting tragedy.

2. What inspired you to write Mockingbird? What do you think the book's cover?
I was inspired to write Mockingbird because my daughter has Asperger’s. I used the school shooting event (which transpires before the book opens) because I was so affected by the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. I thought that, maybe, if the shooter had received some help over the years, he might have felt heard and others might have understood him better. Mockingbird is all about walking in each other’s shoes and learning to understand each other better, which is why I tell it from the point of view of Caitlin, a girl with Asperger’s.

At first I wasn’t sure about the cover. People either love it or hate it. Fortunately, most people love it. I think it’s beautifully pure and simple.

3. The one book everyone should read?
To Kill a Mockingbird
. It’s no coincidence that I reference it both in my book’s title and in the story.

4. Looking at your biography, I see you've lived in numerous places. (Israel, South Africa, Scotland...) Did you enjoying living so many places? If you could chose one place to travel to, where would it be and why?
I loved travelling and experiencing other cultures. There’s so much to learn and appreciate beyond our borders. I felt very lucky. As I write this, my sister is in New Zealand, which is one place I’d love to visit, as well as Australia. I have to say, though, if I could pick just one place, I’d love to go back to southern Africa, specifically, Botswana. There’s something about Africa that gets under your skin and never leaves you—the languages, the music, the people, the sunsets, the wildlife—it’s a breathtaking world.

5. Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, please tell us a bit about it.
I’m currently working on Cornerstone, a novel about a boy who confronts the racism in his community while dealing with the death of his father. He learns that people, past and present, aren’t always what they seem, and that picking sides isn’t as easy as you think.

6. Any last words?
I just finished edits on The Absolute Value of Mike, which will be out a year from now (Philomel, Summer 2011), about a boy with a math learning disability and a genius for a father. Mike spends the summer with wacky relatives and ends up doing something pretty amazing.

Please visit me at where you can get my news, playlists, and fun photo writing prompts, or at my blog,, or on facebook or twitter.

Thanks for interviewing me, McKenzie!

Thanks so much for stopping by Kathryn!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Deception by Lee Nichols

Deception by Lee Nichols
Publication Date/Version: June 2010/Hardcover and Paperback
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Age Group: Young Adult
Received From: Around The World Tours (Thanks!)

When Emma Vaile's parents leave on mysterious business trip, it gives her the perfect excuse to be a rebellious teen. Throw some parties, get a tattoo (or maybe just a piercing), and enjoy the first few weeks of her junior year. Then her best friend stops talking to her, the cops crash her party, and Emma finds herself in the hands of a new guardian—her college-age "knight in J.Crew armor," Bennett Stern—and on a plane to his museum-like mansion in New England.

After enrolling at Thatcher Academy, Emma settles in by making friends with the popular legacy crowd. But she can't shake the strange visions that are haunting her. She has memories of Thatcher she can't explain, as if she's returning home to a place she's never been. Emma doesn't trust anyone anymore—except maybe Bennett. But he's about to reveal a ghostly secret to Emma. One that will explain the visions . . . and make Emma fear for her life.

After being reported to Child Services because her parents have seemingly abandoned her, Emma is taken to Echo Point by Bennett, her older brother's friend whom she's always had a crush on. Things haven't been right lately with Emma, though. She can feel the presence of ghosts, as well as see them. Most of them are kind, but others seek to do harm. Emma must learn to control her gifts with the help of others like her before darkness strikes again.

Why haven't I read ghost stories lately? I don't know, but Nichols made it clear to me that I need to pick up more! I had no idea I would enjoy a story like this as much as I did. While the beginning had me wary, I quickly warmed to this book and I'm glad I delved in.

Emma, though she seemed a bit too typical in the beginning, shows herself to be a truly lovable main character. She's nice, mature, and handles her situation well. She respected the ghosts that surrounded, while many others treated them as servants. That aspect was what I admired most about her. She seemed to be a kind and nurturing person, one you would like to know in real life.

The story started out a bit odd, only for the first 30 pages or so, but the confusing events were explained later on. I loved the atmosphere of Echo Point, a quaint New England town, as well as the manor that Emma resided in while there. Nichols managed to take a worn out paranormal genre and add something completely new to the mix. I was fascinated by Emma's powers, as well as her daily experience with ghosts. She saw them everywhere - home, school, parties.

Helping her all the while, though they didn't know the specifics, were her wonderful friends. hey were perfect: understanding, humorous, and always there. The amount of lovable characters in this book tops most all other books.

The ending came as a bit of a shock. And whoo boy, what a cliffhanger! I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Overall: Great, engaging characters. Beautiful setting. Amazing plot. A must read.

My Advice: If you're a fan of paranormal in the least, buy this. I'm excited to have my own copy.

Cover: It really fits the story with the manor, the girl, and the jade necklace. I would like to see something different with the title treatment, as it's a bit blah and plain. But, overall, I like it.

*This was read as a part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge and the 100+ Reading Challenge

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday Wishlist (22)

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 Goodreads. Here's what's on my wishlist this week:

Dark Water
by Laura McNeal

Fifteen-year-old Pearl DeWitt and her mother live in Fallbrook, California, where it’s sunny 340 days of the year, and where her uncle owns a grove of 900 avocado trees. Uncle Hoyt hires migrant workers regularly, but Pearl doesn’t pay much attention to them . . . until Amiel. From the moment she sees him, Pearl is drawn to this boy who keeps to himself, fears being caught by la migra, and is mysteriously unable to talk. And after coming across Amiel’s makeshift hut near Agua Prieta Creek, Pearl falls into a precarious friendship—and a forbidden romance.

Then the wildfires strike. Fallbrook—the town of marigolds and palms, blood oranges and sweet limes—is threatened by the Agua Prieta fire, and a mandatory evacuation order is issued. But Pearl knows that Amiel is in the direct path of the fire, with no one to warn him, no way to get out. Slipping away from safety and her family, Pearl moves toward the dark creek, where the smoke has become air, the air smoke.

Reasons I want to read this:
1. That cover is stunning
2. Sounds unlike anything I've read before
3. Based on the description, I get the feeling the writing will be gorgeous. "The town of marigolds and palms, blood oranges and sweet limes." Isn't that evocative?
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