Monday, May 30, 2011

Character Interview: Iris from What Comes After

This or That List

1. Tea or Coffee?

Coffee, definitely, though as I said in WHAT COMES AFTER, I did have this agreement with my dad that I wouldn’t drink too much, and that I would only drink half-caf when I did.

2. Sugar or Salt?

Neither one, really. I like spicy food, though. But lately it’s pretty much been Fig Newtons and Snapple, with the occasional foray into the goat cheese and crackers.

3. Hot or Cold?

You’d think coming from Maine that I’d love cold the best, but I don’t really care. I’ll take whatever weather you’ve got, I guess. The goats can’t stand rain or snow, and they’ll certainly let you know it, too. But I don’t mind. I’m just happy whenever I get to be outside.

4. Cats or Dogs?

You know Gnarly, that dog of Aunt Sue’s and Book’s? Well he’s coming with me when I leave the farm. I’m not such a big cat fan, but they’re infinitely better then ferrets.

5. Brains or Brawn?

Brains. Not like my cousin Book or his pal Tiny.

6. Quiet or Loud?

Quiet. Like Littleberry. Also funny. And sweet.

7. Paperback or Hardcover?

I just love books, no matter what sort of cover. Especially books about intrepid girls. And animals.

8. Ebooks or physical books?

Physical. I don’t have a lot of money. Thank god for libraries (and great local bookstores).

9, Rain or Sun?


10, Movies or TV shows?

Who’s got time for either one? Life’s always calling. And so are the goats, and the chickens, and Gnarly, and Littleberry, and Shirelle, and Mr. and Mrs. Tuten, and the softball team. Gotta run. Thanks for having me on your blog.

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule Iris to answer my questions! :)

Read my review here.

Author Guest Post - Jo Treggiari

Today I have with me Jo Treggiari, author of Ashes, Ashes, which I had reviewed previously here.

You can find Jo:

In Her Own Words

I was born in damp and rainy London, England but like a sunflower I always turned towards my Italian heritage, and the small mountaintop village of my grandparents and the hot smells of wild fennel, fresh pasta, ripe figs and dusty, sun-baked earth. There is no place on earth I love as well. Rocca Sinibalda- doesn’t it sound romantic?!

After flipping between England, Italy and Ontario, Canada, (my parents are teachers), we moved to California. I majored in Creative Writing and European Literature at college. I always wrote but I ended up dropping out and spending the next ten years punking around, flirting with disaster, falling into a job with a record distributor, and eventually owning my own indie record label. We began with gangsta rap, and then expanded into alt rock, punk and electronica. The music business was fun back then. I had an expense account, a beeper and fancied myself the Harvey Weinstein of music, at least until Puff Daddy came along.

Ten years later I married my boyfriend- the only man I ever dated who was not a musician, rapper or film maker, dragged him across the country to NY and had a baby. It was only then that I started writing again seriously. I used to balance him over my shoulder and type away. I was full of stories and he was a very amenable baby.

I sometimes wonder where I would be if I had stayed on track with my education. But then I think, if I had, perhaps I wouldn’t have so many experiences to draw on. I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life and they are all fodder for the page.

So much of my writing comes from the personal, things that I have felt (or perpetrated). I can imagine if I have to, but I have to be able to put myself there first in order to write it truly. This does not mean however that if my character catches fire, I need to light a match to my clothes.

I’m going to be serious for a moment because actually I am very serious about writing. It matters a lot to me.

Writing is about truth. It can be a miniscule truth or a gigantic truth or an all-encompassing truth, but it cannot ring false. You can’t get all tricksy with your readers.

So whether that be a realistically portrayed society in the aftermath of an apocalypse, or the reactions of a girl who discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her, or the smell of fresh-mown grass in September, I think there’s a responsibility to hew as close to the real as we can.

Thank you Jo for sharing that!

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: What Comes After

Author: Steve Watkins
Publication Date: April 12, 2011
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Copy provided by: Teen Book Scene
Summary (via Goodreads): A gripping portrait of a teen’s struggles through grief and abuse - and the miraculous power of animals to heal us.

After her veterinarian dad dies, sixteen-year-old Iris Wight must leave her beloved Maine to live on a North Carolina farm with her hardbitten aunt and a cousin she barely knows. Iris, a vegetarian and animal lover, immediately clashes with Aunt Sue, who mistreats the livestock, spends Iris’s small inheritance, and thinks nothing of striking Iris for the smallest offense. Things come to a head when Iris sets two young goats free to save them from slaughter, and an enraged Aunt Sue orders her brutish son, Book, to beat Iris senseless - a horrific act that lands Book and his mother in jail. Sent to live with an offbeat foster family and their "dooking" ferrets, Iris must find a way to take care of the animals back at the farm, even if it means confronting Aunt Sue. Powerful and deeply moving, this compelling novel affirms the redemptive power of animals and the resilience of the human spirit.

Why I read this: I really thought this one sounded good, despite it not being my favorite genre and decided to give it a try.

Plot: This book is a mix of emotions. Iris goes through a lot, she loses her dad, the friend she was staying with forces her to leave because her parents were fighting, and then she has to deal with an abrasive aunt who turns out to be more abusive than Iris first thought. I have to say, the way she coped was very realistic, she turned to what she knew she loved - animals, and used them to keep going.

Characters: I can't imagine being in her shoes, but I feel like Iris was a very realistic character. The way she reacted to things really pulled her character together and made her so concrete. I thought the villain of the story - Aunt Sue - is probably one of the most realistic villians I've encountered as well. She's not over the top violent, but she takes deep offense when Iris does anything against her and she finds a way to make her miserable. Aunt Sue abuses Iris physically and mentally and you hate her for it, but you get this glimpse of how sorry a life she's lived behind all that anger.

Relatability: It's hard not to relate to one of the many themes in the book - moving away, trying to fit in, abuse, loss of a parent, and the love of animals.

Cover Commentary: Very pretty.

Rating: 5/5 Roses

Find it on Goodreads

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Guest Post with Helen Stringer + Giveaway

Today, I have with me author Helen Stringer, author of Spellbinder and The Midnight Gate, two wonderfully spooky and supernatural middle grade novels. I just reviewed Spellbinder last night and will be reviewing The Midnight Gate later this week, both are spectacular middle grade novels, with a great combination of funny commentary and seriously spooky moments.

I asked Helen if she would talk a little about where she got the inspiration for some of the creepy places that her novel take place in.

Playing In The Hall

One of the things that has always got my imagination firing on all cylinders is places. Old places, new places, buildings, countryside, towns, cities – it really doesn’t matter. Most of the time, particularly with historical sites, the only view you are going to get is as part of a tour group. Often this is fine – when I was at school we were taken to an old Elizabethan house outside Liverpool so many times that the actual tour blurb is engraved on my memory. The house is called Speke Hall, which became Arkbath Hall in Spellbinder, where the tour guide that takes Belladonna and her classmates through the house spouts, verbatim, the old Speke Hall tour of my childhood!

Many real places pop up in Spellbinder and Midnight Gate, an old monastery near Barrow in Cumbria, a 1930s apartment building in Liverpool, and an electric store/vaudeville theater in Los Angeles, as well as my old school – Belvedere, which really is made up of three Victorian Houses joined together. The one place that I grew to know almost as well as my school, however, is the fabulous Croxteth Hall.

Croxteth was the home of the Earls of Sefton. It is a vast pile right on the edge of Liverpool and was such a mish-mash of styles that after the last earl died the National Trust turned down the opportunity to run the property. Enter the city council. They took on the old place and when the surviving countess gave permission for them to have the family papers, I was hired to catalog them. This was my first job. It was supposed to be for six months and I was totally unqualified, which didn’t matter as I was only supposed to be making lists. Then the first of two disasters struck. First, the countess changed her mind about the papers (oh, no! I’m going to lose my job!), then the local paper ran a campaign questioning why the place wasn’t open to the public (hooray! I get a new job!).

The scramble was now on to prepare the place for visitors. There was only one problem: the countess had sold off nearly all the furniture, so the first part of my new job was to research the family history and put together a tour with what we had to hand. The second was to actually do the tours at the weekends.

It was kid in a candy store time! A bunch of my friends were hired to help do the tours (what were the managers thinking?) and during the week I spent most of my time either downtown in the central library reading the personal diaries of the lady who was countess in the early 1900s or wandering around the huge house, keys in hand, seeing what they would open. The answer to that was…everything!

We meandered all over the place, found the earl and countess’s ceremonial robes, complete with coronets (and tried them on, of course), found boxes and boxes of photographs taken by the same countess who wrote the diaries (she was a keen photographer and had a dark room at the top of the house), and explored the absolutely massive kitchens.

The kitchens consisted of a giant room with dozens of stoves and huge worktables, as well as smaller rooms for the preparation of vegetables, meats and confectionary. (This is the kitchen that Belladonna finds in the House of Mists in Spellbinder.) The kitchen also featured a large dumb waiter that was powered by water. The servants would simply load up the dumb waiter and pull an enormous lever. There would be the sound of rushing water and the huge box would move slowly upwards to the dining room. Needless to say, we had to experiment with this. One of my friends climbed into the box, we closed it, pulled the lever and ran up the servants’ stairs to the small ante-room next to the dining room. It seemed to take forever, but eventually the box hove into view and we got our friend out. His name was Steve, which is odd, because it’s exactly the kind of thing Steve Evans would do! (I should probably pause here and point out that it was really dangerous and could have gone wrong in so many ways. But it didn’t. Heh.)

By the end of the summer I had worked seven days a week for almost a year. I was exhausted but had absorbed everything about the old house and grounds and it has never left me: the perfect proportions of the eighteenth century rooms that make you feel calm as soon as you step into them, the winding servants stairs and basement passages, the grand main staircase and pillared balconies, the tiny servants’ bedrooms at the top of the house, and perhaps most of all the details of the life of the daunting woman whose domain it was in the days of balls and hunts and garden parties.

These days the house is run like a well-oiled machine, with a proper visitors center and glass cases of artifacts. But I prefer to remember it as it was – a chaotic playground and an inspiration that I find myself returning to again and again.

Spellbinder series giveaway! Three lucky winners will receive one copy each of THE MIDNIGHT GATE and SPELLBINDER along with some bookmarks! To enter, send an e-mail to In the body of the e-mail, include your name, mailing address, and e-mail address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and e-mail address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 6/17/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 6/18/11 and notified via email.

For excerpts, games, links, and more, visit Helen's website at:

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Author: Helen Stringer
Publication Date: September 2009
Genre: Middle Grade Paranormal Fantasy
Copy provided by: Publisher
Summary (via Goodreads): Belladonna Johnson can see ghosts. It’s a trait she’s inherited from her mother’s side of the family, like blue eyes or straight hair. And it’s a trait she could do without, because what twelve-year-old wants to be caught talking to someone invisible?

It is convenient, though, after Belladonna’s parents are killed in a car accident. They can live with her the same as always, watching the same old TV shows in their same old house. Nothing has changed . . . until everything changes.

One night, with no warning, they vanish into thin air—along with every other ghost in the world. It’s what some people think ghosts are supposed to do, but Belladonna knows it’s all wrong. They may not be living, but they’re not supposed to be gone.

With the help of her classmate Steve, a master of sneaking and spying, Belladonna is left to uncover what’s become of the spirits and to navigate a whole world her parents have kept well-hidden. If she can’t find her way, she’ll lose them again—this time for good.

Why I read this: Because the lovely ladies at Blue Slip Media asked me to do a blog tour for the second novel and they kindly sent me a copy of this one. And because it sounded so good...

Plot: I was definitely thinking about my students when I read this book. They are always looking for funny but scary books and this one really fits into that niche well. The plot moves well along and is just so interesting. Belladonna can see ghosts, which is helpful since her parents had died but still live with her now as ghosts. Although when ghosts start disappearing suddenly. There's a ton to cover in this new world, where one small girl is the Spellbinder, which doesn't mean much to her until she starts reciting words she couldn't possibly know, opening doors to other worlds, and solving what is causing all the ghosts to disappear.

Characters: Belladonna is a loner, so I relate to her a bit. I wasn't quite like her, but I was definitely a quiet kid when in school. Steve reminds me a lot of my next door neighbor who I played with until we were in middle school, he was funny, always getting in trouble and definitely a great companion.

Relatability: I think a lot of kids can relate to either of the characters in these books and definitely will be interested in reading about ghosts.

Cover Commentary: Interesting, definitely one I'd think my students would pick up because of the cover.

Rating: 5/5 Roses

Find it on Goodreads

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: Ashes, Ashes

Author: Jo Treggiari
Publication Date: June 1, 2011
Genre: YA Dystopian
Copy provided by: Teen Book Scene
Summary (via Goodreads):

A thrilling tale of adventure, romance, and one girl's unyielding courage through the darkest of nightmares.

Epidemics, floods, droughts--for sixteen-year-old Lucy, the end of the world came and went, taking 99% of the population with it. As the weather continues to rage out of control, and Sweepers clean the streets of plague victims, Lucy survives alone in the wilds of Central Park. But when she's rescued from a pack of hunting dogs by a mysterious boy named Aidan, she reluctantly realizes she can't continue on her own. She joins his band of survivors, yet, a new danger awaits her: the Sweepers are looking for her. There's something special about Lucy, and they will stop at nothing to have her.

Why I read this: I love post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories, and this one looked really good.

Plot: Definitely a fast-moving survival plot, involving natural disasters, the invasion of militant-like Sweepers stealing people whenever they please, and even some budding romance. It all revolves around Lucy, who decides to abandon her seclusive camp of the past few months when hunting dogs find her and a young man saves her and tells her about the group he stays with. She's reluctant, but when a tsunami takes over her camp, she's forced to higher ground and gravitates towards Aidan's camp - Hell's Gate.

Characters: I really enjoyed getting to know Lucy. She did what she had to in order to survive. She didn't instantly become super-woman either. Lucy was a nicely balanced character and I loved her interactions with Aidan and Del. My favorite character would have to be Grammalie, a resilient old woman of 80 who ran the Hell's Gate camp and was very wise in her ways.

Relatability: I think fans of a more realistic post-apocalypse novel will enjoy this one.

Cover Commentary: Pretty cool. Definitely how I'd imagine a big city to look after severe natural disasters and plagues had run through it.

Rating: 5/5 Roses

Find it on Goodreads

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Guest Post with Amy Plum + Swag Giveaway

Today, I have Amy Plum with me, courtesy of the Teen Book Scene Tour for Die For Me. She's going to share a bit about how she came up with the mythology in her novel. Stay tuned at the end for a giveaway!

Creating Mythology with Amy Plum:

I don’t know if I’m the best person to ask about creating mythology, because I didn’t do it in a very organized way.

With my revenants, I started with the idea of an undead being that died over and over again, coming back to life at his original death age. In my mind, a revenant was something between a god and a zombie. And after that I just had to ask myself all of the why, how and when questions and kind of wait for the rationale to come to me.

Little by little, as I wrote, clear rules started to crawl out of the primal sludge. And as each rule emerged, it gradually clarified what the revenants were in my mind. For example, at some point, I thought, “Well, if there are good revenants, there have to be evil ones too.” And then I had to decide what they were and how they functioned.

It all came down to two things, I guess: equilibrium and truth.

In DIE FOR ME, when explaining the difference between the revenants and their enemies, Ambrose tells Kate, “The universe likes an equilibrium.” Mythology also likes an equilibrium: between humans and immortals. Between good and evil. Between fate and chance. If a mythology is too lop-sided it doesn’t seem real to me. So if you follow the equilibrium rule and write half of your mythology, by the default of equilibrium you’ve got the other half practically figured out for you.

And truth. No matter how wacko or out-of-this world a mythology is on the surface, if you read it and it sounds true, than the myth-maker has done her job. Every time I wrote a supernatural passage, I asked myself if it sounded true. And if it didn’t, I worked on it until it did. Or scrapped it altogether.

I think truth comes from a story’s connection with the real world and with other stories. If you can find links with history or with quirky but true aspects of the real world, you will have a firmer, more honest foundation to build from.

Beyond that is the scary (for me) step of making an actual hard-and-fast decision for your mythology that has nothing to do with equilibrium OR truth. Because sometimes you just have to decide that something is the way it is because YOU SAY SO. (I sound like my mom.)

For example, I got to this point in the book where I realized that I had to make my revenants impervious to bullets. The whole mythology needed it, even though there was no rational reason for it. So I just came out and said it in my text.

“ We use guns when we’ re expected to,” answered Charlotte, “ if we’ re fighting alongside humans in the cases I mentioned . . . bodyguarding and the like. But bullets don’ t kill revenants.”

My editor came back and said, “Why? I don’t get why bullets don’t kill revenants.”

So I put on my walking shoes and walked about five miles going over and over in my mind why revenants couldn’t be killed by bullets. And the only thing I came up with was “because my mythology needs it to be like that.”

At that moment I had this kind of revelation. I thought of all of the writers before me who had created the rules for vampires, werewolves, zombies and the like, and they ALL used the no-bullets rule. (Unless it was a special kind of hard- to-get bullet.) But I realized that they all must have gotten to the point as well where they said, “It just has to be this way or my story won’t work.” Which was kind of cool.

I went back to my desk and added on to Charlotte’s sentence:

“ But bullets don’ t kill revenants” —she paused—“ or others like us.”

And with those last four words I linked my revenants to already-established monsters, making my decision legitimate by historical usage.

Mythmaking is hard-going. It makes you kind of obsessed, because even on your off-time, your brain is trying to figure out how things work. But when it all comes together, man does it feel great.

I love your way of finding out how to work the mythology of the world your book is set in Amy! Thanks for sharing with us that process.


Please leave a comment below. If you live in the US, you will be entered to win a signed bookmark for Die for Me. Please mention that you live in the US if you want to be entered for the contest. Ends Friday, May 27th.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Link a Contest Thursday

Rules (or at least STRONG suggestions):
1. Name the item being given away (instead of the blog name)
2. Give the end date in () after the name
3. Make sure to link DIRECTLY to that contest post - if you don't know how to do this - just click on the title of the contest blog and it will give a direct URL you can use.
4. If you want to post a contest you've found, make sure it isn't already posted.
5. Must be book-related giveaways.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Interview with Stacey Kade

Today, I have the fabulous Stacey Kade with me, author of The Ghost and the Goth and it's sequel Queen of the Dead. And here's what I asked her!

Do you have a favorite theme or genre that you like to write about? Is there a genre that you'll probably stay away from and why?

I tend to write stories about identity. Figuring out who you are or who you don’t want to be and coming to terms with those choices. Some paranormal element almost always works its way in there, too.

I’m not sure I’d rule out any particular genre. I always want to be open to whatever idea or character presents itself. That being said, I think I’d be hard-pressed to write a Western, never having read one!

If you could work with any author, who would you choose?

Oh, that’s a tough one! There are so many authors I admire, but I think I’d be afraid to work with them—I might mess them up! And selfishly I’d want to have the joy of experiencing of their next new book as a reader, not as someone attempting to write part of it. Yikes! But if I had to choose authors to learn from, ones that I would love to have a deeper understanding of how they do what they do—Meg Cabot, Jennifer Echols, and Suzanne Collins.

How was writing Queen of the Dead different from The Ghost and the Goth?

Writing Queen of the Dead was a very different experience. The book that exists now is almost a complete rewrite from the original draft. Writing the second book was really difficult because I wasn’t sure how to balance the needs of a new story while still being consistent with the previous story and the characters and world as we knew it in G&G. But I’ve discovered from talking with other YA authors that this dilemma, something I’m going to call Second Book Syndrome (AKA feeling like your second book is going to kill you), is actually very common and eventually sorts itself out.

And I’m very happy with how the revised draft turned out. It’s much better than what I’d originally written, and I owe a huge debt of thanks to my editor for helping me find my way.

What is one question that you've always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

Oh, dear. Hmm. I think most people ask which character I’m the most like, giving me the option of either Will or Alona. Of the two, I’m most like Will, but honestly, of all the characters in the book, I feel I’m probably most similar to Lily. Or at least, what we know of her.

What's next for you? Are you currently working on or have plans for future projects?

Right now, I’m working on my 2013 YA novel for Hyperion. It’s the first in a series, and it’s called The Rules. It's about a girl who was created as a genetic experiment and raised in a lab for the first part of her life. She's now living as a "normal" sixteen year old, hiding in plain sight from her creators by following a set of rules that keep her safe but also confine her existence. And then she meets a guy with troubles of his own who tempts her to break those rules for the possibility of love.

Wow, doesn't her next book sound great? Thanks for stopping by Stacey! Check out my review of The Ghost and the Goth and Queen of the Dead.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: Queen of the Dead

Author: Stacey Kade
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal
Copy provided by: Teen Book Scene/publisher
Summary (via Goodreads):

After being sent back from the light, Alona Dare - former homecoming queen, current Queen of the Dead - finds herself doing something she never expected: working. Instead of spending days perfecting her tan by the pool (her typical summer routine when she was, you know, alive), Alona must now cater to the needs of other lost spirits. By her side for all of this - ugh - “helping of others” is Will Killian: social outcast, seer of the dead, and someone Alona cares about more than she’d like.

Before Alona can make a final ruling on Will’s “friend” or “more” status, though, she discovers trouble at home. Her mom is tossing out Alona’s most valuable possessions, and her dad is expecting a new daughter with his wicked wife. Is it possible her family is already moving on? Hello! She’s only been dead for two months! Thankfully, Alona knows just the guy who can put a stop to this mess.

Unfortunately for Alona, Will has other stuff on his mind, and Mina, a young (and beautiful) seer, is at the top of the list. She’s the first ghost-talker Will’s ever met—aside from his father—and she may hold answers to Will’s troubled past. But can she be trusted? Alona immediately puts a check mark in the “clearly not” column. But Will is - ahem - willing to find out, even if it means leaving a hurt and angry Alona to her own devices, which is never a good idea.

Packed with romance, lovable characters, and a killer cliffhanger, Queen of the Dead is the out-of-this-world sequel to The Ghost and the Goth.

Why I read this: I really enjoyed the first book and was interested to see where it was going in the second.

Plot: Well, there was definitely more action in this one. This book introduces a group of people that are similar to Will, but they may not be a perfect match to help him. The pace of this book was fast paced and it was a whirlwind of fun, romance, and some new intrigue added into the mix. I like the exploration back to Will interacting with his father and glimpsing a little into the future of Alona's parents without her.

Characters: I find Alona growing on me. Yeah, she can be selfish and mean and definitely is used to getting her way. There's also something more and I can't completely brush her off as a character I dislike.

Saying that, I like Will a lot more. Maybe because he's partly clueless (as most guys are), but also because he really is just trying to figure out how to deal with what life throws his way.

Mina is the girl I'd expect Will to fall for if there was no love interest with Alona. She's like him, somewhat cynical and has a bit of a family problem that really sums up a lot about how she's acts. But Alona is Will's dream girl, even if she's really only a ghost.

Relatability: I think fans of paranormal and comedy will enjoy this combination. And I think the writing is just fantastic and really brings you into the story with the characters, which means virtually anyone can enjoy this book.

Cover Commentary: Not sure I love it, especially since there's not much time spent in the diner Will works in. But it's definitely close to how I pictured the characters.

Rating: 5/5 Roses

Find it on Goodreads

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review Link-Up for the 2011 Bloody Jack Reading Challenge

So, I've been meaning to post this for a while now, but I am a little behind...

If you would like to join us and read some of the Bloody Jack books this year, click the picture above.

If you're participating, please leave any links to your reviews below so I can come and visit them to see what you thought!

Here are mine so far, if you guys would like to read them!

1. Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
2. Curse of the Blue Tattoo by L.A. Meyer
Under the Jolly Roger by L.A. Meyer
In the Belly of the Bloodhound by L.A. Meyer
5. Mississippi Jack by L.A. Meyer
6. My Bonny Light Horseman by L.A. Meyer

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Link a Contest Thursday

Rules (or at least STRONG suggestions):
1. Name the item being given away (instead of the blog name)
2. Give the end date in () after the name
3. Make sure to link DIRECTLY to that contest post - if you don't know how to do this - just click on the title of the contest blog and it will give a direct URL you can use.
4. If you want to post a contest you've found, make sure it isn't already posted.
5. Must be book-related giveaways.

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Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. It is to spotlight books that are soon to be released that we wished would be released sooner. Here are our picks.

Kristen's Pick:
Title: The Lost Crown
Author: Sarah Miller
Expected Publication: June 14, 2011
Description: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Like the fingers on a hand--first headstrong Olga; then Tatiana, the tallest; Maria the most hopeful for a ring; and Anastasia, the smallest. These are the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II, grand dutchesses living a life steeped in tradition and priviledge. They are each on the brink of starting their own lives, at the mercy of royal matchmakers. The summer of 1914 is that precious last wink of time when they can still be sisters together--sisters that link arms and laugh, sisters that share their dreams and worries, and flirt with the officers of their imperial yacht.

But in a gunshot the future changes for these sisters and for Russia.

As World War I ignites across Europe, political unrest sweeps Russia. First dissent, then disorder, mutiny, and revolution. For Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, the end of their girlhood together is colliding with the end of more than they ever imagined.

At the same time hopeful and hopeless, naive and wise, the voices of these sisters become a chorus singing the final song of Imperial Russia. Impeccably researched and utterly fascinating, this novel by acclaimed author Sarah Miller recounts the final days of Imperial Russia with lyricism, criticism and true compassion.

April Nichole's Pick:
Title: Crush Control
Author: Jennifer Jabaley
Expected Publication: June 9, 2011
Description: Willow has spent most of her life as her mother's sidekick in a popular Las Vegas hypnotism show. So when she and her mom move back to their sleepy southern hometown to start over, she thinks she's in for a life of quiet normalcy. Except that her new life turns out to be anything but, when she kinda sorta hypnotizes Quinton, the hottest guy on the football team, to fall madly, deeply, head over heels in love with her. But what started out as an innocent way to make her best friend, Max, jealous soon gets way out of hand, and Willow begins to wonder if the mind–and more importantly, the heart–is something you can really control.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Review: Shadow Walkers

Author: Brent Hartinger
Publication Date: February 1, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal
Copy provided by: Teen Book Scene
Summary (via Goodreads):

Living with his grandparents on a tiny island off the Washington State coast, Zach feels cut off from the world. Especially when he's forbidden to chat with his online friends. But then his little brother, Gilbert, is kidnapped. To find him, Zach discovers how to astral project. Soon, his spirit is soaring through the strange and boundless astral realm—a shadow place.

While searching for his brother, Zach meets a boy named Emory, another astral traveler who's intriguing (and cute). As they track the kidnappers from the astral realm, their bond grows—but each moment could be Gilbert's last. Even worse, there's a menacing, centuries-old creature in their midst that devours souls and possesses physical bodies. And it's hungry for Zach.

Why I read this: I love the paranormal novels Flux has been putting out lately, so I jumped on this one when I heard about it.

Plot: For how short this book is, I felt like there was a pretty good plot line that involved almost a dual plotline. The main story is that Zach is looking for his brother Gilbert by using astral projection, a new talent he has found with the help of some interesting incense. In the astral realm he finds another boy who he connects with instantly, but also a creepy octopus like substance that seems to want to harm him. He must find a way to help his brother while fending off this evil thing after his soul.

Characters: I have to say I wish there was a bit more character development on the part of the two main characters. I feel like I only glimpsed into the two boys that found each other on this astral realm. I didn't feel completely connected to either of them so I felt this distance to who they were and couldn't quite connect the way I like to when reading a novel. I did appreciate Zach's love for his brother and how it brought him to risk his soul to save him.

Relatability: I think it's an interesting read for anyone who likes a twist of paranormal in an otherwise realistic fiction plot. The main character is also gay, which also may interest readers.

Cover Commentary: Not a favorite of mine.

Rating: 4/5 Roses

Find it on Goodreads

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring Carnival Contest Winner!

The winner of the Spring Carnival Contest was:

#182 - Lisa Richards!

Lisa won a book of choice $15 and under from the Book Depository! Congrats! I will be emailing you soon.

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Review: Compulsion

Title: Compulsion
Author: Heidi Ayarbe
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 304
Source: Night Owl Reviews
Description: Today has to be perfect.
I look at the clock.
10:14 am.
Ten fourteen. One plus one is two plus four is six plus ten is sixteen minus one is fifteen minus two is thirteen. OK.
I turn from the clock and walk into the hallway. "Ready.”

Saturday will be the third state soccer championship in a row for Jake Martin. Three. A good number. Prime. With Jake on the field, Carson City High can’t lose, because Jake has the magic: a self-created protection generated by his obsession with prime numbers. It’s the magic that has every top soccer university recruiting Jake, the magic that keeps his family safe, and the magic that suppresses his anxiety attacks. But the magic is Jake’s prison, because getting it means his compulsions take over nearly every aspect of his life.

Jake’s convinced the magic will be permanent after Saturday, the perfect day, when every prime has converged. Once the game is over, he won’t have to rely on his sister, Kasey, to concoct excuses for his odd rituals. His dad will stop treating him like he is some freak. Maybe he’ll even make a friend other than Luc.

But what if it doesn’t work?

What if the numbers never go away?

Thoughts: I had a hard time reading this one. I thought it sounded interesting. There are times when I have thought I was a little OCD but this takes it to a whole new level. I guess that could be the point. But, it got to be a little distracting having the character constantly counting. I know it was his thing but it just started to make less and less sense. I couldn't finish it cause I got bored seeing it all the time.
I also didn't like the constant language. I know it gets used but good grief just because it gets said in real life does it have to translate to books. I read books to escape the way people are in real life. I don't really want to be reminded of it with language, violence and sex.
It can be a look into someone's life with obsessive compulisive disorder. I also found it odd at first but interesting that the chapters aren't ordered in the normal way. The main character has a thing for prime numbers so the chapters are numbered as such.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Link a Contest Thursday

Rules (or at least STRONG suggestions):
1. Name the item being given away (instead of the blog name)
2. Give the end date in () after the name
3. Make sure to link DIRECTLY to that contest post - if you don't know how to do this - just click on the title of the contest blog and it will give a direct URL you can use.
4. If you want to post a contest you've found, make sure it isn't already posted.
5. Must be book-related giveaways.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: Unnatural by Michael Griffo

Author: Michael Griffo
Publication Date: February 22, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal
Copy provided by: Teen Book Scene
Summary (via Goodreads):

In the town of Eden in northwestern England stands the exclusive boarding school known as Archangel Academy. Ancient and imposing, it’s a place filled with secrets. Just like its students…

For Michael Howard, being plucked from his Nebraska hometown and sent thousands of miles away is as close as he’s ever come to a miracle. In Weeping Water, he felt trapped, alone. At Archangel Academy, Michael belongs. And in Ciaran, Penry, and especially Ciaran’s enigmatic half-brother Ronan, Michael finds friendship deeper than he’s ever known.

But Michael’s only beginning to understand what makes the Academy so special. Ronan is a vampire—part of a hybrid clan who are outcasts even among other vampires. Within the Academy’s confines exists a ruthless world of deadly rivalries and shifting alliances, of clandestine love and forbidden temptations. And soon Michael will confront the destiny that brought him here—and a danger more powerful than he can imagine…

Why I read this: It sounded intriguing when Teen Book Scene sent around feelers for it.

Plot: The plot had a pretty good pace, although it felt a little weighed down by the many various characters and not-so-subtle sideplots that left me with a lot of questions spinning in my head as to what was going on. I felt like there was almost too much going on and too much of it trying to be intriguing but failing. I did however enjoyed the budding romance between Michael and Ronan.

Characters: There were just too many point of views in this book. I found some of the characters incessantly whiney (*cough* Nakano *cough*), but they were really well-developed. I especially liked getting to know Brania, the girl who was supposed to catch Michael's interest, if he wasn't oh-so-gay.

Relatability: Anyone who still loves vampire stories in YA will probably dig into this. For me, I don't think I'll be picking up another vampire novel in a while.

Cover Commentary: Not quite how I pictured the characters, but rarely does that happen for me from cover to novel.

Rating: 3/5 Roses

Find it on Goodreads

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Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. It is to spotlight books that are soon to be released that we wished would be released sooner. Here are our picks.

Kristen's Pick:
Title: Trial by Fire
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Expected Publication: June 14, 2011
Description: Bryn is now leader of the Cedar Ridge pack of werewolves and she's convinced that her pack is different - it's democratic and fair. Then Bryn finds a battered teenage Were, Connor, bleeding on her front porch. He begs Bryn to protect him from an abusive leader; Bryn takes him into her pack.

But Bryn's Were partner Chase doesn't trust the new boy, and the more time she spends helping Connor, the more aggressive Chase becomes. Bryn is not sure if it's jealousy, or Were possessiveness but for the first time she starts to feel suffocated by the bond she and Chase share.

Filled with action, unlikely allies, and deadly conspiracies, Trial by Fire will change Bryn forever. She is soon to realise that to lead a pack of werewolves, she must give in to her animal instincts and become a little less human. And as hard as it's going to be, Bryn is going to have to do it alone.

There can only be one alpha.

April Nichole's Pick:
Title: The Vampire Stalker
Author: Allison Van Diepen
Expected Publication: June 1, 2011
Description: What if the characters in a vampire novel left their world--and came into yours?

Amy is in love with someone who doesn't exist: Alexander Banks, the dashing hero in a popular series of vampire novels. Then one night, Amy meets a boy who bears an eerie resemblance to Alexander. In fact, he IS Alexander, who has escaped from the pages of the book and is in hot pursuit of a wicked vampire named Vigo. Together, Amy and Alexander set out to track Vigo and learn how and why Alexander crossed over. But when she and Alexander begin to fall for each other, Amy wonders if she even wants him to ever return to the realm of fiction.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: Princess for Hire

Title: Princess for Hire
Author: Lindsey Leavitt
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 240
Source: Library
Description:When a flawlessly dressed woman steps out of an iridescent bubble and wants to know, like, now if you'd like to become a substitute princess, do you:

a) run
b) faint
c) say yes!

For Desi Bascomb, who's been longing for a bit of glamour in her Idaho life, the choice is a definite c)--that is, once she can stop pinching herself. As her new agent, Meredith, explains, Desi has a rare magical ability: when she applies the ancient Egyptian formula "Royal Rouge," she can transform temporarily into the exact look-alike of any princess who needs her subbing services. Dream come true, right?

Well, Desi soon discovers that subbing involves a lot more than wearing a tiara and waving at cameras. Like, what do you do when a bullying older sister puts you on a heinous crash diet? Or when the tribal villagers gather to watch you perform a ceremonial dance you don't know? Or when a princess's conflicted sweetheart shows up to break things off--and you're sure she would want you to change his mind?

In this hilarious, winning debut, one girl's dream of glamour transforms into something bigger: the desire to make a positive impact. And an impact Desi makes, one royal fiasco at a time.

Thoughts: Princess for Hire wasn’t really what I expected. I wish Desi would have spent more time on each job. Instead when she would go in to “sub” for a princess she would be there for a scene or two, something crazy would happen and the job would be over.

I still enjoyed it. It was cute and funny. Desi went into each job wanting to leave an impact somehow on each princess. She was able to do this but also in return these changed her. She helped a princess be able to stand up to someone and it helped her to deal with someone in her life.

I am looking forward to reading the next book. I want to see how Desi grows both in her job and in her life. I want to see what will happen with her agent, Meredith. Meredith starts out a little harsh but by the end you get to see a different side to her.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Review: Silver Phoenix

Author: Cindy Pon
Publication Date: April 2009
Genre: YA Multicultural Fantasy
Copy provided by: Secret Santa Gift
Summary (via Goodreads):

No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger's subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.

But now, something is after her. Something terrifying—a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn't only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined.

Bravery, intelligence, the will to fight and fight hard . . . she will need all of these things. Just as she will need the new and mysterious power growing within her. She will also need help.

It is Chen Yong who finds her partly submerged and barely breathing at the edge of a deep lake. There is something of unspeakable evil trying to drag her under. On a quest of his own, Chen Yong offers that help . . . and perhaps more.

Why I read this: I've had it on my shelf for more than a year and on my wishlist even longer than that. It was about time to finally pick it up.

Plot: An adventurous story set in the Asia of old, this tale takes you on a journey that will astound you. I loved the visual imagery along with the unique characters and fantastical situations that occurred. Gorgeously well-written with a cinematic feel, Silver Phoenix will take you to a world that is beyond beautiful and filled with creatures both glorious and dangerous.

Characters: Ai Ling and Chen Yong were both such unique characters. They had such drive to continue on and complete their journeys. I really loved watching them fall in love slowly throughout the book.

Relatability: I think anyone interested in Asian culture will enjoy this novel, especially if they also enjoy fantasy.

Cover Commentary: Beautiful.

Rating: 5/5 Roses

Find it on Goodreads

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