Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In My Mailbox- Week of November 23 + Retrospective

Got a few good books this week and a couple for giveaways, so be on the lookout for those in the future! :)

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
Hanna is what you'd call mentally ill. She'd call it being totally crazy. After running away to Portero, Texas to find her estranged mother, Hanna thinks this new town can't be any crazier than she is. She's wrong. Portero is haunted with doors to dimensions of the dead, and protected by demon hunters called Mortmaine. Hanna soon falls for a young Mortmaine named Wyatt, but when her mother is possessed by a murdering ghost, Hanna decides to do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means betraying the boy she loves. In the end no one will be left unscarred.

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
"I liked him first, but it doesn't matter.
I still like him.
That doesn't matter either.
Or at least, it's not supposed to."
"Everyone knows the unwritten rule. You don't like your best friend's boyfriend."

Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He's easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he's paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two things: Ryan is Brianna's boyfriend, and Brianna is Sarah's best friend. Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feels so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants is to hurt her best friend. But when she's thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens. It's wonderful...and awful. Sarah is torn apart by guilt, but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can't stop herself from wanting more....

(I've already read this book and it's SO GOOD! I may be doing another 2010 preview post soon and this'll be on it! :) Full review will be in early April.)

Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Now she's back. After living abroad for twelve years, she and her husband, Ryan, aka H.H., have returned to New York to make a life for themselves. In the midst of getting her new business off the ground and fixing up their fixer-upper, Ryan announces his sudden desire to start a family. His timing simply couldn't be worse.

To compound the mounting construction and marital chaos, her former charge, Grayer X, now sixteen years old, makes a drunken, late-night visit, wanting to know why she abandoned him all those years ago. But how can she explain to Grayer what she still hasn't come to terms with herself? In an attempt to assuage her guilt, yet against every instinct, Nan tries to help Grayer and his younger brother, Stilton, through their parents' brutal divorce, drawing her back into the ever-bizarre life of Mrs. X and her Upper East Side enclave of power and privilege.

After putting miles and years between herself and this world, Nan finds she's once again on the front line of the battle with the couture-clad elite for their children's wellbeing.

The Real Real by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Imagine there was never a Laguna Beach, a Newport Harbor, the shimmering Hills. Imagine that your hometown—your school—is the first place XTV descends to set up cameras. Now imagine they've trained them on you. When Jesse O'Rourke gets picked for a "documentary" being filmed at her school in the Hamptons she's tempted to turn down the offer. But there's a tuition check attached to being on the show, and Jesse needs the cash so she can be the first in her family to attend college. All she has to do is trade her best friend for the glam clique she's studiously avoided, her privacy for a 24/7 mike, and her sense of right and wrong for "what sells on camera." . . . At least there's one bright spot in the train wreck that is her suddenly public senior year: Jesse's crush has also made the cast. As the producers manipulate the lives of their "characters" to heighten the drama, and Us Weekly covers become a regular occurrence for Jesse, she must struggle to remember one thing: the difference between real and the real real.

I have an extra copy of both Nanny Returns and The Real Real specifically for a giveaway, so be on the lookout for a contest for them coming soon! :) Now, here's my retrospective for this week-

Monday- I posted a preview post for a few of the 2010 books I've been reading lately

Wednesday- I posted my review of Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser

Friday- I announced my participation in the 2010 Debut Author Challenge that Kristi from The Story Siren is putting together

Friday, November 27, 2009

2010 Debut Challenge

So I saw on The Story Siren's blog that she's hosting the 2010 Debut Author Challenge. I don't think I've participated in any challenges before, except for the 100 book challenge each year (which I've already beat this year; my list will come in early January) but that's just for me and not something I post on my blog or anything. This however will be different; I am going to take part in this and I'm way excited for it! Read all about it below, and find my beginning list after that.

What is the 2010 Debut Author Challenge?

The objective is to read a set number of YA (Young Adult) or MG (Middle Grade) novels from debut authors published this year.* I'm going to challenge everyone to read at least 12 debut novels! You don’t have to list your choices right away, but if you do feel free to change them throughout the year. I will also be focusing on mostly Young Adult novels.

Anyone can join, you don’t need a blog to participate. If you don’t have a blog you can always share your views by posting a review on Amazon.com/BarnesandNoble.com/GoodReads/Shelfari, or any other bookish site.

The challenge will run from January 1, 2010- December 31, 2010. You can join at anytime!

* I would like to limit the novels to those released in 2010.

You’ll have to do all the research to make sure a novel meets the criteria for the challenge. I do have a few sites that can help with your search; 2010: A Book Odyssey, AuthorsNow & The Class of 2k10 (website to be launched).

More Challenge Guidelines:

Novels must be read between the dates of January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010 to count toward your challenge total. (this means if you've read a 2010 debut novel in 2009, it doesn't count..... but!)

Reviews posted in 2010 will count toward the monthly prize packs, even if you read the novel in 2009. Does that make sense? For example I've read debut author Jennifer Hubbard's novel The Secret Year, in 2009. But I will not be posting my review until closer to its release date in 2010. So, even though it can't be counted as one of my "challenge" books, I could still use its review for a prize pack entry.

Please do list the 2010 debut novels you've already read in your challenge lists. That way other participants can find out about a book they might not have otherwise.

For information on how to join the 2010 Debut Author Challenge, see the post below.

So since I read two debut novels every month for Fresh New Voice of YA, that's a total of 24 so I'm going to up it to 30 and see how that goes. Books I've read will be in bold and probably will have a link to the review whenever it's posted, books I own but haven't read will be in italics, and books I don't have will be in regular font. Here's my beginning list:

Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
The Line by Teri Hall
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Numbers by Rachel Ward
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
The Snowball Effect by Holly Nicole Hoxter
The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
The Deathday Letter by Sean Hutchinson
All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
Sea by Heidi Kling
Princess for Hire by Lindsay Leavitt
The Mark by Jen Nadol
A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker
Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount-White
The Naughty List by Suzanne Young
Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus
Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey
Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupola
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony
Siren by Tricia Rayburn
Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride
Whisper by Phoebe Kitanidis
Matched by Ally Condie
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
The Iron Thorn by Kaitlinn Kittredge

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser

Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser
I’ll begin with Lucy. She is definitely first on the list. You can’t believe how it feels to be in the cafeteria and turn around and there she is staring at me like I’m some disgusting bug or vermin. Does she really think I WANT to be this way? I hate you, Lucy. I really hate you. You are my #1 pick. I wish you were dead.

The day after anonymous blogger Str-S-d wishes the popular girl would die, Lucy vanishes. The students of Soundview High are scared and worried. Especially frightened and wracked with guilt is Madison Archer, Lucy’s friend and the last person to see her the night she disappeared. As days pass with no sign of the missing girl, even the attention of Tyler, an attractive new student, is not enough to distract Madison from her growing sense of foreboding. When two more popular students disappear after their names are mentioned on Str-S-d’s blog, the residents of Soundview panic. Meanwhile, Madison receives anonymous notes warning that she could be next. Desperate to solve the mystery before anyone else disappears, Madison turns to Tyler, but can she trust him when it becomes clear that he knows more than he’s sharing? The clock is ticking. Madison must uncover the truth behind the mysterious disappearances . . . before her name appears in Str-S-d’s blog."- summary from Amazon

This book got better as every page flew by. I was originally a bit against the book because it felt like we were being set up for this one guy to be the one behind everything and there wasn't really a mystery to it. Toward the last fourth of the novel, more people became suspects, but it still felt a bit off. When the reveal happened (well, ok, a little before since I did some sleuthing around that point), I was shocked and it was a great twist, if maybe a little cliche (I've seen it happen at least once before in another book, but I may be forgetting other instances). The novel is very suspenseful and scary, and is told from different viewpoints. Madison is the main character and the one we see the most of, but there's also the Str-s-d blog entries, various omniscient scenes, and the crazy ramblings of the killer. This was a difficult book to put down and when the climax was happening, I was on the edge of my seat and shaking like crazy (not a good thing when you're at work and co-workers can see you, lol). It definitely exceeded my expectations and was a wild ride; Strasser definitely knows how to write a thriller and I'm eagerly waiting for the next two books in the series. I'm not sure what's coming next, whether it'll take place in the same town or be elsewhere, but I'm excited to see where Strasser will go with this!

Monday, November 23, 2009

2010 Books Preview Post

Hey everyone! Lately, I've been reading a few 2010 books and wanted to share a little bit of my thoughts on them since my reviews of them won't be up for a while. So here goes:

The final book in McMann's Wake trilogy is a fantastic read. More twists are thrown into the story and Janie's decision of how to live her future becomes much harder to make. The prose is still sparse and tight, just like the previous two novels, making the action that much more exciting. The ending satisfied me, and hopefully it'll satisfy others, but I'm not opposed to another book featuring Janie. This book will be released in early February 2010.

PS My 1 ARC tour for this book has begun! I sent it out to the first person the other day (Saturday, November 21) so those that are part of the tour will be getting to read it soon! I also included a fun surprise for everyone too! If anyone has any questions about the tour, please contact me at bookchicclub-at-gmail-dot-com

I just got this book last Monday as part of Kay's 1 ARC blogger tour and have already read it, finished it, and sent it out to the next person. Yes, the book is THAT good that I was able to finish it even with my really busy week last week (having some downtime at work rocks!). It's a lengthy book (around 300 pages) but it just zips on by. Everything works in this book- the pacing, the characters, the plot, the writing style. It's a fabulous book that takes the good vs. evil battle from the sci-fi/fantasy world and puts it in a regular setting. The romance is very sweet but also very real; what happens between Jess and Ryan is not your typical YA romance and, for me, that makes the ending that much more satisfying. What I loved about this book was how much enthusiasm sprang out of it while I read it. I don't really know how else to describe it, but it was seriously like the book was sending out happy vibes when I opened it. Anyway, must stop rambling or this'll become a full-fledged review. I've already had to cut out several sentences and copy/paste to a scheduled review post for mid-April when the book is released.

I'm actually still reading this book and am only about halfway through it. But I loved the first two books and the same seems to be true so far with this one. I had a hunch about one of the characters (Dillon), which Susan pretty much told me was correct, but so far hasn't been mentioned. There was a part where I thought it would be brought up and then it wasn't, so I'm very upset that I'm being made to wait for this reveal, but whatever. The story is still very compelling and it's fun reading about these four debs and their various lives; it's almost like Gossip Girl, southern belle style and with more character depth. The Debutante Ball is coming up fast in this what-may-be-final book and I'm excited to see how it all goes down. This was originally supposed to be released in March 2010, but has been pushed back to June 2010, but this is still a tentative date.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Retrospective- Week of November 16

Hey all, there isn't really an IMM post this week since I didn't get anything except for Cinderella Society as part of Kay's 1 ARC tour and that's already on its way to the next person. I'll probably be posting my thoughts on it as well as two other 2010 books tomorrow, so be sure to come back and check for that! :)

Here's this week's retrospective with lots of reviews, lol:

Monday- I posted a review of Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle

Wednesday- I participated in a publisher-sponsored blog tour for (Re)Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin which included my review of the book as well as an interview with Lauren.

Friday- I put up my review of Goddess Boot Camp by Tera Lynn Childs

Be sure to go back and comment on those posts if you haven't already. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Goddess Boot Camp by Tera Lynn Childs

Goddess Boot Camp by Tera Lynn Childs
"Phoebe, who recently discovered she’s a descendant of Nike (the goddess, not the shoe), is finding that supernatural powers come with a crazy learning curve. Her stepfather, headmaster of the Academy for descendants of the Greek gods, has enrolled her at Dynamotheos Development Camp—aka Goddess Boot Camp—with a bunch of ten-year-olds for the summer. Embarrassing as that is, hopefully it’ll help her gain control over her powers in time to pass the test of the gods, continue training hard enough to qualify for the Pythian Games, and enjoy her godly boyfriend, Griffin, all while avoiding the ultimate mistake of accidentally misusing powers."- summary from Amazon

I loved the concept of a Goddess Boot Camp; it was so clever how Childs put that together and what sorts of exercises and lesson plans there would be. Phoebe is still such a fun character to read about, especially in the beginning where her powers get accidentally used- those were hilarious. Other characters are given more depth than they were in the first book, which was great to see. Something the summary doesn't mention is that Phoebe gets these mysterious notes throughout the book that send her on a bit of a wild goose chase to find out what really happened to her father. That part of the book was extremely interesting and the person behind it all was a surprise to me. The end of the book, while good, was a bit of a disappointment for me, but I don't really want to say why since it's a bit of a spoiler. I just hope there's at least another book in the works, or even a short story or novella that could be posted online, lol. But, all in all, it is a very good book and the background setting of the warm, beautiful island is the perfect setting to read about during these coming cold months.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blog Tour- (Re)Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin

(Re)Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin
"How do you grow up, if who you are keeps changing?

Jill McTeague is not your average high school graduate, she’s a scientific anomaly. Every month for four days she turns into Jack, a guy—complete with all the parts. Now everyone in her hometown knows that something very weird is up with her. So what’s a girl (and a guy) to do? Get the heck out of town, that’s what! With her kooky best friend, Ramie, Jill sets out for New York City. There both she and Jack will have to figure out everything from the usual (relationships) to the not so usual (career options for a “cycler,” anyone?)."- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed the first book in this two-book series and was so excited to read the sequel ever since turning that final page. The first book was left on a big cliffhanger and this book explains a bit about what happens, but it picks up a few months after that climactic final scene. Jack and Jill are both very fun to read about, and there's more Jack this time now that he's out and about doing things. The character interactions feel so real and are so compelling; even though it's inanimate, one of my favorite "characters" (of sorts) is this one-armed mannequin that lives in Jill/Jack and Ramie's apartment who becomes this sounding board for the characters (mainly just Jill and Jack) and is part of the most hilarious scenes in the book, in my opinion. There are of course many interactions between real characters and not just real with inanimate objects interaction.

What I love about this series is the inventiveness of it. It's definitely not something you've read about before (or at least, I've never come across anything like it) and it's just done so well. Aside from that, there's a lot of issues brought up about gender identity, sacrifices, love, trust and so much more. The book is hilarious and clever, but it also has some real depth to it. It's got the best of both worlds.

I was satisfied with the ending, but am also curious as to how things play out. There are a couple questions left unanswered and I really want to know what happens next, but I think with something like this, it can be hard to wrap things up completely. When you're sharing a body with someone else, there isn't necessarily going to be a happy ending (unless one of the bodies is gay and they can find a bi person who accepts them; too bad Jack is straight.) and then the books would go on and on, which would be bad because we'd probably get tired of Jack and Jill eventually and we also wouldn't get to see what else Lauren McLaughlin is capable of. I'm excited to read what she's got coming out next!

Interview with Lauren McLaughlin

1) How did you get the idea for the Cycler series? Will there be anymore books in the series or is this it?

My ideas come from a dark and sometimes scary place called The Mind Swamp. Inside The Mind Swamp, idea fish swim around and compete for survival. They feed on random ideas, stupid thoughts, embarrassing desires, and, occasionally, each other. When one idea fish has eaten so many other idea fish that it practically bursts out of the swamp, I turn it into a novel. Cycler's feeding frenzy began in the early nineties, feeding on all of my own opinions, hang-ups, and attitudes about gender. Once I envisioned the main character as a cycling hermaphrodite, the story almost wrote itself. I think I may have a Jack-like man trapped inside of me. Most of my female friends think I do anyway. They've often referred to me as the “man of the gang.” I like this idea. I love men.

As for further iterations of the Cycler universe? Hmmm, probably not. Don't get me wrong, I know full well that my characters are leading rich full lives with or without my involvement. I just don't know if I have it in me to write another book in the series. My Mind Swamp is bursting with other idea fish.

2) You spent 10 years as a screenwriter (as well as producer), but have made the transition over to novelist. What brought you to screenwriting, and why did you decide to become a novelist instead? Are there any similarities between writing for a novel and writing for a screenplay?

I became a novelist because in 1999 I outlined a new screenplay called The Mind of the Highway. It was an epic space opera and it was so long, it would have actually taken about 10 movies to tell the story. I had recently read Dan Simmons 4 book HyperionSeries and I think it opened up something inside of me. I had never written an inch of fiction before that time, so I decided, just on a lark, to try my hand at writing a novel. By the time I looked up from my keyboard, I had written 30,000 words. And I loved them. Each and every one of them. That was it for me. I was now a novelist. Thankfully, the film company I worked for at the time, Lions Gate Films, decided to pack up and move to LA. They very conveniently offered to either A) move me to LA to continue my career as an in-house producer or B) cut me a generous severance check and say good-bye. I chose option B. I think naivete had a lot do with it. I figured I'd finish that space opera novel in about 6 months, sell it, and settle into a nice comfy career as a novelist. That was 2001. I never did sell that novel. And it wasn't until 2007 that I finally sold Cycler, which was actually the third novel I wrote. If I had known back in 2001 how hard it was to sell a novel, I might not have been willing to make that jump. Thank goodness for ignorance.

As for similarities between screenwriting and novel writing? Sure. A good story is a good story, regardless of the medium. The basics are the same. But with novels, you have time. You can slow things down if you want. You can really stop and paint the scene. You can digress. You can have ten acts, or twenty acts. Movies are short. About 100 minutes. They have to move. A screenwriter can't spend too much time painting the scene because that's the director's job. Also, with screenwriting, your end product―the screenplay―is not really the end product. It's merely a blue print. The final film might bear little resemblance to what you've written. I know this personally, because not only have I had my own screenplay's re-written by others, I've also re-written other people's screenplays. It's best not to get too attached to your script when you're a screenwriter, whereas a novelist wholly owns her work.

3) What are you working on at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?

Ooh, yes, I can tell you all about it. Are you ready? Okay, here we go. My next novel is called Steal the Future. It's set in a small New England seaside community in an alternate present after someone has invented a software program which can process data from the now-ubiquitous surveillance cameras, along with cell phone conversations, email, and Web habits to come up with a monthly score indicating a teenager's overall social fitness. This score determines everything in life--who you can eat lunch with, who your friends are, where (and whether) you go to college, etc. It's like a universal S.A.T. score. The story follows a high school senior named Cady, whose score is 62, which puts her 8 points below the college line. She would have a much higher score (and guaranteed admission to college) if only she'd dump her best friend, Lizzie, who's a 27. But loyalty prevents her from doing that. In a desperate bid to salvage her future, she finds a way to "beat the system" by turning spy on a boy in her English class. He's an "unscored," one of the doomed few whose parents have "opted out" of having their kids scored because it offends their sensibilities. But as Cady's feelings for Diego evolve, she has to decide just how far she's willing to go to steal her future from a system that has it in for her.

That's my snappy pitch. Of course, as snappy pitches often do, it leaves out a lot of the really juicy stuff―like stolen kisses, diabolical school principals, and super fast boat rides. Oh, and lobster. Yes, there's lobster. Need I say more?

4) What book(s) are you currently reading, or are about to start?

I only ever read one book at a time. I've never understood how anyone can read more than one. I'm not smart enough to hold more than one plot in my head at any given time. Right now, I'm reading Catching Fire, the thrilling sequel to The Hunger Games. I don't know how she does it, but she hooks me. She's got me. I'm in. Where she leads I will follow. Next up is Robin Wasserman's Crashed, the sequel to Skinned―which I LOVED. Human psyche's downloaded into machines? Are you kidding? That's so up my alley.

5) And now, the burning question on everyone’s mind- what is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?

Popcorn. Of course.

Thanks Lauren for stopping by! To catch Lauren on more tour stops, she was just at The Children's Book Review yesterday and will be at Write for a Reader tomorrow! To ask Lauren questions or chat with other fans please visit her on RandomBuzzer.com. To see the full tour schedule, stop by Lauren's website!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle

Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle
"What do Katie-Rose, Yasaman, Milla, and Violet all have in common? Other than being named after flowers, practically nothing. Katie-Rose is a film director in training. Yasaman is a computer whiz. Milla is third in command of the A list. And Violet is the new girl in school. They’re fab girls, all of them, but they sure aren’t friends. And if evil queen bee Medusa— ’scuse me, Modessa—has her way, they never will be. But this is the beginning of a new school year, when anything can happen and social worlds can collide . . ."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely adore Myracle's books- her writing style is full of humor, heart, and truth. This is the beginning of a four-book series and while there's no cliffhanger ending, I'm eagerly anticipating the next book because I loved reading about these four diverse characters and want to see what they get up to next. One of the things I love about this book is how it showcases diverse characters and families; one character, Camilla, has two moms, which has caused quite a hubbub in the schools, despite the fact that both moms are rarely shown or talked about. Aside from that, the first sign of diversity is right on the cover, which features all four girls- African, Asian, Caucasian and Middle-Eastern. What's great is that there's no hesitations because of race or religion or family structure (i.e. single parent, two moms) in these four girls becoming friends; the only obstacles that pop up are normal fifth grade problems.

Myracle has created a wonderful book for middle graders to read that will teach them about accepting others without hesitation while also providing some funny moments, like when Katie-Rose thinks in movie style and the prose turns into a screenplay inside her mind (for how she wants a certain event to go) or as stuff is happening (when she's using her video camera). She shines with dialogue and getting into the main characters' heads and fully fleshing a character out, though when it comes to the secondary characters, they're still a bit flat, but it's just the first book, so perhaps more details will come out in future volumes. Overall, a fantastic start to a series and another winner for Myracle.

Also, just so everyone knows, this book is told mainly in prose, but also includes bursts of IM conversations (which do include fun emoticons), blog entries, and screenplay format.

Fun fact- Toward the end of the book (like in the last 100 pages), Yasaman mentions loving a book series of girls who go to a spy school. I emailed Lauren about it, asking if she was talking about the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter and it turns out she was! I was the first to notice apparently, and not even Ally knows it, though she does now. Hi Ally! :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In My Mailbox- Week of November 9 + Retrospective

Very slow week this week, but got an AMAZING ARC that I am so happy to have gotten. I seriously gasped and squealed when I saw what it was. And everyone will be jealous, lol. I may run another ARC tour for this one if there's enough demand- I'm not sure how many ARCs they're sending out for it. Anyway, without further ado, here it is:

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.


Monday- I posted my interview with Kristina Springer.

Tuesday- I put up my excerpt vlog, in which I read an excerpt from Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron.

Wednesday- I posted my review of The Espressologist by Kristina Springer.

Thursday- I interviewed Jon Skovron on a multitude of things.

Friday- My excerpt vlog for The Espressologist was posted.

Saturday- I put up my review of Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fresh New Voice of YA- Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron

Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron
"Music is in Sammy’s blood. His grandfather was a jazz musician, and Sammy’s indie rock band could be huge one day—if they don’t self-destruct first. Winning the upcoming Battle of the Bands would justify all the band’s compromises and reassure Sammy that his life’s dream could become a reality. But practices are hard to schedule when Sammy’s grandfather is sick and getting worse, his mother is too busy to help either of them, and his best friend may want to be his girlfriend.

When everything in Sammy’s life seems to be headed for major catastrophe, will his music be enough to keep him together?"- summary from Amazon

This was a fantastically written debut novel. Skovron's voice and style are perfect for this novel, which is filled with humor, introspection, first love, and figuring out what it takes to believe in yourself and going after your dreams. Sammy is a relatable character who has flaws and is multi-dimensional, as are the secondary characters, who are also fully fleshed out and seem real. One of my favorite characters to read about was Rick (you can find out why in the excerpt vlog posted a few days ago) because he was funny and sarcastic, but also had issues keeping him back from making himself happy in the romance department. My problem with him though is that I felt like there was much more to him and I didn't really get to know about it. I know the story is about Sammy, but at the same time, if you introduce a subplot involving another character, I want to be fully satisfied by the end of it and I feel like that wasn't the case; it was a very small, simple arc when there was clearly much more to it. Alright, I'll stop harping on this complaint and move on, lol.

I loved the romance between Sammy and Jen5. The realization of it, their conversations about it, and how they interacted during the beginning stages of their relationship all felt very real to me and it's great to see this honest portrayal of best friends becoming romantically involved and all the obstacles and questions that come along with it.

The music aspect was very interesting and I loved the inclusion of Sammy's lyrics throughout the book while he was working on them. It gave this new perspective to him that I think readers will enjoy. Also, a tiny little aside, every time Joe (the lead singer) was in a scene, I kept picturing Nathan Explosion from the band Dethklok on the show Metalocalypse on Cartoon Network. Did anyone else have that connection or am I just weird?

Anyway, this is a highly recommended book, so go get a copy as soon as you can!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Excerpt Vlog- The Espressologist by Kristina Springer

Hey everyone! Today's excerpt vlog is from The Espressologist by Kristina Springer. I hope you all enjoy it. Also, please go check out and comment on the other entries from this week- they deserve some love too. Tomorrow's post will be a review of Struts and Frets.

Alright, so I have a couple things of note:

1) I recieved an AMAZING ARC yesterday that made me gasp and squeal like I haven't done in a few weeks. You'll have to wait until my IMM post this week to find out what it is though. MWAHAHAHA! Hint- It comes out in March 2010.

2) I picked the people for the Gone ARC tour and am still waiting to hear back from a few people, so if you commented on that entry, check your email because I emailed EVERYONE who commented since I think there were only 16 people who signed up. More info on the tour will be emailed out this weekend- I still need to figure out the route, which is why I need people to email me back so they can confirm their state of residence.

3) YAY Weekend! :) I'm so excited that Friday is finally here. Now I just have to get through work today and then can relax and sleep in and all that good stuff this weekend.

4) Not sure if anyone else is as into Ellen Degeneres as I am, but she's on this month's issue of O Magazine and it officially came out yesterday and I went EVERYWHERE and no stores had it. WHY?! What's the point of a release date if NO ONE follows it or no one gets their shipments by the release date? It's so stupid. Anyway, what I wanted to ask was if anyone else was looking for this issue and if they had any trouble finding it. After I have my lunch today, I am going off in search of it again, though am only stopping by B&N and Kroger this time. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fresh New Voice of YA- Jon Skovron Interview

1) How did you get the idea for Struts and Frets?

The idea came slowly, gradually. In the book, Sammy talks about how writing song is like following the clues to a mystery. Writing is much like that for me. I didn't really do an outline. I just had Sammy's voice in my head saying to me "One thing I was sure of, we were going to be famous." I just followed it, line by line, scene by scene from there. Not that it was a smooth process by any means. I'm still pretty new at this, so there were lots of starts and stops, wrong turns, doubt, confusion, etc. But if you stick with something long enough, and you are open to getting some constructive criticism, you'll get there eventually.

2) What was The Call like? Tell us all about it!

It came out of the blue. The manuscript had been out on submission for a few months, and we (my agent and I) had gotten some very complimentary rejections and that's about it. Then one day I'm at work, on my lunch break, and my agent calls and tells me that not one, but two publishers were interested. There was a few tense days of negotiation, during which I tried not to drive my agent insane, Then at last we settled on Amulet. And I couldn't be happier. Maggie is an amazing editor and the rest of the team at Amulet has really been behind STRUTS & FRETS in a major way.

3) What are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it?

I can tell you it's completely different from STRUTS & FRETS. Some might call this a bad idea (commercially). But when it comes to writing fiction, I have to follow my heart. I'm just putting some final polish on it now, then we'll be sending it off to my editor.

4) What brought you to the YA genre? Have you always been a fan, or are you new to it all?

I came into YA through China Mieville, Cory Doctorow, Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, and other writers who do both YA and "Adult" fiction. Once I started reading it, I also discovered so many other great writers like Holly Black and Markus Zusak. I'm discovering amazing writers and books all the time now.

It's an incredibly fertile time for YA and there is such a spirit of comradery within the YA writing community. Just last week I was at an event with all these established writers, like Barry Lydn, and they were so generous and encouraging.

5) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor? And also your favorite band since the book is about music?

Er...um...I don't actually like candy. In fact, I don't like anything that tastes sweet and haven't since I was born. No really. Nothing. Not even (fill in the blank with your favorite sweet). I tried the Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly, and even that didn't work for me.

My favorite band changes all the time, depending on my mood and what's currently coming out. If I had to choose my favorite of all time, it would probably be The Pixies. Those albums changed rock and roll forever. I wouldn't go see them now though. I prefer to support new, upcoming indie talent. I'm currently really digging local band Wye Oak.

6) What book(s) are you reading right now, or are about to start?

I'm currently reading Lisa Manchev's EYES LIKE STARS and absolutely loving it. I have a massive stack of books waiting for me from colleagues that I simply cannot wait to dig into. Carrie Ryan's FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, Heidi Kling's SEA, and Neesha Meminger's SHINE, COCONUT MOON just to name a few.

7) Your oldest son has autism. What has it been like raising him with this neurological disorder in contrast to your other son? Do you have any common myths to dispel about autism so that people have a clearer understanding of what it is?

I am always glad to talk about Autism because there are a lot of assumptions and misinformation out there. One of the most important things to understand is that just because people on the Autism Spectrum can't easily express their feelings, it doesn't mean they don't have feelings. Just because they can't easily communicate with you, it doesn't mean they aren't sweet, affectionate people in their own way. And that's the crux of it. Understanding and accepting the label of Autism, getting the therapy and aid they need to help them interface with the world around them, but then moving past the diagnosis and seeing the individual behind it.

In that way, it's not really all that different from my younger son. He would technically be classified as "neurologically typical", but if you've ever met that dynamic free spirit, I dare you to find one thing typical about him.

I guess what I'm trying to say is the concept of what is "normal" seems to be getting narrower all the time, and I don't think that does anyone any good. Instead I think we need to expand what we think of as "normal" or "typical". To do that, we need to be more generous.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity, James.

And thanks for being here, Jon!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fresh New Voice of YA- The Espressologist by Kristina Springer

The Espressologist by Kristina Springer
"What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?"-summary from Amazon

This was a very cute, funny book. There isn't too much there beyond that, so this is not the book to read if you want character development and a meaty storyline. But the book serves its purpose, which is to be a fun, frothy (no pun intended, or maybe pun intended) read that you can curl up with by the fire with a cup of your favorite coffee drink (or maybe hot cocoa, if coffee's not your thing) and just enjoy. It's a very sweet book, what with all the matchmaking going on, and it was a joy to read. It was a great break from the darker books I'd been reading and a short one at that.

While I do enjoy short novels, in that they go by very quickly and I can read more books, I have a problem with them if they're hardcover. I've expressed my frustrations with this sort of thing several times before, and it never makes any sense to me as to why a less-than-200 page book get made as a hardcover but a 400 page book doesn't. So unfortunately, I think that will deter readers from buying it in the store. I also have a problem with short novels because you don't get much development or subplots going on because there isn't enough room to do it in. But I don't really know how to necessarily expand the story because the short length kept things tight and what's there isn't expandable.

I'm not really sure how to categorize this review. The novel definitely serves its purpose and I did really love reading it. It's a compelling tale with some fun characters and romances at the center of it, but it's too short of a ride to fully enjoy it. If I were doing grading (which I may be do at some point in the future), this would probably be a B-.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fresh New Voice of YA- Struts and Frets Excerpt Vlog

Here is the excerpt vlog I did for Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron. If you've seen his reading, it is much better than mine since he did voices (which makes sense since he is a former actor) for all the characters; I however did not. But I hope you all enjoy it anyway. :)

Also, be sure to read my interview with Kristina Springer and enter in my contest for Gone by Lisa McMann, which ends LATER TODAY! It ends at midnight (Tues going into Wed).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fresh New Voice of YA- Kristina Springer Interview

1) How did you get the idea for The Espressologist?

Well, first off, I drink a lot of coffee and spend tons of time in coffee shops. And kind of like my main character Jane, I was in a coffee shop one day people watching and it hit me that I could sorta tell what drinks various people were going to order. At first I was going to write a book full of these descriptions and call it Espressology. But then I rethought it and decided to have a barista practice Espressology and matchmake people based on their favorite drinks.

2) What was The Call like? Tell us all about it!

When my agent called to say we had an offer I was ecstatic! But then things got even more exciting when more offers came in. We ended up having an auction between four publishers and it was seriously one of the most craziest, happiest, stressful days ever.

3) What are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it?

I'm finishing up copyedits on my next book and I'm so excited about it! It’s called, MY FAKE BOYFRIEND IS BETTER THAN YOURS and it’s about two 7th grade BFFs who each think each other’s “boyfriend” is a fake. It becomes competitive (like if one says her boyfriend sent her carnations the other says her boyfriend sent her roses) and hilarious. It will be out in the fall of 2010.

4) What brought you to the YA genre? Have you always been a fan, or are you new to it all?

I read TONS of YA as a teen-- totally loved it. I was a book-a-day girl. But I really didn't have any idea that I would end up writing YA. I did get my Masters in Writing and I did technical writing and non fiction writing for years, but it was only about 4 years ago that I figured out that I love writing YA.

5) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor? And also your favorite coffee drink? Of course I gotta ask that!

Jelly Bean- Marshmallow
Coffee- Iced Venti Nonfat Mocha with no whip

6) What book(s) are you reading right now, or are about to start?

I'm reading Cyn Balog's FAIRY TALE and in the car I'm listening to John Green's PAPER TOWNS

7) You're part of the group blog Author2Author. How did you get involved with that, and has doing it helped you during your road to publication?

Well, Deena and Emily and I have been critique partners for quite awhile now. When Deena got her first agent around two years ago I said to her wow-- we three are at different stages now in the pub process-- Em is looking for an agent, Deena is agented and subbing to publishers, and I'm soon to publish. We thought wouldn't it be cool to talk about our journeys as writers at each stage and share this with other writers? Then we thought we should also have someone in an earlier stage (not quite at querying agents yet) and so Deena asked her in-person critique partner Kate. And we thought we needed someone who was already a publishing pro and we thought of Lisa. We each blog on the same day each week (I'm Thursdays) and we're giving readers insight as to what goes on at each stage in the publishing process. Like, lately I've been talking a lot about launch parties and signings and release fun. It's a really great group and it has been a major help on the road to publication. We ask each other for advice all the time and we're constantly learning from each other's posts. I'm lucky I get to blog with such smart and talented writers!

Thanks James!!

No, thank you, Kristina, for taking the time to answer my questions and stopping by here this week!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

In My Mailbox- Week of November 2 + Retrospective

So no vlog this week. I only got two books and am really lazy tonight so won't be linking to them on Amazon. I got:

Envy by Anna Godberson (paperback)
Splendor by Anna Godberson (hardcover)

Even though my week in books sucked, my week in CDs was MUCH better. I got:

Glee Volume 1 (I have been listening to this EVERY SINGLE TIME I drive in my car; favorite song is either Maybe This Time or Defying Gravity)
Suckin' It for the Holidays by Kathy Griffin (love Kathy; she's so funny)
This Is Us by Backstreet Boys (Import CD with DVD; for my roommate as she's a HUGE BSB fan- she loves me for buying it for her)

And now the retrospective-

Last week's In My Mailbox post (no vlog then either- I promise I'll do one once I either get awesome ARCs or a ton of books- hopefully awesome ARCs will be arriving next week :) yay)

Want an early chance to read Gone by Lisa McMann, the eagerly anticipated conclusion to Wake and Fade? Well, here's your chance. I've decided that since ARCs are few and far between for this book, that I am going to put together my own little 1 ARC tour for it, which will include at most 15 people, 13 bloggers and 2 non-bloggers (i.e. my followers/regular readers). The deadline though is Tuesday, but with only 16 comments so far, the chance to read it won't be too hard to recieve. Go here to find out how to enter!

And I reviewed Positively by Courtney Sheinmel, which has gotten so little love, so please comment on it! Look for an interview with Courtney soon! :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Positively by Courtney Sheinmel

Positively by Courtney Sheinmel
"Emerson Price cannot remember a time when life was ordinary. She was four years old when she and her mom were diagnosed as HIV-positive -- infected with the virus that causes AIDS -- and eight when her parents divorced. Now she is thirteen and her mother is dead. Emmy moves in with her father and stepmother, but she feels completely alone. Even though everyone has always accepted her, no one -- not her father, or stepmother, or even her best friend -- understands what it's like to have to take medicine every single day and to be so afraid of getting sick. Now Emmy misses her mom more than she ever thought she would.

When Emmy's dad and stepmother send her to Camp Positive, a camp for HIV-positive girls, Emmy is certain she is going to hate it. But soon she realizes that she is not so alone after all -- and that sometimes letting other people in can make all the difference in the world."- summary from Amazon

Sheinmel's second novel is extremely good and deals with an issue I don't think I've ever seen tackled in a children's book. Emmy is a great character to read about and her emotions and reactions are so realistic that it felt like I was reading a real story. I think my favorite part of the book was reading about Emmy's experiences at Camp Positive and how she grows over the course of the six weeks there.

The book is a mixture of humor, heart, and sadness, and ends with an uplifting feeling of hope. It's hard to put down and I read it very quickly. Sheinmel's prose is compelling and wonderful to read. Her descriptions and attention to detail is amazing and not overbearing at all; she knows when to stop with the details and so what's there doesn't bore you but it gives you more of an idea of who the characters are.

While the book may seem short, the font is actually pretty small compared to most YA and MG books (esp. MG). But the subject matter and the characters are what really make the story, not the length. I highly recommend this book, as well as Sheinmel's first, My So-Called Family, and also, she's donating some of the proceeds from this book to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which is always a good thing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wanna read Gone by Lisa McMann?- 1 ARC tour info

So I am just about to start Gone by Lisa McMann and I'll probably be finishing it soon depending on when my supervisor at work comes over and tells us about our new project. I've been at work over an hour now and was able to finish up Positively by Courtney Sheinmel (review and interview to come), so once I post this, I'm starting on Gone.

What this means is that once I finish Gone, I can start sending it out on a 1 ARC tour, much like what Kay Cassidy and Harmony have been doing recently. I hope to be able to send it out to 10-15 people over the next few months. I'm still working on logistics and need to talk to Harmony about how she runs her tours so I have some semblance of knowledge of how to run this.

The deadline for commenting will be next Tuesday, November 10. As for how I will pick people, it will be done randomly. Anyone can comment- bloggers must include their web URL in their comment and non-bloggers must say in their comment that they're not bloggers. The reason for this is because I will probably only pick one or two non-bloggers for the book to go to so I need to know who is one and who isn't. The main purpose of this is so bloggers can have a chance to read the ARC since so few were sent out and be able to review it on their site.

When I pick the list, I'll announce the names here on the 10th. I want those people to email me so I have their email addresses which I can put together in a Word document and send out to the whole list so people know the order and can get the mailing address from the next person on the list. Also, I'm sorry to international readers, but this tour is only open to US residents.

More info will be given to whoever's chosen for the tour but feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments and I'll answer them either in the comments or add the answers to this post.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

In My Mailbox- Week of October 26

No vlog this week as I've been way too busy, but I also didn't get many books either so it works out. Here's what I got this week:

We Were Here by Matt de la Pena
The story of one boy and his journey to find himself.

When it happened, Miguel was sent to Juvi. The judge gave him a year in a group home—said he had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how he thinks. The judge had no idea that he actually did Miguel a favor. Ever since it happened, his mom can’t even look at him in the face. Any home besides his would be a better place to live.

But Miguel didn’t bet on meeting Rondell or Mong or on any of what happened after they broke out. He only thought about Mexico and getting to the border to where he could start over. Forget his mom. Forget his brother. Forget himself.

Life usually doesn’t work out how you think it will, though. And most of the time, running away is the quickest path right back to what you’re running from.

(PS The author is a total hottie. Not that that necessarily matters when buying a book, but I wanted to mention it anyway.)

I So Don't Do Spooky by Barrie Summy
Someone’s out to get Sherry’s stepmom. . . .Can she save her before it’s too late?

Did you know that the main campus of the Academy of Spirits is at a Dairy Queen in Phoenix? Me either. Until now. Some weird stuff has been happening to my stepmother, Paula, and the Academy has asked me, Sherry Holmes Baldwin, to get to the bottom of it. They think someone’s trying to hurt her.

I really don’t want to get involved—my life is way too busy. Josh and I are celebrating two blissful months of togetherness. And my best friend, Junie, is finally showing a teeny bit of interest in clothes and makeup after years of brainiac behavior. But being that my mom is a ghost and all, me, my brother, and my dad rely on Paula a lot. So it’s not like I can just ignore what’s going on. Especially since my mom is competing at the Ghostlympics. If she comes in first place, she earns five minutes of Real Time.

And that means I’ve got to get involved in a creepy, freaky mystery.

But . . . I so don’t do spooky.

The Espressologist by Kristina Springer
What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?

With overtones of Jane Austen’s Emma and brimming with humor and heart, this sweet, frothy debut will be savored by readers.

I also went to this Giant Book Sale store last weekend and got four books for a little over $6. How awesome is that? Here's what I got:

Saints of Augustine by P.E. Ryan
Chalet Girls: Balancing Acts by Emily Franklin (accidental repeat as I couldn't remember what books in the series I had already; may do a contest or give to library)
I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight by Margaret Cho
Boy Heaven by Laura Kasischke