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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

In My Mailbox- Week of February 22 + Retrospective

So I'm able to do a vlog this week, yay! I know you all have missed them, so I hope you enjoy this one. I got some great books this week!

Books Mentioned:

Plus by Veronica Chambers
Winter Longing by Tricia Mills
The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway
Invisible Girl by Mary Hanlon Stone
Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Winging It by Jenny Gardiner
White Tiger by Kylie Chan
Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount-White
Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten (3 copies for contest!)
The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
High Before Homeroom by Maya Sloan
Zen and Xander Undone by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Monday- I posted my review of Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, which you can comment on and get an extra entry into the Wherever Nina Lies contest that I posted last week. Contest ends at 8pm on March 1st.

Wednesday- I posted my review of After by Kristin Harmel.

Friday- I interviewed Lynn Weingarten, author of Wherever Nina Lies. A comment here also gets you an extra entry into the contest.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Interview with Lynn Weingarten

Lynn was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions about her book, her writing, and herself. If you leave a comment on this blog post, you'll get an extra entry in the Wherever Nina Lies contest. For it to actually be considered an extra entry, it needs to be a substantial comment, not just "Commenting for extra entry!"; otherwise it'll be disqualified. And now, the interview!:

1) How did you get the idea for Wherever Nina Lies?

The idea came about kind of backwards way: Scholastic said they were looking to do a YA novel that would have drawings in it and I thought this sounded like a really fun idea, so I tried to come up with a story for which drawings would naturally fit.

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

I am working on two YA novels for Harper Collins (a book and a sequel), the first of which will be out sometime in 2011. They’re very different than WNL!

3) Looking at your bio, you've had quite a number of jobs in the past. What was your favorite one and your least favorite one?

Before I started writing full-time I worked at a book packager/media production company making up ideas/plots for books and then editing those books. That was a LOT of fun. And definitely my favorite job.

I’ve loved something about almost every job I’ve had though. Working at the coffee shop was exciting because it was my first job other than babysitting. I remember feeling like I was pretending to be a coffee shop worker and just so happened to be getting paid money to do it. Also, when cookies broke, we got to eat them (both of these details end up showing up in WNL). Working in Ireland was amazing because I was in Ireland and I had to wear a ridiculous little bakery hat which made the whole thing feel very Official. Working at the natural supermarket was fun because I like to use a cash register. The only job I didn’t totally love was waitressing because I worked the day shift at a bar that did most of its business at night and therefore never made any money. I quit the day a guy puked on the table. Not because of that actually, but because I was going to leave anyway and that just seemed like an appropriate time to do it.

4) What is your writing process like? Do you have any rituals that you have to do to get in the mood, or do you just sit down and write?

My only ritual is that I eat a lot of snacks while I’m writing. Although I guess this is less a ritual than something I like to do. Lately I’ve been eating a ton of red white and blue popsicles. I tend to write a lot very late at night. Sometimes while I’m writing I listen to a rainstorm mp3 on repeat which helps me concentrate.

Over the holidays my friend Lauren Oliver (author of the amazingly fantastic Before I Fall which, by the way, comes out next week!) gave me a little writing owl who now sits on my desk and watches me. When I’m getting a lot of writing done he’s all wide-eyed with excitement. And when I’m spending too much time on the internet he glares at me (also wide-eyed because, y’know, that’s just how his face is).

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

I’m about to start Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart.

6) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?

Based on taste alone it’s a toss-up between pear, toasted marshmallow, watermelon, mint-chocolate, root beer, cappuccino, pink grapefruit and black licorice (which I know everyone thinks is gross, but I love.).

That said, my overall favorite is watermelon because they are green on the outside and red on the inside and actually look like very tiny watermelons. They are the only ones that look like what they taste like! If Jelly Belly ever starts making real bean flavored jelly beans then maybe watermelon will have some competition. But until then, that guy is the clear winner.

7) Have you always been a fan of YA, or are you still pretty new to it?

Always! Before I was writing YA, I worked in YA publishing, and before that I was a YA reading YA, and before that I was a kid who always stole her older sister’s books.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Lynn! :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

After by Kristin Harmel

After by Kristin Harmel
"Lacey's world shatters when her dad is killed in a car accident. And secretly? She feels like it’s her fault. If she hadn’t taken her own sweet time getting ready that morning . . . well, it never would have happened. Her mom wouldn’t be a basket case. Her brother Logan wouldn’t drink. And her little brother would still have two parents.

But life goes on even if you don’t want it to. And when Lacey gets the chance to make a difference in the lives of some people at school, she jumps at it. Making lemonade out of lemons is her specialty. Except she didn’t count on meeting a guy like Sam. Or that sometimes? Lemonade can be a pretty bitter drink to swallow."- summary from Amazon

I've read two other Harmel books, her YA debut When You Wish and her adult debut How to Sleep with a Movie Star, and loved both of them. This is no different in the fact that I really enjoyed it, but it's different from her previous novels in tone. I was a bit surprised by what the book was about when I got it in the mail a few weeks ago, considering Harmel's past works, but was eager to see how she would fare with a more somber book.

Let me just say that she did a very good job- there's just the right mix of somber and lightness, and everything felt realistic. Lacey was a wonderful, flawed character to read about, and I loved her eagerness to help others, despite some backlash. I liked the idea of a club for kids who had lost a parent and it felt right to have something like that for those who had gone through something like that. It was nice to see this small group band together and help each other out.

The romance aspect of the novel was handled well. It wasn't rushed and made sense, and was realistic. There were bumps along the road, but inevitably ended sweetly. It was a nice addition to the story. The climax was a bit surprising and I wasn't expecting it, or at least not half of it; I guessed correctly on one count but not on the other. It was interesting.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and it made me want to read more from Harmel. I'll have to see if my library has some of her books or actually read the other one I own, and I'm eagerly waiting for her next novel.

FTC: Hardcover book received from publisher. Amazon link above is an Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten
"Nina was beautiful, wild, and adored by her younger sister, Ellie. But one day, Nina disappeared. 2 years later, everyone has given up hope that Nina will return, but Ellie knows her sister is out there. If only Ellie had a clue where to look.Then she gets one, in the form of a mysterious drawing. Determined to find Nina, Ellie takes off on a crazy, sexy cross-country road trip with the only person who believes she's got a chance - her hot, adventurous new crush. Along the way, Ellie finds a few things she wasn't planning on. Like love. Lies. And the most shocking thing of all: the truth."- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed this book; it was an amazing, thrilling ride to read about. I loved the inclusion of Nina's various drawings throughout the book, as it really made the story pop and gave me more of a connection to the characters and plotline. All the characters were really interesting and fully fleshed out, and I loved Weingarten's writing style. This book was suspenseful, funny, mysterious, and an absolute joy to read; the road trip aspect was really cool to read about and something I rarely see in YA. The twist was something I wasn't expecting, but did make sense once you thought about it, which is how it should be. It was a difficult book to put down and I went through it very quickly. Definitely a book I recommend if you're into a suspenseful road trip story.

FTC: Received book from publicist. Amazon link is an Associate link; any profits go toward funding contests.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In My Mailbox- Week of February 15 + Retrospective

So I wasn't able to do a vlog since I didn't have a chance to be alone, but I took a picture of all the ARCs I got this week. I was very excited to get a lot of these! Here's the picture:

Books Shown:

I showed The Reckoning just cuz I didn't show a picture of it when I got it two weeks ago. I wanted to show people it (and it may be going on tour soon so keep an eye out!)
Whisper by Phoebe Kitanidis
Lost for Words by Alice Kuipers
Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson
The Life of Glass by Jillian Cantor
Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto
Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala
Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill
Fat Vampire by Adam Rex
Spells by Aprilynne Pike
Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti
Hourglass by Claudia Gray
Still Sucks To Be Me by Kimberly Pauley

And now, my retrospective:

Monday- I started a two week contest for 3 copies of Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten. It will end March 1.

Wednesday- I put up a review for Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Friday- I reviewed When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, which won the Newbery Award recently.

Please please comment on these reviews- no one has showed them any love and they are wonderful books! Please comment. In fact, if you comment with a substantial reply, you can gain an extra entry into the Wherever Nina Lies contest!

Friday, February 19, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
"Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late."- summary from Amazon

So for many months, I have been reading about how awesome this book was from various authors. And then recently, it won the Newbery. And I happened to see it in my local library; usually awards don't mean much to me, but seeing all the rave reviews and the fact that it won an award, it made me want to read the book. It also helped that the book was short (under 200 pages), had a big font, and had short chapters. What can I say? If a book has those and it's not in my review pile, I'm more likely to pick it up.

Well anyway, I enjoyed this book. It was different than I had expected, in a good way. But it took me until finishing the book to really enjoy it and even figure out if I liked it. The plot revolves around this mystery and so once everything is revealed, it all makes sense. Seemingly innocuous events became much more important, characters became a larger part of the overall story. It's an odd book, but a good one.

I enjoyed the links to time travel and the novel A Wrinkle in Time; it's been a while since I've read A Wrinkle in Time, but this made me want to re-read it sometime in the near future. Miranda's obsession with it was a fun addition to the plot. The book flows along well and it's difficult to put the book down because you want to know what happens next. I did kinda figure out part of the climax way before it happened, which doesn't happen often to me so I reveled in it for a while.

The characters were very fun to read about, and none of them felt flat at all to me. Despite the short length, each character was well-rounded and had depth. I also liked the setting of the late 70s; not many MG/YA books utilize that time period or even anything near it, so it was a nice change of pace. Overall, this was a wonderful book and one I think everyone should read.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith
"At last, Miranda is the life of the party: all she had to do was die. Elevated by none other than the King of the Mantle of Dracul, she goes from high-school theater wannabe to glamorous fiend overnight. Meanwhile, her guardian angel, Zachary, demoted to human guise as her personal assistant, has his hands full saving his girl’s soul while planning a fast-approaching Death Day gala. In alternating viewpoints, Miranda and Zachary navigate a cut-throat aristocracy as they play out a dangerous, diabolically witty love story for the ages."- summary from Amazon

Smith's sophomore YA novel is a bit of a departure from her first, Tantalize. Whereas Quincey was removed from vampire culture until close to the end, Miranda is thrust into it very close to the beginning. The reader learns about the vampire culture along with Miranda and is sucked into her tale. The story is not just told through her perspective though; the chapters alternate between her and her guardian angel Zachary. I enjoyed the back and forth of perspectives, especially once the two of them were together after Zachary becomes her personal assistant.

The story is very dark and Smith doesn't shy away from making her vampires monstrous and scary, but there are touches of light-heartedness sprinkled throughout. The ones that stick out in my mind are Zachary and Miranda's repartee once they get comfortable around each other, and also a small moment where Archangel Michael directs one of his angels to Yahoo! Maps to find something.

The climax was really fun to read and had me on the edge of my seat and turning pages as quickly as I could to see what happened next. Now, readers be warned, in the summary above, it mentions the love story; this is not going to be your typical love story, and for me, that's fine, as the ending made sense and left me with a feeling of hope. But if you're looking for a sweeping romance like Twilight, this is not the story for you. You have been warned.

Overall though, a very enjoyable novel and I absolutely can't wait to see the two casts from Tantalize and Eternal meet in next year's novel Blessed.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wherever Nina Lies Contest

So this lovely book Wherever Nina Lies is getting a paperback release, which happened earlier this month. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, here's your opportunity! I've got three copies to giveaway to three lucky readers (U.S. only- sorry!!)! Here's some info about the book and the author Lynn Weingarten!

Nina was beautiful, wild, and adored by her younger sister, Ellie. But, one day, Nina disappeared. Two years later, everyone has given up home that Nina will return, but Ellie knows her sister is out there. If only Ellie had a clue where to look. Then she gets one, in the form of a mysterious drawing. Determined to find Nina, Ellie takes off on a crazy, sexy, cross-country road trip with the only person who believes she’s got a chance—her hot, adventurous new crush. Along the way, Ellie finds a few things she wasn’t planning on. Like love. Lies. And the most shocking thing of all: the truth.

To read the full first chapter, go here to the book's website!

Lynn Weingarten spends a lot of time writing in coffee shops while occasionally reading strangers’ laptops over their shoulders. In the past she has been a book editor, a barista, a counter girl at a bakery in Ireland, a waitress at a bar, and a seller of tiny homemade clay animals. She lives in New York City. Wherever Nina Lies was her first novel. Please visit her online at www.lynnweingarten.com.

All you have to do to enter is just leave a comment on this entry. You can get an extra entry if you comment on my book review of it, which will go up next Monday, the 22nd. There may also be another opportunity to get an extra entry, but I need to finalize it first. This contest will end on Monday, March 1 at 8pm EST.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In My Mailbox- Week of February 8 + Retrospective

I can't remember all I got this week and I'm in a rush, so here's the two books I remember and care about, lol.

Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev
We are such stuff as dreams are made on.

Act Two, Scene One

Growing up in the enchanted Thèâtre Illuminata, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith learned everything about every play ever written. She knew the Players and their parts, but she didn’t know that she, too, had magic. Now, she is the Mistress of Revels, the Teller of Tales, and determined to follow her stars. She is ready for the outside world.


But the outside world soon proves more topsy-turvy than any stage production. Bertie can make things happen by writing them, but outside the protective walls of the Thèâtre, nothing goes as planned. And her magic cannot help her make a decision between—

Nate: Her suave and swashbuckling pirate, now in mortal peril.

Ariel: A brooding, yet seductive, air spirit whose true motives remain unclear.

When Nate is kidnapped and taken prisoner by the Sea Goddess, only Bertie can free him. She and her fairy sidekicks embark on a journey aboard the Thèâtre’s caravan, using Bertie’s word magic to guide them. Along the way, they collect a sneak-thief, who has in his possession something most valuable, and meet The Mysterious Stranger, Bertie’s father—and the creator of the scrimshaw medallion. Bertie’s dreams are haunted by Nate, whose love for Bertie is keeping him alive, but in the daytime, it’s Ariel who is tantalizingly close, and the one she is falling for. Who does Bertie love the most? And will her magic be powerful enough to save her once she enters the Sea Goddess’s lair?

The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History by Adam Selzer
Do you know America? No, I mean, do you REALLY know America? Would you recognize John Adams in a lineup? Can you identify any presidents between Lincoln and Roosevelt?

Hmmm. I thought so.

Well, you really need this book.

Not only will it improve your sorry historical knowledge, it will crack you up, and give you material to throw your teachers off-balance for entire class periods. Identify their lies! Point out their half-truths! And possibly, just possibly, gain some extra credit for yourself.

Monday- I interviewed Josh Berk, author of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin.

Tuesday- I posted excerpt vlogs from myself and Josh Berk reading from The Naughty List by Suzanne Young

Wednesday- I posted my review of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk.

Thursday- I interviewed Suzanne Young, author of The Naughty List.

Friday- I posted excerpt vlogs from myself and Suzanne Young reading from The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

Saturday- I reviewed The Naughty List by Suzanne Young. A more current, new review should be up in the next few days. It's been a busy weekend, so haven't been able to finish it yet.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- The Naughty List by Suzanne Young

The Naughty List by Suzanne Young
"As if being a purrfect cheerleader isn’t enough responsibility! Tessa Crimson’s the sweet and spunky leader of the SOS (Society of Smitten Kittens), a cheer squad–turned–spy society dedicated to bringing dastardly boyfriends to justice, one cheater at a time. Boyfriend-busting wouldn’t be so bad . . . except that so far, every suspect on the Naughty List has been proven 100% guilty!

When Tessa’s own boyfriend shows up on the List, she turns her sleuthing skills on him. Is Aiden just as naughty as all the rest, or will Tessa’s sneaky ways end in catastrophe?"

So it has been a hectic week and I have not yet been able to re-finish The Naughty List. I read it way back in May so here's my review from then; more to come once I finish it later today, so be sure to check back!:

"I just finished The Naughty List! I absolutely loved it. :) I really enjoyed Tessa's aversion to cussing and all the substitutes she came up with. I thought it was very original and Suzanne did a great job writing it. I was so happy about the ending (new update since old was a tad spoilery) because it turned out the way I hoped it would. I also liked that there was more to the story than just the spying and breakup- the characters were realistic and I thought it was intriguing that Tessa was always trying to be perfect to make others happy so that everything would be fine. I thought that was a nice touch to her character.

I think that's all I have to say... though I did feel it was a bit rushed with Christian trying to hone in on Tessa starting on the first day they met. I mean, WOAH. Crazy.

(slightly new update on blurb I wrote) Overall, this is a fast, original, and fun romp that fans of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series will surely enjoy (though it is lighter than Ally's series)! Tessa is a wonderful, relateable character full of depth, quirks, and heart. A sure-fire hit!"

I apologize for the old review being put in and hardly any current thoughts but I'm in a rush to head home to my parents' place and of course because I also haven't yet finished re-reading The Naughty List. I have about 80 pages left.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin Excerpt Vlog

So there's actually two vlogs today! One from me, and one from Suzanne Young. We both read excerpts from Josh's book. Here is mine:

Josh and Suz had the idea to read embarrassing sections of the other's book, so Suz is reading about... well, you'll see:

And, by the way, Josh's book is out now, so go to your bookstore and buy a copy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Suzanne Young Interview

1) How did you get the idea for The Naughty List? Was it always a series idea?

It actually wasn’t. My first idea was to write about ninja cheerleaders—but as I began, it turned into a love story. Then Tessa poured onto the page in all of her perky goodness and I found myself completely invested in her. When Razorbill read the book, they felt she’d be a great character to follow through a few more books. And a series was born!

2) What is your writing process like? Being a mom, I'm assuming it can be hard to find time to write, revise, edit, be on deadline, etc. How do you manage it all?

Do I manage it all? Haha Luckily, my family is starting to adapt. When I’m on a deadline, we get a lot of pizza and the house gets REALLY messy. But on a typical day, I wake up—feed the kids and take them to school. Then I click around the internet for a few hours. If there’s time left, I write. Unless I have a deadline. Then I’m chained to my computer.

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

Great question! I’ve been reading a lot lately. I just finished Flash Burnout, Beautiful Creatures, Shiver and Perfect Chemistry. I adored all of them.

4) You're a part of the Tenners. How did you get involved with this group, and how has it helped you in getting ready for the release of your book?

The Tenners has been great!!! I’m not really sure how I got involved, to be honest. My fearless moderators were already there and it was pretty early in the creation. But since then the Tenners have GROWN! And we are so supportive of one another. It’s wonderful to have people to talk with who are in a similar situation. And it helped us really become available to bloggers. I’m a lucky girl.

Since Suz and Josh know each other so well, I let them turn the tables on each other so they can ask their own questions. So here is Josh's interview with Suz:

How does it feel to share your release month with the great Josh Berk? Must be pretty intimidating. That guy is so great! And man, he's handsome! Wow.

Oh, is he the guy that wrote Thirteen Reasons Why? I love that book! Hold on a sec. What? Who? What the hay is Hamburger Halpin? Oh….. him.

Just kidding. I’m actually completely honored to have a book out the same time as Josh. He is the funniest, goofiest person I know—and that’s exactly how his book reads. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s twice the writer I am. Luckily I’m more photogenic.

I understand that you are a scientist in addition to being a writer. Maybe you can explain this to me: How is it that the Higgs boson is the only Standard Model particle that has not been observed? Is it merely a hypothetical massive scalar elementary particle or, if the Standard Model in particle physics is to be believed, might it exist in nature?

That is a fine question, Mr. Berk. According to my standard model (aka: wikipedia) the Higgs Boson is unlike anything I've ever encountered. Mainly because I failed high school chemistry. I also went on to fail physics. What I did pass was Biology. Yep. The study of the human body. Which makes my writing way more interesting than any science experiment could. So suck it, Berk.

One of the many hilarious and wonderful things in The Naughty List is your creative way to curse without cursing. Do you really say stuff like "apple dippers!" in real life? Or do you swear like a sailor? What is your favorite four-letter word? Do you ever get really raunchy and yell out "boner soup!" when surprised?

You know, boner soup has never crossed my lips. HAHA However, I do swear quite a bit in real life. That was how I knew that my character wouldn’t. She’s way classier than me. And my favorite four letter word? Frak

You know, it's not just boyfriends who are cheaters. There should be a book about some sort of a list for girlfriends who cheat on their boyfriends. Like when they say that they can't go to the Soundgarden concert with you because their grandmother died and then you go by yourself and what do you see after the show? Your "girlfriend" making out with the lead guitarist in the parking lot! And note I said the LEAD GUITARIST -- that's not even the good-looking guy in Soundgarden. THAT'S THE ONE THAT LOOKS LIKE AN OWL.

Um… who’s Soundgarden? Kidding. But really, sounds like you have some unresolved anger. Would you like to talk about it? Besides being a brilliant scientist, I’m also a brilliant therapist. What was your childhood like?

Oh, and keep reading the series. There is equal opportunity cheating.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
"Being a hefty, deaf newcomer almost makes Will Halpin the least popular guy at Coaler High. But when he befriends the only guy less popular than him, the dork-namic duo has the smarts and guts to figure out who knocked off the star quarterback. Will can’t hear what’s going on, but he’s a great observer. So, who did it? And why does that guy talk to his fingers? And will the beautiful girl ever notice him? (Okay, so Will’s interested in more than just murder . . .)

Those who prefer their heroes to be not-so-usual and with a side of wiseguy will gobble up this witty, geeks-rule debut."- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed this book; it was original and had a unique perspective to it. It's not often I read books with male protagonists (that alone is original enough considering YA), but for him to also be deaf and on the large side? Almost unthinkable. I loved reading through Will's perspective with his being deaf because he would have to rely on clues to figure out what was going on rather than simply hearing his classmates make fun of him.

Relying on clues helped him and his friends figure out the murder that happened. Now, I had a bit of a problem with this. I felt like it took way too long for that part of the plot to kick in. I mean, when it's included in the summary, I expect it to begin like 50ish pages into the book, but this didn't start until well after page 100 and I wondered if there would be enough time for that part of the book to develop. I think what Berk did was good, but I think it could've used a bit more screen time.

OK, now I can't review this book and not mention the humor. This book was so funny. I laughed out loud many times while reading this, which definitely got major approval from me since I am a guy who loves to laugh and loves any book with humor. Will was a great character who seemed like such a great guy that you'd love to hang out with- he's hilarious, kind, and full of good intentions. I also enjoyed his friends Devon and Ebony; their interactions were fun to read.

Overall, this is a really good book and I did really enjoy it, despite the flaw mentioned above. Definitely go out and get a copy as soon as you can since the book is in stores now!

FTC: Received hardcover from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associates link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- The Naughty List Excerpt Vlogs

So today we have not one but TWO excerpt vlogs! Josh and Suz decided to read an "embarassing" snippet (both are just a little over a minute) from the other's book. Today, it's The Naughty List, so after my vlog, Josh's dramatic reading of The Naughty List will be posted. Hope you all enjoy!

(You may have to turn up the sound on this one. Having a headcold for me usually means that I talk lower than I think I am. Headphones may be good to use.)

And here's Josh's!

Hope you all enjoyed both! Be sure to go check out my and Suz's interview with Josh that I posted yesterday.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Josh Berk Interview

1) How did you get the idea for The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin?

The short answer is that there was a week a few years ago where (A) I had a dream about a kid reading lips on a school bus (B) I watched a Law & Order marathon and (C) I watched "My Super Sweet 16" on MTV. So I pulled the ideas together and starting writing a mystery about a deaf student who solves a mystery surrounding a classmate's fancy birthday party. I love how this description makes it seem like all my book research involves is sleeping and watching TV.

2) What is your writing process like? Being a dad, I'm assuming it can be hard to find time to write, revise, edit, be on deadline, etc. How do you manage it all?

How do I manage it all? Badly! I'm always stressed out, exhausted, running late, feeling like I'm not spending enough time on writing and/or feeling like I'm not spending enough time with the kids. I never miss a deadline though! I'm a fan of Red Bull and the furious all-nighter. I recommend my methods to no one.

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

I'm reading Jack Gantos' autobiography, HOLE IN MY LIFE because I'm (hopefully) going to go see him speak at a Children's Literature conference here in PA in April and I wanted to know more about him. Did you know that he did time for smuggling hashish before he became a children's author? Pretty interesting guy. And quite a writer. Joey Pigza FTW!

4) You're a part of the Tenners. How did you get involved with this group, and how has it helped you in getting ready for the release of your book?

Back when I sold my book in 2007 and it was slated to be a 2009 release, I heard about the Class of 2k9 through my friend Cyn Balog who was thinking about joining. It's hard to make your name known as a debut author in the crowded marketplace and my agent agreed that a group like this could be a help for me. So I joined and one of the 2k9ers I met was Heidi Kling. We became friendly and then we both became bumped to 2010.

She told me that she was starting a new group, The Tenners, and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. I said yes and it has been a big help! The "group marketing" aspect is nice, but really far more important to me has been the comraderie. Basically, it's helped me keep my sanity. It is very helpful to have people going through the same thing as you because being a debut author can be stressful. There's a bunch of stuff you feel like you're supposed to know but you feel dumb asking your publisher. So we ask each other all sorts of these questions ("What does a publicist do?" "What should I wear when I have lunch with my editor?" "What does 'stet' mean?") and someone always knows the answer and shares it happily. Really a great group!

Since Suz and Josh know each other so well, I let them turn the tables on each other so they can ask their own questions. So here is Suz's interview with Josh:

Amazing Josh Berk, you secretly want to be a Smitten Kitten don't you? I've heard that you are an awesome cheerleader. Any dope cheers you'd like to share?

You know, when I was in high school I was on the basketball team. Technically I was the last man on the basketball team. I sat next to the cheerleaders and spent more time talking to them than watching the game. Sometimes they would give me pom-poms. There was no chance that I was ever going to get in to the game anyway. So really, it's actually true that I am an awesome cheerleader! My favorite is that one where you spell "aggressive" and tell the team to be aggressive. As in "B.E. A.G.G.R.E.S.S.I.V.E. BE! AGGRESSIVE!" That one rules. I know a bunch of them. Just don't ask me to do a split.

Hamburger Halpin--what a great character. If you were a character in one of my books--what do you think your name would be and what sort of issues would you have?

I'd probably be named Brock Studlyton and my main "issue" would probably be a paralyzing fear of walnuts. That and being so sexy it hurts.

If you could be on any reality show, which one would it be? And if you say Jersey Shore I'll knee you in the nards.

Trick question. Because I was on a reality show when I visited Japan in 1997. It is called "Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!" and it is hilarious. Unfortunately my episode never aired because, well, let's just say some of my behavior was inappropriate even for Japanese Televison.

p.s. Jersey Shore rulez!

I heard this wild rumor... were you once a model?

Well, you know ... I was in college and I needed a quick way to make some money ... books don't pay for themselves, you know! ... And, the job listing in the campus paper just said they needed someone for the art department's figure drawing class and ... HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THEY MEANT NUDE MODELING?

I held that job for three semesters.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

In My Mailbox- Week of February 1 + Retrospective

I am feeling too sick to post pics and summaries, so you're only getting links. Luckily, I only got three books so linking should be easy. Here's what I got:

The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
After by Kristin Harmel
Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten

I can feel the waves of jealousy already. MWAHAHAHA! But please, even though you're jealous, please go comment on these wonderful reviews I posted this week:

Monday- I reviewed A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker.

Wednesday- I reviewed Heist Society by Ally Carter (which just received some wonderful movie news!! Also, I am going to see Ally in Bethesda, MD on the 16th- anyone else going?).

Friday- I reviewed Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr.

And also, go check out Devyn's Podcast set for February 8 with some wonderful and amazing authors! Click on the link to find out who will be there!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
"Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already-worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.

In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed---about God, about your family, about yourself---is transformed."- summary from Amazon

I love Sara Zarr's books and when you combine her fabulous writing with internal religious conflict and doubts about faith, I am all over it. Despite my being apathetic toward religion, I do love reading about it and learning more about it, my favorite being books that take a look at what it means to have faith and be religious. Samara is a wonderful heroine who learns to be herself and is realistic with her doubts and flaws considering what is going on in her community. Her questioning during this situation is understandable and I could easily identify myself with Samara's character.

Zarr does a great job of balancing different aspects of her novels, showing off family life, friendships, inner turmoil, all with ease and fluidity. Each aspect gets enough screen time that I didn't feel slighted by any of those areas. The disappearance of Jody works well with this story and it was intriguing to watch this event unravel and it hits home because this kind of thing happens every day.

Basically, what I'm saying is that Zarr has another winner on her hands and I'm so glad I got to read this book and can't wait for her next!